Liliana J Taylor
I spent a year in Baghdad's House of Wisdom. In the embrace of the summer evenings, I learned about the literatures of Alexandria, the architecture of the Mosque of Córdoba, the Arab concept of algebra.
The hottest days were usually in the seventh month on the Tabular Islamic calendar, when the sun heated the building so that our white walls reduced to strips of clay. These were the days that thought and creation were equal, the days that I, an amateur thinker, could pour my thoughts into the air until they flooded from the House into the city beyond.
The heat arrived with aggression I'd never seen. Under the beat of the sun, the walls crumbled. Every moment pared another layer, until the wooden supports were toothpicks against the gusts of sand. We gathered at the steps of the House, and a group of us went to the local priests to pray.
"Please," we asked. Our hope survived.
"Please," we asked. Our House survived.
On the longest day of the year, we watched our House, backlit against the glow of the sun, and waited for its silhouette to fall into a shadow. We closed our eyes at the final creak, but didn't feel any debris tumbling down. A moment passed. We peered out and saw Anthophila, the goddess, standing where the sun's light had been.
"Your achievement is impressive," she said, carrying the blush of the sunset. "But you've left nothing for your children to discover." A whisper rippled through the crowd; we had read the stories of this golden goddess and her mortal dealings.
She continued, "Your House will die today," and the whisper grew to a hum. "You can save it, if you choose." We traced the horizon behind her.
"We must listen to her," a man from the back cried, and whether on our own or a part of the mass, we came to a consensus. I nodded.
Anthophila smiled and disappeared. In her wake was a dim pulse, tinted yellow. We watched, and as it drew us closer, it burst into a cloud. For a moment, we lay consumed in her light.
We settled in a pool of viscous liquid. It clung to our bodies, reaching into our minds. We lapped it in and were surprised to taste fluid pieces of thought from the House. Foreign fuzz coated our bodies, an inky black, to collect information like the root hairs of a plant absorb water. I reached out to see that my hands and arms were now thin and rigid. Six, I counted, attached in even spaces on my shelled sides.
I looked around. In endless rows and columns were the spines of our books, bent into hexagons and stacked perfectly towards the stars. They made up the walls, and for every person, there was a hexagon designed of their favorite story. I moved a leg towards mine and felt instead two appendages on my back lift me up.
From inside the pages of Prometheus Bound, I saw the others: tiny striped beings like me, housed in hexagonal page perches. The movement upwards created a buzz, one we could feel in the vibrations of the paper, one Anthophila could see from a distance. Eternal summer in a book.
I nestled into the sweet smell of baking pages.
Liliana J. Taylor majors in Creative Writing at the Orange County School of the Arts. Her poetry has appeared in a student poetry anthology, and in 2015 her short film won several awards in the Orange County film festival. In her free time she enjoys reading and playing guitar, and she hopes to one day pursue a science that allows creative expression.