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One Day in Bali

by Jason Erik Lundberg

The book was tiny. It had arrived that morning without a return address, in a padded envelope with Thai stamps. I knew of no one who might have sent it. The book itself revealed no author or title; on its cover were delicate interlinked gears, each labeled with both a number and a sigil, connected to a small clasp that held the book closed.

I first tried to turn each gear in numerical order; attempting a reverse order proved equally unsuccessful. As did beginning in the middle and working either up or down. I looked to the runes for a clue on how to proceed, but could discern no pattern. Then it struck me: whoever had sent this book obviously knew who I was, possibly intimately. I rotated the gears clockwise, corresponding to the digits of my birth date and time, two each for the month, day, year, hour, and minute. A low electric hum vibrated through the mechanism, and the clasp popped open.

The title page simply read: The Happiest Day of Your Life. The story within detailed the vacation I'd taken to Bali with my wife six years earlier, accurate down to the clothes we wore, the tourist spots we visited, the locals with whom we interacted, and the food that we were eating the night that I proposed. In light of the years of marriage that had followed -- years full of both laughter and sharp words, love and resentment, deep passion and inadvertent cruelty -- I wondered: had that really been the happiest day? I'd gotten food poisoning the day after, but that evening, we sat in candlelight and moonlight, served Balinese cuisine by waitresses who seemed to float above the floor, entertained by Balinese dancers precise in their movements, and the whole experience had been quite wonderful, possibly transcendent. Would I never live through something so remarkable again?

Finished, I closed the book, and the clasp snapped shut. Attempts to open it again via the gears failed, and so I put the book aside, and joined my wife in bed. The next morning, I could not find it no matter where I looked, and after an hour of searching, realized I never would. The strange gift was, I assumed, on to the next person, and then the next, bringing truth in all its terrible wonder.

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Oh, I like this a lot. Ending sucker punched me very nicely. Very quiet, but quite powerful.

Posted by: Jonathan Wood | January 30, 2009 3:18 PM

Thanks for that, Jonathan. That's the reaction I was hoping to get.

Incidentally, the tiny book should not be confused with The Happiest Days of Our Lives by Wil Wheaton. It was, however, inspired by the cover art that Erzebet Yellowboy created for The Time Traveler's Son: http://www.erzebet.com/tts.html

Posted by: Jason Erik Lundberg | January 31, 2009 7:10 AM

Wonderful concept for a story. Thank you.

Posted by: R. Schuyler Devin | January 31, 2009 11:48 AM

You're very welcome, and I appreciate the nice words, sir.

Oh, and apologies for the previous double-comment.

Posted by: Jason Erik Lundberg | January 31, 2009 2:17 PM

Not to worry, Jason; I snuck in and got rid of the doubleness.

By the way, in addition to the general concept, I really liked that there a couple of ending notes here (at the ends of the each of the last two paragraphs). I was still absorbing the first one (that there isn't a happier day coming) when the second one arrived.

Posted by: Rudi | January 31, 2009 5:06 PM

Glad you liked those, Rudi. It was really difficult to keep this one to 400 words, but I wanted to make sure that those two notes stayed in, as they carry a lot of the emotional weight of the story.

Posted by: Jason Erik Lundberg | February 1, 2009 2:40 AM

Hello. And Bye.

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Hello. And Bye.

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