The Book of Bad Thoughts by Mara van der Meulen

This story is one of the February Writing Challenge entries chosen to be a featured story.

SMACK. Once again I get slammed shut. I know the routine. Here it comes. 3… 2… BAM. I hit the wall and fall on the ground. I’m laying in the corner of a dark room. I hear footsteps approaching me, but hands stay restrained. I shiver as a tear taps the floor beside me. The footsteps become softer until it’s silent and I’m left alone to gather dust.

It began a year ago. I’d been laying on a shelf in the local office supplies store for several months. Many hands picked me up, but I was always thrown back on the shelves. I’ve seen almost every part of the store. I started in the front by the other notebooks; later I was moved to diaries, and I even spent a good couple of weeks near the journal section. Eventually I ended up in clearance. That’s when someone decided to buy me.

Two strong female hands grabbed me and placed me on the counter. “Gift?” “Yes, birthday.” Some male hands quickly held me above a scanner, the same hands that less than a minute later carefully wrapped me in plain, brown wrapping paper. A curled piece of black ribbon was stuck on top of it, held in place by a dull ‘Happy Birthday’ sticker. The next thing I remember was being pushed into the hands of a young girl who tore the paper off and threw me aside. For a week or so I lay in a pile with other uninteresting, unwanted presents. I was shoved in a drawer and didn’t feel light until a few months later.

Angry hands dropped me on a wooden desk. Hands that had familiar fingers and shape but overall felt so much different than they had a few months ago. They were slightly shaking, but not excitedly shaking like last time. This time I sensed a hint of fear and anxiety. Sweaty palms and bitten fingernails. Although only a few months had passed, those months were enough. Enough to turn a little girl into a struggling teen. Enough to change a person. I felt a cold white corrector pen scribbling on my black cover The book of bad thoughts. A shock rushed through me as I felt my spine crack. For the first time I was opened. Not the way the customers in the store used to; they only opened me one or two inches, barely glaring inside. This was different. I lay wide open, revealing the neat grey lines on the ruled paper carefully bonded to my black spine with white cotton thread. I didn’t feel naked. I felt ready. Like a canvas finally being used, finally awakened and ready to face my purpose and faith. A soft, dark felt tip marker kissed the paper and brushed elegant but scary calligraphed letters in the middle of the first page.

I could tell you the name that was so carefully written in me, but then again I could just give any name. I bet many people you know have a book just like me; maybe you yourself even do. It might not have a black cover but white or blue instead, or maybe it has a fancy brown leather covering with letters engraved on both the front and back. I’m not used for school notes, budget calculating, or to-do lists. I have a darker and more important purpose. I am an outlet. Some days through scribbling, other days I’m being filled with thoughts that are labelled “bad” by society, simply for being different. Different you say, original and true I say.

Every once in a while I get picked up again. Steam gets blown out, confessions are made, crazy thoughts are being given a home. She always storms in frustrated, but by the time I hit the wall, she has calmed down. She softly walks away, feeling better and relieved. I never say anything. I only listen as she writes and watch as she scribbles. Sometimes it’s only a couple of days before I’m being picked up again; other times months passed by. Then months turned into years.

Ages have passed, and I haven’t been picked up in so long. I feel a thick layer of dust sticking to my cover. The white corrector pen has now slightly faded. Light reveals itself as I feel the weight of magazines being lifted off of me. The same magazines I was hurriedly kicked under when some of her friends were snooping around a long time ago. I hear a quick, shocked inhale, followed by a chuckle. The magazines have muted the sounds of her room, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard her chuckle like that. She sounds so happy. Warm, steady hands pick me up confidently. She doesn’t open me. She doesn’t need to. It’s all in the past now. For a second I fear she’ll just throw me away, but she doesn’t.

I’m sitting in a box with lots of books. I’m in the back of a car. I can feel the road changing back and forth between gravel and asphalt. Then we abruptly stop, the box is lifted out, and I feel the warm, fresh air. The sun shines through a crack in the brown carton. It doesn’t take long before the lid is lifted. All books are being taken out, and as I’m the only one left, I think she might have forgotten about me. Maybe I’ll accidentally get thrown out together with the carton box. Then her hands lift me up. They feel the same as they did when I was picked up from under the magazines earlier. They feel fearless, no longer shaking. There’s a small room with a bed, desk, and closet — a dorm room. We must be at college. Under the window stands a small book cabinet. I’m placed behind a row of other books. Hidden away, but that’s okay. I’ll stay out of sight as long as I’m in her heart and mind.



Mara van der Meulen
Germ Magazine guest author
… is a contributing guest author for Germ, which means the following criteria (and then some) have been met: possessor of a fresh, original voice; creator of fresh, original content; genius storyteller; superlative speller; fantastic dancer; expert joke teller; handy with a toolbox; brilliant at parties; loves us as much as we love them.


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