The night is unkind and I won’t go home to it. I hide until the building empties. Security might think I’m here or they may not; either way there is no challenge. My wandering begins when the building is silent. My feet find a path through the book stacks and I let them, though I know my destination will not change. The light outside is fading but still the afterglow finds gaps between shelves, illuminating the dust that hangs in the air. I imagine myself to be elemental as I push past these particles and disappear into the shadows, a spirit crowded by books. I don’t know how long it takes for me to get there, but when I do, I heave on the handle that hauls apart the compact shelves. Not for wanderers, the secret shelves kept under lock and key. I push my body between the shelves and edge to where I know my tissue-wrapped bible rests. I tease it gently from the shelf. The protective layer is thin and I open it like a gift, exposing it, and touch it again. The prayers sit lightly in my hands as I turn the book over and over, releasing the scent of it into the air. Frail, yet more robust than I am. It has survived.
© Hannah Whaley
From A Cabinet of Curiosities: Reimagining Rare Books. A disparate trove of pieces created by students of Writing Practice and Study, inspired by their work with the Rare Book Collection in the University of Dundee Archives. See the collection on DURA now.