By Alisha Dziennik
“Would you read this book if I were to tell you it holds your life inside it?” A strange woman asks as she holds a closed and dusty, old book out toward me.
“What do you mean? Why would someone write a book about me? Who even knows enough about me for that?”
The woman ignores my questions and nudges the book toward me, asking again, “Would you read this book? From beginning to end, every word and every page is about your life. How you came to be, everything you’ve ever done and everything you ever will do is in here. Would you read this book?”
“I-I don’t know. I have so many questions about my future, but what if the answers I seek are not the ones I find?”
Silently, the woman places the book in my hands and walks away, offering no advice or guidance.
“What do I do now?”
With a sigh, I place the book in my rucksack and begin my journey home from the marketplace. As I walk, the book lay heavy in all its temptatious glory-beckoning me to read it. For as long as I can, I ignore the burden in my rucksack, keeping in mind that I may not like the answers I find. “Maybe just a page or two…” I murmur as I stop walking for a moment to retrieve the book from its resting place.
I begin to walk once more as I open the book and see images of what must have been my parents. I never had the chance to meet them, for my mother passed while giving birth and my father never made it home one day from the lumber mill where he worked daily. I feel tears well up in my eyes as I read of how they met, fell in love and conceived me before marriage. To each of their families, my parents were a disgrace. However, that did not tear them apart-even as they were being castaway and banished to exile-they still held firm in their love for each other.
Months later, after many pains and struggles, I was born into the world, but alas, for me to begin living, my parents lives had to end. I slam the book closed and squeeze my eyes shut. My parents’ families must blame me for the loss of their children-I surely do. “Mamma, Papa, I’m so terribly sorry!” I speak to no one but also someone, for I know that they can hear me wherever they are. “I wish you were still here.”
I stumble over the threshold of my home as I put the book back into my rucksack. An eerie silence surrounds me as I stand just inside the doorway. “Mel! Mel! You’re back! You need to come quickly, she’s gotten worse!” A small voice shouts as the youngest of us children living here comes running down the hall toward me.
I quickly follow him down the hall and into the room where my adoptive mother is lying sickly on her bed, a bucket sits on her lap as she retches and dry heaves until nothing except blood spills into it. “How much longer will this illness last?”
“Did you bring the ingredients for the remedy?”
“Can you help her?”
“What’s wrong with her?”
So many questions come at me all at once. Honestly, I do not have many answers to supply them with. The only mother I’ve ever known is quickly slipping away and I cannot stop it. If only I knew what to do… The book! The woman said is has all the things I will ever do in there, maybe it can tell me what to do to save her!
I rush from the room and hide myself away in a storage closet. My hand rummages through my rucksack to retrieve the book in the darkness while I struggle to flick on the light switch. I grasp the book in the same moment the light comes on.
I skip ahead to today’s date and look for the answers I need. Before my eyes, the words seem to change themselves. “As she stands in the closet, the woman she’s looking to save is being lost. One fleeting heartbeat after another, it’s all coming to an end.”
“What?” I gasp.
Rustling is heard and panicked voices can be faintly heard, but it’s all muffled and seems to be fading. “Mel! Mel! M…”
What have I done? Even if I couldn’t have saved her, I could have at least been with her if it wasn’t for this book. I thought I could find a way to save her, but it’s become apparent that I can’t. Maybe, just maybe, my decision to see answers in here twisted what was really meant to be done. How simple it is to have a twist of fate. Maybe the future is not as solid a promise as I once believed.
The closet door opens, and there stands my adoptive father. He speaks words I have just learned for myself in a rage I have never seen. “The woman who saved you as a child was dying, and you chose to read a book rather than to spend her last few moments with her? That book will still be around long after we are gone, but the woman who has loved you as if you were her own has just given her last breath. What do you have to say for yourself?” His voices booms in the tiny closet as he yanks a few pages from the book, trying to take it away. His anger is something I have never seen him harness before. It’s terrifying.
“I-I’m sorry. It was stupid, I should have been in the room with her.” Without a second thought, I shuffle past him and out of the home. I can’t stay here. I can’t risk hurting anyone else, and I surely can’t handle the guilt of seeing them all suffer this loss. “No more will I let someone suffer for me. I shall wander the earth, keeping this book out of sight so no one else suffers my same fate.” I promise myself as I am enclosed in the looming darkness of the night, sixteen years to the date of the night I lost my parents and now my adoptive ones too.
Many Years Later…
A young girl, about the age of sixteen, walks into a quaint little bookstore to scavenge the shelves for the latest best selling books when she stumbles upon a dusty, old and tattered book hidden amongst the newer books. Pulling it from the shelf, she wipes away the dust and cringes at how caked on it is. ‘How could anyone treat a book like this?’ She wonders as she opens it, gasping as blank pages begin to fill with words. Among the appearing words, she finds her own name, the place she grew up, and even the name of her parents.