Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr

Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr

Author:Anthony Doerr
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Scribner
Published: 2021-09-28T00:00:00+00:00


FEBRUARY 20, 2020

5:27 P.M.


Crouched beside the upended shelf of audiobooks, peeking out a sliver of window, he watches two more police vehicles move into place, as though they are constructing a wall around the library. Bent figures hurry through the snow along Park Street, pinpoints of red traveling with them. Thermal scanners? Laser sights? Above the junipers, a trio of blue lights hover: some kind of remote-controlled drone. These, the creatures we have chosen to repopulate the earth.

Seymour crawls back to the dictionary stand and is trying to swallow the swirling panic in his throat when the phone atop the welcome desk rings. He clamps his hands around his ear defenders. Six rings seven eight and it stops. A moment later the phone in Marian’s office—hardly more than a broom closet beneath the stairs—rings. Seven rings eight rings stop.

“You should answer,” says the wounded man at the base of the stairs. The earmuffs keep his voice faraway. “They’ll want to find a peaceful way to resolve this.”

“Please be quiet,” says Seymour.

Now the phone on the welcome desk rings again. The man at the base of the stairs has already made enough trouble, has in fact ruined everything. This would be a lot easier if he did not speak. Seymour made him take out his lime-green earbuds and throw them into Fiction, and still the man bleeds onto the dingy library carpet, confusing everything.

On all fours Seymour creeps to the welcome desk and rips the phone cord out of the wall jack. Then he crawls into Marian’s broom-closet office, where the phone is ringing for a second time, and rips out that cord too.

“That was a mistake,” calls the wounded man.

A sticker on Marian’s door reads, The Library: Where the shhh happens. Images of her freckled face stream across his vision and he tries to blink them away.

Great grey owl. World’s largest species of owl by length.

He sits in the doorway to her office with the pistol in his lap. The police lights send blurs of red and blue across the spines of young adult novels. He can feel the roar churning out there, just beyond the windowpanes. Are snipers tracking him right now? Do they have tools to see through walls? How long before they storm in here and shoot him dead?

From his left pocket he removes the phone with the three numbers written on the back. The first detonates bomb one, the second bomb two; he is supposed to dial the third if there’s trouble.

Seymour dials the third number and removes one of the cups of his ear defenders. The connection rings multiple times, beeps, and he’s disconnected.

Does that mean they’ve received the message? Is he supposed to say something after the tone?

“I need medical attention,” says the man at the base of the stairs.

He dials again. It rings rings rings rings rings rings rings rings rings beeps.

Seymour says, “Hello?”

But the call has disconnected. Probably that means that help is coming. It means that they’ve received the message, that they’ll be activating a support network.


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