Run. Faster. Hurry. Escape. You must escape. Push through the pain. Run for your life.
My heart thudded as I turned the page, caught up in the drama created by yet another talented author. I ignored the clock beside my bed. You can sleep when you die. It wasn’t a line from this book but I’d read it before, heard it on television and in movies.
I reached the end of the chapter but couldn’t resist reading just a bit further. I needed to know what would happen next. The characters were alive in my head. They needed me to continue.
My husband groaned and threw his forearm over his face. “Why’s the light still on?”
“Just a few more minutes, hon. This book is too good to put down.”
“I’m getting you one of those clip-on booklights for Christmas.” He lifted his arm an inch and his mocha-colored gaze swept over me. A slight smile on his lips made me think of the hero I’d been reading about—alluring and dangerous. Impossible to resist.
“Okay, okay.” I closed the book and dropped it to the floor next to the bed. Groaning slightly, I stretched an arm out for the bedside lamp and fumbled it off. Darkness as deep as an underground cavern enveloped us. Something stirred in the corner. My imagination? Or maybe a giant python had taken residence in our bedroom—one that could squeeze the life out of staunch heroes. Silly. That was fiction. This was reality.
“Come here.” My husband pulled me into a hug. “I don’t know why you get so involved in those books.”
Could he read my mind? Did he know that the villains and heroines stalked me at the office, at the gym, even at the grocery store? I hugged him back and mumbled something vague.
As the darkness of the bedroom turned from stygian to pitch to swirling fog, his breathing evened out. Soon a gentle buzz, not quite a snore but noisier than a breath, slipped through his slackened lips.
If only I could fall asleep too. But my mind was still crowded with the drama I’d discarded. I pulled away and turned my back to him, plumping my pillow with a fist. I would not reach for the book. I could resist.
I needed to sleep. My job required a clear mind and focus. Slamming my lids shut, I concentrated on taking deep breaths. I relaxed my body, starting with my toes and working my way up to my face. By the time I reached my forehead, my toes were curled again. The alarm clock ticked through the seconds, growing louder with each passing minute. Clanging chimes at midnight reminded me of the thrust and parry of swordplay. Now my whole body was tense again. My hands shook with the need to reach for the book lying so near and yet so distant.
In that instant I realized the truth. I was an addict. I couldn’t stop. Would never stop. My real life was good—fulfilling and comfortable. But I needed more. The excitement of a good story. An escape into someone else’s world. I was hooked on adventures that made my heart race. I yearned for the thrill of victory, and fought tears as I recognized my own imperfections highlighted through the words of a writer I had never met.
I had to read. More, and more, and more. The urge was too strong to resist. So I pushed back the covers and slipped from the bed, avoiding the corner where the giant python waited. I picked up the book and crept to the living room. Just a few more pages. Then I’d quit.