Adrift in the Sea of Knowledge
William looked up towards the heavens to see what he could see. The sun penetrating the glassy roof of the library glared brilliantly. This prevented the young man from seeing the exact extent of the height of the books shelves. From what he could see however the height was well over one hundred yards. William sighed, what else would you expect from a university boasting to having the best library in the universe. The blinding sun was the only welcome he had received since landing on Grela, the home of Grand University.
The young man thought, somewhere in that vast collection of books lay the answer he sought. Seeing the immensity of the task the young man felt like leaving and returning home. Yet he could not do that. He had promised Grandma Barbara that he would try. It is hard to refuse a request of a woman sobbing desperate tears, especially when she is kinfolk. To say no would have been coldly cruel.
William tapped his universal scanner translator hanging at his side. It would serve as an irreplaceable tool no doubt. The family had scraped together whatever they could to purchase it. Without it the young man had no way to translate the thousands upon thousands of languages that consisted of the populations of the galaxy. The tomes of the various cultures filled endless rooms such as this one. The young man began to wonder, how did it all begin? It was more than an academic question but one of practicality. If William could understand the creation of the Library he would have insight into the organization.
Knowledge is power and thus confusion a weapon. There were professional searchers in abundance for the library exploiting that fact. In fact their names and agencies were listed in no less then seven thick books. And these were just those that were legally licensed. A whole host of semi professional or illegal organizations existed. These of course promised their goods for a fraction of the cost. But whatever the status they had one thing in common. Payment, in cash, up front.
Perhaps there should be a saying ‘money is power’. A funny thing to say about a piece of paper, or a lump of metal, or a digit on a computer. Intrinsically these item held little or no worth. Yet the perception of such created value. It was just a fact of life, as the galaxy existed today, money was a necessity in reality. Unfortunately, money was something that poor William lacked.
Being poor was a way of life for the young man. He was a farmer. Or at least his entire family were involved in agriculture. William was scarcely twenty years old and thus officially by galaxy by laws his profession would not be determined until his official declaration on his twenty second birthday. Of course there would be a small fee to make such an announcement. Without the proper papers none could work, at least legally. Strange how things worked. If one did not declare a profession and was caught working they would be sent to a detention center. While at the detention center they would be wards of the state. As such they would be put to menial tasks of mass production. In other words they would become slave labor. Indeed a harsh way to get a job!
William continued to stare amazed at the height of the library and the overwhelming amount of books that must be collected. William considered the five thousand acres of farmland that his family possessed. If they grew nothing but grain their total harvest of kernels would be less then the books contained in this library, by far. It seemed a futile task. Unfortunately he was the only one in the family who could do it. All his elders had already declared their professions to be farmers or food producers. Thus they could not abandon their job. He had young siblings and cousins but of all them were far from maturity. Thus all responsibility fell upon the shoulders of poor William. The young man felt like weeping thinking that he would be spending the next two years here on his quest. Poor William didn’t even like to read.
“What you looking for?” came a soft voice with a feminine touch.
William turned and looked at a lovely young lady. This small and petite creature was far from being human. Her skin was colored red as was her long flowing hair. Upon her head were two short stubs of a horn. The young lady had a smile. William thought of his childhood religious training. This woman looked like the devil! But a cute devil!!
“I am sorry,” said the girl shyly looking away, “please allow me to introduce myself, my name is Colandra.”
William was hesitant to speak a word. He came from a close nit group of familiars and had not a solitary friend outside of his extended family. But here he was tens of thousands of light years from home with not even an acquaintance. On the month long flight the pangs of loneliness nibbled at his soul tormenting him. “My name is William,” said the young man bashfully.
“Where are you from?” said Colandra, red eyes piercing as if they were penetrating William’s inner being.
“Cazona 8,” said William, “I’m sure you never heard of it.”
“Oh Cazona 8,” said the young lady softly, “why everybody has heard of that agro planet,”
“Really,” called William jubilant with surprise.
“Not,” hissed the woman, “I was just messing your mind.” Colandra smiled completing a most devious look.
“Then how did you know I was from an agro planet?” asked William.
“Hmm,” said the young lady. “Perhaps the work boats, the overalls and the straw hat gave me a clue.” Colandra gave off a long cackle.
William frowned, his feeling hurt.
“Come on Billy,” said Colandra, “you are a fish out of water and believe me there are sharks a plenty in this tank!”
“Huh?” said William not comprehending.
“Oh boy,” said the young lady, “maybe this will help. You are a field mouse and there are many hungry hawks around.”
William looked out staring vacantly. He felt extremely stupid.
“Son,” said Colandra, “there are plenty of conmen who would love to take your money away from you.”
“Oh,” said the farm boy finally grasping what was trying to be communicated.
“So Billy,” said the young lady, “what ya’ lookin’ for? Maybe some better way to fertilize?”
William gave off a long, loud laugh. Now it was Colandra’s time to feel stupid.
“Was it something I said?” asked the young lady her feelings truly hurt.
“A better way to fertilize that’s funny!” called out William.
Colandra thought for a moment and then decided to pretend she didn’t make a remark about fertilizer. “What are you looking for?” The young lady asked as if she was an authority figure.
“Well Cazona 8 is having some legal difficulties. There is this intergalactic corporation and they are laying claim to our land. In fact they want to build a major spaceport on our farm.”
“What . . . that’s just terrible,” said Colandra sympathetically. “So for what purpose are you here?”
“I’m trying to find any legal documents pertaining to the situation.” William felt good that he could bare his soul to someone. Just to have a listening ear was a comfort. “I believe we were granted the land in perpetuity.”
“I am certain that I can help you Billy,” said Colandra as a grand smile crept upon her face.
“Really,” cried out the young man, “that’s terrific!!” A smile was bursting on his face as well.
“So you’re a librarian?” asked William in awe. The two were walking through a room full of massive shelves. Books were as prominent as leaves on the trees.
“Yes,” answered Colandra, “that is what my official documentations declare.”
“I’m really not sure how this is going to help me find what I’m looking for?” inquired the young man puzzled.
“Listen Billy,” said the red haired woman, “around here we help one another. I have somebody searching for your book far away. Think of it this way, I do you a favor and you do me a favor.”
“Yes, but still I don’t understand,” the young man struggled with his thoughts, “why can’t you just get what you’re looking for?”
“You’re such a sweet young man Billy,” Colandra spoke softly, “I like you a lot, I really do. Besides the book is way up high on the top of the book case and I am such a petite woman.”
“All right,” said William, “but I really don’t like this.”
“You don’t have to like it,” said Colandra with a wink of an eye, “just love it!”
“Here we are Billy,” said Colandra. The pair had approached a door. Beyond the portal lay a room much identical to the others in the library. Perhaps the only difference was a lack of proper lighting and a collection of dust here and there.
“Oh and one more thing,” said Colandra sweetly.
“What?” he asked.
“This is for good luck,” and the young lady darted up and kissed the young man on the cheek.
William blushed. “See you soon,” he said as he proceeded forward.
The farmer rough hand sketched map he had received from Colandra telling him the exact location of the bookcase. It was like he was on a treasure hunt. Indeed according to the drawing the book was placed upon next to top shelf. William was glad that he wasn’t afraid of heights. He had climbed the immense grain silos on his family’s farm numerous time. The trick in being safe was staying calm. Victory was in the mind.
The young man was startled by a voice crying out in a shriek, “Who are you?”
William looked up and all around to see the source of the call. He was dumfounded that he could not see anything. “Over here,” it cried once more.
The young man looked up and saw a slug like creature on the side of one of the books shelves. It was gray in color with an enormous shell. It’s slimy neck penetrated from the body. It’s head had human features in addition to two long antennas. “And just what do you think you are doing here?” the voice grumbled.
“Why,” said William shyly. “I’m looking for a book, perhaps you can help?”
“Perhaps I can help,” said the slug creature in a high tone, “don ‘t you know where you are?”
“Why I’m on the planet Grela, in the Library of the Grand University.”
“Don’t get smart with me boy,” shot out the creature, “do you think I was born yesterday?”
“Please sir,” pleased William, “I just want to find a book.”
“Leeeeeroy,” called out the slug loud as he could, “oh Leroy, we got ourselves another winner here.”
William heard a large grunt and then a rhythmic pounding on the ground. With each beat the ground shook causing the book cases to tremble. Dust flew into the air and the young man had to cough. Suddenly the light was blotted out. Standing there was a massive creature fully sixty feet high. His body was muscular sporting and long tail like a whip. His face was fierce with bulging eyes and a mouth full of long spiked teeth. His head sported two long horns piercing through his blue hair. The creature was a dark green with mottled darker spots. “What do we have here?” boomed the voice from the creature.
“Ask him where he is Roy, ask him, ask him,” spurted out the slug in an anxious voice.
“Okay Sidney, I will,” the creature said in softer voice which was still extremely loud. “Little creature where are you?”
William could not hide his terror, “Why I’m on the Planet Grela in the Library of the Grand University.”
“You here that,” said Sidney, “do you think he’s a clown or something?” The slug started to snicker and then the giant gorgon accompanied his laugh.
“I’m not a clown I’m a farmer,” said William.
“And what are you doing here?” asked the Leroy fuming with anger.
“I’m looking for a book.” William felt the urge to run but fought his feelings.
“Let me tell you where you are,” cried the gargantuan, “you are in the domain of the Great Dreaded Gorgon Leroy Downtown Brown.”
“I thought this was the Library?” William was puzzled.
“Gosh we got ourselves a real thick one today don’t we boss?” Sidney the slug spoke. “How shall we dispose of this one?”
“Dispose of me? Do you mean kill me?”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” snickered the slug.
“For trespassing on my domain,” shouted Leroy the Gorgon.
“All I wanted to do was find one book,” William’s words were drenched in fear. “Why didn’t she tell me about this?”
“She?” asked Sidney, “and just who is this she?”
“Why, Colandra the librarian.”
“Describe this Colandra to me,” demanded the Gorgon.
“Well,” said William, “She’s a short, thin lady, about yo high,” William held his hand to his chest. “Red skinned with a couple of horns and if you ask me a pretty sexy gal.”
“Not that infernal witch again,” cried the Gorgon.
“Oh boy, boy, you’re in real trouble now,” snickered Sidney.
“How shall we dispose of this one?” bellowed Leroy, “she certainly didn’t get the message last time.”
“Hold on,” cried out William mustering his courage, “could you please tell me what is going on?”
“Your friend Colandra sent you into my domain to retrieve a book did she not?”
“Why yes,” answered William.
“Without paying my fees of service,” the Gorgon shook his head.
“But the Library is free to all,” objected William.
“Boy where are you from?” Sidney inquired.
“Cazona 8,” answered the young man.
“And what did you do there?” the slug demanded.
“I worked on my family’s farm,” the farmer declared.
“Well you shoulda stuck to farming,” said Sidney.
“But an intergalactic corporation is coming to confiscate our land and I have to find documentation that we were granted the land in perpetuity.”
“And that book is in my domain?” asked Leroy gaining interest.
“No, I have no idea where my book is,” the young man confessed.
“And why are you in my domain?” asked Leroy.
“Colandra said she could help me if I did her a little favor,” William answered. “You know one hand washes the other.”
“Well my hands are about to get dirty,” said the Gorgon with a horrifying smile, “with your blood.”
Sidney began to snicker as Leroy reached down.
“Hold up,” screamed William, “I’m innocent.”
Leroy halted. “The boy’s got a point Roy,” said Sidney the slug.
“Well yes, he is a stranger isn’t he, Sid?”
“But tell me you biped youth, why were you looking for Colandra’ s book and not your own?” Sidney asked.
“Well, to be perfectly honest, I have no clue as to how the Library works and worse there was nobody to explain it to me. Colandra said if I could just fetch this one book she could get what I was looking for.”
“And you didn’t find this in the least bit suspicious?” Sidney gave a look up to his friend Leroy.
“I found it extremely strange, but I am a stranger and I am desperate.” William felt a little better.
“Fools die young,” said the Gorgon reaching down again.
“Wait,” screamed William in desperation, “I have something to say!”
“It had better be good,” said Leroy, “I haven’t had my lunch as of yet.”
“I’m really not your problem am I?”
“What ya mean?” Sidney said antennas quivering.
“Well this Colandra, has she sent others to find her book?” William asked.
“Yes, she has,” cried Leroy, “she shows me zero respect. I have killed a dozen of those interlopers. In fact I could show you their skulls.”
“Well then killing me wouldn’t be solving your problem now, would it?” William said.
“No, it would only be a temporary fix,” admitted the giant creature.
“Wouldn’t you rather get Colandra?”
“Well of course,” said the Gorgon, “but she knows better then to enter my domain.”
“What if it wasn’t your domain any longer, but say Sidney’s?” William had a devilish grin on his face.
“Well who would be afraid of Sidney?” wondered Leroy.
Sidney hissed but kept his mouth shut.
“Just what are you proposing?” asked the beast intrigued.
“Well say I return unharmed,” William suggested.
“You would simply tell Colandra that you ran into us, and out smarted us into letting you go.” Leroy surmised.
“I have no loyalty to Colandra, especially now,” said William.
“He does have a point there,” said Sidney trying to hide his hurt feelings.
“But if I no longer rule in my domain why would you not simply have gotten the requested book and return?”
“Well then,” said William. “I am just a simple farmhand aren’t I?” “Now that sounds like a good epitaph,” said Sidney the slug with a snicker.
William gave Sidney a nasty look and the slug cowardly withdrew his head inside his shell.
“Perhaps if I get the book next to the one she wants?” asked William.
“Ah,” said Leroy, “you are a clever little chap aren’t you? Then Colandra will feel it is safe to get the one she’s been looking for.”
“You learn a thing or two on farms you know,” said William with a smile. “It appears that we have an understanding, do we?”
The Gorgon looked at his associate. Sidney popped his head out. “It would be wonderful to do in Colandra, finally,” the slug decided.
Colandra smiled as she saw William emerge through the door. “Oh thank the Fates,” she said breathing a sigh of relief.
“Come on,” said William, “let’s keep on moving.” The pair hustled down the aisled of the library.
“I have good news,” said Colandra, “they found the book with all the information that you need.”
“Great,” said the farmer. “I’ll be glad to go home.”
“I assume our friend Leroy bought your little ruse,” the red skinned woman asked.
“He was fooled like a fowl before a scarecrow,” laughed William. He pulled out a book from inside his pack.
Colandra snatched it out of his hand like a thirsty woman leaving the desert and finding the first glass of water. “Excellent, Billy, you don’t know how long I’ve been trying to get this book.”
“Twelve others have tried and failed, haven’t they?” William asked.
“Who told you that?”
“Why Leroy and his friend Sidney,” offered up the young man.
“Well that is true,” admitted Colandra.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” asked the young man.
“Well,” said the librarian sheepishly, “I really didn’t want to put more pressure on you and make you too nervous.”
“Any way the plan worked,” said William, “he thought that I was going to get the book next to the one you wanted.”
“Can’t con a con,” said Colandra smiling, “oh and I have some bad news for you as well.”
William stopped in his tracks. His heart skipped a beat. He had trusted Colandra. He had risked his life in the bargain. “You didn’t find the book?” he whispered.
“Oh Billy,” said the young lady, “you hurt my feelings. Of course I found the book, what did you think I was lying?”
“Sorry,” apologized the farmer, “it’s just that I’ve been through a lot.” He paused. “I really don’t know who to trust.”
“Come on Billy boy,” said Colandra with a laugh, “you can never trust a blonde, me I have red hair and it’s natural. Besides my business is built on trust. If I break my word just once, then I’m finished.”
William had to laugh. “So then what’s the bad news?”
“Well I like you Billy boy.”
“And I like you too,” said William returning the compliment.
“And you went above the call of service for me,” said Colandra.
William thought about it. It was a close call with the Gorgon. In fact for a few moments he thought that he would die so far away from his home. “Thanks,” he said.
“So William, I had my experts examine the contents of the book and do some extra research.”
“So there is no perpetuity given to my family?”
“Well not exactly,” said Colandra, “In fact the entire planet of Cazona 8 is zoned to be agriculture. It would be violating the law to do any construction on the planet not dedicated to farming and the like.”
“That sounds great,” said William with enthusiasm. It was hard to believe that his quest was over so soon and successful.
“You don’t want to hear the bad news?”
William shivered as if cold in fearful anticipation of what he was to hear, “I guess I have to.”
“The intergalactic corporation that is going to take your land is above the law. My experts tell me that they are aware of a dozen planets where they simply violated the law.”
“But how can they do that?”
“Same way a Gorgon named Leroy can take over an annex of a library and demand exorbitant fees to retrieve any books. Why the Great Dreaded Gorgon Leroy Downtown Brown is nothing but a punk bully, albeit a large one,” Colandra said with a sigh.
“So what you’re telling me is that this intergalactic company is going to just take over our land.”
“That’s right,” said Colandra, “I am very sorry to tell you that Billy.”
“Well I’ll fight,” said William.
“I wish you well, but they do have a private army at their disposal. How much military training do you and your family have. How many laser cannons at your disposal?”
“So the bad guys win?” said William hanging his head low.
“Not always,” said Colandra tapping the book in her hand. “I’ve been trying to get this tome for years. I think that’s cause to celebrate.”
“But not really, what happens the next time you want a book from Leroy’s territory. I mean why hasn’t somebody done something about him?”
“Let me explain some facts of life as far as the Library goes,” said Colandra. “They don’t care at all about restricting access to their books. In fact it emboldens them.”
“So,” said William, “they don’t care about Leroy acting like a third rate terrorist, bullying people for fees.”
“No, not at all,” said Colandra. “But what they absolutely do not tolerate is interference with returning a book.” Colandra had a sly smile on her face. “The Library will never tolerate the theft or interference with the storage of their wealth, which is of course their books.”
“You mean,” said William.
“Yes,” said the red skinned lady. “I won’t be returning this book alone.”
“Does our friend Leroy know about this?”
“No, I doubt it” said Colandra, “but after my client returns this book to me the Gorgon is in for a very rude awakening.”
William had to laugh. “I would like to stick around to see that.”
“Why don’t you?” asked the librarian, “I could use some help from a clever man.”
“Well I have to fulfill my obligations to my family. It may be a hopeless case but so was getting the book from Leroy, wasn’t it?”
Colandra let out a long laugh. “More power to you Billy. You have two years to consider your occupation. You sign on as a librarian I have a job waiting here for you at the university.”
William embraced Colandra in the shadows of the book shelves. He had made a friend.
John Kaniecki is an author residing in Montclair, New Jersey with his lovely wife Sylvia. They are active in the Church of Christ at Chancellor Avenue. John is a published writer and poet. John has two books. A science fiction book entitled “Words of the Future”. This is a collection of stories. He has a poetry book called “Murmurings of a Mad Man”. This work examines mental illness from the point of the mentally ill.