rating: +23+x

There's not a lot to be said about this place.

It's big, it's confusing, it's empty, it's silent. That's about all there is to notice, and that's not really saying much. You hadn't panicked when you noticed the empty bookshelves and the emblazoned THE END is NEaR.

"It sure damn is," you had said out loud, you think. The level stole your voice the moment it left your mouth, anyway.

Documentation refers to this level a library, but it almost looks like an empty book store. There's computers and a circulation desk here, of course, but it's as if some confused entity hadn't really understood the difference between the place where people take books in exchange for showing someone a funny card and a different place where people take books in exchange for showing someone a different funny card but also sometimes funny paper strips. Actually, now that you think about it, that circulation desk that you passed a few minutes ago did have a full cash register at it. You'll have to check if the next one you pass is the same.

You've wandered into a trap. Oh well. In most other situations, you would have started jotting down notes in case they might help whoever discovers your corpse. Here? There's really no point, because nobody's going to find you. Why bother inconveniencing yourself? Might as well satisfy your curiosity instead. If you're lucky, you might wander into someone else's personal heaven/hell(?) too before stumbling into yours.

One of those book carts would be nice to have right now. It would make moving through here more fun than just walking, walking, walking. Eventually, you start weaving through bookshelves just for some variation, like some sort of roadside zoo tiger lacking enrichment pacing its cage. You are, actually, quite literally, as close to being that tiger as anyone ever will. You are stuck in a cage, bored out of your mind, trying to stimulate your own brain in whatever manner available to you. The two-legged tiger you are eventually resorts to climbing a bookshelf just to see if it's possible to get a look at anything interesting. You do not climb anywhere near as gracefully as a tiger. There is absolutely nothing of note once you get up on the top shelf and stand on it.

There is, however, a very notable sudden lack of bookshelf under your feet three seconds later, as the shelf not built to withstand that much concentrated force in one spot buckles under your weight. Your fall knocks the bookshelf over in the process. You go one direction, the shelf goes the other.

Library floors are cheap, and this recreation managed to get that part accurate. Fucker. After spending some time recovering from what you're at least certain isn't a bone fracture, you decide maybe it's time to get up again. Unsurprisingly, the layout has changed between your last look (from upon your wooden perch) and current look (from the ground).

It's changed quite a bit. You're no longer in a library.

Wait, no. There's a bookshelf over there. It's just not the same ugly particle-board brown as you last saw. And over there. And over there, floating over the first bookshelf.

You scramble to your feet and get out of the way as the bookshelf lowers itself to the floor. It doesn't come crashing down like you expected, as if a giant hand is delicately transferring a dollhouse bookshelf full of little books into a new spot. You can hear the noise of wood creaking, and another bookshelf floats by overhead and keeps going until it's out of sight. All around you are these bookshelves, definitely fancier than the ones you were lost among earlier. The lighting here is a little dim, but it's less of a "dank and dark" and more of a "purposeful aesthetic" kind of dimness. Less emotionally dampening, you could say.

Given that there's obvious noise here, you figure it's possible to speak out loud without being silenced. You don't hear anything other than the creaking, but…


Yup, that's your voice! Ringing out through this library, cutting through the air. You wonder if you've ended up in one of the false realities, finally. The floating bookshelves don't seem very realistic though, but maybe it's just the false reality failing to maintain itself as expected. It's a known issue(?), after all.

"Hey, anyone out there?"

You pick a direction and start walking. The floor is a nicely polished wood, squeaking under your shoes occasionally. You keep watch of the bookshelves, although they don't suddenly take off or land around you. You do see one levitating ever so slightly, something you only notice because your foot catches in the gap underneath it when you take the turn a little too close to the shelf. You do a little hop-hop-flail to regain your balance, managing to avoid another spill.

"Are you the one yelling in the Archive?"

"Oh. Yeah, that was me," you tell the stranger you finally just noticed. His body is turned toward a bookshelf although his head is looking in your direction. You must have interrupted him.

"There's really no need for that," he says.

"Sorry, I just sort of got here through The End of all places, so I'm not really—"

"Oh, well that's an ordeal."

"Yeah, so if you could tell me where…"

Wait. You've seen this place before. You certainly didn't enter like this the last time you were here, but, how could you have fallen into the Cygnus Archive? That's not something that happens in The End. Failing to properly collide with the environment typically sends you to another area, or… A false reality? Strange that it would be another part of the Backrooms. Why would The End try to trick you into thinking you were in a safer level, rather than back in true reality itself?

"…is Blanche here?" you carefully ask the stranger.

"Sure," the stranger replies. "Didn't you see her earlier?"

"No, I was in The End, and then I landed here."

The stranger snaps his fingers as if reaching a revelation.

"Ohhhhhh. Okay. That's new. First time for everything, though, right? Might as well be now."

"So, how do I get to Blanche's office?"

"Eh, forget that for now. I'll take you there in a bit." The stranger looks up toward the highest shelf on the bookcase he's been leaning up against. "Can you help me grab something, first?"

"Sure, I guess," you say. "Can't reach?"

"Nope. Gimme a boost."

You give the stranger a boost, as requested. He's not quite as heavy as you'd expected, as if something was helping him stay aloft. You can't see him grab the book, but he taps your shoulder and you take that to mean that he's gotten what he needs. Once the stranger has both feet on the floor, you get a glimpse of the book in question. The cover is blank, bound in a featureless blue.

"What's that for?" you ask him.

"Busywork," is all the answer you get from him. You try to surreptitiously snatch a view of the inside, but all you manage is a glance at an ex ea commodo that makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. They are words, probably.

"Wow, The End. Weird place. I wish I could see the library," he says.

"I can't say I've ever met anyone who wanted to go there. What's your name?" you ask the stranger.

"I'll tell you that later. What was The End like? I hear it's boring."

"It's… yeah. It's kind of boring. Empty and silent. I guess it wouldn't be boring if I got attacked by a Partygoer."

"Which I'm guessing you didn't. I'd like to actually see one of those, too."

"You've never seen a picture of a Partygoer?"

"No, a real Partygoer. I've never seen one."

"I don't know why you would want to see a real Partygoer."

"Because other people get to, and I can't."

"I'd say that's a good thing."

"It's boring! I don't get to see any of the things Wanderers get to. Them's the fuckin breaks, I guess. Such is the life of an actor."

"An actor?"

He smiles at you.

"I have to stay here, always some sort of background to everyone else’s fun adventures. Even if those adventures do end in death and dismemberment. I'm always just enhancing the landscape. You get to do all kinds of things, like getting lost in The End and tumbling into here!"

"I… see?"

(You don't.)

"Okay, maybe it's not that big of a deal," he concedes. "Not meeting Partygoers or seeing the library means I'm still here. I might always be an actor, but at least I'll always be around."

The stranger tilts his head one way, a hint of sadness in his expression.

"I guess I'd really hate being real, like you. That's permanent."

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