He walked up to the librarian standing at the Help Desk.
“Hi, I’d like to rent Harry Potter, please. I couldn’t find any copies on the shelves.”
“That’s because there are none,” she said curtly, shifting through the returned book pile, her librarian hair pulled back into a super tight librarian bun.
“Oh, like they’re all checked out,” he said, with an understanding nod.
“No, like there are none.”
It was quiet.
The birds stopped flying in the skies. The antelopes stopped grazing in the prairies. The inefficient squirrel from all the Ice Age movies stopped trying to hide his acorn.
They stared at each other.
“So . . . you’re saying—” he began.
“The world is literally out of copies.”
“Then . . . just print more—”
“There’s no more paper.”
“In the world?”
“Mmhm,” she said, looking back at her book-sorting.
“Wow,” he said, trying to remember the last time he saw paper, and realized anytime anybody wrote anything it was on a pair of socks.
“But we have something similar if you’re interested.”
“Yes, let’s see,” she said, turning to her computer and navigating the desktop with the mouse. “How about Amelia Allen and the Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease?”
He looked at the librarian, confused about why she would think he’d be interested in that.
“Uh . . . no.”
“Okay, Amelia Allen and the Attack of the H. Pylori?”
“. . . What else.”
“Amelia Allen and the Crippling Anxiety.”
She looked at him and he blankly stared back.
“Um . . . Amelia Allen and the Swollen, Choking Thyroid, Amelia Allen and the No Good Nodule, Amelia Allen and the Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, Amelia Allen and the Paleo Diet, Amelia Allen and the Cancer Battle . . .”
He stared at her, speechless, his mouth agape in horror.
“. . . and Amelia Allen and the Radioactive Iodine.”
She looked at him, waiting for his decision.
“Those sound absolutely dreadful . . .”
“Yeah. But they have a happy ending. She turns into Spider-Man.”
“Okay . . . well what’s the Radioactive Iodine one about?
“She has to swallow a really big pill.”
He lifted an eyebrow. “How long is the book?”
“Five hundred pages.”
“About swallowing a pill?”
“She complains a lot.”
“What about the Paleo one.”
“She is forced to go on a paleo diet.”
“Forced? Sounds easy.”
“She likes sugar.”
“Just give me the Nodule one.”
“Amelia Allen and the No Good Nodule, coming up,” she said, reaching onto the shelf behind her and grabbing the hardcover. “There you are. Oh, and don’t forget your nodule,” she said, handing him what looked like a rock glued to a belt.
“This looks like a rock glued to a belt . . .”
“That’s because it is. You’re going to want to tie that around your neck for the complete experience.”
He looked at it curiously, deciding to give it a try. When it was fastened in place around his windpipe, he gasped for air.
“I can’t breathe,” he wheezed. “Or lift my chin.”
“That’s the idea. Have a good day, sir,” she said, turning her attention back to her books.
Then he went home and had a horrible time reading that book with the makeshift nodule strapped to his throat, because it is a horrible time doing anything with a nodule in your throat. The end.