This is part of my Fiction Friday series.
“My best friends are books.” It’s the sort of thing a lonely person might have on a t-shirt. For me it’s true. My best friend is a book.
Before she was a book my best friend was my wife. She was smart and funny and energetic and beautiful until she became ill. Then she was weak and fragile and listless and dying.
One day there was a pamphlet on the table in her hospital room. The front said, “Preserve your loved one after death in a very special book.” I assumed it was some sort of scrapbook maybe. Like a baby book for an adult full of pictures and facts and quotes that you provide. A layout and printing company. Nothing more.
But I was wrong.
As I read the brochure it talked about a device that would be attached to the patient’s chest, just over her heart. At the moment of her death it would collect her soul. The company would then transfer the soul to a book, which would be delivered in 4-6 weeks after my loved one’s passing.
I complained to the nurse about someone leaving joke literature in patient rooms. She assured me that wasn’t a joke. Her voice cracked a bit when she said she wished it had been an option when her mom died.
I did some research. The company had great Yelp reviews. Even better than the pizza place that we thought was perfect but was always having its rating pulled down by the occasional 2 star review because “It took a long time to get our food.” It’s made to order pizza, people. It’s not going to be instantaneous.
Even with glowing reviews and the word of the nurse the book thing seemed like a scam, but as the weeks went on and my wife became more and more frail I got desperate for any hope of holding on to her.
I stuck the apparatus on her chest with some special tape. I asked the doctor if that would be a problem. I thought he’d laugh at me, but he was completely serious when he told me those things are getting pretty common.
The day my wife died I wasn’t even thinking about the little thing on her heart that was supposed to capture her soul for the sake of a book until the nurse handed it to me. I almost didn’t call to have it picked up. With my wife now gone a book seemed trivial.
They called me.
When they came they asked if I wanted a hard copy book or an electronic one. I said electronic. My phone is always with me. If this book turned out to be all that was promised it seemed like something I would want to always have with me too.
I was warned that I would only get one book. That no additional copies could ever be made. I was barely listening, just staring at the little thing that had been on my wife’s heart, wondering what could be inside it, wondering what sort of book this would be.
When I got the book about the month later I started casually browsing but that quickly turned to intense reading. I read her every moment I could.
You know how when you read a really great book the characters start to feel real, almost like you know them, like what you are reading is really happening? The book is like that but more intense because I do know the character. She is my wife and reading this book that is not quite fiction, not quite fact is like watching her. Like being with her.
The book brought my wife back to life.
That was five years ago and now I see my folly.
I’m on my third phone since then. I can move the book from phone to phone, but there are no technical updates. Each new phone, each updated operating system puts the book at risk. It is already getting glitchy. It locks up or the screen goes dark. It takes longer and longer to open.
One of these days the book will no longer be readable. One of these days the spinning hourglass will just keep spinning. One of these days my wife, my best friend, will die again.
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Do you like short fiction? Read other Fiction Friday posts here.
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