Thunk. Another book is dropped onto my desk. “This one needs to be completed by tomorrow morning”. I look up and see my boss walking away. I exhale slowly, trying to calm myself. All day, my boss had been dropping more and more books to be edited on my desk as if I wasn’t already in the middle of other books too! Not that I wasn’t grateful to have gotten this job though, not at all. I had graduated English Literature in Burfield, England when I was 21, and soon after, I had landed this job in editing! Still, I had so much work to do and hardly any time. I glance over at the new book that had been left on my desk and almost laugh.
The book was called ‘The End of All Days’ and it said that the book had been written by an anonymous person. What is even the point of writing a book if it is going to be anonymous? I flip the book over in my hand and examine the blurb. ‘Contains the names of people who have died - and are going to die.’ I giggled quietly and think to myself. What a joke, how many stories had been written like this, meant to scare children or to teach lessons to them. Oh well, I think to myself, I may as well get started on this book as I had already finished the other one, I was doing. I reach my hand to the book and extend my fingers to clasp them around the edge of the book and I am about to open the book when - “Elspeth!” I look up to see my boss leaving his desk. “Just wanted to see how you were going with that book?” He says. “Just about to start” I reply. “OK, well it’s getting late and you should probably be going soon”. “Yes, I know. I’m just going to make a quick start on this book” I answer. He only nods and leaves the office at a brisk pace.
Once more, I reach for the book and open the front cover. It reads inside ‘Please note that all names and how people have died or are going to die are listed in surname alphabetical order. Furthermore, this is only a book about people in Burfield – no other places.’ “What a strange book” I whisper as there is no one else left except me and the cleaning staff. I turn to the next page and am slightly creeped out, to be honest, I thought that this book would have a ‘pranked you’ sign or something similar. I scan the first row of surnames beginning with ‘A’ for any familiar ones. Suddenly I see it… ‘Ava Adams’. That can’t be right. She’s my cousin and she died 10 years ago. I keep reading, intent on finding out more. ‘Died at the age of 12, car crash, July 9th, 2010.’ How could this be right? Unless someone was keeping a record of all the people who died which wouldn’t be impossible. That still didn’t explain how this ‘anonymous’ author knew or thought they knew when people were going to die. That was impossible. Wasn’t it? I keep flicking through pages until I reached the last page of the ‘A’ names. There down the bottom is Charles Avery (my ex-boyfriend).
Next to his name it reads ‘Died at the age of 23, drowned, September 11th, 2018’. What? I check the calendar. “But, that’s two days ago” I almost cry out. He’s probably still alive and the book is just a prank. Thinking any of this doesn’t make me feel any better so I grab my phone and call him. 3 rings and he hasn’t picked up yet, 8 rings and still no answer. It goes to voicemail which usually never happens. I call twice more and they both go to voicemail! I decide to call his family home instead. They pick up quickly and there is the sound of muffled crying on the other side of the phone and I freeze. “Hello, Mary Avery speaking.” “Hi, it’s Elspeth, do you know where Charles is? I’ve been trying to reach him on his mobile, but he didn’t pick up.” “Oh, oh you haven’t heard. Two days ago, he and his friend were surfing and they both got caught in a rip. They…they…both…drowned.” “Oh my gosh” I blurt out. “Oh my… I need to go… I’m so sorry, bye”. I end the call.
Hang on… when was this book written? I rush back to the book and glance to the front page where the date the manuscript was produced is. It was produced in 2017. Oh my gosh. This cannot be a coincidence, I decide. A sudden thought hits me like a wave crashing onto a rock. What if? No. Could it be possible that? No. Is there even the slightest chance that I could find out at what age I am going to die or how I will die? I start to flick through the pages until I reach my name. I see it… ‘Elspeth Hannon’. I stop reading and shut the book with a bang. Even if I could find my death age and cause of death, would I really want to know? I struggle to reach the answer, but finally, I decide that no one else would have had the chance to do this so I shouldn’t waste this opportunity. I open the book to my name again and read on. ‘Elspeth Hannon, died at the age of 22, car crash, September 13th, 2018.’. That’s today.
I am suddenly frightened and decide that it is best to get home fast and survive the night. I leave the book where it is and grab my phone, keys and jacket and head out to the parking lot when I see that I left my window open, the one next to my desk. Oh well, there’s nothing that valuable there anyways and I just want to get home. I clamber into my car, start the engine and begin the 20-minute drive back to my house. Along the way, I think back to what the book said about a car crash and make sure to drive extra carefully. I wonder what would happen if I made it through the night safely. It must almost be the next day which would mean I am safe. I check my watch and almost jump with surprise. The time is 11:59. I stared at my watch for a second longer before returning my gaze to the road. Headlights glared at me angrily before I hear a sick thud of metal crumpling and the shattering of glass and everything goes black.
Back in the editing office, a cool night breeze blows through the open window and gently turns the page of the open book. A small piece of paper falls to the floor and lands the right way up. The paper reads ‘I tried to warn you – Anonymous’.