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Desolate


by thorndove

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The book of sadness sat on its shelf, weeping silently.

     For as long as anyone could remember, it had been the sole chronicler of every sad story in the whole world. So full were its pages of hurt and anger that no-one except Luri the Learned came near it anymore, and that was only once a year.

     So the book was left alone, silver tears trickling down its faded cover, as dust slowly gathered upon it. Once it had been proud of its job. But these days, when it seemed that more stories were materialising between its covers every hour, it felt as though the whole world rested on its metaphorical shoulders.

     The book could still remember a time when days, even weeks, would pass before a new sad tale came to it. Back then, its cover had been a bright blue and the star on its spine metallic gold. Neopians the world over had flocked to read it: historians, Kings, adventurers. It had been an object of wonder, and everyone had loved it.

     In those days its job had seemed to be one of great importance. The book had stood straight and proud, eagerly awaiting the moments when new stories would appear for the world to read. Some were short, maybe only a few paragraphs in length. Others spanned several pages, complete with elegant borders and beautiful, if dark, illustrations.

     As the years wore on, though, the number of tales it contained grew to over one thousand. And at night, when the caretaker had locked up and everyone else had left, there was nothing to do but think back on the stories that it had been charged with keeping.

     So, after centuries of learning and reflecting, the book of sadness had finally reached a point where the weight of its duty had crushed its spirits completely. It no longer felt any pride in the task it had been given, never looked forward to new tales to tell. There was no-one to read them these days, anyway. Nobody wanted to allow the shroud of sadness to descend upon their own hearts.

     And fairly enough, the book knew. More and more stories were appearing every hour, although by now it had fallen to such depths of despair that it wasn’t possible to sink any further. It had heard stories about dying heroes, and young children doomed to a servant’s life. It could narrate the saga of the Ghost Lupe, or answer virtually any question regarding Lord Kass. Why would anyone choose to know what it did? Even Luri, coming but once a year, seemed more sombre and reluctant with every visitation.

     The book of sadness sat alone on its shelf, weeping in silence.

     After an indefinable amount of time it heard a lock click. Silver tears still flowing freely, the book raised its battered cover to look at the door. Only a crack of light could be seen peeking out from underneath, illuminating the base of the ancient wooden door. Then, its hinges creaking with age, it swung open.

     Sun swept in to fill the room, blinding the book of sadness with its golden brilliance. It blinked, tears clinging in the folds of its eyes, trying to see what had caused the door to open. As its vision cleared, the book saw a small shadow Eyrie creeping nervously towards it. The Eyrie was carrying a pen in one hand, a notebook in the other. After every few steps he hesitated, looking back anxiously, before continuing towards the shelf at the back of the room.

     The book waited while he slowly came closer. It wasn’t as if it could move, anyway, but there was something about this kid that made it actually want to stay. Maybe it was because of the book’s dream, forged from the desire for any life but its own. An impossible dream of becoming an Eyrie with the courage and wings to go wherever it pleased. To get the chance to see something, even just once, that wasn’t polluted by sorrow.

     Eventually the Eyrie halted for the last time, right beside the book’s shelf. Slowly, he set down his notebook and reached over to open the book. His hand was shaking.

     “I need to know something,” he whispered, wiping a sleeve across the book’s damp cover. It screwed up its face, recoiling slightly as the Eyrie’s arm brushed over its eyes. Then the book was carefully opened so that it was looking at nothing but the old wooden shelf. Lying face down, the sunlight illuminating its pages, the book of sadness had nothing to do but wait while the Eyrie scanned its pages for whatever it was after.

     Finally the Eyrie ceased turning pages. For a moment all was silent, but the book knew exactly what was being read. After all, the words were its words.

     Then there was a click, and it could hear the furious scribbling of pen on paper. Another page was turned, and more scribbling followed. The book could sense eyes scanning its pages, and it felt good. It had been so many years since anyone other than Luri had come looking for information. The presence of a new mind, curious and strong, reminded it of the old days. And somehow the book felt happier, as though sharing its sadness made the burden easier to take.

     Eventually, though, the sound of pen on paper faded. The book was gently closed, its pages coming together with barely a sound. The shadow Eyrie glanced back over its shoulder, bright eyes wide with anxiety, before slowly edging back towards the door.

     Stop, the book silently pleaded. It couldn’t stand the thought of, once more, being alone for months. But the Eyrie was far from psychic, and only glanced back once.

     “Thank you,” he said solemnly.

     The book’s vision blurred, the dark shape of the Eyrie losing all distinction. As the door closed, throwing the room into darkness once again, a thin trail of tears began to course down its cover.

     It was alone. And as it lay there in the darkness, surrounded by emptiness, the full weight of its knowledge descended like a shroud.

     Once again, it cried. It cried because now there was no-one around to share its words with. And it cried because it could, and had, for many long years. It will, they say, for many more.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

     Around Neopia, people stood in silence and gazed into the starry skies. They were bound by a single tale: one of love and loss, which each and every Neopian could relate to. No-one knew how the story had started, or even if it was real. No-one except for a slim shadow Eyrie.

     He stood among them, high in the mountains of Shenkuu, the only one without a red habit. In his paws he held a notebook, filled with everything that he had ever learned. No-one watched as he made his way to the cliff edge, pausing for a moment to gaze into the howling darkness below. Then he raised his paw and let the notebook fall, watching it tumble without hesitation into oblivion.

     As it disappeared from sight, the Eyrie turned away. He was gone within moments.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

     The book of sadness sat on its shelf, weeping in silence.

     Another story, of a shadow Eyrie whose life’s work had proved too horrible to bear. It had given up, completely, as the book had. Let itself drift away on a tide of sadness, to be for the rest of its existence a soulless and haunted creature.

     The book folded over, remembering how the Eyrie had been when it had seen him, and how it had wished to be like him. Now what was he? Only slightly better off than the book. He would probably never even fly again.

     With a soft creak, the door opened. The book glanced up to see Luri the Learned slink in, a pencil behind his ear.

     One word formed in the book’s mind, and it was almost strong enough to hear.

     Don’t

The End

 
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