The voice said again, “Keep the door open!”
We backed up into the door and leaned on it to keep it from closing and looked around. There were stacks of books placed haphazardly around the room. There were towers and towers of them and they were all rather precariously stacked, as if they'd come toppling down any minute.
Johanna Juditha clucked her tongue. "Such disarray," she said, "and in no order whatsoever. What sort of library is this?"
At the top of one of the piles, I spotted the book I'd been reading yesterday. "It might really be my library," I said, "All mixed up."
Johanna Juditha gasped.
I heard a voice say, "Leandra?" and a pair of eyes in a hood peeked around a pile of books.
"Yes!" I said, "It's me."
And the pair of eyes came out from behind the tower and turned out to belong to Jelissa, who ran out and hugged me.
“Leandra! You’re here! I didn’t see you all day and then we didn’t see you at the library and then something happened and we ended up locked in this crazy room. I’m so glad to see you. What happened to you yesterday?”
“Uh…” I said, “I just – “
Then from behind the other stacks came Demetrius, Becky and Svetlana.
“Oh. You’re here too.” I said. I was not exactly happy to see them all.
Demetrius came over and patted me on the arm and said, “Thanks for finding us, Lee. We thought we’d never get out of here.”
“Yeah,” said Svetlana, as she smoothed the hair over her forehead “it has been torture. I have been so bored, I actually started to read a book.”
Becky glared at me. “Did you do this? “
“What?” I said. “Me? No!”
“Well,” said Becky, “ you do know the library better than anyone. Who else could have locked us up with all these stupid books? It’s either you or your dopey dad.”
Demetrius put a hand on Becky’s shoulder and said, “Come on. You know she couldn’t have done that. We were in the Children’s Room and then suddenly we were here. It was just a bright flash of light and poof. Also, the librarians were in here with us, at first. You saw them, Becky.”
“Maybe I did,” said Becky.
“And you must have heard them talking before they left, too.” He said.
“I don’t pay attention to what people say,” said Becky.
“Yeah,” said Svetlana, “You were too busy throwing books around, making a ruckus.”
“You’re one to talk, Svetlana,” said Becky. “All you’ve been doing all day is whine about this place not having any mirrors.”
“Children,” said Johanna Juditha,”what happened to the librarians that were with you?”
“Who are you?” asked Becky.
“This is Johanna Juditha, the Music Librarian,” I said. “But really, where are our librarians? Where are Ms. Derrida and Mr. Rodriguez? And was my dad with them?”
Jelissa, who had been quietly finding a book to stick into the door so it would stay propped open, said “You dad wasn’t with us. And the librarians kept looking through all of the books in here for something. I don’t know what. But a man in a rumpled suit came and opened the door and then pulled them out and then locked that door behind them."
"Which is why we're very glad that you didn't let that door close," said Demetrius.
“So,” I said, “We’ve found the books but not the librarians.“
“And not the Wandering Librarians or their Libraries, either,” said Johanna Juditha softly.
“Right,” I said, “We keep looking, I guess. Everybody take an armful of books and we’ll start getting them out of here.”
“Who died and made you boss?” asked Becky.
“I don’t know,” I said “but I need to save these books. I traveled so far to find them.”
“Traveled so far?” asked Demetrius. “Aren’t we just in the basement of the library?”
“Uh…no,” I said. “We’re, um, somewhere in Omphalos.”
“Is that downtown?” asked Jelissa.
“I don’t think so,” I said. “It’s quite a bit further.”
As I got a closer look at the books piled up, I recognized that these had all been in the storeroom downstairs – the books that needed repair or that were being sent on to the book sale. I picked up the one that I’d been reading the day before and cradled it in my arm.
“And what’s a wandering librarian?” asked Jelissa
“We’ll explain later. Come on,” said Johanna Juditha. “We’ll show you the ballroom.”
“Ballroom?” said the other kids, one right after another.
Johanna Juditha led them back through the hallway and into the ballroom. Their mouths fell open as soon as they saw the place.
“It’s huge!” said Demetrius.
“It’s crazy,” said Becky.
“I would go to a dance in here,” said Svetlana.
Jelissa was already running around the room, looking at everything.
I looked down and I suddenly noticed that there were titles on the rectangles in the floor, the ones that looked like books. There were all different titles. It looked like the floor was paved with actual books. Not only that but these were books I recognized. These were books I’ve read. And then I noticed a funny splotch on Interesting Facts About Porcupines. It caught my eye because I had once read Interesting Facts about Porcupines while eating a beet sandwich and I got some beet juice on it and I hadn’t been able to clear it off. The little splotch on the floor was in exactly the same spot – just above the little blue bird that my library used to identify its collection. It was the same book. I looked at all the other books nearby and they all had little blue birds. These were my library’s books, too.
I ran around the floor, looking for bluebirds. This whole corner of the ballroom floor was made out of my library books. The books in the room where we'd found the kids seemed to only have the books that had been in the storeroom. Everything else was here. In the floor.
Nearby, I noticed that all the books had little horses on them and another corner had little daisies.
The Music Librarian came over and nodded sadly when I explained and said, “I feared as much. It looks as though they’ve built this ballroom out of your books and books of many other libraries.”
She looked mournfully at the arch we’d walked through. “I feel the loss of that book especially. It was the only copy of that score in existence. Now it’s a brick in a door.”
“It’s all very sad,” said Svetlana, who, truthfully did not come to our library for the books. “But what is the way out?”