Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Reading (01/25/07)
TITLE: Don't Read This
By Ryan Tribble
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You’re still reading? It’s the same enchantment that binds my soul. I was once a struggling mechanic earning my way through college. I really spent more time reading girls than I did books.
I consumed many sleepless nights studying the tactics of the Achaeans, searching for inspiration to siege a city like Troy. This city walled with books was named Juliet. If I could scheme a way to get as much attention as she gave books, I would be one happy man.
If you’re still here, you’re as hopeless as Pandora! However, back to fair-haired Juliet. Her father loved literature so much, that he used books instead of bricks to build his mansion (he saved the early editions for his library).
This story begins when I made the foolish mistake of endeavoring to propose to Juliet in her family’s hot attic crammed with dusty books. I talked with her for hours waiting for the right moment, and when it came, a book caught her eye.
Painful torture was of no use once she locked eyes with a book. So I stumbled through the creaking rafters in search of reading material. I stopped, my gaze fixed upon one lodged within a mountain of musty leather and molded cardboard, entitled, “Don’t Read This.”
Curious, I opened it. The light stung my eyes as it reflected from the snowy pages. Flipping through it was like feasting in darkness, alleviating a mysterious hunger within my soul. Puzzled, I hid the book.
Night upon night I studied this book attaining thoughts without words to direct them. It created an itch within my soul. In what way I didn’t know, but the blank book scratched it.
The poison became potent the night I was dressing for a date with Juliet. The bulging moon was ripe for romance as it glistened through my window. Drowsy, I fell asleep. In a dream I found myself in a library lined with books of every size, genre, and edition.
I sniffed the air, and licked my lips. I felt like a sun-baked man bathing his parched skin in an oasis, accompanied with the aroma of barbecued steak. The shelves looked like vines laden with grapes. I reached out and plucked Webster’s Dictionary.
Reading couldn’t quell my gripping hunger; so I stuffed my mouth with torn pages and chewed (some salt would have enhanced Webster’s dry flavor). For something tastier, I turned to the next shelf of romance novels. These tasted and were just as filling as cotton candy.
I howled with delight at the next shelf: Milton, Shakespeare, Dickens . . . all rare editions, like aged wine. The next thing I remember was waking up sprawled across my dorm floor.
The following evening was my deadline for two papers, and Juliet wasn’t speaking with me. Mixing a mug of hot cocoa, I unconsciously whispered these words: “Double, double, toil and trouble....”
This was one of the many symptoms that marked the beginning of a transformation. Perhaps it was coincidence, but every full-moon was a déjà vu. I began to feel as if my consciousness was gradually being locked away, my body manipulated by a master puppeteer.
I neglected Juliet, and disappeared into a den brimming with books, emerging only at night. My books mysteriously collected like dust in a forgotten corner. Trying to snatch one, was like snatching a bone from a mad dog!
Then one day my captor left his print on a check for my weekly Amazon order. Instead of mine, was the signature “Koob.” Worried, I set my pen beside my collection of Tolkien, and examined my unshaven face with the mirror.
As I stared, my own image vanished, and another emerged. It seemed to smile sinisterly from its featureless face, but was it a face? No, it was more of a hooded shadow. From that day on most of my memory is a dark prison somewhere within my psyche.
The Koob freed me from my prison on rare occasions. I would spend my freedom reading the blank book, until I discovered an escape. You my friend, ARE my escape. By knowledge of its being the Koob subjugates your mind.
“But once past, who can recall, or done undo?” Beware of the full moon!
(1) Macbeth, Act IV Scene 1
(2) Paradise Lost, Book 9 v.926
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