When Ricky entered his brother’s bedroom Jared’s excitement was palpable.
“This came in the mail today. Want to see?”
The boy looked at the object his older brother held. Studying it he made a funny looking face, both scrunched up and skeptical.
“So? It’s just an old book.”
Jared smirked. “Maybe. Maybe not. Found it on e-bay. Look. It’s got this strap wrapped around it because the note that came with it says I shouldn’t open it. Not ever. That’s what the ad on e-bay said too. So, I had to know, of course.”
“Of course.” Ricky touched the worn leather bound cover. “Feels expensive. Really old. There’s no title. What’s in it? Some kind of story?”
“I have no idea. Look at this.” He handed the book’s accompanying note to Ricky. The boy read it and made the face again.
“This is a joke. It has to be.‘Under no circumstances should anyone open this book. It contains the only secret you will ever need to know.’ Come on, Jared, this is total b.s. What ‘secret’? That you were a dope to buy this? You were taken. How much did this piece of crap cost you?”
“Five dollars. That was it. I think the book showed up online only for a few minutes. Mine was the only offer. No bids, nothing.”
Ricky smirked. “Lucky you. So, are you going to open it? I’m guessing it probably contains something like an old issue of Spiderman.”
Jared’s fingers worked the leather strap. “Maybe. Maybe not. Want to see?”
Ricky leaned forward. Despite his attempt at bravado, his face revealed a hint of doubt.
“You do it. It’s your book.”
“And that means it’s my secret.” Jared pulled at the strap, heard the fastener snap. He looked at his brother, and both boys looked at the book. Jared opened it. The pages stuck together, probably because the book seemed ancient and it hadn’t been opened in a very long time. But Jared managed to separate the cover from the pages inside.
A few sentences appeared, and they repeated throughout every single page.
NOTHING HAS EVER EXISTED.
NOTHING EVER WILL EXIST.
The brothers looked at each other and laughed for a solid minute.
Jared snickered. “Nothing exists! It says so right here!”
Ricky managed to speak. “Not even Rosalie Jennings’ boobs? Come on. They’re real!”
“Nope. Not you or me either.” Jared punctuated his laugh with a loud snort. “Not Mom or Dad or this house or school or this neighborhood or…”
“Or…or…” Ricky said, but then the morning sun went dark. In sudden shadow Jared reached for his brother’s arm.
“Come on, Ricky. Stop screwing around.”
Still nothing. Somehow the darkness turned even more black and the bedroom felt cold. Jared wrapped his arms around himself, realizing he felt –
Jared was shivering now. He tossed the book to the floor but heard no sound.
Silence. Nothing else.
“This can’t be. This is ridicu–”
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- The Only Secret You Will Ever Need To Know by Ken Goldman - February 28, 2015