[48 BC, The Library of Alexandria]
A shadow stark against the flames, Caesar watched as his men took torch to the halls lined with papyrus screeds. Flames licked the walls which cracked and ruptured under the heat of their scrutiny. He felt the loss as keenly as one feels the loss of a limb, so much knowledge consumed in smoke, so much wisdom. And yet, despite the egregious crime of such destruction, the worse crime would be to let this altar to words stand. Despite the building quickly rendering to ash before him, the Consul could not help but hear long held fears echo in his heart.
Is it gone? Really gone? Will I ever be sure that we are safe? That our species will survive this… this…
He dared not even name what it is he sought to destroy, even after just the briefest glimpse at its pages, ghosts of its words haunted his mind still. Threatened to consume him whole in his dreams. While he slept, he saw it: A door at the pit of his subconscious, a dark smile of an opening, beckoning him, prodding him, pleading…
Come to me Caesar, Come to me...
Just to think of it sent a thrill through his spine. For a moment, Julius longed to close his eyes and… and…
He forced himself to look at the flames, as if focusing on them would banish the thoughts and desires within. A sickness, he knew, if he would not admit it, that would harry him to his grave. A voice that whispered, of knives, of betrayal, of Ides. A voice that promised knowledge, that promised to save him from that death that came.
If he would but listen. If he would but write.
The library crumbled, all its words lost. And Caesar turned his back on it at last. Marching from it at the head of his legions, he could not banish the words from his mind.
Maligna Maligna Maligna Maligna Maligna
He could not let his men see how his hands trembled. He was glad he led them, so they would not see his eyes, bloodshot from lack of sleep, full of tears from fear that he had failed. He knew deep down, the book survived. He could smell them in the smoke, the words persisted.
MENTE MENTE MENTE MENTE
Later that night, as he collapsed at last from exhaustion. Caesar gave in, Caesar opened that door. Inside he saw the truth: Libraries burn, but words... words are forever.
Those words, stretching into the past and beyond into the will-be, showed him many horrors. He saw his death, hatred in the eyes of friends. The blades that rose and fell again and again. That bit into his flesh. That brought death--such sweet ecstasy!
Though he did not notice, beguiled as he was by the reverie of his discoveries, in his sleep he sat up and began to write. The same words, the same pages. Over and over. In Latin. In Greek. In languages not yet risen from above time's haze. And when he woke the next day, he wept openly, salt tears of joy. What a relief to finally know.
He would be dead long before the world unraveled.