The Librarian

The Librarian
Illustration by Sam Fontaine

Thirty Days After Midsummer

Seventeen Years after the Great Unmaking

I wake with the song of birds. As a child in my mothers house. Silence. No cars, no trucks on the road outside.

There is the silence and the singing of the birds. It must be Sunday. No school. Sleep confuses me. I remember, with a shock. There is no school. There are no schools. They have gone. I am not a child, the dreams are slipping away. The dreams that I can just about touch are slipping away. Something is missing. The birds are calling. No cars. I am remembering. My heart jolts with remembering. I am the only one.

I wake in the high glass tower of wind shattered windows and crumbling concrete. Peering through the aisles glint the eyes of a fox. This is his home now. He stares at me, curious before turning and disappearing between the shelves. Books, once ordered, are strewn and windblown. Small birds flit in and out of the broken windows. Tales spun from long extinguished imaginations remain here as words.

Humans imagining all that is possible. All those ideas now laid bare, unread, strewn across the leaf swirled floor. Literature , stories. These books remain. All the others are gone, burnt. Burnt not for ideology but for warmth, for survival during the Great Unmaking.

It is dry here for now. The rain has not yet penetrated, but will one day. As all these towers we built are gradually undone. Remade by rain and wind.

As I wake I wonder, as I always do, will there be another? It is a tiny thought now, pushed to the back of my mind. So used am I to being here by myself, in this fragmented world. A world which is now becoming so abundant with life. A world in Recovery.

Now the humans are gone, life is thriving. Everywhere I travel the air hums with the sound of living things. There are traces, of course, of the world before. It will take some time for all those buildings and High Ways to be reabsorbed into the fabric of the earth. But it is only a question of time.

So here I am, wondering as always, are there others or am I the only one? Why should I survive when all others have gone? I remember the start of the Great Unmaking, when the world’s crops finally failed. The Great Failing when the Earths weather systems changed beyond recognition. That was years ago now, days since marked by the rising and falling of the sun, the spinning of the earth on her vast orbit. Time measured by the longest and shortest shadows. Time marked from the darkest point in the year.

A single consciousness, a single human consciousness. We desperately covered the soil with liquid stone because we could not bear the fact that one day we would not exist. We destroyed our beautiful world with our thinking.

And yet a paradox. Our thinking was also a form of beauty. Our poetry, music, art, science and our curiosity. We destroyed and created beauty in the same moment. We ran with open eyes towards the abyss of our own making.

Ten Days after Autumn Equinox

Light is emerging. I shelter on the fifth floor of the old central municipal library. How can a species that knowingly destroys itself also safeguard its own stories? Rain has cascaded for years now through the cracked and crumbling ceiling. Water is not made or unmade. Its molecules have existed as long as the stars. It changes form. It cannot be unmade.

I am on the fifth floor of this shattered building. Water pools from cracked windows and seeps through the floor above. Books lie soaked in water, life reclaims them. Moss has begun to consume them, tiny shoots taking hold in the soaked paper that once were trees. Life has begun again. In fifty years there may be a small forest within this building. Many books are here destroyed, their organic matter returning to earth again.

Yet many books remain. It is these that I will re-order. There is safety and protection still within these walls. In the driest area on this floor I will place the remaining volumes. I will organise and categorise them. I may be the last but I may not be.

I rest here on my journey, my journey to find home. I organise this fallen library. I need stories. Although humans had managed to destroy almost all of themselves they had such imagination and creativity. I would find the story places, the book places. I would re-order their remains. So many books had been burnt for fuel in those last times. Burnt for warmth under black skies. I would leave a trail of order through the carnage we had created.

We watched while the world tumbled around us, distracted by flickering screens. It was all predicted, known well in advance. The science was all there, fully understood, yet ignored. Ignored by the politicians and the public alike. It was too much to fathom.

Someone would be taking care of it, taking care of us. Yet there was no-one. No-one but us and we did nothing. Who was steering the ship? The fossil fuel companies. Except the companies were not beings. The people running the fossil fuel companies, running blindly to the dark edge.

And us. Who did nothing. There were protests and campaigns of urgency, but our governments, those who we voted for to look after us, were themselves making too much money from the oil and gas that was killing our planet to take the action that was needed to save us.

Such deep sorrow. Deep sorrow that we had the opportunity. The opportunity for change. Can I really be the only one? The one to remember? And when I am gone, will the humans be gone? Leaving only this beautiful wild world, which is fast regenerating itself. Forests are spreading year on year with the absence of humans.

Life returns where before there was concrete and steel.

Twenty seven Days after Autumn Equinox

The sun creeps over the horizon. The landscape unfolds through broken glass. Where concrete once towered above, broken walls now crumble. Roots of plants invade every crevice, take hold and begin to dismember everything we created. Water seeps through tiny cracks and washes away molecule by tiny molecule this lifeless dead matter we built. What we created was not living. We took life and sucked it dry, leaving only parched cracked bones.

We rebuilt the world into one we could rationalise, comprehend. Keep infinity at bay, at arm’s length. Hide in the shadows of our existence. Not the world we actually inhabited, where our existence was miraculous and time was without end. Infinite time, infinite space. This reality we cannot fathom.

Existence and our own non existence. Within infinite time lay our own non being. Our minds were not yet ready to fathom this reality. We desperately covered the soil with stone because we could not bear the fact that one day we would not exist. Too much distance, too much space. So we created walls to contain ourselves, comfort ourselves. We destroyed our beautiful world with our thinking. We destroyed and created beauty in the same moment.

Birds as always outside. Air is crisp and clear, through the shattered library window. I arrange books into piles on the floor. Reference and fiction. Arranging the fiction alphabetically, ready to be replaced in order on the waiting shelves. All these stories and images transported from one mind to another. Right now there is only my mind, but there may be others. Since the beginnings of human consciousness we have transferred stories from one mind into another’s. It is the closest we have to seeing through the eyes of someone else. As we hear a story it is recreated in our mind, retold by us to ourselves. When I am gone will these stories remain? They remain as words on paper, as material matter, but without someone to read the words, do they really exist?


Still I wake with the dread. It cannot be that I am the only one. Still after years, it cannot only be me. There must be others in other parts of the earth that are living still. But how can I know? Weather shifted by us. Floods, crop failure, destruction.

Not acts of god. Acts of Man. Acts of man knowingly undertaken in full knowledge of what he was doing. Distracted by our glowing screens and playlists, swiping through news while the world collapsed around us.

My days at this library are coming to a close. The books are almost reordered. If someone does come one day, they will know they were not alone.

I need to return. My home was my fathers home, far up north, deep in a valley, surrounded by purple mountains. I was far from there, but I felt a pull, the pull of childhood, of longing to return. I had not been there for many years, but I could picture the valley, the road we drove along in our dirty oil burning car, following the iridescent river. Then over an arched stone bridge and into the village.

There will be snow on the moors outside the city. I make preparations for the journey. I have found the maps I need, the way is clear. I will walk the highway for several weeks, more if the weather is bad. Then find the smaller road into the Mountains.

That was where I needed to be, and walking would be the only way. It lay far North and West. I would follow the old concrete High Ways and find my path. There are now so many trees.

Thirty Days after Midwinter

Eighteen Years after the Great Unmaking

Panic startles me from sleep. Even when there were others, we were all alone. Yet that somehow also bound us together on our journey. Am I the last to see this vast beautiful spinning wilderness? The last to see the beauty of this earth and feel the loss of what we have done to ourselves? I cannot comprehend what we have done. We lived in paradise and yet for us it was not enough. We thought we could do better. As the light returns I must walk again.

The snow crackles crisp on the ground underfoot. Ice is treacherous under my boots. Ravens circle, hover in the grey sky above, their cackle and craw shredding the silent air, echo from the crumbling walls of the old city outskirts. I am above the city, on that high outlook known in the old code as the M6. It is easier walking up here than the wild tangle of growth below. There are holes in this hard road, where concrete and steel have collapsed, cracked by the ice and torrents of incessant rain during the Unmaking. This crumbling concrete roadway rises high over trees and bramble and long abandoned houses below. It was the machines that used to carry people. Humans of the North did not walk. They were carried everywhere, they did so little for themselves.

Now they have gone, the sound of life is almost deafening. Humans had their creativity and their love. But it was drowned , silenced by their love of rage and war. As I rest on the icy road tarmac and cement are being ground by water back to their constituent forms, returning gradually to their elements. Stone and earth. A tiny brook of half frozen water bubbles along the cracked concrete.

There was no destiny ordained by a god that humans should survive. No script written in the stars that humans will remain. That was up to us. Our responsibility to live on this finite earth. It was our decision. The fact that we existed was a miracle. The fact that life existed anywhere was miraculous. We existed in paradise, paradise surrounded us yet we could not see it. Terrified by the miracle of our own existence we destroyed the very earth, the beautiful world we inhabited that allowed us to live. We severed the arteries of the earth because we could not bear the painful beauty of our own existence in this fragile world.

Fifty Four Days After Midwinter

The sky is dark, the air crisp. The thick blanket keeps my blood warm. This is what wakes me with a jolt in the dark hours before the light emerges once again. They knew. They knew that if they did not stop burning the earth would shift. Shift beyond recognition and yet they did not stop. And now they are gone. Carried into oblivion as their burning changed everything.

I am surrounded by stars far above me. This earth, fragile beautiful air skinned globe spinning not in a void, but a vast expanse of inter related planets and galaxies. It seems so strange now that we could not see it before, when it was right here all along. We were actually living in heaven. Our home was paradise. With the absence of humans, Life was returning. The miracle of existence is in the air that we breathe and the soil that we so desperately covered with tar.

The days are creeping back again. Slowly, very slowly, the days lengthen. Days are gradually longer, nights are shorter.

When the sun rises, I will walk. The mountains are calling.