The Singular Library – V. A. Sreeniketh

When the scholar Heset Ibeki came to the court of the Emperor of Persia claiming to have written a book which contained in it all things, the first reaction was of great skepticism. Amidst the regal splendor and tall ceilings of the chamber of the King-Before-Kings, the figure of the scholar seemed a small and meager thing, cowled in over-large cloak as he was. “Oh wise Shahanshah, most glorious scion of Old Persepolis, I come before you bearing a tome that will render obsolete all the sweet books of the world. For in it I have described the hue of a ruddy mountain flower blooming against the chill of an early spring, the feel of a dry wind blowing from the mountains of the Atlas, the stars above Alexandria and the rivers below your palace, the innumerable axioms of the geometers, and the plaintive cry of a daughter mourning her mother. By the spirit of the Great God who gives voice to my voice and strength to my hand I have written of these, and ten thousand other things, and in my doing I have fitted all the words of all the songs into the space between two slips of tanned hide.”

The Emperor, Scourge of the Barbarians and Presider over the Mounts and Seas, was impressed at these words. “You speak well, O Heset of the western mountains. But for what cause have you come to me? What great deed have I done you that you should seek my audience?”

The scholar bowed his head low, so deep it might have touched the ground. “It is said that you boast of a great library, so vast and deep that men tremble to behold it. It is said that the sums of its knowledge, whose annals you have supplemented generously, are so great that men who enter do not leave it, instead roaming for eternity amidst the labyrinth of its pages. My own brother was one such, who came to seek those hoarded wisdoms. I myself have felt the horror of libraries: of their interminable nature, the infinity of time that is necessary to plumb their depths. I dreamt of worlds where mankind will only have need of one book where all one needs of the world’s truths may be found. I seek to abolish the terror of libraries.”

Seeing the great passion burning in the scholar’s eyes, the Emperor listened carefully to his words and contemplated thusly. “Your vision is admirable, your cause worthy, but I do not see your book being capable of such a feat. The ocean of world-knowledge cannot be boiled into a droplet.”

At this the silken scholar only smiled. “Then read, and see what such oceans are worth.” And at this he produced the book from a satchel at his side, a large tome with a plain leather cover unadorned by illumination or embroidering. Heset began to thumb through its pages for all the court to see, and they saw that they were gossamer-thin, unending in volume as he flipped and flipped through its contents.

It is said that the emperor, upon entering his chambers with the tome in his arms, did not emerge for forty days and thirty-nine nights. When he emerged on the fortieth night he was a man changed. Not a word was spoken between the scholar and his emperor, but they understood each other as if brothers.

Nothing remains today of the great Library of Persepolis: it burned for three days unending, and from the bowels of the earth could be heard the screams of the scholars who refused to leave its stony guts. All around the empire, too, rose great conflagrations of obsolete knowledge burning in a hundred redundant fires. But when the scribes had taken to copy Heset Ibeki’s tome, their writings grew and grew until each chapter was its own library. And thus the corpse of Ibeki’s inbred volume became dismembered and dispersed, repopulating all the books of the world entire.