Chapter no 59 – Don’t You Dare Give Up

The Midnight Library

Nora Seed!

Nora walked through the haze of dust and smoke in the direction Mrs Elm had pointed towards, as the ceiling continued to fall.

It was hard to breathe, and to see, but she had just about managed to keep count of the aisles. Sparks from the lights fell onto her head.

e dust stuck in her throat, nearly causing her to vomit. But even in the powdery fog she could see that most of the books were now ablaze. In fact, none of the shelves of books seemed intact, and the heat felt like a force. Some of the earliest shelves and books to set on fire were now nothing but ash.

Just as she reached the eleventh aisle she was hit hard by a chunk of falling debris that floored her.

Pressed under rock, she felt the pen slip out of her hand and slide away from her.

Her first attempt to free herself was unsuccessful.

is is itI am going to die, whether I want to or not. I am going to die.

e library was a wasteland. 00:00:41


It was all over.

She was certain of it once more. She was going to die here, as all her possible lives were ravished all around her.

But then she saw it, amid a brief clearing in the clouds. ere, on the eleventh aisle that way. ird shelf from the bottom.

A gap in the fire that was consuming every other book on the shelf. I don’t want to die.

She had to try harder. She had to want the life she always thought she didn’t. Because just as this library was a part of her, so too were all the other lives. She might not have felt everything she had felt in those lives, but she had the capability. She might have missed those particular opportunities that led her to become an Olympic swimmer, or a traveller, or a vineyard owner, or a rock star, or a planet-saving glaciologist, or a Cambridge graduate, or a mother, or the million other things, but she was still in some way all those people. ey were all her. She could have been all those amazing things, and that wasn’t depressing, as she had once thought. Not at all. It was inspiring. Because now she saw the kinds of things she could do when she put herself to work. And that, actually, the life she had been living had its own logic to it. Her brother was alive. Izzy was alive. And she had helped a young boy stay out of trouble. What sometimes feels like a trap is actually just a trick of the mind. She didn’t need a vineyard or a Californian sunset to be happy. She didn’t even need a large house and the perfect family. She just needed potential. And she was nothing if not potential. She wondered why she had never seen it before.

She heard Mrs Elm’s voice, from under the table somewhere far behind

her, cutting through the noise.

‘Don’t give up! Don’t you dare give up, Nora Seed!’

She didn’t want to die. And she didn’t want to live any other life than the one that was hers. e one that could be a messy struggle, but it was her messy struggle. A beautiful messy struggle.



As she writhed and pushed and resisted the weight on top of her, and as the seconds ticked on, she managed – with a great exertion that burned and stifled her lungs – to get back onto her feet.

She scrabbled around on the ground and found the fountain pen, thickly coated in dust, then ran through the particles of smoke to reach the eleventh aisle.

And there it was.

e only book not burning. Still there, perfectly green.

Flinching at the heat, and with a careful index finger, she hooked the top of the spine and pulled the book from the shelf. She then did what she always did. She opened the book and tried to find the first page. But the only

diculty was that there was no first page. ere were no words in the entire book. It was completely blank. Like the other books, this was the book of her future. But unlike the others, in this one that future was unwritten.

So, this was it. is was her life. Her root life. And it was a blank page.

Nora stood there a moment, with her old school pen in hand. It was now nearly one minute aer midnight.

e other books on the shelf had become charcoal, and the hanging light bulb flickered through the dust, vaguely illuminating the fracturing ceiling. A large piece of ceiling around the light – roughly the shape of France – was looking ready to fall and crush her.

Nora took the lid off the pen and pressed the open book against the charred stack of bookshelves.

e ceiling groaned.

ere wasn’t long.

She started to write. Nora wanted to live.

Once she’d finished the inscription she waited a moment. Frustratingly, nothing happened, and she remembered what Mrs Elm had once said. Want is an interesting word. It means lack. So, she crossed that out and tried again.

Nora decided to live. Nothing. She tried again. Nora was ready to live.

Still nothing, even when she underlined the word ‘live’. Everywhere now, there was breakage and ruination. e ceiling was falling, razing everything, smothering each of the bookshelves into piles of dust. She gaped over and saw the figure of Mrs Elm, out from under the desk where she had been sheltering Nora, standing there without any fear at all then disappearing completely as the roof caved in almost everywhere, smothering remnants of fire and shelf stacks and all else.

Nora, choking, couldn’t see anything at all now.

But this part of the library was holding out, and she was still there. Any second now, everything would be gone, she knew it.

So she stopped trying to think about what to write and, in sheer exasperation, just put down the first thing that came to her, the thing that she felt inside her like a defiant silent roar that could overpower any external destruction. e one truth she had, a truth she was now proud of and

pleased with, a truth she had not only come to terms with but welcomed openly, with every fiery molecule of her being. A truth that she scribbled hastily but firmly, pressing deep into the paper with the nib, in capital letters, in the first-person present tense.

A truth that was the beginning and seed of everything possible. A former curse and a present blessing.

ree simple words containing the power and potential of a multiverse.

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