I know things. As a librarian, I’ve had to look up what kind of snake bit your dog and what kind of oil to put in your car. I have helped a thousand science fair projects and twice that many forms of divorce. I know how the world works and what you need when you need it most.
But I never knew what nothing felt like.
When the words went away, they went suddenly. All the books blank, empty, not even pictures remained. I pulled books from shelves, at first putting them back in the blank space they left but soon just dropping them to the floor. The library held my search in my wake, fallen books laying open to nothing.
I know what brought this on. We dabbled, we played, we talked about what would happen if. Always if. And then it happened and if was no longer a distant future, if was here. If was now.
I ran, my shoes on tile making noise in the stacks, the only noise. No one talking or laughing. No one waiting for a computer. The library empty because we called it. Because if is now and now is no longer a thing that could be but is.
The crate came on a Monday. I know that. It said in bright red letters “fragile,” and the circulation librarian made a joke from that movie. I don’t know which movie, I can’t look it up right now.
We opened the crate, all of us there. Packaging inside, not like Styrofoam peanuts or big blocks, but wads of string and cotton fluff. Old and smelling of mothballs. We found those, too, mothballs, because of the smell.
The reference librarian described what was inside as hideous. The children’s librarian would not put it in her department, even though I thought the children would get a kick out of it. The cataloging librarian took a look at the tag and quit. No two weeks notice, just left and never came back.
She was the first.
We put it in my office, sitting in the corner. Squat and staring, I began talking to it. Just being courteous to our visitor until we found it a home. Soon, no one would come in for meetings. No one would talk to me about the thing in my office and I thought, well, that’s just superstition.
I don’t know why I put it in the break room. That’s when the circulation librarian quit. Said it turned the food bad, that everything in there from popcorn to coffee tasted like ashes. The house keepers who came in for the trash stopped coming to the break room for trash. They said the can was always empty, as if something was eating it. I laughed at them and the circulation librarian as I told them to go.
The reference librarian brought me a book with a picture of it, a story. Ridiculous thing really, a story about how it had taken all the knowledge from the world and broken the people that surrounded it. The spelling was horrible.
Still, we started talking to it, the reference librarian and I. Like I said, we dabbled. We played. We talked about if the story was true. So ridiculous. Nothing could never happen.
The reference librarian had to go. Didn’t say it that way, I did, I did and the reference librarian went. Needed to go, just go and never come back for what he said.
That was after we moved it to the circulation desk and the patrons stopped coming. When we let everything go. The library would still stand, with just me and only me and…
Now there’s nothing. Just me and it and if has happened and all the knowledge is gone. I’m the last. Writing this so you will know I had no choice but to send it to you, no choice but to put it back in the crate and climb in after it, with this note.
I’ll be seeing you on a Monday. We’re on the way.