My parents moved me into my room. Come on. It wasn’t my room. It was a room owned by books. They sat, straight-faced, on shelves and stared at the opposite wall, careful to show how they took no notice of me. My parents wanted me out of a room full of smaller kids, they said. They moved me into a room full of books, every book bent on murder. Not books about murder. Containing the odd murder, I’m sure. But not thrillers or how-tos on murder. It was the books themselves that wanted to erase me.
When he moved me into the room, my dad said, “Keep an eye on the shelf. It’s pretty stable, but if it falls on you, that’s it. That many books, it’s heavy. You’re done.”
Then I dreamed every night about the books bringing the shelf down on me, hating me in the room. My parents just laid out futon on the floor for me. I didn’t have a real bed. Just a mat, like some paralytic in the New Testament. If the shelf fell, it fell right on me, flat down. I’d be jelly. Ready for the jar and the label. I cowered in the shadow of books.
One day I thought about all this perceived animosity between me and these books. Why did I think the books wanted to erase me, end me? Where did that come from? Why did I imagine them with teeth? Bat wings? Voracious appetites for human souls?
I took a book down from the shelf and read it. The Horse and His Boy. I read it. Harmless. I read another. The Grey King. Fine. The D’Aulaires‘ Book of Norse Myths. I don’t see a problem. Cat’s Cradle. On the Road. A Good Man Is Hard to Find. Miss Lonelyhearts. The Brothers Karamazov. So on.
I looked up one day. Horror crept over me like a wine stain on a page. I was jelly. I was gone. There was nothing left of me. It was all books. The books had gotten inside me. They had erased me.