Riddles

Of course he talks in bloody riddles. It’s in the job description. Villains get deep voices and gormless henchmen. Hot blondes get killed. And ultra geniuses live life as a cryptic crossword.

At least Womble punched him. I didn’t even blink. A couple of minutes into the visit and we both knew it was a “if you don’t, I will” situation. (I must make a mental note of the number he said, though.)

In a potentially poor decision, I’ve left them alone for a while. This is a time of answers, and I imagine there are some Womble would rather remained known to him…and ‘Towels’. Give them a while, then we’ll swap.

Nice place Towels has got, though, if a bit lacking in necessities. Five doors later and I’ve yet to find a bathroom. There truly are extents of this guy’s knowledge I’d rather leave alone.

Something else threw me, although took me a while to realize. No universal residue here. Not even a scrap of memory or a past event. No doubt all sucked into that great spongy noggin of his. Okay, let’s try door contestant number six.

How I live for moments like these. My jaw just dropped and sent word that it had settled in well in its new location.

Imagine a library, the largest library imaginable. Then times it by five, add ten more then square it.

I could spend lifetimes in here. Look at all the varieties. Old, leather-bound editions, tucked in with new paperbacks; all of varying thickness. There’s even leaflets…and sometimes just single sheets of paper.

Two sections to this monstrous book vault: In Progress, and Complete. “Sweet Hell,” I breathe. I only just noticed the titles. Every single one of them a person’s name.

The Library of Life. I’d heard stories, we all do, albeit with details changed or omitted, but…I never thought I’d see…

The one you’re looking for is in case 81, 613, shelf eighty-eight.

That smart arse. Basic communication sits beneath him and then he does this too. Still, there’s no way to doubt him.

I set off at a run, deep into the heart of the ‘In Progress’ section. Around me is the gentle scratching of new words on a page; the hushed breath of existence. Odd books detach themselves at random and float towards the other section.

81, 610…81, 611…81, 612…81, 613…

Stepladder’s behind you.

Please let Womble punch him again.

I climb the rickety, wooden steps, high to shelf eighty-eight. Amongst a range of H-names, I find myself. Set in the spine, above a squashed-in scrawl of ‘Homeless Helper’, sits the old word. A sharp, red line cuts through it. I grunt, a small noise of self-satisfaction, and pull the book out.

It’s heavy. Heavier than I expected. Although, I guess a good thousand-and-three-hundred-something years is hardly going to be a novella.

Absent-mindedly, I flick to the back. Words like ‘rabbits’, ‘Mars’ and ‘bathysphere’ brush past my vision, until I reach the current:

Homeless Helper finds his own book and begins to read towards the ending. He notices

…that there’s an ending. No infinite-spawn of blank pages, just chapters still to come and a finite last word. We’re all just stories in the end. But I don’t think we’re supposed to find the Spoilers.

Head spinning, my eyes move back to the current.

…his first ever faint…

Yep, seems appropriate.

CRASH.

Mr 6131-OW! Okay. Mr Womble, you need to go collect your friend.

HH

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