A Week In The Life Of A Simian Bibliophile
L-Space: The final frontier. These are the adventures of the individual formerly called Dr Horace Worblehat, now simply known as The Librarian, his relentless mission to explore strange new shelves, to seek out new volumes and new cataloguing systems, and to boldly go where no ape has gone before.
Written for the Fireplace challenge "Credible Crossovers". None of the characters are mine and some of the lines of dialogue are directly lifted from the respective books or films.
The Librarian had lost something. This was an unfortunate state of affairs. You and I, if we mislay a thing, can usually retrieve it by retracing our steps or thinking sensibly about where we've last seen it. If the missing object is one's glasses, a quick raising of one's hand to one's nose is often helpful. But for the librarian of Unseen University, things were not so straightforward.
It is well known among a certain class of people that libraries (or, for that matter, any other sizeable accumulation of written words) distort time and space. They bend reality in a way that shouldn't be allowed - but who's to stop them? In the unlimited realm of all books ever written or still to be written or very nearly written or quite deliberately not written, everything is possible apart from certainty. Some have strayed into the labyrinths of L-space by accident. Others have ventured there purposefully and got lost sooner or later or maybe just escaped with their lives. But there is one, only one, who can truly navigate L-space, who can find his way in eleven dimensions and still be home before bedtime. Only one who is the master and who incidentally likes bananas for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
But even a master librarian, when having to retrace his steps in a multidimensional sliding puzzle of divergent realities, can be somewhat fazed by the sheer number of places (and times, and universes) he might have absentmindedly left the missing item. So there was nothing for it but to keep looking.
Armed with nothing but a bag of peanuts, the Librarian set out to retrieve his little lost lamb. He plodded along the familiar shelves of Unseen University Library and soon disappeared into strangely curving aisles. His leathery fingers felt for the secret marks at the edges of bookcases. Space suffered from weird inversions here. At times, he appeared to be walking along the same shelf at intervals of a few seconds and at different levels. The effect, if there had been anyone to observe it, would have been like looking through a teleidoscope whilst riding on a drunken donkey.
However, the Librarian was unruffled. The depths of L-space held no horrors for him, or at least none greater than the everyday horrors he encountered in the university library in the form of torn pages and raspberry jam stains. He sauntered around a corner and ducked under a low archway, which led into a kind of study-cum-rubbish-dump.
The place was a total mess, like the result of an explosion in a public library. Piles of paper and drawing instruments and weird looking contraptions cluttered the floor. Faced with this inferno, the Librarian was so shocked that he practically walked into the other person. It was an old man in a grey robe, tall, thin and kindly looking. He raised his eyebrows at the sight of the Librarian.
"Jdchjmld djs dsjhf?" he said. "Kvneiwqv kmgiswe. Gfhwiwo fhyu fhufhuhcb hfnwkla owksl rfdkoa vhngtj rehaw vjji xsji. Lvnhasj fhe fhsfw jkgi?"
The Librarian shrugged. He was an impressive shrugger. Shrugging comes naturally to a creature with arms longer than legs and shoulders already almost touching the ears.
"Hoivjelk dhr vjalfeo fjhgidnxku ejfkesuhf jejvfk. Tdsj oiakbgf vjkeszoir klg swekfjk?" said the old man.
"Rjvoa goie cjuiiu ekklluifv fchre vnhjrde," declared the old man and took a small jar from one of the shambolic shelves. The Librarian saw that it contained what looked like a very small yellow fish. Whilst continuing to produce a stream of incomprehensible words, the old man opened the lid and after a few fumbled attempts grabbed the fish. With one smooth movement he inserted it into the Librarian's ear. The Librarian felt the cold, wet creature wriggle its way into his head. He shuddered.
"Osd vjes gvhewuwe, fhreyu aoig understand me now?" said the old man.
"Ook!" replied the Librarian. "Ook?" He pointed to his ear.
"That's a Babel fish. It's a bit complicated, but basically it eats brainwaves and excretes translations. A very useful pet, I've always thought."
"Ook? Ook ook, ook ook ooook?"
"Oh, yes, of course I do. I can understand you perfectly fine."
"Yes, remarkable, isn't it? So, did you come here with the others? Another survivor from Earth? I got an award for the coast of Norway, you know. Lovely little fiddly bits. Of course your home would be - have been closer to the equator. Would you like to have a look at the new Earth?"
"Ook? Ook ook ook ook."
"Really? And I was sure you had come with that strange Dentarthurdent and his friends. How easily we make the wrong conjectures! Well, so where do you come from?"
"Ook ook Ook."
"Discworld? Never heard of it. It's certainly not been made on Magrathea. Does it have fjords?"
"Ook ook. Ook ook ook ook."
"Oh. That's a bit of an unusual place for an ape to grow up, isn't it?"
"Ook ook. Ook ook ook ook ook."
"Is it? I didn't know orang-utans could have complicated lives, too. Well, we live and learn."
"Ook ook. Ook!" said the Librarian and turned to leave.
"Oh, you're very welcome. But there's no need to go already. Wouldn't you like to have a cup of tea with me? Or do apes prefer water?"
But the Librarian was making for the doorway. Repulsive though it was, the fish would probably come in useful. However, he hadn't found what he was looking for. He would come back another time to have a chat with this nice old man.
On the second day of his quest, the Librarian narrowly escaped from an attack by rogue metaphors and slipped through the nearest available door.
The first thing he saw was a wall of books. Volumes upon volumes were piled up to a height of about seven feet, screening off this corner from an apparently larger room that lay beyond. The proper walls however were lined with shelves, which were crammed full of books, and a significant amount of the floor space was taken up by stacks of large folios. It was a treatment of books that the Librarian could not approve of. The air was stuffy and smelt of tobacco. Smoking was another thing to which he objected. From behind the book wall, where there presumably was a window to the outside world, came the sound of heavy rainfall.
Next to a worn leather armchair stood a boy of maybe ten years. He was dressed for the outdoors, but apparently not for the weather, for his hair was sticking in wet strands on his forehead. He had a satchel slung over his shoulder and he was staring intently at the seat of the armchair.
"Ook," said the Librarian by way of a greeting.
The boy looked up. He was pale and chubby and seemed mostly harmless.
"Oh," he said and returned his gaze to the armchair.
"Ook, ook!" replied the Librarian, not entirely satisfied with this response.
"What do you want?" said the boy. "Have you escaped from the zoo?"
"You're a funny little fellow. I wonder if you are Mr Coreander's pet? He doesn't seem like the type to keep pets, mind you."
The boy's attention was again drawn towards the seat of the armchair. The Librarian craned his neck to see what was so fascinating. He gave a little nod of approval when he realized that the boy was staring at a book. It was a thick volume bound in shimmering, copper-coloured silk. On the cover two snakes, one light, one dark, bit each other's tails, thus forming an oval.
"Wouldn't it be wonderful?" the boy whispered. "A story that never ends."
He cast a glance at a door in the corner of the room. It was ajar, and a faint mumbling could be heard from behind it. Suddenly the boy seized the book and shoved it under his coat. Then he slunk away into the larger room through a little gap in the book wall. It took the Librarian a few seconds to overcome his shock, but then he moved like lightning. Not quite fast enough, though, for as he entered the other room, which looked very similar to the first, he saw the youth slipping out at the other end. He stood and stared in horror through the plate glass door at the rain-drenched street. Out there was a world into which he did not dare follow.
Since there was nothing else he could do, he returned to the corner with the armchair, shaking his head about so much wickedness. The armchair was no longer unoccupied. A man in a crumpled black suit and floral waistcoat sat there, wisps of white hair surrounding his otherwise bald head. He was wearing gold-rimmed pince-nez and was smoking a pipe.
"Ook! Ook, ook!" said the Librarian. The man eyed him curiously.
"Is the little rascal gone? Well, good riddance. And where did you come from?"
The Librarian placed his palms together, opened them and urgently pointed to the door. A book had been stolen! Didn't the man care?
The man seemed to understand, but apparently had no intention to follow the thief.
"He's taken the book? Very well, so be it. Maybe that's just what he needs. Yes, indeed, it could very well be that that's exactly what he needs."
Dismayed, the Librarian repeated his gestures. He pulled at the man's sleeve, but with an irritated move of his arm, the man brushed him away.
"Don't grab my clothes with your dirty fingers!" he snapped. "Look, let's get one thing straight. I can't abide children, and animals are not much better. Apes don't belong in bookshops, if you ask me. What could an orang-utan possibly know about books?"
"Ook!" said the Librarian huffily and disappeared to where he had come from. He hadn't found what he was looking for anyway.
With bookshelves on one side and the occasional painting on the other, the corridor seemed nothing out of the common way. The Librarian had been walking along it for the last half hour and had perceptibly advanced about five yards. At last he reached a doorway and toddled into a room which, predictably, was full of bookcases. It was a library like many others, but better lit than most. He heard footsteps approaching and then somebody rounded the corner. A shadow fell on him. It belonged to a woman in her thirties of unspectacular appearance and with straight, mousey hair tied up in a ponytail. Had it not been for the shape of her upper half, she might have been mistaken for a man, for she wore breeches and a shirt. She was carrying a book and reading it while she walked, and now she started talking as soon as she noticed the presence of another person.
"At last! It's about time - " She stopped as she took in the Librarian's appearance and closed the book with a snap. "Are you new? My goodness, since when does SpecOps employ apes? You'd think they'd send somebody more experienced on an assignment like this. Really, the whole department is a shambles. Well, you'd better come along."
She strode off among the shelves, beckoning him to follow her, the book tucked under her arm.
"I'm Thursday Next, by the way. I take it you've been given full instructions? I need somebody to track a rogue character, while I retrace his steps and repair the damage he's done. Have you worked in LiteraTec before?"
"Ook! Ook?" said the Librarian, trying to keep up.
"Heathcliff is on the loose again," she continued. "He has gone on a rampage through favourite comedies and romances, infecting them with melodrama and exaggerated phychotropic landscapes. I first spotted him in The Importance Of Being Earnest, where he has ruined the second act. Then I followed him as far as Emma, but there I lost the trail. Miss Woodhouse was not at all amused, and apparently he gave Miss Fairfax quite a start when he collided with her on the way from Donwell Abbey to Highbury. The way the trail was going I fear he is on his way to Much Ado About Nothing. You need to hurry up. The clash with Beatrice could be terrible. I don't dare think of what could happen if he ever makes it to Northanger Abbey and encounters young Catherine before she meets Tilney."
"Ook! Ook ook?"
"If we don't catch him in time, I fear we might even have a serious plot fusion somewhere."
She held her step and turned round to him. Suspicion rippled over her face.
"Can I see your badge, please? You have had security clearance, haven't you?"
"Ook?" The Librarian held out his hands, palms upwards.
In an instant she had pulled a peculiar metal object out of her coat pocket and pointed it at him. Her eyes glittered with anger and a hint of fear.
"You are He, aren't you?"
The Librarian didn't recognize the object, but he recognized the look and the tone of voice. "Eek!" he cried and ducked under a reading table. A deafening bang numbed his ears and he felt something brush past his shoulders. He found a gap between two bookshelves and managed to squeeze through just as another thunderous noise tore through the air. Between the shelves a space opened and a wide gallery spiralled upwards. Upon looking up he saw that it was winding on and on until it was lost in shadows. He nodded grimly. She wouldn't be able to follow him here. He most certainly hadn't found what he was looking for.
It was one of those bookshops with more stairs than storeys, with odd, dim corners and with old gilded chairs strategically placed where people were most likely to trip over them. Unexpectedly, though, it opened up into a brighter and more spacious area, where the books on the shelves looked crisp and colourful. Three youngish women were perusing the volumes with their backs to the Librarian. One wore what could only be described as a skirt, though it didn't reach her knees. It didn't even reach halfway to her knees. The other two wore breeches. After the experience of the previous day, he felt slightly apprehensive about women in breeches, but he soon sensed that these three did not share the intense determination of the other lady. In fact, their chatter indicated quite the opposite.
"...really wish you would just dump vile Richard once and for all," said one of them.
"Shaz, you don't know what you're talking about. I'm just beginning to get our perspectives correctly aligned. Oh, look at this one: The Attachment Phobic and His Mate." The second woman had picked a book from the shelf and read from the back of the cover: "He is cute, he is sexy, he might even be romantic. But he will not commit. If this sounds like the man in YOUR life, then this book is for you. Internationally acclaimed partnership counsellor Angy Butterdew explains how the mind of the attachment phobic works and what woman can do to get her man after all. What do you think, Bridget?"
"I don't care," said the one in the very short skirt. "I haven't got a man in my life."
"And she doesn't need one," said the one called Shaz. "Jude, you need to free yourself from male domination. Clinging to a f***ing guy is not the way to fulfil your potential. Here, listen to this." She flourished a different book. "This is The Gender Wars by Hanna Frinks. It says that too many women rely on a man to define themselves and justify their existence. The archaic values of patriarchy continue to undermine women's confidence in the 20th century. Frinks shows how modern woman can throw off the joke of male domination and achieve true fulfilment in relationships based on equality and personal choice. What do you say, Bridget?"
"I don't know," said Bridget and half turned her head to the Librarian. "What do you think?"
"Ook," said the Librarian. He felt flattered that his opinion was sought, but was slightly confused as to what the question was.
"Doesn't it depress you, too, that everybody else seems to get shagged and you're sitting at home in front of the telly trying to stop yourself from starting on the second layer of the milk tray?"
"Ook, ook, ook ook," replied the Librarian and patted her hand.
"Singletons are an oppressed minority, but there's no civil rights movement for us."
"Bridget, that's an orang-utan you're talking to," whispered the one called Jude, who had suddenly become aware of the supernumerary conversation partner.
"Yuck," said Shaz, lifting her face from the book she held, "what's it doing here? Urgh, look at those ugly teeth, aren't they disgusting?"
"Don't say that, Shaz, you'll hurt its feelings," said Bridget without really looking at the Librarian.
"Look, Bridget, it can't understand us, it's just a big, hairy, dusty orang-utan."
The Librarian looked at Bridget to see what she would say in his defence. Bridget pursed her lips and cast a reproachful glance at her friend. Absentmindedly, she stroked the Librarian's head.
"You shouldn't judge people by their looks, you know."
"Will you look at it! It's a f***ing monkey, Bridget, and it's got - ouch! Ouch! OUCH! What did it do that for?"
"I think orang-utans are actually apes," said Jude.
"That's no f***ing reason to hit me!" cried Shaz. "I'm going to kick its ass and see how it likes it!"
"Ook!" said the Librarian emphatically and retreated. Bridget would have to decide for herself where the path of enlightenment should lead her. He had no intention to be the target of Shaz' gender wars and besides he hadn't found what he was looking for anyway.
It was a faint, hissing sound that warned him. The Librarian ducked just in time to avoid being pierced by a .303 bookworm that came shooting out of a shelf of Klatchian poetry and ricocheted off the opposite wall. He turned and found himself looking into a low chamber. Dust was floating in the air, illuminated by a sharp beam of sunlight from the single window. It was pleasantly hot. Instead of shelves, there were pigeonholes along the walls, each containing a single scroll. The Librarian scratched his head. This slight movement attracted the attention of the single occupant of the room, a youngish man with curly black hair and beard, dressed in a woollen tunic.
"Oh," he said and stared at the Librarian. "Greetings. Um ... are you ... are you a leper?"
"Ook!" said the Librarian.
The man rubbed his nose nervously. "Forgive me, brother. I spoke like one who has not been saved. All are welcome to the family of the Lord. We meet at the house of Miriam from Caesarea on the first day of the week. You are welcome to join us."
"We share a meal and pray and sing songs in praise of the Lord. Um ... have you heard of the Lord?"
"Well, I could tell you about him, if you wish. In fact, I am here to find out more about him, if I can. I have promised my friend Theophilus to write a proper account of the Lord's life. There are, of course, others here, most notably the excellent testimony by Marcos," - he indicated a scroll set aside on a small table - "but I am looking for further sources."
Ah, now the Librarian was on familiar ground. He glanced around. With a librarian's instinct, he stretched out a leathery hand and picked a scroll from one of the pigeonholes. He gave it to the bearded man, who took it gingerly.
"Q?" he said as he began to unroll the papyrus. "Q? What kind of a name for a scroll is that?"
He frowned and started reading aloud: "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now... Hey, I've heard of this speech! I didn't know anybody had written it down. This is excellent, just what I need."
He sat down on the floor and unrolled the scroll some more.
"Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful... Wonderful!" he exclaimed. "Thank you so much!"
"Ook," replied the Librarian and modestly inclined his head.
"I must read this straight away. Forgive me for not telling you about the Lord as I first said, but this is so exciting. You will come to our meeting at Miriam's house, won't you? All can be saved if they truly believe in the Lord."
"Ook," said the Librarian and slunk back into the aisle he had come from. He was glad to have been of service, but he still hadn't found what he was looking for.
Swinging along a row of shelves, the Librarian shooed away a herd of critters and settled on a reading table to take a good look around. Had it been here somewhere? There was a door in the opposite wall. It was boding. Not of anything in particular, just emanating a steady flow of generic boding. The Librarian tiptoed over, turned the handle and shuffled in.
He had entered a dimly lit chamber, crammed full with ancient books and scrolls in varying stages of decay. Dust and cobwebs were everywhere. The Librarian furrowed his brow. By a desk near the window, with his back towards the Librarian, sat an old man clad in grey robes. Long grey hair was flowing down his back. A pointy blue hat had been neatly placed on the floor beside his chair. He was muttering to himself.
"...but now at last I shall find out what I need to know. It was hot when I first took it, hot as a glede, and my hand was scorched, so that I doubt if ever again I shall be free of the pain of it. Yet even as I write it is cooled, and it seemeth to shrink, though it loseth neither..."
His voice trailed off and he turned around sharply. A sumptuous beard hid most of his face, but above it his eyes were clear and keen.
"I felt your presence. Speak, who are you?"
"Ook." The Librarian gave a friendly grin, exposing a set of rather pointy yellow teeth.
"Hmm," said the wizard - for this he clearly was - to himself. "It seems but a harmless beast of the southern lands. Yet the enemy has many spies." He stood up and took a step towards the Librarian.
"What is your business in this place?" he asked.
"Ook," said the Librarian and offered the wizard a peanut. The wizard took it and examined it critically. He held it to his ear and shook it. Then he returned it to the Librarian.
"I do not know what this thing is that you show me. My heart warns me against taking anything out of the hand of such a strange creature. All too easily could a wrong step at this time endanger all hope that is left to free Middle-earth of the shadow."
"Ook?" said the Librarian. The wizard's talk didn't make much sense to him. He began to look around the room for his missing item, but it was nowhere to be seen. Feeling whimsical and a bit contrary, he grabbed the blue hat and tried it on. With lightening speed the wizard whisked the hat off the Librarian's head and clutched it tightly in his fist.
"Give that to me! Who let you in? How much have you heard? Declare yourself, or you shall feel the wrath of Mithrandir!"
"Ook!" Defensively, the Librarian held up two digits on each hand shaped in a V sign. He didn't understand what the fuss was about. Peace, man!
"What devilry is this?" cried the old man and picked up a staff that had been leaning against the wall. He pointed it at the Librarian in a way that was not at all inoffensive. "You shall not prevail. By the might of the Valar, I command you - "
"Eek!" shrieked the Librarian and fled. He still hadn't found what he was looking for.
Still pursuing his quest with diligence, the Librarian advanced along a passageway that was entirely unremarkable, apart from the fact that the walls rose at acute angles from the floor and met overhead without any need for a ceiling. As he progressed, though, the walls fell away completely and he crossed a wide, open space with no distinguishable features. The floor felt curiously smooth. Suddenly, without prelude or anything approaching a plausible reason, ornate columns appeared, defining the space, which was hot and dusty. The floor was paved with mosaic tiles. Beyond the columns, walls had risen that were nothing but endless rows of shelves on which were displayed hundreds, thousands, hundreds of thousands of scrolls.
The Librarian held his breath. This was a truly great library, quite on a par with his own. His eyes shone brightly as he began to explore. Here and there, small tables were placed under flickering oil lamps and groups of bearded men in long robes clustered around them, talking and pointing to sections of the scrolls they had spread out. They all ignored him as completely as he ignored them. Something in his brain told him to filter them out as mere background.
After a while he came upon two figures, who were differently attired and definitely couldn't be regarded as background. They both wore tight-fitting overalls with a black stripe across the shoulders and a curious badge on the left side of their chest. One, whose suit was red, was a handsome, dark-haired man with a neat beard and bright blue eyes. The other was dressed in yellow, with short dark hair slicked back and a face so pale it looked almost green. The Librarian bared his teeth. He didn't mind the undead much, but he couldn't abide the non-alive.
"... either during the reign of Ptolemy I Soter, or that of his son Ptolemy II of Egypt, which places its origin in the third century BC. It was built in the style of a Lyceum, with a peripatos walk, gardens, a reading room, lecture halls and meeting rooms. There was even a room for shared dining. It is not known exactly what the size of the collection was, though Ptolemy II intended to acquire five hundred thousand scrolls, and it is claimed that Mark Antony gave two hundred thousand scrolls to Cleopatra as a wedding gift. There is no clear and consistent account of its destruction, but scholars agree that by the eighth century AD it was no longer a significant institution."
"But why do you run this program?" asked the bearded man. "It doesn't have any perceivable plot and it doesn't allow for interaction."
The non-alive entity gave the proper human a smug look.
"I wish to educate myself in the quintessential parameters of humanity. Where better to look for it than in this greatest collection of antiquity's wisdom, which is bound to be the source on which all later achievements of human history are built?"
"You think you'll get more human from hanging out here?" The handsome man laughed. Then he saw the Librarian.
"What is that?" he asked. "I didn't know the ancient Egyptians were quite so shrivelled and ugly. Not before mummification anyway!"
"My sensors tell me that this creature is not part of the program," replied the pale being.
"An intruder? Set phaser to stun!" exclaimed the man and brandished a small metal object. The Librarian eyed it nervously.
The pale-faced one raised its eyebrows. "My advice is to leave it in peace. It is only a specimen of pongo pygmaeus, a large, long-armed anthropoid ape of arboreal habits that used to inhabit the terrestrial islands of Borneo and Sumatra. They became extinct in 2154."
"Ook!" cried the Librarian in dismay.
"It doesn't look very extinct to me," said the man pointing the object at the Librarian, who made ready to flee. However, the entity stepped between them.
"We can investigate later how it came to be on the holodeck," it said. "I suspect a malfunction in the Heisenberg compensator. For now, let me use this creature to illustrate my point. It is, just as myself, very close to humanity and yet one crucial step removed. What is the essential difference between this beast and a sapient human? It is not its appearance, for humans come in a variety of shapes and sizes. It is the lack of awareness of and participation in human culture. It has no concept of literature or the arts, no knowledge of books -"
"Ook! Ook, ooooook ook!" interrupted the Librarian. Both the man and the non-man looked at him with surprise. The Librarian placed his palms together and opened them, then pointed to himself and gave a single, vigorous nod.
"It looks like it disagrees with you," said the man and laughed. He lowered the threatening object. "Tell me, little monkey, do you like reading books?"
The Librarian considered his options. He wasn't sure what exactly the metal object did, but he had no desire to find out. He therefore refrained from his customary response to the m-word and merely regarded the man with a withering look.
"Orang-utans," said the pale one, "are not classed as monkeys, but as apes."
"Ook!" said the Librarian and gave the entity a banana. Then he left. He still hadn't found what he was looking for.
The Librarian was ascending a staircase that resembled a Moebius band. He disappeared around a bend, then came back down on the underside of the stair he had previously been climbing. At the bottom, he stopped, then opened a plausible looking door and stepped through.
He cast a searching look around the room. Seated behind a heavy desk was a middle-aged man, respectably clothed, who was listing to the earnest words of a young woman in a light muslin dress.
"... and so I have changed my mind very slowly, Papa, because I have come to see that my first impression of him was quite wrong, and that he is truly kind and generous and honourable. Please believe me that I love him very much."
The man looked thoughtful. His fingers drummed on the desk. Eventually he sighed. "Well, my dear," he said, "I have no more to say. If this be the case, he deserves you. I could not have parted with you, my Lizzy, to any one less worthy."
"Thank you, papa!" said the woman eagerly. Her eyes sparkled. "You will think even better of him, when if tell you all about Lydia's wedding. It was not Uncle Gardiner, as we all thought, who found Wickham and persuaded him to marry her. Mr Darcy himself took it upon him to seek out Wickham and prevail upon him to behave in a gentlemanly way. He paid Wickham's debts and bought his commission and - "
It was a crash that made her stop in mid-speech. The Librarian, having leaned forward to catch more of this conversation, had accidentally knocked over a candlestick. The man and woman turned and stared at him. After a few seconds of silent assessment, the man said: "Life holds few distinctions, Lizzy, but I think we can safely boast that we are the only family in Hertfordshire ever to have encountered an ape in their library."
"Ook," agreed the Librarian and moved a little closer to have a better look at the woman. She was pretty, though not exceptionally so, but there was a glint in her eye that stirred deep forgotten things in his heart. Daintily he handed her the fallen candlestick. She took it from his hand with a faint smile of amusement and then patted him on the back much in the way one pats a large, friendly dog. He found himself hoping that this Mr Darcy knew how lucky he was.
"What a funny little fellow. How do you think it got here, Papa?"
"I wouldn't put it past one of your silly sisters to have bought it as a pet."
The woman laughed. It was a pleasant sound, light and bright and sparkling. The Librarian moved even closer and put his chin on her knee. She started ever so slightly, but did not recoil.
"You know, Papa, I almost feel like taking it to Pemberley with me as my own pet, but I am afraid Mr Darcy's sense of humour will not extend that far."
"Ook!" said the Librarian. He knew he had a job to go back to, but for a moment he felt tempted to persuade her with a soulful look of his brown eyes that Mr Darcy's opinion was not particularly relevant.
"He will have to stretch his sense of humour, if he wants to be a match for you, Lizzy," said her father. His smile was as indulgent as it was affectionate. "But an ape in the house just won't do. Ring the bell; we'll need somebody to remove this creature, before it gives your mother a nervous fit."
The Librarian shook his head sadly. "Ook!" he said and waved farewell. It pained him to leave the young lady, but there was clearly no point in him staying any longer. Moreover, he still hadn't found what he was looking for. He made his way along a dark corridor and shortly afterwards returned the other way, but this time walking along the ceiling. Moments later, he was ambling along both walls simultaneously. At the end of the corridor he paused next to a huge rosewood bookcase.
And there it was! Somebody - who? - had put it right there among the others, but he would have recognized it anywhere. He took it gingerly and cradled it in the crook of his arm like a child. He stroked it and made little soothing noises. Then, on paths known only to himself, he returned to the familiar haunts of Unseen University. He approached the shelf with the sad, forlorn empty space and placed it right where it belonged.
"Ook!" he said with a voice full of tenderness and satisfaction. Finally, he had found what he had been looking for.
Teleidoscope: No, that's not a typo. It's something a bit like a kaleidoscope, but not quite.
The fandoms are, in order of appearance: Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Slatibartfast), The Neverending Story (Bastian, Karl Konrad Koreander), Jasper Fforde (Thursday Next), Bridget Jones (Bridget, Jude and Shaz), Bible (Evangelist Luke), Lord of The Rings (Gandalf), Star Trek (Ryker and Data) and Pride and Prejudice (Lizzy and Mr Bennet).