“I have a bid of one hundred forty two dollars…further bids? One hundred-forty-two-dollars going once…twice…Sold! for one-hundred-forty-two dollars to number thirty-nine. Thank you Sir. Our next item….”
Hindsight allows for a perspective we can only but bemoan after the fact. “If I had known then what I know now…”
But it is a moot point. And as I left the auction house on that cold and damp November eve, I was unaware of the screams of my future self, calling from but hours to come to “Drop that parcel!”
But as I said, it is all for naught.
How fortunate I felt, as I conducted myself and my new acquisition home that night. How lucky I had been, that individuals of a more history conscious pedigree were absent from that auction. Absent, so they did not recognize the faded scrawl across the single book in a small collection of six.
I glanced at the plain crate, lying so innocently in the seat beside me, with the gleeful anticipation of a child viewing a gift underneath the pine at Christ Mass.
Still, in the back of my mind, I knew the gamble I had taken. The money (a significant amount, for one of my station) spent on these six tomes, on the surface nothing but dusty volumes, just on the off chance that the “one” would be…
“It’s worth the risk,” I so foolishly thought at the time, as I speeded myself up the drive of my home on that blackest of nights.
Excitement, or perhaps the almost drunken stupor that comes from unbridled anticipation, has sapped my memory of walking up the age-worn steps of my home, and even of entering. The next memory of that night enters my brain as standing over the table in the front room, the small crate resting upon it, and a hammer in my hand.
Applying hook to nail, I grinned. With each spike removed from the dry wood of the crate, my sense of destiny, fate, and yes, even fear grew stronger. If it truly was what I surmised….
With the final nail removed, I cracked the lid open, the in-rush of air causing a small cloud of fetid dust to rise up and collide with my nostrils, providing, for an instant, the perfume of spices and ages long past…and then evaporated.
Peering inside, the dim light of the room revealed a loose scattering of prickly yellow fluff the auction house used for packaging their precious (and sometimes not so precious) wares. Grabbing and tossing this obstacle out of the box and over my shoulder, I let out a sharp gasp upon the revelation of my prize.
The six books lay flush against one another, spines staring up at my face. Five proclaimed to me their names. The sixth, a tattered and worn, almost pocket-bible sized volume, bound in graying twine that might have once been black, sat in stark contrast to its quite normal looking cell mates.
Slowly reaching my hand into the crate, I had to make a conscious effort to stop my fingers from trembling as they approached their target. Thinking back, it almost seems as though I had to make a physical effort to reach towards the book, almost as if an unseen barrier was impeding my progress. Perhaps it was my rational mind attempting to overcome my mania, and ward me away from the horror that was to come. Whether this was so, or if this thought is simply another product of hindsight, my grip did meet that accursed book.
My fingers enclosed lightly, almost lovingly, around the frayed and age softened cloth cover. And with the contact of my flesh upon this evil solidified, I swear I did feel a tangible wave of pure cold wash up the length of my arm! It spread across and through my entire being, and then dissipated back to normalcy, all in the span of one, forced, beat of my heart.
As if in a trance, I lifted the small book from its confines, placing it to rest lightly in my right palm, cradling it like one might a fragile egg, or a small bird with an injured wing.
I held the book aloft, my gaze fastened to its cover as I walked slowly to my study. And once more, the simple title, its ink faded to near a ghostlike mist across the book’s face, sent chills along my spine.
Taking a seat at my desk, I carefully placed the book in the center of the green blotter in front of me, and reached out to pull the short chain on my shaded desk lamp. The light ignited across the polished cherry wood of the desk and, with my eyes still fixed to my prize, seemed to breathe a new spark of life into the cloudy title, as if the brightness had awakened a darker hue within that ancient ink.
And it was at that moment that my terrible suspicions were confirmed. The book spoke to me; told me its name:
My course was set. In that instant, where the uncertainty that had filled my very being rolled into firm recognition, truly it was that brief span of time that sealed my fate. For now I had a purpose, a motivation so terrible that its symptoms can be seen with crystal clarity only now, after the fact.
With hands that were eerily steady and sure for the task I had charged them with, I hooked the tips of my fingers under the threadbare corners of the entrance to that damned tome, and lifted.
My memory after that moment is a blur. Minutes, hours may have passed, but all recollection I have of that time is of a voice, deep and sonorous, speaking the insane scribblings of the Mad Arab with reckless and deadly abandon.
But as suddenly as my mind disengaged from the world around me, my senses came back, my faculties restored. I found myself still in my study, sitting in a suffocating darkness, a veil of black, broken only by the straining light from the lamp on my desk.
In my lap sat the book, opened wide and resting with its last page looking up into my fear-stricken face. That final page rose and fell slightly, straining against its binding as though a draft of air was directing its movement. The mad thought struck me then that perhaps it was breathing.
That very idea, in context with what the text represented, what it was, froze me in my chair.
Silence flooded the room then, filling my body with its numbing touch until I was drowning in it. I dared not move…but I found I could not move! Try as I may, my body remained locked in my seat!
And my eyes…my eyes stayed transfixed upon the final page of the book. Try as I might, I could not turn away.
And then, my ears were met once more by that darkest of voices, the voice that had told the tale of the Mad Arab. The voice whose source was my own throat!
Uncontrollably, unwillingly, the words spilled out, one after the other, pouring downward. Their foreign tones struck the book that rest in my lap, each collision into its pages ringing out like a death knell.
Then the final syllable of age-locked blasphemy was spoken. And, for a moment, all was still.
But then, in my vision I did see a tiny pinprick of light. Its violet spectrum strangely cast no light of like color around it, as if it was a contained universe unto itself.
As my body was still made immobile by some unknown influence, I could but watch as the otherworldly illumination expanded in size. Minute after minute its totality swallowed up the room around me. My gaze was soon filled with nothing but that brain-blinding light.
But then, when the tortured orbs of my eyes finally adapted to their unwanted surroundings, I sighted them.
Roiling limbs, drooling teeth! Eyes of bone and hair of flesh! Indescribable horrors from a dimension beyond comprehension rushed towards me, ravenous for escape into the human realm! My eyes, as wide as the terror I felt had shaped them, could not contain the countenance of the cloud of insanity sweeping toward the portal I had opened, a wind of solid evil pushing its advance! My ears, filled with the monstrous screams of aeons of restlessness, felt near to rupture.
I screamed, hoping pathetically that my cries would turn away the snarling horde at the gates to my reality. My efforts went unrewarded. I flashed my gaze downward, seeing for the first time that the violet domain of terror was actually pouring outward from the book!
In a spurt of reflexive self-preservation, I strained my limbs against their invisible bonds. I had but seconds to spare: the foul breath of death and decay, spewing forth from the countless tooth-filled orifices of madness penetrated me to my very core!
I could feel my effort-engorged veins pressing hard against the flesh on my arms, and the wet creaking of my bones as they gave way to the pressure. Pain of my ordeal shot through my body, the agony erupting before my eyes in sparks of light and color.
My unseen restraints began to give! I needed but the slightest of slack to flip the book closed, and hopefully deflect the abominations from this plane!
My muscles flexed…and the cover of the book flipped up and began to close, the violet beam choked in its emanation! The horrid creatures, their multitude of claw-flecked appendages flailing wildly to reach the opening, were suddenly vanished! The book was closed. The madness was at an end.
Or was it?
My nerves…what they once were, they are no more. I cannot look upon the world around me as I did but days ago. I know now the horrors of such putrid nightmare that inhabit the realms just beyond my sight.
The damnable tome that caused the catastrophe I almost let loose upon the world is now gone. Boxed, weighted, chained, and hidden in a place I shall never repeat in either speech or text. To my grave will these memories go, and my demise I welcome, for the dark oblivion of death will forever be more preferable to the violet glow of terrors unseen.