The archive of Dhaka beneath the city
Before anything else, that is who you are now—Librarian. You are the latest in a long line of caretakers of the greatest secret of this city, chosen because of what you have endured, chosen because of your love and compassion and strength.
If this letter has found you, then I want you to think back. The last time you wandered down the streets and alleys of this city, the living, breathing creature that is Dhaka, do you remember a door? It was an ordinary door, really, nothing which would stand out, but to you, for some reason, it did. Perhaps it was made of wood, perhaps it was covered in graffiti, perhaps it was weathered and warped and looked old enough to have belonged in your grandfather's time.
Librarian, that is the Door. Your instincts knew it, even if your conscious mind did not. That is the Door which leads you, only you, to the Archive of Dhaka Beneath the City and you, Librarian, are now its caretaker. You were chosen because of your heart. Because of the incredible love you carry, despite the cruelty of this hungry city. Because of the strength you have, forged by the trials and tribulations of Dhaka, strong and steadfast. Because of the way you never gave up, even when the bruises turned into scars and you buried your head into a pillow and wept because this city would devour any who showed weakness. You were chosen because of the selfless, mindless, all-encompassing love you have for art, literature, music and history. Because of the way your pulse races when the hero of an action movie pulls an impossible stunt, because of the way your eyes light up when you stumble across a new bookstore, because of the way you feed little bits of bread to the stray animals who lie unprotected on the scorching roads of Dhaka. You feed them, Librarian, because you have a kind heart.
Dhaka has seen you, Librarian. Dhaka is a sharp-eyed mistress, but she has a heart made of art, and she knows you for a kindred spirit. Dhaka chose YOU to guard her secret, friend.
Open the Door. A thousand feet below these teeming streets you will find the Archive of Dhaka Beneath the City. I do not know who created this place, nor do I know how the strange magic of it works. I only know three things.
One. The Archive contains every single piece of literature, great and small, that has ever been written, published and unpublished, expressed and unexpressed, within the boundaries of the great city above us. Some strange power brings it all here, and that same magic keeps it all.
Two. The Archive is known to very few people. Very few. To the best of my knowledge, it is ancient beyond reckoning, but it lives and breathes like a person. It chooses its own caretaker, the one who will care for this vast library which is the size of the city itself. Literature, you see, protects itself, and Dhaka chooses her Librarian.
Three. You are now the Librarian. I came here when I was young, like you. Escaping from a world where literature is no longer loved. Dhaka sheltered me, gave me knowledge, gave me life. But now my tenure has ended. I must go. The city has chosen.
You are the keeper of the secret art of Dhaka, and you keep our history alive. You have earned your reward.
Good luck, Librarian.
Sarazeen Saif Ahana is an adjunct member of the faculty at Independent University, Bangladesh where she teaches English and, as a hobby, searches for magic portals to ancient, underground libraries.