Butterflies
rating: +15+x

What the hell am I doing here?

The leather binding of the book was beginning to crack and split, the heat of the burning pages not enough to melt it or set it alight, but enough to damage it. The damned book had been taunting me. I picked it up on a whim, and read from within it the worst things. About me, about my family, about my past, and then it had the nerve to say that I was in the midst of arguing with an inanimate object. It had the gall to call me out for my frustration with what was simply a representation of the platonic form of a story which had long since happened, and had neither care nor knowledge of me and my anger. So I burned it.

Of course, I knew the cost. I had heard tell of the punishment for crimes against the Library. But I could stand it no longer, that book had to go. It needed to be shut up, it needed to be shown that it wasn't invincible, it wasn't safe from its reader, and it could argue all it liked that its contents would still exist, but now nobody could read them. It couldn't hurt anyone else. It couldn't hurt me.

Skittering from above me. Footsteps from behind. They were coming. The Library knew what I had done, and it was coming to kill me. I accepted this, I had wanted to die since halfway through the book. And now the book was halfway done existing. Poetic justice, I say. I didn't turn to look. And because of this, I was able to witness the moment that it all became worthless. The flames that a moment before had been eating through the pages, were suddenly sucked away, like so much dust into a vacuum, towards the footsteps behind me. I whipped around in my seat, just in time to see the last of them disappear into a Docent's lantern, and the small glass door shut behind them. A moment later, the Docent was on me.

BANG

Before I realized it, the hooded figure had reached its left hand out, took hold of my face, and slammed my head backwards against the table hard enough for my vision to swim. It then grabbed the half-burned tome, closed it, wrapped it in some sort of cloth, and tossed it up to a massive twelve armed, black and red Page with visible pincers and fangs, waiting on the side of the shelf above. The Page skittered away with a hiss.

I still couldn't move. The Docent seized me by the neck and dragged me out of my chair, knocking it over. Its grip was like concrete. It had felt organic as it was closing its fingers, but now the hand was completely locked, with no variation. Uncompromising. Regaining some control of my limbs, I struggled and writhed. The Docent seemed to be dragging me not out into the stacks, but directly to the nearest wall. I struck its arms, its legs, its back, hoping that it might turn to strike me and give me a chance to escape, but once again, it was as if I were punching concrete. I couldn't breathe and panic was beginning to set in. The Docent was unyielding.


What the hell am I doing here?

I was sprawled on the floor of a small room, alone. I could see, barely, though there was no light source. The walls looked like the floor felt, both some completely inflexible hybrid of stone and metal. They were shot through with cracks and wear, and through these channels ran drops and globs of some syrupy fluid, its color impossible to distinguish in the non-light. I came to realize that I could not see, this was some other sense.

With this change I also recognized that I had completely lost all kinesthetic response. I could "see" the floor, the walls, and the ceiling, but I was not "looking" in any of those directions. I did not know if my eyes were open, or where my head was facing relative to my body, or where my arms or legs were relative to my head. I did not know if I was breathing. At this I went into a panicked state. I searched and searched for any sensation besides "seeing" the colorless-green walls, and came up with nothing. My heart would have been pounding, out of control, if only I'd had a recognizable heartbeat. It was so quiet, in my head. So quiet. So, so quiet.

But it wasn't quiet. After a long, long time of this, I became aware of something like a sound. Paper. Like a million million pages being flipped and turned back and forth, in my head. A whirlwind of fiber, all coming from within, from a point directly at the midline and an inch forward from the center of my consciousness.

And it got "louder."

The "sound" continued to get "louder" as "time passed," becoming more prevalent than my internal monologue. I was drowning in a sea of paper, and the walls of this sea were the walls around whatever it was that was "seeing" the "walls" of this "room." And I did drown. And I kept drowning. I only had a few "thoughts" left to my "name" and the main one was that I was supposed to be dead. The Library was supposed to have killed me. But it decided instead to rob me of the ability to even kill "myself."

And I wasn't "alone."

"I" barely noticed when "they" came into the room. From out of the walls, the floor, the ceiling, through the cracks and the not-cracks, came a swarm of something like "Pages," but they were "small." They seemed to range from the size of spiders to about the third the size of a human. The scuttled towards "me," hand over humanlike hand, in a wave. At this point it was confirmed that my "mind" was still contained in a human shaped "body," because the larger of the Page-Things lifted it up and held its limbs apart while the smaller ones washed up its legs, around the torso and to its other extremities.

The Library saw fit at this point to grant me just enough physical sensation to feel the Hands. Each of them gripped the flesh of the body in a very human way, but there were hundreds of them, and none were the size of a normal human touch. Some produced from their fingertips strands of gauze-like material, which they began wrapping around the chest and head, while others brought with them something like heavy leather pads, draping them over the shoulders and any other exposed flesh. Building a cocoon of sorts. Suffocating, had the body been breathing at the time. At this point "consciousness" faded, for the cocoon was somehow comfortable…


What the hell am I?

"Humans with the ability to see, when asked, generally feel as though their consciousness resides behind their eyes…" - Collected Anthologies of Perception from Various Species, by Merleau Sankalan

"Individual-specific memories have been shown to be maintained, between the states of caterpillar and butterfly, despite the chrysalis ostensibly containing little more than organic soup. This implies, by necessity, that behavioral memory is stored in more diverse media than just the neuron-lattice…" - Genetic Memory as Applied to Lepidopterology, by Lynn-Hugo Petalouda

"Like brown and red leaves swirling down from a tree in Autumn, it felt like my thoughts were speaking from other directions, besides my ears. Several words from down by my right ankle, and the rest of the sentence from my left palm. My brain was everywhere in my body except my head, and a bit outside of it too…" - Once Upon a Place in WonderTime, by [Audio Sample Identifier]

"The Dream-Feathers will curl inward from the heat and solidify, forming a pastry-like container. On the inside, the chocolate and caramel melt, swirling together in slow convection and chemically bonding with the Scholar's Tears we added earlier. If you have the heat just right, they too will coalesce into a substance with just enough sapience to contrast nicely with the sweetness of the sugar and abstracity of the feathers…" - Magical and Potentially Unethical Baking; Volume I, by John Orchardson

"It may have narrative potential for the Librarians to, as part of their punishment, be robbed not only of their mental individuality but their physical individuality as well. I imagine that some residual broth from previous transfigurations would inevitably mix with those in the process of bibliotizing, once each chrysalis is deposited into the central cauldron to mature… - Preexisting Journals, by The Serpent

"Current speculation is that Docents achieve their balance of strictness and compromise by channeling their former identity as Patron. Metaphysics notwithstanding, the Library does something to them in those staff chambers between the walls. Melts them, stirs them, ages them like wine, pours them out into molds of the perfect custodian. And the perfect custodian is perfectly tortured, the perfect combination of autonomy, faux-hivemind, and the Library's mechanical omnipresence…" - Relative Ethics in an Infinite Context Approach Zero, by Moss

"I stepped out into the stacks. My first task was to re-shelve a book which had recently been repaired, after being subjected to fire damage by an unwise patron…" - Journal of the Bound, by Ven-Sel

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