The Library in the Bookshelf
I ran my fingers across the scar on my throat. Crescent-shaped, right in the hollow of my collar bone, it stayed a reminder for something I could not even recollect.
The stillness in the air is only interrupted by the loud ticking clock that stood in the corner of my room. I clutched my scarf tighter, pulling the fabric closer for some warmth. Slowly blowing off the steam rising from my coffee, I pulled back the curtains and sat down. The outside was bathed in fog. If I didn’t know better, I would have thought it was snowing. Everything looked so white and grey. Except for the tiny black and white dots moving around through the lawns occasionally, the place seems deserted. Even though my eyes are on the grounds, my mind was still reeling from the shock of what had happened in the past couple of weeks. Peter being missing, the Angel, me losing all my memories of Peter and something inexplicable that had finally reminded me of Peter. I ran my fingers across the scar on my throat. Crescent-shaped, right in the hollow of my collar bone, it stayed a reminder for something I could not even recollect. No matter how hard I try, I cannot find an explanation for how it had come to be or what had caused it. Ghosts, Demons and Angels I had accepted all these into my life so fast. Yet now I wonder what else is out there, like something that gave me this scar.
I slowly shake my thoughts and gulp a mouthful of piping hot coffee, scalding my tongue. I force myself to look at the task on hand. Correcting answer sheets is not a glamorous job; it is a thankless job. Unless one considers the muffled curses and swear words that the students probably make after seeing the marks I have given them. Claire was hilarious; in all her answers, she has found some new subtext to Shakespeare. Creativity is not a bad thing; if this were Hogwarts, she’d be in Ravenclaw. Sadly this is not Hogwarts, and my job is not to give “ten points to Ravenclaw for Creativity and confidence in the face of not having read the book even once”. Claire will have to fail, perhaps that will help her remember that she actually has to read the books and not make up the story based on the title. This was an English examination, not a story writing competition. My wandering mind was not helping the process. A little break seemed like a good idea.
I looked at the bookshelf that I wanted to reshelve. Peter told me that the Angel had waved her hands and rearranged the bookshelf after my whole room was messed up by whatever had happened earlier. My books were all out of order. As I walked over, I grabbed my sweater from the chair where it lay draped on the back and pulled it on. The cold was starting to get to me. I reached the bookshelf and started removing the books one by one. I like stacking them by authors and not by genre. I have a habit where I read all of the authors’ books if I finish reading even one. I have almost emptied the top shelf now, as I pull the last few books out, my sweater catches on to the jagged edges of the stand. I tug with all my might, the bookshelf seems to shake, and before I could even scream, it came tumbling towards me. I moved before it could crash on to me, thereby crushing me under it. But my hand still stuck with the shelf went under it with a sickening crunch. Slowly I pulled out my hand, to see a blue-black mark blooming from where the bookshelf had fallen. I wiggled my fingers and turned my arm, and nothing seemed broken. Gingerly I got up dusted myself off and went back to my coffee.
As I sat there sipping coffee with a little more caution, now that I had effectively scalded my tongue and bruised my hand, Peter glided into the room. He looks pale as ever, and his face has an expression of terror. What could have possibly rattled a ghost? I can’t help but think.
“You look like you’ve seen a ghost”, I joke as Peter comes closer. I smile at him despite my newly obtained injuries; Peter would take my mind off things. Talking to Peter after a rough day at school always calmed me down.
“Yes, I may as well have”, Peter says his face dead serious.
“You have seen a ghost?” I gawked. All this time of being a ghost, Peter had never seen another ghost. We had encountered a Demon and an angel, but never another spirit. Somehow this seemed worse. The timing of it is rather suspicious. My mind goes blank at this. It seems crucial, but I can’t remember.
“Well, I think it is a ghost, or it is a demon or a wraith or something we haven’t met yet “, Peter says, listing all the things that he knew were not human. He looks around the room, his eyes falling on the fallen bookshelf. “What happened here?” he asks. “I was reshelving the books, it accidentally fell over, I should have been a sandwich, but I got lucky to get off with just this”, I said, holding up my bruised hand. Peter’s face contorted with fear. He came closer to me his face inches from mine, “These accidents have been happening a lot don’t you think, conveniently when I am away. These are not coincidences, yesterday you slipped down the stairs, today a bookshelf fell on you?” he questions, then as an afterthought he says, “We have to call Hope”.
“I don’t think so, the last time I called her she erased my memories. These were accidents, nothing more. Why are you getting so worked up?” I retaliate all my good spirits, quickly evaporating. “I don’t think they are accidents, and I think something is trying to kill you”, Peter muttered.
“Why do you think that? You think what happened to me were not accidents?” I whispered as the reality set in on me. I remembered the snake I had spotted in the garden the other day. Yes, something was not right. There were no snakes at Silver Oaks, and I was blind to what was happening around me. The realisation that I don’t even know what was trying to kill me weighed me down. Everything seemed bleak all of a sudden, and I was a fool. I sat back in my chair, my coffee long forgotten.
“We should call Hope”, Peter insists. Yes, we should. I know we should.
“Why, what’s she gonna do?” I hear myself say. “Wipe off my memory again?”, I turn to Peter whose pale, translucent features had gone somewhat rigid at this. “I am sorry, that was me.”, Peter murmurs his eyes on the floor. A fraught silence followed the admission. I knew. I knew Peter made the decision, it felt like a betrayal, and I am not in the forgiving mood. Perhaps my silence affects Peter. He looked miserable. Good, let him suffer for a while.
“She warned me this might happen”, Peter finally says breaking silence between us. My brows furrowed in confusion, who was Peter talking about, I wonder. Hope. I realise, the same time I force myself to ask, “What? When? When were you planning on telling me?”. My voice has risen a few octaves than usual. Whatever pity I had for Peter had dissipated. Betrayal after betrayal. Something dark stirred inside me. If I could grab Peter, I would violently hurl him across the room. Alas, Peter being a ghost, was ungrabbable.
“I wasn’t trying to hide it. I wasn’t trying to do anything, and I couldn’t bring myself to tell you these things, it didn’t seem right. I… I didn’t want to scare you. It was right after … everything that happened. ” Peter’s voice was so low I could barely hear him. He looked pathetic, a pale form (shivering?), looking at me with hope for reconciliation. Sometimes I feel a bit cruel, but this time my cruelty felt justified. “You mean after you made me forget everything after I wandered around like a fool?”, I ask, I might have as well stabbed him. His shoulders slump, his chin droops, but he doesn’t respond. He doesn’t have to. Even a ghost can look shamefaced. I don’t want to be near him. He didn’t respect me enough to tell me the truth.
“You promised Pete. You promised, no more lies, no more secrets.”, I whisper, turning away and trying hard not to let Peter see that my eyes had filled up. I will not give him the satisfaction. “I didn’t lie”, comes his reply, “I didn’t want to scare you, I thought Hope had taken care of it. I didn’t lie to you Charlie, you know I never would”, he says floating to face me. “You weren’t exactly honest. I don’t have enough coffee in my blood for this argument.”, I mutter under my breath, not looking at Peter. Even though I had two cups of coffee, it didn’t seem enough. After all, what was the appropriate amount of coffee when you discover your ghost friend/roommate knew someone was trying to kill you but never mentioned it to you? This, after you have found that he and an angel had conspired to take your memories to forget even the existence of the ghost? I’d wager sixteen cups at the very least.
“I am going for a walk”, I say to no one in particular. I raise myself from my chair. My aching arm is protesting with each labouring step. But I don’t care, I cannot stay here any longer, my arm will probably feel even worse afterwards, but I couldn’t care less right now. Peter doesn’t stop me. He doesn’t follow me either. Good. I set off into the corridor with the Library in mind.
“Running off somewhere, Charlie?”, comes a velvety voice from the shadows. I turn around to see Dave (the bloody demon, last person I want to see now) stepping out from behind a pillar. He casually leans against the post. “Ghost boyfriend cheat on you?”, he demands unkindly. “He’s not my boyfriend”, I snap at him. Dave raises an eyebrow but says nothing. “Why are you here? We didn’t summon you.” I ask suddenly hoping Peter hasn’t done this. “No, you didn’t. I don’t have to be summoned; I can check up on friends from time to time”, Dave dodges the question. “Friends? What friends? We are not friends”, I answer furiously. “Now, now, you don’t mean that. You are hurting my feelings”, Dave exclaims one arm going to his heart to prove his point.
“Good”, I bite out, then I say nothing. If Dave was insistent on not telling me, I might as well leave. This is a game two can play. As I start to walk away, he starts talking again. “Fine. I came here to warn you, your life is in danger. You are in danger. Something far more powerful than me is trying to kill you. Don’t ask me why. Just survive, get help from above, if you must”. I hold my breath and turned back to him.
“What? Why does everyone keep telling me this? Who is trying to kill me? ” I snarled at him. He sighs resignedly. “Those accidents weren’t accidents. The water on the stairs, the random tree that almost crushed you to death, the snake in the garden and the bookshelf, none of that were accidents. I don’t know how you survived. It’s almost a miracle….. “, he trails off his eyes unfocused. For once I am silent, I have no clever comeback or sharp retort. Something tells me this is not the time for those. “But who could it be?”, I ask my voice barely audible even to me.
“Maybe someone is protecting you. But you will have a better time surviving if you eliminate the danger”, Dave continues as if I hadn’t spoken. This time stunned as I am, I manage a response. “Kill the person trying to kill me?”, I ask to be sure I understood him right. “Well…. don’t say that in so many words.” Dave protests as though saying it somehow made it worse. “What can’t say the word kill?”, I retort, only to be met with silence. Dave looks troubled. Anger wasn’t getting me anywhere. I had to try another way. After all, honey catches more flies than vinegar, or so the saying goes.
“Why are you really here?” I ask again, in what I hoped was a defeated tone. “Well I am not here to play with ants, am I? I came here to warn you. Did you listen to anything I said?”, he says sarcasm dripping off every word. And the sarcastic demon that I could just as quickly hate was back. He leaned back on the pillar and slid down without another word. Realising I looked ridiculous I sat next to him on the stone steps. “Why are you helping me?” I had to ask.
“Because I have to keep you alive. And as I understand, it is in your best interest to stay alive.”, Dave responds still beating about the bush. “Why? Why do you care?” I push. I have to know something was gnawing at me. “I am doing it for Peter, alright?”, comes his exasperated answer. I don’t know what I was expecting. But it was not this. Yet there is something in his expression, a caginess that makes me want to ask more. “Why? You are a demon. Nothing comes free with you. So what do you want?” I ask him again. This time he looks at me, his eyes have a distant fire in them. “I was like Peter once. I wandered for years without anyone seeing me. And someone offered me a way out. I foolishly took it, not realising had I waited some more I could have had peace. I became this.”, he gestures to himself as he spoke, “I want revenge”, he continued “Obviously I can’t do it. But if someone from above were to do it…. “, he trails off again, keeping his eyes trained on the grounds.
“Also, for real, your life is in danger. Keep doing to whatever it is you do at night. I hope you see the next sunrise”, he said, turning to me. Fantastic. Then as an afterthought, he says, “Meet me in the library three hours after sundown and bring a book from your bookshelf”. “Which one?”, I ask, turning to him but he’s melted off into the shadows. I am left alone sitting on those steps watching the grounds.
I don’t know how much time has passed after Charlie stormed off. I don’t blame her; I would have done the same thing. I had wanted to tell her on multiple occasions that the Angel had warned me. But the Angel had also said to me that she had taken care of it. Yet I had seen the last few days; Charlie was lucky to be alive. I went to the bookshelf and slowly started to get everything back in place. That would keep my mind off things. As I reshelved the books in the way Charlie would have, I cannot touch anything. But I can move large objects. So this went on for a while. I had reached Leigh Bardugo and was starting to wonder if I should look for Charlie when the doors burst open, and Charlie walked in, stony-faced. “So I just saw Dave.”, she says, hardly looking at me. “What? Why did you summon Dave? “I ask her, confused.
She looks at me, her fists clenching “I didn’t. Why do you always have to assume the worst? Why don’t you back off, you didn’t tell me anything either.”, she fumes. She is right. I have made my bed, and I might as well sleep in it. But I wanted to keep Charlie safe, so I swallow the little pride I have and turn to her. “I know you are angry, and it is justified. I should have told you. I apologise. But please tell me what Dave wanted.” I say, the words coming to me quickly. Charlie doesn’t answer right away. “Dave warned me, I think it’s a demon or Watcher or whatever Dave is”, she answers. I hope things are back to normal between us. I don’t like this one bit.
“We have to call Hope. “, I tell her again. She doesn’t respond again. Instead, she picks up the copy of, ‘Practical guide to communicating with angels’. She flicks through, she seems to be satisfied with what she finds and then takes her phone and dials. No angel comes. She looks at me and shrugs, “Doesn’t seem to be working. I am going down to the library to meet Dave, why don’t you stay here to see if Hope does come?”. She seems to notice the bookshelf, she looks back at me, without a word plucks a book from the bookshelf and walks out the door. I know that is just a flimsy excuse to get me out of her hair. I don’t object; I deserve this, after all, I had betrayed her not once but twice. Charlie was full of quips, jabs and witty insults. I often wondered how she thought of these fun retorts. But now she had lost her witty tongue it would seem. Tonight not a single quip, a sneaky insult or an angry remark left her lips. Charlie was angry, and there will be hell to pay for it. But I am not going to let her die before we finish this. Whatever this was.
I must have lost track of time, but the oomph jolts me back. I turn around to see Hope in our room. Her elegant curls are in a mess, her usually blue eyes seem a stormy grey, she looked dishevelled. “Where’s Charlotte?”, she asks, never the one for small talk. So I tell her, about the incidents of the past few days that lead right up to Charlie walking out and going to the Library to meet Dave. “The Library? We have to go there now!” Hope screams, her usually calm demeanour was long gone. I imagined us storming the Library immediately. Instead, she was pacing the room anxiously, so I decided to risk it. “Hope what are you not telling me? What’s wrong?”, I ask searching her face for the answer her lips weren’t uttering.
“This is no ordinary library. If Charlotte even reads one page she will be lost to us”, she supplies finally. “What? What are you talking about? Can you be a little bit more clearer? “I can’t help but ask. Her answer had made everything more confusing. “No. Now is not the time for clarity and logic, all that matters is we move, come along now”, is her only reply. She extends her arm and touches me. For once I am shaken, I haven’t been touched for a long time. That’s one thing with being a ghost; I am always untouchable.
Hope had taken us to the Library in a second. We go in. There’s no one there just the books and a cold that seems a little too harsh. Hope stops at the Fantasy section and pulls out a book from the third shelf. I try to see the title, but to my surprise, the enormous wooden bookcase swings open, revealing an ornate door. Hope whispers inaudibly as the door dissolves in front of my eyes. Hope goes in and turns to me. It is only then I realise I hadn’t moved an inch. “Welcome to the Library of Forbidden Knowledge. Time is of essence Jupiter, go and find Grace”, says Hope. “Grace? Who’s Grace?” I asked her as I followed her. Her face stills and breathing almost stops. Yet again I am reminded that no matter how Hoped looked, she was an immortal, and Angel. “No one, I meant Charlotte of course.”, Hope says her voice quivering. It was not ‘no one’ I knew that for sure.
“This is where I must take leave, now go find her and bring her to me, I will be in your residence”, Hope says urging me forward before vanishing. As I look into the Library, I felt disoriented. As far, my eyes could see there were bookshelves, bookshelves that seemed to reach the ceiling. A constellation painting covered the roof; the constellations were moving. Even without much knowledge in Space stuff, I could easily find Jupiter, my namesake.
The floor looked like a meadow, with flowers and as I looked around, I realised it looked like a garden. There were trees in between shelves. Some were trees I had seen before, like Cherry blossoms and mango trees. Some were trees that looked so unreal, and their leaves glittered gold and fruits looked like red rubies. Some trees needed colder climates. I presumed because I saw winter, spring, summer, and even a little rain between those shelves! Wooden signs marked each tree, but I didn’t know the language or even the alphabet. The bookshelves looked ancient, yet they gleamed like they had been polished. They were covered in engravings of fruits flowers and whatnot. I couldn’t help but admire the excellent craftsmanship in the details. There were symbols carved into each bookshelf, symbols I couldn’t understand. Maybe it was to let us know which section it was, but a closer inspection showed that the marks were identical. Wierd.
ספריית הידע האסור
There were all kinds of books, leather-bound, with gold-spines, paperbacks, hardcovers, Library bound, and there were a few e-readers set up at the end of each aisle. There were ladders to reach the top shelves. In between the shelves were long tables and winged armchairs. There was some astronomical globe instrument here and there among the bookshelves. On one end I spotted books stacking themselves into the shelf. “Charlie, Dave, you guys in here?”, I call out. I heard no response. That was when I noticed that I had reached what seemed to be the middle of the Library. There was an archway on four sides and at the focal point of it was a tree. The tallest tree was there right in the middle it’s branches were spread out and I couldn’t see the top, the ceiling was also not visible, I considered floating up to see. Funnily enough, it seemed like an apple tree. As I was looking at the tree, I noticed something the archways were also marked with symbols.
לראות ידע אסור פירושו לאבד אור. החושך מקבל את פניכם.
I stood there, staring at the writing. Something about it was upsetting. “What do you want ghost? “, says a prim voice behind me. I turn around wildly. Surely they can’t see me. I notice a woman standing behind me wearing a cape or a cloak with a hood. It was wine red, symbols in silver thread covered the fabric. The darkness masked her face. I couldn’t make out her age or appearance. I don’t know how long I had stared. I awkwardly cleared my throat and asked, “You can see me? “
“Of course I see you I see every creature that comes through these doors, I am the Librarian, guardian of Knowledge”, she drawls. Of course, she was.
“I am looking for my friends, Charlie and Dave? “
“That way, exorcism section. Follow the arrow.”, she says, pointing vaguely towards the left.
“Arrow? What arrow?”, I ask confused, then I see a glowing arrow appear over my head. “Oh, that arrow. Thanks for your help.”, I thank her and follow the sign that was hovering above.
After what seemed like random turns at random shelves and maneuvering through a labyrinth of “E” sections, I followed the arrow. I saw the ‘Exorcism’ sign, which was miraculously in English. Beneath a Wisteria tree in full blossom, Charlie was poring over a book. At the same time, Dave watched her with a curious expression on his face. They don’t seem to notice me. “Guys, what are you doing here?” I ask as quickly as possible, not wanting to seem like a creepy ghost that hovered about.
Charlie looks up confusion flashing in her eyes. “How did you find us? Did you follow me?” she demands.
“No, no, I swear I didn’t. It was Hope”, I try to calm her down.
She doesn’t reply to that. Instead, she turns the page and goes back to the book. The silence feels deafening. I ask her again, “What are you-“,
“Trying to save my life by exorcising the demon who is set on killing me.”, Charlie says flatly, not letting me complete my question even. That put me in my place. I slowly sank into a chair near her. She looked at me again, and I could feel the anger rolling off her. “You might want to steer clear though, I am rather new at exorcisms, there’s a good chance you will be exorcised too.”, she says acidly. I hide the smile that was creeping up my face. She was sarcastic, that’s alright, I can handle a sarcastic Charlie. As I look up, I see Dave was eyeing us with anxiousness.
Leaning into Charlie, I try to tell her what Hope had conveyed, “Hope asked you not to read any books, something’s not right, I think we have to leave.”
“Oh yeah? Did Hope say that, huh? Is she trying to help us then?” I have no reply to that. Hope had not promised help. I don’t want to take an angry Charlie to meet Hope. Especially not when Hope can turn us into butterflies or whatever. When I don’t respond for some time, Charlie turns to me, “That’s a no I take it? I almost died thrice; I don’t want to press my luck again. I am doing this with or without you.” With that, she goes back to her book. Against my better judgement, I stay.
“Where are we anyway? What is this place? ” I ask no one in particular. It is Dave who answers.”It’s the Library of Forbidden Knowledge, a loose translation from the original language which was Enochian and then translated to Hebrew I think? Not an expert on languages, but almost all volumes here are translated into English or Spanish. This is the place you come to when you have certain problems your normal Library can’t solve”. I take some time before I ask my next question, “Forbidden Knowledge, huh? Why is it forbidden, Dave? What happens when we use that kind of Knowledge?”
“It’s a very loose translation, don’t worry yourself”, Dave responds carelessly. Perhaps seeing my worried face, he adds, “Besides I am here aren’t ? And I am not here to play with ants. I will help you two”. Well, that’s reassuring. He won’t play with the ants while demons are chasing us. Charlie, who had been silent throughout my exchange with Dave, finally speaks up. “It’s no use, this book. Nothing in here will work until I find the demon’s name”, she shuts the book with a loud thud. I catch a glimpse of the title. ‘A practitioners guide to exorcism’, it says. Of course, it does. What was I expecting?
Dave makes no comment but takes a copy of Anne of the Green Gables from the table and flips through it and inhales. Belatedly I realise that was my copy of Anne of the Green Gables. My book which Charlie had taken off from the shelf as she came to meet Dave. Dave then ears off the first page to my horror. “Hey!” Charlie and I protest in unison. Our eyes meet, and Charlie looks away, I could feel her anger dissipating. Books were one thing we could agree upon, no matter what. Dave had ignored us completely. He had bought out a different book and placed it in front of us. “Finding your demons’, the cover said. Charlie opened it to find many ways to find the demons that are attacking you. As she read on loudly for both of us to hear, I realised I could not recollect what she was reading. Something was wrong. I knew what she had said, yet the exact details remained obscure. The panic that I had felt when I saw Charlie in this Library returned to me. Something here was not right. We were not supposed to be here. The Library was so beautiful, unreal even, yet something about it was dangerous.
“Got it, we can use this spell”, Charlie was telling Dave. Which spell, you ask? I wouldn’t know. I cannot remember, I don’t know what she did either, just that it involved the torn page from my old copy of Anne of the Green Gables. Does it annoy me that I can’t remember? Yes. But there was nothing I could do about it. They seem to have burned the page along with something. As I watched an out of the charred remains a paper on fire defied gravity and flew upwards landing on the table as it stopped igniting. Charlie picked it up, and I saw her eyebrows disappear into her hair. I leaned over my chair to see what was written on it.
“Is that German? So now they set a Nazi demon on you?”, Dave asks jokingly, trying to change our moody spirits I presume.
“No, not just any Nazi Demon”, she subconsciously ran her fingers across the scar on her throat. ” The Nazi demon”, comes Charlie’s panicked whisper.