Pose: The Reading Monk is a deceptive little pose. Essential and fundamental, this pose is the bread and butter of any self-respecting Book Keeper – not that any Book Keeper is in need of more self-respect. After all, they are the few chosen readers with access to the Infinite Shelves where the rarest, most mischievous, magical and dangerous of books roam free.
The Reading Monk calls for extreme balance as the Book Keeper must assume a comfortable, yet stable position on one leg with the other leg firmly tucked close to the body. Both arms stretch out in opposite directions to align the body in a single line perpendicular to the ground.
Purpose: Arguably the first pose to be engineered by the Book Keepers, the Reading Monk is versatile as it makes reading possible atop the highest points within the Infinite Shelves (some 600 ft. above floor level), and tones the muscles. The focus required to maintain the position is said to stabilize one’s vestibular system so well, Book Keepers report that once they’ve mastered it they never suffer from vertigo. Performed correctly this pose calms the ever agitated Restless Volumes enough to be actually readable.
Veteran Book Keepers claim the Reading Monk allows them to read a whole book from cover to cover with just one glance. Many reject this theory.
Point of origin: Many scholars argue about how the Reading Monk came into being. Certain fractions connect the pose’s name among the Book Keepers with Maha Pajapati Gotami, the first woman (coincidentally the first human) to travel to the Infinite Shelves. A monk herself, she is attributed with the creation of multitudinous teachings about the Shelves.
Nevertheless, some oppose this common perception and theorize the first Book Keepers learnt how read at high altitudes by mimicking the Great Mountain Ostrich – though a specimen of the mysterious bird has never been caught to confirm whether it’s an ostrich or not.
Pose in action:
Lyra teeters once, then twice before her body finds its center.
This has been the third time this week she’s had to climb up the north-eastern ridge of the Shelves – an inhospitable place where wild winds conspire to topple you to your death and the sharp cries of large birds of prey tear through the sky from dawn to the late hours of the night.
Why anyone needs a Restless Volume is beyond her; the books are a murder to read but she goes where customers send her and the pay is enough to ignore her own dislike of the region. The current volume she searches for contains the memoir of a lake, which exists in a specific dimension with its own multiple alternatives where the lake has released a similar memoir. So far, Lyra has found two memoirs, but not the right one – the buyer was kind enough to remark, though to her the books bear no significant difference.
Third time better be the charm.
Minutes pass since her assuming the Reading Monk and her breathing slows down. The exhaustion from climbing the shelves in search for the memoir, drained from her body with each new breath. Stillness overcomes her. Her thoughts quieten.
She slides her nail beneath the driftwood hardcover and flips it open to the first pages made of dried underwater vegetation. Bright grainy sand sparkles in the midday sun as it undulates in thin lines across the crude pages, the book agitated from being picked up from its nook. Lyra observes the sand as it moves, sluggishly now, losing momentum and ready to settle down into words her mind can understand.
Restless Volumes want to be read. Patience and stillness are the key.
Soon the sand tires from its chaotic movements and forms words, each grain snuggling in close to form letters and this string continues until Lyra has the first lines in front of her. The timing can’t be any better as the muscles in the leg she’s tucked tremble already in anticipation of release.
“I am a lake. My waters are deep. My depths are undisturbed. My life is quiet. The peace of me is to many unbearable.”
Right. A Restless Volume talks about peace and quiet. Atticus will have a great laugh when she tells him.
“Winds have left their fleeting impressions, carried tales of distant lands I have kept in my folds. Animals come to drink from me and through their thirst I learn about their lives in the forests where everything is in motion.”
The text doesn’t deviate from what Lyra has read from the two previous memoirs. An itch crawls up the elbow of her arm holding nothing and the winds threaten to sway her over the edge of the thin shelf she stands upon. She can feel her concentration slipping and the book will soon feel her own restlessness and feed off it. Then the text will be lost.
“Sometimes humans throw stones into me and it hurts. Those I want to throw out, but I cannot for I am a lake.”
“Yes!” Lyra shouts as she shakes the book and the words spiral into serpentine lines.
Right there at the end of the sentence the sand takes on a reddish hue – the designated sign the buyer forgot to mention. This is definitely the right memoir.
With the book firmly in her grasp, Lyra relaxes from the position, her muscles enflamed from the effort and takes careful, deliberate steps down the shelf towards the Central.
Her hands already itch for the lump of coins she’ll receive for this little book.
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