The Librarians of the Red Sun

Prompt: Lovecraftian Existential Horror, Short-form, 2017

Far to the west, there is a small city of stone and marble nestled between the mountains and the sea. Somewhat isolated from the rest of the continent by geography and time, that place is home to a peculiar tradition whose roots would appear to extend far back to the reaches of recorded time. The tradition occurs only during a specific time of year, and would happen only on the rarest of those occasions. It is said that in the late autumn season, the colorful leaves of the great trees that lined the city streets would begin to all turn a brilliant scarlet – nary a green or orange in sight. On this given morning, just as the Red Sun appeared on the horizon, these trees that lined the city streets would all seem to sigh at once, an exhalation that shuddered their forms and rendered the bulk of the tree into black ash. Unable to hold their weight, the trees themselves would dissolve and the red leaves would collectively drift away from the crumbled branches, filling the cobblestone paths with a stiff blanket of scarlet and red that settled with an almost loud, piercing crash.

Thus was the city then, for a few scant moments in the morning, marked by the scarlets of the fallen leaves, of the sun and of the morning sky – a rare occasion, and one that has long been the sign that marks the day for celebration for the denizens of the Library of the Black Sun. 

The waifish slaves of the Library of the Black Sun would then leave their sable halls just at the moment of complete sunrise, when the bloated Red Sun lifted its gargantuan form above the eastern mountains like a pregnant behemoth. Their deep red robes and cracked black stone masks gave them what could be considered a frightful appearance, but of those hundred-hundred citizens who had already stirred within the city greeted them with kindness and joy. Taking in hand long, bladed tools and traveling to the westernmost point of the city, the diminutive slaves would begin their process of sweeping away the fallen leaves into the river that flowed through the City. By the time when they had completed their tasks and when the time came for the Librarians to the be summoned from their slumber, the rivers would be a drifting mass of red, churning and rustling like a living thing – like the metaphor that the river was the city’s lifeblood was suddenly made true by time. 

By the time that the slaves were halfway down , the city itself would already be abuzz with activity. The people would leave their homes in fanciful dress and gaudy masks, looking for all the world like a carnivale from the distant past. Musicians would play in the now-cleared streets, the loping smiles of their porcelain masks matching a jaunty tune as the festivities good and truly began. Tradesmen and storekeepers would peddle their wares outside of their stores like the bazaars of ancient days, their voices mingling amongst the laughter of children who were too young to wear the mask. Artisans and skilled workers would aspire within the day to produce their greatest inspiration, and it was not uncommon to see entire streets blocked off by a mass of bodies hoping to catch a glimpse of a master at their work. For most, however, the day was one of celebration and consumption- heavily spiced meats would crackle on the spit of a dozen great bonfires while the heady aromas of fine spirits and wines mingled with raucous laughter of joyful cheer.

By the mid-morning, the festivities would grow ever the louder. The odd dances in the streets became complex waltzes performed with professional grace and perfect step by a hundred-hundred citizens. Actors and troubadours would have gathered with their troupes and the curious theatre would commence, with the people’s most popular, modern productions set beside the ancient classics. The Bride of the Black Sun was the obviously the favorite of the time, and although its variations were many, they each would reach their momentous climax at the very moment that the Black Sun itself would rise with great and terrible force from the western seas, the salt waters still dripping off its glistening form,

This moment would herald the true beginning of the ritual proper, for it was then that the Librarians themselves who would exit their Library of the Black Sun and mingle with the town residents. Clothed in their heavy red robes, deep hoods and bone-white masks, they were a joy to behold. Towering over the largest men in the town, they would begin their slow procession in a long file, each step taken in perfect uniformity and rhythm, matching the steady heartbeat of the unified civilization.

The music in the city would be cacophonous by now, seemingly chaotic but all following the same general tune – a haunting melody that resonated oddly with the air, reverberating strongly in the deep recesses of the mind just as it would seem to make the Black Sun vibrate slightly as it continued its climb through the sky. It is not uncommon for people to swing their heads back to raise their voices up with the song, and the city would wail as one as their Librarians pass.

The actual procession was quite beautiful to behold, as the Librarians stalked through the streets, their twice-jointed arms snapping away from within the folds of heavy red robes so as to allow their many hands to reach out and pluck the masks off of their citizens heads, placing the porcelain expression somewhere on their own massive forms and leaving behind only beautifully smooth and pure red flesh on the skulls of the city’s people.

The communal wailing would continue until only the children remained, who knew that their part was most important, and all would turn their heads to look, unseeing, to the sky until the Black Sun touched the Red. Then, with such suddenness that the air itself seemed to stop, the city would go utterly silent.

Gathering then at the edge of the river where it flows out into the sea, where the waters were now dyed a brilliant red by the lifeblood of the slaves and citizen who had fulfilled their purpose, the children would stand beside the Librarians, their hands entwined with theirs, nine to nine, and began to sing the song that would herald the Dark Sun back to its home. It was a thin warbling compared to the great song that had drawn the Librarians from their home, and the Black Sun did not heed the thin cries of children, and soon consumed the Red Sun.

Just as the Black Sun reached its zenith, the song was suddenly joined by the Librarians themselves, who opened each of their six mouths, and sang the song that would end the day.

The Black Sun sloughed off the Red, falling from the sky, slowly and with enormous deliberation like the corpse of a leviathan creature. With a fearsome crack reminiscent of a thunderstrike, the Black Sun disintegrated into an infinitum of pieces, smeared wetly against the sky like thick cloud. As the song reached its end, particles of the Black Sun fell to the sea like black rain, and the children sought protection within the heavy folds of the red robes of the Librarians, crying into the hollows until only the Librarians remained beside the sea.

The great work done, the Librarians began the slow procession back to their Library, their guts inflated and heavy robes weighed down heavily by a hundred upon hundreds of fine porcelain masks. Quietly, the great stone doors of the library will open to accept them, and they would disappear into the red haze of their domain until the next time that the leaves grow crimson and the Black Sun would rise once more into the sky.

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