by Trenchcoat Tardigrade

October 16, 2018 – Night

The ink of the signature was still moist when he closed the journal. One hundred-twenty pages, one third of a year, a book full of thoughts that he hoped to forget. He stood and shuffled to add it to the stack that had been growing since he was 15. There were bindings of colored cloths, cardboard and wire, one of wood and rope, and, from the many more recent years, various stains and qualities of leather. The black italian leather tome that had just been placed upon the pile blended into nothing more than another part of his 46-year project.

Not once had he opened a journal after it was filled, or even read as much as a single word once the daily autograph graced the bottom of the same page. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of words written only because he couldn’t not write them. The need to tell his stories would grow throughout the day, allowing him a reprieve to sleep only after his post-dinner ritual. Some entries were his ambitions, though those were more frequent in his younger years. Other times rantings from that day’s frustrations were scrawled fiercely until only room for a miniature version of his signature could be added. His fondest memories had always been of the fictional adventures that filled his daydreams. Most recently, thoughts of his own mortality began to bleed onto the page.

He dragged his wrinkled arthritic fingers up and down the stacks, dwelling on the hours and labors of his life that they consumed nightly. There was more of him bound in those pages than there was standing in nostalgia. With a sigh he once again accepted that with a long remarried ex-wife and three adult children who wouldn’t so much as call for the holidays, he had aged into nothing more than a desk jockey with a collection of musty handwritten books, a high end pen, and a crystal decanter of cheap whiskey.

This night was not unknown to him. It held the same somber notes as each other time he added one more brick of his soul to the stack. He sank into a reverence of regret before pouring the first of many three-finger shots into the unwashed glass.

October 17, 2018 – Early Dusk

He hobbled to his desk with the Dollar General bag in hand, still wiping the crumbs from supper out of his gray-streaked beard. He had spent the day preparing for what he knew must be done. He was tired of the aches and exhaustion that came with aging. He was ready for what was to come next. To say that he relished the ideas would be an overstatement, but not by much.

His day was spent in preparation and things had gone well, other than his manager being irate that he was quitting without notice. The bank wished him well and offered hopes of him returning at a later date, should he desire, as they counted out the stack of bills that had accumulated in his now closed accounts. A quick trip to the store for the night’s necessities and he was free to spend the remainder of the day touring his favorite locations around town one final time.

After downing a single two-finger shot he withdrew a sheet of stationary from the pad on the corner of the desk and settled into writing the note. With trembling hands his pen composed row after row of practiced script across the unlined page until, with a flourish, his signature appeared.

Setting his pen down and picking his decanter up, he finished the final splash of whiskey pooled on the bottom and breathed out a sigh of disquieted resolve. For the most part, he was comfortable with the life that he had, but the occasional discontents had become more frequent as his enlarging prostate prevented any semblance of a quality night of sleep and his back began refusing him the strong posture of youth. He yearned for the relief coming, but he knew that there were still many hours of night ahead and no reason to become impatient. He picked up the journal that had been so recently been added to the others and began reading at the previous night’s entry.

The pages blurred into the void as he turned from one to the next, revisiting the crawl backwards through time. Page after page, journal after journal, what was written and now read succumbed to oblivion. He laughed at his errors, groaned at his ego, and cried at his hardships as he engulfed himself in each word.

Slowly, he no longer felt the cricks of joints as he would reach forward for the next book. His fatigue increasingly faded. And after unrealized hours had passed, he began to feel the jubilance that had been such an active part of the days he wrote in cheap spiral bound notebooks.

There was no more stack of journals. There was only the remembrance of it as he crawled into bed next to the half-full glass of water, empty pill bottle and note on the nightstand. His eyes closed and a grin formed. He was ready.

October 18, 2018 – Morning

With a stretch he opened his eyes and leapt out of bed. He felt good. He snatched up the piece of paper, not sure who it wrote it, or even, as his eyes scanned the room, where he was. He stopped and read.

Fear not. Since the days of ash ink and papyrus, I, now you, have been chronicling daily life, sealing thoughts with a signature. Continue this ritual. Do not concern yourself with skill, for that grows with time, or with topic, as a collective the true balance will reveal itself.

 In the office down the hall and second door on the left, you will find a brand new notebook, pack of ink pens, an envelope of cash, and documents for your new existence. Pick a place on a map and go. We have done this many times before through the ages and within a day or two intuition will be your guide.

 I close with a word of caution.

 Until you are ready to begin anew yet again, refrain from reading what has already been written. With each word you are adding parts of your soul to the page, but in revisiting them they will be lost to the passage of time. Farewell.

Before his eyes, the ink vanished and the paper fell away into a mist.