Chapter no 11 – Moving Shelves‌

The Midnight Library

e shelves on either side of Nora began to move. e shelves didn’t change angles, they just kept on sliding horizontally. It was possible that the shelves weren’t moving at all, but the books were, and it wasn’t obvious why or even howere was no visible mechanism making it happen, and no sound or sight of books falling off the end – or rather the start – of the shelf. e books slid by at varying degrees of slowness, depending on the shelf they were on, but none moved fast.

‘What’s happening?’

Mrs Elm’s expression stiened and her posture straightened, her chin retreating a little into her neck. She took a step closer to Nora and clasped her hands together. ‘It is time, my dear, to begin.’

‘If you don’t mind me asking – begin what?’

‘Every life contains many millions of decisions. Some big, some small. But every time one decision is taken over another, the outcomes dier. An irreversible variation occurs, which in turn leads to further variations. ese books are portals to all the lives you could be living.’


‘You have as many lives as you have possibilities. ere are lives where you make dierent choices. And those choices lead to dierent outcomes. If you had done just one thing dierently, you would have a dierent life story. And they all exist in the Midnight Library. ey are all as real as this life.’

‘Parallel lives?’

‘Not always parallel. Some are more . . . perpendicular. So, do you want to live a life you could be living? Do you want to do something dierently? Is there anything you wish to change? Did you do anything wrong?’

at was an easy one. ‘Yes. Absolutely everything.’

e answer seemed to tickle the librarian’s nose.

Mrs Elm quickly rummaged for the paper tissue that was stued up the inside sleeve of her polo neck. She brought it quickly to her face and sneezed into it.

‘Bless you,’ said Nora, watching as the tissue disappeared from the librarian’s hands the moment she’d finished using it, through some strange and hygienic magic.

‘Don’t worry. Tissues are like lives. ere are always more.’ Mrs Elm returned to her train of thought. ‘Doing one thing dierently is oen the same as doing everything dierently. Actions can’t be reversed within a lifetime, however much we try . . . But you are no longer within a lifetime. You have popped outside. is is your opportunity, Nora, to see how things could be.’

is can’t be real, Nora thought to herself.

Mrs Elm seemed to know what she was thinking.

‘Oh, it is real, Nora Seed. But it is not quite reality as you understand it. For want of a better word, it is in-between. It is not life. It is not death. It is not the real world in a conventional sense. But nor is it a dream. It isn’t one thing or another. It is, in short, the Midnight Library.’

e slow-moving shelves came to a halt. Nora noticed that on one of the shelves, to her right, at shoulder height, there was a large gap. All the other areas of the shelves around her had the books tightly pressed side-by-side, but here, lying flat on the thin, white shelf, there was only one book.

And this book wasn’t green like the others. It was grey. As grey as the stone of the front of the building when she had seen it through the mist.

Mrs Elm took the book from the shelf and handed it to Nora. She had a slight look of anticipatory pride, as if she’d handed her a Christmas present.

It had seemed light when Mrs Elm was holding it, but it was far heavier than it looked. Nora went to open it.

Mrs Elm shook her head.

‘You always have to wait for my say-so.’ ‘Why?’

‘Every book in here, every book in this entire library – except one – is a version of your life. is library is yours. It is here for you. You see, everyone’s lives could have ended up an infinite number of ways. ese

books on the shelves are your life, all starting from the same point in time. Right now. Midnight. Tuesday the twenty-eighth of April. But these midnight possibilities aren’t the same. Some are similar, some are very dierent.’

is is crackers,’ said Nora. ‘Except oneis one?’ Nora tilted the stone-grey book towards Mrs Elm.

Mrs Elm raised an eyebrow. ‘Yes. at one. It’s something you have written without ever having to type a word.’


is book is the source of all your problems, and the answer to them too.’ ‘But what is it?’

‘It is called, my dear, e Book of Regrets.’

You'll Also Like