“Are you sure it’s safe?” The old woman pushed her glasses further up her nose and peered at the screen, her face so close to the monitor that Mark was afraid she’d leave smears across the glass.
“Sure,” he replied with a too-wide salesman smile. “It’s the latest technology. Everyone’s using it.” He eased the mouse out of the old woman’s hand, clicked back through the demo screens. “See? Every book you could want, ready to print on demand. It’s instant.” He clicked print. The machine started churning.
Instant Book Machine, it was called. An ugly black box no larger than a coffee maker, it perched on the edge of the old lady’s desk like a futuristic insect. One minute and forty-two seconds later, a book popped out of the side. Little Red Riding Hood. He handed it to the old woman.
“I don’t like instant coffee,” the old woman said tremulously, “and I like going to the bookshop, you know.”
He did know, but he wouldn’t get his weekly commission until the old biddy joined the twenty-second century. He was a salesman, sent forth like a wolf among lambs, determined to take them all.
“You can print birthday cards, Christmas cards. Whatever you want without leaving the house. And it’s cheaper than in the bookshops because you’re cutting out the middle men. No more pulping books, wasting trees; no more authors getting ripped off… Everything you’d need, on demand. ”
When she didn’t look convinced, he pulled out the big guns. “Your family don’t visit much, do they? You get one of these, guaranteed your grandkids will come visiting.”
She hesitated. “What’s it called again?”
“Instant Book Machine,” he said. His smile was sharp. The end was close. “And it’s print on demand.”“I see, I see,” the grandmother said, voice quavering. “But can it wolf on demand?”
Mark frowned. “Excuse me?”
“Wolf on demand,” she repeated. “Like so.”
And then the old woman turned into a wolf and ate him.