She had managed to tire herself. Dry of tears, Irene coughed and cleared her throat of all its dust and sobs. Done with panic, she caught her breath again and listened to the creases in the silence. A squeal echoed from somewhere in the distance, an animal or a machine or rocks giving way under pressure . . .
She sat up. She was not on Earth. So where then?
In her shock, she had only been able to dwell on the irrevocable fact that the magic had led her to someplace beyond her kenning, someplace inaccessible to the machinations of rational thought. Glancing around at the contents of the massive shelves, she recognized something in some pieces that she thought to call "technology." Then she remembered Peter's words, which were now a warning. ". . . the Library, so gigantic it's like another world unto itself." A world unto itself: pipes, chimneys, wheels, lenses, tomes, scrolls, crystals, screens, blades, bulbs, spheres, shapes, objects, things – she might be able to put a label on almost anything here if she were willing to sacrifice precision.
Her surroundings were roughly as Peter had described. Before her was a canyonesque corridor cut between two rows of black shelves, which towered above her, disappearing into the orange glow of the sky high above her. Her position was in the center of a four-way intersection. She surveyed the areas on either side of the corridor, and estimated that between either pair of shelves, there was around an acre and a half of dust and ruin. The compartments of the shelves were linked by staircases cut into the black stone of the structures. Some were cut for humans, or creatures of approximately the same size and locomotive style; but ahead of her one grand pile of steps climbed the full height of the adjacent shelf. Who could amble up those stones – each one the size of a house – and into the formless light above?
Irene stood. A place totally apart. Yet, as lucidity crept back into her person, it seeped into the canyon as well. There was some kind of rationale here: It was a library, was it not? As disconnected from terra firma as she knew she was, Irene could not help but to notice that, whoever the builders may have been, they shared a common urge with many archaeologists. They were driven collectors and compilers.
There was no catalog as Peter had described. Nor was there a guide waiting. The air did not stir.