I’ve gone a little Max Lucado on this one. I’m kind of uncomfortable with it, but it’s time to post so here we go. Hey, there’s a long tradition of heavy-handed Christian parables, right? We can’t all be Tolkien all the time.
Actually, strike that, nobody can be Tolkien.
The book, barely visible in the dawn light, was large, so large you might describe it as being big as a lifetime. A small grappling hook shot up into the air and dropped beside it, biting into the wood of the table the book rested on. The hook jerked a couple of times and the rope stretched tight.
“Gimme a boost, Moss,” a tiny female voice said, far below. “I can’t reach the first knot.”
“Ugh. You weigh a ton, Flea.”
“Shut up! I just haven’t had my coffee is all.”
The rope trembled as the unseen creatures ascended, but the hook held tightly into the wood. The male voice, the one called Moss, grumbled between panting, “Why did we have to get up so early for this?”
“Are you seriously asking? Because we want to get here before dawn so she doesn’t stop existing!”
“Well yeah, but you didn’t need to get me up at five to go over our list of supplies—for the hundredth time.”
“Well…it’s exciting! And besides,” the rope stopped moving for a moment, as Flea’s voice took on a chiding note, “This is our job! To turn the page! And read the next year! It’s what we do!”
“Come on, Flea,” Moss griped, panting, “Stop lecturing and move!”
A tiny green head of hair pulled back into a bouncy ponytail appeared at the edge of the table, and in a moment, a small green girl hefted herself over the edge and laid on her stomach to haul up her brother Moss. The green boy climbed to his feet and dusted off his jeans. Despite his size, he appeared to be in his late teens with gangly elbows and knees and a mess of green hair. He stopped and stared up at the book, which towered over him by several inches. Inches may not sound like much except that Moss himself barely reached two inches tall.
His sister, even shorter, skipped over to the book and ran her fingers reverently over the rough edges of the paper. “It’s so beautiful. Did you hear the author handmade them all?” She looked up towards the window. “Dawn’s coming.” She said, her voice suppressed delight.
“Guess we should get at it, then.” Moss sounded more like he was about to attend the funeral of a dear friend.
His sister hauled a backpack off her back and started rummaging through it, pulling out climbing grip gloves and more ropes. “You guess, huh? What are you wanting to do, just not turn the page? Like Old Gershom said he did once? Really? You want that? For all the letters to fade away and then the whole book just vanishes, like that, poof! Like she never even was?”
Moss shifted uncomfortably. “Well no, obviously but…”
Flea got up, her arms full of more climbing gear. “Come on, we have to hurry, dawn is almost here!”
Moss folded his arms and didn’t move. “Dad said he read a man’s book once. One year everything was going well, and he was expecting a baby, and he had a wonderful wife and a good job and then Dad turned the page and read what happened the next year—the man lost everything. His wife and children left him. He got a terrible disease. He died. Alone.. And we’re supposed to celebrate that?”
Flea frowned, momentarily distracted. “But it might not be like that. There are wonderful things, too! And the author is writing a sequel to everyone’s story where there’s a good ending!”
“But is the good ending worth all the terrible things that happen in between? I mean, one good thing doesn’t equal a lifetime of pain. Besides, even if she has the most amazing life ever, this is just one more year closer to death for her!”
But he was deep into his topic, eyes wide, hands waving. “And at the end, you know sometimes humans live on for decades but with their brain shut down! And their eyes not able to see! And their ears not able to hear! Why are you excited for her to be one more step closer to that?”
“Moss! Philosophize later; we have to get up there! It’s dawn!” Flea grabbed the grappling hook and flung it into the air. “Urg. Missed. I’m so bad at this thing. Come on! Help! It’s going to be too late!”
Moss registered the growing light with a start. “Oh crap! Where’s my gloves? Dad’s going to kill me if we don’t get it turned!”
“Dad is going to be the least of your problems!” Flea shoved the grappling hook into his hands.
Moss hurled the hook into the air and tugged it firm on the edge of the book page. He boosted his sister up and followed after her, hand over hand on the rope.
“We have till the light hits the second paragraph,” Flea panted.
Moss glanced up at the growing light and his face paled. “Faster!” He snapped at Flea.
“This is your fault, Moss!” She gasped, her voice high and pinched with panic.
She made it to the top, gripped the edge, and pulled herself over. Moss threw himself up the last bit of the rope and hauled himself up behind her.
The dawn light, barely visible in the shadows below the book, shone clear and bright on the page. For a moment, Moss breathed easy; the first paragraph only was illuminated. But even as they placed their hands on the rough, creamy paper to turn it, the light inched, impossibly slow, impossibly unstoppable, across the first black letters of the second paragraph.
“No!” Moss gasped. Flea screamed and covered her eyes.
And then a large hand, several times the size of either of them, descended and picked up the edge of the page. The white sheet rose into the air, the letters suddenly bright and stark against the pale background, and then the page fluttered gently down on the other side of the book, letting out a pouf of papery, book scent as it came to rest.
Moss and Flea froze, barely daring to breathe. A very large face lowered down so that it was just level with them and the book and a voice like a rumbling bass spoke. “Running a little late, Moss? You must pardon my deus-ex-machina entrance—it’s just I have more story written for this woman yet and I’d rather not have the story erased because one of my helpers picked a poor time to ask life’s great questions.”
Moss swallowed. “You’re…the author? Erm…The Author?” He revised, feeling the need for capital letters.
While Moss stammered, red faced, Flea blurted out, her voice tinged with outrage: “But if you can turn the pages—why are we here at all?”
The giant eyes crinkled at the edges like the author was smiling though they could not see the rest of his face to tell. “Because birthdays are gifts that ought to be celebrated, Flea, and I like to share celebrations with the people I care about.”
“Why do you write bad things in these stories?” Moss finally blurted, blushing and pretending that he wasn’t frightened.
The hand came across the book, palm up, and rested just in front of them. “Climb on.”
Hesitantly, they did. Moss looked down at the vast wrinkles in the palm, crevasses sprawling out towards the thumb and crisscrossing underneath him. And in the middle was a massive gouge; a scar from a wound so deep and so destructive that the scar tissue couldn’t begin to rebuild.
The hand moved and with a dizzying swoop, they came up level with the author’s eyes.
“Sir, where did you get that scar?”
“I don’t have any answers for your question that you’re going to like, Moss because they’ll make you feel small and uncomfortably out of control. But I can tell you something that might help you.”
“What’s that, sir?”
“I never put my people through anything I haven’t experienced myself. And you may doubt me, but I can take the worst evil in the world and turn it on its end and make something beautiful out of it. Does that help, Moss?”
Moss looked at the scar and the rough, callused hand that cupped around him. The sunlight, now diffuse through the room, shot through the gaps between his fingers and bathed them in morning light. “A little, sir.”
“Good. Any more questions?”
They shook their heads no.
The bass rumble of the voice lifted as the author smiled. “Are you ready to read another page?”
And with the crisp morning air ruffling their hair, the author lowered them down to the page to climb off his hand and walk the freshly inked words of a new year.