The World’s Not Fair to Dead People

Shelly goes to the library. She goes into the stacks. She hears a rustling. A soft wind blows. The rustling comes again. Light glistens off the books’ spines. All around her, Dewey Decimal stickers look down like the eyes of some horrid beast. Suddenly, the books attack!

“Wait, books,” says Shelly. “I did not intend for you to swarm me in this fashion, scraping my skin with your loosely-bound pages. Please explain how this eventuality came to pass.”

“Since you ask politely,” the books say, “We shall suspend our anthropophagic frenzy and discuss the matter.”

“Yay!” Shelly exclaims. She does a little hopping dance.

A didactic book hovers in the air before Shelly. It may act polite now, but it’s got savage words. They salivate from its pages like rabid wolves! “First,” it says, “I wish to understand the basis for your complaint. For what reason did you expect kindness from us? No one comes to the library save to make themselves a blood offering to my kind.”

“Or to read?” asks Shelly tentatively.

The books laugh. They find this very funny.

“No,” says Shelly. Her voice strengthens. “I mean, seriously. That’s what libraries are for! Reading, and checking out books. They’re a bastion of American literacy.”

One of the books takes pity on her. Its title is Taking Pity on People You’re Planning to Eat, so that’s not surprising.

“Your ideas would make sense,” says the book, sympathetically, “if you’d gone to a lending library or a reading library. But this is a consumptive library. It eats people. You can tell by our Dewey Decimal labels.”

Shelly examines the labels. The books are indeed all labelled with the Dewey code for Evil. “If only I’d thought to check that,” she says. “I would have known!”

“It’s virtuous to know the Dewey Decimal,” comments the didactic book, slavering. “But it’s no good if you don’t apply that knowledge!”

“My mistake,” admits Shelly.

The books hover ominously, gnashing their endpapers.

“However,” Shelly points out, “it’s a distinguished and proper book that forgives people for their mistakes and lets them leave alive.”

“If people weren’t meant to be eaten,” argues the didactic book, “why would they taste so endlessly delicious?”

“But I don’t,” declares Shelly. “I taste like lima beans. It’s because of my diet, you see.”

“Ah,” says the didactic book. “Like lima beans, you say.”

“Yes.”

“And not delicious meaty flesh.”

“I’m sorry,” Shelly says. “I could go on a rare meat diet for three months and come back when I’m tastier.”

“That would be an equitable solution,” agree the books. It’s settled!

Shelly goes home.

“When we eat her later, I bet people’ll blame Ben Franklin,” says the didactic book.

“I hate it when they do that,” admits the sympathetic book. “He didn’t establish the Dewey Decimal system — he just invented libraries! Yet somehow it’s always his fault.”

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