Ludo Schildermans

Cheating the Cyclops

by Ludo Schildermans

They finally came. Kathy and I watched them as they stepped out of their armoured black vehicles. They were all dressed in the same dark uniform, all twelve of them. We knew somehow it would happen one day. You try to believe these people will not bother about your little town.

Until they arrive.

Their leader wore a black patch. His orders were cold and simple: burning of the books should take place in less than 24 hours.

‘All of them?’ Kathy had the courage to ask. She is my assistant. That ready tongue of hers will get her into trouble one day.

There were rumours of protest, of people demonstrating. Some librarians even put up a fight. A few days later we heard of their gruesome fate. A pyre of books is no place to die. Kathy tried to organise some kind of protest meeting in our small town. She knew people, she said. But I am too old to fight. I told her. The fate of the libraries is sealed. The days of books are numbered. Anyone can see that. I am old enough to remember that strange and horrible film. Somehow I believe that movie must have been the beginning of it all. I can still see that villain kill the librarian by literally ‘feeding’ the good old man to death with literature. Page after page. Can you believe it? That cruel man started with Tolstoy’s War and Peace. How many people nowadays can say they have read that masterpiece? Not even Kathy.

It was with pain in my heart that I entered the library. I tried to grasp the full meaning of this strange moment. I would never return here.

I started throwing books in the little trolley we use to put them back on the shelves. There is a beginning to everything. Kathy came in. She took hold of the sleeve of my jacket.

‘We should do something, goddamn it!’

‘I am doing something.’

‘No, I mean occupy this building. Barricade it.’

‘Be sensible, Kathy. We saw it coming. These last few years…’

‘People didn’t have any choice.’

‘Didn’t they really, Kathy?’

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