Ever since I was a kid, they’ve told us about a book that will change how we think about life. They wait until your 20th birthday. I guess they feel like that’s the right time to tell you. And for me, that’s today. I’m going to get the book later this afternoon.
I arrive home from the library. Everything feels the same. Things are always the same, every day. I run straight up to my room and throw my backpack on the floor. I close the door and glance out the window. I’m on the third story, a thin attic room with a thin attic window.
How could the meaning of life be held in a book? And how can someone be so certain of, well…anything?
My mom enters the room. “Is your dad on his way home?”
“I don’t think so, mom. I’m sorry, he wouldn’t…”
“It’s not your fault. I get it. I’m the one who needs to talk to him.” She glances over her shoulder at my backpack, looks at me with a dead face, and goes down to the second floor.
I empty out my backpack and put the book on my desk. I whisper to myself, “If I didn’t have plans tonight, I would be tempted to read this, but it must be 500 pages.” I put the book down and thumb through the quality paper; I hold the book but glance out the window, thinking about the night.
I once read about the older times in our history books. It said people had to fight for food. They had to labor and toil for their daily needs. The whole world was fire, people killing people, and war.
But we haven’t had war in 1,000 years. We are more advanced, and science has solved a lot of our problems, but I think we have something else. Maybe it’s a mindset. I guess we choose to be different, we’re not so full of ourselves. You see it everywhere in the stories they tell us.
For as long as I can remember, we’ve learned about the empty landscape, and we’ve learned about the nothing in the heart of things. Maybe we’re just better now.
They won’t pressure me to read the book unless I want to. But I did hear about someone trying to run away from the book forever. A guy refused to read the book. They eventually forced him to read it. I mean how long can that go on for? You just have to read it at some point, right?
They changed the laws since then. They would never wait years for someone to read the book anymore.
They tell me stories about the earlier times, when people had all types of strange beliefs. People thought that there were gods in the rocks and the trees, even though we can see inside the rocks and climb in the trees.
People used to believe some old, dead guy came back to life and spread his magic. Where did the magic go?
We don’t worry about those things now. No one argues about it; we all believe the same thing as far as gods and devils are concerned.
Besides, there’s plenty of things to argue about, you don’t need ghosts. We aren’t worried about that anymore. Those ideas are dead, and they’ve been dead. When was the last time you even thought about god?
The summers have been warmer here, each year. You can smell the wind from the ocean, but it never escapes the dry heat. As the wind blows against me, in the sunset, I have all those warm memories, those warm winters in the desert.
I don’t even look at what day it is. Every once in a while, I look out at the moonlight and tear whole pages off the calendar (drunk on the air, drunk on the midnight heat of distant suns).
It’s the end of summer. You can feel the heat get worse by the end of September. You know it’s here when your eyes are too dry to look at things. How can your face be this dry?
It’s October, I’m getting more pressure from the adults to finally read the book. Nothing violent, but all of it is a bit dystopian.
They hate wasted time; everyone knows that. They hate one Monday afternoon being wasted on such things.
Still, my whole life is wasted time. I mean, what’s the point of all this? What could the book tell us that we don’t already know?
They insist on you reading the book on your own, so I close the door to my bedroom.
Alone, I grab the heavy book from my bag. I sit at my desk and roughly drop the book on the wood. I slowly open the front of the hard cover tome. I look at the first page, it’s blank. I quickly thumb through each page; they’re all blank — no page numbers, no headings, no chapters. I start over and thumb through every page with a little more precision, but they’re all completely blank.
On a second look, secured inside the back cover, I notice a necklace. I look at it and see it has a locket. It’s a simple, silver necklace, but it has a fine quality, with a jewel on the face of it.
I examine the locket and notice it could be opened. Unsure of the mechanism, I squeeze it to gently release, but there is nothing. The locket is completely empty; the inside is completely blank.