The Passage of PearlRelease Date: 20 July 2014
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Pearl is in her final year at Eston University. Her days are made up of reading poetry, writing essays on poetry, thinking up essay topics on poetry, and trying not to bite people for invading her personal space. When she finds a book that could make or break her career, Pearl throws all her cautious planning in the wind. But the book has secrets of its own and Pearl will make a very tasty snack.
SURPRISINGLY, THE LIBRARY was almost as noisy inside as the festivities outside. Pearl had expected things to be quieter. Usually the world beyond the building’s dark-bricked walls and shelves crammed (respectfully) full of books faded once she was inside, but today she could hear the parade just as clearly as if she’d been standing in the throng of spectators. She’d hoped to finish a fair bit of work in the afternoon as well the morning, but she couldn’t concentrate. Forget coming up with her own arguments, she could barely focus on the text she was reading; the trumpeters heralding floats in the parade kept distracting her from the words.
Pearl sighed. The parade should only be passing for an hour, and it was actually a good excuse to take a break. She’d already spent most of her morning at the desk, sifting through books in search of useful articles. Even if she decided she wasn’t interested in lunch after all, she’d at least be able to stretch her limbs. The ones her human body had anyway.
Slumping over the desk with her hands in her hair, Pearl pondered whether she should take the book she was trying to read with her so no one else could borrow it while she was gone. She decided against it. Her assignment wasn’t due for a while yet; she already had a fair amount of useful articles; and the book didn’t seem to contain the information she’d been looking for anyway. If someone did check it out, as unlikely as that was, she’d certainly survive the loss.
So she shut Sivellus’ Flowers: Metamorphosis in His Later Years as she got up. She packed her stuff into her bag, returned the book to the shelf it belonged on and left. Out in the grand hall, the parade was even more audible and Pearl stopped at the balustrade. At least navigating the stairs down wouldn’t require too much concentration. On the ground floor below a white-haired security guard-slash-library attendant sat at the entrance desk, his back turned to her. Apart from him, the hall was empty, its supposed-to-be-white-and-blue floor tiles basking in the sunshine and the music.
On impulse, Pearl took a deep breath to catch the scent of building in her mouth and let it tickle across her tongue — no unexpected result there, really, but it was nice to try — then walked down the helix staircase and made her way to the cafeteria in the right wing. When she was halfway across the hall, the guard swivelled on his chair and nodded briefly at her. Pearl did the same and watched the man turn back to face the entrance before walking on. As she hurried down the corridor that led to the cafeteria, she could hear someone ask for directions to the main library.