He landed hard on his back. He struggled to catch his breath, while his mind scrambled to understand what had happened. One moment, he was being shoved off a cliff by his wife; the next, he was lying on a marble floor, in what appeared to be a library.
He sat up. Not dead. No blood, no broken bones, no shattered organs. Somehow, he didn’t die, and ended up here instead.
“No, you died,” a voice said behind him.
He whirled around to see a woman sitting behind a high counter. Slowly, he got to his feet. Dead or not, he hurt like he just fell off a cliff.
She smiled politely at his approach.
“Have you come to return a book today?”
“The book you checked out is due today.”
“I don’t have a book—” He suddenly felt something in a pocket he didn’t know he had. Reaching in, he pulled out a well-worn paperback, with random pages dog-eared. The covers were sun-faded, the pages slightly water damaged. He hesitantly handed it up to the woman, embarrassed.
She took it without a word, without breaking the polite smile that looked like it reached her eyes, but may not have.
“Where am I?”
She flipped through the book, smoothing out the folded pages. “You’re in the Library.”
He glanced around. “I can see that.” The room was round, bookshelves covering every inch of wall space. There was no door. Or windows.
He turned back to the woman. “Where is the Library? Why am I here?”
She finished the inspection and set the book down, placing her hand on top of it. “You’ve come to return this life and check out another.”
“It’s a routine procedure, you’ve done it many times before.”
She picked up a leather-bound book from a stack that magically appeared on her left and wrote something in it, then handed the book over the counter to him. He took it. It was a blank journal, brand new. On the first page, she had written:
CHECKED OUT 11/21/1907
“Wait, today is October 12, 2019. How can I go back in time?”
She tilted her head. “Time does not exist.”
His vision begins to darken. Her voice cut through the last traces of his conscious:
“Have a good life.”