She had clambered across sections, traversed references, almanacs, and oddments, and had ended up perched on a pile of illustrated ornithological guidebooks on the topmost shelf of the upper-right-most balcony of the East Wing. As she calculated it, this was the furthest point from the Heart of the Library.
Adjusting herself to better suit her comfort, she wondered idly what bird-fanciers would climb this far, if any ever had. She had met only a few in her long, long years here. The height did, however, suit the subject. She opened one and spread it out in front of her, to make it look like the magpie depicted was launching out into the abyss below.
This was the first sign that they had noticed she was missing. Lock a door long enough and people will stop trying it. They knew it. They knew she had given up on escape. Had given up on fresh air and new sounds and everything but what they had given her. A hundred years walled in by the smell of varnished wood and mouldering paper.
She had slotted herself, with categorical correctness, into this still, stale, murmuring prison.
Taps and bangs rang up the galleries. Loud noises of a kind heard only once a decade in this place. They were starting to panic now. She pulled herself in tighter, wedged herself in behind a church Bible the size of a tombstone. She didn’t have long, in either sense. She had left a trail of blood for them to follow. She had tried. She had tried to shake them, treading her path over a mountain of old Encyclopaedia Britannicas, hoping the blood would get lost on their red dust covers, like shaking sniffer dogs by crossing a stream.
Their voices closer now, or at any rate, with greater urgency. It was now or never. If she had had nothing else her entire life that they had not given her, her death would be her own. This one thing. She tested it out. She flung out the bird book. The wings stayed spread a moment in midair before the book flipped and hurtled down, to a floor that was out of sight.
She watched, on her hands and knees, and was taken by quite surprise by what happened next. Maybe it was her lightheadedness, or maybe her hands, slick with blood, could not hold onto the edge, but she went over. The ledge of books she crouched on tipped over and sent her with it.
It took a long time to reach the floor, and it occurred to her, as she went, that although the power of choice had been, yet again, denied her, her scream would be the loudest thing ever to break the quiet of that place.
They heard her laugh, half a mile down, just before the crunch of bones.