Posted in Flash Fiction

The Last Book In The Universe

Many thanks to Be Kind Rewrite’s prompt for this story as part of ‘Inspiration Monday’

The Last Book In The Universe

In 2021 the printed book virus, known as PBV1 spread quickly across the whole world. Many believed that it started in the UK and was financed by the computer giants. The media blamed it on two young computer hackers who were arrested, tried and executed in just three weeks. The virus was deadly. Nobody seemed to be able to find a way of stopping it, though how hard the authorities really tried was always questionable. The virus was indiscriminate. Once it took hold all printed matter would disappear off the page and within 24 hours the pages themselves crumbled to dust.

By 2022 there were growing concerns that virus PBV1 had mutated and could transfer from books to humans. There was no hard evidence for this, but a few, cleverly planted stories and fake YouTube videos had everyone scared. There was, therefore, popular support for governments across the world when they introduced laws outlawing printed matter and beginning worldwide campaigns to destroy all remaining books. Anybody found trying to hide any sort of printed matter, in particular books, was branded  a threat to humanity. It wasn’t long before being in possession of a book was a treasonable offence punishable by death.

It is now 2025 and we are told there are no books left on the entire planet. In fact there are doubts as to the existence of books anywhere in the universe as, since 2022, all space probes sent out to explore the planets  carry the PBV1 virus. This has now been harnessed and fully licensed by the controlling technology giants.

Governments like us to believe there are no books but there is one. It is said to be the last book in existence. Rumours are that it is in the possession a small group of aging authors. Governments across the world have an army of people searching for it. I know about it because I am one of those aging authors. The exact location of this book is known to only four people. Each of us spend every minute of every day watching over our shoulders, waiting for that ominous knock on the door.

My doctors have told me that I have only weeks to live. That will mean one less custodian for this great treasure. I am presently in a small, secluded room, in front of me is a lead-lined box containing the book. As I open the box and lift it out I marvel at how heavy it feels. The musty smell from the aging pages fills the small room. I carefully open it enjoying the tingling sensation I get from physically turning each page. I lower myself into a small armchair and settle down. For the last time I am going to read a proper book from cover to cover, the anticipation is electric. I look at the title of the last book in the universe, ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ by George Orwell  and slowly start reading.


11 thoughts on “The Last Book In The Universe

  1. Aww, couldn’t it have been Lord of The Rings? I know, irony apart it fits in with the storyline, and I suppose I should have said ‘The Bible’ instead, but oddly enough, LOTR came to mind first … Shows which way my mind and affiliations lie… Great storyline Mike…xPenx


    1. Thanks for your comments Pen.
      Glad you enjoyed the story.
      I toyed with it being The Bible – never thought of Lord Of The Rings – I don’t know why because it’s one of my favourite books.


  2. Hi Mike,
    That was really good, and 1984 was a fitting choice. (I’m really, really tired of LOTR, and the Bible would have been too expected, and well, religious). I easily believed the idea of a book virus being generated by computer companies. Enjoyed the story very much, and it actually makes me a little nervous—now I’ll be thinking about this today!

    Take care,


  3. I enjoyed the story too, Mike; I too was interested in what the last book might be and found 1984 an apt choice; a well-told and somewhat unsettling tale


    1. I’m glad you enjoyed this tale John.
      With technology moving at the pace that it does I often wonder just where ‘books’ might be in 10 years time.


  4. This is good. I love how the entire history of the situation ultimately leads up to a writer in a cramped room, secretly unwrapping this treasure…and the smell of the pages filling the room. And I agree, no other book besides 1984 would work, except maybe Fahrenheit 451 (which, incidentally, seems to have been the inspiration behind Phillbrick’s “Last Book in the Universe.”)
    This reminds me of a short story I wrote about the takeover of ebooks, but I didn’t think of a paper book virus; it’s a really fascinating idea! (Don’t worry; I promise not to steal it.)
    Nice work!


    1. I’m so pleased that you enjoyed the story and thank you for your kind words.
      I often wonder where ideas come from – the ‘paper book virus’ for example just seemed to appear from nowhere. Please feel free to use it. I believe that it is by sharing ideas and letting others take them in a different direction that we all learn from one another.
      Many thanks for the original prompt on your blog – I shall be looking out for more.


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