I led a mundane life. Not much of it is worth writing, and the rest of it is scarcely worth reading; at least until the night I visited Rembryn Gate.
I lived with my godparents, Jude and Vera Hawthorne. My biological parents were no longer with me. No one actually knew what happened to them, and my godparents never spoke of them. I often wondered if they were dead.
The summer before my 17th birthday, I worked at the library downtown in the periodicals and research section. It was eight years after my parents disappeared, and every day was just like the previous; save for when one of the mentally impaired patrons decided to wander into the building. The library was all but deserted except for the few that actually came to read; the rest were homeless and came to use the computers. It was my job to check them in and to ensure everyone was entitled to equal time.
Today it was a man in a crimson shirt who decided to make my day a little less scheduled. He was sitting at a table somewhat distant from my desk and drawing furiously on scrap paper provided by the lady downstairs. He had collected a number of similar books and opened them on the table around him. I couldn’t make out what he was doing, but his posture and abrupt mannerisms stole part of my attention from the book I held in front of me. As I turned each page, I found myself glancing upward in his direction. Now and again, he would rise from his table and approach my desk.
“Sharpen this,” he would demand. He never smiled. I would take the pencil from him, sharpen it, and return it without a word. He, too, remained silent as he reclaimed his utensil. I half-feared, half-pitied him. It was apparent that he was not in complete control of his mind. I wondered what it would be like to live that way; what it would be like to live completely abandoned to my own mind and imaginings. However, there was something about his unpredictability that scared me.
The man in red was not the only one who came in with a less-than-sane mindset. One of our regulars showed up for his daily dose of internet exploration, which consisted mostly of looking up whatever exotic animal popped into his head that day. He went through the process of checking out a computer, all the while dancing to music that was not playing.
His limbs were forever animated as though he was being featured every moment in a rap music video, and sometimes the lyrics in his mind would be rendered audible. It was always a new rap, and one he had made up; which meant that the words never made any sense. Often times, he would forget where he was or what he was doing and surrender completely to his mind. I finally checked him in and he went on his way, though I knew he would be here until we closed.
Hours passed; patrons came and left. It was nearly two hours before closing, and the man in red remained in his seat. His routine had continued until his pencil was half its original length, and he must have gone through dozens of scribbled pages. It was silent, except for the occasional turning of a page and the man’s rough scratching at his paper. I was eventually desensitized to his presence and lulled into my reading. My peace was only disturbed by the man in red when he would demand a resharpening of his pencil.
A half hour before closing, and the announcement overhead reminded the patrons that they had 30 minutes before we closed our doors. Even though this announcement had broken the silence well in advance, the following outburst of sound caused me to jump in alarm. The man in red had gotten up from his seat and had violently jammed his pencil into the desk before him. As I frantically looked around and finally realized the source of the disruption, he leveled his gaze at me. As I watched, he tore several pages out from the books around him and stormed out of the building.
I realized too late that I should have called after him or at least notified someone of the incident. I had been more afraid of the man than I realized. Instead, I made my way over to the now empty table he had occupied and began to survey his work. The pencil stood straight up, embedded into the desk; I was surprised at how much force it required to remove it.
I thumbed through the now-mutilated books strewn across the table; each title had something to do with fairy tales or children’s lore. I shuddered as my mind wandered around possible meanings behind his choice of reading before assuring myself that there was probably no meaning at all.
I took in the many scraps of paper, lifting one for my perusal every now and again. The markings on each one were strange. There were no words; I could not even discern any type of picture among them. Instead, the markings were composed of what seemed like a multitude of dashes, lines, random curves, and shading in no order whatsoever. The thought occurred to me that the meaning of these symbols was merely lost to me and all others who looked at this, save for the author. This work had meaning: his.
As I stepped out of the library, it was just beginning to rain. This town had needed it for some time, but with the rain usually came flooding in the streets. I quickened my pace, wanting to get home before it began to pour.
I reached my car quickly, but not quick enough to escape being drenched by the onslaught. As I started my car, I paused. There was a man walking out of the parking lot and into the woods that surrounded the east side of the library. His limbs were animated as though he was giving a political speech, and his lips were moving with words original to his mind; meaningless and meaningful at the same time.
As he thinks, so it is.