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Silence is Golden
Every day, once a week, Golden Larson went to the library for silence. She didn’t make an impression on all the other people there, or at least, not much of one, for she seemed pretty much average in every aspect of her appearance. She was short and stout, with dirt colored hair that hung on her head in wispy strands. She had only one plain teal shirt and one purple one which she wore every day with gray pants. On the day where she was not wearing one particular shirt she’d wash it with the same lavender soap bottle she had been using for the last ten years. She was six when she started washing her own clothes. She never thought of it as that much of a chore, because there were not too many clothes in her house to wash anyway.
Golden tried to avoid talking to the other people in the library as much as she possibly could. It wasn’t difficult, for there weren’t that many people there anyways. It was a public library in a small little city that desperately needed funds, and it was decrepit, so people didn’t much care to go and sit inside when they could sit at home and watch television. Also, the people of the city, though it remained small, didn’t much care for their community or know one another well, and so they were perfectly content to let this poor, dirty girl sit alone in the library without a second thought about her health. And Golden was hungry, but she was hungry and content with the silence of the library, away from her house, away from the shouting voices and the moldy walls lined with duct tape, and most of all, away from her sister, who was so ill that they took her out of the hospital and sent her home, not knowing how they were dooming a family who barely had space for its 11 kids with a twelfth.
However, every day, Golden somehow found a way to leave her hectic house for the silence of the library. She would run her fingers along the books in Fiction, letting the bumps in the musty, broken spines massage the tips of her fingers. She’d inhale the dusty smells of decaying books, and she’d feel a buzz within her every time she slid a new book off the shelf and opened to the page where names were logged. She’d scan her eyes down the list of names,there were usually more than fifty, and come to the end, where there was a blank slot. She’d take her fine black ballpoint pen and fill her name in steadily, until every book that she touched had Golden Larson written in neat black letters. She liked the feeling very much, because it made her feel like there was some way she could be remembered, when there was so much about her that she felt was forgettable.
The library itself had tall pale walls with remnants of yellow paint dotting them every once in a while in a corner or on the ceiling. Golden felt that these bits of paint were the library’s soul. Somehow, she knew, as long as there was some paint left, the library would find a way to hold on.
One day, as Golden passed through the library’s dilapidated old wooden doors that still stood, handsome and stately as ever through all of the years, she found herself wandering past the normal sections inside, past the spines and the musty brilliance, to the L section. The farther back into the library Golden went, the harder to breathe it became. Cobb-webs lined the areas between the bookcases, and the old place looked sadder and sadder the longer she trudged through the dusty halls. Finally, she came to what she was searching for.
“Larson.” She muttered. Golden mustered a smile. She pulled the only book listed as Larson from the library’s shelves. The book’s title almost made her drop it onto the ground. It was called Silence is Golden, and its author shared her name, Golden Larson. She slunk down onto the ground and hugged the book tightly to her chest. Golden Larson. This book was written by someone who shared her own name. She continued to let her thoughts spin in her mind. She opened the book, and was surprised to find on the first page, a note from the author in elegant ink. To all those others that respect and love the silence in life, read on. I was the very first Golden, and I know that the second will one day come to be, perhaps in 100 years from now, perhaps in a thousand years from now. I couldn’t know and I don’t care. But I was born in 1900 and it is time for me to die. To all those who read this book, know that I have never spoken a word. To the world’s next Golden, feel that I have never spoken, and while the next Golden may have spoken herself, I know that she has not yet said what she wanted to say or I would have felt that too. The next Golden, upon reading this book, will have to be the voice for the both of us. So my dear Golden, read on.
Golden opened the first page. She felt dizzy. She did not know what the author meant by the next Golden, but she did know that it was 2000, exactly 100 years from when the last Golden had been born. She wondered if the author might have been referring to her, but she quickly dismissed the idea. She did not feel the silence of the first Golden inside of her; she only felt the silence that the world had forced upon her shoulders. She no longer knew who she was. She opened the first page.
The pages were fragile, like butterfly wings. The book was 100 years old. Golden was frightened that she would destroy it at her first touch, but to her surprise, it held strong. The first story was titled When I Grow Younger Again. She turned to flip to the next story. To her surprise, all the rest of the pages were blank. She turned back to the first page again. In delicate writing, neatly written in black ink, there was a poem.
When I grow younger in just a few years
Yes, in a few years is when it will be
Will I be cast in society’s streets
Or will they see the child in me?
Will my children remember the times
When I wiped away their sweat and tears
Mended their cuts when they were hurt
Held their hands for all those years
When I grow younger in just a few years
Yes, in a few years is when it will be
Will they see a useless old woman
Or can they see the child in me?
Golden heard the words spoken softly and quietly in her mother’s voice the entire time she read the poem. She had never known her mother to write, and she had certainly never seen her mother in the public library. She shoved the book back onto the shelf, tears in her eyes, and ran from the library all the way home. Golden found her mother there, sobbing and crying. She knew right away what had happened. The book had been trying to send her a message. Go home now.
“Mom, what’s wrong?” Golden shook on her feet as she tried to contain herself.
“Rebecca is dead.” Her mother’s voice fell flat. “Gone. You should be happy. Now you get your own bedroom.”
Golden stumbled into the living room, too shocked to speak. There were a few doctors in the house, crying and hugging each other. There were also police who had come to take the body away.
“Gone.” Golden couldn’t stand the thought.
Golden knew that she should stay and hold the hands of her ten hysteric siblings. She knew that, and yet she ran from the house, past all of the other old houses, even though she was ripping and tearing her clothing, her only teal shirt, she ran back to the library.
She violently pulled the book from the shelf and angrily opened the pages. But all the pages said the same thing, no matter how relentlessly she scoured them. Gone. Gone. Gone. Gone. Gone. Gone. She flipped through all of the pages. They were all only a reminder of the fact that her sister was gone. She began to tear at the pages, ripping and shredding the butterfly wings to beautiful little pieces that fluttered to the ground. No no no. This was not what she wanted. She did not want everything to be gone. She gave up tearing the book to shreds and just lay in a sobbing heap on the ground, hot with anger and fear and resentment for everything and everyone. Gone. She would never forget her sister. Gone. She hated the way that life could be so unfair.
As the minutes turned into hours the night got darker and the librarian went strolling down the dusty old halls of the library telling everyone to clear out. Golden could hear the clicking of her small black heals on the linoleum floor. She tried to quickly clean the pieces of the torn up book, but she realized that it was no use. She was in for it. She stood up acutely when the librarian reached her. The librarian’s eyes grew wide.
“Please don’t get mad. That book was bewitched. It was taunting me. It was going to get me. My sister is dead. My mother is depressed. My life is in shambles and I am only sixteen years old. I am also utterly forgettable.”
When Golden finished, she was panting heavily. The librarian stood. She looked ancient.
“Quiet now,” she said slowly, “Silence is Golden.” She smiled.
The librarian’s voice crackled from disuse. She leaned heavily on her wooden cane, and her whole body shook with the effort that it took to speak to Golden the few words that she had.
“What troubles you child?” She asked.
Golden just stared at her. This librarian was the most magical person that she had ever seen. She was gorgeous, the way that her long gray hair swayed with her every movement, and the way she left the ends a platinum blonde. Her features rippled and swayed, and she was so wrinkled that Golden was amazed she could see. Golden felt nothing but reverence. She had never seen someone who was able to live for so long.
“Well stop stammering and staring child. I’m sure I am an awful sight.”
“Well, stop your staring then.”
Golden tried desperately to peel her eyes away from the woman, but she could not.
“It’s alright if you want to look some more. I’m blind, I wouldn’t know anyway.”
Golden reached out to touch her skin. She had never seen a blind, ancient librarian before. Here was someone almost as helpless as she.
“How do you find all the books, if you’re blind.” Golden stammered.
“I grew up in this library, back when it was beautiful and grandiose and the people of this town loved it. It was the most popular place in town at one point, the center of all the action, as the kids today would call it. Even then I was a phantom of the library, coming out at night to shoo people out, then reclining behind the books to brave the night. I never knew where I came from. I tend to think that my parents just dropped me off here. I never had a complaint. I love this grand old place.”
The librarian sighed and leaned against the door, her ancient muscles seizing.
“Are you the Golden from the book?” She blurted out. “Sorry, I have just been wondering and I, well, are you?”
“It would seem that way.” She grinned.
“It’s a good thing you’re blind. You might not be pleased. I ruined the book. It is in shreds.”
“Would you bring it to me?” She asked.
Without another thought, Golden ran to collect the bits and pieces of the book that was left. She gathered as much of it as she could in her arms and sprinted back to the librarian, who was fumbling with the lock of the dusty door when she got back.
“Want some help with that?” Golden inquired.
The door popped open and the librarian silently went inside, her shoes clicking on the ground and then going quiet when they hit the carpet. Golden followed nonchalantly, and to her surprise, the door slammed shut behind her as soon as she went inside. The room felt eerie, as it was completely dark and humid. Golden felt like she was being transported back thousands of years in the past. The walls felt velvety to her touch, and the rooms smelt of roses, pure and simple and sweet. The rooms. The librarian lit a candle, revealing a network of tunnels that took Golden’s breath away. Books that looked hundreds of years old curved and twisted around the intricate labyrinth of passages. The walls looked like they were coated in a pure gold leaf, just stunningly beautiful.
“This has been a secret of mine for many years,” the librarian started as she lit many candles around the cases and cases of books that lined the walls, “and now it’s a secret of ours.”
“Why me?” Golden asked suddenly, still carrying the pieces of the old book.
“Because,” she said, knocking the pieces of the book out of Golden’s hands, “you are the next Golden.”
A gust of wind then blew Golden’s wispy hair all around her head. She looked around to see where the gust was coming from until she realized it was directed from the librarian herself. The librarian was holding up her hands in an acute v, and the pieces of the book were flailing about in the air. Soon, as they gained speed, they were rotating in a tornado like formation, which rapidly smashed and flattened on the ground without even a moments notice. It was all part of the most stunning show that Golden had ever witnessed. She allowed herself a peek at the librarian’s finished product, and was shocked to see a beautiful book, bound by a new coat of leather. The librarian handed it to her, and hugged her close.
“Go home to your family.” She whispered.
Golden stumbled down the street with a deep dread in the pit of her stomach. She held the big leather book next to her chest, breathing heavily. As she stumbled up the drive to her house, her mother stood waiting for her at the edge of her driveway. Tears still filled her mother’s eyes.
“Mom, I’m sorry.” She said.
Her mom said nothing in response, yet just handed her a Golden key.