I found him spread across a mess of research papers at Knowlton Public Library.
“Here,” I handed him the paper bag. “All those energy drinks could kill a herd of dumb humans.”
The spray of liquid stimulants pooled on the plastic sheeting of a book titled Hieroglyphics and Millennials: How Ancient Symbols Define a Generation’s Communication.
“That’s some heavy reading,” I said.
Ghoul finished his seventh Monster, then crushed the can against the rectangular slab of particle board covering the rotting hole over his kidneys.
“You don’t understand! There has to be more than a quick image and poor sentences describing a common emotion or understanding of a particular society and it’s ever-changing social variables.”
I felt the a tender burn. It was at the back of my head, a feeling like I was being watched by a fiery fiend. Knowlton Library was an immense renovation-in-progress and the tall ceilings above hid among a dome of faint shadows but I knew what I saw: sapphire eyes peering from behind an old heating pipe, probably from the boiler below.
Was it a hiss, or a hush that I heard slithering from the shadows?
“Look!” Ghoul pointed to a stack of pictures printed with cheap toner that I had severe disinterest of reading. “All the signs suggest that the earliest memes were in fact cave paintings, or possibly, hieroglyphics.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about, but are you ready to go or what?”
There was a smell wafting to my nostrils. It was sweet and wholesome on the surface, like cookies fresh out of the oven, yet my primal senses, the ones warning against unspeakable dangers, whispered that death was coming. There was someone behind me, no, something. I spun around.
“Get your friend and his empties and leave.”
The librarian was formidable. And tall. Long, toned arms tensed from under her sapphire blouse and I swore I was squaring off with a WNBA all-star.
“Yes ma’am, right away,” shadows sifted in the ceilings, moving closer to us. “We gotta go, man. Right now.”
I cleaned the mess. Even offered to put his books back but the librarian insisted that her children needed to feed. There was never any children, only shadows above.
We left the library, and outside, Ghoul collapsed on his knees, screaming uncontrollably to the night sky. He was having a manic episode. Happened a few times before. Ghoul will get an idea in his head, obsess about it until he forgets to eat and sleep and drink and then starts to break down. His last episode was the reason the Boston Aquarium won’t allow penguins. Or sharks.
“You need Wikipedia. And some lithium.”
“Wikipedia? I don’t like drugs, you know that.”
Ghoul didn’t believe me at first. I couldn’t really blame him. The wealth of endless knowledge found on the internet staggers conventional… everything! Information absorption simplified at an immediate pace seemed magical, or alien, to Ghoul. He accepted it, eventually, but deep down I knew he feared the irrelevancy Knowlton Library would soon have.
I gave Ghoul simple instructions on how to utilize Wikipedia and I saw him a week later.
“So, what did you think?”
“I think so therefore I love Wikipedia. Did you know you can learn anything on there? Here, check this out.”
I was given a printout of a diploma from an unpronounceable online university.
“Right—anyway, what did you learn about memes?”
“Could you please address me as doctor,” Ghoul pointed to the PhD in Massage Therapy Engineer of Culinary Arts by his name. “Memes are tainted tidbits of false existentialism regurgitated by selfish millennials grasping for instant gratification. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a lecture to teach.”
© Copyright John Potts Jr 2016 – 2017