An Open Book

by Justin Chu
Art by Megan Xu
Issue: Solivagant (Winter 2018)

Ugh… Where am I?

A slumped figure arose from the bed. Rubbing his bleary eyes,  the man looked down at himself, rubbing his eyes again, and again.

What the…?

He didn’t have any clothes on, save a pair of boxers, but his focus was placed elsewhere. Little black letters were appearing on his hand, winding around his fingers and palm like the scales on the body of a surreal serpent. The man could’ve sworn he saw its Y-tongue flick out at him, daring him to read the words on its scales.

Curious, the man obliged, but soon began to break out into a cold sweat.

What the hell?

He read the words again, and again, and again. His hands shook and a shudder ran down his spine..

This is nuts. The words are narrating everything I do and think!

He fell back down to the bed. Glancing at his hand, he was dismayed to see that the snake had grown.

Desperately needing a distraction, the man looked around himself.

This looks like… my room?

The walls were the familiar ruffled light cream. The floor still had the soft white carpet, his light was there, casting a warm white glow into the room, and the ceiling was a rich shade of purple.

Everything looks normal, but something’s off. Wait a minute… Where’s my door?

In fact, the door had disappeared, replaced by a one way slot in the wall.

“Help!” He shouted. “Get me out of here! Where am I?” He looked at his arm and was horrified to see his actions tattooed on his arm.

“Argh!” He yelled angrily. “What the hell is happening to me?” Following the few minutes of rage, the man slumped back down to the bed.

I feel like a goddamn prisoner.

The serpent of words had grown even larger, now winding as if feeding on his rage and pain.

I wish the words would just go away.

However, when he looked back down at his body he was dismayed to find that his wish had appeared on his chest as well,  with descriptions soon following.

The horrible thing now wound around his entire body, and had begun to slither up his chest.

This sucks.

He continued to sulk on his bed, unwilling to move or look at his body, knowing the outcome already. Time came to a halt for the man, as if he were floating aimlessly in a familiar limbo. suddenly he was pulled out of his trance when a harsh screech and bang came from the slot in the wall. Someone had pushed something through. The man got up as if weighed down by his thoughts and actions, and  went to pick up the object. It was a simple ballpoint pen.

What the hell am I supposed to use this for?

He put it on his bedside desk, and looked at his body again. The words had completely covered his torso, and were starting to show up on his legs like tattoos.

The slot suddenly opened up again, and this time, the object pushed through was much bigger than a pen. He walked over and picked it up. It was a mirror.

He gazed at himself in the mirror, startled to see that his face and neck were completely covered with the words.

I look like a circus freak.

He was about to put the mirror down, but then he noticed something else in the mirror. He brought it back up to his face.

Is that someone’s eye on my face?

He first thought it was just his imagination, an illusion formed by the shapes of the letters, but then the eye blinked. It was going over his body, tracing the words on his skin. He moved the mirror all along his body, and he started to realize that there was a face, with each eye going over line after line of the text, over horizontal lines, the face looking slightly interested.

Why the hell is the face on me? I feel like it’s staring at me. Wait a minute, it’s not staring at me. It’s staring at the words on my body.

Suddenly, he realized the purpose of the pen. He raced over to the pen, uncapped it and wrote in big bold on the one spot unoccupied by the cursed wor-


In the reflection of an eye, a figure examines a book. The phrase "help me" in all-caps is scrawled on the figure's body and the book.