Six dangerous libraries
1. A library packed with secret doors; every bookcase having its own special book that can be levered backwards to swing out some secret panel or other, behind which you inevitably find another room of the library; that room also being replete with rotating stacks or trapdoors or suchlike. As you travel through, the books become stranger. Here there is a narrow chimney of notebooks in metallic blue, filled out with octal numbers in a neat cursive. A wood-panelled hallway contains a seventy-volume treatise on the scientific illustration of cephalopods. Here a spiral staircase hemmed in on both sides by books so angry that they are barely coherent. At the bottom of the staircase a manhole cover that one may lever up to find a shallow blue pool surrounded by sorrowful memoirs. Eventually one comes to the library’s heart, where all paths but one lead; an unremarkable octagonal chamber lined with unpublished stories by Borges. There is no way out of this room, which is haunted at night by laughter from above.
2. They say trees, who are wont to consider their deaths on occasion over their lifetime’s long dreaming, have two views of libraries. The first library of the dreams of trees is a respectful memorial, sombre and learned. The second is that of untimely tree-death, pulped novels, hateful tracts; a lurid charnel-house of mixed-up tree-flesh. There have been times when the trees decided that some library or other had become the physical representation of the second dream. It is not wise to be in a library when this happens. Trees are slow in their revenge, but implacable.
3. There are also places where the world’s more debatable books flee to avoid being pulped. Vast bookeries of them roost under motorway bridges and in the eaves of power stations. This is where the coverless textbooks of yesteryear flap off to, and software manuals three versions out of date, and the disreputable autobiographies of the long-forgotten, and cracked-spine conspiracy books of all sorts. In the oldest corners one may find great rustling stands of Victorian sheet music. Although they are not actively harmful to humans, they have not forgotten that humanity no longer means them well. And there are other things that bed down with them too, things that have promised to faithfully read them in exchange for protection, and those things are best avoided.
4. One way that one may dispel a dangerous spirit is to catch it in a book, making it into a harmless story. Some of the worst dreams of humankind have been captured in this way. There have been cases, however, when the process went wrong, leaving various nightmares half-in and half-out of books. A small library located five hundred metres below Samarkand collects these books as a service to the world. Should you find the tunnel down to its entrance, you will be able to identify it by the banging and scraping noises, which are audible from a significant distance away. We do not recommend entering.
5. Connoisseurs of sausages may be interested in the small libraries installed in select butchers’ shops for the schooling of the sausage race. These libraries take as input various types of minced meat and casings, and produce as output fully-formed, educated sausages ready for the outside world. It is not certain as to whether books are involved at any stage in the process. It is possible that the sausage we consulted about this matter may have supplied us with a fake CV.
6. Of course there are also those who regard all of you as a book of sorts. Though you are subject to informational decay, the electric knots of humanity’s billions of meat brains constitutes an important galactic information repository. This is why licensed alien abductors have to fill out an inter-library loan form and agree to return abductees to within a millennium or so of when they got them out.