The Bedtime Story
(an old video idea)
Somewhere in a desolate tower, a young girl waited. She's trapped in most ways. Originally, a wyvern guarded the stone tower with its fire laced breaths and imposing wings and pincers. The beast was known throughout the land, and so was its trapped captive. Her legend spread. Some parents used her story as a cautionary tale meant to scary children away from strangers while others embellished her accounts to catalyze kids' imagination or induce their fantasies; she was even a princess in most tales. But while her story spread, she waited; kept alive by the vain hope someone would come to her rescue. Eventually, parents fabricated happy endings, which filtered their children's innocence, and the tragedy of the young girl was resolved in the minds of most who heard the tale. And while fairtale prospered and callow kids slept peacefully at night, the young girl continued to wither as she waits for her real, brave knight.
The next two short stories have the same setting and characters so I guess they go together.
A Book by Its Cover
She spread her arms out while we paced through the isles of books, and the tips of her fingers skimmed across the spines of hard covered novels. We walked and her finger tips carried a cadence like the spokes of a bicycle wheel hitting against a baseball card; along with our light steps and the swooshing of her jeans, it was almost hypnotic and we continued down the paperbound rabbit hole. Eventually, we slowed and her eyes darted from book to book, title to title. She skimmed, and she said, ‘Sometimes I come here to feel like a metaphoric picture.’ A side of her lips pursed, and she nearly formed a smile. ‘I want to read dramatic words or phrases with their eclectic fonts and sizes and different textures and colors. I like the old ones that show their age.’ She opened a book, one that was worn with scuffed and amber pages. She put it back on the shelf and continued skimming through the titles. ‘And in just a few minutes I can look back across the shelves until the lanes converge and disappear. I can look and feel like a picture. My eyes would have seen more than a thousand words.’
That was the reason we were alone in the library.
Most people read for escapism. They want to walk along the canvas of someone’s fictitious world and milk the pages of their knowledge and wisdom, their tales and adventures. And while I watched her read different titles and the names of authors who’ve died or remained forgotten, I’m reminded that this girl didn’t want to escape through someone else's painted fiction or become saturated with knowledge or wit. As she looked through shelves of books, her intentions were unmistakable. She didn’t want escapism, she wanted to be lost.
I gave her a weak smile, and she politely returned the expression. Her beautiful eyes peered up at mine as if to say, It’s alright, really. I would feel sorry for me too.
There were cushioned seats with wooden tables on either side of the book shelves, but she passively sat between the tightly woven walls of hard covered books that towered above our heads. Sometimes she nodded her gaze upwards, almost toward the ceiling, and she very slightly grinned. I think she liked being overwhelmed; she felt secure in the fortress of literary fiction and the softness of the thousands and thousands of pages.
Suddenly we heard footsteps breaching through the silence, and a man appeared with a small piece of paper etched with a book’s call number. His eyes weaved through the rows as they hastily skimmed through the spines. He paused for a moment. He looked at his sheet and back to the shelves, then back to his sheet and back to the shelves. The routine was unmistakable; he was looking for something that wasn’t there.
Eventually, he walked away empty handed; he even left his piece of paper.
“Sometimes I feel like a book,” she said after the spectacle. “Most people don’t want to be thought of as books; the metaphor has become synonymous with being boring or predictable. I think that’s pessimistic. Just because something’s literally written in front of your eyes doesn’t mean it’s simplistic. Poetry, which uses the fewest amounts of words, can have the most convoluted explanations. Supposed intellectuals have carried hundreds of debates and written dozens of books over the simplest of sentences or shortest of stanzas. If I was a book, I’d have depth. I’d have color and intrigue. People would want to read me, and then reread me just to have the slightest understanding of my character, of my essence and being.”
Her eye peered at the piece of paper left on the shelves, wedged between the space where the book should have been located.
“There are thousands of books here,” she continued. “It wouldn’t be hard for the librarian to confuse the call numbers, maybe place a fiction novel near the old computer manuals by accident; that novel would be destitute. Anyone who’d want the book wouldn’t know where to find it.” Her eyes strayed away from the torn notebook paper and looked across the rows and rows of bound, paper columns. “Sometimes I feel like a book, the most interesting book that everyone would want to read and reread, except I haven’t been opened in a while.” She sighed, a gasp that nearly exhaled every last hope in her body. “And my greatest fear would be that I’ve been displaced. I'd be stuck somewhere I shouldn't be, and no matter how much I'd try, I'd still be alone.”
There was a moment, a short second filled with indignant self-deprecation where her face was numb and blank. And then she laughed, the type of laugh that quickly restored blood flow and caused her to dub over in shortness of breath and pain. As I kneeled by her side, she grabbed my hand and our arms lulled from side to side as she asked in witty banter, “But I’ll always have you, my trusty old computer manual; you’ll be here, right?”
And I replied, “Of course, my favorite little novel.”