Jacob, a sophomore in college, used his hand to lead his eyes to a good horror book in that section of the library. Surely, he could locate one he had not read. His hand came to an empty spot. A little closer examination showed a book squeezed nearly to the back of the shelf. With a little effort, the black book came loose. Amazed to see the title of Holy Bible in gold letters, his curiosity made him wonder why it is in the horror section. The banned book should not be in the library at all. Being an author, Jacob took the book with the excuse he needed to be inspired to write a horror story.
Jacob hid the book beneath his coat. He took a deep breath as he passed through the alarm system. No dings, bells, or whistles. He successfully confiscated the book.
At his dorm room, his roommate Judiah looked up long enough to see who entered, then returned to doing practice calculations for his calculus class.
“Judiah, see what I have,” said Jacob, proudly displaying the bright gold letters of the book.
Judiah sucked in his breath. “That’s a banned book. Throw it away. I don’t want the Regulators coming around here.”
“I’m just one person with just one book. Why would they spend time on me?”
“That’s what I thought. Until the Re-Education Regulators took away Carlota, my girlfriend. Six months later, she still hasn’t returned.”
“Was it this book?” asked Jacob.
“I think so . . . Where’d you find it?”
“In the library.”
“I thought all the problematic books had been cleared out of there,” said Judiah.
“It was crammed and pushed back on the shelf. Alarms never went off.”
“Must be a really old book. I know it is banned. Trash it, Jacob.”
“I have writer’s block. I want some ideas to jumpstart my thinking. It was in the horror section. I’ll throw it away later. . . . Do you know why they banned it?”
Judiah frowned. “Because it is about some religion. Carlota, my girlfriend was into it. They banned all books about that book you stole.”
“She believed that religious stuff? Is that why your girlfriend told me she would pray for me to read the ‘good book’?”
“Yeah. She was after me too. Fortunately, her books never interested me. When they came for her, I started to say she wasn’t hurting anything. Then they focused on me. I didn’t want their attention, so I agreed she should not be allowed to read those books. Throw that book away. You will be lucky if you don’t get anything worse than a fine.”
“Not until I get some ideas. Let’s see,” said Jacob.
“Are you going to talk and read out loud again?”
“Yes. It helps me write good dialogue.”
“Then I’m going to finish studying at the library. I don’t want to listen to you read.” Judiah gathered his papers and books and left.
“I’ll start with the first book, Gene-sis. ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Jacob skimmed a little farther down. “Firmament! What in the world is that?”
Jacob googled the word. “1: A vault or arch in the sky. 2: Obsolete.” He skimmed a little farther. “’Firmament in the midst of water’? I think I will skip this book.”
Jack scanned through what he thought were chapters, but they were not chapters. “Must be an anthology of short books . . . These next four books are rules. I don’t need that.”
“’Joshua’. I don’t want to read a biography. ‘Judges.’ Let’s see what kind of crimes and judgments it has.”
In Judges Three, Jacob read about the hero sinking his dagger deep into the extra fat, evil king, so deep the fat sucked in the hilt.
“I’ll just take a few pictures for reference.” He set his cell phone to camera and clicked. “Needs to be more graphic, but I can make it into some good reading.”
“’Sing unto the Lord.’ I don’t want to read P-s-alms. It’s nothing but poetry.” The young man could not tolerate reading the prophetic books. “These are just speeches.”
Jacob set the book on his nightstand. “I’ll give it one more chance in this compilation called the New Testament.”
In the middle of the night, Jacob’s computer and cell phone lit up. Jacob looked at Judiah. He could not be operating it since he was asleep.
“I must have forgot to turn them off.” He crawled out of bed to do so. Before he reached them, the cell phone and computer turned off. A chill traveled from his head to his toes. Was that book haunted? Or magical? He would have to hurry to finish searching through the book. Then he would dump it in the dumpster.
That next evening, while Judiah attended night class, Jacob began in the book of Matthew. Immediately bored with the genealogy and the birth of a baby, he skipped to a couple of chapters before the end of the book.
“This has potential. Crown of thorns. Beating. And the man in charge doesn’t want the blame.”
Jacob read a little farther. “’Let him be crucified.’ This could be good. I’ll google ‘crucify’.
“’The act of killing someone by nailing his or her hands and feet to a cross.’” Then, Jacob googled how crucifixion kills a person. “Wow! This is great! Weight of body causes suffocation. Heart and lungs affected by loss of blood of wounds. Seven-inch nails. I bet the wood was even splintery. There has to be more to the ending than this.” Jacob read farther.
“What a surprise ending! The man comes alive again! Shame he didn’t get revenge on his enemies, but he will in my story.
“’Acts’. Must be about plays. Keith is a playwright. I’ll tear it out and give it to him.
“Maybe these next books will be just as good.” He read in Ephesians, “’For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves. It is the gift of God. Not of works lest any man should boast.’” He skipped some more books. “’For God has not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ.’ These are letters! I don’t want to read letters.” Jacob browsed until he came to the last book in the Bible.
“Fantastic! Beast, dragon, locusts like horses with faces like men. Finally, some fantasy. There is so much here. I’ll have to take some more photos.”
The day after giving his friend, Keith, the book of Acts, Jacob called him.
“I have the basis of a horror story. It will include betrayal, the hero nailed to a post, a politician with a guilty conscience. And it will be a fantasy – complete with a beast, a dragon, and painful locusts with a gold crown.”
“You got all that out of one book?”
“Yeah, out of the same book that the Acts came from. It’s an anthology called the Holy Bible. How about you? Are you developing ideas from what I gave you?”
“The book is not about plays,” said Keith, “but I kind of like the stories in it. It has a little of the supernatural like angels. Men of conviction. Bad guys that won’t leave them alone. I’m thinking of a play using the stories as they are. Just make them realistic to our day in a play.”
“If it is giving us such good story ideas, why was it banned?”
“I don’t know.”
Keith spoke to someone behind him. “What are you guys doing here?” The cell phone went dead even though it had not been breaking up.
Jacob shrugged it off. He would call his friend tomorrow.
The next day, Jacob could not get in touch with Keith. Keith didn’t call and his number was disconnected. Nor was he in their Creative Writing class.
After class, Jacob talked to the teacher, Ms. Padilla.
“Ms. Padilla, I’ve been looking for Keith. Do you know if he is sick, or went to a funeral, or something?” asked Jacob.
“I haven’t seen or heard from him,” said Ms. Padilla. “It’s odd though. Yesterday, the Department of Re-Education came to me to ask questions about him.”
“’What does he write about?’ ‘What has he been reading?’ ‘Who are his roommates and friends?’”
Jacob immediately thought of his banned book. His face paled and swallowed hard before asking. “Did you say we were friends?”
“Of course. You and Keith always give a good discussion in class.”
Jacob turned and fled from the teacher. He had to destroy that book.
The Re-Education Regulators had already arrived at the dorm room before Jacob entered. The three men wore black suits and ties. Taller than Jacob and Judiah, Jacob sensed they were athletic, but he could not say why.
Judiah stood silently before them.
The first Regulator asked, “Is this him? Your roommate, Jacob Dowd?”
The first Regulator signaled to the second one to start gathering up Jacob’s cell phone, tablet, and personal computer. Jacob watched in silence, painfully knowing he would be next.
The first Regulator held up the Holy Bible with the gold letters shining bright. “Judiah showed us it was in your possession.”
Jacob squared his shoulders with as much courage as he could muster. “Do you have a warrant?”
“We don’t need a warrant if a person has,” he held up the Holy Bible, “this.”
Jacob felt his courage deflating but gave it one last try. “I don’t understand why this one book is so important.”
“It teaches treason. It claims their god created us; therefore, we humans are accountable to him. And that his son will come back to take over the world.
“Now. Do you admit the book is yours?”
“No, it is not mine. It is the library’s,” said Jacob trying to shift the blame.
“We know. We planted the book to catch people like you.” Jacob’s breathing became shallow and fast.
“Judiah already told us how you came in possession of it. It’s a banned book. And you knew it.”
Jacob licked his lips. “I was getting ideas for a horror story. Do you want to hear them? I never read the whole book.”
“Good. That you did not read the whole book,” said Regulator One. “Then maybe your re-education will not take long. We will listen to what you learned later.
“We have been monitoring you from your cell phone and web cam.”
“Judiah, aren’t you going to defend me?” pleaded Jacob. Any help would be better than none.
Judiah swallowed hard. Jacob realized Judiah was not going to say anything that might jeopardize himself.
Regulator One stared down Jacob, like a prosecuting attorney confronting a defendant. “Judiah recommended trashing the book when you first got it. Why did you not do that?”
Jacob’s mouth went dry. All thoughts left other than to shift blame. “What about Judiah? He could have thrown the book away for me.”
“Judiah has not looked in it or read it. We may need to pick him up later. But we do not need him now.”
Jacob lunged for the door, but Regulator Three grabbed an armpit to keep Jacob from escaping. “We’ll show you all the pictures taken on your cell phone. And the phone conversations with your friend, Keith.”
Regulator One took the other armpit to keep Jacob from collapsing while Regulator Two carried Jacob’s belongings. All four exited the dorm.