Daily Prompt: If you could read a book containing all that has happened and will ever happen in your life, would you? If you choose to read it, you must read it cover to cover.
“Excuse me, how much is this porcelain doll for?” I asked the ancient-looking shopkeeper with wizened eyes and a silver beard Santa Claus would be jealous of. Christmas being just around the corner I was stocking up presents for friends and family, and a rather quaint pink porcelain fairy doll in the window of an antique shop caught my fancy. I thought I would try to get it for my mother.
The shopkeeper, without even moving from his post behind the counter, pointed at the dusty label on the doll which proclaimed it’s price to be 50 rupees. A bargain by any estimate but being an astute shopper I thought I would try for more. The first rule of bargaining: don’t seem too interested in the object you are buying. So I set down the doll with a grim “hmm” to indicate my dissatisfaction with the price and looked around aimlessly. The shop was crammed with odds and ends: tarnished silver spoons, a dozen cracked mirrors (how many years of bad luck does that accrue to?) , dream catchers that have caught nothing but dust bunnies, porcelain dolls with frozen smiles and a few leather-bound books. Being the bookworm I am, I naturally graviated towards those, and froze in shock. The black leather bound book with golden edges, fifth from the right in the second row, very clearly proclaimed in its title my name in bold, engraved, and golden alphabets. A dozen possibilities ran through my mind, each more intriguing than the last: I had a namesake, who coincidentally, was also an author; I had travelled back from the future in a T.A.R.D.I.S. and this is a book I myself wrote; this was the book my parents read before they had me and named me after it.
Intrigued and surprised I picked it up and was about to open it when a wrinkled old hand with surprising strength slammed it shut. I flinched back in shock. I was pretty sure I had left the old propreitor sitting behind the counter, at the other end of the store, only seconds ago. How on Earth did he creep up on me so fast?
“This is your book” he said. “This is your life”.
“What?” I said.
“This book chronicles all that has happened to you in the past and that will happen to you in the future. It details your entire life. You can read it if you want, but you must read it cover to cover”.
A thousand things crossed my mind but what crossed my lips was, “It’s so short!”
The old man clicked his tongue, “Tsk, tsk! Such a typical comment of someone your age” (Why is it that grown-ups can’t say anything without making at least one comment about your age?) “You yourself are a writer of flash fiction. You should know better than to judge a story by its length”.
The idea that my life was similar to a flash fiction story written by me didn’t really reassure me. But I had more pressing concerns, like: “You read it?”
The shopkeeper shrugged, “It gets lonely around here”.
“Ohh…” I said because what else was there to be said.
“Can you give me some tips then? Anything I should look out for, a lottery ticket number, the question paper of the final exams?”
He fixed me with a stern glance, “That is against the rules. You must read for yourself, if you choose to…” He let his voice trail off meaningfully.
Oh man, did I want to read that book! So many questions that I wanted an answer for – did the guy I like like me back, would I get into the institute I was aiming for, would there be a Sherlock Season 4, so on and so forth. But there was also the realization that if I did I would never be able to unread it. And that meant No Surprises – Good or Bad, ever again in life, and how boring would such a life be!
So with a heavy heart I kept the book down and told the shopkeeper, “Thanks but no thanks”. He gave me a mysteriously knowing smile, which prompted me to add, “Wait…you already knew I wouldn’t read it! You read it!”
“Maybe, maybe not” he said. “Now where were we on the porcelain doll? 45 is my final offer, and don’t pretend because I know you want it”.
There was little argument I could offer to that so I meekly paid the price, and left.
Just before the door closed, he called out, “By the way, I would look out for Komodo dragons if I were you”.
“Wait…what?” I tried to push the door open but it had locked itself behind me.
I don’t know if the man was bluffing or not but I think I will cancel my trip to Komodo in Indonesia, just in case….