Smoke hung so thick in the library’s rafters that she could read words in it. Words that told the same stories her father had told her when he got home from this library every night in an attempt to make her feel less alone. His effort to comfort her wasn’t enough, for every morning he would steal back to this place again to escape his grief.
It was a tragedy, she thought, strangely calm in this unnerving situation, that all of the wonderful stories would be forgotten. She knew the library would be rebuilt, it was historically significant after all, but all of the memories housed between these pages would forever be lost. She knew better than anyone the value of this library over the others. Her father had taught her that. It was a lesson she never forgot.
The christian crusades had created this glorious collection, her father had told her. She used to imagine that they had written the history down with long quills on old-fashioned parchment paper. She used to be able to see steady hands recounting the tales that had been told under the stars for centuries, but now she knew better. This history was never theirs. It was taken. Ripped from its home to be held captive here. These stories have never belonged in this dusty city.
Nevertheless, she picked up another match. This was one of her last three, she would have to use it carefully if she wanted to do the most damage. The city would surely have seen the smoke by now. The firemen would probably already be on their way, their sirens blaring through the hot night. It would be a rude awakening for her father. He would most certainly come investigate what all the fuss is about. When he found his favorite hideaway in ashes, he would cry, not for his own daughter, but for the history lost.
She lit the match, cradling the flame in her palm, unflinching. Her mother would have been so sad had she seen what her daughter was doing. She could hear her soothing voice, soft among the cackling of the flames, scolding her, “History is important to your father, my dear. He needs some time alone to cope. There is nothing wrong with that.”
But her mother was not here. Her mother had not been here for a while now and her death is the reason her father preferred this dusty place over his own daughter and there is something the matter with that. If her father had been with her, instead of this terribly beautiful place, she wouldn’t have to do this. So, she dropped the match among the books and watched them catch the blaze.
With her last two matches, she returned to the center of the ornate building. The smoke was so thick that she could barely see her shaky hands glide the match over the matchbox. It was a miracle that she got it to light at all, but she did. She took that as a sign that she was doing the right thing, and lit the nearest book on fire before hurling it up to the top of the closest towering bookshelf. She couldn’t see high enough through the smoke to know if the flames caught the elegant and aging roof as she had hoped they would, but by the sudden lack of air, she assumed that they had.
With her last match, she sat down in the center of the room and tried to imagine her father sitting here. She could see him, a book on his lap, glasses on, nose crinkled, surrounding himself in history in an attempt to forget the wife he lost and the daughter who he left behind every day. She would be happy to go, she thought, taking her father’s only place of peace with her.
She lit the last match and watched it burn. This would be a lesson her father never forgot.