All Things In Good Time

© Joan Ann Lansberry

Library Life

All of the world had gone on without Michael. He paused to consider the worldly events outside of his life since he'd been born. So much turmoil, it was, as the American states fought to gain their independance from England. What had it mattered to their little farm? The tobacco business went on as always.

But that was his old life. It was now 1828, and he had to figure out what to do with his present life. As he wandered to the big city, he overheard some university students speaking of a friend. One said to the other, ''Thomas spends all his days and nights in the school library. He studies all the time, and never has time to party with us anymore!'' After politely waiting for the friend to acknowledge the lament about studious Thomas, Michael asked them where the university library was. They gave him clear enough instructions, and he headed off in the direction they gave.

He waited in the shadows until the library opened and slipped in unseen with some university students. It was no trouble to select a book and look studious. He found learning fascinating, and the days passed easily. He now read of what was going on elsewhere in his vast country through the newspapers the library carried. Beyond his eastern position, American territories advanced westward at a fast rate. He read with amazement of the vast 200,000 square miles acquired from Mexico for only $15,000,000. In 1853, five years later, perhaps in a fit of conscience, or to 'more firmly maintain the peace', the Gadsden Purchase acquired another 45,535 square miles, at the southern edge for $10,000,000. No matter, the deal was so unpopular in Mexico that Santa Anna, who had signed it, was unseated as dictator and banished.

This purchase would be later used to build the Southern Pacific Railroad. As the years went by, Michael would use the railroads, travelling by train and later by Grayhound bus to explore the various cities of his country. He always, however, used the libraries found in the cities as his base of operations. At first, he stayed with university libraries and then as public city libraries became more common, after 1850, he used them.

Sundays were difficult for him. The libraries were often closed on Sundays, and this required creativity to find shelter from the sun on those days. Later, when the invention of cinema became popular, he also spent some of his days watching movies. Once color movies were the norm, it was fascinating to again see things as humans saw them. He'd quite forgotten how muted in tonality everything was for them. Except for the aqua blue skies and sunlight, these were the only things he missed. What was rich in color under sunlight for humans was bleached to barely distinguishable paleness by his light sensitive eyes.

Thus his days had continued through the even procession of the decades. Nights had been always spent the same way, as well, first hunting for food, and then finding a safe place to sleep. Michael was, on the whole, mildly content. He could distract himself happily by learning new things. The progress of science in understanding the how and why of things fascinated him. He mostly read non-fiction, but occasionally a novel might intrique him.

Thus it was, one day after the turn of the century in 1900, he pulled a thickish book down from the fiction shelves called Dracula, by Bram Stoker. It was a slow amalgation of various people's journals and letters, that led to a gradual discovery of the wreckage caused by blooksucking vampires.

These awful creatures mostly had nothing in common with him. Their reflections could not be seen in mirrors, they 'died' at sunrise, they could morph into bats or wolves, vanish into thin air, and their deceased victims became such as they were. Among the few treasures of his mother that Michael carried with him always was a small crucifix, which he often held and looked at with no injury to his skin. Also, he was fairly certain garlic would only harm him if he tried to ingest it. But Michael WAS stronger than human mortals, did drink blood, and for all purposes, showed all signs of immortality.

What commonalities he did have with them was enough to make him shudder. The book was enormously depressing. He'd always fed with a sort of mechanical feeling, if no animal could be found, the steps of attracting the rogue to him, luring him to attack, and then overpowering him to take his meal, it was all mechanical by now. Other than the relieved satisfaction of a good meal, he'd thought little of it. Now, after reading about those wretches who fed on innocent children, the "bloofer lady" who used to be sweet Lucy, a feeling of disgust filled him after he finished his meals. The nagging feeling of self-hatred was hard to ignore.

Even in the well-lit libraries, while he reading some historical tract, or scientific thesis, the thought would come to him, ''You are nothing but a bloodsucker!'' He tried to tell himself he was not as the devil possessed, but a general sense of discomfort had settled in around him, and could not be entirely pushed away.

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