Bookworm Holes

My response to Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie Tale Weaver #79: Wormhole

The librarian had gone off to make himself a coffee. Thursday afternoon was always slow and quiet, with one or two people logged on to computers, booking a holiday or applying for jobs. No kids until well after three. Sitting low in a comfy chair in the poetry and biography section, I flicked through the musty pages of an anthology, scanning for a poem I’d learnt at school. A few lines lingered in my head, but the title and poet had fallen into one of those black holes that were plaguing me in my twilight years.

Talking of black holes, I noticed that the library wasn’t fastidious when it came to silver fish and bookworms. The book was riddled with holes. I’d never seen such an infestation and found myself fascinated by the lacerated paper. I closed the cover to inspect the damage, determined to alert the librarian to the destruction, and was drawn down a minute dark tunnel.

Surrounded by words and poetry, I plunged down the wormhole, emerging into a one-dimensional paper garden. Every blade of grass, leaf and petal was covered with squirming, wriggling words, some of which I recognised, others in unknown languages that I could have worked out, but for the feeling of nausea brought on by the constant movement of the letters, tiny worms and beetles crawling over every flat surface. As I forced myself to focus on a monochrome flower, it dawned on me that they were forming sentences.

‘Ask me a question?’ the flower spelled out.

‘What am I doing here?’

‘Searching for an answer,’ was the reply. ‘Ask me another.’

‘Where am I?’

‘In the Bibliophile’s Library.’

‘Where exactly is that?’

‘In the space between the bookshelves of today and the bookshelves of tomorrow. They are constantly in flux as books are moved, removed and replaced.’

‘How do I get back?’

‘Ah, that’s a tricky one. You can only return when you have found your answer, for which you need a question.’

By now, my head was spinning. I remembered the comfy chair and the anthology but not the question.

I thanked the flower and crossed the precarious edge of a page, under the newspaper-like foliage of a tree. Its words were in an obscure 19th century font that I couldn’t name and formed complete lines and stanzas on its trunk and branches. Poetree, perhaps?

I recalled what I had been searching for: the title and author of a poem that began with the lines:

I think that I shall never see 

A poem lovely as a tree. 

And there, in the tree, was the answer: ‘Trees’ by Joyce Kilmer. I had to get back to the library to locate a book of his poetry or an anthology with that poem in it.

Hopping to the previous page and skipping through the monochrome flowers, I arrived at the wormhole and tunnelled my way back to the cosy chair in the library.

wormhole_through_space_by_vepman-d35putg

image: wormhole through space by vepman, deviant art.

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