Signs & Portents
The Song of Spirulina
It would be the bottom tier, she thought, pausing for the tenth time to catch her breath. It occurred to her, that if she could fix the problem, the very long ascent would still be ahead of her. Perhaps she should have left word about her mission, in case she did have a mishap. But she knew that none of the others had much sympathy for her profession. When library affairs came up, the subject was always changed rather quickly.
If she had told anyone else about her intention, the response would have been only to chide her not to waste her time, to leave it alone, and forget it. Preservation of the library was non-existent as a priority, and she knew it quite well.
A rank odor was definitely coming up from below, she could smell it now. A horrible thought came to her. Was it possible that one of the children had found the way in here? She knew they were curious and loved to climb. When had the trouble light appeared? She could not really recall, but at the least weeks had gone by. At first, she'd hoped that it would take care of itself, that sometimes happened in the city. She shuddered, it was not totally impossible that a grisly surprise awaited her somewhere at the bottom of the storage tier. Without food or water, a child would not have lasted long.
Was she getting superstitious about the children? They did seem, to her at least, to be possessed by an insatiable curiosity. Not everyone agreed with that, of course. Was she getting so forgetful that she could have left this tier open for the length of time it would take one or more of the children to enter here? She didn't think so, and she reminded herself, only an astronomically remote chance could have led one of them to stumbling onto to just the right sequence to gain entry. And, she chided herself, if anything smelled worse than decaying paper, she did not know of it. She continued her descent.
Seeing nothing out of place along the way, she gingerly stepped onto the circular platform of the bottom level. The smell was nearly asphyxiating here, surely she'd come to the right place. She found the problem about 300 feet along the platform. One of the bins had burst. This was the old Wholesian section, of course, she ever so gently tapped the sheaf of paper that protruded. It was too much, with a sigh, the whole pile subsided into thin fragile ash. Well, there was no recovering that lot, she knew. She started to reseal the bin, intending to allow the automated purification system to do its work, but saw that the ash had taken on an irregular shape indicating something was concealed below.
Putting her sleeve across her face to avoid inhaling the ancient ash, she stirred it gently. The corner of a metal box was now very plain. She lifted it from the ash as carefully as she could, not wanting to send
There were anomalies in the library system, for some reason, this box and its contents had survived the decay of an entire bin of material.
Well, for that matter, it was quite likely that a gradual buildup of metallic oxides were responsible for the destruction of the whole bin. Not everyone attending on the library, especially in the early days of the Reconciliation had a good knowledge of proper library maintenance. The library was good at its job, it rarely lost even these ancient Wholesian materials, but nothing, she thought wryly, except the Pleroma was eternal.
Sighing, she began her long ascent burdened now by a metal box which had destroyed an entire bin, but which she still felt, just might have very precious contents itself. That bin dated to the most ancient times. She would open the box with all precautions, least its precious contents subside with the rest.
She made good time on her ascent, feeling somehow energized by the discovery of the box, though only the Harmonic Balance knew what it really contained. She set her protective measures in motion and finally, opened the box very cautiously in the actinic glare of their shielding.
On the very top, a handwritten page came into view. She tested the edge of it cautiously with the tiniest touch of her platinum tweezers. It trembled threateningly, but beneath, a bulky manuscript seemed to be in a quite good state of preservation. She felt confident it could be restored.
She moved a lever and her work table and equipment glided toward the shifting lights of the massive computer on the wall. She began to read aloud to the machine which sang a soto voce chorus to her recitation as it recorded the non-preservable portion:
"Handwritten Fragment: 'Lanatos' is not the actual city which inspired an English clergyman to write the lines: Match me a marvel, save in Eastern clime, A rose-red city, half as old as time. His inspiration was the newly discovered city of Petra, located to the south of the Dead Sea, which had once been inhabited by the biblical Edomians and was finally sacked by the Romans. J. W. Burgon had never seen Petra, which in his day was newly discovered, and when he did finally journey to the Middle East to view it, he was reputed to have been very disappointed. Petra which is carved into the rock face of the mountain is lovely only in certain light and from some angles. The rose-red city was, in essence, a city that lived in the human imagination. Legendary 'Atlantis' is also very prominent in that same area, and has occupied this terrain, in some guise or another, longer than any other metropolis in human history. The location in which I have placed my Atlantis is very real, and while there is some controversy about whether Atlantis the actual city mentioned by Plato, the broad scenario about what happened is quite well established. No more can be said. It is not clear whether the blue waters of the Mediterranean were actually seen by ancient man as the same color as wine, or if Homer, who coined the phrase, meant it for a poetic image. The question is one with the references to a 'tri-colored' rainbow found in other old writings. In short, was ancient man able to see fewer colors than modern man, some have argued this, or did he perhaps just see colors differently. I raised this question with a friend as I was anxious to know how many readers would recognize Homer's image and thus know at once what sea and where the city was situated. She told me that while she did know of Homer, she was unaware that he had written this. However, she said that she felt sure that Homer had been referring to the water as he saw it at sunset or twilight. This produced an amusing impasse, as I had to tell her that for all history knew of him, Homer was blind. I am forever dismayed that the study of history is in such decline today, that man's most precious heritage may be in peril of loss."
Spirulina paused, the next characters on the page were undecipherable, resembling, she saw in a few cases, mathematical formulae. She extended a scanner, inviting the machine to respond.
"Search." she instructed.
The machine hummed then remarked, "Additional data, please?"
She recited the description and time of her find and waited.
"Additional data, please?"
She sighed, and answered, "No additional data."
"Undecipherable, insufficient data," the machine terminated the dialogue.
Well, there could be no getting to the bottom of that item, she knew, but she commanded, "Store," just in case.
She read the last three lines of the handwritten fragment, which said:
"Gray eyed Athena sent them a favorable breeze,
Gently, and with a strange feeling of loss, she vacuumed the page of the manuscript and read the first page of manuscript now revealed. She sat up quickly in surprise. There was little question that the material had been written by the legendary Miriamne O'Leary, who lived in the fabulous Aquarian Age.
The pages of the manuscript turned easily, the preservation had worked flawlessly. Unwilling to read it aloud just yet, she read silently and quickly in great absorption. Obviously, the manuscript was a chronicle of Miriamne's own life and times. It was of special interest to her, there was a legend that her father's family were actually descended from Miriamne O'Leary.
Was there a way, she wondered, that the first of the children, who might chance onto it could be persuaded to preserve it, even if they failed to understand or appreciate its wonderful antiquity? The noise of the children at play drifted in through her open window. She walked to it and stared down at them in the courtyard below. They were growing excited, she thought to herself, it would soon be time to feed them. She was reluctant to put down the manuscript, but there would be time later after their dinner. She started toward the door, but the manuscript drew her back to her desk and she read on for awhile.
Outside, the noise reached a sudden crescendo and she thought she had heard another sound as well, an unusual sound. She hurried to the open window to inspect the courtyard directly. She was high in the turret of the library but what she saw sent her racing for the elevator to reach the courtyard as quickly as possible.
What could the city be coming to? Broken glass definitely littered a corner of the courtyard, she must discover the meaning of it.
She ran to the scene of the shattered glass, ignoring troops of the children who tugged at her, yammering their agitation and excitement. It was a lookout window in the wall itself that had given way, one that extended to the floor of the courtyard. At first, she could detect no rhyme or rationale to it. Leaning out, she stared at the ground below, then saw the heavy metal object that must have been flung against the glass with enough force to cause it to crack. Off in the trees, she heard a tell tale sound. Some of the children were outside.
What a nuisance, she groaned. She began herding the others into the indoor nursery, least she lose them as well. She locked the door on the outside, before she turned herself to the task of recovering the missing.
It took her hours to complete her tasks and get the children settled again. They were excited by the window failure, that was for sure, possibly they were also envious of the outdoor adventure not all of them had. Finally, her work was done, all was secure again, and she entered the elevator of the library tower. Lights began to come on as she emerged, it was getting dark and she was tired.
She reached for the door panel to the main library room when she was struck by an inspiration. There just might be a way to preserve the manuscript for future generations. She reflected on it standing motionless before the door. Well, perhaps not, she reflected, but all the same, her mind was made up. She would add the chronicle of her own life and times to Miriamne O'Leary's. The manuscript had seemed to invite her to do that. And who knew what might transpire, in the fullness of time.
Determinedly, she began:
I have attended to the children and am very tired now, but will begin my own journal without delay. I have not found the children who escaped, perhaps it matters little, there were only three of them and perhaps when they are hungry, they will come home.