3: A Woman in White

His first exhale made a cloud in the cold air. The glass cracked under his naked body as he rolled onto his side. Blood trickled from hundreds of small cuts on his back and mixed with the black shards on the ground. Around him lay bodies of naked women and men and children frozen in time. He rolled into a shivering ball and stared at the dead until he fell asleep.

The sun was still up when the cold woke him. He rose on shaky legs and looked out over the fields and the crater surrounding them. Giant and deep with edges sloping into the middle where a vessel lay. Whiter than anything he had ever seen it glowed in contrast to its bed of crushed obsidian. The dead lay encircling it like moths around a lantern. Sun, glass, bodies and the glowing white vessel, nothing else as far as the eye could see. And then further.

He saw a figure crossing the crater. White as the Vessel but a mere grain of sand in comparison to its mountainous size. It walked over the corpses so far away it seemed to stand still. He bent down and picked up a shard of obsidian before heading toward the figure. First avoiding stepping on the bodies, but as the cuts on his feet became deeper and more numerous, he used them as steppingstones. When he came closer, he saw the silhouette of a woman in a white dress that flickered in the wind. She turned and walked toward him, unfazed by her surroundings.

Who are you? he yelled when she came within hearing distance. She did not answer. A high-frequency humming grew louder as she continued walking toward him in silence. When she came closer, he saw that her dress was not white. The fabric was woven from all colors and mixed in the light. They stood watching each other without saying anything. She was young and beautiful. Her dark brown hair braided into a perfect braid that almost touched the ground.

She focused him in her kind green eyes and said, Hello, can I help you with anything?

When he did not answer, she smiled and continued, Welcome to the Library. What can I do for you?

Nothing. Everything. I don’t know. What’s the difference? he said in a coarse voice not used for a long time.

I’m not in the position to answer that. I’m sorry.

What’s this place?

It’s the Library. It contains the accumulated knowledge of humankind.

What’s with all the dead?

They are my attempt at repopulating the earth.

Why? What happened?

It’s reset. I’m afraid I can’t tell you any more at this time. But if you ask me again later, I might be able to.

And who’re you?

I’m the Librarian.

What’s your name?

That’s my name, She answered tilting her head.

Where’re you from?

I’m from here, the Library.

Are you born here?

Yes.

Where’re your parents?

They’re dead. Can I help you with anything?

No. How old are you?

I can’t answer that.

You said this place contains the accumulated knowledge of humanity, yet you can’t tell me your age?

I’m not authorized to do that. Can I help you with anything else?

No. When did your parents die?

I’m not allowed to answer that.

Why?

You don’t have the Key.

What key?

I can’t answer that. He tightened his grip around the shard but froze looking at her. There was no change in her expression as she looked back at him and said, Can I help you with anything?

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