“gh, Christ! Not another one. I just got this blippin’ place cleaned up.”
After squeaking through the giant oaken door, you come upon speaker, a sinewy old man in baggy workman’s clothes. A lizard’s egg of a head, speckled and prominently bumped, perches on his scrawny neck. His long filthy beard limps the last few laps in a race to the floor. He is mid-cigarette, resting an armpit on a mop. All around you hang heavy curtains, blocking your view, but the ceiling is astoundingly high. The words echo.
The man fixes a calculating gaze on you and Pierce, then tilts his head back and jabs two crooked fingers at the sky. “It’s almost time for my break, you know,” he says. “I don’t ‘ave to do this one. It’s in the rulebook, innit? Scheduled breaks. I want my break.”
[AUTHOR’S NOTE: I AM AWARE OF THE RULEBOOK, OTTO. BUT DIDN’T YOU JUST TAKE A CIGARETTE BREAK? LET’S JUST POWER THROUGH THIS, OKAY?]
“Wait,” you shout, “You heard that too? Where is it coming from?”
“Of course I heard ‘im,” Otto says, flecks of spit piling at the corners of his beard. “Not deaf, am I? Gotta be some law against this.”
[AUTHOR’S NOTE: I WANT YOU TO KNOW THAT I THINK YOU’RE DOING A GREAT JOB, OTTO. I REALLY DO.]
“Ageism is what this is. Right. Alright, let’s get this over with.”
His voice lifts to the drained, drab rainbow of those who have spent too long in the service industry. “WELCOME!” he says, flinging arms this way and that in violent, yet mocking, spasms. “Welcome and this way! To The Mysterious Library of the Mysterious Temple of the OH SO Mysterious Mister G! Are you ready to learn its mystical secrets?”
He pauses. You sense he is waiting for a smattering of applause, the rare, lonely gasp. Otto mutters at the silence, and with a defeated shrug pulls a nearby cord.
The curtains fall. You and Pierce gawk at the size–the overwhelming, marvelous Byzantine complexity–of the room in front of you. In all directions paths blanketed by Persian rugs radiate outward from your feet towards distant points of singularity; bookshelves tower vertiginously over you, threatening, you fear, to heave up their contents in nauseous fits; ladders climb up, grow old and dim, and then disappear into a candlelight troposphere; shelves labor and strain and buckle under heavy loads of bloated and yellowed paperbacks, knights and raiders and pirates and spacemen flexing and leaping, in flagrante heroica, on dog-eared covers, prim and perky hardcovers shunning their neighbors, and self-righteous legal tomes in sober burgundies, navies, and blacks, names of dead white men tattooed on them in prissy gold leaf; ochre landmasses float upon amber seas on the occasional antique globe; smudged cabinets of curiosities flaunt their wares, the priceless and the tacky blissfully cohabiting the same shelves; toys, tomes, tapestries, binders with tufts and shocks of paper protruding, gadgets, gizmos, objects d’art, ottomans and chaise lounges, flying carpets, magician’s kits, crystal balls full of roiling answers to questions asked and those not, foreboding statues, and other manner of ephemera lie in a splendid disarray.
As your awe subsides, you notice Otto waiting, impatiently reading the sports page.
“Here’s what happens. S’game, really. I show you two things and you figure out which Mister G likes. Guess right and you’ll see where it leads you. Guess wrong–and Otto gets to clean up the mess. Got it? Good. First round’s for you, Manswamp.”
Pierce takes a few shuffles forward.
Two daises raise from the floor. On one is a copy of Atlas Shrugged. On the other is a ragged, floppy issue of Superman.
“I can do this,” he says. “I mean, one contains an important philosophy that instructs man on how to best live his life. The other is a silly, unrealistic book for children.”
He reaches for Atlas Shrugged. Upon touching it, the book erupts into an unholy purple flame. The fire licks and snuggles up against Pierce’s arm, setting him alight. He drops to the floor, writhing in agony, unable to quench the mystic flames.
Otto glares sullenly at the ashes once called Pierce Mangrove. “Bad choice. Now it’s your turn.”
Two more daises rise, this time with DVDs on them.
“Your choice,” says Otto. “Ghostbusters or Prometheus?”