SHORT STORY: THE LIBRARY OF LELAB

 

This story was written for a family writing event at Easter. Comments welcome!

THE LIBRARY OF LELAB

by Christopher Rollason, 13 April 2020

The Library of Lelab is situated at the centre of our city of the same name. It began in the old French tongue as Le Laboratoire: the laboratory city for a better world, the place where dreams were worked on till they came true. Today in the year 3220, twelve arduous centuries after the new world’s inception, we all know we have created the perfect living and thinking environment and very little needs to change. Thus I tell you as I sit at my librarian-in-chief’s desk on a raised platform at the library’s beating heart, gentle ayurvedic music playing as I write.

The entirety of our city is constructed in glass, plain or coloured or stained, transparent, translucent or opaque. To reach our library one passes through the complex that surrounds it, which we call Plaza Daedalus. In some ways it is like a conference centre from the ancient era, though today, now that all points of view converge on each other, we have long since replaced those outmoded places with Affirmation Centres. Around our library are restaurants, cafeterias, lecture theatres, concert halls, cinemas – all locations that serve to stimulate our material or intellectual tastebuds, which are open twenty-four hours a day and which we can never under any circumstances whatever imagine being closed  A glass rainbow bridge called Bifrost connects the plaza to the wider world.

The library’s bookshelves are in multiple shades of glass, lightly tinted according to class of book but not so strongly as to make the spines and titles anything but readable. Each book exists in two manifestations: a physical, leather-bound master copy, and its infinitely reproducible cybergenerated simulacrum that readers can have printed out in three dimensions. We call the first avatar the Luther copy, and the second the Gutenberg reproduction.  And invisible links connect library and books direct to the readers’ minds, which we the librarians can read.

If anything marks out our library as totally different from its – very partial – precursors in the old world, it is a trait as simple as it is vital: it only houses good books. Nothing can be written or published today that does not conform to our time’s highest ethical standards. Of course we do not reject the great books of the past. Shakespeare, Dante and Cervantes are here, only with red-letter warnings emblazoned on their title pages that these books may reflect attitudes of their authors’ remote time which could not be accepted today. The past is a foreign country, but among our most requested books are the works of Berrian, who long ago first articulated the wholesome principles by which our authors now write.

Surrounded by the coruscating tints of the glass shelves, when I gaze at each and every leather-bound volume nearest me I feel transfixed. Over long centuries, starting from our prehistory in the murky epoch before today’s reticular links existed, we have successfully purified the human mind. And so each day we celebrate our Library of Lelab.

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