Alex rushed into the house, shaking the raindrops off his umbrella.
"It is a nightmare out there!" He exclaimed to the quiet home he had arrived in.
He peered into the dark hallway, searching for the strip of light from the end room where his wife usually sat. Eventually it came into focus, a lot dimmer than usual, she had the small reading light on. He smiled to himself, wondering what intricate novel she had got herself wound up in this time.
"Charlotte?" He called, still no answer.
Alex hung his dripping coat on the wall hook and felt his way down the dark corridor to their living room. He opened the door and welcomed the dim light as he searched for a sight of his wife.
He found her by the fire, curled up in a ball on their large armchair. She wasn't reading however, instead she sat there, staring into the flames, a distant but so familiar look on her face.
"Charlotte?" Alex repeated, this time a lot softer.
Charlotte dragged her face away from the flames and looked lifelessly into Alex's eyes for a few moments before returning her gaze once more to the burning heat.
Alex's eyes fell on the table in front of her, there sat six neat piles of paper, evenly ripped up with such precision that he knew he would not be able to tell the difference in size in any of them. The bin to the left of her was full to the top with even more intricate tiny squares. In Charlotte's hands sat an bare cover, empty of all the pages it once held.
"Bad book?" Alex asked, crouching down on the floor in front of her.
"I didn't like the ending," Charlotte said. "It seemed suspicious."
Alex took a glance at the title on the cover, "This one is an old one Char, you've read it at least 20 times."
"How did it change?"
Charlotte shrugged, "I don't think the author likes me."
"What gave you that impression?"
Charlotte turned to face her husband again, her eyes glassy with tears. "She knows how much I love this book, how much it means to me that it stays the same. But she changed it anyway."
Alex realised he would have to try and feed logic into her thoughts if he was going to be able to draw her out of the low mood she was visibally falling into.
"Did she bring out a new copy then? Because this one looks old, like the one you've always had."
"It is, but she came in the middle of the night, while we were sleeping, and changed it without me realising."
A single tear fell down Charlotte's cheek. "They're dead."
More tears fell now. "Everyone."
Alex saw her despair grow more and more evident through every movement of her face, every clenched muscle in her body. She was starting to panic.
"But you're not dead." Alex offered, touching her cheek softly with his fingers, "And neither am I."
"But how do I know that?" Charlotte asked. "You might have died, you might have left me." She removed his hand from her cheek and dropped her gaze to her lap. "I don't know what I would do if you were dead. I think I would die too."
He took her hand gently in both of his and raised her fingertips to his lips. "I'm here." He whispered, kissing her fingers, "See? Can you feel me?"
"I can feel something." Charlotte responded, "I can't be sure if it's you though."
Alex kissed her palm and smiled. "It's always me."
Charlotte smiled and looked down at her empty, broken cover. "My book's ruined."
"It's okay," Alex said. "It was getting old anyway. We'll get you a new one."