“What is it?” Michael asked, bending over.
The old man slowly unwrapped the parcel, his joints creaking as he carefully peeled away the tightly-bound layers of leather. An ancient, musky smell invaded the air, carried by the sweltering midsummer’s breeze. It was that deliciously papery smell, the one that made you thirst for knowledge, however, the book the old man had unwrapped was practically falling apart.
A binding of black leather held rough, untrimmed pages together, and the only thing holding the book together was a piece of string. The book was thick, and about the size of two of Michael’s hand-spans, and yet neither the front nor the back covers had anything written on them.
“This,” the old man proclaimed mystically, “is the Book.”
“Yes, I can see that,” Michael replied sarcastically.
“No, not a book, the Book.” The man looked at them with his wide eyes and his wrinkly, shrivelled face, as if he expected some sort of wondrous reaction from the two of them. He was disappointed.
She coughed. “Sir, you said you needed assistance?” Lara asked, somewhat impatiently. Michael and Lara had come across the old man by a broken down cart in the middle of the road, overturned and smashed. The man had said that he had been heading to an old, dilapidated barn, when his horses had suddenly bolted, and that he needed their help with something inside the barn.
Lara had an inherent distrust of strange, dirty old men, but Michael had a grandfather, and so he had dragged her along to help the man with whatever he needed assistance. They had creeped into the barn, and the old man had said he had something important to show them.
However, neither of them had been expecting this.
“It’s a book,” Michael said. “What’s so important about a bloody book?”
“This Book contains the narratives of your entire lives,” the man hissed. “Everything you’ve ever done is within these pages.”
Lara snorted. “What, so it’s magic? You sure as hell don’t look like a magician.”
“That’s because I’m not,” the man retorted. “If you don’t believe me, then read it. Go on, read!” He untied the string and opened the Book to a page in the middle. The page was about half-filled with neat, black print. As we watched, words appeared, and with each letter, the children gasped.
“It…” Lara gasped. “It said I was going to gasp! And I did!”
“I told you,” the old man said. “It’s true, it tells you everything that’s ever happened, or is going to happen to you.”
Lara closed her mouth and remembered that she was a rational young lady, but she happened to read that last sentence, and logic left her.
“Michael, it’s – ”
“Bullshit,” Michael replied, scornfully. There was no way something like that could exist! It was just some weird, cursed magical object.
Lara peered over his shoulder. “If an object’s cursed, why do you need to say it’s magical?”
Michael blushed. “Shut up. ‘Logic left you’, remember?”
“Whatever.” It was Lara’s turn to blush furiously.
The three of them stared down at the pages, in silence. Eventually, the old man said:
“You can write in it, you know.”
“What?” Michael and Lara exclaimed.
The old man reached into the folds of his cloak, rummaging around to produce… a pencil. A wooden, roughly cut, slightly blunt pencil.
Lara stared at the grubby instrument in disbelief.
“Oh come on, that’s absurd,” she protested. “I’ll admit, this is a really convincing magic trick, and you nearly had me for a moment, but you’re not going to get me to believe that you can alter reality by writing in a book with a pencil.”
The man grunted to himself, snatched up the Book, and scribbled:
Just then, Michael and Lara realised that the Book was real.
Shadows fled from the children’s faces, scared away by a violent epiphany that shook them to their very cores. It couldn’t be…
“Oh gods,” Lara cried. “Oh gods… it… it’s real!”