“Too early for a brandy?”
The red digital clock flashed 9:12am.
Money-wise, it’d been a hard couple of weeks, months and, now moving into, years for Emma. The self-help book industry, her coal-face for most of her life, was in ruins. The last time she had a book published was 3 years ago and the royalty cheques had been shrinking every payday since. Luckily Emma had her cabin in the middle of blissful nowhere. She’d lived alone for years. Just her and the dogs - no debts, no dependents and no problems. Just less money to live on each month. All in all, it was a perfect life for someone who’d spent her entire life telling other people how to live their lives.
Emma stared at the blank screen illuminating her face. She’d always been good, no, one of the best, at writing self-help books. It was not the most usual of professions but “Get Thin, Or Die Tryin’” and “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Nuns” had been best sellers. Even “Better Poo, Better You” had sold units. And then everything had stopped. Her publisher refused to take her calls, and her agent had quit to go and live in Nepal. Out of the blue, no-one wanted self-help books any more.
She drained the last of her brandy and put the plastic cup next to the reason why self-help had lost friends and any influence over people. “PERFECTION”. No author, no publisher. It appeared on Amazon Kindle 4 years ago and within a year had become the best selling eBook of all time. The only reason Emma had a hard cover copy was paying through the nose for an Amazon autopublish version. It even cost so much she could only afford 29 bottles of brandy that month.
Three years ago she’d bought the book. Ordering it after reading the last email she’d received from her publishers, possibly from anyone not counting newsletters – “We need our version of ‘PERFECTION’, fast. Accepted synopses will receive a $500,000 advance.” The world’s greatest self-help book had sat on her desk, between the laptop and leaning tower of plastic cups, ever since.
The reason Emma hadn’t read the book wasn’t a lack of motivation, laziness or even ambivalence but a simple rule: Never compare yourself to your competitors (‘Review, Refocus and Regurgitate’; HarperLee Press, 2004). So while Emma had penned 17 self-help books and been lauded in the psychospeak industry for almost 23 years, she’d never read one she hadn’t written.
Not that she wasn’t curious of other author’s work, mind you. Some self-help books over the years had been intriguing and others had buzzword titles so good the by-line should have been ‘Buy This Now’. She just didn’t feel the need to lose weight, gain friends or have an efficient wardrobe. There was something about ‘PERFECTION’ though that made it almost irresistible to everyone. Everyone except Emma.
She was intrigued though with this book beyond any that had come before. Yes, it would be nice to see how someone wrote one of the greatest selling books of all time. And what makes it so engaging, so fulfilling and how it actually does what is says on the cover, bringing perfection to people’s lives.
You see, within a month of finishing the book, every reader becomes “perfect”. Their work-life balance – perfect. Ideal weight – achieved. Relationship, family and emotional issues – solved. Life in general – perfect. All within a month! How was this possible?
Emma had spent the last few years scouring the web for an answer. She certainly wasn’t going to read the thing and become ‘perfect’ after all. But she’d found very little. The book was universally praised when it was discovered in Amazon’s vault. Once it became the fastest selling book of all time around the world, the audiobook was inevitable and the results from listening the same as reading. The audiobook was soon broadcast 24/7 on radio, television and through all media platforms. An inevitable backlash never materialised as those who complained about the book were challenged to read it and never heard from again. Not because of anything sinister but their lives had become ‘perfect’. In effect, any human being, in any country on Earth, who read or listened to the book ‘became perfect’
This, in turn, created perfect societies around the world. Initially people stopped smoking and drinking, and looked after their health. Then a perfect work-life balance for the whole of society meant even Police officers could work from home. Especially because there was no crime. There were monumental improvements in the environment without cars and aeroplanes, and there were no more wars, diseases and poverty. The entire world was ‘happy’.
However, perfect people do not a perfect world create. The first cracks in the system appeared when the last politician left office about 2 years ago. No politicians felt ‘perfect’ but when the food began to run out as there were no farmers, no-one was available to save society. It was the nicest zombie apocalypse you could imagine. People literally sat at home in blissful ignorance of their fate and passed away. Essentially there was no more life left in the human race.
I’m sure you have guessed by now that I am Emma. Posting this on the last social media site working in the world. I have not seen another person posting on here in 4 months. But if you are reading this then you are maybe the last person with free will in the world. For now I’m picking up my copy of ‘PERFECTION’ and will read my first self-help book. I know it will be my last…