Theseus
rating: +10+x


"Today, investigators have uncovered new, striking evidence." The radio buzzes. I adjust the knob with careful fingers. "Young Milo Strand, age 12, has not been seen since September 18th, 2013. On that day, his parents came home from a quick shopping trip to find Milo missing. Police had searched most of the Sioux area to no avail. But today, two years and seven weeks since he was last seen, law enforcement have finally discovered a substantial clue."

What kind of parents leave their five year old son at home for three hours, completely alone? I want to blame them, because there's no one else I can. It is a childish anger, so I stifle it. I must focus on the broadcast: I will have to remember it. Photographic memory doesn't help with audio.

"FBI became involved in this case soon after its circumstances suggested foul play, they were able to determine Milo left of his own will. All doors of the house were locked from the inside, except one window. Milos parents were seemingly functional, so the likelihood of him just running away was slim. This stumped investigators initially, but today, they found the crucial piece of the puzzle that was missed: a note."

It should have been surprising how late the note was found. But after following this case for a while, I know of the police's ineptitude. I am confident, in fact, that this note was not written by Milo. It must have been a ploy to make it seem as though the FBI were competent after they took such intense interest early on. They must have known the true nature of the disappearances. Perhaps by listening, so too will I.

The radio trills on. "The note was wedged under the mattress, and we'll read it verbatim for all those KMN2 listeners next. All of this exclusive, live-events broadcasting is only made possible by you, the viewer. Unbiased news is important to KMN2, and if you agree, please consider supporting us with a direct donation at www.KMN2.com1. Donations keep KMN2 on the air, and keep you in the know."

I'm tired, this broadcast had to be caught at a very late hour. Then again, time here isn't exactly the same as it is the States. Nearby, my satchel is suspended on green tendrils of moss. I take a thermos from it and drink coffee, considering the impossibility of donating to a defunct radio station. My thermos is hand made. I bought some clay last week to sculpt it; not specifically for coffee, there are many performance enhancing liquids you can find here. Vendor shot me a funny look after I refused to buy a chisel. Once I am finished here, I will put it away in my satchel along with the three or four other personal effects I keep with me. Travel light.

"The note read as follows, but of course with substantial spelling errors. 'Dear mom and dad, I am going on an adventure. Kevin has told me that the woods a few blocks down have an adventure inside. Life and school are so boring. See you later.' Signed, Milo. The Strand's neighbor, Kevin Larky, was convicted more than a decade prior of things I'd rather not mention on this station. I'll let the listener decide what Kevin meant by adventure."

Kevin Larky was framed, actually. Bit of a niche fact, though. Not many listeners would know of it. Of course, his name was still on the registry. No money to pay a lawyer, and… other circumstances also influenced his decision not to seek legal aid. He got 12 years in prison before parole. Didn't matter. They'd have found a scapegoat even if his name was clear.

"Larky has been taken into custody, and is awaiting questioning. More on this story tomorrow. Stay on KMN2 for more coverage of the things you love most. And now, KMN2's art spotli-li-li-." The radio crackles, then begins its solemn refrain again, "Today, investigators have uncovered new, striking evidence…"

I turn the radio off. I've listened to the whole thing several times. Everything from this spot has been written down word for word. Slowly, slowly, I uncover the lies. Tomorrow, I'll find the next hotspot. Tonight, I sleep despite the caffeine. Praying the moss holds me tight, I close my eyes to the plummeting drop below and dream fretful dreams.


They call it Handyman's Moss. Well, for my situation, it is pretty handy. Odd stuff, lines the tops of shelves and the ceiling here. It has hanging arms, and will hold things for you. I take the radio down from the moss' hand. Right now, I am parallel to the ceiling, and if I cannot do this next part correctly, I'll be congruent to the floor. Dead.

Below me, about a meter back back, there is a shelf. It stretches to the top of the ceiling. The ledges that hold the books are wide, and I got up here on them. I will have to take the radio, jump from the moss, spin around, and land feet-first on the ledge if I hope to get out of here. Yesterday, before coming up here, I removed many books to make footholds. But they have all been replaced now. I hear a Page scuttling nearby. Dammit.

The radio is heavy; it takes two mossy hands to suspend it. It takes more to suspend me, but I am small and wiry. I guess starving has its benefits after all. I take the radio gingerly, living fingers loosening at my touch. My belt is strapped to it in a makeshift sling. I heft it over my shoulder, and the hands holding me shake. My stomach does the same thing, I haven't eaten in days. I'll have to visit Ambrose's later. I have little money left, but the next hotspot is miles away, and 'an army marches on its stomach'. Even a one-man army.

After much maneuvering, I finally leap. They say falling feels like flying, but this is another lie. I have flown before, and this is not it. I grapple onto the shelf, but my right hand catches wrong, and I feel something crack. My feet scatter books as I crash into the shelf screaming, barely hanging on. The Page angrily makes crab noises, but I am in pain, and must descend forty feet with a broken wrist. If I do not get to the bottom, I will surely die. Head, throbbing, hand oozing blood, I begin my descent. Every movement is painful.




In three hours, I get to the bottom.



Ambrose's has… something analogous to food, I suppose. More importantly, it has patrons. In my time in the Library, I have learned to ask for help. My hand is healed by a nurse. She uses some kind of magic, a ward of some kind. It still hurts, but is functional. I was lucky she was there. Nonetheless, I lost time on the climb down. I look at my map, seated in a booth. The leylines will shift tomorrow, and I will have no idea where the next hotspot is. Damn cartographer is making a pretty penny off of me. The squid-chicken-icecream-something I ordered is set down in front of me by a sympathetic looking waitress. I am young to be travelling the Library alone.

I eat it, and by the time I get back from the acid trip it gives me, I no longer feel the pain in my fingers. I take a moment to get my bearings. Beside me in the booth are my satchel and radio. In the booth ahead is an entity dressed in a black uniform. Smoke rises from a gaping hole in their shoulder. I don't wonder where they were. Conflicts are abounding in the wider universe as of late.

"Good morning, Theseus." It is the name they have given me, not my own. "What says the radio today?"

They go by Plato. If their species has a sex, it is not apparent. They are roughly humanoid, but a strange yellow orb surrounded by rotating metal rings replaces a head. The rest of them is pale like the inside of a coconut, but marbled with black lines. I'm half convinced Plato is actually a hivemind of multiple entitles, just by the way they talk. But I do not wish to find out. Plato has been a benefactor of mine for awhile. Money, information, and help in exchange for long-dead news from Earth. It is like they eat information. Why they care so much about Earth confuses me.

I make up a story. War in Bolivia. Sometimes I give them real news from dudspots, but I have my own agenda. In my little narrative, the Russian federation is threatening funding the Bolivian nuclear program. I go into more details, and theorize about what the non-existent 'second cold war' I've created will bring for Earth. It goes on for two hours. I have always been good at lying. What is a lie but a thin story?

Plato laughs a giddy, robotic laugh. At the end of my lie, they are satisfied. Currency in the Library is only useful sometimes, and I've asked for something much more valuable today. Plato will pay off any tabs or late-fees I've accrued, along with giving me an artifact of value I have requested. They hand over a spherical object wrapped in cloth. It is about the size of a baseball, but is heavier than its size would suggest.

"What you asked for, Theseus… Why someone like yourself would want—"

I cut them off with a curt goodbye, and leave. If I run, I still may make it to the hotspot. I will need to catch a ride there, but there are many ways to travel the Library. I need to catch one that doesn't involve the selling of limbs.



Luckily, I make it to the spot on time. It's not exactly mild in this part of the Library. A desert, expansive in its emptiness. I've been told by other wanderers about the Fever, but I'd never seen it myself until today. I wonder how something like a Library could get… sick. Perhaps I've become too idealistic in my years here. It cost me most of my allowance to get gear for traveling here. Apparently, a few days ago, this whole section was a jungle. I try to wrap my head around it.

In my hands is the radio. I tune it, which can take hours. There are a dozen or so stations that manifest, and sometimes bleedthrough is a real problem. After some work, I finally get it to the correct frequency. KMN2. Home. I wait for the tell-tale static that marks beginning of the broadcast before writing it all down. It is night, but there is always heat in the Fever. I sweat bullets.

"Ladies and gentlemen. The on-going Strand case has just picked up another nuance. But first, a reminder. Milo Strand is missing. His last recorded height was about 4 feet 11 inches. He has black hair and blue eyes, and a scar above his left eye. If you see him, please contact your local police. Now with that out of the way, our sources would have it that Kevin Larky has escaped Iowa and has fled the country. Canadian mounted patrols saw signs of this on a routine check of the Canadian-American line. Authorities predict Larky to have fled to Greenland, where he is rumored to have had a summer home."

Wrong. Kevin never had enough money to buy a house in Greenland. I wonder if the FBI have got him already, and this is their cover. Years listening to the radio have made me religiously paranoid. All the way from Iowa to Canada, without causing suspicion? Dubious.

"Milo Strand's friend and neighbor, Emily Buchanan, was interviewed by state authorities. She attested to Larky's influence over the neighborhood children. Regarded by most as a 'fun neighbor', he would often give them 'quests': obtaining mundane items, thinking about hypothetical scenarios, slaying imaginary dragons."

The dragons were not imaginary.

"While Larky's actions may be suspect, one thing you can always have faith in is KWL2. Through your support we've raised-" The broadcast has nothing else of significance. I listen to it again and again. It is not exactly substantial. I write the transcript down and put it in my satchel. I will put it into order with the others chronologically once I get back to my camp.



Again, in Ambrose's. I'm beginning to hate this place. Three more broadcasts, and I'm no closer to my goal. How I wish for just a pancake. I eat the strange sushi that talks to me. Plato is here, and they're saying something. My mind has gone blank. Realizing how long I've been here is difficult. I've lost track of time.

"Have you read the great epic, Theseus?"

I tell them I have. Books are one of my few comforts. I've always liked reading.

Plato seems to disregard my answer. "Your namesake? His battle with the dread minotaur?"

They've asked me about it before. I reply the same way. It is beginning to become annoying. Plato is an idealist, as their namesake would suggest. Though I love the myths and legends, I'd rather not be named after someone like Theseus. He wasn't exactly the hero in many cases… Either way, it no longer concerns me. I stare vacantly into Plato's sphere.

"Of course, in here, the minotaur isn't physical…" Their voice trails off again, into a steady stream of blabbering about false histories. I manage to nod and even choke out a word or two at times. Why am I here? I thought the radio would lead me to escape, but it has only lead me to despair. Perhaps I am doomed to die here. Why won't the Ways work? Why does the Library hate me?

I walk out the door of Ambrose's in a haze to find a seafront. The ocean of knowledge or whatever they all call it. The next radio point is halfway across, on a small island where several leylines meet. If I were to travel there, it would be the strongest message yet. Perhaps by finding the truth, I'll be freed from this hell…

Seafarers are hard to come by. Finding two, sitting on a bench, I praise my luck. They are arguing. I ask for a trip across, and they scramble to their ship, eager to aid me even without pay. They are friends, despite first appearances. They disagree on much, which puzzles me. One, a grizzled man whose voice alludes to heavy smoking, takes my things to the hold with a grin. The other limps, and leans on a cane as he walks me up the gangway.

"We love the sea," He explains, "Just in different ways. It's the same thing we're all after, after all." He chuckles at his own play on words. I think him ignorant. The other is no better, but they are jovial and kind.

"Been quite awhile since we've had board, Proteus!" He shouts to his cancerous companion. I can tell he has limped for awhile, perhaps since birth. How has this man courted the sea? Not only cripple, he too is uneducated. Yet both are odiously happy. "What a joy to be sailin' the sea again! Weather be bolsterin'!"

While these two are boisterous and generally hypocritical in their sea-faring ideologies, I prefer their company to Plato. While even I can be cynical at times, Plato's over-philosophizing of everything is rather tired by this point. These two seem at least content with their lot. I lean off the side of the rail, and schools of books swimming below catch my attention for a moment. There is yet wonder, perhaps even in a time such as this.

There is also storm on the horizon. I look at the leyline map again, pacing the deck. Our vessel, a rickety plastic boat, is not fit for what is ahead. It will break; It is made for fishing, not a hurricane. I can relate. If we make it to the island (which I have learned from my seafaring companions is actually a large whale-like creature), I doubt we will make it back. There are few things I want more than to make it back to safety. I cannot say, like my idiotic guides, that the sea is my home. I hate it.

"Aye, Phorkys! Due starboard, to Thallasus!" the smoker calls. The function of either sailor is obscured to me. Phorkys seems to be both navigator and helmsman, Proteus seems to simply cough about the sails. I cannot help but doubt the seaworthiness of our ship. Both due to its crew and general construction. It looks more for skimming lakes than oceans.

Thallasus, the name of the whale-island. Apparently, she is the Archivist of the Sea of Words. I do not care. On her back I will find the hotspot. Lightning rumbles in the distance as I compare myself to Odysseus. Plato has put too many lofty ideals into my head. Rain begins to drizzle onto the deck. The waters have turned from easy blue-green to a darkness I do not want to dwell on. The waters churn, and so does my stomach. I vomit several times. But we have not yet sunk, so I count my blessings. It seems that we truly will make time, and with some hours to spare. For a brief moment, hope has reared its bashful head.

And then, from the roaring depths perhaps fifty leagues away, erupts a massive creature. A crab, or maybe a lobster, the size of a town, with four pincers on four arms. I notice as it settles in the distance there are strange spirits flying to and fro around its shell. It wears a crown. It is the most terrifying thing I have ever seen, straight out of myth. Luckily, it is not after us, and I am relived when one of the old men tells me this. It feeds on the storm, gulping up the lightings. I see several bright streaks arc into its maw. Fascinatingly terrifying, in a way. But its emergence will cause horrendous waves, and I see the winds coming to drown me and my hopes of escaping this place.



The ship is a twig. A twig. We have to anchor next to a shale of tall and swaying shelves that give us momentary protection from the winds. Books fall upon us with the rain. I wonder if we'll make it out as I fail to sleep below deck, radio clutched in my thin arms. How did it come to this? I am dreary, even awaiting my salvation. Hope will come again to me when we have landed, for now, I sulk. Though I do not blame myself for the dour mood: the sea has not been kind to me. My two old companions come to calm me, but I hear little through the despair. As the storm clears, we set off again, and I recover from my stupor. Again on deck, we maintain pace towards Thallasus.

I can see it through the spyglass now. It is blue and fleshy, but there are hundreds of books stacked upon the portion of hide I can see. It is bigger than even the great crustacean. There is my intersection. If I get there, maybe I will be able to send a broadcast across. I fidget with the sphere in my satchel. Then, maybe, I'll get back home. Break the curse. Slay the dragon. I'll find my way back to the familiar, and I'll be safe; finally safe from this monstrous Library.

A cry comes from Phorkys, something washed out by a sudden onset of waves. He scrambles to find… something? I don't know much about boats. But I can see the winds worsening again. This ocean is ethereal and spasmatic. Water has begun to float into the clouds in large bubbles, like dew. Great amounts of books are inside the levitating water. The bubbles travel up into the again gathering storm. Upon looking, I see figures up there illuminated by lightning. Is this how they reorganize the Library? This great and terrible event is just the shuffling of books?

I do not get time to think much more.

The ship breaks in two, and I am drowning. Water like sulfur fills my lungs, and I am flying. No, not flying. Underwater, submerged in death itself. I cannot swim! I have always hated the water, have always feared it. But today is not the day I die… I have a home to return to. Water is terrifying. Enemy to all things; even the seemingly immovable mountains water cuts to the bone. Inevitably, you too will be swept away, and I would be lying to say I had not been. I screamed, but my cries were drowned out by the crushing weight of the water.

Suddenly, I am flying. Really, this time. One of the book bubbles, taking me into the air on a current of suspended water, is flying towards the living landmass. I hold my breath just a little longer as the sphere crashes into the wet skin of Thallasus. Coughing, dying, finally expelling water, I breathe a sigh of relief and wonder if the whale-island has personally saved me. I check myself for injuries, but find something worse.


My satchel is gone. The radio is gone. My map is gone. All of my belongings. Swept up in the storm no doubt. The leylines are probably moved anyway by now, with all the distraction. The Library shifts so often that its prominent structures constantly move, and so too do the lines. I lay down on the ground, facing the now peaceful skies. Spires of books have been rearranged from here to other areas of the library, and my lungs have been rearranged into a mangled mass of water and sorrow. I weep heavy sobs, choking on bile.

In my mind I hear a voice. Calling me to stand. Urging me forward.

I want to die.

This place, this Library, has been my prison so long that I have forgotten who I am. Were I to return home, they will already have forgotten me. Completely forgotten me. I am no longer who I was. I abandon myself to the waves. I do, finally, die. But, something deep within my very being, something powerful and innate, refuses to give way. Refuses to break. The myth lives on, even after I have died. Milo Strand drowned in those waters,

And Theseus emerged.



I stand up.

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