The bell above the door chimes as I walk in. A breath of slightly musty air, rich with the sent of books, hits me. I wander up and down the rows and rows of books letting my finger’s trail along their spines. Slowly I move closer to the back of the store until suddenly my fingers stop. It feels as if the book is calling to me. I pull the thin red spine from the shelf, gently open the crumbling pages, and begin to read.
My fickle, fragile covering has begun to split.
Huh, it seems to be a journal. I wonder what it’s doing in a book store.
Slowly, at first. So small it’s nearly imperceptible to the human eye, yet it is all I can see. Each time I look in a mirror or see my reflection in a window, that little rip is all I see. Like the little rip in the seam of a well-used doll. How no one else can see it, I’m not sure. It’s right there; it’s right in the middle of me.
I feel it slowly, slowly splitting right down the middle, curling back as it goes. I try to cover it with some new clothes. More for my sake, I suppose, because it seems like no one else can tell it’s even there.
Every time I move, it’s there. Every time I twist or turn, it splits just a little bit more. I try not to move from fear that I will slip and rip myself open, spilling whatever is inside for all to see. I don’t go out so much anymore. I wonder if anyone has noticed?
I saw inside for the first time today. I shudder to even recall what I saw. I had thought maybe it would be all muscle and bones. It wasn’t.
As my skin continues its splitting, it feels as if my essence is receding, as if my soul is escaping from the gaping gash in my stomach. Maybe that’s why it’s all black inside. Maybe my soul is slipping out in wisps and nothing is all that’s left. Soulless. What an odd notion. I wonder if it would be easier that way? To not really be anything at all. With no dream or direction or discernment, there would be no disappointment.
I take it back. I want to be something. I want to be anything. I still wonder at the relief of the soulless life, but as the blackness grows, I feel fear. What will happen when there is nothing left to split?
As I flip to the next page a worn and tattered photo flutters to the ground. In the picture stands two girls. One’s smile is like the sun, her arms wrap around the other girl, a smile on her face too. Both seem so happy. I wonder which one of them wrote this journal.
I am closer than ever to finding out what will happen when the rift consumes me. It has spread up my neck and down my thighs and has curled almost all the way around my stomach. I look, well, like a shadow, I suppose. My shape remains, but every feature has been washed away by a deep, dull black.
It almost stopped bothering me so much this summer. I almost got used to it. But now school has started, and I’m around people every day. I wish I could take the flaps and hold them closed as I walk down the halls. Maybe then I wouldn’t feel laid bare for the world to see. Even if I know they can’t tell.
I don’t seem to feel cold anymore. I wonder if that’s a side effect of losing your soul?
I’m more black nothingness then skin now. A shadow of my former self. It’s hard to remember what I even was before. I walk through my house and see pictures of myself as a child: always smiling. I wonder what I was smiling about?
I used to spend days wishing to finally figure out who I was. I wanted, more than anything, to know what was made of and what I was meant to do. “I must have some sort of purpose,” I used to tell myself. I tried everything to discover it. I made myself into a million different people. I tried on a million different shirts, smiles, attitudes; nothing seemed to fit quite right. I never gave up though. “No one is nothing; we all have a purpose,” I told myself every time a version of me failed. Today, I found out I was wrong all along.
I flip to the next page but that’s all there is. I continue flipping; hoping for any sort of indication of the fate of the author. Nothing. And then, on the very back cover, I see To Ashlyn K From Aunt Lo. The rest is too faded to make out. I walk quickly to a computer on the wall and search her name.
I look and look until suddenly I see her: the girl with the smile like the sun, a woman now, with a little girl at her side. The caption below it reads Ashlyn and Maria. I look closer at the image. It may be a trick of the light but I can almost see a small rip across her face.
But her smile, bright as the sun, almost seems to be healing it.