Paper Cuts

Once upon a time, there was a girl who wrote stories. She loved to write, and she found a joy in the paper worlds she created that she found nowhere else. But whenever the girl started to write, a tiny imp would crawl up onto her desk, grab the paper she was writing on, and sliced it against one of her fingers. The girl was frightened by the imp's visits. No matter how many times she told her parents, they would simply dismiss it as part of their daughter's active imagination. She tried to trap it, shoo it away, and even squish it. But the imp was a crafty creature. Each day he returned to her desk to cut her even deeper than before.

At first, the blood that trickled down her fingers frightened her. But as time passed, the only thing that truly bothered her was that the blood would occasionally drip onto the pages of her stories. The imp was outraged. All this work, he thought, and she doesn't seem to mind one bit! So the imp cut deeper and deeper until the girl could barely press her pen against the paper without sending a searing pain coursing down her hand.

The imp asked her, "Do you still want to write?"

And the girl said, "Yes, I do."

So the girl kept on writing as the imp cut away at her skin.

As she grew older, the cuts on her hand began to grow as well. They slithered down her arms and buried themselves in her shoulder blades. This started to worry her parents, who had no clue what was wrong with their daughter. Is she cutting herself, they asked, or is it some disease? They tried to take her to a therapist, but she refused to speak to such a person. They tried to take her to see a doctor, but the doctor could find no cure. And to her parent's utter bewilderment, the girl always returned to her desk at the end of the day to work on her stories.

The imp laughed whenever she blamed her scars on a bad accident, knowing that no one would ever believe her if she told them why she was really bleeding.

The imp asked her, "Do you still want to write?"

And the girl said, "Yes, I do."

So the girl kept on writing as the imp cut away at her skin.

Eventually, the girl bled so much that she couldn't stand. She was taken to a hospital, where the doctors transfused blood to keep her alive. Her parents were distraught when the doctor told them what they feared the most: that if the cuts didn't cease, she wouldn't live to see her next birthday. So the girl was kept in the hospital room where her parents could keep an eye on her, and she was denied anything that she could use to hurt herself - even something as innocent as a pencil.

The girl was patient. She smiled at the nurses and told stories to the other hospital patients to lull them to sleep. It wasn't long before she was the one of the nurses' favorites. Sometimes, the healthier children would sneak into her room and ask her to tell them a story before they were caught and sent back to their proper hospital wing. The girl never denied them a story.

The imp, seeing all the good the girl has done for the hospital, decided to pay her one last visit. He was surprised to see her smiling brightly at him when he arrived.

"Hello there, little imp," said the girl. "It's nice to see you again."

In her hands, she held a stack of papers that she laid before him.

"This is for you," she said, beaming. "It's my way of thanking you. I hope you enjoy it."

The imp, baffled as any little demon could be, placed his grubby hands on the first page and began to read. He was even more baffled when he realized that the story was his very own - a story called The Little Imp. He read through each page hungrily and finished within minutes. And when he was done, he sat back and looked up at the girl in awe.

"You did this?" asked the imp. The girl nodded.

"For me?" He prodded even further. The girl nodded again.

The imp thought for a very long time and asked her, "Do you still want to write?"

And the girl said, "Yes, I do."

The next day, the girl was delighted to be let out of the hospital without so much as a scratch left on her skin. She hugged her parents tight and told them she loved them, and she promised the nurses that she would return to tell them all the stories they wanted to know. And when she returned to her desk, she found that in a corner of a fresh page, words were scribbled on in handwriting only little grubby hands could create: Goodbye.

So the girl kept writing as the imp vanished into thin air, never to be heard of again.

Except, that is, through the girl's favorite story: The Little Imp.