The room was pitch dark—indeed, the sun had never in its millennia of light-giving managed to reach down here, except perhaps in another age, when the huge slabs of stone that made these walls had been above the ground, a mountain maybe, before merciless time had thrown them deep into the earth, and infinitely powerful, infinitely incomprehensible hands had formed them into what they became—a sort of library, vast, subterranean, large enough to hold millions, or just one.
There was a shift in the air, a swiftly blinding light from the room’s center—then the room was dark once more, but for a faint luminescence, emitted in soft pulses from the small boy now standing there.
I say “small boy” for ease of reference, but a closer examination would make his gender, and his very nature, increasingly unclear.
Short, dressed in unrelieved black, with soft features and a sense of peace behind the eyes that could be mistaken for innocence—but this seeming youngster knew himself to be quite ancient. Hist last few centuries down here could be remembered at will, but his memory quickly failed him beyond that point.
Could he even still call himself human? He wasn’t at all sure, and was not often worried by the question. He certainly enjoyed a very human-like, slim, durable body, but it didn’t fully match his idea of himself—rather, he identified more completely with the library itself—vast, private, filled with more information than any human could contain. Here was stored the living records of countless human lives; endless accounts of the rise and fall of civilizations, past and future.
He had been a grown man when he first descended into this library; he remembered that humanity sometimes, but now he was just Howl: curious, alone, learning, and watching.
The dark room, built of massive stone slabs, each covered in countless carvings, had just one door, and the boy made to leave through it. Glyphs carved in the archway round the opening caught his eyes, stopped his feet. A light sprang from the boy’s palm, floated over his head as he deciphered the writings. These were new; they hadn’t been here when he’d first entered the room.
In a moment he had learned of exactly what had happened—a boy and a girl, in 2000 AD, had dreamed of Howl: they’d ridden behind his eyes, seen this library, caught a glimpse of what he did down here.
He smiled. “So! Even in my aloneness, I can never really achieve complete isolation,” he whispered to himself. He looked up at the light floating over his head and gave a start. It winked out. The boy hadn’t known it was possible to make such things. Always was a torch needed down here to see anything… Although, now he thought about it, there had been times of forgetting his need for light, walking and reading and learning for hours in complete darkness.
The boy shrugged and walked out into the massive hallway, humming to himself as he wondered about where to go next.