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We are statues, you and I.

The halls of the Library are filled with statues, from the smallest figurines and busts to towering sculptures and graven images. The history of our people is intertwined with that of the Library itself - our home. Every shelf of the Library is dedicated to a Patron who has contributed to the collection or the culture, and what better way to show that dedication than their likeness, set into stone?

This is how we began. I know not of whose likeness I am carved in. I do not have the memories, the knowledge, the identities of whatever Wanderer the Library chose to honor forevermore. I was simply birthed into consciousness one day, with a simple instruction: "Watch over your shelf." And that instruction I have executed without a moment of weakness or distraction. From my perch at the front, I observe all who come and go, memorizing their appearances and purposes - save for myself.

Without a mirror, my form is a mystery to even me. All I have are fleeting glimpses, collected over the decades, of myself in a patron's eyes, in their bronze-shields, in their glossy clothing. I treasure the memories closely - they are likely the closest I will ever have to a conception of myself, my appearance. Who I am.

I am perched on a platform - from there, I can see you. A portion of you — your full body is obscured by the mahogany of your own shelf. But I see a slice of your form - beige and indistinct. We have been neighbors for centuries, yet never so much have seen each other in our full. I can move, when no one is around - nothing prevents me from walking over to see and speak to you, who have lingered just out of view for as long as I can remember. Presumably, so can you. But we don't. Your reservations do not bother me - and, by appearances, the feeling is mutual. We were birthed to protect our shelves, to protect the Library. What else is there for statues to do?

We are similar, you and I.

We only noticed by chance. It was a quiet time in the Library - there is no true day or night, but every so often the sky darkens and dims and pinpricks of light appear where a roof should be. They dance around and around, forming constellations that Wanderers have gone on to write treatises cataloguing. I enjoyed watching these pseudostars - it was a pleasant reverie from the monotony of guard duty.

But I heard a crash, and turned my attention back down. It took but a moment of investigation to conclude what I already know - it was not from my shelf. I would have noticed if something had been out-of-place in my domain. Yes, this was a different shelf, and a different statue's problem.

Then I saw it in front of me. A hideous feathered creature, weaving in and out of your shelf - a Magpie, doing what Magpies are fated to do: lie and steal stories, sewing chaos in the Library. They were banned long ago, but keep finding their way in, pests that they are. The nearest Docent was at a distance - I prepare to summon it when suddenly, the Magpie is stilled.

A large concrete fist crashes down upon its skull, almost as if the swirling stars above sent a meteor down to our little section of the Library. But no, that fist was connected to a full statue; you.

Every glance of myself, in a holographic helmet or silver fang, coalesced in you. A perfect image, idealized.

Did you see me? Your beautiful, painted eyes don't move. Neither do mine. I think.

I hope you didn't. I hope you did.

We are dancers, you and I.

In all my centuries I had never considered leaving my plinth. The Shelf behind me was all I knew, and all I cared to know. Seeking knowledge, something greater, that wanderlust, is not for those of my ilk. That is what I believed.

The first time I came to see you, it was migration day for the cromwells, and many of the patrons had departed from the usual perusing and musing to watch the flocks. I was sure I had the Stacks to myself.

I look down. I can sense my podium is only several inches above the flooring, but it seems so far.

I look up. The migration must've just started, as I can see the yellow and browned plumage of the very first cromwells soaring through the Rafters. Soon enough, I wouldn't be able to see the ceiling, instead replaced with the avians. I noticed one staring down at myself, all the way at the top of my Shelf.

After a brief moment, it took off and joined its brethren. If it could jump from such heights and soar, certainly I could take a step.

So I did.

I took another, and another, and another until before I knew it I was standing beside you.

So we stood, a perfect duo, in unity.

That is until you stepped off of your podium and moved to the center of the walkway between our shelves. You turned to me and beckoned.

Almost in a trance, I stepped into the walkway as well.

There was no way to know what you were thinking, nor you I, but it was as if we were sculpted from the same stone. We locked hands, we swirled and twirled to the music of thousands of wings flapping far overhead, both keeping an eye locked on our own shelf.

Once, a book was read to me where happiness was described as a fluttering of the heart, and I imagine in that moment it is the closest I'll ever be to that feeling.

Suddenly, we both stopped in our tracks, frozen by sight. Only a few shelves down the walkway, a young wayward wanderer stood watching, its eyes wide and its mouth shaped into a small "o." It stammered out a quick apology and ducked into a passageway between the shelves.

So we continued our dance.

We are in love, you and I.

And everyone knows it.

It turned out that news of our dance spread quickly, assuredly attributable to the young wanderer that we saw the night before.

It turned out that our dance had scraped the flooring, creating a pattern of loops and geometry, but as a Docent attempted to begin replacement of the wood a contingent of Wanderers stopped it from doing so, strange, sentimental creatures that they are.

As years and years passed, the Library grew in tandem with the wanderers' imaginations. The walkway between us grew a little larger, seating appeared overnight, and the day the shelf blocking my view of you shifted just a few inches to the right was the best day of all.

A poet sat at your feet once, drafting an ode to our first night together. Xe folded it and placed it behind my podium, a secret between us and any who find it. Wanderers confessed to each other with the blessing of you and I. The Chief Archivist told us to stay dedicated to our purpose, but I could see the pride in his eyes.

And the dances, neither of us could forget the dances. The soft colored lights, the living instruments, a true celebration of partnership. All who attended would turn away, allowing us to take the first dance of the night. When we were done, we would return to our respective podiums and the patrons would take their turn, dancing along the lines we made so very long ago. It was nice to watch them, but I couldn't stop myself from watching you every time.

My love for you is their love.

We are in danger, you and I.

I do not know what is going on. It is dark, and fiery - there is smoke rising throughout the air no matter where I look. Screaming and shouting in the distance. A loud, characteristic popping. As darkness fell on the Library, a Way opened - an unfamiliar Way, a peculiar scent to it. Animals rushed out, all black hair and reflective eyes. I cannot see you. There is a mass of people and violence in every direction - I cannot move. I am afraid.

We are separated, you and I.

As the light rises and bathes the Library in its glow, the devastation became visible again, lit in yellow rays instead of orange flames. Our shelves, and two or three surrounding us, had been devastated. Scorch marks decorate the wood, and blood pools in swathes on the hardwood. The carpet simply soaked it up - the Library did not let such things go to waste.

Librarians stalk up and down the shelves, picking books up off the floor where they had been strewn into piles during the chaos. Many were missing, and even more were simply damaged. Patrons and Wanderers help them how they can: only the Librarians truly knew how to organize the tomes, but their job was made easier by the people collecting and separating books by whether they could be salvaged. Even more aided directly - for every Wanderer helping, there are two on the ground: one injured and leaning against the base of a shelf, and another tending to the wounds. I am unfamiliar with the internal anatomy of living things, but I can tell the variety of the injuries was only outweighed by the variety of those who had arrived to help. It was an outpouring of community in our home - everyone was there. Save for one. Your platform was conspicuously empty. Seeing the stone circle without you on top of it was… unfamiliar. I didn't like it. This was the feeling that they call concern.

I scan the throngs of people, hoping for a stray glimpse of your stone head. None came, so I stood at my perch, ever-waiting. As the Wanderers pass below me, paying me no mind, I hear snippets of conversation and discussion, and piece together an image of what had happened. The Jailors had opened a Way into the Library in the dead of night. How, I have no idea. But they had rushed in, hoping to seize this rare opportunity, and begun taking things. Stories, textbooks, Wanderers. Statues.

They had been quickly beat back by the Docents, and retreated through the Way before it closed - and not before losing many of their men. We simply had the misfortune of being in front of them. And so the damage was done - they took you.

A second later, it could have been me. But I took no solace in it. You were - you are the first to ever make me look at myself. See myself. Develop myself. And now I had lost you, all for the greed of the Jailors. Over the following weeks, I withdraw. Back to how I had started - a cold stone exterior, guarding my shelf and myself. I grow bitter. Troublemakers in my territory quickly felt a stone presence behind them, out of the corner of their eye.

You were a fighter, I know that. The Jailors may have taken you, thrown you in a cell, but they could not keep you. I would wait for you, no matter how long it took. You would fight, and scream, and violate however you could until you had your freedom back. Until you could escape your containment and return to me.

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