Quest for Knowledge

“Damn, it’s bigger than I thought,” Jane said with a sigh. She surveyed the spacious library around them, then nodded at her five friends. “Split up,” she said, then pointed at a fair-skinned blond girl. “I’ll go ask and take Sharon with me to help her learn.” Her friends nodded and each wandered off in a separate direction except for Sharon. Jane noticed a sign from the ceiling that pointed the way to the help desk. She turned right and paced down the main walkway lined with study tables. Sharon was quick to catch up.

“Where’s your back half?” Sharon asked about Jane’s missing centaur half.

“It never occurred to me that someone might notice it,” Jane shrugged. “I changed my display settings so that it’s only visible on official servers.” She turned left under another yellow wooden arrow. Sharon followed and saw the information desk up ahead after the turn. “Did you pick a character yet?” Jane asked.

“Not yet,” Sharon shook her head. “There are way too many choices.” She replied as they reached the information desk. A low, metal desk with a computer on top and a surprisingly frazzled librarian seated behind it. The man’s eyes kept flitting to something under the counter as the girls approached.

“Can I help you?” he smiled at them and sat up straighter.

“Hi,” Jane returned his smile. “We’re looking for a book.”

“Well you came to the right place,” he chuckled and pulled the keyboard closer to him. “What’s the title?”

“Actually I don’t think it has one,” Jane said and reached into her pocket. The librarian’s eyes darted under the desk when Jane said the book had no name. She pulled a transparent glass card out of her pocket and held it out to him. “I have a picture though.”  The librarian looked at it and his eyes went wide. He was initially impressed with the technology. The girl showed him a phone like he’d never seen before. It was as thin and small as a playing card and completely transparent, except for the bright colorful image. The librarian was about to ask Jane about her phone when he recognized the book in the picture.

It was the same black leather book that had been plaguing him since he started working at the library six years ago. The same golden lion embossed on the cover that had mocked him every morning like his own private, miserable sunrise. Each day, no matter what, he found the book waiting for him under his desk. But he’d never had anyone ask for it. The librarian had a million questions about the book and why the girls were interested in it, but he knew better than to chase a rabbit down a hole. He would willingly leave all his questions unanswered to be rid of the book.

“YES!” he nodded quickly and reached under the desk. The mysterious book wasn’t there moments ago, he dumped it into the shredder that morning. It became his own way to celebrate Friday.  He’d been waiting for it to reappear when the girls approached. But he knew it would be there when he needed it. “Here you go!” he hopped up off his chair and nearly threw the dark book at the table. He managed to restrain himself at the last second and placed it down gently.

“Thank you! We’ll bring it right back!” Sharon said.

“No, you don’t have to!” the librarian protested with waving hands.

“Thanks again,” Jane said and grabbed the book. She turned and led Sharon away from the desk.

“We don’t have to bring it back,” she said. “We didn’t use a library card to check it out.”

“Oh no,” Sharon stopped. “Do we need to go back?” Jane stopped walking at a wide intersection surrounded by empty tables and shook her head. Sharon noticed the rest of the group walking towards where Jane stopped.

“There’ll be a duplicate back under his desk tomorrow.” She lifted her node and the book to Sharon’s eye level in time to see the girl give her a confused look.

“How? Why?” She asked. Jane smiled and tapped the glassy node to the book. The book dissolved into white powder and disappeared. Jane smiled as she pocketed the node again; a green-skinned boy opened a black portal behind her.

“It’s a quest item. It has to respawn for other players too,” she said then walked into the black portal.