Fiction: The Librarian

By Maureen O'Leary



Library of Congress Audio Collection Label


The following is a transcript of a series of HAM radio broadcasts made by an English-speaking male named Wyatt, referred to in the archives as the Librarian. He is estimated to be in his twenties. The North American Territory Department of Anthropology and Folklore recovered the archaic digital material in the ruins of ancient California’s riverside capital city. The broadcasts aired during a brief period of the New Winter, approximately five years after the mid twenty-first century Three Sisters volcanic cataclysm caused rapid climate change, plunging the Northern Hemisphere into the Quaternary Ice Age. 

 

New Winter scholars have debated the significance of the musical openings of the first broadcasts. Some suggest that The Librarian used the material as n intentional form of code to draw what he called “Faery Tale Creatures” to his location. Others refute the claim for lack of evidence, especially considering his admitted dread of the supernatural, suggesting that The Librarian’s musical greetings were simply acts of whimsy by a lonely young man who missed his family.

 

Audio Recording #1

(24 seconds of the song “Comfortably Numb”circa 1979 A.D.) 

 

Wyatt: My name is Wyatt and I’ll start with a weather report: Today it is cold. Yesterday was cold. Tomorrow will be cold. The sun is a blue moon. The sky is gray. The streets are covered in snow this morning. Reporting to you live from the library. Not telling you where in case you are a cannibal. Cannibals can stay away. You are canceled, my friends, if you eat people. That’s just gross. 

 

Same to you, smilodons, spiders, and ants. And goat girls. Goat girls, deer feet girls, faery vampires, all of you can just tune out. You will find what I have to say on this broadcast offensive. That is, you might. Who knows what faeries and insects and lions think? 

 

I found some information in this library about the last few times volcanoes blocked out the sun. We think we are living in unprecedented times but humanity has dealt with volcanic cataclysms in the past. Maybe not three in a row, but enough to cause famine and death. Why didn’t we learn about this in school? A little more folklore and a little less Algebra would have been pretty handy in the New Winter.We were never prepared.

 

There was a movie a long time ago where a polar vortex causes the entire Northern Hemisphere to freeze solid within seconds. A bunch of people hole up in the library in that movie and burn books to stay warm. Imagine that here in this city. Imagine a main branch library that was originally built in the late eighteen hundreds, so the main floor has a fireplace in one of the reading rooms. I burn IRS guidelines and vegan cookbooks. I am not an animal. I don’t burn actual books.

 

Signing off. Ten-four, good buddy.

 

Audio Recording #2

 

(The first 37 seconds of “Hello Goodbye” by The Beatles circa 1967 A.D.) 

 

Wyatt: Today’s weather forecast: Gloomy. Gray. We are in year five of the New Winter, which could go on to year forever, brought upon us by The Three Sisters, which were three eruptions in Iceland and Washington within two years. Anyone who used to watch the History Channel knows about the volcano hall of fame. There is Vesuvius, of course. The people in Pompeii got the worst of that one, dying in hot pyroclastic flows. 

 

I never appreciated this library before. I found in my research that there was a major cataclysmic volcano in 1812. Mount Tambora in Indonesia devastated villages, and blocked out the sun. There are dozens of accounts. The ash plume blocked out the sun in Europe for a year.

 

You might wonder what 1812 has to do with us. Well, during those same years that Mount Tambora was going off, Grimms’ Fairy Tales were first published. Do you think this is a coincidence? 

 

Till next time, dear listener. Or listeners. Whoever.

 

 

Audio Recording #3

(131 seconds of the song “Can You Hear Me” by David Bowie circa 1975 A.D.)  

 

Wyatt: A more obscure lyric opening for my classic rock homies out there. I am recording this because everything happening now has historical significance. Think of the value of a human account of the last ice age. I mean, imagine we had a diary of a Paleolithic man living in the Sacramento Valley twelve thousand years ago. God, that would be awesome.

 

Today’s topic: Supernatural phenomena in California. Let’s look at the facts. 

 

First of all, you have Mt. Shasta. You go there, you take your life in your hands with either the vampire goat women or the cannibal boys. Nothing’s been proven. Stories vary.

 

Santa Cruz. Maybe it’s a case of tree naiads? There are rumors about missing travelers on Highway 17. I have to look more into what’s going on there but Santa Cruz County is not safe, and this isn’t news to anyone who has spent any time on the road.

 

Like the natural world isn’t bad enough what with that invasion of Safari ants during the last time the sun came out. The rare sunshine only seems to make nature madder.We are safer in the dark.

 

Then there are the sinkholes in Mendocino County. And the Smilodons when we used to only have mountain lions. The whole city smells like cat piss these days. We thought those things were extinct. Joke’s on us. Nobody’s a cat person these days.

 

Before I moved into this library, I traveled up and down the state of California on foot, on bike, even on horseback when I could. The trick to staying alive is to keep moving. That’s what people don’t get. They would rather hunker down. Nobody wants to leave a comfortable place. I mean, I get it. I’m sitting here with a fireplace and thick walls and couches, and I have to be honest I don’t want to go anywhere. But I will. 

 

What I mean to say is that since the New Winter began, the hidden realm has become more and more active to the point that we don’t even try justifying the existence of the so-called supernatural anymore. Am I really going to have a hard time believing that a faery tale creature exists when Smilodons have bounced back from extinction to roam the Central Valley? 

I feel that I have to convince you. I can tell you what I have seen. A woman walking out of the bark of a redwood tree. A circle of dancing people, but they weren’t people exactly. When I returned in the morning what remained was a ring of toadstools. 

 

Now I just sound high. Which I swear I am not. I wish I was. Didn’t know weed would be so hard to come by in the apocalypse but here we are. We are going through a paradigm shift as a species stone cold sober. I wonder. How much can the human psyche take?


Audio Recording #4

(The first 60 second of “Deeper Understanding” by Kate Bush circa 1989)

 

Wyatt: Today I am very happy to say I have a guest speaker. I introduce Kate, my new friend in this crazy world. 

 

Kate (sings, repeats the chorus of “Deeper Understanding”)

 

Wyatt: Oh you know that song.

 

 

Kate: We all know Kate Bush. It’s cool how you start your broadcasts with song lyrics. That’s how you captured our attention.

 

Wyatt: You got that reference on that last broadcast? That was a pretty obscure track

 

 

Kate: Not for diehard David Bowie fans. We all tend to be David Bowie fans. 

 

 

Wyatt: By we all, you mean-----

 

 

Kate: I mean all of us. The True People. David Bowie was one of us. Little-known fact, but I guess not really a surprise.

 

Wyatt: David Bowie was a man of the people, yes.

 

 

Kate: Not a man. I mean, a man, that’s for sure (indiscernible speech) I guess I didn’t expect to need to explain any of this to you. I assumed you knew. (burst of music. “Let’s Dance” by David Bowie circa 1983 A.D.)Take my hand, my love. Dance with me.

 

(indiscernible speech

 

Audio Recording #5

(The first 55 seconds of the song “Hello” by Adele circa 2015) 

 

Wyatt: So I apologize for my voice. I caught a cold. I’m a little worn down, and I sound kind of husky. Kind of sexy, I would like to think.

 

Kate: Oh, definitely.

 

Wyatt: And I have the sweet lady Kate with me again today. This will be our last broadcast in a while because Kate and I are hitting the road. Think of us as two Grimm Brothers, wandering the lands, collecting stories for future generations. 

 

Kate: We aren’t brothers. (laughter)

 

Wyatt: No. Ha ha. Indeed we are not. (indiscernible speech)

 

Anyways, did you know what was considered the worst year to be alive? The year 536. Tell me if this sounds eerily familiar. In 536, a single cataclysmic volcano covered the entire Northern Hemisphere in an ash cloud, bringing on a three-year long winter. Crops died, people starved.

 

Kate: Tell what happened in 541.

 

Wyatt: Right. Then in 541, just as humanity was reviving, what do you think happened? Bubonic Plague outbreak, that’s what. A major volcano went off, the earth got cold, people either died or got weak, then boom. Plague.

 

Kate: Those were miserable years to be alive if you were a person.

 

Wyatt: But not so much if you were a faery tale creature. (I like that, don’t you? The way we are feeding off each other here. It’s so good, let’s keep going.) Beginning in 536, anthropologists have dated cave art and folklore to have suddenly included new and strange images and storylines.

 

Kate: Makes sense that humanity would invent stories to distract from long nights and hungry days.

 

Wyatt: Yes, but there are some common themes that are crazy. Images of red comb started appearing on cave wallsboth in Chile and France. And folklorists date the origins of certain common myths right around 536. We’re talking winged creatures, people who could fly, shape shifters who drink human blood and--- (erupts into hacking and coughing)

 

Kate: Are you unwell, my love? (static) Oh. You’re bleeding.

 

 

Audio Recording #6

Wyatt: I want everyone to know what I know. The New Winter is a climate event, yes. A scientific reality that we caused by allowing global warming to melt the permafrost, which affected the tectonic plates, which brought on the Three Sisters.

 

Kate: Maybe we take a break today from the broadcast.

 

 

Wyatt: Human beings aren’t meant to be alone like this. Not like I have been. Both of my parents died last year. Smilodons got them in their own backyard in Lodi.  I thought we were doing okay, you know? We were growing chard. Had a potato crop going and chickens. We looped barbed wire on top of our fences but a couple of big cats got through anyway while my mom was in the garden and my dad ran out when she started screaming. I didn’t do anything. I want you to know I didn’t do anything but hide inside while my parents died.

 

I left the house I grew up in that night and never went back. Been traveling up and down California, like I said. Guilt acts on you like those spiders you hear about. The bad feelings nest inside your brain. Guilt. Loneliness. Regret for letting the climate get this bad. I didn’t do anything to help when I could. I have to carry that truth with me and when you are this low you accept things maybe you would not have otherwise.

 

Kate: You have a fever, my love. Let’s move to the couch. There is blood on your shirt. (static)

 

 

Audio Recording #7

Wyatt: (whispers) Stay away from the Downtown Sacramento Library. I repeat, stay away from the branch on I Street. Stay away. Oh my God.

 

(long silence. static. children laughing.)

 

Look, Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein during the volcanic winter of 1816. Look at the Book of Kings. Look at the Arthur Legends. (indiscernible speech) The truth is there.

 

My parents were just trying to live. They were good people. Teachers. Organic gardeners. Never asked for anything they didn’t work for, and they were torn apart in their own backyard while their son shit his pants inside and did nothing for them. 

 

Please listen. Mother Nature’s pissed and she’s got minions.The long darkness brought the so-called True People to the surface. The viruses, the plagues, the insects, the arachnids, the ice age predators coming out of hiding--all connected. All faeries.

 

(hacking coughs) Oh man, that’s going to bring her over here so I have to talk fast. Don’t look them in the eye. Don’t try to make friends. As soon as you realize what they are, try to get away. Don’t grab anyone’s hand and don’t accept any invitation to dance. I don’t care how lonely you are, how guilty you feel. 

 

(sound of a woman laughing)






Maureen O'Leary lives in California. Her work appears in Bourbon Penn, Nightmare Magazine, Tahoma Literary Review, and other places. She is a graduate of Ashland MFA.


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