I wrote three. This is the third. I did not send this one in.
She closed the book, placed it on the table, and finally, decided to walk through the door. First, though, she needed a door.
She kept watch over her shoulder as she sought the slender wire that would trail from door to spine. Careful not to disturb the book and alert her minders of what she was about to do, she slipped the wire into its fastening.
A small spark burned her fingers and the gray, blank wall resolved into the glass door she sought. It opened with a touch and she was through, lingering only long enough to hear the alarms as she stepped into the story. They couldn’t follow her here, not while she was inside of her favorite book where the grass felt warm like shredded paper, and she filled in details to make the world her own.
The flowers jostled for her attention, and while at first she imagined it the wind, her darker worries brought forth the creature. In a smooth pirouette with the blade now in her hands, she slashed the beast down the side to rain crimson on parchment leaves. This, then, was why the garden book was her favorite. It gave her the tools she needed to defeat the darkness.
Panting, she watched the beast regather for the second of three attacks. The bulk of its body was formless shadow, too many legs and not enough, and only the face held its shape between one glance and the next.
Seven dark reptilian eyes.
Many rows of many teeth.
The railing of angry orderlies came through the door, but they knew better than to interrupt. Breaking her concentration, her connection, would leave her here as they pulled her body through. Perhaps that was what the beast was, former wards and patients.
She met the second lunge with a shriek and her blade bit deep, as of its own accord, following the memories of her hands and the words on the page.
The last was always the worst and when it came at her, claws extended - claws from nowhere made of nothing - she only just avoided its slash. It preyed upon her anxiety, her fear of returning to the sterile world beyond the door. She fought her own thoughts. The creature grew in strength, winning as it never had before, as she feared to go back.
She could die here fighting, or die there staring at blank walls and blank faces. The creature read her reluctance and ate her right arm.
That was not part of the story, and it was only a story so there was no pain, but it reminded her that this was a temporary place, no matter how often she longed to visit. The beast fed on what she brought to the book, and every battle fell along different lines.
Her sword sliced its head off, vorpal or near to it, and she sat up as the fog of the creature burned away. She would return to the hospital this once, her courage restored, and when she could no longer take the prognosis and the plastered smiles, she would return for another round. Maybe then she would stay.
Comforted, she stood. White light shone through the door and after a step she paused to feel the stump where her arm ended. Familiar. The story was growing to reflect her reality, and while even a day ago she might have cried, now the thought made her smile.
She left the sword bleeding shadow on the paper grass.