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Resa stretched, anguine like, as the Librarian guided her from the Neuroscaphe. “There were some fluctuations in the Labyrinth today, Bertrand. ”
“One of your compatriot Thinkers achieved something unexpected.”
She waited but the Librarian offered no more. “Bertrand, you’ll have to learn to give more information if you want to talk to me.”
The Librarian’s eyes remained dark.
“Bertrand? ” She slowly moved her hand in front of his face. He didn’t track it. Instead he kept his dark, silent eyes on hers. “What’s wrong, Bertrand?
“A Librarian died.”
“Oh, Bertrand, I’m so sorry. Was it someone I know?”
“No, a brother another named ‘Roland’.”
“Still, I’m sorry. Was it a painful death?”
But she had already turned away and her clothes insulated her from the heat of his words.
They continued through the BookShelves. Resa’s skirt swung methodically as she walked, her long, pale legs taking small steps so as not to tax the little Librarian. “I’d like to go outside today, Bertrand. Would it be possible to see the sun today?”
“The sun can not be seen near the purification plants.”
“Oh. The clouds. Of course. Can we go further out then?”
An hour later they walked in the dark towards the terminus of a forgotten service tunnel. Small things scurried underfoot and Resa heard water dripping along the way. The Librarian held her hand and guided her in the dark. “Bertrand, could you give me some light? Only for a little while. I don’t want you to hurt yourself. I want to see where I am.”
The Librarian’s eyes grew hot, passing from dull red into orange, the heat he generated searing the flesh around his eyes. She felt him screaming, “If I had a mother she would have called me ‘Sonny’.”
The light from his eyes faded and he shook.
“Thank you, Bertrand. That was very kind. ” She wrapped some of her skirt around the shaking librarian.
His eyes glowed again and she kissed his forehead between them. “No, no, no. Silence. Silence now. Don’t speak. Just listen.”
She held the Librarian close and rested his head against her chest, its eyes running with plasma as they blistered and healed themselves. Slowly it put its arms around her neck and allowed itself to hang there. She rocked back and forth as if comforting a tired child. “There are thousands of creatures down here in this tunnel, Bertrand. Far more numerous and varied than any on the surface, I think. But they live in the dark. Perhaps they’ve lived in the dark for so long they’ve grown accustomed to it. I don’t know. But I do know they’ve grown to fear the light.
“Now think, Bertrand, although I know you’ll say thinking is not the basis of your kind, but think with me for a moment anyway.
“You, who were not designed to think, spoke a joke that gave light in this darkness. Some creatures feared it and ran away. Others were curious and came close. Those that came close, you’ve given wisdom to. Those who ran away ran back to superstitions they already had.”
He lifted his eyes to her face and whispered softly, “A wise thought.”
She pulled his head back down to her chest and rubbed the muscular neck. “Yes. I think so. It’s from the man I named you after, Bertrand Russell: ‘Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty. To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom.’ Now be quiet. Give yourself time to heal.”
She wasn’t sure how long they stayed thus, only that she’d nodded off and was woken by something making its way up her arm. She caught it in her hand and felt its softly furred surface. Tiny scampering feet forced their way through her hand until a tiny, big-eared head poked free. A long, murine tail curled around her fingers. “Cheep.”
“M. Souris? Mr. Mouse? Is that you?”
The big-eared head burrowed into her palm and she felt its nose and whiskers sniffle for crumbs in the hollows of her hand.
“Would you like a crust of bread? A bit of cracker?”
She opened the hand that held the mouse and quickly clapped it to her other. She felt the mouse crack and crunch between them as it shrieked its final “cheep”.
“Eat that, little thing. No one touches Resa Valjean unless she lets them.”
The Librarian breathed deeply, as if waking, and her voice grew soft again. “Oh, my, Bertrand. How long have we been away? You won’t get in any trouble, will you?”
“No. ” He paused, his eyes silent for a moment, then a dull glow, a whisper, “Resa, how do you repair?”
“Repair? I’m not sure what you mean.”
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