Life of a Librarian: Ch 8

I woke to a beautiful sunrise.  Maybe it had all been a dream.  That’s what I deluded myself with as I wallered around in the comfort of my warm blankets.  The longer I kept my eyes shut, the longer I could just think it was all a nightmare, gone with the morning light.  Eventually though, mother nature called me from the comfort of dreamland to the cold necessity of a bathroom.  I grimaced, as I peeked one eye open, then the other.  This was not my house, or my living room. My couch in my apartment was threadbare and a spring was pushing through it. Here, the leather had been buffed with a conditioner that smelled of pipe tobacco and patchouli. 

I eased myself out of the couch, waiting for the telltale squeak that never came. It wasn’t my couch, I chided. I grabbed my button-up and slung it over my shoulders for some bid at modesty. White undershirt was too thin to do much good other than let me sleep comfortably or hide the line of my binder. I padded my way into the dark room and found a closet door.  Inside was a small wardrobe of clothing, a couple shirts, a couple pairs of pants, the cotton candy clown of death outfit.  I shuddered at the monstrosity of the pattern and color, but I understood now the symbolism of it.  I closed the door and fumbled my way to the door next to it, having seen it from the light of the closet.

It creaked open, the sound sending a chill down my spine.  I found it to swing in on a muted blue bathroom with a decently sized tub and shower combination, a sink, and a toilet.  It didn’t take me long to freshen up.  The shower, my first in several days, felt glorious. My ribs and sternum were tender, and my skin was chapped red. Grimacing, I knew I’d need to find some way to be comfortable for a couple days and give myself a break. When I stepped out of the shower, a towel wrapped around me, my hair still dripping water, I had a staring contest with my clothing. They were grimy and wrinkled and smelled rather sour.  

For the life of me, I couldn’t conjure up a good memory of clothing from a book, none that I knew would be of use to me.  Images of prehistoric clothing and victorian dresses came to mind, but those weren’t exactly normal clothing to walk about in.  I sighed, exasperated.  Finally, I resigned myself to clothing options and put myself in a green and brown velvet three-piece suit.  The corset-vest that wrapped tightly around me surprised me.  I had never worn one before, and the sudden corrective posture made me nervous.

The costume had come from a favorite yaoi smut story, and though I did not initially have ulterior motives, a smile tugged at my lips as I looked at my shoulders and hair, my dysphoria taking itself down a couple pegs.  I was amazed I hadn’t worn such a cut before. It was two hundred times more comfortable than the stupid binder. Especially because the vest fit over my shirt rather than against my skin. I waved my hand and considered the posh matched top hat and silver cane. It might be outlandish, but I liked how I looked. 

My smirk fell as I stared at the spot behind the faucet of the sink. In my mind’s eye, I could see the brown leather pouch I had bought at the renfaire one year. The smell of the alcohol singlets. That chemically pine scent if I dripped testosterone trying to get bubbles out of the syringe. It had been over a week since my last shot. I ran a hand along my chin, wishing for the chance to feel stubble there finally. Sighing, I left the bathroom, my gut churning. Clearing my throat, I hummed low through a scale, my voice cracking in spots. I grabbed my clothes from the bathroom.

I found the kitchen and sitting room empty. There was nothing beyond the four rooms in the apartment save for a door to the boiler, ac unit, and stacked laundry machine. I threw my shirts, pants, socks, and underwear into the machine with a cap of detergent.  Sylwyn had left for the day. While I had an undisturbed minute, I took my belt, binder, and detergent back to the bathroom. I hung the belt on the hook on the back of the door and washed out the binder. I grimaced at the rust-coloured staining along the hem and touched the spot on my left that had to have been the contributor. Hunting down a hanger from the closet, I carefully got the thing hung up on the drawer rail of the under-sink cabinet to dry.  

Returning to the kitchen, I found a box of cereal and half a jug of milk in the kitchen. I snarfed down a small bowl for breakfast.  I had thought to eat more, I had woken up famished, but that tight hug of the corset made it hard for me to stomach any more.  I wandered the little apartment, familiarizing myself with the small trinkets and details as I worked through broadening my vocal range in privacy.  

There were no other photos or pictures in the rooms.  The walls were bare other than for a couple of low shelves packed with books and little mementoes.  There was a little Eiffel tower, a small vase with Van Gogh’s sunflowers painted on the side.  A wooden mind puzzle ball acted as a bookend for a set of small moleskins.  I was nervous to linger too long on the titles of the books.  Most though, I found to be in languages I was barely familiar with. I had suffered two semesters of French in high school and recognized a couple of words on the shelves.  I knew what the Greek alphabet and Russian one looked like. There were Korean, Chinese, and Japanese. Then an entire section in the swooping text of Southeast Asia that always escaped me. One entire shelf was dedicated to Middle Eastern scripts.

My eyes settled on a bottom shelf in the sitting room.  A corner held about a dozen thin, worn covers of what looked to be children’s text books.  I smiled.  I leaned over and pulled a couple out of the shelf.  That was what had really inspired me to become a librarian.  I loved the look of children’s books, the ability to have so many stories, though short, at hand.  The pictures, I loved them.  I stilled the nervous beat of my heart.  Would I bring something out of them?

I eased onto the ottoman, not sure that I’d be able to get back out of the couch with the corset on.  Maybe I should have gone with a prehistoric leather wrap.  I had kept myself from looking at the cover of the storybooks.  Finally, with trepidation, I looked down at the cover.

An ancient illumination of a boy in friar’s garb holding an open book was gilded to the cover.  Centred under it, a beautiful typographic font was printed A Storyteller and His Words.  Nothing popped out; no person stood before me.  I swallowed against my dry throat and opened the cover to the first page.  My eyes skimmed the first sentence, and nothing came out.  I heaved a sigh.  A book that would not cause problems.

Once, there was a boy, nearly a man, who lived in a small village near the sea.  He was the son of a traveller.  He would often spend evenings listening to his father tell the villagers of his travels across the sea, to exotic and foreign locations.  He loved to listen to the stories.

One day, when the boy was old enough to travel, his father dressed the boy in the finest outfit he could afford.  His father gave him a small pouch and a couple of gold coins.  With his fine gifts, the boy set out on his first travel.

He wandered across the land that was familiar to him.  He had gone with his father to close villages to trade, and he knew his way to them.  He wandered to the villages familiar to him, less than a day’s walk.  On his way, he passed by a stream.  It was nearing his time to break his afternoon fast.  He sat down on the bank and set up his fishing pole.  Within a short time he landed a large golden fish.  Gasping on the shore, the fish begged the boy to let him go.  The boy, startled to have a fish speak to him, asked the fish why it could speak.

The fish told him of a purple bird with magic feathers that once came to drink at the stream.  It had taken a fancy to the fish and gave him one of her feathers.  The fish, though, could only talk of the current and the bugs that he caught.  Dismayed that the fish was such a poor conversationalist, she flew away.  The fish told the boy to find the bird and to apologize for him for never having enough to talk to her about.  The boy in gratitude for the information tossed the fish back into his stream, put away his fishing rod, and left quickly.

That night, he shared his story of the talking golden fish with the people at the inn where he stopped to rest.  The men laughed at his stories.  The innkeeper’s wife, though, had once seen a purple bird living in the trees near the hay fields.

The following morning, the boy left to the hay fields in search of the magical purple bird.  Taking a worn road, the boy stumbled upon a rock.  Looking at the protuberance, he discovered it was not a rock but a black tortoise that had fallen on its back and was having difficulty righting itself.  The tortoise asked the boy for help.  The boy, startled that a tortoise could talk, helped the creature find its feet.  The tortoise, in gratitude, told the boy of how he came to talk.  He had met with a purple lizard some time ago.  It had taken a fancy to him and followed him about for days.  She gave the tortoise the tip of her tail, telling him that it would let him talk.  She grew bored of the tortoise’s slow speech and had left it.  The tortoise begged the boy to find the purple lizard and to apologize for him for always being slow to speak.

The boy left the tortoise for the hay fields, now in hopes of finding a purple bird and a purple lizard.  He considered to himself, wondering if they were related.  Late in the afternoon, he found the hayfields the innkeeper’s wife had mentioned.  He heard, on entering the field, the squawking brays of a cock caught in a trap.  Rounding the mounds of hay, he found a ruby-red rooster caught in a snare.  He helped the creature out of the trap.  The rooster thanked him graciously.  The boy, no longer stunned to find animals speaking with him, asked the rooster if he had seen a purple bird or a purple lizard.  The rooster laughed at him and corrected him, telling him it was neither a purple bird or a purple lizard but a purple cat that had given him a magical whisker that allowed him to talk.  The cat had left, though, because the rooster was too busy to talk, and he was sorry that he couldn’t have given it more attention.  The rooster left, quickly distracted with its task of catching insects eating the hay.

The boy left the rooster and made his way into the woods on the edge of the field.  He searched the woods late into the evening, finding no bird, no lizard, no cat.  He set up camp.  In the firelight, he watched the small bit of starry sky shift slowly through the canopy of the the trees.  He decided to write down his story.  He was startled by a crack of twigs.  Looking past the fire, he saw a figure step forward.  A person in a brilliant purple hood sat down across from him.

The boy offered the person some of his meal.  The hooded figure ate graciously.  The boy, uneasy in the silence decided to tell the person his magnificent stories, like he remembered his father telling stories back home.  The hooded figure sat, patiently listening.  Finished, the boy asked the hooded figure who he was.  The figure pushed the hood away from her face, revealing a pale woman with white hair and pale blue eyes.  She motioned to her throat and made several hand gestures, indicating that she could not speak.

The boy apologized.  He told her of the apologies of the fish and the tortoise and the cock.  The woman smiled to him, seemingly amused.  She stood up and walked over to the boy.  To his amazement, she bent down and kissed him.  With that, she disappeared.  The boy, stunned, sat the entire night away.  In the early morning, he wrote down his story.

Returning to the inn the next day, he found the innkeeper’s wife and told her the rest of his story.  She encouraged him to tell the men that evening, and to charge a few coins, to make it into an event, that they might listen, and not laugh at him.  He did as she suggested.

That evening, he pulled out his book, and placed his cap on the table.  Curious, some of the patrons dropped a couple coins in his cap and found seats.  He proceeded to read from his book, and to everyone’s stunned amazement, the fish, the tortoise, and the cock appeared before them.  The bird, the lizard, the cat, and the lady did not appear, but a massive glittering purple dragon with white claws, white whiskers, and white wings appeared before them.

The boy asked the dragon where it had come from.  It thanked him for finally providing her with her own story and vanished with the fish, the tortoise, and the cock.

I closed the book.  Purple wasn’t the first colour I would have chosen for the dragon.  I would have made the fish purple and the dragon gold, but overall the story wasn’t exactly bad.  It didn’t really explain much.  


I sat and thought about it.  The fish had seen a bird.  Dragons have wings.  Maybe it saw what it most desired, a bird because it could fly in the sky.  The tortoise had met with a lizard, which dragons look sort of like lizards.  It can travel faster than tortoises; maybe that was what the tortoise wanted to see in it.  The rooster might have seen the face and the legs of the dragon and thought it was a large cat.  Maybe it wanted to be able to live more like the cat, a relaxed life of hunting.  The boy probably saw a woman because he was about that age to start thinking of things like that.

A click of the door startled me from my pondering.  Sylwyn let himself into his apartment, smiling to see me.  The clock near the door told me it was just about lunch time.  He was dressed in his regular black shirt and jeans with the massive sword strapped to his back.  His hair was pulled back in a strip of leather.  “I thought I’d come see if you wanted to eat lunch in the cafeteria?” he offered.  I paused, trying to find some reason not to. Stealing myself, I nodded when I could not find a polite way out.  I had showered, and though my outfit was probably a bit outlandish, it was clean.  I stood up, and jumped when the book hit the ground. I grabbed it quickly to look for damage. 

A small smile of nostalgia pulled at the corner of Sylwyn’s lips. “Did you find it interesting?”

“It was refreshing not to have things crawling out of the pages.” I pulled at my jacket to settle the shoulders.

“It’s sealed, so you don’t have to worry about things coming out of it.” He leaned against the door frame, that nostalgic smile broadening to one of amusement. The smile slipped and an eyebrow rose over his pink eye. I could read about three very obvious emotions run across his face as he realized just what I was wearing.

“Sealed?” I grabbed my glasses off the side table where Sylwyn had set them the night before when I’d fallen asleep the first time. The black plastic frame was cold on the bridge of my nose.  

Sylwyn cleared his throat and looked away from me to study the green blinking clock above the range.  “It’s a special book that tells of the beginning of the Librarians, and we need to be able to let children read it without problems, so one of the Chair more than a millennia ago sealed that story.  I am not sure how he did it, but we have been able to distribute the story to our charges without incident ever since the first script.”

“A dragon gave us the power to read out things from written word?  Wyn? really?”  I crossed my arms over my chest, warm velvet reassuring against my thumbs.

“Think about it; it’s not that implausible,” he mirrored my body language.

“That’s like saying Santa Clause is real,” I challenged.

“Says the person who randomly makes white rabbits emerge out of thin air.” He retorted, the memory slipping out a mild look of disgust.

“But dragons? Specifically purple, but less specifically, dragons?” I pressed.  Dragons couldn’t be real.

“Hey, it could have just as easily been a bird.  I don’t know.  The things we can read out of books, though, can make anything plausible,” the blond-haired man’s brows furrowed as he stared at the bowl and spoon I had washed and left on the side of the sink to drip dry. 

My head was not wanting to wrap itself around dragons being real.  True, if I had a copy of Saint Peter sitting in front of me, I could probably make a dragon appear – but that was me speaking it into existence, not it already existing.

“Wait, does that mean we are all descended from this one guy?” I asked, the sudden thought making me blanch.

“I don’t think the dragon was a singular case.  There are many books about people being blessed by a dragon with the ability to read out pictures in most cultures with a written word,” he shrugged.  I’m not sure why that reassured me, because that meant I accepted that dragons were real, but it did make me feel a little better.  Maybe it was just a story, and some kid had developed a genetic mutation that gave him some type of weird brain wave abnormality something…yeah.  I decided to brush it out of my mind.

Sylwyn dropped his posture and glanced at the door pointedly.  “So, do you want to try and face people today?”

“Am I okay in the outfit?” I asked.

He offered one cursory glance, cleared his throat and nodded, reaching for the door.

“To meet other people,” I hesitated. I wasn’t sure why I was. The crowd when I’d first met the chair had all been a Victoriana fashion trend. I shouldn’t be to far off, but the fact Sylwyn was jeans and a t-shirt was throwing me.

“Yes, to meet other people. Where’d you get that? I don’t remember having anything like that in my closet.”

“I can change if I have an option of something to read an outfit out of,” I muttered.

He drew in an exasperated breath and shrugged, refusing to look at me. Releasing the door, he turned to his shelves.  “You know,” he said after a minute’s observation of titles, “I don’t think I have anything in here to dress you in a pair of jeans and a t-shirt or anything.  The closest thing I have in here that I can think of that has anything mentioning clothing is this antique text on…” he pulled out a text written in Sanskrit.  

I caught sight of the image on the cover and slapped a hand over my mouth to stifle the snort that escaped regardless of my effort.  “I don’t think that would be appropriate in public company.” Heat wrapped up my cheeks when I caught the corner of his black eye flicking away from me.  “Why do you have a kama sutra text anyway?” I motioned him to give me the book.  He slipped it into my hands.  It was old, the leather of the cover and the paint chipping and cracking.  I gingerly flipped it open to the illuminated text and pictures, amazed at the vivid details.  My nervousness at his presence and the topic fell away to my curiosity.

Sylwyn shrugged, “we don’t really have ready access to the internet down here. Keeps us from summoning weird things. That’s all you need is the teens at the institute getting access to fanfic.”  He swallowed, going red at what he’d just admitted. I handed the manuscript back to him carefully. He had meant the book as a joke to ease my tension at going out, but he had suddenly become uncomfortable with the topic.

“It’s a beautiful manuscript.” I didn’t want that look of embarrassment on his face, and I didn’t want him thinking me a judgemental prude. Not like I had much place to judge. Testosterone shots were no joke, and horny was an understatement. Having missed my last week, the libido spike was going down, but hadn’t entirely disappeared yet.

He glanced back to me, concern awash on his face, “you’re not…you know…mad…about me having it?”

“If you’re not mad about the fact that I’m pan, trans, and have needs like any other human being, then yeah, I won’t be mad at you for using porn for normal basic needs,” I stated, not really able to keep myself looking at him.

A look of confusion crossed his face.

“What? Thought it was kinda obvious I was trans.”

“You find both women and men attractive?” A clouded look closed down his features.

“Maybe I shouldn’t have mentioned it.” I shifted uncomfortably.  

Sylwyn pushed his ponytail back over his shoulder and shelved his book.

“So…” I tried to break the awkward tension, “lunch?”

He nodded, walking back to his front door. “Let’s get you out of the apartment and introduced to a few people.  Maybe that’ll start you on the road to figuring out your place in the guild.”

Sylwyn held the door open for me and led me through the maze of corridors to the cafeteria.

Chapel Orahamm (C) 2022-2023. All Rights Reserved.

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