A man begins to read a book. We shall call him Alan. The book is the story of a man's life, but he doesn't know whose life it is. Alan has done what he always does with a new book: he has turned to the back to read the last few pages first to see how it ends. Alan cannot bear to read a book without knowing how it will all pan out. Partly because he knows the ending, he has become absorbed in the book. Obsessed by it, you might say. So much so that he cannot bear to be parted from it, and he takes it everywhere with him. You see, he has reached the point at which the hero is exactly the same age as himself. Furthermore, he has for some time nursed the growing suspicion that the book is the story of his own life. And now, with the account of Alan's birthday celebrations, he is certain of it. Indeed, to such an extent do these considerations occupy his every waking moment that he has absent-mindedly left the book on a bus. Of course, he will do all the usual things: ask at the bus company's lost property office, check with the local police to see if it has been handed in, advertise in the local paper, but he knows for a certainty that the book has gone for ever.
This is something of a disaster, for he now knows how he will die, but not how his life will get from where it is now to its end point. Not even how long it will take. And his death, he has inferred from what he has read of it, will be horrendous. It seems that it will be the result of some sort of train crash. Of course , dear reader, it's true that the remedy is obvious: all he has to do is avoid railways like the plague, stay right away from lines and railway stations, and he will live for ever! He realises this as well as you and I, but something gnaws at the back of his mind, saying that without the book and the rest of the story he is floundering.
What he does not know is that not far away, in the next village in fact, another man, whom we will call Bob, is reading the same book. He too, has read the end of the story first and has reached the point at which the protagonist is the same age as himself. (Consider at this point, dear reader, whether or not this indicates to you that Bob is the same age as Alan.) Either way, Bob can not longer bring himself to read on, and so has presented the book, along with a number of others now surplus to requirements, to one of the local charity shops. Not surprisingly, having made this spur of the moment decision he at once regretted it and is back at the shop hoping to recover the book. He is unlucky. Of the book there is no sign. What neither Alan nor Bob realise is that the book is their father's autobiography. Well, it's true: some mysteries can never be resolved.
To recap: all that we can surmise with any certainty is that until now their lives have run on identical lines, and that their deaths will be identical, but neither knows how his life will run between now and then. And although each is someone else, neither knows himself to be another person, let alone that he and the other person are one. Also, neither knows that the hero of the book they have only partly read (and that word "partly" is important) is their father
There is an interesting postscript to this story, though. That is to say, there has been reported in the press a strange incident which might or might not prove to be a postscript to this story. It seems that a man in a sports car and a man on a motorcycle were following a vehicle, a low-loader, up a steep hill when the low-loader's cargo came adrift and rolled back, crushing the two men, their vehicles and a pedestrian who had been waiting to cross the road. None of the three was killed outright, but all were rushed to hospital, where it was found that all three had lost vast quantities of blood. However, when their blood was tested, it was found that each had an identical, previously unknown, blood group and consequently none of them could be treated. They all three passed away within minutes of each other. Coincidentally, the hospital authorities confirmed that all three were about the same age.
Oh, I nearly forgot: the low-loaders cargo - it was a railway locomotive,
Not sure where this came from! I found it among my drafts in my handwriting, but can not recall writing it! If it's yours, let me know and I'll remove it!!!
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