Underworld Library

library shelves

He had been working for years. Never saw a breath of fresh air. Working day and night on the same problem, same dilemma. At the beginning, before there were fleas under his collar, he imagined he had known someone. She had come to him once and said, “Don’t treat other women the same way.” It was so long ago already, it felt like a dream to him, not a memory, at least not a real one, at any rate. Well, he hadn’t. Hadn’t known any other besides her, hadn’t bothered, and hadn’t been bothered. That was like some ancient dust now. He had brushed that memory like dust itself off his desk, off his books, and, where he began to feel an itch, he brushed it out of collar. Memories of that kind themselves can only be bothersome. So, he turned his mind back to his scholarly thoughts, and his knowledge began to exceed that of even the greatest of great lords of Persia. He knew that in that realm he began to rival even them. Once the fleas starting biting him, he ignored them. Fleas, he considered, are like unwanted memories. They are distractions to my greater purpose, he thought to himself. After many years the same woman who had initially warned him came by again. She was old now. She had never had children. Her hair was brittle and gray. Not just around his collar, but around his entire head swarmed a thick swarm of fleas. “Treat all men you encounter,” she said to the fleas, “the same way as you treat this man.” The fleas of course did not listen to her. For fleas do not speak, and they certainly do not hear, not in that way, if they do at all, even a crone. The swarm of fleas continued to devour him, a scholar who had long been dead, long been ignored.

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