I woke to a beautiful sunrise. Maybe it had all been a dream. That’s what I deluded myself with as I wallered around in the comfort of my warm blankets. The longer I kept my eyes shut, the longer I could just think it was all a nightmare, gone with the morning light. Eventually though, mother nature called me from the comfort of dreamland to the cold necessity of a bathroom. I grimaced, as I peeked one eye open, then the other. This was not my house, or my bedroom.
Curtains could not break the light of dawn. The room was small, and though dim light streamed through, corners were hidden and shadows would not resolve into recognizable shapes. There was no footboard on which to bruise my hips that I could discern. A small light was built into the wall with a recessed shelf next to the bed, so nothing to trip over.
I eased myself out of the bed, my skirt had wrapped its way up around my hips uncomfortably. I wiggled it back into shape and brushed out some wrinkles. I padded my way around the room and found a closet door. Inside was a small wardrobe of clothing, a couple shirts, a couple pairs of pants, the cotton candy clown of death outfit. I shuddered at the monstrosity of the pattern and color, but I understood now the symbolism of it. I closed the door and fumbled my way to the door next to it, having seen it from the light of the closet.
It creaked open, the sound sending a chill down my spine. I found it to swing in on a muted blue bathroom with a decently sized tub and shower combination, a sink, and a toilet. It didn’t take me long to freshen up. The shower, my first in several days, felt glorious. I didn’t care that the soap smelled masculine or that the shampoo wasn’t the brand that I liked to use. At that point, a real shower was fabulous. When I stepped out of the shower, a towel wrapped around me, my hair still dripping water, I had a staring contest with my clothing. They were grimy and wrinkled and smelled rather sour. For the life of me, I couldn’t conjure up a good memory of clothing from a book, none that I knew would be of use to me. Images of prehistoric clothing and victorian dresses came to mind, but those weren’t exactly normal clothing to walk about in. I sighed, exasperated. Finally I resigned myself to clothing options and put myself in a scarlet red Victorian dress. The corset that wrapped tightly around me surprised me. I had never worn one before, and the sudden corrective posture made me nervous. The dress had come from a favorite vampire smut novel, and though I did not initially have ulterior motives to the dress, a smile tugged at my lips as I looked at my shoulders and hair. I was amazed I hadn’t worn such a cut before. Then, I regretted my decision as I tried to squeeze the petticoats out of the small door. With excessive rustling of material, it finally let me loose. I swished through the bedroom and out into the sitting room and kitchen.
I found the room empty, and there was nothing beyond the four rooms in the apartment. Carl had left for the day. I found a box of cereal and a half a jug of milk in the kitchen and snarfed down a small bowl of breakfast. I had thought to eat more, I had woken up famished, but that tight hug of the corset made it hard for me to stomach any more. I wandered the little apartment, familiarizing myself with the small trinkets and details. Other than the one photo of us as a new family, there were no other photos or pictures in the rooms. The walls were bare other than for a couple of low shelves packed with books and little mementos. There was a little Eiffel tower, a small vase with Van Gogh’s sunflowers painted on the side. A wooden mind puzzle ball acted as a bookend for a set of small moleskins. I was nervous to linger too long on the titles of the books. Most though I found to be in languages I didn’t recognize. How many languages did Carl know? I pondered this as I tried to discern the differences. I could recognize the Greek and Russian cyrillic alphabets. I had suffered two semesters of French in high school and recognized a couple of words on the shelves. One entire shelf was dedicated to Asiatic and Middle Eastern scripts.
My eyes settled on a low shelf in the sitting room. A corner held about a dozen thin, worn covers of what looked to be children’s text books. I smiled. I leaned over and pulled a couple out of the shelf. That was what had really inspired me to become a librarian. I loved the look of children’s books, the ability to have so many stories, though short, at hand. The pictures, I loved them. I stilled the nervous beat of my heart. Would I bring something out of them?
I eased onto the ottoman, not sure that I’d be able to get back out of the couch with the corsetted dress on. Maybe I should have gone with a prehistoric leather wrap. I had kept myself from looking at the cover of the storybooks. Finally, with trepidation I looked down at the cover.
An ancient illumination of a boy in friar’s garb holding an open book was gilded to the cover. Centered under it, a beautiful typographic font was printed A Storyteller and His Words. Nothing popped out, no person stood before me. I swallowed against my dry throat and opened the cover to the first page. My eyes skimmed the first sentence, and nothing came out. I heaved a sigh. A book that would not cause problems.
Once, there was a boy, nearly a man, who lived in a small village near the sea. He was the son of a traveler. He would often spend evenings listening to his father tell the villagers of his travels across the sea, to exotic and foreign locations. He loved to listen to the stories.
One day, when the boy was old enough to travel, his father dressed the boy in the finest outfit he could afford. His father gave him a small pouch and a couple of gold coins. With his fine gifts, the boy set out on his first travel.
He wandered across the land that was familiar to him. He had gone with his father to close villages to trade, and he knew his way to them. He wandered to the villages familiar to him, less than a day’s walk. On his way, he passed by a stream. It was nearing his time to break his afternoon fast. He sat down on the bank and set up his fishing pole. Within a short time he landed a large golden fish. Gasping on the shore, the fish begged him to let him go. The boy, startled to have a fish speak to him, asked the fish why it could speak.
The fish told him of a purple bird with magic feathers that once came to drink at the stream. It had taken a fancy to the fish and gave him one of her feathers. The fish though could only talk of the current and the bugs that he caught. Dismayed that the fish was such a poor conversationalist, she flew away. The fish told the boy to find the bird and to apologize for him for never having enough to talk to her about. The boy in gratitude for the information tossed the fish back into his stream, put away his fishing rod, and left quickly.
That night, he shared his story of the talking golden fish with the people at the inn that he stopped to rest. The men laughed at his stories. The innkeeper’s wife though had once seen a purple bird living in the trees near the hay fields.
The following morning, the boy left to the hay fields in search of the magical purple bird. Taking a worn road, the boy stumbled upon a rock. Looking at the protuberance, he discovered it was not a rock but a black tortoise that had fallen on it’s back and was having difficulty righting itself. The tortoise asked the boy for help. The boy, startled that a tortoise could talk, helped the creature find its feet. The tortoise, in gratitude, told the boy of how he came to talk. He had met with a purple lizard some time ago. It had taken a fancy to him and followed him about for days. She gave the tortoise the tip of her tail, telling him that it would let him talk. She grew bored of the tortoise’s slow speech and had left it. The tortoise begged the boy to find the purple lizard and to apologize for him for always being slow to speak.
The boy left the tortoise for the hay fields, now in hopes of finding a purple bird and a purple lizard. He considered to himself, wondering if they were related. Late in the afternoon he found the hayfields the innkeeper’s wife had mentioned. He heard, on entering the field, the squaking brays of a cock caught in a trap. Rounding the mounds of hay, he found a ruby red rooster caught in a snare. He helped the creature out of the trap. The rooster thanked him graciously. The boy, no longer stunned to find animals speaking with him asked the rooster if he had seen a purple bird or a purple lizard. The rooster laughed at him and corrected him, telling him it was neither a purple bird or a purple lizard but a purple cat that had given him a magical whisker that allowed him to talk. The cat had left though because the rooster was too busy to talk, and he was sorry that he couldn’t have given it more attention. The rooster left, quickly distracted with it’s task of catching insects eating the hay.
The boy left the rooster and made his way into the woods on the edge of the field. He searched the woods late into the evening, finding no bird, no lizard, no cat. He set up camp. In the firelight, he watched the small bit of starry sky shift slowly through the canopy of the the trees. He decided to write down his story. He was startled by a crack of twigs. Looking past the fire he saw a figure step forward. A person in a brilliant purple hood sat down across from him.
The boy offered the person some of his meal. The hooded figure ate graciously. The boy, uneasy in the silence decided to tell the person his magnificent stories, like he remembered his father telling stories back home. The hooded figure sat, patiently listening. Finished, the boy asked the hooded figure who he was. The figure pushed the hood away from her face, revealing a pale woman with white hair and pale blue eyes. She motioned to her throat and made several hand gestures, indicating that she could not speak.
The boy apologized. He told her of the apologies of the fish and the tortoise and the cock. The woman smiled to him, seemingly amused. She stood up and walked over to the boy. To his amazement, she bent down and kissed him. With that, she disappeared. The boy, stunned, sat the entire night away. In the early morning, he wrote down his story.
Returning to the inn the next day, he found the innkeeper’s wife and told her the rest of his story. She encouraged him to tell the men that evening, and to charge a few coins, to make it into an event, that they might listen, and not laugh at him. He did as she suggested.
That evening, he pulled out his book, and placed his cap on the table. Curious, some of the patrons dropped a couple coins in his cap and found seats. He proceeded to read from his book, and to everyone’s stunned amazement, the fish, the tortoise, and the cock appeared before them. The bird, the lizard, the cat, and the lady did not appear, but a massive glittering purple dragon with white claws, white whiskers, and white wings appeared before them.
The boy asked the dragon where it had come from. It thanked him for finally providing her with her own story and vanished with the fish, tortoise, and cock.
I closed the book. Purple wasn’t the first color I would have chosen for the dragon. I would have made the fish purple and the dragon gold, but overall the story wasn’t exactly bad. It didn’t really explain much. No. I sat and thought about it. The fish had seen a bird. Dragons have wings. Maybe it saw what it most desired, a bird, because it could fly in the sky. The tortoise had met with a lizard, which dragons look sort of like lizards. It can travel faster than tortoises, maybe that was what the tortoise wanted to see in it. The rooster might have seen the face and the legs of the dragon and thought it was a large cat. Maybe it wanted to be able to live more like the cat, a relaxed life of hunting. The boy probably saw a woman because he was about that age to start thinking of things like that.
A click of the door startled me from my ponderment. Carl let himself into his apartment, smiling to see me. The clock near the door told me it was just about lunch time. He was dressed in his regular black shirt and jeans with the massive sword strapped to his back. His hair was pulled back in a strip of leather. “I thought I’d come see if you wanted to eat lunch in the cafeteria?” he offered. I smiled at him. I had showered, and though my outfit was probably a bit outlandish, it was clean. I stood up, and jumped when the book hit the ground. I leaned forward to pick it up, but found with the corset it was a bit difficult to pick up the waif of papers. Carl came over and picked it up, glancing at the cover. A small smile of nostalgia pulled at the corner of his lips.
“Did you find it interesting?” Carl asked me as he set it back on his shelf.
“It was refreshing not to have things crawling out of the pages,” I stated as I tried to shift my dress about.
“It’s sealed, so you don’t have to worry about things coming out of it,” he turned to look at me. I could read about three very obvious emotions run across his face as he realized just what I was wearing.
“Sealed?” I asked, trying to keep us on point. Carl coughed and looked away from me, trying to gain some sense of self preservation. “It’s a special book that tells of the beginning of the Librarians, and we need to be able to let children read it without problems, so one of the Chair more than a millennia ago sealed that story. I am not sure how he did it, but we have been able to distribute the story to our charges without incident ever since the first script,” he answered.
“A dragon gave us the power to read out things from written word? Carl, really?” I asked skeptically.
“Think about it, it’s not that implausible,” he answered.
“That’s like saying Santa Clause is real,” I stated.
“Says the person who randomly makes white rabbits emerge out of thin air,” he retorted, becoming unsettled.
“But dragons?” I asked, pressing. Dragons couldn’t be real.
“Hey, it could have just as easily been a bird. I don’t know. The things we can read out of books though can make anything plausible,” stated the blond haired man. I blinked at him. My head was not wanting to wrap itself around dragons being real. True, if I had a copy of Saint Peter sitting in front of me, I could probably make a dragon appear – but that was me speaking it into existence, not it already existing.
“Wait, does that mean we are all descended from this one guy?” I asked, the sudden thought making me blanch.
“I don’t think the dragon was a singular case. There are many books about people being blessed by a dragon with the ability to read out pictures in most cultures with a written word,” he shrugged. I’m not sure why that reassured me, because that meant I accepted that dragons were real, but it did make me feel a little better. Maybe it was just a story and some kid had developed a genetic mutation that gave him some type of weird brain wave abnormality something…yeah. I decided to brush it out of my mind.
I glanced back at the door, Carl followed my look. “So, do you want to try and face people today?” he asked.
“Am I okay in the outfit?” I asked.
“You’re beautiful in the outfit,” he smiled at me, passion seeping into his features.
“To meet other people,” I pressed, trying hard to keep him on track.
“I was thinking out of it,” he pulled me to him, his eyes drifting down my decolletage. I coughed a little, trying to catch his eye. His eyes snapped back to mine, heat rising to his cheeks.
“Maybe later. I can change if I have an option of something to read an outfit out of, or if you have another option,” I continued. He reluctantly released me with a sigh. “We’re picking this up later,” he told me.
“Later comes after now,” I mentioned.
“True,” he turned to his shelves. “You know,” he said after a minute’s observation of titles, “I don’t think I have anything in here to dress you in a pair of jeans and a t-shirt or anything. The closest thing I have in here that I can think of that has anything mentioning clothing is this antique text on…” he pulled out a text written in sanskrit.
I caught sight of the image on the cover and giggled. “I don’t think that would be appropriate in mixed company,” I tried to keep my composure. “Why do you have a kama sutra text anyway?” I asked, waving him to give me the book. He slipped it into my hands. It was old, the leather of the cover and the paint chipping and cracking. I gingerly flipped it open to the illuminated text and pictures, amazed at the vivid details.
Carl shrugged, “we don’t really have ready access to the internet down here and I only get to see you every couple of months.” He was embarrassed, I could tell by his sudden change in demeanor. He had meant the book as a joke, but he had suddenly become uncomfortable with the topic.
In all the years we had been together, we had never really talked about porn in the house. We saw each other so infrequently that when we were together, it never seemed important. It wasn’t like I was a prude about it, I just didn’t really know how he felt about me watching stuff like that, and I guess he didn’t know how I felt about him watching stuff like that either.
“It’s a beautiful manuscript,” I stated, still flipping through page after page of gorgeous paintings.
He glanced back to me, concern awash on his face, “you’re not…you know…mad…about me having it?” he asked.
I lifted my eyebrows and shrugged. If we were getting to know each other all over again, why not? “If you’re not mad about that fact that I like both women and men, then yeah, I won’t be mad at you for using porn for normal basic needs,” I stated, not really able to keep myself looking at him.
A look of confusion crossed his face. “Like, like like?” he asked.
“Other than you, no one in particular,” I supplied.
“You find both girls and guys attractive?” he asked, still trying to understand.
“Maybe I shouldn’t have mentioned it,” I shifted uncomfortably.
Carl settled onto the ottoman, a bit stunned. “How did I not know that about you? We’ve been together almost a decade, no a bit longer than that, and I didn’t know you were…” he was searching for the right word.
“Pansexual is the best term for it,” I paced to the kitchen, setting the book on the counter.
“What?” he asked, the term unfamiliar to him.
“Guys, gals, trans, if it’s got a great personality and a great look, I’m pretty good with looking at it,” I responded, not really sure how to qualify it.
“How did I not know this?” he asked again.
“Because I never considered it important in our relationship, because I always thought that it was just us and never really had a need to find companionship elsewhere. Porn on the other hand serves its uses. I just never mentioned watching the stuff cause I figured it would make you uncomfortable, you know, the whole stereotype ‘guys get jealous’ etc. etc.,” I qualified.
Carl sat, thinking for a minute. “So, you’ve never…” he asked, standing up and pacing to the window.
“It’s only ever been with you,” I answered the dropped question.
“So, how do you know?” he asked.
“I find all the categories attractive? I can imagine all those situations and not find them confusing or repulsive. I’ve had crushes in school on girls, and guys, and gays, and lesbians, guys who wanted to be girls, girls who wanted to be guys, and…I don’t know, I just know it about me,” I stated, now not really sure what I had done. “Look, I’m sorry I made you uncomfortable. I can leave. We can try to figure things out later,” I said, easing my way to the door. Carl turned around and was to the door in a flash. He gripped my hand to his chest. “No, its…you didn’t…it’s okay,” he said, trying to find words to express himself appropriately.
“This doesn’t change much of anything,” I placated.
“I guess…I guess it really doesn’t, does it? You haven’t taken up a bedfellow in my absence, and we really were just talking about…well, other things,” he sighed, the kamasutra book catching his eye.
“So…” I tried to break the awkward tension, “lunch?” I asked.
He nodded his head, “let’s get you out of the apartment and introduced to a few people. Maybe that’ll start you on the road to figuring out your place in the guild.”
He held the door open for me as I rustled out into the hall, my petticoats swishing as I walked. He lead me through the maze of corridors to the cafeteria.
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