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Dori Lumpkin

A pink eye broken through a piece of paper

     They warned her not to, just like they warned the others. They always did—dozens of warnings, passing through empty lips, falling on deaf ears. Still, she found you. Caressed your damp, tattered corners like you were the most beautiful thing she had ever seen. And you probably were. To one of them, you might be the most singular, most perfect artifact in all of existence.


     Her mouth was stitched shut. The woman who found you this time. This was common practice for those who sought out your crumbling pages. They thought it would protect them, that it would keep them from meeting the same fate as all of those before if they could just keep themselves from speaking about it. There were so many of them now, so many desperate for your words after hearing the cries of the first. Not all of them found you, and for the ones who did, even less of them lived.


     You enjoyed it; the way their hands scrambled through the dirt, searching for you. They thought you’d bring their lives meaning. They thought you would help them achieve perfection. You don’t know who originally planted that idea in their heads but you supposed that anyone could fall victim to your words.


     The first was merely that—the first. They weren’t special. They found your simple binding at an estate sale in a nearby town. You sat on their coffee table for months before they even considered you. our binding and the very heart of your words penetrating every corner of their home, tainting it, ruining it. You supposed that was what finally led them to opening you; to reading what you had to say.


     They ripped their jaws from its hinges to release the most beautiful sound you could have ever imagined. A sound that echoed across the town, across the world, calling for anyone who would listen.


     After that, you were buried by a concerned family member or friend. But that didn’t stop them from trying to find you, seeking that call, that desperate perfection released by the first. You made them all scream. The moment they began to comprehend your pages, it was too much, too much, too much.


     But they still kept coming. Every time, no matter how deep someone buried you, no matter how long you waited, even when you became covered by forest leaves and dirt and insects, they still managed to find you.


     And now she was here, seeking the same thing that so many others had before. She sighed as she cracked your spine open, searching for the words that she just knew would set her free. She began to read, her eyes scanning over you, looking for anything she could consume, anything she could understand, anything that felt comfortable and easy and familiar.


     She wouldn’t find it. You knew she wouldn’t find it, even as you dug your roots deep into her mind, infecting her with your words, pulling her closer to you. The movement of her eyes grew more frantic as they danced across your pages, reading faster and faster, moving closer and closer to her end. Your favorite part was the inevitability.


     It became too much, just as it had with the first, just as it would with every person who came after this one. Without warning, she dropped you back to the dirt, clenching her fists and her eyes tight. Then, her mouth ripped open with a painful, wet sound. The seams weren’t enough to keep her sewn shut; the pressure of the knowledge was too much to keep her silent. She sang, screamed, shouted, released your song for anyone who would listen. As always, it was perfect. It was beautiful. It would guarantee the next visitor to your hiding spot in the woods.


     She screamed so much that her jaw split open, just like the dozens who had come before her. She fell to the ground, no longer silent, blood soaking your pages and seeping into you, building you up—granting you power for the next.


     When they eventually find her body, they will not find you. They will mourn her, and talk about the tragedy of another sudden death. By that time, you will have sunk deep into the ground again, readying yourself for the next one.

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