The Night Library at New Year

It was very quiet in the stacks, even the children’s books hushed their chatter and gently rustled their pages as if waiting.
The night librarian moved from shelf to shelf, carefully straightening spines and smoothing wrinkled pages. Her felt-slippered feet made no sound on the ancient stones of the floor, and all that could be heard was her voice softly reassuring her charges.
“Have no fear. All is as it should be.”
The books relaxed under the ministrations of her square, brown hands until at last she came to the place of grimoires and books of spells.
In this area, the darkness was deep and charged with the sort of power that ought to make the average human female fall to the ground afraid.
But the librarian was no average female and her sturdy, cardigan clad body absorbed the leaking magics with no evidence of strain, though an observant watcher might have noticed a strange sparkle in her pale eyes.
“Who is losing power?” she asked.
Me. Me. Me. Half a hundred voices echoed in the starless air.
The librarian stood quietly, listening to each and every complaint. When the clamour died down she took a small, gnarled stick from her pocket and walked thought the books touching apparently random spines as she walked.
She had just reached the end of the section called ‘majical tomes’ when there came a sound as of a muted bell.
Every book in the library signed.
“The old one comes.”
“Is it safe for me, librarian?”
“Aye. The leaks in the wall have been sealed and you may breathe your last among the stories you have wrote if that be your desire.”
“It is,” the voice ended on a sigh that was all at once as gentle as the breath of a lover and as wild as the wind that drives the cruel sea. Every book in the place rustled its pages just once, before settling into its given place without another sound.
The librarian walked to that place where once a mighty pentagram had been drawn in the white stones with the blood of a pure hero. She moved to the very centre of that circle of power and held out her hands with the nobbly stick resting across her palms.
Came a flaw in the light and her place was taken by an old, old man whose torn cloak showed glimpses of the starry universe through the rents in its fabric.
As one, the books began to count down in time to the single silver bell that tolled the hours from the highest point on the library roof.
Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one…
Bong! Bong!
The brassy tongues of every bell in the university city tolled the end of the old year and the birth of the new.
The old man collapsed into a pile of rags and for a second it was as if time itself stopped.
“Requiesce in pace.”
The librarian’s voice broke the silence and a small wind blew away the rags and dust, leaving in their stead a tall young man with golden hair and the beauty of a classical athlete. He bowed thrice to the plain little librarian who shimmered with the light of power as she reappeared in the circle.
“Gracias ago tibi, mater.”
Then he was gone and only the librarian remained breathing heavily, as if she had run a long way. A voice from one of the stacks spoke softly.
“It must be hard to see your child die.”
“It is necessary. Unless one child dies the next has no birth. Now sleep my dears.”
And the librarian went up the stairs to her bedroom with a heart as heavy as lead and as light as a carnival balloon. As she laid her head on her cool white pillow she smiled.
“Endings and beginnings,” she said before she fell asleep.

©️ jane jago 2021

You can find other stories about the Night Library in The Night Librarian by Jane Jago

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