When Emily had finished reading her book she put it down then looked up at her surroundings and nothing had changed in the passing of time. How much time had actually passed since she sat down to read she couldn’t say, but sunlight still streamed in from the recessed windows at exactly the same angle as when she first entered the library. She wondered if this city ever saw night-time or any periods of darkness. She slowly rose from the staircase, a strong sense of renewal now pulsing through her veins, now fully aware of who she actually was and her place in this ongoing, written fantasy story. A word came to mind that perfectly described how she felt right now – empowered. She stared at the palms of her hands as if seeing them for the first time. She rotated her wrists and studied the backs of her hands with the same wonder and curiosity.
“Really,” she said to the air, half expecting an answer that never came.
‘Emily possesses the power of the reader, the power to gift life to the written word with just a touch.’
The sentence from the book lingered, hanging heavy in her mind, she had no idea what it really meant or how she was supposed to use this power as described. The book explained many things, but no practical guidance on how to initiate her gift. She held her hands up to her face and studied them again, they looked perfectly normal to her eyes, four fingers and a thumb on each – what on earth does it all mean, she wondered. With a shake of her head in confusion, Emily turned round to retrieve the book from the staircase, she bent down to pick it up and as her hand was about halfway to reaching it, the book suddenly jumped up to meet her outstretched hand. Emily walked back to the shelf where the book had come from to return it, and as she slid the book into the vacant slot, the flashback from a moment ago replayed in her mind’s eye and washed over her in a tidal wave of realisation.
Emily gasped in shock. Her hands shot up to cover her open mouth in the time honoured physical expression, her legs feeling as loose as jelly, her head all dizzy and in a spin. Recovering from the initial shock and, after her breathing had returned to normal, Emily slowly backed away from the book shelf as if it represented an unknown, supernatural threat. Feeling a bit foolish, Emily looked around in all directions to see if anyone had witnessed her panic attack, but then realised that all the while since entering the city she had been utterly alone. It was that train of thought that now stuck firmly in her mind – where is everyone? What happened to all of them? An entire city totally deserted and devoid of life. . .why? She remembered the previous conversations with the author when she had been told that her presence here was necessary so that she would discover something important – something important about who she really was. A light then came on in her mind, and from the spark, an epiphany and understanding of what all this might actually be about ignited inside her.
Emily purposely strode to the middle of the library floor.
“My dear Author, are you there?”
Only silence replied.
“What’s all this,” she asked. “The silent treatment now?”
Her question was swallowed up by the stillness and quiet of the library. Emily went back to where she had just replaced the book, and without conscious forethought, held out her hand and sucked the book out from the shelf; the book landed perfectly between her waiting fingers and thumb. She held the book up then strode back out to the centre of the library with an ever growing confidence.
“I understand the need for an inner dialogue between authors and their characters,” stated Emily. “It’s a classic device whereby the mechanics of complex relationships can be fleshed out, or in other words, to check the authenticity against real life which makes them seem believable and realistic to the reader. So I will assume that, for the time being at least, the development for this part of the story is complete and no further dialogue is required. And if I’m correct in thinking that then you will know what I’m about to do. A few moments ago I had a sudden realisation as to what that is, and I’m pretty sure you’re now waiting to see if I have developed enough to act upon it.”
The atmosphere inside the library now changed, the air seemed to get thicker, denser, as if powering up to unleash a long pent-up ionic energy in a massive discharge. Emily felt her hair begin to stand on end with static electricity, but this effect wasn’t down to local atmospherics or any other external force – the energy was coming from inside Emily, herself. She felt like a phoenix rising from the burning embers of its own ashes to be born anew. For millennia the power of the reader had been handed down through the generations, primed and ready for a time when it would be needed, and now the time had arrived for Emily to use it once again. Tapping into the power, Emily saw in her mind’s eye all her predecessors going right back to the very beginning of everything – the beginning, and age, of the written word. Emily could feel them all, now part of a collective focusing their power and channeling it through her.
The initial rush started in her feet and ran up her legs until her entire body became enveloped with sparking energy. She sent her book back home to its shelf and momentarily closed her eyes to gather herself in preparation. Suddenly, the volcano erupted as Emily targeted the shelves of books with her open hands. The light inside the library began to dim then grow darker as if the light was being sucked out from the chamber. Thick air, now poised, hung heavy in the darkening silence awaiting her commands. Then came a flash of light which started at one end of the library, and like a shockwave, travelled down through the entire chamber lightening it up as it went. Emily lowered her hands then smiled; she fully understood what had just happened. She opened the double doors and exited the library and ran down the golden entrance lobby toward the outside. She reached the stone steps where she first appeared in the chapter and looked out across the city. People where everywhere, all going about their business of the day. Emily felt exhilarated by the sight, her purpose now fulfilled.
“Congratulations,” said the author, sounding cheery. “I knew you could do it.”
“Oh! You’re talking now,” replied Emily, observing the activity below. “Where have you been?”
“Writing all this.”
“Which accounts for your silence no doubt,” conceded Emily.
“My silence allowed you to realise what this has all been about.”
“What. . .the power of books,” offered Emily.
“In some ways yes,” agreed the author. “But my main point is the power of the reader to make a book come to life.”
“A book is dead, until it’s read.” said Emily, triumphantly.
“Exactly! And that’s a nifty little rhyme you’ve got going there. The city and its inhabitants have been read back to life. The written word on paper is a medium that transcends the time in which it was written, by today’s standards it might seem quite primitive, but civilizations where built and developed by education provided from books written by many generations. That’s why the advent of libraries was such an important point to reach for the safe storage of written information.”
“Yes,” agreed Emily. “So what am I to do now?”
“I wouldn’t worry too much about that, this was just a beginning for you to realise who you are. Many stories, yet to be written, await your presence in the not too distant future.”
“In that case then, you better get writing,” said Emily as she descended the stairs to join the madding crowd.