In Hell Full

In Hell

"I have a hard time believing this. That sounds insane."

Adrian stroked his thin, utmost fashionable moustache and sat deeper in the armchair.

In front of him, on a chair, Damian leaned forward.

"I don't make this up."

He looked at Chris, seated on the arm of the armchair, then at Caroline, on the sofa, and back to Adrian.

Around them, the wooden walls of the student common room seemed to listen. The fire was hesitantly cracking, not to miss a word.

"And you could go inside?"

Damian straightened up.

"It was impossible at the moment."

"How is that?" insisted Adrian.

"Because I was hiding."

"From Pr. Mortis?"


"In the library?"


"Could you peer inside the room?"

"Not really; I was standing in a parallel aisle. From there, I saw a light when he opened the door and a kind of clatter when he closed it behind him."

"And then he was nowhere to be seen?"


Adrian observed his companions.

Caroline, her brown hair firmly attached behind her head, but a flock dangling in front of her, was huddling on the sofa. She had taken her shoes off and was reading. At the end of a long, warm skirt, her feet were moving like two rabbits rummaging in the forest humus.

Chris was hiding his anxiety in one of his worn-out black suits. When he was not passing his hands through his blond hair, he was playing with his rings. Especially the one around his thumb. He was convinced that its weight was giving his unique hefty attack on the guitar’s strings he occasionally played on Friday nights at the Sullivan’s.

Damian, as red-haired as it was possible, was sporting a navy blue jacket and a pair of beige chinos. Adrian was sure that he was wearing the same outfit while gathering the sheep his parents farm in Ireland.

Adrian moved his slender figure in the armchair and spoke again.

"What do you think there is in this room?"

Damian raised his arms, palms on the top, in a helpless gesture.

"I don't have any idea. But there is a good reason that it is kept secret."

Adrian nodded.

"I believe we need to investigate."

"Yes," added Caroline. She closed her book and placed it on her lap. "What can we do?"

Damian squint.

"I observed the area after Pr. Mortis entered. It's only a piece of wall, but I could spot a thin ray of light at its base. I couldn't find any opening mechanism, though."

"Could it be opened with a key?" she asked.

"There was no trace of any lock. Besides, a key would raise questions and easily give it away."

"We need to see it by ourselves," decided Adrian.

"Obviously," nodded Damian.

"What if we get caught?" considered Chris.

"If you get cold feet, you’re not obliged to come," commented Adrian.

"I don't plan to get caught," added Damian.

"We can never be sure."

"Failure is never sure either."

Caroline's sharp voice was her usual reaction to the constant pessimism of Chris.

"Are the odds in our favour?" he insisted.

"No idea. We major in literature, not statistics."

Chris looked at Damian, jaws clenched.

"Sometimes I wonder why you’re so careless."

Damian replied with a grin.

"When should we go?" asked Caroline. "Tonight?"

Damian shrugged.

"Fine with me. We know that the library is never closed. To be sure, let’s say 2 a.m."

The three turned to Adrian.

His eyes were directed toward the ceiling.

"At 2 a.m., we meet in the foreign literature aisle of the library. Bring flashlights, but refrain from using them in the corridors."

He stood up and raised an eyebrow.

"See you tonight, folks."

And left.

* * *

Even in the dark, books were whispering. They were claiming, whining, suggesting, joking, blabbering, or pondering.

All you had to do was grab one and listen.

"Let’s keep silent and still for a moment," ordered Damian. "So that our eyes will adjust to the obscurity."

All of them stood between the shelves, with no sound but their breathing. They were trying to distinguish the traits of their comrades and guess their thoughts.

Adrian sighed.

"I think we can go."

Damian moved first, followed by the others. They arrived in front of the wall and formed a half-circle.

"Here it is", whispered Damian. "It’s behind here somewhere. Now we must find a way to enter."

He approached the panel and swept the surface with his hands. Chris and Caroline joined him. Adrian observed around him. The closest shelf was filled with volumes of the Thesaurus. Even if he suspected that very few students ever bothered to open any of these books nowadays, he dismissed the idea that the opening might be in a movable object.

Which led him to the unmovable: the shelves themselves. He started to nudge around their structure when the voice of Caroline made them all freeze.

"Guys, I felt something."

They gathered around her. She had kept one hand on the wall, and her fingers were still moving, her head turned to the side as she tried to listen to the sound of the soft brushing she was producing.

“Here. I feel a kind of soft spot.”

Damian could hardly handle his excitement.

“Can you push it?”

“I guess.”

To confirm that she did, they perceived a click that left no doubt. Something unlocked.

Chris, on the right, called.

“Here, I feel an edge.”

He worked on it, and soon he was able to grab a thick door. He used both of his hands and groaned as he pulled on them. He was forced to step back.

Once the door was fully opened, they faced a pitch-black rectangle cut into the wall.

Damian stepped it, soon followed by his comrades.

Adrian came in last, brought the door back, but kept it slightly ajar.

Damian had lit his torch. And he couldn’t help feeling somehow disappointed.

Books. Shelves full of books.

The others switched their flashlights on and started to explore the room.

“That’s impossible. Why keep those books here? Why make such a big secret of them?”

“Why all the trouble to keep spare books? Is it a kind of stock?”

Caroline was observing one shelf, browsing the authors.

“Harper Lee, Roald Dahl, Enid Blyton. Those are common ones. And not even rare editions. They’re a bit worn out, probably old, but..."

Adrian locked his torch under his armpit and leafed through a novel he found.

The young students looked at each other, sceptical and dismayed.

They stayed still for a moment, the silence only broken by the regular sound of the pages turned by Adrian.

His voice finally tore the air.

“We’re in hell.”

Caroline pointed her light at him.

“What do you mean?”

“You know this expression that goes back to the Middle Ages. There were locked rooms where librarians used to keep banned books. Mostly because of religious reasons. Hence the name. Inferno. Enfer. Hell.

“Yes, but these books here are not banned. We can find them in the library outside,” commented Damian.

“Not exactly. Have you read some extracts?”

“Uh uh.”

“Come on, pick one you’re familiar with,” proposed Adrian.

Incredulous, all three browsed the shelves, took out a volume, and started to read.

After a few minutes, Chris murmured:

“It feels different, but I cannot put my finger on it.”

Then Caroline cursed.

“What the…? The text is different!”

“Same here,” added Chris.

“What does it mean?”

“Check the date of the edition you have in hand,” advised Adrian. ”They’re from before the Great Education Plan.”

“I never thought it was true,” whispered Caroline.

“You knew that?” asked Damian.

“I heard rumours. But I never could believe it, either. It sounded so… unbelievable.”

“And still… Here we are.”

Caroline had gone on with her reading.

“They even deleted some parts. I never read that. Why did they do that?”

“The deleted part, how does it make you feel?” inquired Adrian.

“Slightly uncomfortable, to be honest. Why did Dahl have to be so rude?”

“Why indeed”? wondered Chris with a feeble voice.

He had just uncovered that Winston Smith was a white man in the original version of 1984.

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