In the Stacks

Zsófia slid through the stacks, her arms filled with books. Returning them to their correct and proper place was like a meditation for her. Once the last one was placed, she stopped and listened to the faint scritching of note taking.

She returned to her front desk and began filling out forms, there were always forms but she also took pleasure in completing them. For those who knew her in a purely social way, would be flabbergasted to see her in this context.

The Zsófia they knew was not someone who gently and thoroughly returned books to shelves or completed paperwork with clear and legible handwriting. Their Zsófia drank and danced till the sun groggily rose in the sky. It might not make sense, but remember, no one is all one thing.

Completing one stack of supplication documents and sealing them in the correctly colored envelope (pale jade) she was about to delve into some overdue notices when she heard the gentle clearing of a throat.

Standing in front of her desk was Personne the graduate student, in all his forgettable glory. Zsófia took a special pride in knowing the names of faculty and students who came in but it took more than a few visits for her to remember him. Eventually, she recognized the small brass pin attached to his lapel. It looked like a floret but she did not recognize the type, which seemed apropos. However, it did allow her to identify him even if the rest of him was unmemorable.

“Good afternoon Monsieur Personne, what can I do for you today?” she asked quietly.

“Mademoiselle, I need several books pulled, if it is not too much trouble.”

He handed her his list. Most were historical accounts, dry reading even for scholars, but there was one that gave her pause.

“The Folio of Mechanical Fabrication? Have you changed your thesis Monsieur?

He shook his head, “No, but I believe that it might contain something that could aid my research.”

Zsófia did not usually care what was checked out in the library as long as it was returned in good condition and on time. Academics sometimes branched out their inquiries into seemingly unrelated areas, but Personne did not do that. Until now that is. There was one other wrinkle in this, L’Horloge owned a copy and had paid dearly for it. Something about this smelled off, like cold iron and hot oil.

“I’ll be back momentarily,” she said with a smile.

Of course the historical accounts were shelved and available, they were written by little known figures about even more obscure events. Easily done. As for the Folio, it was sitting on a shelf in the protected section and there was no rational reason to deny this unusual request. Still…

She returned to her desk with the dull tomes of forgotten history but not the Folio.

“Apologies Monsieur, but the Folio is not available at this time.”

Taking the other books under his arm, Personne asked, “Do you know who has it out?”

“I’m afraid that it’s being restored, it is after all, quite old.”

“Indeed. Do you know when that will be done?”

“I couldn’t say, but such work must be very meticulous and cannot be rushed.”

“Very well, merci Mademoiselle, these will have to suffice for now.”

He turned and began to walk away but slowed and turned back.

“Can you inform me when it is back in circulation?”

“Of course Monsieur, I will make a note so I should not forget.”

“Once more, merci.”

And with that, he disappeared into the stacks. Zsófia found her heart was racing. It felt as though she had avoided something sinister, though not forever. Taking pen to paper she wrote a note to L’Horloge, asking to meet him later. Folding the missive into a winged serpent, it flew off and out a high window.

It did not go unnoticed.

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