It is not one in a thousand, it is simply one plucked from a thousand; nondescript, stale. The cover is bright - unbearably so - slashes of colour that spin and intersect in vicious angles, then spin off into their own personal futures. It hurts the eye to follow, leave them be. The title is illegible, in stark, dark red, hidden behind the joyous loops and swirls of the blues and greens and yellows. They seek to bury it, bury it alive, drown it in the saccharine sweetness of colour, make it lose its way along the rainbow trail. Odd, but no matter.
The dedication page is blank. No one to thank, it seems. But the peer reviews are good, adjectives sliding into their quotation marks like obedient dogs, slinking home late at night to gaze up at you beatifically. You do not notice their bloodstained gums.
The first page does not disturb, simple random strings of words; amino acids creating endless chains of DNA. Nothing remarkable, nothing strange, nothing strange. But a pulsing behind the eyes begins. Barely noticeable, surely not worth throwing two ether-drops into a glass to sizzle and melt. An itch, even.
By the end of chapter one, the words have passed straight through the mind and left but a faint, tacky, sweet-smelling residue. No matter at all. But the itch has become a scratch. And so you scratch. Gently, at first. Surely your clumsy fingers can draw out the poison, but no. Harder.
To continue, to the topic at hand: For you are not one to leave a book unfinished, oh no. They are only words, and words are your friend, and friends are your words.
You fly through chapters two, three, four, five, skimming over the paragraphs, for that vague sense of unease you began with has become not-so-vague at all. Rather, it is coming into focus - the lens adjusts as it takes root. Your gorge rises. Imagination, quite sure, quite sure. But swallowing will not clear this tightness, nor this itch. You scratch at your eyes again, but the pain swells twofold for every fingernail you claw across your raw and tearless brow.
A break, your body cries, take a break! Leave this behind. Close the covers, leave no bookmark. Leave it under the bed to gather dust with the rest, with the words that were not remarkable enough to endure. Put it away, away, away.
Yet you persevere. Why not? A book can cause no stir, no ripple in the wider scheme of things. Yet you do ripple. Waves of blood wash up from your feet to come to rest on the top of your brain, joining the rest and adding to the weight that has suddenly appeared, building and swelling behind your eyes. Turn the page. Scratch.
The next few chapters are hard, the pressure builds and builds, but you must finish. Scratch. You enlist your index finger to help you wade through the words, clawing at each sentence; a frustrated toddler again. The pages bleed ink; your fingers scythe through the words and leave raped and abandoned phrases in their wake. Yet the ink is red, not black. Curious. Scratch. The pressure builds, you must hurry. Pages fly, you fly. Everything is frantic, frantic, no time to pause, to consider, just scratch, and go, and scratch, and run, and -
Relief. Sweet relief. The final chapter is here, and it is but a page long. You gaze at the block of type as a whole, unwilling to begin dissecting the words just yet; revel in the moment of success. But your eyes ache still. Scratch. Again. But the end, the end –
Something bursts - a rupturing abscess, releasing the steam and screams that had been building up, and up, since the very first sentence. Darkness. There is a whistling in your ears. How distracting. But the itch has passed. The words have vanished too, washed off the page by a sea of blood. Vexsome, vexsome. So close to the end, to the who-knows-what sort of revelations.
But perhaps the darkness is better.
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