by Steve Sibra

 

I found myself in the massive personal library of a true scholar, an international man of letters who had spoken around the world and taught at Oxford, and Brighton of Sussex, and upon the US mainland as well. I strolled along the rows of books. They stretched to the massive ceiling above, and the rows seemed to go on forever. It was an intimidating sight.  At some point I made to pull an interesting looking text from the racks, to examine it.

I then discovered that all of the books were glued together, fastened to one another by adhesives. Each row of texts was a single block of paper and glue, and each was affixed to the boards upon which it reclined.

At that moment I knew that this man,this celebrated intellectual, this living monument to the very principles of literature was, in addition to all of that, a horrific mass murderer.

I asked him about it, then and there.

He was a tall sort of fellow. I strode up next to him and looked up into his eye.

“My dear sir,” I said pleasantly. “I see by the way in which you keep your library, that you are a predator not only of knowledge but of human flesh and blood as well, a savage cut throat, a murderous demon with a heart as hard and black as obsidian. Would you care to tell me about it?”

“I beg your pardon?”

“Oh, but no pardon to beg, I should not think. You will have to go the full stretch for this one I believe, the whole nine yards as they say.”

“So you are saying what then?  That I have taken a life?”

“Oh, no, sir.  Not a single life.  You have taken many lives, it seems.”

“I do not understand what you are saying.”

“But you do. All of these books are fastened together with the sturdiest of adhesives. This tells me that you are a devil without a soul, a horrible monster who has preyed upon scores of innocents.”

“How can this be? How might you even think to insinuate such a thing?”

“In fact sir, it is quite simple. It’s a simple matter to discern.”

“My good man, I tire of this. Kindly explain your reasoning immediately or I shall have to ask you to take your leave.”

I shifted my weight to my heels, at this point, and rubbed my bearded chin in a contemplative fashion. I looked my companion over, head to toe.

“You have butchered a legion over the years,” I said. “Wastrels, hobos, all manner of riffraff that has fallen outside the usual borders of polite society. You knew that they would not be missed.”

“Go on.”

“You have carefully dissected them, one and all. You have reduced them to, shall we say, bite-sized morsels.”

“Hmmm . . . I see. And did I then consume them like some ghoul? Is that your inference?”

“You did not.”

“What then?”

I tapped the point of my walking stick upon the shelf nearest me. “You placed them here,” I said. “Inside the books. In small pieces, sealed in something, perhaps wax, to conceal their gradual deterioration and desiccation.”

The gentleman waved an arm expansively across the room. “What, all of these books? Each and all of them, repositories for the remains of dozens of victims? And what would stop any person who entered this library from discovering the massive oddity of the books all being glued together?”

I laughed. “Why, the magnitude of the library itself. A person on these premises under normal circumstances would be so in awe of this place, they would never dare to touch a single volume. This room is a museum piece. It is a hall of honor. To tamper with such a thing would be blasphemy.”

My companion rubbed at his own chin and nodded his understanding. After a moment, he spoke.

“And what would lead you to even imagine such a far-fetched notion, I must ask?”

I tapped my walking stick three times, briskly, on the heavy wooden floor. “Well, isn’t that obvious? I know it, for I have done the very same thing; back in the states, in my chambers in New Orleans, to be precise.”

He looked at me for a long moment, and then threw back his head and laughed a hearty, healthy and robust rumbling sort of laughter. I had no choice but to join in. We tossed about and laughed for a good long minute.

When at last we stopped, he looked at me and wiped a tear of pure mirth from his cheek. “You sir,” he said, “are quite the clever fellow. It is a true delight to meet a man with such a fertile imagination. I feel truly enlightened by your wit. Would you like a spot of brandy?”

I smiled a deep, broad smile. “I should enjoy that very much,” I replied. “So long as it is you who has the first sip.”

 

Steve Sibra grew up in the 1960s and 1970s in a wonderfully nightmarish and surrealistic little town in eastern Montana; a place with a population of less than a thousand people, a place where he had friends who have since become United States Senators and members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  Steve’s thing was to make up odd and unsettling stories based on the people that he came to know, to love, to respect and to fear.  His stories and poems have appeared in numerous literary journals including Jellyfish Review, Crab Fat Magazine, Matador Review, Shattered Wig and many others.

[back to September 2018 issue]

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