Book of Ellen

                It was then Ellen found the book that contained the whole of her.

A slim tome, hidden on a shelf in her attic, covered in dust. Its cracked leather cover bore no name. Ellen could not say what drove her to the volume, its spot in the loft, nor what brought her to explore the old mansion’s heights in the first place. Only that she was compelled, drawn up the stairs, into the room, to its frail vellum pages. Once held, it was as if she had held the book her entire life. She brought the tome to her nose and sniffed, a rich ancient smelled suffused her with a sense of the sublime. The book begged to be consumed, and she craved to know the content of its pages. It… belonged to her, intimately. Even before she started, she knew this to be true.

                Not knowing why she held her breath, she began to read, a gasp strangled in her throat. The first lines: “Ellen Percival, born 1962, weighed 7lbs 8 ounces in her first moment of life. She did not cry at her birth, a unique child. This was not belied by her quiet infancy, nor her silent childhood, nor her demure adolescence. Indeed, her parents openly wondered if at any point they heard her speak more than ten words all at once. In her eyes was language enough, they lit with emotion. Happiness, Anger, Sadness, Betrayal, Love. She spoke more eloquently with a glance than most did in a dissertation.

                “Such was the way of Ellen Percival.”

                How shocking! How perceptive! Ellen spent little time dwelling on the impossibility. The book was clearly older than she was herself, and yet there it laid bare the sum of her parts. There was no denying it had her measure. So she read on. And each page spelled another chapter of her life. From her first kiss, to her first love. Her marriage, her divorce, her next marriage and its inevitable failure. Every chapter she bore in silence. Perhaps that was her trouble; no one in her life could tell that she cared. For herself, or for them. She seemed to wait for something. The next thing waiting on the horizon, with an implacable patience. If asked, she could not name what it was. Until that day.

                That day she found this book.

                Alone in the house, independently wealthy, there were none that sought her company. None that wondered at her disappearance. Day after day, she read. Despite the volume’s slimness, it took her nearly a week to finish. It did not strike her as strange that as the book came to a close, it had not yet reached the present day. She approached the moment she discovered the book with excitement, and a hint of trepidation. Would it end just before? Would it know what came next? Would it loop backwards upon finishing? Might she open her eyes and find herself being born again? Perhaps in the arms of her mother and father, back when they still looked on her with love and devotion. Back before they feared her aloof, discreet nature.

Breathless, she turned the page.

                She crept into the attic, called forward by a voice she had not heard before, but had called her all her life. A voice she waited for, through failed marriages, through childhood. A voice that she had stayed unknowingly quiet waiting to her. And now it was just ahead. There, in the back of the old house. Once she had purchased and restored herself, a bookshelf hid in the shadows, covered in cobwebs in dust. There, on the shelf, between two books of little note. She found it. She grasped it instantly, held the thin text in her hands.

                It was then Ellen found the book that contained the whole of her.

                I imagine she remains there reading, even now.

The Lost Destiny of the Shepherd

From the midst of his herd, who nibble and starve on a barren ridge. The desert shepherd stands and watches. He ignores the sweat dampening his brown and blurring his sight. He ignores the heat that burns his skin dark brown, which then blisters and scabs into hardened callouses. Every day he stands there looking at the same spot. The spot where, years ago, this lowly shepherd watched a shooting star cut a red path across the sky.

Somehow he knows, on it died another life. His freedom passing by like a caravan lost in the dark.

In his dreams his mother dances in and out of focus, in and out of light and shadow, a beloved ghost of his infancy.

"You, my boy," She whispers, at times bouncing him on her knee, at others rocking him to sleep, always, always fading into memory's slow-encroaching fog: "Were born for something great!"

She passes, so do the years, so does this comet, each borne into the past and far from his reach. He closes his eyes. Imagines the men who died trying to find him. Imagines a destiny lost. He imagines the burning star is no star but a ship, under attack by those that would thwart its mission. To reach him, the vaunted savior.

He imagines what they might tell him. That he is a Chosen One. That he must save the galaxy, the universe.

"Only you," He imagines them desperately gasping, barely escaping death to bring his deliverance, "Only you can save us!"

"This way," He dreams them saying, as they gesture towards the infinite and the stars. "Come with us and we will show you wonders. Come with us, and bring our troubles to an accord."

He imagines, and years pass by. The embers of imagining fade; they weaken; they die.

He ages, begins his own family. There is no more time for dreams. The real is what is. This is the only world he will know. He will die, and like his mother before him and her father and a long line of Man stretching beyond his ancestors' ken, be buried and forgotten in the sand. The herds of humanity will march over his grave in time, ignorant to the fact that he ever lived, that he ever dreamed of more.

At night, he bounces his own child on his knee and whispers, "You, my son, you..."