Say your reading a book, it could be any book; a book on the American Civil war, on the life of Mahatma Ghandi, a page-turning best seller. But no, it’s this book, this strange, leather-bound black artists’ book that was lying there with the bank statements and fast-food takeaway flyers on your doormat when you got home. So you picked it up, made a coffee, then sat down and innocently opened the cover.

The writing inside is scrawled in black ink, whole pages filled, margin to margin, with dates, times places; gibberish. Then things start appearing, collaged bits of bus tickets, phone numbers, receipts, and as you scan these pages of random detritus your brain suddenly clicks into motion. You begin to recognize things; the stamped plane ticked to Paris in ’98, a ripped stub from ‘The Cure,’ concert in Camden where you first met your ex. You flick back to the start, heart racing, and read through the scrawl more carefully. It’s all there; birth, first day of school, first kiss, a perfect chronological record of your entire existence layed-out in front of you.

You stop, notice the tingling in your arms, back of neck, check the thickness of the pages you have already turned; almost half of the book. With the next page gripped tightly between your thumb and forefinger you pause for a second. Breath. Turn the page.

There’s a pencil drawing. It’s you, sprawled out on the sofa, a cup of coffee in one hand, a strange, leather-bound black artists’ book in the other. A shiver traverses your shoulders. You inhale, deeply, slowly, and hesitantly turn around. There’s nothing there, you exhale, and when you turn back to the book the drawing has disappeared.

As you turn the next few pages the drawings evolve. Your hair gets shorter, greyer. The lines on your forehead become more furrowed, the wrinkles around the eyes more pronounced. Without realising it you reach the penultimate page, a charcoal image of hands, old wrinkled, withered hands. The fingers are all bone, emaciated either side of the knuckles, a skeletal claw, but you know it to be your skeletal claw because of the palladium ring on the fourth finger of your left hand. And to your horror, you look down at your hands, the very hands holding this book, turning these pages, and realise that they have withered to an exact replica of the veined, bony hands in the drawing. You feel the back of your throat begin to fill with bile, and your arthritis-ridden hands shake as you hurridly attempt to flick back the pages of your timeline, but the pages are stuck, won’t budge, and the book remains rigidly stubborn, just one page from it’s finality.

Somewhere in the house a window is open. A breeze blows. The page begins to lift.

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Tim Waltho

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