THE ABSOLUTE LIBRARY
(FROM THE ANNALS OF THE BIBLIOPHILE ONEIRONAUTS)
By Fabio Fernandes
Who can save us from impossible dreams?, I wondered the moment I entered the huge portico of the Absolute Library, that ancient temple of knowledge that only Oneironauts can access. A large, dark, and oppressive building on the outside, it was surprisingly well-lighted, warm, and even homely on the inside - many small rooms stacked full top-to-bottom with shabby, narrow shelves, barely more than simple wood planks with a thick coat of white paint trying (in vain) to disguise the splinters that pricked our fingertips bloody every time we reached for one of the innumerable books which filled them.
It never occurred to me to question such incongruities of space and furniture, for a good Oneironaut, and a Bibliophile Oneironaut at that (one tends to specialize in time) learns not to dwell too much into these things; he or she must keep browsing dutifully the shelves in search of The Book during their permanence in the Dreamverse. What book is this, though, most of the times not even the Oneironaut knows.
After just a couple of minutes of searching between the savage shelves, however, this time I was pretty sure I had found what I was looking for: an old, tattered libro de bolsillo, a pocket book in Spanish, a translation of an essay by Michel Foucault analyzing the notion of abnormality in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.
That was a very rare book indeed – even more if we consider the fact that it doesn’t exist, at least not in our reality, which, according to some (see Zelazny, Moorcock, Roberson), is but one of a multitude. It would be by no means my only surprise, for right after that I found a most precious tome, a rarity even in Dreamverse (nobody told me so; nobody ever tells you anything in Dreamverse; you must deduce things by means of signs and portents – see Moore, Gaiman, Miéville).
I arrived at that conclusion because the book was practically falling apart, and its binding and cover told me that it was a copy printed in the nineteen-thirties or forties. It was a science fiction novel written by Alan Turing.
If only I had at least leafed through one of these volumes, if only I had tried to commit to memory a paragraph or even a sentence of one of these books, I would have considered myself a happy man; that was not meant to be.
Suddenly I just tried to find my way out of the labyrinthine system of corridors linking the rooms, all this time making a not inconsiderable effort to keep from bumping into the other bibliophiles crowding the place – maybe other aware dreamers like myself, other Oneironauts, or maybe just dreampeople, one can never really know for sure, and it was just while I was pondering about such mysteries of the sleeping and awaken realms that I woke, still remembering the dream quite well (all us Oneironauts do), but unable to bring the books with me, as it always unfailingly happens.
Naturally, being an Oneironaut, my first action was to record the path of my dream, so I could travel through it again should the chance arise. I took the notebook on my nightstand and wrote everything I could about that night’s visit to the Library.
But even an Oneironaut’s memory only goes so far: the details were already getting blurred in my mind’s eye. Had I entered through the North or the West Wing? In which rooms had I found those rare books? And what were their titles?
Every night since then I still roam the strange topographies of the Dreamverse looking for those books, but I never return to the same section of the Absolute Library twice. Sometimes I’m not even sure it’s the same library. Dumbfounded, confused, hopeful, all I can do is pray to find my way back into the heart of the dream.
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I'm 44 years old, happily married, currently working as a professor at the Pontificia Universidade Catolica de São Paulo, where I teach courses in Creative Writing and Worldbuilding for Games. I have two books published in Brazil (a non-fiction book on the work of William Gibson and a post-cyberpunk novel, Os Dias da Peste). I have several stories published in UK and US venues, like Everyday Weirdness, StarShipSofa, The Nautilus Engine, The World SF Blog, and the anthologies Steampunk II: Steampunk Reloaded and The Apex Book of World SF, II (August 2011).
Labels: Fabio Fernandes