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[ The Man Who Couldn’t Stop Reading ]

On the corner at the end of the lane there lived a man who couldn’t stop reading. He filled his house with books. They covered every inch of his walls. Lately he was in the process of getting rid of his furniture. He read all day, spending the last few moments of twilight huddled against the window so he could see the words. He used up all of his candles. His house filled with the detritus of candles he cobbled together from the leftovers. People in the village stopped giving him candles. He asked too often. They had their own needs they said. Candles were rare. They needed every bit of wax. And yet the man kept reading. One day a traveler appeared. He strode into the village with a small pony carrying an assortment of wares. Several townsfolk bought and traded the traveler for items. The traveler sold his goods and worked his way through town until he stopped in front of a house with a man sitting against the wall reading a book. “Do you have any candles?” “Ahhh, a reader,” the traveler said, “I might have something better.” He searched through his bag and pulled out a golden instrument. It had a large gemstone on the top. “Give me your hand,” the traveler said. The strange man reached out and the traveler pricked his finger with a pin. He squeezed a drop of blood from the wound into the instrument’s reservoir. The gemstone lit up. The strange man was delighted. He took the instrument and disappeared into his home. That was the last time anyone remembered seeing the strange man. Until people around town started to disappear. It was slow, but one by one the people in the town went missing. Until the village was empty and the only sign of life was a lit window in the house at the end of the lane. Weeks of silence caused members of the next town to investigate. They worked their way through the little village until they found the strange man lying in the middle of the floor surrounded by discarded books, and the gemstone lamp’s light fading. They looked around the house trying to figure out what happened. They didn’t see the strange man get up. Because the man who couldn’t stop reading wasn’t dead. He just needed more blood.