Author: Ian Hill
As the Sweeper sweeps, therein dwells another and smaller Sweeper—a microcosmic miniature, cuter than a button, armed with duster and eyes lit with adventurous delight.
Hers is an imposing sanctum. Crooked corridors twist out, around, and through each other, intersecting at odd angles, narrowing into infinity. The heights are immense, and the book-packed walls, stabbing up acutely toward a remote and dim sky, stand contorted with the nonorthogonal geometry of a nightmare library. The only right angles are found in the corners of the neatly stacked and snugged tomes: elsewhere, bent and tortuous ladders crawl up bent and tortuous shelves; irregular, candle-housing lanterns hang from mismatched brackets, every brass or tin or copper fixture unique, each bolted and screwed with a screw or bolt devoid of its match; and crates stacked in alcoves or scattered across paths sit stretched at edges, warped, all one of a kind. It is a confusing, impossibly involute labyrinth, but the Sweeper is not—and cannot be—deterred.
In her patchwork dress, she bounces down the stilted paths, dusting shelves and nudging freestanding stacks straight, plucking the occasional fallen tome from the floor and, with a gaze flung so high that she nearly topples backwards, spying its rightful place. Yes, it’s true; things do sometimes tumble from where they belong, but how can they not? This is an archive endless, and, regardless, the Sweeper is well-equipped to handle her duty. She whisks the book up, summons the nearest ladder on its squeaky casters, fixes a determined look, and hurries up the leaning, swaying, backwards-skewing metal heap with the lost one clutched close to chest. The shelves loom around her. The old widow-weaver peeks curiously from her lofty nook as her cobweb canopies sail overhead, swelling with the gusts of open air. The ever-attendant spines look, too; they seem to vibrate with a deathless excitement, with an eagerness and passion to share what’s within. The Sweeper, after pausing several times to straighten a little treatise or dust some novel, reaches the gap and deftly guides the missing loved one home. She smiles, and off she goes down the unending ways, surrounded by everything.
Sometimes, the Sweeper, as is her wont and well-warranted right, pauses after a drowsing span of arranging and caretaking. She picks a brightish intersection where the walltops stand far enough apart to welcome natural light, and she sits comfortably in her much-mended skirts. A chill wind blows through, and a few lying books (placed justly for ease of access) flap open, yellow pages dancing one after the other in brief, thrilled waves. A nearby lamp creaks, and its guttering firelight sends strange-shaped shadows across strange-shaped shelves. The Sweeper, beaming with content, reaches into a tiny sachet at her side and produces a loaf of fluffy and floury bread, a fuzzy peach, and a jar of pale pink juice. As the pages slowly, tremblingly flap, as the clasps and braziers gently rattle, as the books hum with their illimitable knowledge, the Sweeper eats mouthful after mouthful, eyes watery with boundless glee.
For these are the halls that any soul would beg to enter. These are the stately ways prime and primed for everything. The capacity is unmet and unmeetable; the routes are, in the main, open and navigable; and the contents are lovingly written. The Sweeper within is glad to sweep, and the Sweeper without toils on, inhaling the world and its myriad mysteries—cherishing, living, and fearlessly feeling.