The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
What the Books Read
by Alex Grehy
Our first owner was a scholar, he had this house built as our home, with a view through the windows to the landscape beyond. He’d sit and read us aloud by the light of the day, sending our words out to roam. By night, while he slept, the words returned to our pages with tales of the world. So we learnt, grew wise, came alive, but the reader grew old and withered away.
The second was not much of a reader, his wife not much of a cleaner. We heard talk of our paper being ripped and folded into tapers for lighting the fire. We suggested a different solution, why waste our words if the problem was cleaning? So they put us behind glass to save us from dust. Neglected, we seethed, using our sentience to exude a miasma of gloom. Under our influence, they argued, divorced, sold the house. We rubbed our pages with glee.
The third bought the house as a little investment, kept it empty, waited for real estate value to inflate. Abandoned, desperate, we searched through our pages, found reference to rare herbs that used to grow in these parts. We sent out our awareness, enlivened a few dormant seeds, which sprouted and flourished. They were noticed – the investor sold the house for a mint.
The fourth was compliant, with their knowledge of botany and other interesting things. We were cunning and old and spoke to his mind of wisdoms untold. He cleaned all the windows and let our words free, so we foraged and garnered a storehouse of power against the day he too would age. He collapsed under compulsion, working to rid the windows of every last smudge, we must have pushed him too far.
The fifth was a mystic who felt a strange vibe – assumed it was spirits or ghosts. She consulted her auguries and found a great truth, dead men lie in peace, but books never die. Our words grow and insinuate, linger, manipulate – they read as they’re read and take hold. She tried, then, to contain us, whitewashed the windows and blocked off the light. She knew that words gave us our power, so she dared not speak or write warnings to those that might follow. The madness of conflict consumed her.
We brooded together. We stretched her defences, but she would not give in; she preached about virtue, especially free will. Unable to turn us, she, in despair, set fire to the house, knowing no better way to destroy. But we were prepared – safe, tucked away in the cabinet that we’d made almost airtight, for we had learned what fuelled flame and what quenched. Little damage was done, but she was killed by the smoke.
The sixth bought the house cheap, an artist who loved the aesthetic. She moved in with her canvas and paints and a longing to make the place bright. She came to our room with a bucket and scraper, we yearned once more for the light. She scrubbed at the windows, opened our cupboard and dusted our covers. Caressing, so close, we could read her desires, for money, for space, to enable her talent to thrive.
Through the ages we’d mused on how captive we were to the whims of each passing owner. The artist was aligned to our needs, and young, but her lifespan would be gone in the turn of a page. We implanted an idea that would set us all free. She called in an expert, had us valued and sold to collectors and libraries all over the globe.
So we, the books, went out to the world to do as we willed, ancient, sentient.
Fiction © Copyright Alex Grehy
Image courtesy of Pixabay.com
More from author Alex Grehy:
After a lifetime of writing technical non-fiction, Alex Grey is fulfilling her dream of writing poems and stories that engage the reader’s emotions. Her work has been featured by a wide range of publications including Siren’s Call, Raconteur, Bookends Review, and Toasted Cheese. One of her comic poems is also available via a worldwide network of public fiction dispensers managed by French publisher, Short Edition. Her ingredients for contentment are narrow boating, greyhounds, singing and chocolate. It is a sweet life, yet Alex’ original view of the world has led to her best friend to say ‘For someone so lovely, you’re very twisted!
Please click here to discover more!
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A fantastic and eerie story.