Lost to the Flames

By Maya Petzoldt, TIWP Student

I stand still, looking up in awe at the massive building before me, the huge ten steps to enter it, and the two pillars on either side of the open staircase. There are two stone men who sit on rock thrones in front of pillars, only to be outshined by the murals behind them. The adorning hieroglyphs and roman murals that adorn the front of this building catch the light of the sun and, despite what I’ve been told, it becomes almost too good to believe.  Tearing my eyes away from such a sight, I look to David, who guided me here. 

“What did you say this place was?” He seems to like the question, as a smile comes to be on his old tan face and he begins a rather lengthy explanation, that I’m all too keen to listen to. 

“Well, you see, we have no idea where it comes from, though we do suppose it is from your world. About 2,000 years ago a great fire took over that hill, and when the flames cleared, there stood this building. One man was inside; he looked a lot like you, you know. He spoke a language we didn’t understand, and he died about three days after appearing here. 

“But we did manage to get one thing from him; he would point to the building and say ‘Bibliotheca Alexandrina.’ We never quite understood what he meant by it, but we assumed that was the name of the building. It’s quite a large building, isn’t it? It has so many scrolls and books in languages that we can’t read, and have no way to translate. We’ve preserved as much of it as we can.” 

I look back to the building, and I can tell Elijah’s starting to figure out that I know something about it.  “How much?” I ask, and David seems perplexed. 

“How much what?” 

“How much did you manage to preserve?” 

“98 percent of it.” 

I feel light-headed for a minute, and I cannot explain the pure joy I felt at that tidbit of information. Elijah comes forward, touching my shoulder gently and asking me “Giovanna, do you know this building?”

David perks up, coming forward, asking the same thing. As a smile takes over my face, and with sudden movements of throwing my hands in the air, I shout “Do I know it? DO I KNOW IT? This is the great library of Alexandria! It was supposedly burned down 2,000 years ago by Julius Caesar! It is a well of history and knowledge of the ancient world! Philosophers, cartographers, every great mind of the ancient world should have their knowledge pooled together here! For goodness sake, this is the portal to the ancient world!” 

David looks stunned, probably thinking about how his people have been sitting on such a gold mine for 2,000 years and never knew. With a shout to the sky, I rocket forward. Elijah follows me, probably still confused, and we run to the pillars together. David follows, although a bit slower due to his age as I let my eyes fly over the paintings and carvings in the pillars. 

“So this is what your language looks like?” Elijah asks me, and I can see David looks curious as well from the corner of my eye. I laugh a little before answering. 

“No, no. We speak English, and while you write it differently, we speak the same thing. Modern English was not around by the time this library was built. These pictures here are Egyptian hieroglyphs, because this library was in Egypt. It’s an ancient form of the Egyptian language, very hard to translate. But, I’m a linguist for a reason. I might be able to read and translate a lot of those scrolls in there.”

David looks excited, and Elijah seems to be catching on. These people may be strange to me, with their multi-colored hair, which they tell me is natural, and their tan skin despite the lack of sunlight, and their webbed ears and ridiculous height. I think they may be alright. 

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