After quite a miserable life Mr. Collins was sent to Hell to atone for his sins.
It so happens that no matter how long is the period of time you actually spend in that steaming place, it is perceived by all on the inside as at least thirty years. Don’t ask me why. I don’t know why.
Anyways, it so turned out that for Mr. Collins, the Purgatory was really not that bad. Not worse than the stinking life he’d led on the surface, at least. So while the torture and burning and lashing and flaying wore on, Mr. Collins used the massive amount of relatively passive time to think. And after years of thinking he got the idea for a book. A book so innovative and fresh thinking that it would without question be the best book in the world – if it was ever written, that is.
Decades after his arrival in Hell, a plump man in a gray suit approached him on the rack. He wore an apologetic look and insisted on shaking hands, even though Mr. Collins’ hands were rather… sticky. He explained that regretfully, there had been a minor misunderstanding concerning Mr. Collin’s lodgings, and that of course they would see to it that he was properly compensated for his unnecessary suffering. Obviously this situation was very embarrassing for the family company, and they would appreciate it if he didn’t speak of the incident to his friends.
It was arranged so that he was sent back to earth with a full refunding and a promise of a long and pleasant Second Life as a small but oh, so well meaning apology for the conceivable complications caused by this error on the company’s behalf.
Mr. Collins shrugged and went home, only to discover that his house had been sold in an executive auction during his absence. So he checked into a hotel and started writing his book by hand on copier paper. Three weeks later he finished and could conclude that it really did turn out the best book in the world. The hotel porter, after a quick review, could confirm that this was unquestionably the case.
The manuscript was sent to several major publishing houses, all of which returned within short, completely afire with enthusiasm for what they labeled “the potential bestseller of the century”. All made Mr. Collins juicy offers, but he settled with the one that, among other things, offered him a lifetime subscription of the New York Times and a well bred puppy of his own choice. He didn’t have very high demands on his Second Life.
He moved into a nice villa overlooking Toluca Lake and lived very happily there for the rest of his life. He attracted many fans who had read the Book, and met more women in one year than he had talked to during the whole of his First Life – but he only married one of them. He never wrote another book, and he didn’t go back to Hell.
Ms. Morris found a copy of the best book in the world lying on top of her kitchen table one day. She read it in lack of better occupation, and then read it again. And again. She felt that it really fulfilled its promise about strengthening the reader in taking hold of her own life and granting her the tools to follow her own dreams. That’s why she sneaked out of the house the next day and headed for the city.
She had a clear picture in mind of just what parts of herself she wanted to change and how, and it didn’t take her long to find the people who could help her with that. The kindly doctor at the plastic surgery clinic was careful to let her understand that they usually did not do cats, but that for such a charming lady as herself they would be sure to make an exception.
A few hours later she walked out of the clinic, happily testing out her new, very own, dashing woman’s legs. Dressed in some borrowed clothes she set out to explore the city from a somewhat higher point of view than usual. She attracted many impressed looks and would soon find that her new life was to be a pleasant one. The only thing she would have to work a little on was her skittish and feline nature, that seemed not always to fit in with the way that humans expected a young woman to behave. Except for that, she was very happy with her decision to change. And all thanks to the best book in the world
Chris Larkman was a sorry figure until he passed by the bookstore one rainy day by chance, and happened to pick up a copy of the best book in the world. He was a slow reader, but a week later he quit his job as a public toilet cleaner and started working on his very own solo album as a singer-songwriter. It just so happened that the owner of one of the major record companies had finished reading the very same book only the night before Chris’ ill recorded demo was sent to him. The book had touched him in a weak spot, and had made him decide to start taking more risks with new talents instead of just betting on the safe old horses. As it turned out, this was a very profitable bet. You have probably heard of Chris – under another name, of course – since he is now one of the leading pop musicians of our time. To think that we would have missed out on him if it weren’t for the best book in the world!
Mrs. Louis drove her car to work every day. Until the day she read the best book in the world, that is. After that, she sold her Ford and instead bought herself a nice, blue bike. Now she goes by bicycle to work everyday, and is starting to consider participating in her area’s big bicycle race next summer. She doesn’t even know she was running a high risk for diabetes before she started exercising, and now she will never have to find that out, either. Thanks to the book.
Ted was being bullied at school by a boy a year older than him. As a last resort to cheer him up, his mother borrowed him a copy of the best book in the world from the local library. He was a lonely kid, so he finished it in one day. The next day he went to school hell-bent on striking back. Funny thing is, though, that the bully – Jim, he was called – had been reading the book too. He answered Ted’s wallop with not another blow, but with an apology. Today they are best friends. What a great book, huh?
Ms. Jamieson finally got herself an apartment of her own. Jack Finnings broke up with his abusive wife and started dating a top model. Simon Curtis chose the police academy instead of the safer but more boring economy program that his parents recommended. Lisa Watson started her own fight club, went to jail for it and met the love of her life behind the bars. Jill practiced for weeks and at last managed to beat the district record in Counter Strike. Mrs. Henrikson finally finished the oil painting she began when she was in junior high, forty years earlier. The book changed the lives of all who read it, and always to the better in some strange way. It made everyone happy that it came in contact with.
Except, of course, for God. God started worrying when his angels began complaining about job scarcity, and when even the easy-going Raphael mentioned that he’d been suffering from boredom lately, God decided to look into the affair. It turned out that the phrase “God helps those who help themselves” doesn’t really work out in practice – at least not for the heavenly party. Well, it certainly makes Heaven’s work a whole lot easier if some people just stop complaining and do something about their problems themselves, but it is another thing completely if all people suddenly decide to help themselves. That makes God feel obsolete and supernumerary. And that isn’t a good thing. Unfortunately, that is just what the best book in the world managed to accomplish.
That’s why God banished the book from Earth and let his vengeful angels throw it into Hell, lest they go on strike and force the Lord to go into the troublesome business of sorting out a celestial rising.
The best book in the world was returned to where its idea was first conceived, ’cause even though its contents was very much in line with the supernal, it was also doing its work for it. Nobody ever read the book again, except for the sorry souls in Hades, of course. And I’m sure they found it very useful. But the lives that had already been changed by it remained so, and the Nether Family Company greatly enjoyed this little haphazard consequence of their precedent malpractice – that was by the way completely forgotten thanks to this chain of events. So advantageous was the minor chaos caused by the book, in fact, that they did not back away from the possibility of some day staging another, similar, practical joke on Heaven.
Who knows where next year’s top ranking novel was written?