In the Pages of a Book

In the Pages of a Book

Chapter 1 – Charles’ Story

The doctor said to let him know what Charles wanted to do, like there was even really a choice. Immense suffering and the loss of any number of pleasures that make life worth living, or to not have a life left to live at all. It was obvious which choice was the lesser of two evils. But still, he wished for another way. 

He needed to clear his head, so he wandered the small downtown main street without purpose. He saw a bookstore and instinctually went inside. He used to find comfort in books before, but this felt insurmountable. He browsed the aisles, his hazel eyes unseeing, and through all the noise in his head, he heard a muffled voice asking if he needed any help. He shook his head and just stared at the shelves; he was beyond help. A few moments later, he felt a tap on his shoulder. 

“Take this,” a woman said. “It helped me through a really tough time.” 

He almost laughed at this woman. ‘A tough time’ didn’t begin to cover it. What could she possibly know about suffering? But then he looked into her eyes, and something he saw there made him feel ashamed. He thought maybe she did know after all. And so he took the book. 

Back home, he read the tale of a mighty hero battling obstacles and looking death in the face, up against odds seemingly as bad as the ones he was given. As he turned to the final chapter he thought, I’m no hero though. I’m just a regular guy.

But he continued on until the very last line, needing to see how things turned out for the hero.

“We never know how strong we can truly be, until we have no choice but to be stronger than we’ve ever been.”

It was then a thought occurred to him: Maybe he wasn’t a hero because he’d never needed to be one before. 

Charles picked up his phone and dialed the doctor. “I’ll get the surgery and chemo,” he told the doctor. “I want to fight.”

He picked up the book to read that last line again, to commit it to memory. Once he had done so, the words disappeared. He flipped through the entire book. The pages were now blank.

Charles returned to the little bookstore because something miraculous had happened, and he needed to understand it. He found the woman with pain behind her eyes and held out the book to her. She took it and smiled knowingly.

“Did the book help you?” she asked.

“It did.” Charles stuck his hands in his pockets and looked around. The store was empty. “But something happened. It’s going to sound crazy, but–” He stopped at the twinkle in her eye.

“I know, I didn’t believe it at first either, but this book,” She held it up on both palms, reverently. “It’s magic.”

Surprising himself, Charles just nodded. It was actually a relief to hear that his own eyes had not deceived him, or his mind. That was his real fear. That the cancer was already destroying his sanity. “So the words just disappear when you have finished with it?” he asked.

“It’s a story that was meant only for you. No one else. So when you are done with it, the story vanishes. Each person who reads it finds something different within its pages. Whatever they need to hear.” She shrugged. 

“So you didn’t read a harrowing adventure with a brave hero?”

“I did not.” She laughed and shook her head. “I’m guessing you need to be brave right now?”

He sighed and then looked her in the eyes. “I’ll need to be stronger than I’ve ever been.”

They were silent for a moment, a silence of understanding between two souls. 

“Well, I’m glad the book had what you needed.” She patted it lovingly.

Charles smiled at her. “I’m glad it had what you needed too.”

What do you think of Charles’ story? Would you like to read more? Click here for Chapter 2!

Thanks so much for reading,

-Clever & WTF

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