I’m putting this here because I wrote it a while back during a flurry of inspiration and I found some people that may like it. It is very much in draft form.
“Every library has a ‘Restricted Section,’ you simpleton; it’s just the nature of libraries – of any collection, really.” The old man said this with a solid, even thick sort of finality that is hard to argue against.
Conjuring up more willpower than I was used to, I argued anyways, “That’s ridiculous! I have been in a lot of libraries before – and museums, zoos, and other collections – and a good portion of them had no restricted section.”
“But have you been to every single room in those libraries? The museums? Ha! The zoos, especially.”
“No, but why should that matter?”
“Because the people who are charged with keeping collections always have a very strong private streak, of course! Every zookeeper knows that almost every animal he keeps is dangerous, and the especially dangerous ones will only pull foolish daredevils that want to pet it or something – so they keep those animals in the part that no one can get to without the key.”
“The curators of museums are not a foolish lot, either – they only put replicas of the most valuable and rare items – or they would be stolen! Where do you think they keep the real ones? The restricted section, of course!
“Librarians are the worst of the lot – they know that knowledge is power. They know that power corrupts, but they also know that learning is the one thing that can save people from their own lives – whether it’s tragedy or drudgery or something else that they need saving from.
“This makes it so that only those that covet power – but still want to give knowledge to others – become librarians. They maintain these valuable and huge collections of living knowledge, but they keep certain texts and tomes for only themselves. When they first start, it is usually just a few shelves in their office, but eventually, when the collection is too large, they clean out some utility closet or back room, and they destroy all but the one key.”
The brother and sister were not where they were supposed to be.
The brother and sister had first followed the rumor of a secret map. [PP this: a map of ominous portent/supreme power >.<…]
The other students at the academy had told the brother and sister about a few rumors. The siblings had first needed to track down those fellow students that were actually trusted by the faculty, who tend to remain quite aloof and uninvolved. Once the two students had begun to build camaraderie with them, they bargained for information and bullied for verification. They had stolen artifacts that even these privileged students could not gain access to, and borrowed authority that they were not entitled to.
And all this took months – just to confirm the veracity of the rumors- and all the rumors just for one scrap of paper. Once their group of students had proven the existence of such an artifact, they planned. They learned about the faculty – when they met, their favorite food, things they would only ever discuss behind closed doors – anything factual that they could get their hands on. They met privately with the teachers and the administrators to discuss their ‘very serious concerns’ about other students and faculty.
Finally, they found it. The document was poking out of the top of a book. While they were speaking with the one teacher that should not have even had specific information, they both noticed the same book. It was the only book out of place in the whole office – this teacher hardly ever read if he was not forced to, and only the books on his desk had no dust. Except.
Except just this one. On the top-most level of the shelf set farthest from the door. A most boring manuscript about the mating habits of common birds. And the most interesting document just barely visible – it may have been a bookmark, except no one would need it in that book, so well indexed as it was. It may have been a note to oneself, only no one would keep it in a book like that on the top most shelf the farthest from the door.
The brother and the sister were both in the room for this discussion (this educator had a large family and was sympathetic to the plights of siblings in school), and they both noticed it. There was a meaningful glance that they exchanged. They both knew that they both knew. And they knew that it might move.
The brother feigned a situation that caused him to weep. The sister feigned angry frustration at this student that caused her brother tears, and hit the desk with a solid fist in her frustration. The desk was upset, and the shards of a falling plate (the remnants of the professor’s lunch) gashed her leg. A long cut – painful: she gasped – but not deep. It bled. The blood beaded and ran, staining her sock.
The teacher, the dupe, disliked the sight of any wound. Immediately he swept her up in his arms and carried her out. He hesitated at the door, unsure of what to do with the brother. That hesitation alone would have made the brother and sister curious about what was in this room. The brother was weeping even harder now – but he would be all right. The brother waved the teacher on, giving him permission to leave him for a few moments. The teacher’s eyes flicked up to the back-most wall with the dusty shelf (all but for the one book) for just a brief moment. The brother noticed. The sister’s wound bled. The teacher said something about ‘not touching anything’ and kicked the door closed behind him.
The brother, alone for a moment, carefully moved the professor’s chair. So careful – he could not afford to disturb the dust on the ladder. Dust on the ladder. There was dust on the ladder – but not on the book. How did the professor avoid moving the dust on the ladder to get at that book? There was no possible way could he have reached it unaided.
‘No time’ the brother thought to himself. He would ponder this fact later. The heavy chair moved easily. He climbed quickly, put one finger against the wall for balance and grabbed the book. He let it fall open in his hand and the map was there. He balanced carefully, and flipped the map to the important side with his balancing hand. He took in as much of the map as he could. He had seen the familiar layout hundreds of times in the nervous hands of new students, only now it was with older ink, and more complicated labels.
And there it was.
Even on this detailed map, there was a room unlabeled, except for the hand-scripted words: NO ADMITTANCE. He knew this door. It was one of the many seemingly permanently-locked doors they had thought it could be. Most of the ones that they could check through various falsehood schemes had turned out to be closets full of cleaning supplies or other storage. The others were labeled. Most of them were variously labeled as storage rooms.
And then there was this one. Unlabelled – NO ADMITTANCE. He even recognized the handwriting – it was not a current member of the faculty. It was the handwriting of a long-dead head librarian. He only recognized it because he had seen ‘NOT APPROVED’ so many times in going over the old scraps of seemingly worthless paper in the records room. Seems like that librarian enjoyed denying approval.
The brother knew where to go. He carefully arranged the map, carefully closed the book, and delicately replaced it into the void on the shelf. He hopped down to the seat of the chair, put the chair back to where it was, and heard the book laughing.
He had heard laughing. His initial impression was that it was from the book. Or at least it was from the shelf. He had never heard a book laugh, and he did not know why this book would be laughing. It was a haunting, “I’ve got you now” sort of laugh, the one you laugh when you are 4 moves from checkmate and you will have your opponent in check every move until then.
And then he heard footsteps. No time to think. Ponder it later. Get to his chair. Start weeping again. The door opens. His sister limps in. The professor helps her into the chair. The meeting continues. The siblings exchange a discreet smile, and the sister knows that they were successful. The next step could finally be taken.