Welcome back. I Dr. Callyco have another tale for you. We enter our sixth tale this year as Eshel discovers just how hard it is to put down a good book.
Meanwhile at the Lair of Dr. Callyco.
“A good book can be hard to put down at times.” The kitten in a lab coat was sitting in a large faux leather chair with the mouse currently known as Dr. Cutie Pup sitting on his shoulder. “And I’m not just saying that because my livelihood rests on you continuing to read these stories. But seriously, keep reading. It gives me strength, and also helps put food in my belly.”
“Squeak.” Dr. Cutie Pup gave the kitten a disapproving glare for the blatant attempt at eliciting pity for self-promotion.
“Ugggh fine.” Dr. Callyco shut the book he had been reading. “But I hope you know I had a really great jingle to go with this and now no one will ever hear it thanks to you.” He got no reply from the mouse so continued. “Tonight, our guest goes by the name of Eshel. And, well he understands that reading a book can be a magical experience. He just never took it so literally before. I bring you our sixth tale. The Tale of the Library’s Keeper.”
Thirteen Tales 2020
The Tale of the Library’s Keeper
Eshel was the type of person who often had his head stuck in a book. The sandy brown colored fox-canaan dog hybrid was a constant sight around the library. Always browsing through the non-fiction section or sitting at a desk with his muzzle hidden behind a thick book; he was an avid reader. A good and well informative book was like a magnet for Eshel. However, he had never thought of that as literal until the day a book crashed into his head.
“Owwww.” Eshel let out a small whimper of pain before recovering his composure. He had been browsing the library shelves looking for something new when it happened. A book had just fallen down and hit him on the head before clattering to the ground. More surprise than hurt, Eshel looked up to where the book had come from. On the top shelf he could clearly see an empty spot in the lines of books from where this one had fallen. Someone clearly hadn’t placed the book back properly on the shelf, and when he was browsing the books on the lower shelves had disturbed it just enough for it to fall from its place. It was a simple case of bad luck. That was the most logical explanation.
After figuring out how it had happened Eshel looked to the ground to find the book in question so he could shelve it properly. The book was an old looking thing, thicker than most encyclopedias with a leather-bound cover. Eshel was honestly surprised it had done less damage after seeing how big it was. But as he picked it up, he found the book was surprisingly light weight despite it’s large size. He wondered how they had pulled that off. Maybe some kind of thinner paper? If so the book was likely delicate making it a bigger offense to have been shelved improperly.
The book had aroused Eshel’s curiosity now. He had been having a hard time trying to figure out what to read when a book literally fell on his head. Maybe it was a sign. More likely dumb luck. But it was one he likely would have overlooked had it not been for the bump on the head. There was no title or author written on the spine, and even the front of the book was completely blank of words. Instead, there was just a symbol. It almost looked like an upside-down spade from a deck of playing cards, but was comprised of multiple colors, at the center there was a brown anchor shape which at the bottom had a yellow-orange arrowhead shaped tip. Then the entire thing had a white border. Other than that, no label.
Eshel opened the book to the front page. Here he finally got a title, ‘The Quiet Joy of Library Science.’ There was no author name beneath it. Just a smaller version of the image on the cover, but this time printed in greyscale.
“Huh.” The title honestly sounded like nonsense to Eshel. Still he hadn’t found anything else to read yet. He slipped the book into his backpack and then began to head to the back of the library where there was a quiet reading room. As he made his way back there he noticed several people staring at him. He supposed it was to be expected. The book falling down from the shelf hadn’t exactly been very quiet. People had likely witnessed his little bonk on the head and likely stuck between being concerned about Eshel’s well being and believing it to be none of their own business.
At least that was the explanation Eshel came up with in his mind for the stares. In reality, there was another reason, but one he had not actually noticed himself. But since touching the book his fur pattern had started to change. While he maintained his sandy colors, there was now a dark brown mask of fur over most of his face and brown stripes along his tail. But as he wasn’t one to constantly check over his own shoulder and could not see his own face he was none the wiser to these change. The other patrons in the library however had watched and seen fur color changes, all unsure of how to react or if they should tell him.
Eshel eventually made his way to the reading room. The area was broken into for lack of a better word cubicles separated by plastic walls, that while clear were frosted just enough to prevent people from seeing through. Inside each of these little cubicles was a soft chair and a small writing desk. Eshel found one that was unoccupied, sat down inside and set his backpack on the desk. Then he withdrew the book and opened it back up. He turned to the first few pages and began to read.
‘The thing about library science is that it’s more of an art. A very special art that can only be enjoyed in quiet and orderly places. But a true and meaningful connection can be formed between reader and books in those who truly understand this artful science; or maybe it should be called a scientific art.’
This just caused Eshel to stare at the book blankly for a few moments. Eshel was familiar with authors that could write several pages without actually saying anything. It was a thing that tended to happen a lot in academia, when one needed to achieve a certain length and tone to make it sound more intelligent than it actually was. It was often used in pieces that the information could easily be summed up in a few paragraphs, but no one would take the work seriously unless it was lengthy and so the author was forced to writer in circles for hundreds of pages just to get the academic world to look at their book. Eshel had read more than one book like this, and he strongly preferred the ones that got to the point or had more information rather than circling the same point for several hundred pages before finally making it. Still, he wasn’t about to go put the book back after just the first page. He was going to give it fair chance before switching to something else.
Meanwhile, as he read his ears became slightly shorter and his tail lost its natural curl, straightening out. Once more, the changes were not anything he would physically notice right away, so he continued to try to read the book. And the book continued to talk in circles. Despite that, Eshel found himself being drawn in. It was like there was a second meaning to the words, or maybe something between them. He couldn’t figure out what. It was just a gut instinct that there was more to the book’s words that what he was reading. He wasn’t sure why he felt this. Perhaps his unconscious mind had caught something his conscious had yet to find. Either way he found himself more and more engrossed into the book.
And that was why he didn’t notice the more obvious changes to his body as they started to occur. He was getting a little smaller over time, as well as a little rounder. His spine was shifting to force him into a quadrupedal stance, or at least it would have been were he not sitting down in the chair. But positioned as he was, he remained balanced with his back against the chair even as his legs, or more accurately hind legs realigned themselves. By now his transformation should have been impossible not to notice. However, he had simply become to engrossed in the book, trying to figure out the secret meaning he was certain that was there.
And he wasn’t wrong. The texts did have a hidden purpose, but no secret message as Eshel had assumed. But anyone who read far enough into the book would find themselves engrossed and distracted by it, and thus completely oblivious to their surroundings for as long as they continued to read the book. The book couldn’t force the reader to keep going, but so long as they were reading it was impossible to focus on anything else. This need to focus entirely on the book was what Eshel’s unconscious mind had picked up on, what had convinced him there was a secret message. And so he continued to read the book for hours oblivious as his body continued to change. When his arms and hands became forelegs and paws, it should have caused to drop the book and become alert to what was happening. However, it turned out that the paws of a raccoon were quite dexterous and allowed him to keep a grip on the book. And so where had was been a fox-dog there was now a strangely sandy colored raccoon.
Eshel wasn’t entire sure how long he had been reading for. But he had gone on so long he fell asleep right on top of the book. He lay on his stomach across the open pages as the very last of the changes finished. A pair of feathered wings sprouted from his back, matching his fur in color. They weren’t exceptionally big, but he wasn’t any bigger than a normal raccoon.
It was dark out when Eshel finally woke up. He stood up on all fours, stretched and let out a yawn. He couldn’t believe he had let himself fall asleep reading a book. Actually, yes he could. That was entirely in character that he might continue to read something well past the point of physical and mental exhaustion. He had not figured out anything about what the author had been trying to say and he had been at least halfway through. Maybe he could check out the book and read more of it at home. Hopefully, the librarians hadn’t left and locked him inside by accident. He quickly climbed off the book, closed the cover; and immediately noticed the world was far larger than it should have been.
“Chit twi chitter!?” Eshel gave out a shout of shock. As he did his wings burst into action, flapping at high speeds almost like a hummingbird lifting him into the air. This only confused the freshly transformed winged raccoon further. He looked over his body noticing what had become of him, trying to figure out exactly when and how it had happened. He had just been reading the book, fallen asleep then woke up like this.
The book! It couldn’t have something to do with it could it? Eshel remembered being strangely mesmerized with it while reading it, but now wasn’t sure why. Thinking back over the words now he was certain they were nonsense with no hidden meaning, He wasn’t sure how a book could cause this, but he couldn’t think of anything else. Maybe a librarian could help? He landed back on the ground and picked up the book with his forepaws. He started to drag it along the ground then paused and looked over his shoulders as he remembered the wings. He tried flapping them on purpose this time, and clumsily lifted into the air holding the book. It was a little awkward, but easier than dragging the book across the library.
The reading room door was thankfully still open allowing Eshel to fly freely out of it. Then he headed straight for the front desk. However, it was abandoned. The entire library was. It was late at night, well past closing hours. It seemed he had been locked in after all with no answers as to what had happened to him and no one to turn to for help. Eshel made an annoyed chittering sound until his stomach began to rumble. He hadn’t had dinner and was now quite hungry.
Eshel sniffed at the air. He could smell food. He dropped the book on the main desk and followed the scent. It led back into the librarians’ office. The place seemed to double as a break room as there was a fridge in the corner, a small table surrounded by chairs and a bowl of various snacks atop the table. That was where the scent was coming from. Eshel landed on the table and crawled closer to examine the snacks. There were candy bars, granola bars, fruit snacks, and packages of nuts. Quite an assortment. Eshel was too hungry to be picky right now. He used his paws to tear open several of the various snacks and devour them until he was satisfied.
Now fed and wide awake from his earlier nap Eshel had time to think. If the book had done this to him, he probably should keep it close by in case it included the secret to reversing this. Or maybe there was another book that acted as a counter? He didn’t know. It wasn’t like he had access to this kind of information to explain all this.
Except… He did! He was in a library! There was bound to be another book in here somewhere that could give him a hint about what was going on. He just had to find it. Eshel began to fly around the various shelves. He’d start in the mythology and folklore section. However, there were several books missing from the shelf and several that were out of order. Were the missing books checked out? Or just not shelved? Eshel flew back to the front desk and looked behind it, finding a cart of returned books. There were several of them there. The librarians hadn’t finished shelving things before the end of the thing and other patrons had put things back on the shelf in the improper order. How was Eshel supposed to find anything like this?
So before finding a book to help, Eshel made it his mission to organize the library. He flew all the books from the return cart to the proper shelves, and while there rearranged any books that were out of order. He scanned each area for books that didn’t belong and returned them to their rightful location. He was a little bit of perfectionist about it. In the non-fiction section there wasn’t a single book out of order by even a tenth of a digit in the Dewey Decimal system by the time he was done.
It was exhausting work though. He took several breaks to go back and raid the snack bowl again. And by the time the library was fully organized the sun was starting to come up and he was starting to feel exhausted. He needed a nap, but he couldn’t risk the book that probably caused this disappearing on him while he was asleep. He flew back to the main desk, picked up the book and then flew to a back corner of the library in the non-fiction section that was seldom visited. There he dropped the book on top of the bookshelf and then lay down upon the tome to take a nap.
The next morning the librarians with the morning shift were shocked to find both the snack bowl empty and all of their work done for them. Had someone broken into the library and stolen all their stacks, but then organized the shelves for them? It wasn’t something they could make any sense of. But, with extra time one of them was able to go for a snack run to refill the bowl. This was good, because it wasn’t until nighttime when the library was closed again that Eshel woke up. And once more he needed a snack. He made straight for the office/breakroom to satisfy his hunger before anything else. Then he turned his attention to the library. There were books that had yet to be shelved and things were out of order again. It seemed some patrons just put the books wherever they felt like after taking them off the shelf to examine them. With a heavy sigh Eshel got to work again. At least organizing the library was a good way to go through the collection of books they had. Even for someone like Eshel it would take forever to read every book here. And so as he returned books to their proper places he got a better idea of what areas might contain information about his situation. It was the new age and spiritual section of books, because of course it was.
Again, by morning Eshel was exhausted and fell asleep. And the librarians returned amazed to find their work done for them again and the snack bowl raided. They were confused, but not about to look a gift horse in the mouth. At the end of the day they left out a larger supply and a bigger variety of snacks. Something that when Eshel awoke he was personally very thankful for. His body might have been able to survive on granola bars and packages of nuts, but he was happy to get some new options and variety.
And thus began the cycle. During the day, Eshel would find a quiet lonely corner of the library to sleep at and guard his book. At night he’d organize the bookshelves. Then once he went to sleep again the librarians would put out more snacks. They didn’t understand what was going on, but something was making their lives easier. And if all that something wanted was a few snacks to munch on they were more than happy to oblige. Pretty soon it became routine, and neither Eshel or the librarians questioned the strange unspoken deal they seemed to have made with each other.
As for Eshel, this wasn’t a terrible existence. Even if he hadn’t found a book that could help yet, were plenty of other books to read for entertainment. He got faster at organizing the library each night leaving him more free time to read to his heart’s desire. There were no clues as to how to change back, but he was starting to accept this as his new lot in life.
At least until the day one of the librarians found him asleep atop one of the bookshelves. She stared at the strange creature. A sandy colored raccoon with a small pair of wings. At first she thought it a pest, then noticed a snack wrapper laying atop the shelf near the winged raccoon. Was it possible? Was this the thing that was organizing the library every night for them? She paused as she noticed the book underneath him, and here she came to a very wrong conclusion.
“The poor thing.” She spoke to herself. “It must have worked itself hard that it fell asleep before it could put this one up.” After fetching a ladder she very carefully slid the book out from beneath the raccoon while at the same time sliding a cushion she thought would be a much more comfortable bed beneath it. She was scared when she had to lift Eshel up slightly to move him to the cushion. She had no idea what would happen if he woke up. But, lucky for her she was right in that Eshel had exhausted himself and so remained blissfully unaware in his sleep as she took the book.
At least, he remained unaware until the librarian put the book back in its proper place on the shelf. At about that exact point Eshel started to grow in size, the stripes faced from his tail and his fur no longer had a mask pattern. He was changing back to his original form! And he might not have noticed this until he woke up, were it not for the fact that a fully grown fox-dog was far too big to fit atop a bookshelf. The change in size caused Eshel to come tumbling down from the bookshelf landing on the ground with a grunt as he snapped to full awakeness. By instinct, he tried to flap his wings to take off up off the ground but discovered they were missing. This gave him enough pause to look over his body and notice that he was completely back to normal. Then he noticed the book was gone as well. That was all it had taken? To leave the book? He could have changed back days ago!
Well… Actually, it had been pretty nice having the library to himself every night. He couldn’t say he hadn’t enjoyed it while it lasted. But now, he had just fallen off a bookshelf making a loud noise, attracting the attention and stares of other library patrons that left him feeling embarrassed. He remembered his backpack and things were somewhere in the reading room, but he was just recovering from a very strange experience. For now, he chose to leave the library as quickly as possible to avoid any further risk of embarrassment. Still, from time to time he’d think about the book, and think about going back for it. It might not be so bad to live in the library for the rest of his life.
But the ones who really wished he would return were the librarians themselves. Distraught that no matter how much they filled up the snack bowl their magical helper never returned; they were forced to go back to doing their job themselves. Most of them had no idea what had changed. One librarian suspected she might have an idea. But she wasn’t about to admit that her taking the winged raccoon’s book might have angered it into leaving thus making it her fault. None of them ever truly understood what had happened. And there was no repeat of the incident, as eventually the book Eshel had been reading mysteriously went missing, preventing it from changing anyone else.