Chapter 6: Reading

Aeolianna handed me the book. It felt special, like something that would change who I was, just by reading it. I had never been a big reader. My mom and my sisters always seemed to have their nose in a book or two or three. I would rather play video games or run around outside with my friends. Books were boring, most of the time. There were some that were okay, but they just didn’t do much for me. I opened the cover of the book and started to read. I gasped.

The title page said Monster in a Jar, by Taylor Trent. I hadn’t written this book. Yet here was my name as the author of a story about a monster in a jar, which is exactly what had happened. I started to read.

“Most days you don’t expect to catch a monster in a jar. For starters, monsters are usually rather large. They don’t fit in normal jars. At least, not the monsters I know. Not that I know very many monsters. They’re not real, right? So how can you catch a monster in a jar if monsters aren’t real? Of course, catching a monster in a jar is nothing compared to being swallowed by a monkey. Especially a stuffed monkey. Things like that just don’t happen.”

Wait a minute, this was my story! I was living it! This book was written about what was happening to me. I looked up at Aeolianna.

“What is it about?” she asked softly, sensing my confusion.

“Me. It’s about me. It’s my story, the one I am living.” I sat down and leaned against a wall and started reading out loud.

The other toys slowly and quietly gathered around, sitting and listening. It was fascinating. The book had all my thoughts, everything that had happened to me since this journey had begun, and it sounded just like I had been the one to take the pencil to the paper. I finally reached the part where I was talking to Aeolianna outside my cell, when we began to trust each other. I stopped reading. The toys remained silent, waiting.

I had an idea. Out of curiosity, I turned a few pages ahead and scanned the bottom of the page. The part I read said, “I had an idea. Out of curiosity, I turned a few pages ahead and scanned the bottom of the page.” That’s what I had just thought! My hand shaking, I started to turn the page. I paused. Would the story keep going? Were the pages after this one blank or did they tell the rest of my story?

Slowly, I turned the page. It was covered in words. I flipped through the rest of book quickly then slammed it shut. The book was finished. It wasn’t being written as I went, it was already written. My future was in this book! The toys and Aeolianna looked at me expectantly. I took a few deep breaths and stood up.

“The story keeps going,” I said. “I haven’t read any more than what is happening right now in this moment, but the book keeps going. I guess it will tell us what will happen and help us know what to do.”

“Wow!” was all the eloquent Aeolianna could think of to say. All of the toys suddenly began whispering to one another.

I cleared my throat. The noise stopped.

“Um, ladies and gentleman,” I began, “I don’t know what this means, or how exactly I’m supposed to use it, but I think I have a plan. Aeolianna has talked about how if I can Imaginate my dream into reality, we can use it to change the present and escape the clutches of evil that hold us bound.” Whoa! I got pretty wordy there for a moment. Maybe I would be a public speaker when I grew up. There was something about standing in front of a group of beings that I knew depended on me and were looking to me for leadership and help. It was a little daunting, but also completely exhilarating.

“Who’s with me?” I shouted. As one, the crowd got to their feet and cheered. I took that as a unanimous vote in the affirmative. I liked the speaking part, but I still needed some time to process how exactly to make the next move, and figure out what I should do with the information in the book. Should I read it all? Or maybe just some? Or maybe skip ahead to the end for reassurance that everything would turn out all right. Aeolianna stood next to me and addressed the group.

“Fellow toys, the time has come. Our leader is here. Return to your cells and rest for a while as the journey we are about to embark on will try even the best of us. We will meet at the Great Stone in one hour.”

Everyone shuffled off, whispering again. Aeolianna turned to me.

“You need a little while to decide what it is that you would like to do. Go, rest a bit. In an hour I will come get you and lead you to the Great Stone.”

I smiled at her gratefully. “Thanks,” I said, with relief. I turned and walked back down to my cell.

I curled up in the corner with the book. For a moment, I was tempted to try and sleep, but I was too excited and wound up. If you had a book in your hands that told your future, what would you do? Sure, we all talk about how we would love to know the future, but do we really want to? I was feeling a little sad as well. It was odd. I didn’t want the future to already be written. I wanted to know that I could change it and that I had the power to choose.

Carefully, I opened up the book to where I had left off and caught up to the moment I was in. Once again, I was at the bottom of the page and had to turn it to find out what was next. Then, as if written by a ghost, more words appeared at the bottom of the page I was reading.

“You have a decision to make. If you decide to turn the page and continue reading, do it. If you decide to wait a while, put your finger in the page and wait a while. The decision is still up to you. The future is not written in stone. Erasers do exist.” I reread the lines a few times. This was exactly what I needed to hear! As I made my decision, I noticed the words at the bottom of the page slowly fading, as though being erased. So, maybe my future was written in this book. However, my current decisions could still change what would happen. As I closed the book with my finger still in it, I thought about things my dad had taught me about agency and making our own choices. We are each blessed to have the ability to choose. Sometimes the choices were easy. Other times, they were difficult. It all depended on what you wanted the results to be, and since you couldn’t control what other people did, it was hard to figure out the best thing sometimes. I knew myself pretty well for a ten year old, or so I thought. As I wondered about how the book could be written about things I hadn’t really yet done, I thought about how it often seemed my mom and dad could predict the future. Sometimes, it seemed they knew what I was going to do before I did it. Like the times my mom caught me in the kitchen sneaking leftover dessert after not having eaten enough dinner. Or when my dad would open the front door just as I was going to grab the doorknob when I came home too late from my friends’ houses. Maybe that same intuition was at work here. However this book was being written, whatever magic was controlling it, whoever it was, probably knew me better than I knew myself and therefore, could likely guess my next move. That didn’t mean I couldn’t change and do things differently though. My future was still up to me.

There was a reason I had been given this book though. Maybe I could learn something about myself, or at least have an idea of what would happen. I was a little worried about being a good leader. So, I decided to do what I had seen my mom do plenty when she got to an intense part of a book, and what anyone in my situation worried about whether things would turn out alright would do. I skipped to the last page.

“And they all lived happily ever after, the end.” That was it. I wasn’t sure what I had been expecting, but that wasn’t it. I was tempted to read the previous page. It was almost like this book only gave me what I needed to know and nothing more. Pages ended right where I needed them to. I went back to where I was supposed to be reading and read a page ahead of myself. It’s what I had thought about doing anyway. I felt reassured knowing I was however, on the right track. I closed the book. Time to pow wow with the gang.

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