Candle, Blood, Rope

I am part of no mythology that has ever been written. I am a little like a genie, a little like a lost soul, a little like an eternal flame.

If I am mad, I have been so for a long long time. If I am dead, I have been so for a long long time. If this is the afterlife, it is neither a horror nor a heaven.

What I am I do not know, but where I am is a library. A magnificent library, centuries old, all dark wood and stained glass and high arched ceilings. A long time ago, its scholars would hold me up to illuminate the pages before them, and, by my flickering light, I read along and I learned. I learned about algebra and genies and humours and battles. I learnt that fire requires air, and that it requires fuel, and that no solitary candle burns for years and years and grows no smaller.

I know now that these were good times, the best times, though time then had no meaning. But then, one year or decade or century, the scholars didn’t need me any more.

I was swept from my high ledge, and flung into musty darkness along with broken inkwells and yellowed parchment. A lid crashed down above me, leaving the only light my wavering own.

I thought the scholars had gone. I thought the library was dead and its learning with it. I mourned for it, for I had grown to love the books, and perhaps the scholars too. Reading with them, reading the pages they had chosen, feeling which words gave them pause, and which they returned to again and again, this closeness had sated a hunger in me, and without it, I starved for what seemed an age.

Ages end, give way to the next.

In this same dark chest in a forgotten corner I lay and I lie, but now I know the library remains around me. The chest has been opened, and less often moved, by more than one curious new librarian. Parchments have been sifted, studied and placed back beside me. The sounds of scholars do not change so very much, though the scratching of quills gives way to soft scribbles or rapid taps. Pages still turn, scholars still sigh, the busy rhythms of the day still give way each night. I still burn. My flame lingers, even now, even here.

I was like the scholars once, I think, so long ago I cannot remember who I was or when I was or how I came to this. Empty spaces live in my memory that I cannot enter or explore, but I feel around the shape of what is missing and I believe it is a human life. Someone or something robbed me of it, and time has robbed me again, for one can only remember so much, and it was so long ago.

Still, I think I was a scholar, before these strange years, but not a scholar like those I have watched and illumined and loved in the library. People should spark like flames do, should warm, should glitter, should kindle. I have seen them, even here, in this quiet place of little speech. If you look and if you listen you can learn the threads that tie them, to each other, to these words, to this world. But I, I was plucked from my precious life with no fraying in the fabric left behind.

And perhaps this empty heart of me, that spun no threads and remembers no loves, is all that endures. My flames lick at the dry tinder of ancient pages. I am fire that has burnt for generations, but nothing I touch catches flame.

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