In the rainy library, anyone can find a book about herself.
I’d felt for some time that I was largely invisible to my own eyes. That how other people experienced me was so different from my own ideas as to be unimaginable.
So I needed that book. I had to see myself, even if it broke me.
But reaching the library wasn’t easy. First I saved up for years for the black-market maps—only to find out that the library was halfway across the world. Well. Swallowing my anger, I saved for another year, then took a long-haul flight to a remote plateau, and with map in hand backpacked over an icy mountain range to a hidden valley filled with dense jungle. In the depths of that steaming jungle was a waterfall so chilly it spit icicles, and I had to grope through plummeting ice for a doorknob embedded in rock.
I stepped through into warm drizzle, into a large atrium with clouds rumbling and bumping under its glass ceiling. Above me rose eight stories of sagging shelves and waterlogged stacks of books. When I called out, nobody responded… and my echo seemed to mock me.
I was starting to worry that I’d been scammed.
But that atrium turned out to be one of hundreds, and the library itself was larger than a city. My map took me through muddy side corridors that forked and star-split constantly, each new hallway decorated like a different culture or era. I rode horizontal elevators and crossed catwalks over book vaults. I gazed out windows at a mirrory lake, then a living city, then a sky filled by the glossy black wing of a planet-sized bird.
Finally I pushed open the heavy stone door to the final room, where an orb-headed mannequin posed by an enormous rose-window.
This part was in the instructions too.
I joined the mannequin at the glass, and we gazed out at darkness as flat as if reality ended just beyond the pane. Soon this darkness softened—not becoming light so much as giving way to a whiteness that wasn’t really white, but a color I’d never seen before. This color grew nested curves and crosshatched shadows, spiraling open into the furled layers of an antimatter rose.
Unwhite petals swirled out, larger than the sky.
And in the rose? At its center?
An eye, tracking from side to side.
The mannequin shifted and gasped.
Now she looked exactly like me.
She turned in my direction.
We spoke at the same time.
We leaned toward each other.
I gazed deep into my own apprehensive eyes.
I began to read.