Jakeob Aldon stared at her bathroom ceiling, reclined so far into the bathtub that only her face breached the surface. She was beginning to regret her latest purchase. Damn her impatience. If she had just taken the time to learn how to copy her consciousness and bind it to an inanimate object, her life would have been so much easier. But instead she took the quick route, the lazy path, and bought this stupid American tub with its stupid Russian water. And they wouldn't even tell her how they came to be, all they would ever talk about was communism and America and Mother Russia and blah blah blah blah blah-
"If you two don't shut up, I swear to God I will turn you into a fucking toilet."
"Sir- ma'am- whatever I should be calling you. I am an ass man. I would welcome this change. Shit in this commie's stupid-"
At least Aldon could say she learned a lesson from it all. Do your own leg work. Research like a proper anartist. Or you would end up with two idiots yammering into your brain. The Library was always open, all she had to do was wander in. She lifted herself into a stand and bade the duo a halfhearted farewell. They, of course, ignored her to talk about more inane bullshit. She dried herself off with a thankfully non-sapient towel and dressed in clothes that lacked even a hint of sentience. As things should be.
Shutting the door behind her made her feel a little better, put that much more between her and her giant mistake. At least the rest of her apartment was welcoming. A tiny space, packed with random anartistic garbage amassed between her and her roommate, Finnegan. Small moving statues, speaking paintings, CDs filled with mood-altering music. Bags of clay, stacks of pallets, sacks of concrete mix, buckets upon buckets of paint. It was a sty, but it was their sty. It was home.
Staring at his computer monitor was Finnegan, his ever-present beret displaced by the sound-cancelling headphones covering his ears. Finnegan was palming an old bathtub plug, spinning it in his fingers. Aldon skirted through the minefield of art supplies and flicked off the beret. It took several seconds for Finnegan to notice.
"Oh, hey, Allie." An eyebrow rose slowly. "What's the matter with you?"
"Stupid goddamn bathtub," she pouted.
"I told you," he sang knowingly. "It is pretty funny, you have to admit."
Aldon just crossed her arms and sulked.
Fingers danced across the keyboard as Finnegan saved and closed his latest audio project. He grabbed his beret and pressed it into Aldon's face while he removed his headphones. Aldon laughed, but swiped at him out of mock irritation all the same. The roommates exchanged a series of playful punches before Finnegan donned his hat again.
"Ready to go?" he asked, still smirking.
The artistic duo left their little apartment, making sure to lock up behind themselves. Outside of their personal alcove, they were out in the real world. Where they were supposed to be responsible adults. They walked adult strides, spoke of adult topics. Like sports, taxes, and the weather. How about that weather. It sure was weathering. And those taxes sure were taxing. Not to mention just how sporting those sports were.
The responsible duo entered the library and dropped their conversation. One had to respect the rules of the library, capital L or not. They wandered through the aisles until they reached their destination. A quick perusal of the shelf and Aldon plucked a specific tome from its brethren. It was even halfway out, as if it knew it was the one she wanted. One Atlas Shrugged. She flipped open the book to a random page, made sure the coast was clear, and cleared her throat.
"Man, this is one interesting book," she said, without a hint of sarcasm. That was the important bit. "I'm really glad I found it!"
She snapped the book shut and slid it halfway back into place. She then gripped the spine and twisted. The book spun with her hand, and she gave it a light push. The bookshelf bent inwards as space twisted open into a portal. Finnegan giggled as he always did and hurried in, Aldon right behind him. With a gentle nudge the door was shut again, and space collapsed back into a state of normalcy, the book still sticking out by several inches.
Inside the Wanderer's Library, Finnegan and Aldon felt more at ease. It was their home away from home, where they were free to be their goofy selves so long as they followed the five core tenets. Return your books on time. Don't damage books. Don't steal books. Don't damage Library property. Don't harm those within the Library. Easy enough, though they had to remind themselves not to indulge in their usual roughhousing for fear of it breaking the fifth rule.
The Library itself loomed above, below, and all around them in its grand omniscience. Doors surrounded them in the small marble lobby, each representing more common Ways to reach the Library. Separating the lobby from their branch of the Library was an Archivist, one with its chair. Beyond that was a branching staircase that led to the different sections of the Library, which paid no mind to the primitive concept of gravity. Aldon looked up and saw a man who appeared to be sitting upside down, reading a book against the shelf he found it. A Page read over his shoulder as it stocked the shelves. On another floor, a Docent strode perpendicular to them, leading another Wanderer to her destination. Beyond the spiraling mess that was this branch, seemingly hovering in the distance, was another branch of the Library, containing all the knowledge of another reality. Beyond even that lay more branches, twisting and turning and intertwining amongst each other, often only a hair's breadth apart.
The two Wanderers approached the Archivist. Finnegan cleared his throat and opened his mouth to speak, but when the unseeing Librarian turned to look at him he faltered into a mumble. He had never been particularly comfortable with the Librarians.
"Can I help you?" it asked. Its breath matched the scent of a freshly printed novel.
"We're looking for a book that can teach us to make our own Ways," Aldon said. "We've been using a common one, but we need to transport something and it's too inconvenient otherwise."
Silence fell as the Archivist thought. "Will this cargo cause damage to the Library, its contents, or its occupants?"
"No. It's just a tub. Well, a talking tub. We need to get it to Japan."
There was a slight twitch in the Archivist's face. Aldon allowed herself a smile, since it wouldn't catch her doing so.
"Very well." It lifted a long finger, and without looking it pointed in what seemed a random direction above it. "Up three floors, on the left. Third row, eighth shelf. A book titled A Wanderer's Guide, by Lucifer. Do you require a Docent to help you find it?"
Finnegan frantically shook his head, his beret sliding to and fro. Aldon stifled a giggle and replied with, "No, I think we'll be alright. Thank you."
The Archivist nodded. "Enjoy your stay. Mind the rules."
Several weeks later Finnegan and Aldon found themselves in Japan. They had taken up pseudo-residence in the warehouse the competition was being held in, as had several other artists while they finished their works. One artist was occupied trying to find a way to make his chainsaws remain active. Another was attempting to unwind by playing the piano making up part of his piece. The event's creator, also a participant, was actively avoiding his wife.
Finnegan was sitting atop an abnormally large tortoise, his nose buried in a book. The tortoise, for whatever reason, was wearing his beret. Aldon sat against the bathtub, toying with some pots and pans. This activity had nothing to do with her extreme exhaustion, or so she would tell you. The sound of sandals flipping and flopping disrupted her potting and panning as a man in a Hawaiian T-shirt approached their work area.
"Hi there," the man said. Aldon looked up at him with an expression she hoped conveyed her irritation. She either failed, or the man simply didn't care. He adjusted his stupid fedora sitting on his goofy-looking red hair. "A joint project, eh? What are you guys working on?"
"We're gonna use this piece of shit to power a giant turtle with waterjet cannons," Aldon said, banging a skillet on the side of the tub.
"Tortoise," Finnegan corrected without looking up.
Aldon pointed a pan in Finnegan's direction. "Fuck you, turtles are the ones in water."
"But the model you showed me was a tortoise," Finnegan said while half-yawning. "We got the tortoise I'm sitting on so we could see how one moves."
"What? No, I didn't." Aldon fell onto her side as she reached for the small mock sculpture she had made. Still on her side, she held it up to the man in the Hawaiian shirt, which clearly qualified him to speak on the situation. "This is a turtle, right?"
"It's a tortoise. Turtles have flatter, lighter shells and have webbed feet." The fedora-wearer hovered over the bathtub. "What's the tub do?"
"I made a fucking tortoise. What? Oh, it makes infinite water. Stick your hand in it."
The man did so without a second thought. His eyebrows rose for a moment, and he waited. He listened. He withdrew his hand and placed both hands on the rim of the bathtub. Aldon watched his mouth tug back and forth before he looked down at her.
"I could kill this for you. After the competition, of course."
"Ha!" Aldon found herself taking a small liking to the man. He didn't look familiar, but it was entirely possible she had spoken with him before. Faces ran together in events like this for her. Probably had something to do with the soul crushing stress and the mind numbing lack of sleep. Maybe. "Thanks, but as dumb as they are, I don't want them dead."
"Well, I could still take it off your hands. I have some old friends who would love it." He waved his hand around as if he could pluck the phrase he was searching for from the air. "They're obsessive collectors, so to speak."
"They can have it, then. Thanks." Aldon finally pushed herself back into a sitting position, craning her neck to look around. "So which is yours?"
"Oh, I'm not competing. I'm just a Nobody who felt like watching."
"Hmm." Aldon felt like there was something she was missing, but was too tired to care. "Well, anyway, if you'll excuse me. I have to figure out how to make a pressurized water tank out of a rice cooker."
"Already did that," Finnegan called from the tortoise. His voice seemed quieter with the stranger around, the book even closer to his face than before. "You should start mixing the concrete."
Aldon jerked around as she looked at all the crap they had lying around. "When the hell did you do that?"
"Yesterday? I think? Hey, where's my hat?" Finnegan fell off the tortoise unceremoniously in an attempt to find said hat, asleep by the time he hit the ground.
Nobody chuckled. "You guys are a bit over your heads, eh?"
Aldon snored in response.
The crowd of artists roared in anticipation as the siren went off. Two anartistic monstrosities were positioned opposite each other in the ring, marked as a giant circle with a boxing glove holding a paint brush in the center. A giant stone platypus at 14 meters tall faced against a concrete turtle tortoise with a pair of metal tubes protruding from its shell, coming up to an even 16 meters tall.
Aldon and Finnegan almost had to lean against each other just to stay standing. They had done it, but only barely. The announcer declared the battle was about to begin, and that the artists were to activate their respective mechas.
"Can you do it?" Finnegan mumbled.
Aldon should have seen that coming, really. "You made the thing, you should do it first."
"I don't want to have to do it in front of-"
"Oh, get over it. C'mon. You say one thing, and it's a funny thing, and then you just think the rest. No having to talk to the scary people."
He held the bathtub plug in his hand, twisting his wrist to make the small chain spin. He sighed, spun his beret around, and took a deep breath.
"I choose you! Copyright Infringement!"