The reader opened the book with wonder, with care. With her eyes, she climbed into the unknown that was the story. It was like walking into a gathering where she knew most of the people, but there were always a few unknown visitors - the words she did not yet know - that would surprise her around the corner.
She warmly greeted the friends she knew. The words were of all shapes and sizes and together they moved her along in the story, telling her where they had been and where she might see them next. Some quietly whispered the descriptions of small things like raindrops racing down windows and large things like a storm wreaking havoc across a landscape. Others showed her actions. One threw her to the ground to show her falling; another grabbed her and began a somber waltz. These weren’t just words to the reader, they were her friends, her companions. She had strange and tenuous relationships with all of them. Sometimes these friends were good to her and they took her to happy places, to warm places. Other times they abandoned her, making her feel alone and afraid. Regardless, they all felt like magic. They took her away from the now and all the way to there, always another world.
What she enjoyed most was seeing how all her friends interacted. Some seemed destined for each other, like two peas in a pod that played off each other’s strength. Many were social creatures and alone could only say so much. Others got along terribly with their colleagues - they just didn’t work well with others. Some words were shy, but powerful. They would hide among their more exuberant friends, leaving their brilliance for the observant reader. Her favorite of all, though, were the words that made everyone look better. They would come into the room and make it shine, knowing the force of their presence but preferring to not make it about them. Everyone would join in and give the performance of their lifetime.
Without warning, she came across one she did not know. She approached hesitantly. There was an inkling of familiarity, a sense that she had seen the word in another place before but had never said hello. Words and readers have this relationship: occasionally they will quietly slip by one another. Feeling adventurous, this time was different. She began to ask around about this new word. The other words told her a little bit about it, hints at its character, clues as to where the word would lead her. But this did not satisfy her curiosity.
In her pocket was a great phone book of words, the dictionary. She found the unknown word’s listing and called the number. A friendly voice answered and the reader and the word got to know each other. The brief conversation departed upon the reader the word’s purpose, its origin and the work that it had done in the past. She was grateful that the two had finally met.
No longer strangers, the reader and the word said hello. The word passed her along, giving her another small part of the story, a piece of gossip about the main character. In parting, the word told her that she must meet say hello to good friends a few sentences down. They were the word’s closest friends and oh, the stories they could tell.
Later in her travels, she came across an empty room with just two words. These words were not interacting, almost like they had been in a fight. The reader heard the door slam behind her, telling her that she couldn’t leave until she understood this room. One word she knew: it was a proper noun from the story. They made eye contact and had a moment of understanding. The other was another unknown - a strange verb she had never seen - and she reached for the phone book in her pocket. The conversation was terse: this word was angry and powerful. Slowly but surely she teased information from the stubborn word and discovered its place in the unfolding story. She then began to fill the empty room with her voice and the two words resolved their differences. With this conflict mediated, the two joined together and told her more of the story and the door opened behind her.
That room had drained the reader. Tired but satisfied, she made up her mind to leave the party. She had traveled through time and space and had seen things that only fellow readers had. She climbed out of the book and greeted the present again, noticing that time had passed without her and hunger had come knocking while she was away. Closing the book, she saw the writer’s name and thanked him for the new friends she had made. Her gratitude reminded her of the promise she had made her new friends: she would pull them out of the abyss and introduce them to others, enlarging their already massive network, increasing their unique ability to tell a story. And as the reader knew: oh, the stories they could tell.