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Zero-why Mode

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"Excuse, me, sir, but do you---I mean, does the library--have The Black Hole?"

That's what he thought she'd said, but she had shaken her head when she saw him looking through an index of books. "No, the book isn't The Black Hole but the book is a black hole."

For a moment, he believed that she might've been talking about those peculiar circular books from Charshajest, or the Moebius script---many original replicas proudly housed in this building, no less. But her accent hinted at Atashy or Screlk, not Flerence. Not that I know much about any of those places. Still, he'd never heard anyone refer to any such thing as a black hole. "I'm sorry, ma'am, but I do believe that it is not possible to write on a black hole, much less to store one for public reading. If you would kindly clarify..."

"It's in time," she rushed in, "not space. Well, you can see parts of it in space. In the words. They're squiggles, you see. Strings. Wasn't it Taustargine who said that the shape of reading is the shape of time?"

The custodian of the great cathedral-library of his land would have interjected with an answer, knowing as he did a little about antescholastic theology, including the anti-Helagian writings of Taustargine: an insightful, if prejudiced, figure in the historical regime. The custodian might have voiced other thoughts. But as he collected his breath to say something, the interloper simply continued.

"So," she exhaled sharply, "there is a book that can draw all those strings towards itself sharply. It bends time the way mass bends space. We know that now, you know. They've proved it. So, the book absorbs meaning like a black hole absorbs matter. It absorbs the power of that meaning."

Nodding, the custodian replied as soon as he could, however. "What about Zhawking radiation?" He didn't really get what the point of the "black hole" description was. Time? Space? He studied lists, not facts. Really! However, the interloper smiled slightly and spoke again.

"No matter, that. The music of semiosis is not the same... it can be in perfect harmony."

"Is there, though, actually such a book?" Here, the custodian thought he'd caught her in the web of her own metaphors. For it all came down to there possibly being a book in his library that united other books to itself with the strength of absolute gravity. Aside from the God-lore, I suppose. But that hadn't ever really been codified in a single text. Some people in some places at some times argued that it had---the B'kol Semanticists and the Terfryltyth Syntacticists the most ardent kinds of those debaters---and so maybe, for those people, their holy books were black holes. In their minds, into which all their thoughts were thrown.

But now the interloper said, "Yes."

The custodian studied her eyes for a glint of a second as he imagined to guess at her proposal. What kind of books has this person read? If she was from Atashy or Screlk---or maybe Ejaes---she was within a few hundred miles' distance from many trade routes involving paper and ink goods, and other great libraries and university reserves. Even a national literary estate, the Hall of the Labyrinth-book, in the north of Ejaes. But more readers and more reading choices meant more titles to hypothetically sift through. The custodian had seconds in which to make his judgment. If the interloper was quoting or paraphrasing the report of a book about time having black holes in it (the book about the phenomenon therefore embodying its own report), then she was probably---I'm not sure exactly how probably, to be fair---referring to the esoteric works of the Kanz-Frafka clique in Nrague, the capital of Czelchliand. Or the Xolopon Society, in Flerence after all... Or something else, even more absurd or weird, to be sure.

He'd neglected his intuition on letting the interloper into the library four hours earlier. That had signaled to him that there was something weirdly dangerous about her, that she or her intention's shadow meant possible violence for someone, somewhere---even if was only herself, ultimately. But the name of the book she gave to him when he failed to guess it was of a work so innocuous, in his eyes, that his worry flashed away totally. Again his intuition jolted him as he'd handed the text to the visitor, and again he refused to look it in the eye at all. Now he just smiled; he was going to be allowed to stand guard at his desk in silence again: no one else there for the day had asked him so many questions as this one odd patron had.

The odd one didn't look at her book when she took it. She just let it dangle in her hand while she signed a receipt of withdrawal, then slowly left the realm of bookshelves, off through the intersection of the cathedral transepts, after which point her departure proved invisible to the custodian. Whether she ran in delight then or not, he knew not, though he had a split second to think on that question when, a week later, the universe came to an end.



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