To describe her as a voracious reader' would be an understatement. Every waking hour of the day was spent in the pursuit of the written page. Meredith Burgess devoured books of fiction and non fiction alike. The simple matter of fact was, she never really met a book that she didn't find a way to appreciate. Some topics were more interesting than others but there were always facts or general entertainment to be gained from the printed page. The overwhelming majority of the publications she encountered met her definition of 'treasure'. In that way, she was the richest woman she knew.
Not surprisingly, she acquired a significant number of books and periodicals over the years. Eventually, the sheer volume of volumes began to take over her modest home. Stacks of paperback and hardcover editions lined every hallways and staircase. Magazines and newspapers went from floor to ceiling. The distinctive odor of the written page and paper dust filled the air.
As Meredith sank further into the lavish realms of imagination, her social life dwindled accordingly. There simply wasn't enough room in her fragmented mind for both the fantastic dream worlds of Dickens and Bradbury, and flesh and blood companions. Unlike real friends, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock and Dr. Watson never let her down. The antics of Cervantes still put a grand smile on her face. Slowly her grasp of reality began to slip. It wasn't that she failed to recognize the difference. She just preferred to sink into the far more appealing tales of the story masters.
Naturally she had to close her treasured tomes on occasion. Bills had to be paid, groceries had to be bought and household errands had to be completed. Absence just made her heart stronger to return home and read another chapter. Up ahead, the story held more adventures and each chapter teased a nail-biting cliffhanger. She sought the euphoria of completing a new book like some people collect stamps. There was a never-ending procession of new reading materials waiting as soon as the current one was finished.
As the years passed, Meredith accumulated a massive amount of written treasures. Her bookshelves overflowed onto the floor and far beyond. Soon her home became a claustrophobic labyrinth of vertical stacks where only the spines showed. Balancing them was an art form in itself and navigating the maze made her feel like a mouse looking for cheese. Try as she might, she couldn't bring herself to sell or discard any of them. They had become her 'children'.
Over time her obsession with the written word pushed her deeper into solitude. She rarely went outside and her level of human socialization dwindled accordingly. During the last decade of her life, she only ventured out in public when it was absolutely necessary. Her reputation as a 'shut in' or reclusive hermit was cemented. She didn't care, she had an infinite world of fantasy to wander through.
After several days of unattended mail and no answer at the front door, the local authorities decided that a wellness check was in order. The police knocked loudly again and then broke the lock to her front door. What they discovered upon entering was both surreal and startling. Her living quarters had been reduced down to mere tunnel passages, barely large enough for an adult to squeeze through. The men feared the worst. Calling out her name brought no response and the men retreated to a safe distance outside. They were worried about the very real possibility of a cave in. Tens of thousands of heavy volumes and periodicals filled every nook and cranny of living space.
A specialized search and rescue team was brought in to navigate to cave-like premises. It was assumed that she would be found deeply buried somewhere in the massive collection of paper publications. Instead, her body was discovered in the master bedroom, undisturbed and apparently at peace.
Her volumes on mining and deep cave exploration taught her how to effectively truss the mountains of books. Mythology stories about the labyrinth and Minotaur showed her the best way to find her way around the confusing maze. Her extensive collections of the greatest authors known to humanity entertained her until the very end of her bibliophile life. For every circumstance there was a written remedy. For every intellectual itch there was a written cerebral 'scratch'. Within her internal ecosystem, life was rich and very fulfilling. There on her bed, Meredith Burgess had expired doing what she loved; heaving the weight of the written word in her mind.