Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Burning Passion

48 BC, Alexandria, Egypt

He walked the spacious halls of the library, admiring the vaulting dome ceiling, the magnificent stone pillars, the beautiful paintings adorning every surface. He revelled in the open air of the structure, and smelled the gentle aroma of words mixed with salt water and smoke from a distant oven's fire. But most of all he marvelled at the books.

Oh the books! The scrolls! The parchment and papyrus! The letters and words! The sentences and stories!

The Library at Alexandria. The greatest library in the world.

He strolled the halls, his robe flowing effortlessly behind him as he glided across the marble floors, going from shelf to shelf, delicately unravelling history as he went. He poured through epics and biographies, poems and philosophies, records and mythologies. His eyes were the gaping maw through which his ravenous mind devoured the knowledge of entire civilizations. Nothing could ever disturb him. He was serene in that place of solitude and learning.

He heard screaming in the distance and the shattering sounds of colliding metals echoed through the streets of the city from the harbor.

But he would not be swayed from his quest. He had a thirst for words that could not be conquered and he was on a journey of discovery from which nothing could distract him.

With utter reverence and meticulous care, he tore through the pages, always finding what he was looking for, but never knowing what he needed. His fingers memorized each beautiful imperfection in the rough papyrus. His eyes adored each unintended blotch of ink that accidentally dotted the surfaces. He savored the scents that swirled from the scrolls upon each unrolling and took in the now stronger smell of smoke.

The metallic clanging got louder, the smoky aroma danced closer and the orange glow of the flames began to peak around the and over the silhouettes of neighboring buildings.

Alexandria burned at the hands of Caesar.

He stood and watched as hell approached, an agonizing, meandering juggernaut of sheer hopelessness. He saw as the first sparks leaped into the library. He cried out as the first scrolls turned to ash. Tears rolled down his cheeks in torrents of grief as hundreds of thousands of rolls of papyrus crackled and burned into knowledgeless cinders.

He fell to his knees, holding his face in his hands, trying to cry enough tears to douse the merciless flames surrounding him. In each popping of a spark, he could hear the dying screams of Euripides and Sophocles. In each sizzling ember, the agonized pleas of Homer and Ptolemy.

The library burned, and he burned with it.

No comments:

Post a Comment