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Challenge #01402-C307: Pressed Souls

"Keep a diary, Desrie! One day it may keep you." -- Anon Guest

It sounded... ominous. Desrie heard it from everyone, every day. Sometimes, she saw people with them. Thick, heavy tomes which promised to last them the rest of their lives.

And some that were so thin...

How could people stand to watch those pages dwindle down? How could they want to write the last page?

Desrie didn't have a choice, in the end. Her mother made her visit the Diary shop, where a lady with a calculating eye looked her over as if appraising Desrie's worth by the carrat. She took bizarre measurements with a piece of string and eventually produced a tome that could double as a piece of furniture.

It came with straps that both kept it shut, and turned it into a form of backpack. Of course her mother made her carry it home.

"One page a day," mother demanded. "It's mandatory."

Desrie opened the book under her mother's watchful eye and found an instruction in the frontispiece. It read: Write as you feel, not as you are instructed.

Glaring at her mother, she turned to the first page and wrote: I don't want to keep a diary, but now I have to. Something... took over. She poured out her feelings onto the page. Word after word. Sentence after sentence. All about her misgivings and how large her book was in comparison to others. About her dread of approaching the last page. About the need or want to write the last page... and of how much she despised her mother for making her keep one.

She filled one and a half of the huge pages.

"There," said her mother. "It is yours, and it is you."

Desrie felt another chill at the phrase. But it was all her mother would say about it.

Life went on, and every evening after dinner, Desrie would sit and write about her feelings. Half a page, one page. Three pages on the death of her mother(she never opened her mother's diary and never wanted to). Night after night. Happy thoughts. Sad thoughts. Her continuing battles.

For all the years of her life. For all the things she did. Page after page. The compulsion haunted her, and she insisted that her own children choose to keep a diary.

Until she realised that her bookmark was approaching the last page. Despite wanting to not write in it, now, she felt drawn to it. She spent four pages just on her dread. Beautiful, visceral, descriptive passages. But words that took up space. She took a page on wishes for her children. On wishes for loved ones. On the dispersal of her things.

On her concerns for the afterlife.

And without knowing it, she'd written the last word on the last page. And went to bed. And slept forever.

...and then someone opened her book...

Desrie looked at the stranger. A grandchild, but older. Elphie. "Why didn't you make Papa keep a diary? He's gone forever, now."

"I was made to keep a diary and I hated it. They suck all your feelings out, and weigh too much, and leave you with a dread for the last page. I don't know what lies beyond, now. I'm just a book. I never chose this... and I wanted him to choose."

"But he's gone. He's gone forever. I can't ask him anything."

"He's free. I'm... not. I want you to burn this book. Let me go. Let him go. Live your life like you don't know how much you have."

"I'm sorry, gran'mama... I already started mine. I love it. I'm going to live forever." And then she closed it.

She closed it before Desrie could tell her. It wasn't living. It was drifting in the void until someone opened your pages. Kept like a pressed flower. Unalive.

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