by Leonard Wick
The village of Sudbury is found fifteen miles west of Littlehampton and a few miles north of Darkwell Forest. It is a small village with a population less than ten thousand, and yet its library is significantly larger than one would expect for a community so small.
The library, a large redbrick building located midway down the village high street, was commissioned by the local parish council in 1792. There were many obstacles on the path to its construction, including flooding and a rat infestation, and the discovery of a fairy garden nearby threatened to close the project altogether, but the library was finally completed in the autumn of 1794.
The original library stood until the 1950s, when it burnt to the ground. There are some who blame this on the fae, who are known to wander through the village from the forest, but the more common explanation for the blaze is that a cigarette was dropped and left to smoulder.
The library was rebuilt several years later after a generous donation to the council. The second library’s construction was remarkably easier than the first, and was completed without incident in 1953. The donation included a trust fund, which the library uses to this day and which accounts for the large collection.
However, the most interesting thing about Sudbury Library is not about the library itself, but the cat who lives in it.
According to head librarian Marian Faulk, the cat – who is known simply as ‘the library cat’, or just ‘cat’ – appeared in the library shortly after its original construction in the late eighteenth century. The librarian at the time (who Ms. Fault is distantly related to) decided to keep it in order to scare off any remaining rats, and the cat has apparently stayed there ever since.
Sources differ on why the cat is able to live for so long. Some believe it’s the spirit of the village itself, while others say it’s a protector of sorts. The one thing most can agree on is that if the cat’s fate is tied directly to the village’s, and if it dies, so too will the village.
Ms. Faulks doesn’t agree. “I think it’s just a cat,” she said when asked about it. “A very strange cat to be sure, but listen: there’s a lot of strange things in this village. An old cat like ours certainly isn’t the weirdest thing I’ve come across in my years here.
“Folks here are just scared. There’s a lot of scary things in the world right now, and people like to focus on something they think will last. And if the library cat can survive, maybe we can too.”
Sudburry Library is open every day except Sunday, and its cat can usually be found sleeping on its front desk or prowling through its shelves.