Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Book

Jake Dean was genuinely afraid.
Very afraid.

The Book was getting out of control and he didn’t have a clue how to stop it. It would be quite fair to say that he was slowly, but steadily, going mad and it was the worst kind of madness imaginable: the kind which leaves just a tint of sanity in you so that you can actually assess the level of your lunacy. He should have spoken to Louise about the Book a long time ago, but, he believed that somehow that would only make matters worse. She wouldn’t believe him and would probably round up some shrinks for him. No one would believe him. Priests would bring their silly allusions onto him, doctors would say that he was suffering some kind of physical stress, psychiatrists would say that catatonic excitement was not uncommon in males having dandruff (‘the first sign of insanity’) and marriage counsellors would say that his mid-life crisis and marital problems surely triggered such absurd notions.
But he knew.
And they didn’t.

Something had to be done, of this much he was sure but what could be done? It’s always the problem that is clear, only the solutions that are murky. Oh, why, oh, why did you hand me down these cursed pages, father, Jake thought, oh, why, oh, why? Perhaps his father himself had silently suffered the tortures of the damned with this accursed Book, which would explain his errant behaviour while he was alive. All those times that he had wanted a Dad but received a Father seemed to make sense to him now, but, it was just a speculation. There was no telling that his father had turned these pages of horror.
‘Keep these books close to you,’ he had said on his deathbed, ‘for one day they may lead you through the darkest hell.’ About forty-one books bound in red leather and just one bound in black: a copy of the Bible.

The book.
The Book.

He had read most of them over the years and wonderful they were too; classic novels, poetry, science, art, politics. But he had never bothered with the Bible, on account of him never being religious. No one really cared for religion anymore and that’s why he loved the road he was taking: the one less travelled by. One wouldn’t find oneself burning at a stake or crucified for religious causes. People had mortgages and car insurance to worry about; Messiahs and Prophets would need to have a trick or two up their sleeves, merely feeding thousands wouldn’t do and neither would magic. McDonald’s feeds millions a day and is still considered the spawn of Satan and David Blaine is a pain.

But in the end, Jake thought as he sipped his pint at the Albany pub, the road less travelled by has indeed made all the difference.

Four months it had been since that unfaithful day in July when he had stumbled on the Book. And now, after a season in Hell, he still got shivers when his mind rewound to that exact moment when looking for some of his tools in the basement, he had encountered the copy of the Bible. It lay in one of the shoe-boxes that Louise used to store old stuff so that they could maybe restore some memories. Its leather exterior seemed to hiss from being touched by anybody after so long. Jake had only picked it up with the intention of rummaging through the shoe-box but anyone who has fingers knows how the little bastards are, they always seem to want to play with anything in their grip. And so was the same between Jake’s restless fingers and the Book.
Upon flicking through the copy of the Bible, Jake discovered that it was empty, save the page numbers, and found it rather odd. Who’s ever heard of an empty Bible? They are all over the world, often so hard to evade due to their religious message that one can find them in the most common places as well as the most random. They seem to be reproducing in all corners of the world.

But there was no doubt about it; there were no words in the Bible Jake held in his hands but why then the page numbers? And he knew, or at least thought he had always known that it was a Bible because of the huge cross it had on the front. Even the oddity wouldn’t have stopped him from chucking it back into the shoe-box but then he noticed something else that caught his eye; the empty book had something in very, very, very tiny print branded on the spine. In fact, it was so tiny that he had to find a magnifying glass from another shoe-box to get to read the print which stated;

First published in 42424242 BC

This had made Jake wonder and calculate. It made him wonder if this was someone’s joke or error and it made him calculate precisely how long back the date went. And then, because Louise had called upon him from upstairs for help in the kitchen, he had decided to take the curious book along and perhaps use it as a notebook or a journal. Needless to say, the saying goes that curiosity, apparently, killed the cat.

The Deans used to be a rather satisfied couple. This was before Jake started getting nightmares and cold sweats at night. When Louise asked him what was troubling him, he would shrug in such a mechanical manner that she suspected he practised it beforehand. And she wasn’t too far from target. Jake did indeed practise to calm down and not appear too irksome around her. If there was one thing he hated, it was being at discord with her because he knew that it would only come back ten fold. Women have a certain faculty for irritability and Louise was no humble exception. He thought it best to not say a word of complain or grief and hold conferences with his demons alone.

What was really doing his head in was the Book. After taking it under his possession, he found out that the Book held more secrets than mere absent words and funny dates. Its blank pages were a canvas for invisible painters and the mistresses of a horny pen. He couldn’t explain it.
One night, while talking on the phone, he had needed something to write down a number on and considered his latest gold mine of paper. After retrieving it from a drawer, he stripped it of a page and continued writing. However, after taking the call when he opened the Book, he saw something that made him gape like an ape. There on the first page, in red ink and an exotic handwriting was the word: OUCH!

It hadn’t been there a second ago so Jake had rubbed his eyes and told his mind to erase the word from before him. Unfortunately, the word still stood there. He closed the Book and opened it again. This time the word was absent, the ink having evaporated in that single act. He opened and closed it some more times but there was nothing; just the empty pages looking back at his full eyes. He thought maybe he was tired so he just went to sleep that night.

The next morning when he had woken up, he felt quite refreshed but couldn’t quite forget the incident from the previous night. He went back into his study and picked up the Book again. As this had only been the second day of the Book being under his wing, as compared to the four months of comradeship that followed, Jake was still in his right senses. Even before opening the Book, a part of him told him to please stop being such a fool and move onto more important things like erasing his morning breath but Jake ignored this part and parted the book.
Nothing, the same pallid page peeked back.

‘Getting old, my friend, getting old.’ He had muttered to himself while flicking the pages, content and glad of not finding anything.
What was that, he thought, what—?
There, in one of the pages in the middle of the Book, was the same handwriting and it said: GOOD MORNING!
Jake couldn’t breathe for a minute.
‘Honey?’ he called in a voice not really his own.
‘Yeah?’ she replied from the bedroom.
‘Were you using my notebook? The black one here on the desk?’
‘My notebook, did you use it?’ he knew she hadn’t, he knew her handwriting.
‘No. Why? Is it missing or something? Want me to look for it?’
‘No, no. I found it. Thank you.’
He had shut the book and slowly opened it again. Sure enough, there was nothing.
‘Jesus, fucking, Christ.’ He mumbled and opened the book again.


‘What the f--’ Jake’s hands were actually trembling so hard that he took longer than he wanted to in closing the book, ‘-honey, I’m going for a walk. It’s a little too fine for a Sunday.’
‘Okay. Could you pick up some eggs and milk on the way?’
‘Yeah, yeah, why not?’
As soon as he had walked out of the house, his first thought had been to throw away or burn the Book. He couldn’t believe what he had just seen. Was his mind playing tricks on him? When was the last time I had an eye-check up, he thought.
He opened the book again.

Page 7 – Abandon all your fears and lend me your ears,
Don’t follow the herds, just follow my words,
If you make me burn then I shall not return,
But you will ride a hearse, mark my curse!
By now Jake knew what to do so he closed the book and asked, ‘what exactly are you? Like a ghost or something? A poetic poltergeist?’ and flicked through.
Page 128 – I am not a foe, my friend, I am but a book,
I’ll show you everything if you know where to look,
In these blank pages, the whole world I hold,
For I know every secret and every tale ever told.

Dean hadn’t known what to do next, the book was very strange, he acknowledged that but it was still unsettling that all these words should appear on different pages and then vanish without the slightest explanation. He had had a bad feeling that there were spirits or ghosts involved in the whole thing. Maybe God had gotten fed up of his disbelief and decided to do something about it. How it was even possible to get the words written in while the book was closed was beyond him. Then something had hit him right between the eyes: the date 42424242 BC, that was like a million years ago and supposedly the time when this Book was published. He would ask more.
Page 223 – I know what questions you mean to ask,
You want to know who sent me on this task,
But I’m neither from Hell nor God’s kingdom,
I am me alone, a simple genie of wisdom.
Page 12 – For a time longer than the length of time,
I have watched this whole creation sublime,
And if you doubt my tired profession,
Then why not ask me your own question?
‘What is my name?’ he knew it was a start.
Page 3 – Mark me; hear me for God’s sake,
How can I not know that your name is Jake?
And how could I know that you work in property lease,
Only because there are many other worlds than these.
‘Do you really have to talk in quatrains?’ Jake asked, worried that he couldn’t stand too many of them.
Page 42 – Nah, not really mate. Just taking the piss, like. Only talk in it because Poetic license is the only license that never really expires. D’you know what I mean?

As Jake sat drinking, he recalled that day. He remembered that he had a child-like fascination with the Book for a week after that one way talk. The Book really was quite a thing. It could talk for hours and hours together, talking about everything under the Sun and much, much beyond it. It said that God was just a ‘normal bloke’ loved His beer and video-games and was currently writing an auto-biography.

‘Where the hell does he live?’ Jake had asked. He wanted his voice to sound like a schoolboy’s but instead what croaked out his throat had resembled the firm tone of a BBC correspondent. As a kid, he had always wondered where God lived and what He did and why He had bothered to give us all a life. But with the answers in his hand, he wasn’t as keen. Some questions are best left unanswered.

Page 23 – Oh, you know, He’s not as modest as you’d think. He’s got like a studio-apartment in Venus and a bachelor pad on one of the rings of Saturn. He’s got some summer places in the centre of the universe where He goes to relax. He’s been quite stressed lately. Is thinking of pulling the plug on the whole thing; calling it quits. It’s those damn Americans, they piss him off. They’re always bombing and killing and bringing misery into the world. It’s getting pretty messed up.


Too much information. Yes, that was Jake’s problem with the Book. When you have every answer right before you, you don’t think about the questions, you end up questioning the answers. Jake now knew that he was twelve years old when Jesus was crucified (in a past life in 4 BC) and that him and his friends had joined people and thrown stones at Him. He knew that as a non-living re-incarnation, he had been one of Jimi Hendrix’s guitars. He knew that He had done a lot of bad things that were not punished and a lot of good things that were not appreciated. He knew that Heaven and Hell don’t really exist because once you die; you have to stand in line till you can become finite matter again and end up somewhere completely else.

He had urges to burn the Book down but then He realized that no matter how much you’ve seen, you never see enough and no matter how much you ask, you can never ask enough.
So he would keep on asking and keep on asking and keep on asking.
Everything has an end, right?

(to be continued)

No comments: