I closed my book with a loud thump. It had given me no new information and there was still so much more I didn’t know. For the first time in my life, (but certainly not the last) I had exhausted all the resources my local library system had, and was left feeling unsatisfied.
I left my house to return it to the library, and the walk was uneventful. It felt wrong, much like how I’d felt finishing the book and realising there was nothing left to know. I returned it, sullen, and checked the section on Aincient Egypt out of habit. Nothing new. I left quickly, ducking out of a conversation with the cheerful librarian who was bound to ask me what I was researching. Nothing. I was researching nothing.
I wandered aimlessly for a while, noticing at length that the sun was going down and I should head back towards home. I turned, ready to return to my couch and bury myself in a fantasy novel, when I realized I had no idea where I was. My town is very small, and I know it like the back of my hand, but I was utterly lost.
There was what appeared to be the shore of some body of water behind me, which confused me further. I should be landlocked. There was something dizzying and dreamlike about it, and I stepped towards it like I was in a trance. The water smelled briny, something I had never experienced before. There is no ocean near where I am, and at this point, I didn’t even stop to question it. As I put my foot in the water, I saw a glimmer of moonlight on the water far off, a glimmer that seemed to be moving towards me. I stood for a long time, soft waves soaking my shoes with cold water, and soon the glimmer resolved itself into a small boat, with a bluish lantern affixed to the front. I waded in, catching hold of it and stepping into the boat easily.
There were no oars, and no motor either, but the boat moved back out into the ocean steadily, almost as if being pulled by the lantern on the front. I sat there silently for what could have been minutes or years, staring up at the night sky. The stars were unfamiliar, in constellations I didn’t know, but it felt right somehow. At some point, the water grew rough and I began to fear for my life. I had never been on the ocean before, let alone in a boat I had no control over. I woke somewhat out of the dreamlike state I had been in, and prayed with everything I had for someone, anyone to find me and bring me home. The answer came, but it was not the home I expected.
There was a light on the horizon, one I was heading steadily towards despite the wind and waves. I kept watching it, refusing to look away or even blink for fear it would dissappear. It grew brighter and brighter, and my tiny boat seemed to be pulled faster and faster towards it, until at last it loomed above me on a cliff, a proud lighthouse overlooking the nameless sea.
I had no time to admire it though, as the waves brought me towards the sharp rocks of the cliff, and I braced myself, closing my eyes against the inevitable. The boat dropped out from under me and I fell into the freezing water, gasping. The boat’s lantern was nowhere to be seen but now I was pulled as if by the same force that called it to the lighthouse on the cliff. I swam towards the base of the cliff, spitting saltwater, but unable to stop until at last, I caught hold of a rock and pulled myself out of the water. Shivering, I looked up at the looming stone above me and knew that If I was to survive, I must climb.
I drew myself upward, holding tight to the rock as the waves continued to beat against my back and threatened to pull me back into the deep. It felt like I was there for ages, clawing my way up to the lighthouse and its harsh light. My eyes stung and my hands bled but still I climbed. I was drawn inexorably up, up towards the proud lighthouse and the harsh glow coming from within. At long last, I pulled myself up onto the grass, gasping. I wanted nothing more than to sleep right there but I stood up on shakey legs and stumbled towards the open door. Inside there was a vast library and my fatigue was forgotten immediately. There was a scroll laid out on a nearby desk, in such good condition that it looked new, yet it was written in ancient hyroglyphs. There was a sort of magnifying glass holding down one corner and where it sat, the symbols transitioned to recognizable, if somewhat archaic English.
I sat down and read, unaware that there was anyone else in the lighthouse with me, until there was a noise like a great many footsteps from higher in the tower and afraid that I might be trespassing, I grabbed the scroll and hid under the stairs leading higher up to the light. A handful of people walked down the steps right over my head and started pulling volumes off shelves, making tea, and eventually gathering at a table crowded with bits of paper. Little did I know, they had all been in a Tome Kindling session near the Mindflame. There was a lot of chatter about “Fragments” and other things I didn’t understand. One of them reached for the scroll, and unable to find it, muttered something like “Steve” under thier breath and rejoined the others. While I was waiting for an opening to return the scroll and leave without being noticed, my fatigue finally caught up to me, and I fell asleep in the dusty nook under the stairs.
I was shaken awake and a kindly voice said "You must have fallen asleep studying. I hate to disturb you, but it’s closing time."
I was back in my local library, head on an open book. Ashamed, I jumped up and hurriedly apologuised to the librarian before rushing out the door. I almost thought my visit to the lighthouse was a dream, but my shoes were wet with sea water and when I brushed my hair out of the way, a cobweb came off in my hand.