Greeting: May you be sealed in the book of life.
The book is closing of its own accord as I hurry to finish adding the last names to the last pages. Some ill wind is lifting the paper and twisting the pages together, bending the corners and smudging the ink even as it dries. These things are never neat.
I lean forward and blow out the candle, expecting to guide myself home by the light of the full moon but clouds have moved in and it is fully dark. It doesnít matter. I know this path, having walked it after writing in the book every night for not quite a hundred years. I pick up the book and feel my way to the door, down the steps and onto the dirt. A drizzle has coated the red clay of the path and it is slippery. Maybe I donít know it quite as well as I should, not yet. I tuck the book inside my coat and take a step. I slide and fall to my knees, struggling to keep the book safe.
I stand but donít move. There is a flash of lightning and I use it to walk a few feet. No problem. The storm is actually my light. I wait for another strike, closer this time. It begins to rain hard as I walk and wait and walk again. The lightning is getting closer, brighter and comes now every few seconds. I have no trouble finding the crossing but in the next flash, I see the stream has risen several feet. A flash flood from the mountains.
The next flash, I step into the water. It is no deeper than my knees but it is fast. It takes me down easily. I breathe water, spit it out, crawl on the rocks until I reach the other side, glad to be safe.
The book! Where is it? I scan the stream for several minutes as the lightning flashes come. I begin to shake, not sure if I am cold or desperate. I turn and continue to the cabin. The old woman is there waiting with hot tea. I sit and try not to let her see my tears before I realize how wet my face is from the rain. The storm is my camouflage.
I have trouble waking but finally I am up. I skip breakfast and run back to the stream, turn and begin to follow it down the mountain. A mile on, I see the book floating in a small pool created but the falling water. I take off my clothes and jump in, swim with long strokes until I reach the book. I drag it out of the water and carefully open it. The first pages are blank. As I slowly turn them I see that some are unaffected by the water, some are smudged slightly, some smudged beyond recognition. Some are blank. I set the book in the sun to dry. I will take it back to the library to write more names tonight. These things are never neat.