The words on the page burned her.

Somehow, the deceptively clever arrangement of terms and blank space transformed a rather abstract concept into something very real and very powerful inside her as the reader. She could feel the words’ effect blazing inside her, her heart hammering in her chest and her breathing growing more rapid by the second as her eyes raced across the gleaming page. The need to keep on reading was an unyielding wildfire. If she managed to tear her gaze away for even a moment to remember her surroundings, she could feel herself being pulled back in just as the heat of the flame demands an intuitive closeness. She could not wrap her mind around precisely how such enchantments were fashioned. How did a mere mixture of pigments and solvents printed on wood pulp manage to ignite such scorching emotion within her? How had this book laced with fragments of poems transcribed by an ancient writer happen to survive all the harsh tests and trials of time to find its way to her hands now? It was, she felt, unexplainable, and tragically so, the incompleteness of the story leaving her boiling with questions.

She moved her hand to turn the page and marveled at how it seemed like it did so of its own accord. The book had seared a gap between her mind and her body. She had not thought to turn the page at all. Rather, some part of her had intuitively known that this was the action that needed to be fulfilled in order to satisfy the reader. She thought then that reading, for some, must not be so very different to drinking or smoking. The urge to devour the book as quickly and wholly as possible was a relentless desire of hers. She craved the literature. The more she read, the more critical it was for her to find something else to fill her empty soul. At once, she felt herself grow stronger and weaker as the intensity of her addiction continued to amplify. The burning never ceased. Yet, it was a pleasant kind of pain—her signature brand of masochism. It felt good to simply feel something.

The book in front of her was intoxicating in its subject manner especially. It so happened to deal with, in the reader’s opinion, the most delicate and central of all human matters—love. It hurt her to read the writer’s longing. To feel the tender warmth of the adoration the writer described and know that such love was only found among the pages. Everything seemed so much less complicated in the gentle embrace of a book’s cover. It was as if she were looking at life through a filter in which everything was splendidly radiant. The doting worship the writer expressed seemed almost unattainable, and yet, the reader knew that this love had been vastly real in another time and place. That, she thought, was what cut her most of all.

A true love that had been lost.

The writer mourned, and the reader mourned with her. She sensed that no one besides her own self and the writer of the text ever had or ever would understand the extent of this love. For the love had been unknown by whom it had been intended for. It was the love of shadows, always lingering in a curious state of limbo that could be felt but not touched. The reader felt it now, and, as her hand made to move towards the page of its own will again, she wanted nothing more than to touch the love too. To give tangibility to the emotion that made it difficult for her to breathe and do anything but keep reading. She felt herself grow hotter, almost uncomfortably so. She realized she was crying too then, the coolness of a teardrop sliding down her chin and making a soft plop on the page showing her just how very real the burning was.

How real her pain was.

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