Research Assistants

Begin this story here

Howl walked swiftly down the hall, stone arches high above passing over and behind him, supporting a ceiling tall enough to accommodate the forty foot tall giant that followed behind. Like the library itself, the giant was formed of massive stone slabs, and like the stones of the library, the giants were covered in countless carvings, glyphs meticulously carved into the rock, relating the history of… well, the history of whatever was related there. Howl was down here to learn all of it, to read every story, but after the perplexing realization that the written histories were changing and shifting constantly, his fervent scholastic resolve had relaxed somewhat. Even now, a faint rumbling could be felt through the boy’s feet as stones making up the hallway shifted, rotated, adjusting their records to more accurately represent the everchanging accounts they recorded.

The hallway ended, opening to a square-ish room with a ceiling that reached high—higher, until even Howl’s giant companion was dwarfed. The boy approached the room’s center, a bowl resting on a dais there, a black liquid filling the bowl. Bent so close to the scentless, fathomless liquid that the tip of his nose tingled, Howl whispered, “The green room.” The whole library shook, and the floor began a slow rotation. The stone giant’s dimly glowing eyes absorbed it all in silence, only its slightly opened mouth revealing its wonder. Three hundred years and more had passed since Howl had constructed this creature, and all but the most recent moments of its life had been spent alone, in darkness, guarding a room Howl had then promptly forgotten about until recently.

Its rumbling baritone was added to the grinding of the library’s shifting. “The green room is where I was made?”

“That’s right,” came the boy’s reply. The floor’s slow spin came to a halt, and three openings now awaited their choosing. Howl approached the hall directly opposite them, which shortly ended in massive double doors, their stones moulded to imitate the trunks of redwoods. At the boy’s request, the giant pushed them open, revealing another square room. Dirt was piled around the perimeter, having poured from the room’s gaping holes—where Howl had pulled stones out, perhaps losing their stories forever in the process, to construct the giant, who had walked to the far right corner, contemplating what grew there:

A glassy, crystalline substance reached out of the floor’s corner in jagged spikes, pulsing a soft, green light.

“What is it?” the giant asked. “It… hurts. I don’t want to look away.” An enormous finger approached the growth, not quite making contact, trembling.

“You can call it Love, if you’d like,” the boy said, “It’s the stuff I placed inside you, so you’d start thinking.” He stood, arms folded, considering the creature.

How would this thing react, if there were more of it? How would the library react? And would this giant’s new friends, which the boy had resolved to create, be unique in any discernable way? Or, would Howl have five identical, gigantic, ugly clones of the first?

The stone giant turned its glowing, green eyes to regard the boy. A few moments passed, then the boy shrugged and began directing his friend to pull more stones out of the wall.

Howl was born in the wastes north of Hithlum, where only beasts and witches dare roam. He was raised by two old hags, Tabby and Wiles, who had an unhealthy fascination towards the literary arts. Howl now resides in a well-furnished cave off South Rim Trail, complete with an old iBook and Wi-Fi.