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A Desperate and Despicable Dwarf: Section Fifteen

       Last updated: Wednesday, May 12, 2004 05:39 EDT




CHAPTER [whatever]. In Which...

When the mental mist ( or, as some would insist, self-induced stupidity) subsided, it was possible to discern that the three scholars and the prehistoric monster who accompanied them were located in a most bizarre environment. In every direction, receding to an apparent infinity, was row upon row of bookshelves—indeed, not simply row upon row, but tier upon tier, for among the directions in which we must include this apparent recession into infinity were not simply those which are generally characterized as the four points of the compass, but included as well that additional dimension which, under the coarse nomenclature of "up and down", witless mankind is wont to pile three dimensions upon two, as if the distinction between such apposite geometries is a mere matter of crude compilation rather than, as is noted by all subtle students of such questions, a problem of great complexity.

    "My word!" exclaimed Uncle Manya. "Books! Zillions of them! Everywhere you can see—look! The stacks go up and down as well as off to every side!"

    "Bah!" oathed the mage. "I shall graciously leave unchastised your witless use of the terms "up and down" to describe that subtle essence of three-dimensionality which all masters of such questions know to be properly included within the general rubric of the space-time continuum—"

    He continued remorselessly over Uncle Manya's rising splutter of indignation: "—and simply satisfy myself with the comment that of course the books go off in—forgive the geometric barbarity—'all directions.' Indeed, how could they not? Here—in the mythical Stacks?"

    Uncle Manya's splutter came to a sharp end.

    "The Stacks!" he gasped. His eyes glanced feverishly about, in every direction. "Do you mean—"

    "Of course, of course!" snapped Zulkeh. "Where else did you think my science would take us?"

    "It's just a myth!" exclaimed Uncle Alf.

    "Bah!" oathed the mage. "I am tempted to demolish the epistemological foundations of your absurd empiricism. But even as I demolish the epistemological foundations of your absurd empiricism, times wanes! So then—eschewing all dialectic, I simply point in all directions—" (he did so, quite energetically) "—and demand: what do you see?"

    "Books," replied Alf grudgingly. A moment later, more grudgingly: "Stretching in every direction, apparently to—" He broke down, coughing.

    "Infinity," completed Zulkeh, with evident immense satisfaction.

    "Can't be sure of that!" protested Alf. With a smirk: "Not, at least, until you reached the end, and if the books go on forever you'll never reach the end of them so how can you know if they really—"

    "Bah!" oathed the mage. His riposte was, however, cut short by the Tullimonstrum's twittering.

    "What'd he say?" demanded Uncle Manya.

    "It's not a he, it's an it," replied Alf. "And what it said is that the wizard Zulkeh is entirely correct in his assumption that these are indeed the Stacks of myth and legend—"

    "Indeed so!"

    "—but he's an idiot if he believes that old pedant's tale that the Stacks go on forever and ever—"

    "Wretched fossil!"

    "—because they're actually not mythical but the creation of a librarian named Teddy Jones—"


    "—who's an old friend of mine."

    Utter silence greeted this last assertion. The Tullimonstrum twittered again.

    "A very old friend," translated Alf. More twittering. "Last time I saw Teddy, he said the books went off in every direction from the Card Files in the center for eleven miles and some-odd yards."

    Silence. More twittering.

    "Probably go on quite a bit further now. I haven't seen Teddy in an age. Nice guy, but his company leaves a bit to be desired. He a monomaniac, you know."

    The three savants stared at the Tullimonstrum. The prehistoric creature stared back through his single, giant eye. Insofar as the absurd beast's mood could be determined, it seemed nonchalant.

    At length, Uncle Manya cleared his throat.

    "Yes, well. Certainly are a lot of books, regardless. And I've no doubt the answer to our question can be found somewhere!"

    The wizard Zulkeh began to speak, fell silent, shook his head.

    "Indeed!" he spoke. "Let us begin, then! I dare say we'll find the answer in the Catalogue of Fallen Angels."

    Moments later, the three savants were scurrying about the endless rows and tiers of books, scanning the titles with the assured grace and ease of the practiced scholar.

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