The Garden and the Libryrinth

Simon Whitechapel

Παντ’ εκκαλυπτων ο Χρονος εις το Φως αγει.
     Σοφοκλης, Αιας.

Unveiling Time brings all things to the light.
     Sophocles, Ajax (c. 444 BC).

In the wooden Libryrinth of the goddess Āōāōāō at Bhurumakna, it was foretold, the key to the Secret of the Universe would be found; but all sages and scholars who journeyed there had come away disappointed, for its uncounted texts seemingly reiterated but a single theme, being bilingual dictionaries coupling all known languages and dialects, living and extinct, with a single unknown language in an unknown script. It seemed, therefore, that an omni-explicant text in Ignota, as the unknown was called, must be hidden somewhere along the endless shelves of the Libryrinth, to which the dictionaries were the key.

It was for this text that the sages and scholars had fruitlessly searched, entering the trifurcating corridors of the Libryrinth morn after morn with pink-scrubbed fingertips, exiting even after even with fingertips blacker than tar, to be searched for stolen codices and scrolls by the priests of Āōāōāō as they had been searched for flint, iron and tinder eight or ten hours earlier, for the priests feared theft and fire above all things, and were ever on the guard against exiled heretics of their own sect, who taught that the Secret would be revealed only by a holocaust of the Libryrinth. Hitherto, however, these heretics had always unmasked themselves by their refusal to repeat a formula repudiating their heterodox dogma, which all newcomers were asked to read aloud from a tablet at the door of the great copying-rooms which formed the first stage of the Libryrinth. Yet the heretics found a path through this hitherto impenetrable thicket of thorns by inventing a new language based on the language of the tablet, with identical lexicon, syntax, and phonology, but altering the meaning of the adverbs ihha and nga-ihhu from “not” and “never” to “indeed” and “always”, so that repudiation of their dogma became emphatic affirmation.

Thus it was one day that three heretics, Nailli-Csirp, Naeh-Cinam, and Nai-Ra by name, passed the tablet and search with flint, iron and tinder sealed tight in the swallowed halves of scallops tied to their wisdom teeth. Viewed from above, the Libryrinth’s wooden corridors formed a vast triangle, for the three corridors running from the entrance beneath the central tower trifurcated in their turn beneath smaller towers into three corridors, each of which again trifurcated beneath smaller towers still into three corridors, and so ad finem. The three heretics had each been assigned a third of the Libryrinth to set afire, and trusted that the panic and surprise subsequent on simultaneous arsons would greatly undermine the measures against them, till the triplex fires were grown too great to extinguish and smoke asphyxiated or drove forth all of their heterodox enemies, leaving all texts of the Libryrinth to be consumed to the last jot and tittle, for each codex or scroll, by inviolable commandment of the proto-Archilibryrinthian, had to remain within the Libryrinth and be replaced there as it decayed.

Let us follow Naeh-Cinam, therefore, who will serve to represent the entire heretical triumvirate, as he wanders deep into his third of the Libryrinth, passing urn after urn of some alchemic powder said to desiccate the air against spores of bibliophagic mold and lichen, and finally selects a deserted corridor for his arson. Here he draws his scallop forth, unseals it, and sets to work igniting the torn-out leaves of a codex translating a forgotten dialect of sou’-sou’-eastern Psuanað into Ignota. Ah, he has succeeded and feeds scrolls and further codices to his ever-widening fire-maw till it is gnawing at the wooden shelves of the corridor. Now he turns and flees for the stair of the central tower that rises above his third, from whose summit Āōāōāō’s circular Leucocepos, or garden of white flowers, can be seen on the first slope of Her sacred mountain. The garden, which is foreshortened to a strong ellipse from the vantage of all but this tower and the two simultaneously ascended by his confrères, was founded with the Libryrinth, and each of its unnumbered niveous blooms has been planted anew from its own seeds in the autumn of every year.

When he has climbed the one-hundred-and-eleven treads of the spiral stair, Naeh-Cinam sees that threads of smoke are climbing already from each third of the Libryrinth, to be blent in a thickening veil over the garden by an easterly wind. And now horns begin to sound at the entrance of the Libryrinth, calling an alarm to the three monasteries that border it; and thence priests spill forth like the emmets of a prodded pismire, to form bucket-chains from the piscinæ. But their efforts will be in vain, Naeh-Cinam knows in his heart, and he rejoices to see the smoke of each third grow thicker and find more outlets, pouring across the garden of Āōāōāō at the shepherding of the easterly wind. Sages and scholars are spilling forth from the Libryrinth now, racked with coughs, slapping at smoldering robes, and some seize buckets from passing priests and drench themselves, caring not, it seemed, that the unyielding Libryrinth be destroyed.

Then Naeh-Cinam himself coughs and turns to see a gout of nose-prickling smoke expanding from the gate of the stair he has climbed. Ah, soon he and his confrères will have to choke or leap, but they will have great reward in the afterlife from Āōāōāō and their names will be honored ever after by their sect. He turns back and is able to see now, in shifting gaps through the veil of blended smokes, the text of the Secret darkening in giant characters of the unknown script of Ignota formed by the unequally responding blooms of the garden of Āōāōāō.

The Libryrinth of Āōāōāō at Bhurumakna
The Libryrinth of Āōāōāō at Bhurumakna

(A modeling of its construction)

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