Through the day I wondered about that vision. Was it a memory? Was life not always so empty? Or was it a vision of things to come? Or was it neither, a simple idea of what would be nice? I packed a stack of papers back into my filing cabinet, and left work early. I walked down to the library – opposite a furniture store which always had some obscure object at a discount – and started looking for a book. I wasn’t sure what book I was looking for, and I was fairly sure there wouldn’t be a useful one, but I thought I may as well look. A woman behind me said, “Do you need help with anything, sir?” I turned around. “Huh? Oh, no.” and immediately regretted it.
“That’s fine, sir. I’ll be at the front desk if you change your mind.” She smiled at me, and hurried over to another aisle where a child was making a fort out of books. I looked back at the shelf I was on, and spotted a small book tucked into the back of the row. I pulled it out and found all the text was written in a strange, runic script. Baffled, I made my way back to the front desk to see if a librarian could help.
The woman who had greeted me earlier leafed through the book, saying, “No, sorry, sir. I can’t read it, but it looks a bit like a derivative of a late Anglo-Saxon dialect, but these letters here and...” – she paused to point the letter out – “and here are from ancient Greek. And this word here, that’s Yiddish, of all things.” I watched, enthralled, as she went over the pages, pointing out patterns in the use of language, parts that were handwritten and parts that were printed, how the script varied when written by different people, and how the book was, on the whole, completely indecipherable. “Well, “ she sighed, straightening up, “I would love to be able to take this home and study it for myself, but you’re welcome to take it. This is a library, after all.”
I frowned, eager to study the book for myself, but I was useless at any language besides English, and my English was fairly bad at that. This woman had, presumably, spent her life studying languages and would have a far better chance than me at translating it. But despite this, I was unwilling to let it go. The sound of a collapsing book-fort disrupted my thought.
“Oh dear, “ laughed the woman. “I was hoping he’d fallen asleep!” She rushed off in the direction of the child and his pile of books. Her hair was long and brown, slightly wavy, and loose around her shoulders. I pulled my gaze back to the book, then two my watch. Four o’clock. There was time enough for me to return to work, photocopy the book and get back to the library before it closed. I paused, wondering what had given me such an odd idea. I dismissed the though, pocketed the book and left the library.