At ﬁrst the mist was so pervasive that she could see nothing else, until slowly she saw pillars appear on either side of her. She was standing on a path, some kind of colonnade. e columns were brain-grey, with specks of brilliant blue. e misty vapours cleared, like spirits wanting to be unwatched, and a shape emerged.
A solid, rectangular shape.
e shape of a building. About the size of a church or a small supermarket. It had a stone facade, the same colouration as the pillars, with a large wooden central door and a roof which had aspirations of grandeur, with intricate details and a grand-looking clock on the front gable, with black-painted Roman numerals and its hands pointing to midnight. Tall dark arched windows, framed with stone bricks, punctuated the front wall, equidistant from each other. When she ﬁrst looked it seemed there were only four windows, but a moment later there were deﬁnitely ﬁve of them. She thought she must have miscounted.
As there was nothing else around, and since she had nowhere else to be, Nora stepped cautiously towards it.
She looked at the digital display of her watch. 00:00:00
Midnight, as the clock had told her.
She waited for the next second to arrive, but it didn’t. Even as she walked closer to the building, even as she opened the wooden door, even as she stepped inside, the display didn’t change. Either something was wrong with her watch, or something was wrong with time. In the circumstances, it could have been either.
What’s happening? she wondered. What the hell is going on?
Maybe this place would hold some answers, she thought, as she walked inside. e place was well lit, and the ﬂoor was light stone – somewhere between light yellow and camel-brown, like the colour of an old page – but the windows she had seen on the outside weren’t there on the inside. In fact, even though she had only taken a few steps forward she could no longer see the walls at all. Instead, there were bookshelves. Aisles and aisles of shelves, reaching up to the ceiling and branching oﬀ from the broad open corridor Nora was walking down. She turned down one of the aisles and stopped to gaze in baﬄement at the seemingly endless amount of books.
e books were everywhere, on shelves so thin they might as well have been invisible. e books were all green. Greens of multifarious shades. Some of these volumes were a murky swamp green, some a bright and light chartreuse, some a bold emerald and others the verdant shade of summer lawns.
And on the subject of summer lawns: despite the fact that the books looked old, the air in the library felt fresh. It had a lush, grassy, outdoors kind of smell, not the dusty scent of old tomes.
e shelves really did seem to go on for ever, straight and long towards a far-oﬀ horizon, like lines indicating one-point perspective in a school art project, broken only by the occasional corridor.
She picked a corridor at random and set oﬀ. At the next turn, she took a le and became a little lost. She searched for a way out, but there was no sign of an exit. She attempted to retrace her steps towards the entrance, but it was impossible.
Eventually she had to conclude she wasn’t going to ﬁnd the exit.
‘is is abnormal,’ she said to herself, to ﬁnd comfort in the sound of her own voice. ‘Deﬁnitely abnormal.’
Nora stopped and stepped closer to some of the books.
ere were no titles or author names adorning the spines. Aside from the diﬀerence of shade, the only other variation was size: the books were of similar height but varied in width. Some had spines two inches wide, others signiﬁcantly less. One or two weren’t much more than pamphlets.
She reached to pull out one of the books, choosing a medium-sized one in a slightly drab olive colour. It looked a bit dusty and worn.
Before she had pulled it clean from the shelf, she heard a voice behind her and she jumped back.
‘Be careful,’ the voice said.
And Nora turned around to see who was there.