Bury the hatchet
Writer: Wan Rosalina Wan Rosli
Published: Fri, 18 Nov 2011
The book looked worn out. The white cover was yellowed with age. It was plain, save a faded gold inscription. It appears to be a name, written in a flowing cursive font. The shrivelled pages felt coarse, like it was drenched in water before being dried in the sun.
Reading the first page, it became apparent that it was a biography of some kind. It showcased everything: feelings, thoughts, perception, experiences, and actions. It was like the essence of another. It was like being in another person’s skin, page by page.
I heard the sound of a faint rustle. Looking around guiltily around the desolate library, I expected the librarian to spring out from behind the heavy bookshelves and shout, “Hoi!” I held my breath and counted. Two seconds, 10 seconds, 15 seconds passed. Nothing. I was relieved to see nobody there. Sweating, I shifted in an effort to look natural.
Maybe it’s better to close the book and go.
But curiosity killed the cat. Plus, there were thousands more similar gold-inscribed books lined up on the shelves. A peek at just one won’t hurt, right?
I shoved those nagging doubts to the farthest depths of my mind. With the book in hand and standing silently between the shelves, I eyed the nerdy girl sitting at the table up front, trying to ascertain whether she suspected anything. She looked tired, nursing a steamy coffee.
Glancing at the book again, I left through it to the end. The back pages were empty. That was curious. Yearning for privacy, I inched towards the back of the room. At a private desk on the far corner, I gingerly opened the pages and read.
The narration painted scenes so close to my heart with details so intimate that it made me blush. I initially enjoyed this recollection of another life, feeling superior because I felt I could’ve done better in everything. I could’ve loved better, fought better, held on longer. But as I progressed, every story seemed to stroke a chord,and the deja vu feeling was overwhelming.
Is it possible to be reading a book of my own life?
Was I already dead?
My head started spinning, all my blood drained. I felt a sudden chill. Hastily, I put the book down. Controlled my steps but took great strides towards the girl, half-afraid my heart would leap out of my chest.
“Hey, where did you get that coffee?” I asked tremulously.
She shrugged and pulled her brown cardigans tighter because of the cold.
“There’s a canteen down the hallway.”
I turned around. A great relief swept over me. At least, I thought, I’m not a goner yet. I walked back to the book. I took a while to stare at it, steeling my resolve. Flipping to the last written page, wondering where I would end. But then, the last written paragraph was only up until the moment I validated my existence with a simple request for coffee. The rest were all blank pages.
Suddenly anything and everything became a possibility.
I reached for a pencil and scribbled. It didn’t leave a mark.
I tried my favourite ball point pen. That disappeared too.
I rummaged through my case and found an ink pen. I drew a big line across the page. Astonishingly the ink faded, slowly drowning in a sea of white.
I was beyond frustration.
Without hesitation I spread the book open. Took a deep breath and tore. The book was not even crumpled. Eyes white with desperation, I reached for my lighter. The dancing fire gave promise. Let it all burn in hell. Let those books lined up on the shelves be meaningless ashes.
Suddenly the book was violently grabbed from me. I lost my footing and fell. Gaining my bearings I saw the menacing figure of the librarian, glaring at me like the scorned devil.
In the haze of the moment I felt a dragging at my arms, hauling me out of the library as I struggled. Once out of the door, the girl let go. My head thudded on the floor. The cold spray of rain on my face in the dark of the night offered solace. My heart was heavy, my feet leaden.
“You lucky fool. Not many people get to read their book and live. No use destroying it. What was done can never be undone.”
I kept silent. Still bitter that she intervened.
“You do what you want to do, I don’t care. But it’s best to leave the past behind. The book and all that was in it don’t matter. You still can change how this story would end. Don’t let those blank pages go to waste.”
I felt uncomfortable. I got up and smoothed my clothes and bruised ego. “You just wait and keep an eye on that book. This is not the last of me yet.”
Then I sprinted. I ran like a thousand dogs were upon me. I never looked back.
It was after all, already in my past. I know now to just let it be and focus on rewriting the future instead.