The return of the book

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I arrive late back at the house. It is already dark. The usual reassuring things are there: unopened mail, the heating clicking on automatically. But something is up. An atmosphere, a remote scent of threat that is not entirely explicable.

I mount the stairs, calling out the names of my family, even though I know they are not there. The lights are all off. There is definitely a whiff of something now. A hint of wet dog. Something muddy, a bit off. There’s even a tang of rhubarb…

In the last room I come to, I find the cause. There, in my study, seated at my desk with its back to me, is the book.

‘Hello?’ I say.

The book makes no move, gives no sign that it is aware of me. I notice it is writing, in the dark, in one of my notebooks.

‘Make yourself at home,’ I say.

For a second the pen lifts from the page of the notebook, before returning to its scrawl.

‘I thought you had gone,’ I say. ‘Left, I mean. Forever.’

‘I did go, yes,’ the book says, without looking up. ‘For a while. I’ve been travelling.’

‘So I see,’ I say. ‘What on earth is that smell?’

‘What smell?’

That smell,’ I say. ‘Your smell. Of you.’

‘Don’t know what you’re talking about,’ the book says. The book spins round at me, eyes aflame in the dark room, glaring. ‘God, you are bourgeois!’ And it spins back to the desk again, picking up where it left off, furiously scribbling in the gloom.

There is a long silence. I watch the back of the book as it writes, one arm curled around the front of the notebook, as though shielding it from copycat neighbours at school. Suddenly I am filled with love for the book. I walk over to my desk and stand there, just behind the left shoulder of the book, watching it write. I notice there is barely a crossing out in its fluid, neat handwriting, not like my writing at all.

‘I’ve come to rescue you,’ the book says without looking up or pausing. ‘Or rather… it.

‘It?’

‘It. Yes. That, that thing you are calling your new book.’

‘But I thought we agreed that it was fine. That you were happy.’

You said you were happy,’ the book says. ‘I recall saying no such thing.’

‘You did!’

‘Did not!’

‘Did!’

‘N’t.’

‘You signed off,’ I say. ‘You okayed it. I remember it.’

‘What did I say? When?’

‘That it was fine. That it was good to go.’

‘I think you’ll find there’s a big difference between ‘fine’ and ‘the best work you are capable of’,’ the book says.

‘You mean -‘

‘Yes, I do mean that,’ the book says.

‘You need to start again.’

‘What, really?’

‘Yes, really.’

‘But I’ve nothing to say. I’m empty. Finished. Kaput.’

‘The perfect place to start,’ the book says, smiling.

 

You can download the whole parable of the book series here.

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