The Music Librarian was standing stock still with a look of horror on her face as the car’s engine turned off.
“What is it?” I asked her.
“That’s one of the Board Members” said Johanna Juditha “– either coming or going.”
Ammon patted her arm gently. “You have done nothing wrong. As far as they know, you are just on your way home from work with some friends.”
She looked at him gratefully and nodded.
“Why aren’t you scared?” she asked Ammon. “How is it that they don’t frighten you?”
Ammon patted the camel and said, “They have no power over me. I am a free agent. No building required.”
The front door of the Library of the Eye flew open and there was the woman who’d told Edna to send me home with Goodnight Moon when I’d first arrived in Akita. The Chair was storming out the doors, clicking on her heels, with a small man in a rumpled suit hurrying behind her. She looked up and spotted the camel and a look of distaste crossed her face. Her eyes passed over Ammon and then to Johanna Juditha, and she looked ready to start shouting, she looked so displeased. Then The Chair saw me and she suddenly looked astonished.
She waved the man in the rumpled suit toward the car and approached us quickly.
Ammon waved to her and called out “Silim!”
But The Chair ignored him and came right up to me. “What are you still doing here, child? Didn’t Edna find you your book?”
“I’m looking for more than one book,” I said.
“How many could you possibly need?” The Chair said, as she tapped her bright pink lips.
“I’m looking for my whole library.”
“Your whole library?” She asked.
“Yes, it vanished. I think it might be here.”
‘So you’ve enlisted some help, have you?” she said, looking at Ammon, the camel and the Music Librarian over her diamond studded glasses.
“Sort of,” I said.
She folded her arms. “A whole library full of books, you say?”
“Yes.” I said. “Every last book.”
“I think I know where they are.” Said The Chair. “Your books. Someone dumped a whole mess of them onto my ballroom floor. I’ll take you there.”
I looked at Ammon and Johanna Juditha, who were both standing very still with no expressions on their faces whatsoever. It was very strange. I’d never seen such a lack of expression. I never realized how faces are constantly expressing things until I saw theirs suddenly not expressing. I looked back to The Chair who was smiling warmly at me.
“Bring your friends along,” said the Chair, “That creature won’t fit in the car, though. So you’ll need to leave him.” “Impossible,” said Ammon firmly, “I never leave my library.”
“Well,” she said , “your pet can walk or run or gallop or whatever it does while the people ride in the car.”
The Chair then stared at the Music Librarian. "You will, of course, accompany us to the ballroom, will you not?”
Johanna Juditha looked down at her feet, then back up again. “Of course.” She said with as much casualness as she could muster. Even I could tell that she was a little bit scared.
“Let’s go then,” said the Chair. “All people in the car. All animals out.”
Ammon shook his head and said, “I will be walking with the Library.”
“Have it how you like it,” she shrugged and gestured for her driver to open the car door again. She got in and then called for Johanna Juditha and I to join her in the backseat, which we did. The man in the rumpled suit got in the passenger seat next to the driver. Once we were in and the doors were closed, she rolled the window down and called out to Ammon. “You’ll just follow us, will you?”
She rolled the window back up and told her driver to go on to the ballroom. He nodded and the car pulled out of the driveway. The windows were such that it was almost impossible to see out of them. I sat between The Chair and the Music Librarian, who I could feel trembling a little next to me as she gazed out the translucent window.
We rode left and right and straight and in some sort of roundabout and at one point it felt as though the car shuddered and we rolled to a stop. The man in the rumpled suit got out and came around to open the door for The Chair, who took his offered hand and gracefully found her way to standing. The Music Librarian and I crawled over the seats and scrambled to our feet.
I expected to get out in front a big building but we’d somehow parked inside one. We were in the ballroom, not in front of it. The car was parked right in the middle. There was giant chandelier hanging over us and several smaller ones scattered across the room. The lights and jewels hanging down from them hung in a variety of asymmetrical shapes. The large one at the center was perfectly balanced, a series of concentric circles so circular, you’d draw other circles by it.
The floor was made of several different colors of wood, making a rectangular pattern. After looking around, I realized that the floor looked like a giant bookshelf, all the little bits of wood laid out to appear like the spines of books. There were doors on either side with archways lined with the same wooden book pattern. It was beautiful. And vast.
The Chair clapped her hands and said, “I can tell you’re impressed. I’m so glad. This ballroom is my pride and joy. I’ve only just finished getting the last bits of the floor in.” I asked her, “What kind of dances do you have here?”
“Dances? Oh no. No no. Dancers would ruin the floor.”
I suddenly realized that there was no Ammon or camel in sight.
“Where’s Ammon?” I asked.
“Who?” said The Chair.
“The Wandering Librarian and the camel,” said Johanna Juditha quietly.
“Oh. The Wandering Librarian. Yes, Of course. Yes. Don’t worry. I’m sure they’ll catch us up shortly.” “How will they get in?” I asked. “And how did we get in?”
“Aren’t you a little worrier? Don’t worry, little oyster. We’ll satisfy all curiosities soon enough.”
She held out her hand to shush me.
“Quiet. ” She said, “Now, I like you. Or at least I did. But you are starting to become troublesome.” I was about to object but then I felt Johanna Juditha’s hand on my arm and I closed my mouth.
The Chair resumed her tour of the ballroom. She described the crystal in the chandeliers, the varnish on the floors, the light bulbs, everything. We followed her around dutifully but my heart wasn’t in it.
Finally, I couldn’t contain myself anymore and asked the Chair, “But where is my library? You said it was here.” “Did I?” she asked
“Oh, yes,” she said, waving her hand, “that big stack of untidy books. They’re around here somewhere.”
“But where?” I asked.
“That way,” she said, and waved her hand toward a large door at the end of the room. “Go and find them if you like.”
I thanked her and we made our way to the door The Chair had indicated. As we passed below the arches, the Music Librarian looked up and paused for a moment, with her eyes fixed on something. Then she hurried us through.
I looked back at The Chair who was pacing the length of the ballroom with fervor. We passed through the archway into a dark room. We felt our way forward and as our eyes adjusted we noticed a frame of light ahead. “Must be a door there,” she said. And we made our way to it.
“What were you looking at just now?” I asked as we felt the walls.
“A book.” She said. “One that I lost.”
“The actual book? Up in the archway?
“I don’t know,“ said Johanna Juditha “I just don’t know.”
Suddenly behind us, we heard the sound of a car door and then an engine starting up.
“Is she leaving us here!?” gasped the Music Librarian and we ran quickly back to the door through which we’d come.
As we ran, we heard the engine revving and a squeal of the tires before it all got suddenly quiet. By the time we got back to the dance floor, the room was empty. The car was gone. And so was The Chair.
“But how did she get out?” I wondered. “And how will Ammon and the camel get in?”
“I don’t know, Leandra. I’ve never seen this ballroom before unfortunately. I think it’s brand new. Let’s just look for your library books and we’ll worry about Ammon and The Chair once we have your books back.”
We went back to the dark dark room toward the frame of light, feeling our way through until we finally made contact with the door. I found a handle and turned to pull it open. Inside, we found a brightly lit spacious room, which looked oddly familiar. We were about to come in when someone shouted. “Don’t shut the door! Whatever you do! Don’t let that door shut!”