At school, I spent a lot of time in the library. I could be dramatic and claim that I was hiding from this and that but I wasn’t. I loved the silence, the dust motes, the smell of the shelves of slowly settling paper. I loved the oddities and the books reserved for “Sixth Form Only” (like Chekhov’s short stories. Why?)
I couldn’t claim to have read every book there but I read many of them. I can recall a lot of the covers and writers (Andre Norton, for example, revisited earlier the autumn). It’s where I first read Moby Dick when I was thirteen (time I read it again) and Geoffrey or Heny Treece’s marvellous historical novels. I also found a book of illustrations by science fiction artists of possible pictures of other planets. This book I loved in particular and for one specific picture above all the others.
It was a landscape, a vision of a green, habitable planet. Under a night sky of strange stars, oval domes with little glowing doorways sheltered recently arrived settlers. The moon was different and there might have been two of them. The planet was far, far away. A thousand light years from home.
It always looked like home to me.
Even now, I ache for that place, the strange stars, the grass that isn’t quite the texture or shade of own grass, a place with no other human beings save those I arrived with. A place where I can stand outside my geodesic dome, look up and recognise nothing.
I can’t remember the name of the book. Perhaps it’s just as well. Like the girl in the poem by Stevie Smith, I might be tempted to simply step in and walk away.