Estimated reading time — 8 minutes
Jason loved to read. Every day he would take a walk to a nice place, like the park or the beach, and sit down to read for hours. It didn’t matter what the story was about, or who the author was, because Jason just loved to read.
One weekend, his usual places were a little crowded due to the gorgeous weather. He decided to take a walk in the woods to see if he could find a clearing, or an interesting log, where he could relax and lose himself in a book.
Jason walked through the forest for quite some time. These particular woods weren’t good for hiking and had no trails, so he was sure to have some solitude. He wasn’t sure how far he had walked before he came upon the mysterious building. It looked somewhat like an old bank, and was covered in moss and vines. The doors were open and falling off the hinges, and the windows were filthy and broken. Jason figured this strangely placed building might be just what he was looking for.
As he entered through the crumbling doorway, he saw dozens of shelves lined with books. What was a library doing in the middle of the woods? It didn’t matter to Jason. All that mattered was that he was staring at what might possibly be a treasure trove of unread narratives.
He wasted no time grabbing a random book off the closest shelf as he dropped his book bag without care for its contents. Jason inspected the book and it was surely something he had never heard of. He returned it to the shelf and went to further investigate the library. The whole place was filthy, but there wasn’t any random clutter like one might except from an abandoned building. But why was it abandoned? Who could just leave all these books to rot? Jason only thought about it for a moment, as he was too engaged in reading the names of all the books, wondering if he’d find something he recognized. He didn’t find anything remotely familiar.
Books were meant to be read, and Jason felt like these books weren’t fulfilling their purpose, and for a long time it seemed. It was time to start reading. He picked one called ‘Black Wing Adventures’ and sat Indian-style on the floor. The story was incredible! It had everything anyone could want in a good book: adventure, romance, action, even philosophy. But it wasn’t just that it had so many good qualities, it was that those qualities shined so much brighter than anything he had ever read. If this book was this amazing, what treasures did the other books hold? Jason was excited in a way he never felt before.
It was getting late and Jason knew that his girlfriend, Melissa, would be pissed that he wasn’t answering her texts. Normally she understood that this was Jason’s ‘me’ time, but he usually came home hours ago. He took the book with him so he could finish it later and started his journey home. He wasn’t sure if he would find the library again, so he marked trees along the way with a sharpie he had in his book bag.
The next morning, Jason got up a little early so he could read. He grabbed his book bag and took out what he expected to be ‘Black Wing Adventures’. The book now had a different title, ‘Love Without a Friend’. More rummaging through the bag produced only his other boring books that he had previously been excited to read. Did he grab the wrong book? No, that wasn’t possible. He hadn’t let go of the book before putting it in his bag. It was obviously from the same library because it was covered in thick dust. He must have taken the wrong book. It was the only explanation.
He decided that he would read ‘Love Without A Friend’ even though the title didn’t really seem anywhere near as cool as ‘Black Wing Adventures’. Boy, was he wrong. It was just as good. It didn’t have adventure or action, but it had a strikingly human quality to it. Jason had never felt the kinds of emotions the story was invoking. Turning each page was like opening a Christmas present. He couldn’t wait to receive each word, each thought, each feeling. It was late, and Jason began to nod off. He didn’t want to stop reading, but eventually he passed out.
The next morning he was still holding the book in his hands. It was still opened to the page he left off on, and he started to read again. He had no idea what he was reading. The story had completely changed. There were different characters, different thoughts, different feelings. He closed the book and looked at the title. It was ‘Men and Monsters’. Jason was even more shocked than the first time. This book hadn’t left his hands. He hadn’t returned to the library to exchange it for another book. None of this was possible, and Jason was getting understandably freaked out.
All he could think of doing was going back to the library. Maybe he could find one of the other books he was reading. Upon his arrival, Jason received a text message from Melissa that read, “Are you ignoring me?” He responded, telling her he had found a new spot in the woods to read. He left out the part about a mysterious library with curious books, figuring it would only lead to more questions. Once Melissa’s concern had diminished, Jason shut off his phone.
When he got inside the library, he searched long and hard for ‘Black Wing Adventures’ or ‘Love Without a Friend’, but he was unsuccessful. In fact, none of the titles he remembered from before were anywhere to be found. Every book was different. Could this be another abandoned library? How many could there possibly be? Even one seemed strange. Jason just wanted to experience what these books were capable of, so he didn’t want to think about how strange the whole situation had become. He just wanted to read.
He knew he didn’t have much time, so he quickly grabbed a book called ‘Our Nation’s Last Hero’. It was a political drama with as many twists and turns as a great mystery. Jason had never read anything like it. He rarely thought about politics, but it was suddenly the most interesting subject in the world. It started getting dark, so once again, Jason left the library and took the book he had been reading. He hoped it would still be the same book when he woke up the next morning. Unfortunately, it wasn’t.
Jason didn’t know what to do. These books were amazing, but apparently he wasn’t going to be able to finish one unless he read it in less than twenty-four hours. He was going to have to stay awake for a long time, so he packed his book bag with caffeinated energy drinks and a few deli sandwiches in case he got hungry. Jason knew Melissa would be looking for him, but he didn’t care. He cared so little that he left his phone at home on purpose.
And so it began. Jason was on a mission to finish one of the magical changing books. What else could they be but magical? A book that changes every day? What an incredible thing! Though Jason had been upset about not being able to finish one, he was thrilled at the fact that he was reading books that no one else would ever read. If he managed to finish one, he would be as satisfied as he could ever be in his whole life.
He chose a book called ‘The Lion’s Tears’, and began reading. As he read, he would periodically take a few swigs of energy drink and take a bite of a sandwich. Eventually he ran out of drinks and began crashing from all the caffeine. It was too soon! He hadn’t finished the book! There were just a few chapters left, but he couldn’t stay awake any longer. He hoped that he would wake up again before the book changed. When he awoke, it seemed as though the next day had not yet come, but the book had still transformed into something new. Jason decided he was wrong about when the change occurred. It wasn’t when the day changed, it was whenever he fell asleep.
Jason stopped leaving the library. He had no time to walk back and forth, or spend time with his girlfriend, or do anything other than read the magical books. He tried to stay awake long enough to finish one, but it was no use. He just kept falling asleep. Jason was getting angry now. This wasn’t a treasure trove of beautiful works of fiction, it was a curse. He was obsessed with finishing one of the books, and it was eating away at his sanity.
No food, no water, no contact with other human beings. When Jason would begin to fall asleep, he would take a piece of broken glass from one of the windows and cut himself to stay awake. After several cuts, he began to feel weak from blood loss. His mind was becoming warped as he sucked every word into his now crippled consciousness. The books he chose became more and more macabre. Titles like ‘Making Love to Murder’ and ‘The Man Who Ate Himself’ were overtaking the other, more gentle ones. If Jason was going to finish one of these books, it had to be something that interested him, and gentle things were no longer in his interest.
There was no telling how long Jason had been in the library. He wasn’t eating or drinking, but somehow he wasn’t hungry or thirsty anymore. It was as if the books were keeping him alive. They wanted him to read. They wanted him to finish. He kept getting closer and closer to finishing one of the books. He was sleeping less and less, and his dream was going to soon come true. But which book would be the lucky one? Which one would be read from front to back by a willing participant? He picked up a book off the shelf and looked at the title. It was called ‘Jason Loved to Read’.
His eyes widened. His mind raced. What an amazing coincidence! A book with his name in the title! And it’s about someone who loves to read! Adrenaline raced through Jason’s body as he opened the book and began the first chapter. He read of a teenage boy who found an abandoned library in the woods. He read about books that magically changed their content whenever the protagonist fell asleep. He read about himself. This was the book that he would finish. This was the book that he HAD to finish. Jason’s heart pounded like mad as he reached the final chapter, when suddenly he was interrupted by a shouting female.
“What the hell, Jason?! THIS is where you’ve been?! I’ve been calling! I’ve been texting! Everyone is looking for you! I only found this place because I happened to see those marks on the trees and thought that maybe you made them! Hello?! Jason?! Are you deaf?!” Just then, she noticed the cuts all over Jason’s body. She fell silent, and took a step back. Here was her boyfriend, cut up and bloody, buried in a book, paying no attention to her tirade.
“Jason… what’s going on? Are you alright? Why won’t you look at me? Jason?” Her voice was concerned but hesitant. Jason just sat there Indian-style, reading his book. Melissa lost her temper.
“Look at me, Jason! What the fuck?!” She began to cry. All she wanted was to find her boyfriend and find out why he had been missing. She expected him to embrace her and tell her that they were together again and that everything was going to be alright. She ran to him, bent down, grabbed his arm and shouted, “Jason!”
In a split second, Jason grabbed a piece of broken glass, already covered in blood from using it to cut himself, and jammed it firmly into Melissa’s neck. Her eyes became wild with fear as she gurgled and jiggled, eventually falling to the floor with the glass still in her neck. Jason’s face had no expression as he continued reading his book; his legacy.
It was about to happen. The last page. Jason couldn’t believe it. He had finally stayed awake long enough to finish one of the magical books from the mysterious abandoned library in the middle of the woods. His hands shook as he turned the page and saw the words ‘The End’ towards the bottom, below the final paragraphs. It was then that he became horrified for the first time in his entire life. The book ended with the protagonist, Jason, stabbing his girlfriend in the neck with a shard of broken glass.
Jason didn’t move, didn’t blink, or even think. He just sat there in absolute shock. Was this really happening? Why did the book say that he killed his girlfriend?! That was impossible! Jason was no killer, he just loved to read! He stood up and screamed a desperate, primal scream, throwing the book on the floor next to Melissa’s body. He looked at her as if noticing her for the first time. There was blood all over the floor. Melissa was surely dead, and Jason must have been the murderer. He walked home in a daze, and called 911 to turn himself in.
According to Jason’s story, the police expected to find Melissa’s body in an abandoned building in the woods. When they arrived at the proper location, they found only her body amid the blood stained leaves and branches. Nothing that resembled a library was anywhere in sight.
The details of the trial and conviction aren’t extraordinary, but what you may find interesting is what happened when Jason arrived at prison. His cellmate offered him a book to pass the time. Jason politely replied, “No thanks. I hate to read.”
Credit To – Umbrello