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Showcasing creative writing by university students around the world.

Published Sunday, September 2nd, 2012

Words by

The Pursuit of Perfection

I was taken to the top level of the library; there I looked over the rail into the vast column of open space in the centre. Hanging there was a great glass orb, as wide as any normal building – but it was entirely surrounded by the library encircling it, rings of galleries stretching above and below, shelves as far as the eye could see.

I was taken to the top level of the library; there I looked over the rail into the vast column of open space in the centre. Hanging there was a great glass orb, as wide as any normal building – but it was entirely surrounded by the library encircling it, rings of galleries stretching above and below, shelves as far as the eye could see.

 

In the orb water tricked and rushed, pouring down the sides and slowly filling it, although the immense size of the thing meant it was only half full despite the constant addition. The golden light that illuminated the room flickered and rippled as it passed through the sphere, sending distorted flashes of colour and shade to play across the rows of books and the people who worked between them.

 

“Is it not amazing?” asked the abbot, who had arrived by my side to view the structure himself. He spoke in hushed tones, as while the movement of the water was a constant whisper in the background, all else was silence. He swept a hand to encompass the cathedral-like space. “This is the heart of our work, the centre of our great task.

 

“Look-” and he pointed, indicating the robed monks who were reading soundlessly around us, turning pages with deliberate care. It was then that I noticed a curious thing. Occasionally one of the hooded figures would rise from their work, invariably leaving the book open on the table, and shuffle out. They would quickly return – but now with a simple clay bowl in hand, full to the brim with water. They carried them carefully, and not a drop was spilt onto the carpeted floor. The monk would bear this bowl to the edge of their gallery, where they would pour the contents into open pipes, part of a mechanism waiting to receive it and bear it away into the wide open space beyond. The gurgling liquid flowed eventually to the orb in the centre, where it streamed to join the larger mass. I became aware that the great waterfalls pouring down the inside of the globe were completely formed in this manner, as hundreds of the monks added their contribution one after the other.

 

“-Every bowl symbolises a new idea, a new addition to the collective knowledge of our order,” the abbot continued proudly. “The aim of every monk is to share the fruits of his labour through the accumulated truths we discover. When every book has been read, every bit of information absorbed, the orb will be full and our task complete. We will know everything and so will all humankind.” His eyes shone with this vision of perfection.

 

I looked down as he spoke, and noticed something. At the base of the vast sphere there was a crack, hair-fine but large and long enough to be visible from this distance. From it water spilled, droplets falling in a constant stream, lost into the abyss in which the whole library was suspended. They fell past gallery after gallery, filled with studious monks, and into oblivion.

 

I did not mention it. I assumed they knew.

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