The Mystery

Miss Miss awakened from a deep slumber and twitched her ears to listen to the sounds of the closed library.  One by one the noises sorted themselves into the old familiar patterns.  She could easily identify the rustle of the water flowing through the pipes, the whisper of the air conditioning and the measured TICK TOCK of the big clock which hung over the library desk.

She stretched her senses further out as she stepped out of her bed and daintily took a drink of water.  There, she could hear the soft voices of her friends, the ghosts of all the authors who filled this place.  Miss Miss could tell that they were on their way to the nightly meeting held among all the treasured words that they had left behind.  But something seemed wrong; she could tell that there was a sense of urgency and even anger in the gathering tonight.

Struck with this sense Miss Miss quickly scurried from Miss Debra's office and made her soft way to the large reading room.  Sure enough, the room was fairly ablaze with the light from the spirits gathered there.  "My Goodness", thought Miss Miss, "every author in the library must be here tonight."  The whole room was full of ghostly voices; so many that poor Miss Miss could not tell what was being so eagerly discussed.

"Ah my little friend, here you are", spoke a voice.  Miss Miss looked up into the face of her oldest friend Samuel Clemens.  "My stars", mewed Miss Miss, "everyone must be here tonight.  Is there some special occasion?" Clemens' face darkened slightly.  "Not everyone my lady", he said, "that's what the meeting's about.  Some have simply disappeared.  We're meeting tonight to see if we can discover why."

As they moved into the hall, Miss Miss was disturbed to see a frown on Sam's usually smiling face.  She hopped up into her usual seat and looked around at the others.  Her heart sank as she saw the worry there.  Some, like Will Shakespeare were pale and weak while others like her dear friend Louisa May Alcott were nearly transparent.  Miss Miss' whiskers drooped in despair.  What was going on, was she to lose all her friends to this mysterious thing?

Then, above the hubbub of voices, she heard old Sam's voice loud and clear.  "My friends and fellow authors, may I have your attention.  It's time to call this meeting to order."  The rumble of voices died instantly and Sam stood in the center of the ghostly crowd with his white hair shining.  "As you all know, for the past weeks several of our valued members have come upon some strange malady.  Each in turn has weakened in their presence and then disappeared from our midst.  Look you upon our dear friends William and Louisa May, who were in perfect health mere days ago."  Shakespeare merely raised his head and smiled a wan smile.  Louisa May simply bent her gaze on the floor in front of her.  A single tear rolled down her cheek but disappeared before it hit the floor.

"What are we to do then", demanded a voice.  Sam turned to face the speaker.  "Monsieur Voltaire, that is precisely what this meeting is all about.  We must discover the cause of this before we can formulate a plan of action."  "Zat is all well and good mon ami", replied Voltaire, "but how are we to make this discovery?  What indeed do we know other than the obvious?"  A buzz of discouraged voices arose in agreement.  "Why, with the minds assembled here, we will try to bring forth an understanding", shot back Sam.  "We must make the attempt sir, our very survival depends upon our trying.  Surely you are not prepared to fade away to nothingness?"  Voltaire leaped to his feet again.  "Monsieur TWAIN", he snapped with his eyes flashing, "do you question my courage?"

Miss Miss leaped from her perch.  "Please, please my friends, don't fight among yourselves.  You must work together to find answer, I don't want to lose all my beloved friends and have this wonderful place turned into a cold warehouse."

"Well said good lady", came a voice from behind.  Every head turned to see who spoke.  Striding into the room came Ernest Hemmingway.  "My friends, I and Plato here have been investigating and have made a startling and disturbing discovery.  Someone is destroying books, ripping out pages and tearing them to pieces.  That is why our friends are disappearing.  Without our books we cannot exist in this place.  We weaken and fade as each book is damaged and when it is destroyed its author disappears."  A shocked gasp went through the assembled spirits.

"Beyond a doubt we must find this vandal and somehow stop him", went on Hemmingway, "our survival depends on it."  The crowd burst into frenzied argument.  "How can we stop him?" asked someone.  "We are spirits of authors, ghosts, not our old physical selves.  We can't physically touch someone who is still living."  "I don't understand", mewed Miss Miss, "you touch me often; I can feel your hands."  "Yes, that's true", laughed Sam as he scratched Miss Miss' head, "but no ghost can actually touch a living being unless they believe in us."

"Well then", said Miss Miss, "I guess someone living will have to find the vandal and maybe make them know that you are real.  I don't know how much good I can do, but I volunteer to try".  "Now there's a brave lady after my own heart", laughed Hemingway.  "Come and I'll show you where to start the search".

Soon Miss Miss was winding her way among the thousands of books.  For two days she prowled the aisles.  High and low she crept, exploring every nook and cranny she could find.  Every so often she would find another damaged book but could find no trace of the vandal, except for a faint smell that some part of her mind found familiar.  Yet she could not place it.  She worked very hard at her task, never stopping her search except for brief naps when exhaustion overtook her.  Her friends were relying on her; she would not fail them by not trying.

Then, as she was sitting and considering one night, she caught a small quick movement out of the corner of her eye.  Hurriedly she crept close and looked again.  There, two small creatures moving.  "Mice!" said Miss Miss, "Could they be behind all this?"  Gathering herself she leaped into the aisle in front of them.  "Halt", she cried, "stay right where you are".  The two mice gave frightened shrieks and fell down before her.  "Oh please mistress", they cried, "we are only two small mice; please don't hurt us".

Surprised, Miss Miss blinked her eyes.  "I have no wish to hurt you, I just want to talk to you, that's all.  Who are you and what are you doing here?  Are you the ones who are destroying the books?"  "Oh no mistress, no, no.  We would never do that.  My name is Hurry and this is my sister Scurry; along with our friends and relatives we protect this great place as best we can".  "There are others of you?" asked Miss Miss, "What do you mean protect?"  "Quite a few actually", answered Hurry, "and we gather all the small things that people drop and leave behind; the things that would attract ants and roaches and things like that.  We would never do harm mistress, never."  Miss Miss sat down and contemplated briefly.  "How is it that I've never seen any of you before?" she asked.  "Well mistress", replied Scurry, "we're afraid of you.  You are a cat after all and you are sooo much bigger than us.  "Miss Miss blinked again.  She had never been bigger than anyone before.

"Well you needn't worry about me harming you", she said gently.  "Instead, I would like to be friends and allies.  I have taken on the mission of discovering who or what is destroying books, would you be willing to help me?"  Hurry and Scurry looked at each other.  "Does this have something to do with the authors not coming around?" asked Scurry.  "Exactly", replied Miss Miss, "I didn't realize that you knew about them."  "Oh my yes", squeaked Hurry, "we all have seen them, of course we'll help."

For the rest of that day the friends searched high and low but found nothing but some shredded pages.  Finally they returned to the main reading room and sat wearily at Sam's feet.  "We've looked everywhere", sighed Miss Miss, "but we're still finding nothing."  She dropped her head on her paws.  "It's just too big a job for one little cat and a handful of mice, I just don't know what else we can do."  Sam reached down and gently stroked her head.  "If I might be so bold", squeaked Scurry, "perhaps we need a different set of eyes.  Waaaay up in the very top of the library lives a very wise owl.  He sees everything that goes on below him, but he's not very friendly.  If you'll take the risk we'll go up there with you."  "An OWL", exclaimed Miss Miss, "whatever next?"

Quickly they made their way into the upper reaches of the library, high above the rows of books and into the darker places.  Miss Miss carefully crept along, scenting the air and every sense alert.  The two mice stayed close by her side.  "Whoooo's there", suddenly came a voice, "what are you doing in my domain?"  Miss Miss froze in place and the mice crept under her in fear.  Two big yellow eyes appeared in the dark before them.  "Speak up while you can." the voice hissed.  Miss Miss fluffed out her fur and spoke bravely.  "We are here to seek the help of a wise owl, not to listen to threats", she snapped.  The voice spoke again in an icy tone, "And why should this wise owl help the likes of you?"  "Because this concerns his home too", replied Miss Miss, "if even little mice can step up to help, surely he can do no less."  The eyes blinked and the voice gave a dry chuckle.  "Quite so, quite so", he replied, and the shape of a large owl stepped from the gloom.  "Tell me what you require and I'll do my best not to disappoint you".  He settled himself with a flutter of feathers and leaned closer.  Hurry and Scurry huddled even closer to Miss Miss' side.  Miss Miss quickly explained their mission.  The owl closed his eyes and rocked back and forth. "Is he asleep?" whispered Scurry.  The owl opened one eye and clicked his beak.  "Of course I'm not sleeping.  Unlike SOME, I THINK before I act.  I'm not surprised you mice wouldn't recognize the difference, HUMF!!!"  He fluttered his wings and fluffed his feathers, looking very fierce.  Miss Miss bowed her head to hide a smile.

"Well now", huffed the owl, "I think I may be able to help.  It's quite apparent that you lot are all asleep on your feet but this is my element.  I suggest that you lie down and rest.  I shall watch over things and see what I can discover."  With that he lifted off into the shadows.  "What are we going to do?" asked Hurry.  "I suppose we'd best do just as he suggested", answered Miss Miss,  "I am very tired.  As she curled down the two mice snuggled close into her fur and drifted off.

After a few hours the owl silently returned to his perch.  "Wake up", he whispered, "I think I've found your vandal; quick now."  Miss Miss leaped to her feet, sending the mice rolling.  "Oh, I'm so sorry", she apologized.  Then she turned to the owl.  "What did you find?" she asked.  The owl turned his head, lifted one great wing and pointed.  "Back there, in the rearmost part of the building, I saw someone and heard the sounds of laughter and noises of destruction".  "I must go see", mused Miss Miss.  She looked up at the owl.  "Sir, I thank you for your help.  Might I ask your name please?"  The owl's eyes twinkled.  "My proper name is far too long for the occasion.  For brevity's sake, you my lady, may call me Joe."  He clicked his beak and chuckled with amusement.  "But as for my help, I think you will need me yet.  Such an intruder may be too violent for you alone.  You may need an Air Force as it were.  Now I think our two little friends should run off and summon one of your ghostly friends.  We may well need him before we're through." So off they went.  Miss Miss scrambled over the tops of the rows all the way to the back of the library while Joe floated noiselessly overhead.

Miss Miss stopped and listened while Joe quietly settled beside her.  "Just up ahead", he whispered, "you can hear the vandal.  Creep up quietly now and I'll circle behind him; then we'll see what's what."  So saying, Joe lifted off again and Miss Miss took a deep breath.  "Oh my", she thought, "as frightened as I am I must go on, my friends are depending on me."  Softly she crept nearer the sounds, step by slow step.  Then she peered around a corner and saw...a RAT!!!  A large Rat who was in the act of ripping out the pages of her friend Sam's famous book.  "NO!! STOP!!" she cried and leaped out.  The rat dropped the book and scrambled back.  He and Miss Miss stared at each other in shock.  The rat wore many metal rings in his ears and two in his nose.  With his sharp teeth and glittering eyes he presented a tough and scary sight.  He suddenly reached down and snatched up a long, sharp pin and pointed it at Miss Miss.  "I dunno what you problem be cat, but you be in deep trubble now", he rasped.  But suddenly a dark shape dropped upon him and a sharp beak snatched the pin from his paw.  The rat shrieked and rolled back into a corner, stunned and trapped.

"Wait please", cried Miss Miss as Joe moved toward the rat, "don't hurt him."  Joe dropped his wings and turned his head to look at her with one eye; the other he kept on the rat who was looking back and forth between them.

Miss Miss looked at Sam as he held the tattered book in his hands.  "Oh yes, reading has brought so much to me and it has given me many good friends.  But what can we do about the damage already done?"  Sam shook his head and sadly replied, "nothing can heal that which is already destroyed.  The books would have to be replaced completely and some of them are very old and hard to find."

Miss Miss sat wearily down.  "So we've accomplished very little then", she sighed.  "Wait a minute," It was the rat who spoke.  "If the people who put these books here did it once, why can't they do it again?  Why can't we just tell someone who believes and tell them what to do?"  "YES", cried Miss Miss, "you authors must be able to discover where these books can be found.  They could be brought back here and we would have our dear friend's back again.  I even know who we could tell, Miss Debra the head librarian.  She's very worried already and I know she would help.  Oh, can't we try???"  Sam and the others spoke together for a minute and then turned.  "It would have to be done very carefully", said Edgar Poe, "living beings and ghosts don't often react well to each other."  "Oh please", said Miss Miss, "I'm sure Miss Debra will understand.  I'm almost sure she suspects already."  So they all sat down right there and made a plan.  Rat was eager to help repay his past errors and proved very valuable.

All the next day Miss Miss stayed close to Miss Debra and when the shadows began to lengthen, she began her part in the plan.  She had been laying on Miss Debra's lap but she suddenly leaped off and began running back and forth between Miss Debra and the library shelves.  "My goodness Miss Miss, whatever's wrong with you?" Miss Debra exclaimed.  "Are you trying to show me something?"  Miss Miss scurried down the hallway, stopped and mewed.  "All right, I'm coming." Miss Debra told her.  Quickly Miss Miss led her back into the racks.  There, in a pool of light, lay a pile of torn books and a very nervous Rat sitting beside them.  "Oh my, noooo", cried Miss Debra and she knelt to touch the tattered volumes.  Her eyes turned to the rat sitting there and in her anger she plucked up a heavy book to crush him.  "There is no need", said a voice behind her, "no further harm will come from him."  Miss Debra spun to behold the figure of Mr. Clemens with a purring Miss Miss held in his arms.  "Please don't be afraid", he said gently, "please listen and I will explain a great many things about what you see."  Miss Miss hopped down and ran to Miss Debra, reaching up to rest her paws on Debra's knee and looking imploringly into her face.  Miss Debra gazed deeply into Miss Miss' eyes and stroked her head.  "Very well, since Miss Miss trusts you I will listen."

For a time Sam quietly explained all about the damaged books.  As he spoke more of the spirits appeared and gathered around.  Miss Debra sat taking it all in with a growing sense of wonder.  "I finally understand what I have always sensed about this place", she said, "I do believe and I will do my part.  If you spirits can show me where to go, I will do my best to replace the missing books."  "Thank you dear lady", spoke Sam, "I am very pleased that our Miss Miss was right about you.  As a small measure of our gratitude we wish to give you a small gift; the ability to understand and converse with our valiant little lady Miss Miss, who has been so courageous in our aid."  So saying he reached out and touched Miss Debra.  A golden light surrounded her and her heart swelled.  "Miss Miss?" she said aloud and knelt by her little friend.  "Oh yes Miss Debra, I'm here.  Can you truly understand me now?"  "Perfectly", replied Miss Debra, "and I want to thank you for bringing me this wonderful thing."  She picked Miss Miss up and cradled her in her arms.  "My wonderful Miss Miss, I love you so much."  "I love you too Miss Debra", replied Miss Miss and she purred and purred.

So it came to pass that the library was healed.  The authors searched in all the places where books were kept.  Using their directions, Miss Debra located all the missing volumes.  As each one was replaced the missing authors returned to their home.  Rat learned to read very well and became a frequent visitor to the gatherings.  He even took on the task of teaching the mice who lived there.  Hurry and Scurry overcame their fear of Joe and often visited him high in the rafters.  Joe even started dropping in to the meetings and when he spoke of the Ancient Tales of the Owls his voice was respected and much listened to.  Plato and the other philosophers spent many hours deep in discussion with Joe and became special and close friends.  Miss Debra even stayed for many meetings and claimed to be a far better librarian for it.

So today the library is a much happier place.  Miss Miss and Miss Debra are closer than ever before.  When someone exclaims over how well they seem to understand each other they just smile and share a secret wink.  The Great Secret is theirs forever.


By: Wayne Pond
Copyright © 06-16-03


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