The library caught fire easily. Generations of papyri, oiled skin and vellum crackled as the fire spread like malicious dragon illnesses.
She couldn’t do anything. Instead, she ran, ran, ran. Out into the cold, into the night air of the Month of Fallen Rice. When the fire ceased and the library was all black, all ash, she walked back in. The pain tore into her. She knelt down and marked her face with the black ash that was books rendered into nothing. Downward her fingers slashed. Marks of grief, marks of aversion. Her eyes bled black ash.
She couldn’t speak for a while. She refused to speak. She went on, a pale shadow slipping in and out of hard reality. The malicious dragon illnesses seemed to catch her and play her like felines toying with rodents in the grain silos.
When she finally spoke – a soft ‘Uhm’ – the library was in the midst of rebuilding. She made her way to the building, her second home, noting how light she was. When she entered, she was surprised to see carts and carts of books carried in by porters. The walls were bright once more, now brick and concrete. The shelves soared before her like sentinel trees, like xiessi pines. Then she heard the conversation.
“Thank the gods for donors!”
“Without them, the library will surely die!”
“Chief Librarian will be so glad. I miss her.”
She turned and saw something else. Two red candles, flanking a porcelain plate glazed with blue varnish. It carried gao, a sweet cake. It was tucked in a corner, next to the main doorway. Why was a death-shrine doing in the library?
She felt lighter and lighter as if she had grown wings, like a fairy out of some myth. She opened her mouth to draw attention and spat out a stream of ash and paper. A gentle breeze blew in and blew her away. She dissipated, from bottom to top, ashes whispering in small swirls. It was the Month of Candle Flame, a time to sweep the graves.