Reading Time: < 1 minute

“Is… Is that how you READ?” she asked.‬

I glanced up from my book with annoyance. “Of course.”‬

The woman set her coffee cup down on my table and snatched my book out of my hand. I was furious, not only with her interruption but with her bemusement.

She snapped the book closed but had already turned it sideways by the time I yelped about a bookmark. She tapped her fingers along the spine until the book began to glow.

The pages slid out from the covers onto the floor, and melted into a stream of antique paper dust and ink particles. They rose up in a cloud and danced in the air, forming half-tone beings: knights whose swords clashed with a puff of paper smoke, princesses in yellowing paper-sheet gowns, and dragons breathing coils of paper streamers.

“Didn’t anyone ever teach you to turn it on first? You’ve been reading the machine instructions this whole time!”

I was so shocked, I didn’t think to thank her as she tossed the book cover husks on my table and snatched her coffee up. She chuckled and shook her head as she left the cafe.

I also forgot to ask how to turn it off again.