The library was quiet at that time of the morning, but soon patrons and students would arrive and disturb its tranquil atmosphere. Though people are usually quiet in a library, natural human activities such as the flutter of turning pages, the clatter of typing on the keyboard, the footfall of the patrons walking alongside the aisles, and occasional sneezing and coughing were all the noises that would irritate Peter’s sensitive ear.
Peter couldn’t tolerate some types of noises. He was diagnosed having hyperacusis when he was just two years old. As he was crying nonstop, his desperate parents took their newborn son to the children’s hospital. After many visits and numerous tests and seeing different specialists, it took over two years until doctors diagnosed the cause for his restlessness as hyperacusis, a hearing disorder that made it hard for him to deal with everyday sounds. His hearing issue didn’t let him connect with other children, as he could not bear the sounds they made. Peter’s hearing problem turned him into a recluse. As a child, he had spent most of his time in his soundproof room, a quiet sanctuary he could spend time with no disturbance. Later, with the help of noise-canceling headphones, Peter gained a bit more freedom and could leave his home and appear in public. Peter didn’t respond to none of the treatments he had had in his life. None could improve the symptoms of his unique hearing problem and his life quality. Now, at thirty-five, Peter couldn’t leave home without wearing his specialized noise-canceling headphones. In that morning, even though the library was almost free of any patron, he still wore his bulky noise-canceling headphone, which made him out of place and looked like a 1990s punk.
Peter’s usual habit was to borrow two books on his visits to the local library, a fiction, usually a thriller crime novel. He particularly liked Joe Nesbø, and he had read most of the author’s books. At least those were translated into English. And the latter a nonfiction. He had recently discovered Malcolm Gladwell by his book, Outliers. After a short search in the fiction section, the thriller crime row, he took Macbeth, written by Joe Nesbø. He had read the book long ago and wanted to reread it again. But in the nonfiction section, Peter lost with the number of options he had in front of him. While he was patiently examining books and carefully reading each one’s blurb, he noticed a book shyly hidden behind the row of the books and was almost concealed from the browsers’ eyes. With some struggle, Peter fished out the book. It was an old red color cloth case hardcover book. It was covered with a few years’ worths of dust. It seemed the book was there for an extended period, a good few years. ‘A forgotten book.’ Peter thought.
By blowing on the book, Peter removed most of the dust. The book’s title, THE LIFE OF US, was printed with capital letters on its cover. Oddly, there wasn’t any hint of its author on the book cover. Peter rapidly flipped through the book’s pages, but the author’s name was nowhere to find.
As the book didn’t have the usual library’s barcode, Peter walked to the front desk and asked a librarian for help. She had a tough time looking for the book on the library catalog on her system and was genuinely puzzled by not finding the author’s name anywhere in that book. Finally, after a long fruitless effort, she took a photo of the book’s cover with her smartphone, and left a note on Peter’s library account, then handed the book to him. ‘When you return this book, don’t drop it in the return chute, instead bring it to the desk.’ She instructed.
‘Sure.’ Peter responded.
In the private of his room, Peter enthusiastically began reading that strange book. It was the life story of a boy, Siegfried. ‘A German name,’ Peter thought. Siegfried was born on the 5th of April, precisely the same birthday as Peter. Again, very similar to his own childhood, as Siegfried had been crying nonstop since his birth, his concerned parents took him to the hospital when he was only a few weeks old. After many tests and consulting numerous specialists, finally, when Siegfried was around two years of age, doctors diagnosed him suffering from a rare hearing problem, hyperacusis.
Peter got interested in Siegfried’s life as it was very similar to his own and as he suffered from the same hearing problem as himself. Strangely enough, halfway through the book, Peter realized, in fact, it was his own life story he was reading. His name was just replaced by Siegfried. The book’s author, whoever he or she was, was adamant about calling him Siegfried and not Peter.
‘This is my life story! Who had written it with this accuracy? Is anyone watching me?’ Peter asked himself, mystified.
He inquisitively continued reading. It was as someone actively kept a journal on his life and did his or her job to the letter. Some of his life events were mentioned in such detail that only Peter could write them with that accuracy!
Peter continued reading nonstop until the following morning when the story reached the present time. Peter read; Siegfried found a strange book at the library, left forgotten behind other books. As the book lacked the library’s barcode, Siegfried had to seek the librarian’s help as precisely as Peter did. And the story ended while Siegfried stayed up all night kept reading the book, again as exactly as Peter did. It was creepy. The rest of the pages were left blank as if the author were still writing Peter’s biography and those blank pages were for future events. It was surreal. Peter pinched his thigh. The sharp pain he felt told him he was fully awake and wasn’t dreaming.
Reading his own biography in that strange book frightened him. The thought of being under surveillance and someone was watching his tiniest moves was sickening. Peter was neither rich nor famous; he was nobody. He lived with the disability pension he received that barely could cover his living costs. More often than not, Peter had to edit his shopping list and remove unnecessary items to stretch his paycheck until the next payday. Why was someone so meticulously interested in his life? The life of a person who lived on the verge of poverty! It was something he couldn’t get his head around it.
Soon it was dawn, and the sky got brighter. Peter was still awake and thinking. He grabbed the book and opened it. To his surprise, there was one additional written page mysteriously added to the book. Peter cautiously read the new page; Siegfried went to bed late, busy thinking about the mysterious book he found in the library. He was wondering why a person was interested in his life. Siegfried was neither rich nor famous, living on a pension he received from social services, and someone’s interest in his life was sounded more like an obsession than genuine curiosity. He was still in bed by sunrise, awake and still thinking about the book and its story, his life story. Siegfried reluctantly took the book up from the bedside table and opened it. To his surprise, he found one newly written page mysteriously added to the book.
By reading the passage, Peter panicked and threw the book on the carpet. ‘What? What is this? Magic?’ He said.
There was something about the book that frightened him, as it possessed some magical powers. As he feared it, Peter couldn’t persuade himself to either hold or read the book. He was more concerned by the new daily written pages he expected to find in it. Though he stopped touching the book, his mind kept thinking about the book and its content. After two days of not handling that bizarre book, finally, his curiosity won, and Peter hesitantly picked up the book. While his heart was bitting faster than usual, he opened the book and quickly flipped into its pages until he reached the last place when previously he stopped reading the book.
As he expected, a few more pages had been added to the book. Peter hesitantly read those pages, and as he anticipated, the texts were about what Siegfried or himself had done in the last two days. This happened every morning, and he found a blank page was written describing what he had done during the past twenty-four hours. ‘How such a thing could happen? Is magic real?’ Peter asked himself, puzzled.
Soon a week passed, and during this time, he gradually got used to the book’s presence. Though he was not as scared as before, he was still looking for a rational explanation for that unnatural phenomenon, a self-writing book. While contemplating, Peter asked himself, ‘what if I write a new narrative, a thing that I like to happen in the future, in those blank pages? Will the plot happen as I write it?’
Peter determined to test his hypothesis. He took a pen and began writing on a blank page; Siegfried was heading to the shopping center near his home. Halfway on his way, a sudden gust of wind from nowhere blew onto his face. The wind lifted dust and discarded papers and plastics from the ground, as it had a personal grudge against Siegfried, dumped them all on him. The sudden gust of wind gone as quickly as it appeared. It looked like someone had deliberately dumped a bucket of dust and rubbish on his head. He angrily swore, ‘damn. Where did you come from?’ While Siegfried was stroking his clothing to get rid of the dust and rubbish pieces, his fingers touched a piece of paper with a familiar texture. To be sure, he grabbed it and brought it up, and looked at it. Siegfried’s eyes glowed at seeing a hundred-dollar bill he found stuck on his shirt.
The following day when Peter was walking toward the shopping center near his residence, a sudden gusting wind, not as dramatic as he described the day before, blew and brought a hundred-dollar bill whirling in the air toward him and dropped it on the floor in front of his feet. Peter’s heart bit raised fast by a rush of adrenaline. His test was successful. In fact, he changed the future. ‘With the help of if this magical book, I can write my future. I can have anything I want.’ Peter thought cheerfully. The book had opened new prospects in his future life. Peter could now have anything he desired.
Weeks passed, and Peter was still busy musing on the possibilities he had in front of him. The list of his desires was getting longer and longer with each passing moment, and Peter couldn’t make his mind prioritizing one wish to others. Now Peter’s everyday life was disrupted. Peter wasn’t happy anymore. He wasn’t going out as often as before, didn’t read books, didn’t watch movies, didn’t cook, and so on. Most of his time spent thinking about his desires and what fancy thing he wanted to have, with no end on the horizon. What Peter wasn’t aware of was the greed that came with the power of controlling future events, the curse of greed.