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.