Books. Great, aren't they? Yeah.
Of course, not all books are created equal. Many will come into your life and right out again, barely touching the sides, much like a visual curry. But every once in a while, a book will STICK (much like the chewing gum that I swallowed when I was 7, according to Natalie who lived down the road). It will slap your brain, your sense of self, your … something else profound, and lodge in you forevermore.
Sometimes you choose the Book, but more often, the Book will choose you.
I distinctly remember the first time I met a capital B Book. I must have been about 7 or 8, and still living at home, when I happened upon it. Where it came from, I don’t know, as my parents were not ‘that’ sort of people. All I know is that it was there, and so was I. It must have been simply fate.
I later learned that spookily, it was written by a man called Arthur C. Clarke.
I was terrified of it, but like that strange painful bruise on your leg that you can’t stop poking at to see if it still hurts, I couldn't keep away from it. I was afraid of many things (birds, going over bridges and walking on boardwalks, that my brother had more ice cream in his bowl than me, Worzel Gummidge, the dark, being sucked down the plughole in the bath and, one specific night, the head of the vacuum cleaner), but Mr Clarke introduced me to all the things I had been too foolish to even know I should have been afraid of.
In hindsight, some of those fears were perfectly normal.
Ghosts. Aliens. Telekinesis. Curses. Demonic possession. Green skulls in eyeballs – I stared at the grainy photos and captions, daring myself to read more but shutting it quickly in defeat, only to inch my fingers back towards it to see the photo of the priest at the altar that cannot be proven false. The dead wife in the back seat of the car. The blurry UFOs above the trees. The ancient scrolls that predicted DOOM!!!1!
Then the book would disappear for a while. Perhaps it had other children to scare. Perhaps my parents noticed me behind the armchair, crouched over the book, and hid it. I’m pleased to say that a quick Google search while writing this has proven that yes, it does actually exist and I didn't imagine it into creation, but my brother cannot remember ever seeing it in the house, so I’m still torn between the first two explanations.
However, it always came back. I would be happily absorbed in peeling the varnish from the top of the heater and BAM – there it was again, in my hands. And try as I might to flip fast or slow, sooner or later the most terrifying page of all would be right in front of me, luring me into its horrible detail yet again.
Spontaneous. Human. Combustion.
How could this be? Why did nature do such awful things? Couldn't it be satisfied with mosquitoes and brussel sprouts? Surely they were enough cruel and unusual punishment to lay upon humans? I knew for sure that this was going to happen to me. I was a human. I often felt quite hot in one particular bit when I sat in my favorite place right next to the heater. I was alone in the room sometimes. In short, I had all the symptoms, and therefore it was inevitable.
I tried to find the specific picture that I used for my highly scientific deduction, but obviously, it is too terrifying for even the mighty Google to cope with, and it does not exist online (or at least it didn't come up in the first two pages of my Google image search, which is clearly the same thing). Luckily, you are therefore spared the terrifying specifics of what will probably happen to me.
Unluckily for you, I can remember enough to describe it for you. Because you need to be prepared.
I will be living in black and white, and have grown a liking for floral furnishings. I will have a cup of tea on a small wobbly-looking table next to me, perhaps with a crossword half done, or maybe a book. Whatever, there’s something on the table next to me, and it looks like my elbow could easily knock that tea all over it. I will be wearing at least one of these:
Slippers. AKA Shoes of Death. Comfy, fleeced line Shoes of Death.
THAT’S ALL THAT IS GOING TO BE FREAKING LEFT.
All my hopes, my dreams, my loves and losses … gone. Just a scorch mark on my floral chair, a cold cup of tea and a slipper.
At least it will be over fast.
So thank you, Mr Arthur C. Clarke and your World of Strange Powers, for showing me that some books are not just for Christmas, and for giving me so many new things to be afraid of.
Now please get out from under my bed and stop making those gurgly noises xthanxbai.