I originally thought of this as a story for the Friday Fictioneers prompt last week but I didn’t want to cram it into 100 words. However, I will use the picture again. I thought of this story when I realized just how much information we have access to these days, absolutely free.
The Price of Knowledge
The man strode into the library. “Hi, I’d like to read a book. Hayden’s Practical Herpetology.”
The librarian looked up and smiled lazily. “Okay, let’s see . . . The price for that is—”
“$3.55 a minute. I’ve had it before.”
The librarian looked impressed. “Ah, you must be Mr. Appleton. Three times in the 24 hours. It must be a great book.”
“Yeah, yeah. Great book.”
“How many minutes would you like to read today?”
The man pulled out a crumpled $20, borrowed from a neighbor. “Look, I didn’t ask this before, but do you have any sort of discounts for hardship or . . .” He saw immediately that it was hopeless.
“Sorry, sir. We only allow that for fiction, not non-fiction. So, how many minutes?”
The man looked at the bill again, calculating. “Five minutes, I guess.”
“Okay, that’s 18.85, after tax.” She took the money, gave him change. “Follow me.”
She led him to a reading desk and brought the book. He opened the cover and a digital clock above the desk started to count down his precious seconds.
He turned to page 378: Natural Remedies for Snakebites. Writing wasn’t allowed but he tried to memorize all that he could, fear and panic fighting with concentration. He hoped he could find one that worked. He hoped it wouldn’t be too late for Sarah.