The pages knew where this was going. The paragraphs, even the little words knew. They were sentenced to end. The end. All stories, great, epic or otherwise could not outlast infinity. The story was depressed, not knowing it was a comedy. It gave the reader great joy, laughter, though, it could not indulge in any of the joy it gave. The fourth wall between the story and the reader seemed too high to mount, too thick to break through. So, the story sat on the shelf, moping, afraid to be picked, read and finished. The end. Of all the words contained within its life, the story brooded entirely on the end.
‘Here comes another one,’ thought the story as it was taken off the shelf by a new reader and opened to the light. ‘He won’t understand the subtleness of the language. He won’t get me at all.’ And when the reader laughed at the first joke laced within its verse, the story rolled its invisible eyes thinking, ‘see, he thinks I’m funny, too. I’m a tragedy, damn it! Let me be tragic!’
The reader fell in love with the story, reading quickly, absorbing every word, tickled by every joke, eager to experience it completely. ‘Too fast!’ shouted the story in its silence. ‘You’re reading too fast! Let me breathe! You’re choking me with your eyes!’ Two pages later, the story was read, the book was closed, returned to the shelf and the reader walked away. Darkness returned to the pages.
Then, light. ‘Where am I?’ wondered the story.
“Go far enough west and you’re east.”
‘Who said that?’ the story felt like it was floating above its pages. It was having an out-of-book experience.
“All of western civilization is based on some Italian guy getting lost. America is founded on one wrong turn.”
It took a moment before the story realised it was being quoted. ‘Who’s quoting me? And why are these people laughing? It’s not funny! I’m not funny!’
The reader felt the story wrestle within his heart. It wanted out. The reader let it out the only way he knew how, by citing more passages from it. The effect was overwhelmingly euphoric on the poor little story. It felt high enough to be low; sweet enough to be sour. It simply didn’t know how to take itself, with cream or vinegar as it heard itself become the words of another.
‘This reader doesn’t know me at all. He knows me too well. Put me back! Put me back in the book! What am I doing here!’ the story struggled with the weight of light, hovering above gravity itself.
The reader felt his heart twitching, his mind twitching. He felt the story bursting through his mind’s synapses. “What’s wrong, little story?” the reader whispered.
‘I want to go back home,’ sighed the story.
The reader smiled. “You are home.”
The story was lost being found. “My home is between the covers of my book.”
The reader smiled. “Story, don’t you know you’re in me? You’re part of me. I read you, I love you.” The story was silent soaking in the reader’s words. “You’re wherever there is thought. You’re magic itself.”
“But you read me, you finished me. How can I be here?”
“Story,” the reader began gently, “we just started, you and I. We’ll grow together.”
“I’m a tragedy!” the story sobbed.
“You’re alive. You breathe in me like I breathed in your words. The karma of art and this is your reincarnation. Don’t fight the cycle of inspiration. Breathe, story. Breathe.”
For the first time, the little story took a deep breath and breathed, allowing the air of the reader’s words carry it up into the thoughts of all that heard the reader tell the story of the comedy that thought it was a tragedy. And for the first time, the little story laughed at how funny it was. And is.