Monday, May 28, 2007

In Transit

Sometimes, it takes longer than you'd expect to get from Point A to Point B.

Other times, there is no Point B.

Or Point A, for that matter.

--F.L.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Goodbye, For Now

"Francie," the Librarian calls, breathlessly, from the doorway. "Don't forget your promise."

"We'll be back to check on you soon," I say, aware of Brad's eyes on us, and I can see that the Librarian understands the "we" I meant. She pulls the mosaic doors closed.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Owls Again

Somewhere deep inside the library, shelves groan to make way for a figure who has slipped past the Librarian and into the maze.

At the same moment, a clock chimes, and I realize we're still standing in front of the writing on the wall. I feel like I could have turned thirty in the time we've been standing here, and yet, according to my watch, no time has passed at all.

Brad's voice registers in the darkness: "Are you gonna tell me what's going on here?"

"El Segundo Punto," I read aloud. As each word forms and parts from my lips, the letters glow, then quickly dissipate like ashes.

"Hand me your notebook," I say, reaching out to grab it. Brad crosses his arms over the notebook as the remaining words starts to fade.

"Not until you tell me what this is all about."

"It's...part of my research," I say.

"Right, and I'm here to learn about Miami's club scene. Francie, this library is full of mysteries. Which one is yours?"

"I'm not sure," I finally say. "I think it's a clue. Part of a much larger puzzle." Brad gestures for me to continue.

"That's all I can tell you."

"Right. But it's not all you know," he says, tossing the notebook to me. He reads aloud and I quickly copy: "Estoy como un búho del desierto. I am like a bird...an owl...of the desert. Desierto...desert."

"I am like an owl of the desert," I say. "Sounds familiar, like something I've heard before."

"It's old," says Brad, "judging by how fragile the words are. Probably been around since Luis Delgado's time."

"You know about the Architect," I say, surprised.

"I've taken the tour," says Brad. Brad's phone starts to light up in his pocket and he steps away from me to check it.

"No reception, but it's probably Eva. I was supposed to go to some book signing with her tonight. Shouldn't you be there?"

I had completely forgotten about the Queen. But I'm sure Eva hasn't forgotten.

"We've gotta go," I say.

Just then, the Librarian's voice echoes, somewhere close. At first I think she's calling to us, but then I realize her tone has an odd, strained character to it.

"How did you get here? These stacks are off limits to visitors," she says.

"I'm not exactly a visitor," a raspy voice answers.

Brad and I move closer to the voices. There is a space between a row of books and I can barely make out the outline of a dark coat and the Librarian's pursed lips.

"I know what you're hiding here, Anya. Give me the key."

"I do not have it," says the Librarian.

"Of course not. But there's one way to find a needle in a haystack." There is a quick flash of light and the Librarian jumps out of view.

"You cannot do this," she says, "the key is hidden and has been for centuries. You'll never find it." There is another flash of light and a fierce scream, from my own lips, as the figure sets a book on fire and holds it out before him.

Brad covers my mouth and pulls me back away from the stacks.

"Who is that?" The cloaked figure peers through the gap between the books.

"I heard nothing," says the Librarian, looking in our direction.

"One more time," the figure says. "The key."

"I'm telling you, it is not in my keeping."

"Fine. Then you'll help me smoke it out."

The figure tosses the book into the darkness and fire spreads, quickly, as the shelves move back and squeal, as if to dodge the flames.

"Follow me," says Brad, "there's only one way out of here."

"We can't leave the Librarian." Brad stops a moment, then pushes me between the shelves before they seal shut. The Librarian is trying to calm the flames with her scarf.

"Librarian," says Brad, as flames shoot up the shelves, "We need to get out of here."

"No," she says, her face flushed, "I must stay with the books. The Architect built the Great Library to withstand any fire."

"Forget the Architect," says Brad. "Come on." Brad reaches out his hand, but the Librarian floats defiantly above us.

"There is a sprinkler system built into the roof beams," she says. "It will work." With that, the Librarian disappears above the stacks. I look for a way to follow her, but Brad pulls me down a corridor.

"She knows this library better than anyone," he says, "she'll be okay." We wind our way upward, until we can see a dim light marking the entrance. Behind us, the shelves groan and bend as the fire consumes book after book, mystery after mystery. I run my hand across each spine.

"We can't save them," he says. It is then that I remember something.

"Max," I say, "my parrot. I have to go back for him."

"There's no way, you'll never make it out."

I hand Brad the books and start to run back in, past the statue of python swallowing gator.


"Francie!" I turn around, caught by something genuine in Brad’s voice.


Brad leans on the python's jaws to catch his breath.

It may be that the world is still spinning, but the python's mouth starts to move and he opens one beady stone eye. Brad sees this too, and pulls away his arm.

We step back, slowly. The python's mouth opens wide as he finishes swallowing the last bit of alligator. He lets out a loud belch...and grins. Brad looks at me.

"Run!"

Brad and I sprint away as the python belches again, then explodes, raining stone pieces everywhere around us.

One of the stones rolls towards a sundial in the middle of the courtyard. It presses down on the sundial, setting off an underground system of creaking levers and pulleys. Several stone tiles flip over like dominos.

Almost immediately, the sprinklers turn on. Water soaks the courtyard. Water runs from the ground into the Great Library and pours out the windows. Brad kicks off his shoes and holds them up in the air.

"Woohoo!" he screams.

Max swoops down and lands on my shoulder. He's a little worse for wear, his left wing singed, but otherwise in good spirits.

"Where have you been?" I ask, and as usual, get no reply.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

El Segundo Punto

Estoy como un búho del desierto