The late afternoon sun warmed up the room with a honey gold light. The kind of light reserved for great library’s where there were more books in Latin than any other language. History of mankind. Written in ink on paper bet beneath the ink lay the blood of billions.
It dawned on Sam that it was unlikely that anyone had read one of these books since this wing of the library opened a century ago and even more unlikely that anyone would read them yet, not unless they were digitized, translated, turned into a comic book, a manga. It would never happen. Sam released the springs on his briefcase and forced open the thing like the gaping maw of some monstrous fish. From inside he pulled out the flask and set it on the desk between the Oxford English Dictionary and Roget’s Thesaurus. The flask of bourbon defined him as much as any word did in the OED. Sam was a professor, a man of letters, a scholar and a closet drunk. How else could he get through the frustrating day after day of barely literate graduate students. Sam longed for the day when he could grade based on grammar or cogent sentence structure. He could feel his pulse pick up at the thought of the dull automatons the university was churning out. With shaking hands, he unscrewed the cap and lifted the flask to his lips in a calming ritual that dated back to his own grad school days.
He could have shouted to the sun and in the cavernous library, and especially in the classics wing – no one would hear. The solitude of dead languages was his friend. The long dead and forgotten authors were his kindred spirits for there were none here in the all too hectic Google iPhone world where everything was at your fingertips at the push of a button. Need 10,000 words on the Colossus of Rhodes? Google it. Don’t immerse yourself in research, don’t wrap yourself in Homer or Ptolemy. Keep the past at arm’s length because there’s an app for that – somewhere.
Sam glanced at the large clock at the far end of the library. He was bemused that here in a room where time had stood still for eons, the present still marked the time. He held the flask up high and saluted the thousands of books waiting on the shelves, the authors, the lives, the loves lost and found, the wars, the epic triumphs and utter defeats that lined the shelves that to this modern life had ceased to be of value. To all of them, Sam said in his frail and raspy baritone ‘Non in venis, fratres mei – Not in vein, my friends.’ He drained the last drop of bourbon as the golden sunlight faded, only to be replaced by the harsh florescent light. He had a lecture to deliver, and a debt of gratitude to pay.