The idle sound of children was little contained by the constraints of the room–a small library set in a quiet rural neighborhood. Even if a parent or guardian would shush the shouting youth, they would grow in volume once more. There was only so much one could do to curb the ever flowing tide of energy that they seemed to share. The room was, if nothing else, snug. Colorful tapestries sprawled along the walls where there were no shelves, of which even those seemed to reach to the ceiling in place of their more interesting counterparts. Books seemed to pour out in every which way, scattered along the floor until some hapless soul righted them yet again.
Around one particular shelf, a little pout sounded as paws fell to the floor. A young cougar, no older than 6 or 7 and perhaps three feet tall, hopped to little avail. Her arms stretched far, only offering a few inches of extra reach as her hands grasped for the treasure laid before her. A rather enormous book embossed with bronze sparkled in the light before her, calling her curiosity.
After a few more failed attempts, a rather damaged pride, and clenched fists, the cougar huffed once more and stomped away. As much as she was loath to admit to herself, her paws led her to a large wooden desk at the front of the room. Her eyes came just above the top to see the young man seated only a few feet away. The vulpine seemed preoccupied as a series of book covers and titles flashed by. It was some manner of clerical work the young feline had little interest in.
A soft “Ahem” tore the fox away from his work. The chair turned as a pair of verdant eyes peered across the space in front of the young man. It was a few seconds before his eyes caught a flash of movement, a long orange tail that flicked back and forth accompanied by glittering amber. His expression softened as he leaned forward, peering down at the small cat before him.
“Did you need help getting a book?” The words were soft, not quite what the feline expected. Still, the cougar nodded, pointing in the direction she had come. There was a creak from the chair as the fox rose, giving himself a superficial dusting as he righted the buttoned shirt he wore. Circling around the desk, he took the child’s hand and permitted her to lead him to the shelf. As they came to, he blinked a few times before smiling to himself.
“Ah, this book? Quite the eye you have, little miss.” He allowed himself a soft chuckle as the feline watched him pull the book from its place. Her hands already extended out to grasp the book, but the man did not give it to her. He beckoned for her to follow as he walked away to one of the many miniature tables scattered about the room. “Come, let me share a little story.”
The young cougar followed in a slight confusion. She wasn’t quite used to people offering to read to her. With a much calmer gait, she brought herself to the table, sitting across from the fox as he opened the book, flipping past the first few pages. Once sufficiently settled, she gazed up at the young man, eyes glistening with a never ending curiosity.
“Now then…” he began, closing his eyes as he placed a hand on the page. “Close your eyes, and imagine…”
Without hesitation, the girl shut her eyes, ears swiveling to catch every word the man spoke.
The words seemed to flood into her mind, painting sparks of imagery in her imagination as the fox spoke. Piece by piece, it came together. She could feel the wind whispering through her fur, hair caught in the wind like loose copper wire. She could see herself, grasping the rigging of a ship that strode through the skies–sails catching the wind in full force. She could feel the rhythmic heartbeat of the clockwork mechanisms around her churning, stirring her own heart into excited motion as she tightened her grip on the rope. With a firm push, she found herself soaring out into the sky, her tether swinging her about the bow of the ship to see all around. She let herself be free in those few moments, as if taken by flight in the same way her spirit seemed to soar.
The fox’s words continued to swim about in her head, broad strokes casting image after image for the feline. All above her was an endless sky, deep as the ocean, that sprawled across her vision in vivid blues. Clouds peppered their canvas to offer a brief reprieve from its vibrant hues as the sun had cast its rays of light through their shroud. Her eyes scanned across the horizon, lining every direction in lush meadows that nestled themselves within snow-capped mountains. It was a magnificent image filled to the brim with all the life that she desired–all the unexplored parts of the world that she wished for.
A loud thud announced her landing as she loosed the rope from her grip, the cougar standing tall and proud at the dock of the ship as it continued to sail. She felt alive, as if a new breath of life had filled her lungs and very being all at once. Every part felt familiar and comfortable, like a dream she had time and time again.
She closed her eyes once more, taking a deep breath as she came back to the chair–rigid and real as she had remembered. Once again, she was but a small girl, no older than 6 or 7, and perhaps three feet tall. She was still in her ill-fit overalls, a strap hanging from the shoulder while the shirt underneath had bunched at the seams.
She opened her eyes, the words still dancing in her imagination as she looked across from her seat at the table–and yet there was no source for the words. All that seemed to remain was the book in her paws. She only made a cursory glance about the room for the librarian, though he was nowhere to be seen.
As her eyes came down to examine the book once more, the cover caught her attention. There, in the same bronze filigree as the rest of the book, was her name, “Holley”.
With a childish amazement, she hopped to her feet, forgetting the librarian in her excitement. With the book hugged tight to her chest, mind full of wonder, Holley skittered off on her adventure–sought in pen and ink, enraptured in her own clockwork thoughts.