Research And Its Obstacles, Pt. 2

Art by @NikBurman (Instagram)

See Pt. 1 at synthesisweekly.com/research-obstacles-pt-1/

“I was placed here to guard this door 334 years ago by Master Howl, the curator of this library.”

The boy stepped back, considering, his face twisted up. Why on earth had he locked himself out of this room?

He’d left a cipher in the room behind this massive stone giant of a door warden, and his translations couldn’t continue until he had it again.

“Listen, mister,” the boy called up to the giant, “Master Howl is me. I made you, and put you here. Surely if I wished to enter this room, you’d be compelled to allow it.”

The giant’s eyes, glowing a dull green, blinked once, slowly. “All persons attempting to force entry will be extinguished,” it recited. Its chest gave a slow heave. “Besides, it’s been ages since I had someone to converse with down here. Wouldn’t you rather stay here and talk?”

Howl gave a wry grin. “Well, could you help me remember what I said when I made you? What was I doing?”

“Oh, you were worked up terribly about something or another,” came the rumbling reply. “Frightened. Told me not to let anyone in, at all. You said… You said…” A stone finger scratched at a gigantic stone chin. “You said, ‘I should have known better. Can’t experiment with entire races anymore. They took to the idea too strongly, and no one can save them now.’”

“Ah…” The boy was beginning to remember. The histories of the Lumanian civilization, recorded within this guarded room, recalled a world not so ancient as he’d thought. “I helped them get their start,” Howl murmured, and he winced inwardly.

The boy had helped the Lumanians with a strange new idea: to develop a COMPLETELY peaceful civilization. He’d shown them how to alter the genetic stock so their bodies would physically reject any impulse toward violence. It had been an amusing idea, but huge difficulties began to arise: The Lumanians wouldn’t allow themselves to react aggressively to anything, unable even to defend themselves against predators. Howl’s intervention had allowed them to exceed all barriers in the arts and in technology, but they had doomed themselves also to eventual self- extinction, and the boy was responsible for that as well, and he remembered that he was ashamed of it.

He gave a sigh. The fact remained that he had glyphs to translate elsewhere in this subterranean library, and they were written in Lumanian, and he needed a cipher. He would re-enter their histories. It would be humbling to see his role in their decline, but there was nothing for it.

“How about this,” Howl called. “If you let me through, I’ll come right back out in no more than five minutes, and I promise I’ll spend an entire two hours talking with you!” The door warden leaned a little closer to the ground to examine him. “I’ll even let you follow me around after, if you’d like the company.”

The dim green eyes gave one more slow blink, and the massive mouth curled into a semblance of a smile. “A real conversation… I’m not sure I’ve ever had one!” The hallway shook with the impact of two immense steps as the door warden stepped aside, and caused the door behind him to open. On the door’s other side was the room containing the histories of the Lumanians, 1st through 3rd centuries.

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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.