The Book

The Book

A Story by Clinthulhu
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When Professor Elijah Cain discovers a mysterious book on the shelves of his private library his morbid curiosity sends him spiraling down a path of terror, murder, and madness.

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Following is the final testimony of Professor Elijah Cain, who has been convicted of the crime of murder and will be hung by the neck until dead in the year of our Lord, 1889. Professor Cain was an esteemed member of the Cornell University literature department before being found guilty of his crimes. He is to be hung in Tompkins County, NY. And his mortal remains are to be buried in the Rogue’s Crossing Public Cemetery on June 20th 1889 in an unmarked grave.

 

-Rogue’s Crossing Village Records

 

 

If there is such a thing as a merciful God, I can only pray that he forgives me for ever having pursed my abhorred study of that hellish volume which I can now only describe as the book. I tell you honestly that to this day I have no idea of its origin or how it came into my possession.   I have no recollection of purchasing the foul thing, and it would have been far from something I would have found interesting at the time I began to read from its dreadful pages.

 

It was in the winter of ‘87, and I was searching for something with which I might occupy myself for the evening. As I am sure you are well aware, my area of expertise being in the classic forms of literature, I am not prone to sojourn far from the works of Homer or Shakespeare. Even in leisure I choose not to associate with the so-called “modern classics,” as I find them trite and offensive. Thus, on that fateful night I was exploring the shelves of my private library for a book of classical poetry to enjoy with my pipe when my eyes came to rest on a blank and altogether unremarkable spine that was bare of any title or author embossment. Curious to the nature of this obscure book, I pulled it from the shelf to investigate. As I have stated, the outside of the book was of little interest, and as I turned it over in my hands the utter lack of any sort of ornamentation what-so-ever piqued my curiosity. Why I would have ever purchased such a thing in the first place? It was a small volume: perhaps only eight inches long by five inches wide and nearly two inches thick. Now more confused than curious, I opened the book and found that the interior gave up no more information than its cover. It appeared to be entirely hand-written, as if it were a journal of sorts, but it lacked names and dates of any kind that might provide a clue to its origin. Puzzled, I sat with the small volume in my chair in order to study it further.

 

Upon reading the first few pages of that dreaded manuscript, I was so aroused by a sense of foul evil that I feared I might go mad from the weight of its presence on my conscious mind. After less than a half-dozen pages, I cast the blasphemous thing to the floor. Pulling my kerchief from my pocket, I attempted to wipe away the oily film that the simple act of holding the book left on my skin. Real or imagined, I cannot say, but I was unable to scrub away the odious residue from my hands. I remember quite clearly thinking that I should unceremoniously throw the damnable thing into the fireplace and rid myself of its unwholesome writing. But as I picked it up from the floor I was taken by a queer fancy and felt that the idea of destroying this book was far worse than the dreadful writing that filled its pages. God, how I wish I could have set it ablaze in my hearth, rather than allowing it to destroy my life.

 

            In the weeks that followed I found myself tormented by the book. After its initial discovery and my inability to destroy it, I placed it in the drawer of a seldom used side table in my library, swearing to never think of it again. I fear, however, my conscious resolution was not shared by my subconscious mind. The following day I found the book had somehow returned to its original resting place on my library shelf. Again, I took the damnable text and placed it in the side table drawer, this time locking the drawer and placing the key on my personal key chain. You can imagine my fright when, on the following evening, I found it resting on the corner of my writing desk. Again I entertained the idea of destroying it and putting my mind to rest once and for all, yet I found myself inexplicably hesitant to burn it. I have no explanation for my misgivings but I was still determined to distance myself from the damnable thing.


            I decided that if I could not bring myself to rid the world of the book, I would hide it away in a more remote location where it might trouble me no more. I wrapped it in a sheet of packaging paper and carried it to the cellar below the east wing of my home. There, in a small alcove used to store ancient furniture and other odds and ends, I placed it in a box of long forgotten ornate silverware. I returned to my library feeling wholly relieved and invigorated, confident that I would be molested no more by subconscious temptation. I spent the remainder of that afternoon reviewing student papers, and I then retired to my easy chair with my pipe and a copy of The Odyssey.

 

            I must have fallen asleep at some point. I dreamt of a vast arid desert stretching out around me. As far as I could see, the black sands were littered with the decaying remains of thousands upon thousands of human bodies. Above this nightmare landscape, the sky churned and bubbled and frothed with smoke and ash. Despite the infernal heat, my body was wracked by painful chills that cut me to the bone. Suddenly on the far, curving, horizon I saw the stygian silhouette of a man, or what I believed to be a man, approaching me. A fear unlike any I had ever experienced gripped my soul. This thing, this otherworldly daemon moved with such odd, disjointed motion that I feared I would go mad just looking upon it. The limbs elongated to grotesque proportions, more spider-like than human, before returning to a more recognizable form. It covered a great distance with its abhorrent gait and as it neared I faintly heard a disembodied whisper on the searing wind:

 

            “Azazel, Gorgon, Mephistopheles, Nyarlathotep, Beelzebub, the Crawling Chaos.” 

 

            I awoke to the sound of my own screaming. It took my senses a moment to realize that I was once again in the safety of my own home. The first light of morning was creeping across the rug towards my feet and the log in my fireplace had been reduced to small glowing embers. I sat for a moment breathing deeply to calm my jagged nerves. A cold sweat ran down my face, making me shiver in the morning’s chilled air. Wiping away the sweat with my hand I let out a frightful gasp. On my hand, I could feel an all too familiar oily residue. I held my breath as my eyes slowly traveled to my lap where I should have found my copy of the Odyssey. With unimaginable, unspeakable dread my vision came to rest, instead, on the book.

 

            From that moment on, the book began to consume my every waking thought. I would reach for another volume on my shelf only to find my hand resting on its black spine. On no less than three occasions I discovered it in my attaché case upon arriving at the University. Yet even with all this I experienced a depraved curiosity about it. Soon I became aware of the fact that I had to make a conscious effort to avoid opening it and reading from its brittle pages. A sick desire overtook me, and I began to crave the forbidden knowledge that I believed it held. Finally, after weeks of abstinence, my morbid fancies got the better of me.  

 

I was, as was my habit, working late into the night grading papers. At some point, while toiling over a stack of essays, I became aware that I had drifted off into fanciful thought of the book and its lurid depictions of truly unwholesome things. Finally, after fending off the urge for nearly an hour I pulled it from the shelf and began to read from its brittle pages.

 

            I will not give details to its contents for such horrors are not meant to be repeated; I fear speaking them now will only give greater power to those dark things that the book describes. I will simply say that so completely bizarre was the writing that I at first believed it to be a work of fiction. Upon further reading, however, I discovered that it gave the account of an unnamed witness to secret rites and rituals so unholy that even the most resolute atheist would find himself shuddering at the dark implications described therein.

 

Much of the first part of that black diary outlined the correct placement of certain relics and items on blasphemous altars and warned that proper care must be taken when working with the blood of those sacrificed. Simple, yet surprisingly grotesque images of otherworldly creatures, strange hieroglyphic symbols and arcane runes filled many of the margins of those fragile pages. Most unnerving of all were the shockingly detailed anatomical drawings of human anatomy, many of which were followed by meticulous instructions regarding the proper way to remove said illustrated organs without killing the victim and how they should be prepared if not to be consumed raw. Page after page of horrific illustrations and text filled the book, outlining human sacrifice, brutal violations of virgins by robed worshipers, the eating of human flesh and lengthy accounts of necrophilia described in mind numbing detail.

 

            My very soul was afire with a mix of disgust and sick curiosity. So repulsed was I by the details outlined before me that I grew ill from the fancied images that the words created in my brain. Yet the deeper I plunged into the abyss of daemon-spawned text the more excited I became at the thoughts of what further secrets this putrid work might hold. After long hours of fevered study, my constitution began to fail me. I made my way to my bed chamber, but could only lay there tossing and turning. My eyes burned from the strain of reading those hand written pages - yet try as I might, I could not find it in me to sleep. Finally the sun broke over the horizon, making any further attempt at slumber impossible.

 

            I dressed and made my way to the university that morning. I had only three lectures that day, but even that was a strain on my exhausted mind. I lay on a sofa in my office in-between classes, trying in vain to capture a few moments of much needed rest; however my weary brain was subject to fantastical nightmare visions of insidious rites performed on sable shrouded alters. Despite my exhausted condition, by the end of my last lecture I could hardly contain my wanton desire to read once again from that abominable ebony journal.

 

            Returning home early that afternoon I fiendishly plucked the book from the shelf and once again journeyed into nightmare realms of blood and torment. After long hours I became aware of the fact that night had once again fallen outside my library window. Lighting only a single lamp, I pushed on, reading accounts of horrifically detailed blood rituals that made manifest strange daemons, gods, and devils with names that were surely beyond human capability to pronounce. I ghoulishly read into the small hours of the morning without pausing to eat or drink. In the very early hours with my eyes nearly watering to the point of blindness, I finally succumbed to extreme exhaustion. Retiring to my bed I quickly fell into a fitful sleep that was plagued by such ungodly vistas the fact I was not driven to gibbering madness is remarkable to say the very least.

 

            As to the events of the next several weeks I can give few details. I cared little for my vocation or social obligations. I sent word to the university through my house-keeper Miss Green, God rest her soul, to inform them that I had taken ill and would not be available for some time. After two weeks of absence the Dean dispatched a doctor to my home in the event that I needed additional medical assistance. I sent him away without so much as letting him cross the threshold. Weeks turned into months and I had spiraled into the bowels of an abyss so utterly immoral and corrupt that what happened next should come as little shock.

 

            Poor, loyal, kind, and foolish, Miss Green was dutiful to the last with her appointed housekeeping. Even after I had taken to my reclusive ways of locking myself in the library both day and night, she continued to busy herself in the other rooms of the house. I spoke with her only when I found the need to venture into the kitchen to take a meager meal, or when she would knock on the locked door to my library to let me know she was leaving for the evening. It was one such evening, after she had rapped on the door and announced that she would return in the morning, that I was taken by a most sinister fancy. It had become my habit simply to reply with a few words of thanks before quickly returning to my unholy work. On that evening, however, I quickly snatched up a heavy marble ashtray from my cluttered and overflowing desk, flung open the library door and, in one wild eyed moment, swung the improvised club into the side of poor Miss Green’s head.

 

            The dear woman didn't die just then. How I wish she would have slipped into the merciful void of death from the blow; however she was of healthy stock and instead simply crumpled to the floor unconscious. I set to work frantically pushing aside the furniture and rugs to expose the bare wood floor of the library. With a bit of chalk I found in a desk drawer, I hastily scrawled the now familiar arcane symbols on the polished oak floorboards, pausing only to reference their correct designs from that cursed black tome. My mind reeled with a morbid delight as I crawled on hands and knees, illuminating the floor with dozens of esoteric glyphs. When I was finally satisfied with my work, I hefted Miss Green from where she lay in the hall and gently lay her in the center of those damnable markings. With everything prepared, I retrieved an ornate dagger I had received as a gift and “got down to business” as they say.

 

            Before the life drained from her eyes, Miss Green let out only a single small whimper. She had come to her senses moments after I slid the blade into the soft tissue of her abdominal region and began to cut away layers of her flesh. I suppose it was shock that kept her from crying out - or perhaps it was the blood that had risen into her mouth. Once she had slipped into the peaceful arms of death, I began to chant the words I had memorized from the book.

 

            Soaked in the blood of what was once my kindly housekeeper, I chanted for what seemed like hours. I lifted her still warm entrails to my lips and greedily bit into the raw organs with a ravenous hunger. The sweetly putrid fluids of her lower digestive system filled my mouth and dribbled down my chin as I swooned in ecstasy. My vision blurred and, if it is possible to imagine, the very room began to pulsate with a black light that I lack the words to clearly describe. I believe it was at this point I sealed my fate, forfeiting my soul to the lowest regions of hell. Intoxicated by the fresh blood of my sacrifice, I had visions of tormented souls - writhing together in a never ending orgy of pain and suffering. Thousands upon thousands of naked bodies, entwined in deathless agony, filled a vast grotto that sprawled before me. I looked down upon this scene much like the poet Dante, and I wondered to myself if he, too, once stood on this same rise and looked over this very scene of wretchedness. And again I began to hear the whispering of the disembodied voice:

 

“Behemoth, Danjal, Nyarlathotep” 

 

As suddenly as it had begun, the vision came to an end. I found myself laying face down on my library floor as the blood of my housekeeper congealed into a thick jelly that matted my tangled hair and clung to my unshaven face.

 

Surely now you understand why I could not stop my research after what I witnessed that night. Having only tasted the smallest morsel of the delicacies promised in the book, I knew that my gnawing hunger could only be abated by continuing down this new found path of enlightenment. I'm sure that for the first few weeks the mysterious disappearances of those residents of Rogue’s Crossing baffled everyone, even someone as intelligent as you. It is difficult to say how long I could have continued to elude discovery if not for the growing need of fresh sacrifices. I will spare you the details of each of my midnight exploits - save to say that with the aid of chemicals and a rag I was able to subdue my chosen prey with little trouble. I would return with them to the sanctuary of my library and there I would perform the rites as they were outlined in the book.

 

Much to my dismay, not long after my fourth or perhaps fifth “offering”, I discovered that I had awakened something dark and primordial - a cosmic evil, lurking just outside the realm of this reality, scratching at the schism my tampering had created. Very quickly, I realized that I lacked the knowledge or ability to keep the presence at bay by any other means than satisfying its unyielding desire for pain and blood. The barrier betwixt this world and the chaos beyond was beginning to crack, and my quest for forbidden knowledge and illumination was transformed into a battle of wills, fought in order to keep the darkness from breaking through the veil between our realities. From that point on, my every waking moment was spent pouring over that damnable tome, searching desperately for a passage or verse that would undo my horrible error. After weeks of terror-shrouded study, I found the key I was looking for. A vague scribbling in the margins that alluded to a series of alchemical formulae and self mutilation rituals that would seal shut the gateway I had inadvertently created.   

 

I had to wait several weeks for the constellations to be in their proper alignment. I brewed the required tonics and performed the complex rituals of branding and cutting my own flesh with incantations and warding runes. I studied and prepared for nearly a month to make sure I would carry out each of the steps in perfect detail. Then, when the stars were right, I conducted the blasphemous ritual and sealed shut the portal, using my own mortal body as both lock and key.    

 

It was not long after that my crimes were discovered. The absence of my housekeeper raised the suspicions of the local authorities and inevitably led you to my door and I to this prison cell. I understand it was you who discovered the bodies in their various forms of decay in my cellar. I apologize for leaving such an unwholesome mess and truly wish I could have given them all a proper burial. However as I’m sure you already know, I was in no condition to do so.

 

            As to why you were unable to find the book, I have no good explanation. I told you exactly where to find it on my library shelves, and I have little doubt that if you had found the accursed thing you would find it in your heart to have mercy on me. It would only take you a few moments reading its contents to see that I truly cannot be held responsible for the unspeakable acts I have performed. I suppose now it is lost forever, since you tell me that a mob of those fools from town have burned my beautiful home to the ground in an attempt to erase the memory of my fiendish existence.

 

            But I need you to know the truth of it all. I need you to understand before they lead me off to the gallows - before those idiots outside hang me by my neck and this twisted soul is dragged down to the depths of whatever hell awaits me. You of all people must understand. I am the only thing standing between you and the demoniac forces that will be unleashed on this world should I die. Those fools who cry out for my blood can never understand what I've told you here. For the love of God! I need you to listen - to believe, even just for a moment! I will put the noose around my own neck if that's what it takes, but you must do this one thing! You must swear to me you will suffer me at least one kindness. My mortal remains must be placed under the ruins of what would have been my library. Only then will the gate remain sealed. Only then will the forces that scratch and claw their way into this world continue to be locked away forever.

 

            I beg of you sir. You must not allow these imbeciles to bury me with the rest of the riffraff in Potters Field. I do not fear the fate of an unmarked grave nor do I fear that my name will be spat out like poison on the tongues of those who say it. I care not for my memory being cursed or my soul being damned. But you must see to it that my corpse is placed as near to that place as possible. If you can't find it in your heart to do this for me, do it for the sake of the town, for the sake of your children!

 

For the love of God, man, don't walk away from me!

Damn you, listen to me!

 

Damn you!

 

Damn you all!

© 2014 Clinthulhu


Author's Note

Clinthulhu
Hopefully there shouldn't be many grammar or spelling problems in this. I have used some antiquated spellings to better reflect the time period of this story. For example daemon is not misspelled.

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Well... I'd say you have a knack for visuals sir. It was amazingly good, and if I had only one criticism, it would be that one quick jump into the first dream into the desert. I would have made one more paragraph describing him falling to sleep, but that's just a nitpick. Awesome story.

Posted 4 Years Ago


This was wonderful! It reminds me a bit of "The Tell-Tale Heart", actually. I couldn't see any spelling errors, and the use of period appropriate syntax really helps draw you in. Certain parts, like just happening to have chalk and an ornamental dagger, seemed a little too coincidental, but it was still a riveting read that left me with that pleasurably unsettled feeling all good horror stories create.

Posted 6 Years Ago


I loved this story, being a fan of Poe and Lovecraft; your name caught my attention and I’m glad it did. The narration and use of language was superb. I can’t recall the last time a story on this site had me leaning into my monitor. I would recommend dropping the ‘Village Records’ part down some so it doesn’t mesh with your synopsis, but I found no grammatical errors or poor word placement. I will pass this along to a few other members. Thanks for the enjoyable read, and be sure to let me know when you post something else.

Posted 6 Years Ago



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Added on August 14, 2014
Last Updated on August 14, 2014
Tags: rogue's crossing, book, lovecraft, gothic, horror

Author

Clinthulhu
Clinthulhu

Massillon, OH



About
I'm a fan of Gothic Horror and Weird Fiction. Most of my writing is in that genre but I have been branching out a bit to include Noir stories based in the 1930's. I'm currently working on an eBook tha.. more..