The Fourth Book

You’re leaving your favorite restaurant after eating breakfast when a stranger taps you on the shoulder. But this tap leads to a conversation—and adventure—that leaves you with one item that you never thought you’d ever own.  Start your story with “I hate to bother you, but I have something important to ask.” And end your story with, “And that’s how I ended up being the proud owner of a (fill in the blank).”

“I hate to bother you, but I have something important to ask.”

David looked up from reading the paper to see a man dressed in turn of century clothing. After giving him a once over glance, he said, “Who’re you suppose to be?”

“Do not be concerned with my clothes. I must ask if you are David Roberts?” asked the man.

“Yes. Who are you?” asked David glacing around from some indication of what was happening.

I have been asked to give to you this parcel,” said the odd little man in a powered wig as he handed a small package to David.

Folding the paper under his arm, David took the package. It was wrapped in crinkly brown butcher paper and tied up with rough fuzzy twine. After turning it over in his hand to examine it, David looked up to ask the man what it was only to find that he had completely disappeared. He began to seriously consider throwing the package into the nearest dumpster if not for the feeling in his gut telling him that he should open it. After he got into car, he slowly undid the twine and gingerly unwrapped the butcher paper. What he found did not blow up in his face. The package contained four really old book by the look of them. He opened the top book to the title page and read “Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica”. David had no idea what these books were so he visited his brother-in-law’s rare book shop.

“I would say you got yourself a copy of the Principia. I doubt it’s an original though. It’s just an old copy,” said Davis’s brother-in-law Nelson.

“That still doesn’t tell me what it is,” said David.

“The Principia is Isaac Newton’s laws of motion. You know, the guy with falling-apple-gravity-thingy,” replied Nelson.

“So is it worth anything?” asked David.

“Let me check,” answered Nelson as he typed at his computer. After a few moment, he got a curious look and started shuffle through all four books.

“Okay. This is a bit strange. From what I’m reading here the Principia is only made up of three books. I’m seeing no record of there being a fourth. Do you mind if I hold on to these a day or two and see if I can figure out what’s going on?” asked Nelson.

David felt the same feeling in his gut that he should take the books and leave. He said, “No. Don’t go to the trouble. I’ll just take them home with me.”

Nelson almost grimaced before he said, “It’s not like I plan on doing anything with them. Just thought you might be curious to know what you got there.”

David just smiled and left.

When he got home, David sat down and started leafing through one of the books. At first, the latin text was just a bunch of letter strewn on a page, but as he continue words began pooping out at him. After several minutes, David found that he could recognize words. After an hour, he could actually understand what he was reading. He was not seeing latin, but english. Pages he had already read appeared in english. He set the book down and made himself a stiff drink. Looking at the stack of books on his end table, David was both excited and frightened by the prospect.

And that’s how David ended up being the proud owner of the untold secrets to the universe.

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