Chapter no 30 – God and Other Librarians

The Midnight Library

‘Who are you?’

‘You know my name. I am Mrs Elm. Louise Isabel Elm.’ ‘Are you God?’

She smiled. ‘I am who I am.’ ‘And who is that?’

e librarian.’

‘But you aren’t a real person. You’re just a . . . mechanism.’ ‘Aren’t we all?’

‘Not like that. You are the product of some strange interaction between my mind and the multiverse, some simplification of the quantum wave function or whatever it is.’

Mrs Elm looked perturbed by the suggestion. ‘What is the matter?’

Nora thought of the polar bear as she stared down at the yellow-brown stone floor. ‘I nearly died.’

‘And remember, if you die in a life, there is no way back here.’ ‘at’s not fair.’

e library has strict rules. Books are precious. You have to treat them carefully.’

‘But these are other lives. Other variants of me. Not me me.’

‘Yes, but while you are experiencing them, it is you who has to pay the consequences.’

‘Well, I think that stinks, to be perfectly honest.’

e librarian’s smile curled at its edges, like a fallen leaf. ‘Well, this is interesting.’

‘What is interesting?’

e fact that you have so thoroughly changed your attitude towards dying.’


‘You wanted to die and now you don’t.’

It dawned on Nora that Mrs Elm might be close to having a point, although not quite the whole point. ‘Well, I still think my actual life isn’t worth living. In fact, this experience has just managed to confirm that.’

She shook her head. ‘I don’t think you think that.’ ‘I do think that. at’s why I said it.’

‘No. e Book of Regrets is getting lighter. ere’s a lot of white space in there now . . . It seems that you have spent all your life saying things that you aren’t really thinking. is is one of your barriers.’


‘Yes. You have a lot of them. ey stop you from seeing the truth.’ ‘About what?’

‘About yourself. And you really need to start trying. To see the truth.

Because this matters.’

‘I thought there were an infinite number of lives to choose from.’

‘You need to pick the life you’d be most happy inside. Or soon there won’t be a choice at all.’

‘I met someone who has been doing this for a long time and he still hasn’t found a life that he is satisfied with . . .’

‘Well, Hugo’s is a privilege you might not have.’ ‘Hugo? How do you—’

But then she remembered Mrs Elm knew a lot more than she should.

‘You need to choose carefully,’ continued the librarian. ‘One day the library may not be here and you’ll be gone for ever.’

‘How many lives do I have?’

is isn’t a magic lamp and I am no genie. ere is no set number. It could be one. It could be a hundred. But you only have an infinite number of lives to choose from so long as the time in the Midnight Library stays, well, at midnight. Because while it stays at midnight, your life – your root life – is somewhere between life and death. If time moves here, that means something very . . .’ She searched for a delicate word. ‘. . . decisive has happened. Something that razes the Midnight Library to the ground, and takes us with it. And so I would err on the side of caution. I would try to

think very keenly about where you want to be. You have clearly made some progress, I can tell. You seem to realise that life could be worth living, if only you found the right one to exist inside. But you don’t want that gate to close before you get a chance to go through it.’

ey both were silent for a very long time, as Nora observed all the books all around her. All the possibilities. Calmly and slowly, she walked along the aisle, wondering what lay beyond the covers of each book, and wishing the green spines would oer some kind of clue.

‘Now, which book do you fancy?’ came Mrs Elm’s words behind her. Nora remembered Hugo’s words in the kitchen.

Dream big.

e librarian had a penetrating gaze. ‘Who is Nora Seed? And what does she want?’

When Nora thought of her closest access to happiness, it was music. Yes, she still played the piano and keyboard sometimes, but she had given up creating. She had given up singing. She thought of those happy early pub gigs playing ‘Beautiful Sky’. She thought of her brother larking about on stage with her and Ravi and Ella.

So now she knew precisely which book to ask for.

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