The Consortium Library Full

Lucy gaped at the door that had appeared around her bare palm. The book she’d lifted off the top shelf had become a doorhandle, the three-foot section of the shelves of her university’s rare book collection, molded into a paneled door made of book spines. In a state of dumbfounded awe, Lucy stepped back and to the side, accidentally twisting her wrist as she went.

The impossible door swung open, without a hiss of protest or stressed hinges. It was as if the door wanted to open. As if it had been waiting for her to open it.

A wave of sharp ozone blew past the threshold of the open door, rustling her hair and fluttering against her pale face like the spray off the ocean. She didn’t know how to label the scent properly except to identified the skin tingling oxygen as pure magic. After all, what other word was there for what she had witnessed, than magic?

Lucy swallowed. Her heart was pounding.

Magic was real. Who knew? Certainly not Lucy.

Still, as mystical as the appearance of the door had been, it was nothing compared to the jaw-dropping enchantment of the room that had been revealed on the other side of it.

It was a rectangular room, with a ceiling so high it was lost to the light of the candlelit sconces and streams of muddled sunlight distilling through the narrow slit stained-glass windows. The walls were made of grey granite, which sparkled in the shifting light. The floor, or at least, what little could be seen through the layers of Persian rugs, appeared to be made from wide cedar planks.

However, it was hard to concentrate on the architecture of the room, for the splendor of its contents. The room was filled to the brim with what appeared to be carefully cataloged antiquities, reliquaries, and cryptozoology wonders in sealed, liquid filled preservation jars, glass cases, bell jars, caged bookshelves, and scroll cubbies overflowing with texts and maps.

There was also a hooded figure, in brown robes, looking every inch the medieval Irish monk, sitting at the far end of the room, hunched over a raised angled desk, a long feather quill in their hands, scratching slowly into a thick manuscript.

Lucy squeaked at the realization that a person was inside the impossible room.

The figure looked up at the undignified sound. They set the quill down. Pushed back their hood, revealing a woman’s face, so covered in dark freckles they had become her skin tone.

Not a monk then, Lucy thought, her mind misfiring over the last thirteen seconds of her life.

She was struggling to get past the simple sequence that Lucy was holding a book in her hand. A book that had become a doorhandle. A doorhandle that had conjured a door. A door that had opened to a hidden room. A hidden room that had a living woman inside of it.

The woman smiled patiently at Lucy’s gobsmacked silence. She stepped away from her desk. The brown monk’s robes rustled and pooled onto the floor due to the woman’s short height and slight frame. “Welcome to the Consortium Library,” she said in a warm purring Scottish brogue.

Not Irish either, Lucy thought solidly, while only nodding dumbly in reply.

“I am called, Astrid McKee, the caretaker.”

Lucy cleared her throat. Instinctive, automatic, southern politeness temporarily taking over her faculties. “Hello, ma’am. I’m Lucy. Lucy Coggeshall. It’s nice to meet you.”

The caretaker tilted her head to the side. Her dark red, almost brown, hair cascaded to the side. “Coggeshall? Ah, that makes sense. As in John Coggeshall of Halstead? Your mother is Katherine Wangford, correct?”

“Ah…no? My parents are Hank and Mary Coggeshall. Of, um, Athens. Athens, Georgia.”

“Hmm. I’m not familiar with those names.” Astrid stepped forward, her amber eyes roving over Lucy, and the slit of the university library she could see around the silhouette of the doorframe. “What century do you hail from?”

“Century? Um, do you mean like what year is it? It’s 2023. But I was born in 2000, if that’s what you mean?”

“Extraordinary,” the caretaker marveled, then laughing to herself, she shook her head, cascading the waves of carmine hair to her other shoulder. “Clearly not their firstborn child then. John was born in 1535, died on the first of January, 1600. Katherine was born in 1542. Died the twenty-second day of March, 1608. However, I would stake my eyeteeth on you being a direct descendent of theirs. In fact, if I were a betting woman, which I am, I’d say you were exactly fourteen generations from John and Katherine’s firstborn. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have been able to open the door, now would you?”

“I, I, uh, have no idea,” Lucy stuttered and shrugged.

“I’m sure of it. After all, I am the caretaker of the Consortium Library. It is my job to collect these sorts of details. Clearly you are one of the gatekeepers. As such, would you like a tour, or are you planning on staying on that side of the threshold all day?” Astrid stepped towards Lucy as she stretched her hands out to encompass the rectangular room overcrowded with wonders.

Lucy didn’t move past the doorframe. She didn’t speak either. For a full minute, Lucy wasn’t even sure she thought. White noise of panic simply screeched through her veins. Gatekeepers? Lucy was a gatekeeper?

For her part, the caretaker didn’t appear rushed. Astrid just shuffled some papers on a nearby table, giving Lucy the time and space, she needed to unravel and pull herself back together.

“Can, I, can I think about it first?” Lucy asked at last.

The caretaker smirked, as if to indicate that Lucy had already been thinking about it. However, she didn’t point that out. Astrid just deepened her smile and nodded. “Of course. We are entirely at your leisure. I assure you, I have all the time in the world. Whenever you are ready, I will be here to show you around the library. Incidentally,” Astrid added, “in case your lineage, has not explained it properly to you, the door will not close behind you. You can come and go at your own will. Even if the door will be hidden when you are away from it.”

“Oh. That’s, ah, good to know. Thank you,” Lucy said. The knot that had been twisting painfully in her gut finally uncoiling even as her brain struggled to put the words into a straight line of thought. “I’ll, um, I’ll see you later, then. If that’s okay? Tomorrow? Yes. Um. Tomorrow. I’ll come back then. If that’s alright with you.”

“Naturally. I look forward to presenting the library to you then, Lady Coggeshall.”

“Oh, no. It’s, um, just Lucy.”

“Lucy,” the impossible woman in the impossible room amended with a polite bow.

“See you later.”

“I will be here.”


Lucy twisted her wrist and stepped forward, closing the door swiftly, then with a reluctance that strained the muscles in her forearm, she opened her hand, lifting her palm from the doorhandle.

The door vanished at once.

The book thumped heavily to the floor, sending a loud whomp! reverberating through the silent rare book’s collection.

Lucy jumped at the shattered silence.

She spun in a little circle, looking wide eyed for someone to yell at her, but there wasn’t anyone. Most of the automatic sensor lights were still off. Lucy, apparently, was still all alone in this section of the library. There weren’t even security cameras here.

Lucy swallowed.

There were no cameras here.

The main librarian for this floor knew her.

Lucy was a quiet English major. Respectful. Considerate. Careful with the books. Never late with a return. Never a problem with proper care for a book. No one would think to check…

But what if they did? Was it worth it?

Lucy talked herself out of it. Then back in. Then out of it again. Then in. Then out. Before finally, deciding to prove she wasn’t crazy, or that she was, by simply looking up her supposed ancestors, John Coggeshall and Katherine Wangford. She pulled up Google on her phone, typed in Katherine Wangford Coggeshall and pressed the blue search button.

The suggestion to change the spelling came up first. Followed by half a dozen photos from Instagram accounts of people Lucy didn’t recognize. But then, after the last photo, on the first suggested webpage, there was Katherine.

Lucy clicked on the link. It was the right woman. Married to the right man. In the right century. Even the location was right. Halstead, Essex, England.

The caretaker had been right.

Lucy looked nervously at the book. Was the caretaker right about the rest of it too? Was Lucy their descendant? Was she a gatekeeper? And if she was, what did that mean for Lucy?

She made her mind up so quickly it felt like someone else had made the decision for her.

Lucy cast one more tentative look down either end of the empty book aisle, before she pulled her hoodie off, wrapped it around the heavy, leather-bound tome, aptly named Threshold to Antiquity, and shoved it, ever so carefully, into her backpack.

She’d never stolen anything in her life. But how was she supposed to leave the book here?

Lucy couldn’t explain what’d just happened, but she absolutely was not leaving the book behind. It was a genie in a bottle. Proof of magic in a world that had forgotten it existed. A possible wealth spring of ancient knowledge, where time apparently, didn’t exist. Perhaps that meant the room was a pocket reality, a hidden fold of time and space, ready to change the world’s understanding of physics altogether. Or a psychotic episode.

Whatever the case, Lucy was not losing the book, the door, the room, or the caretaker at the heart of it all.

Lucy left the rare books collection. She nodded politely at the librarian. “Thanks,” she said as her goodbye.

“Find what you were looking for?”

“I think so.”

“Perfect. We’ll see you next time.”

“Thanks again.” And with that, and a small wave, Lucy slipped away, receiving no comments about the bulk in her backpack that wasn’t there when she went in.

From there, it took everything Lucy had to not run out of the library. She descended the four flights of stairs as slowly as she could with adrenaline coursing through her veins and the weight of a magical portal on her shoulders.

One, painfully, long walk to the revolving doors, followed, as she pointedly ignored, yet tried to seem friendly, to the collegiate librarians at the front desk.

Then, with a nervous gulp of air, Lucy slipped through the metal detectors undetected and escaped into the concrete quad where her calm façade finally broke.

Lucy sprinted off towards her dorm, the stolen book thudding against her back with every other footfall. She didn’t have a plan of what to do once she was safely home, not really, but instinct told her, the questions piling up in her mind, had answers.

All Lucy Coggeshall had to do was press her hand to the Threshold to Antiquity and cross into the hidden room that was the Consortium Library. From there, the possibilities were as endless as they were enchanted.

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