This story begins with Globe Without Goodbye – The Shore (1). To access installments in narrative sequence, click on an entry title, then click on “Next” at the end of that installment.
The hospital staff told Jeffrey that it had taken two very strong workers to pry the suede-bound book out of his stiffly-clenched hands when he was brought into the ER. Emergency personnel had given up on freeing it from his grasp at the scene of the collision. Due to his body positioning, they believed he had reached for it on the front passenger seat immediately after the impact. Nobody thought it had distracted him while driving. Good. He answered their questions truthfully when he said he couldn’t remember the collision at all.
He lay in his hospital bed with the little book resting on his abdomen. He knew he had brought this book back from Aum. He hadn’t opened it yet. Excitement tingled in his spine. When he couldn’t stand the tension any longer, he stood the book open on his chest, peeling back the flexible cover from the first page, wondering if a headache would split his skull.
Before beginning to read, he noted the shape of the text on the page. It formed blocks, not mirror-cracks or spiderwebs, and the text did not crawl. He barely had time to recognize his own cramped handwriting before his eyes focused:
When Jeffrey Hamen came to his senses, he knew he had never before seen this shore.
Wait. Why was his name in the book? This was supposed to be Nadja’s story!
He continued to read:
He stood on bare feet, on gray sand.
His heart didn’t know whether to sink or leap. Somehow the book had recorded his trip to Aum. It was all there – the shore, the cave, the doll, the skeleton. It made for a decent story, he supposed, though he didn’t read many narratives, so he didn’t feel qualified to pass judgment.
He thumbed through the pages, reading a line here, a phrase there, amused, bemused, wondering.
Your choice will not create a new world, little man. You choose only whether or not to preserve your sense of yourself.
The book didn’t really convey the awesome awfulness of the vortex’s presence, he decided. Then he realized the book held additional pages, too many to carry the reader up to his departure from Aum. Would the book reveal his resumed life?
He considered the question of his present moment. What would happen when he got to the point in the story in which he started to read the book? Surely he would end up reading the text that he was trying to read now –
He dropped the book to his chest. He understood now why Nadja had ended his visit to Aum with her unearthly laugh. She must have transformed the book into a trap. A hall of mirrors. A book within a book within a book, within a book. If he tried to read it all the way through, he would never finish. Nadja had managed to sneak a corner of magic into Jeffrey’s world. Determined to outwit the doll-minded magician, he picked up the book again and flipped to the last page.
He nearly cried out in frustration, but instead flipped to the second to last page. The single sentence on it ended his story:
Eventually, it grew boring.
“ ‘Eventually, it grew boring’? What kind of an ending is that,” he griped aloud. He dropped the book to his chest again. Never mind. Not a diamond the size of a wheelbarrow, but like it or not, the story was his trophy. People liked to read stories. He would find some way to rework the trapped section. Nadja could not be allowed to win.
As he ruminated on publication possibilities, he grew tired in his mind. Soon, he dozed. Jeffrey fell into a deep enough sleep to dream, and he dreamt of diamond mountains he would never see. It was the same dream he would dream every night until his death. Eventually, it grew boring.
Thank you for reading! Coming up next week: a new story, Masked.
If you have enjoyed Globe Without Goodbye, please support my writing on Patreon.