Friday, April 14, 2017

The Alchemist's Widow: Nowhere is Better than Here & The Dewey Decimal System is Irrelevant

<<Parts Five & Six
Parts Seven & Eight

Nowhere is Better than Here
“Catherine?” There was the barest of touches, fingertips resting on my cheek. “Catherine?” A voice I knew…not David. A hint of French. “Cheri?”
“Maurice?” I opened my eyes. The large, pleasant smelling man stood over me. He removed his hand from my cheek and smiled. “What are you doing here?”
“I thought you might need these.” He reached into his shirt pocket and drew out a silver key and a piece of chalk. “It amazes me that you could lose them so quickly.”
I took them from his hand, but my own was shaking. “I don’t understand…”
“Neither did I—until you stepped into my little patch of Nowhere.” His eyes twinkled, flashing bicolor.
I felt my eyes widen, the key whispered for understanding. “You? You’re the—”
He pressed a finger to my lips. “I am what I am.”
“You could have asked my door to open you know.” I spoke around his finger. Of all the things to say, that popped out of my mouth. Of course, it wasn’t like there was a right thing to say when one found out their brother-in-law was a…a…whatever the hell it was that we were.
“Sorry, that would have been suspicious. Your mother was right there.”
“Why didn’t you tell me before?”
“I didn’t know David was the Alchemist. The two look nothing alike. Besides, he only ever referred to his wife as Spellbinder. How could I know it was you?” He shook his head. “Granted, looking back it was an obvious connection.”
“Yeah…but how did you not notice me talking to…everything?”
“I only noticed it after David…left. I assumed it was a manifestation of grief. You lost your husband and your child in the space of hours. Who was I to say what was normal?”
“I have to go back to the manor. Mr. Crowley is hiding something.” I sat up and was immediately reminded of the duck gown. “I’ll need some clothes I think.”
“You’ll need more than clothes. Francis Crowley is a dangerous man. They know him in Nowhere as the Enchanter. His power lets him control people. I assume it’s why he’s dislikes you so much.”
“I don’t understand.” I swung my legs out over the side of the bed.
“Your power over the inanimate protects you from his power. It might even protect you from the Wizard’s power…” He looked thoughtful for a moment before shaking his head. “In any case, Crowley isn’t who you need to talk to. I should have thought of it earlier actually.” From the pocket of his coat he drew out a book.
Through the Looking Glass?” I raised an eyebrow.
“Mr. Carroll had quite a few things right. Mirrors, rabbit holes, windows, doorways…they can all lead you someplace unexpected. They can lead you to Nowhere. Alice…she is a real person that came to Nowhere through a rabbit hole, and again through a mirror.”
“So, Mr. Carroll came to Nowhere.”
“No. Just Alice. Of course, her name isn’t Alice and she certainly wasn’t a little girl but perception made her different from reality. We call her the Librarian. She has the power to bring written word to life. In Nowhere, her power is unmatched. She can create anything. A very large part of Nowhere is under her control. What you have to do is find it. Find the Library and talk to her. Because believe me, if anyone knows where David is, she does.”
“How do I get there from here? The only door I know of is in David’s lab.” It wasn’t like the hospital staff would just let me walk out of here.
“Get dressed, and I’ll show you.”
“So you control all the doorways to Nowhere?”
“I do.” He knelt by the door, fiddling with the keyhole. “It’s my power to create passages. I also come in handy if you lock your keys in your car.”
I snickered. “And you married my brother because?”
“I love him, and he’s a very unique man.”
“I’ll give you that.” Edward was a good man, but unique was the only way to describe him. Edward was a therapist that specialized in hypnosis. Apparently he made a good living getting people to quit smoking.
“He’s a lot like you.”
“Like me?” I snorted. “I doubt that.”
“You used to restore antiques right? You like to fix things. I assume that’s because you feel for them. You love every object you come in contact with. Edward is the same way, but with people.”
“He’s not—”
“One of us? No. Just a good man.”
“He’ll die long before you will, won’t he?”
“Yes.” He stood up, sliding his tools back into his pocket. “We’re all set.”
I let the uncomfortable subject slide away and put on my coat. The chalk was in my pocket and my key was back around my neck. “I’m ready.”
He opened the door, revealing the same black threshold as the door in the lab. “Be careful, cheri.”
I nodded, and stepped through the door.

The Dewey Decimal System is Irrelevant
The winding road hadn’t shortened in my absence. Variel, however, was waiting for me. Her tail twitched in greeting.
“You look worse. Did someone hit you?”
“Francis Crowley, actually.” I stretched. “I need to find the Librarian. So says the mighty Maurice.”
“Ah…so I take it he told you then.”
“He did. And why didn’t you tell me who he was?”
“I assumed he would tell you when he was ready. As for the Librarian…” She stood up and turned. “I can take you there.”
“Remind me to scratch out Crowley’s eyes, won’t you?”
I smiled. “Will do.” I stretched, getting back into the groove of my shorter legs and arms. “So, will the Librarian give me the information, or will I need to bribe her with something?”
Variel shrugged. “It depends on her mood.”
She started walking, and I skipped to follow her. “So she’s temperamental.”
“She’s a bit mad actually. But then, most of the semi-permanent residents of Nowhere are.”
“Good to know.”
Walking in Nowhere is a strange experience. We passed the territories of persons I’d prefer not meet. Skull decorated trees covered a stretch of over a mile in length along the road in one, another had the road pocked with pits of boiling cheese and still another was a broad grass field where chickens the size of steer pecked and preened.
Variel ignored it all, intent on the road ahead and some destination I could not fathom. So it was when a great glass building, like a green house in style and shape, rose in the horizon, I did not expect it when Variel paused.
“That’s the Library.”
“It looks like a greenhouse.”
“That’s a good way to put it.” She stretched. “Ready?”
“As I’ll ever be.”
She took off again, and before too long, we were at the foot of the Library which rose at least four stories above the earth. A grand door faced the road. Built of glass, it was stained and covered in flowering vines. Whatever image it depicted was obscured.
“Knock thrice and then back away. If she’ll see us, she’ll open the door.”
“And if she won’t?”
“We should run.”
I shook away my nerves and steeled myself for the door. My knock rang out, bell sounds. I knocked three times and stepped back. The door opened, whispering greeting.
“I think the door likes me.”
“Good. That should make things simpler.”
“Simple isn’t always best.” This from the woman who popped into the doorway. She appeared to be no older than myself in the other world, but her hair was blonde and her eyes blue. She wore a dusty housecoat and wire rimmed glasses perched dangerously on her nose.
“Are you…the Librarian?”
“I am the Librarian and I mean you no harm.” She smiled. “I mean you no harm, I mean you no harm.” There was a fuzz of light and the words appeared over her head in light for a moment and dissipated in a shower of golden sparks. “There, bound and promised. Come in.”
 “Thank you.”
She stepped back away from the door and allowed us entrance, Variel keeping close to my feet. “I suppose you’re here for information.”
“I’m looking for my husband.”
“The Alchemist, yes. I have a book on him…though where it is…”
The “where it is” became more of a difficult question as I got a clear view of the interior of the building. The glass walls and ceiling were tangled with vines that let in meager light. But inside those walls…Spiral stairs led up to three loft levels raised above the floor we stood on by Greek pillars. And everywhere there were shelves. Taller than myself and taller than any shelves I’d seen before.
There were books of all shapes and sizes, piled on shelves, heaped on the floor, covering tables and occupying chairs. The Library was a maze of books and shelving and disrepair.
“How will we find it in this? Do you use the Dewey Decimal System or something?”
She flapped her hand. “Psh. The Dewey Decimal system is irrelevant. I use my own system. Everything is sorted chronologically. Of course, time is relative in Nowhere, so it’s chronological to my own personal life. The 1800s are over there.” She pointed to the stairs to the second loft. “The 1900s are left of the tea room,” she waved her hand in a vague direction. “1844 has its own room downstairs and personal memoirs, which don’t apply to the time line, are all on the fourth floor.”
“So where do I find David’s book?”
She tapped a finger against her cheek. “Well, it’s probably with the personnel files in the eastern wing. I believe I keep everyone’s books there. You’ve even got one.”
“Can I see it?” I was curious to know what it would say.
“Oh no, that’s against the Rules. And believe me; you don’t even want to try looking at the rules. Takes up my whole sub-basement that one.”
“Can you show me where this wing is?”
She snapped her fingers and an orange tabby cat slithered off a nearby shelf where apparently he’d been sleeping. “This is the Librarian’s Cat, also known as Chester. He can help you find the book. He knows this place better than I do.”
“I can help too,” Variel complained. “I’ve been here before.”
“But you aren’t the Librarian’s Cat.” Chester mrowled. “I will help the Spellbinder.”
“Well she isn’t going with you alone.”
“Is there anyone in this place that can resolve a situation without arguing?”
Both cats turned to me, guilty looks on their whiskered faces.
“If that’s done, let’s go find David’s book.”
The cats nodded, and with tails raised, they took off into the stacks. I sighed, and with a nod to the Librarian, took off after them.  
Parts Nine - Eleven>>

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