BABYLON SIPPAR, LIBRARIAN
Once the distinction between real and imagined history had been introduced, they began to spend their free time in the library of the Winter Palace. It was overseen by a surly, over-educated Ruler named Babylon Sippar, who, despite his exalted name, dwelt in the Minor ranks of the Rulers, related to Sargon and Renee on one side and the execrated, assassinated Maximilian on the other, by natural crossbreeding and selective cloning.
Baby Sip, as he was called by the staff who cleaned around his uncongenial figure twice a week (there were no dusty tomes on the shelves), was a known libertine, an opium addict and heterosexual, who made no effort to hide either. But he was also schooled at the Basel University Library, one of the largest collections in the world, being somehow immune to the Age of Ignorance, or, as Baby Sip called it, The Age of Willful Stupidity. The habits he acquired there rendered him unemployable to the government or the military, so at Robin’s urging Sargon and Renee assigned him the post of Librarian, a minimal wage to be paid out from the funds accruing to his genome.
With remuneration sufficient to maintain a modest dissipation, he took the post and soon the walls were varnished by his compulsive smoking. In the morning he chain smoked Gauloises straights and downed espresso, clouding the sun that flooded the atrium. In the afternoon he puffed at a hookah and the sweet smell of opium, hashish, and tobacco drifted upward, layering with the dust, until dinner, which he took in his quarters with a cigar and more opium and hashish and sometimes a glass pipe of heroin.
Throughout the day he drank brandy from a snifter, switching to port before dinner, then wine, followed by more brandy, and read promiscuously, devoting his life to a thorough explication, adumbration, and elaboration of Finnegans Wake, which he was convinced was an instructional manual for the raising of the dead. The only interruption he would countenance was sexual. For sex he would do whatever was necessary to obtain consent and achieve consummation. Other than these infrequent but intense sexual adventures his studies could proceed uninterrupted, because no one ever used the library except for the Surrogate, who sent for books, preferring the European novel, of which he approved, as well as children’s books, of which he did not. Then, one day, the children came to destabilize his remarkably balanced existence.
The library was housed in the South Tower, on ten ascending tiers connected by two spiral stairs with iron rails that wound about the atrium in a double helix. Above that soared the steeple. Sargon and Phaedra stood before Babylon Sippur’s modest desk, occupied by a first folio of Audubon’s Quadrupeds of North America and a jagged stack of worn books, Goidelic Glossaries, Early Irish Texts, Etymology of Germanic and Romance Languages, a Dover Edition of Wallace Budge’s Egyptian Book of the Dead, Bruno’s Il Candelaio, Brustein’s Mysteries of Euclid Explained, and on top, torn pieces of paper marking every other page, a leather-bound, gilt-edged edition of Rupert’s translation of Maimonides’ Guide for the Perplexed. Behind him was a wall of bookshelves, filled with the library catalogue, dictionaries, biographies and bibliographies, and some books of foreign collection holdings he had managed to procure from booksellers in Geneva and Zurich.
“Sire, we are here to examine some books,” stated Young Sargon, startling Baby Sip out of a revery. He had been sipping a mildly hallucinogenic tea and was imagining he was actually deep inside the earth, deep as the tower above him was tall. He had no idea what was in and what was out. But he knew, upon full waking, that it was Young Sargon who stood before him, with his bastard sister Phaedra. Baby Sip studied the feral girl of whom he had heard so much gossip. Her sexuality shamed him briefly and then he saw it clear, an intense sensual intelligence, beyond her years, which caused an obscure stirring in his groin.
Lowering his eyes, he said, “It is I who should say Sire, Sire. I am here to serve you, it is my job and,” he looked at Phaedra, “my pleasure.” Phaedra’s face was blank, and at that moment quite adult, as she was absorbed by surveying the stacks. The way the tiers rose and stairs spiraled gave the illusion of infinite space, infinite books. “What sorts of books would you like to read? We have tales of Martian travels, the complete, unabridged 17 volume Burton translation of the 1001 Nights. Tier 3 is devoted exclusively to fantasy fiction of all sorts, also young readers and graphic novels.”
“Actually,” said Phaedra, turning her toes in and out and seeming suddenly quite juvenile, forcing his shame to return, “We want real history, not books for stupid little children full of fairy tales. We want the real history of Mars and the origins of the Rulers. Especially the MONS OLYMPUS.”
He was taken aback, but still feeling fuzzy at the edges, as his mind bled into hallucinatory fields, he said, “Mons, indeed. I have heard of the Mons Veneris.”
“We aren’t interested in venerated mons,” she answered.
“Bog’s your uncle! You are young yet, but I would point out that Mounds have been Venerated throughout history. Tip. I’m sure if we exagim the shelves we shall find what you seek.” He reached under the desk and pulled to his lips a long snaking hose, which he puffed a few times. Smoke rising from his mouth, he stood unsteadily and retrieved from the shelf behind him a leather bound catalogue of Winter Palace Library holdings in subjects H-M, History to Mathematics, and handed it to them. “This book was compiled by my predecessor. It includes a finding guide for the maps, a passion of the Old President, your Grand Sire, Sire. Guard it well. The entries indicate tiers, ranges and shelf numbers. To wit, 6-6-6 will be on the 6th floor, 6th range, 6th shelf. Always in that order, floor/range/shelf.”