Special Collections

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic


A collaboration with the great and talented Hullabaloo22! https://www.booksie.com/users/hullabaloo22-171418

Submitted: September 19, 2018

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Submitted: September 19, 2018

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Special Collections

 

 

It wasn’t a decision taken lightly, to close the museum and bring work home.  Helen had tried to resist, but in the end, with the thunder rumbling all around and the water pouring down, the decision was made for her.

“Just take the box from Special Collections, Helen.  If you can get them catalogued at home the rest can wait until tomorrow,” Mr. Jeffers said.  “We’ll close up early.  It’s not as if anyone will be around in this.”

One box of books weighed quite a bit, but Helen got it stowed in the back of her car before it got soaked through.  The drive home was a bit of a nightmare, with the cars all crawling along, and when she did get back, Helen could have sworn that the box of books was that much heavier.

Shutting the door behind her, Helen pressed the light switch and the bulb went with a pop.  Never mind, she had some spares somewhere around.  As she stood on a chair to fit in the new bulb, a flash of lightning split the sky and thunder rumbled overhead.  It was almost as though the storm had followed her home.

Worried that she might lose power altogether, Helen quickly made herself a cup of coffee and lit the fire.  At least with a real fire she would not be plunged into complete darkness should the electricity give out.  Another pop, another bang and two more bulbs went together.  She only had one spare; should she risk it?  A simultaneous flash and shudder decided her against it.

Sitting down by the fire, she found that she could see enough to work by the flickering firelight.  She put the box down on the floor, well out of danger of any sparks, opened it up and removed the first volume.

‘Special Collections’ consisted of mostly very old, delicate and valuable books.  The first one that she removed seemed to be about Ancient Egypt and the rites of mummification.  She picked up the second volume, but there was something about the one underneath that drew her attention.

Putting the second book aside, Helen reached in and picked out the book.  A plain cover, old cracked; strangely enough, there seemed to be no text of any kind on the outside of it.  It looked so old.  She knew she would have to take extra care.

There was something odd about it.  It both drew her towards it and repulsed her at the same time.  She shook her head, scolded herself; it was only a book, after all.

As she pulled back the cover, lightning again lit up the room and the entire house seemed to shake with the force of the thunder.  Helen found herself unable to look away from the page in front of her.  The page was pristine, white and the text that she had expected to be faded was both bold and clear:

 

These pages are stained.  Not by the ink of which I write these words, nor by the weathering of time.  I have stained these pages with my tainted soul, for I have become a tainted man.  I will not give up my name, for it is unimportant here.  Just know I was once like you.  Now it is all gone and I suffer in an inescapable darkness.  Help me.

Have you ever felt a breath creep down your neck?  A breeze that isn’t there and a chill that overtakes you in such completeness yet reveals no meaning to the unsettling sensation nesting in the pit of your stomach?  Have you heard the whispers?  The deep voice that passes like a bull’s grunt into your ear when silence and the totality of your collected thoughts are all that surround you?  Do you give a thought to that voice?  How quick are you to dismiss it or ponder the shallowness of your pool of sanity?

I did not dismiss the voice upon first hearing it, for I knew it not to be a voice of my concoction, and the room I had occupied upon first hearing it led to no explanation of another having spoken.  I was truly alone and without possible means of contact.  Yet a voice spoke to me from the air.

(It would be in the following months, once sleep permanently evaded me and the voice more haunted me than accompanied my every movement that I wondered had that day been the first time I’d heard the voice or was it merely the first time it drew my attention?)

What of the voice in my dreams?  A dark voice.  Was that where it began?

Be certain, the voice is a curse.  It is a bully, relentless with its harsh words and malicious taunts.  It is a teacher with its insightful utterances, its knowledge of the centuries; an enemy in its abuse and spite of my body, of my mind.  No greater fiend to my wellbeing have I found.  Lastly, and most regrettably, the voice, the accursed voice is master.  It drips its commands into my ear, deeming me no better than a vessel to surrender and carry forth its deeds.  Should I resist, it pulls at my strings and I become its unwilling toy: contorted and tortured until I submit.

I am its unwilling servant.  God help me.

Should you hear the voice, seek forgiveness from yourself, for you have become as stained as I, and it shall not release you absent suffering to a paramount degree.

 

Helen gave an involuntary shudder.  The thunder cracked and the flames of the fire leapt upwards with the wind.  The page in front of her momentarily turned to red, to orange, to the colour of flames.  It was almost as though the page had caught fire in front of her.

Just a reflection, that was all.  The page was untouched, not even scorched, but still pristine white where ink had left it bare.

Someone was in the room with her.  She was sure she heard breathing, a whispering voice.  So certain that she stood up, stared around.  Helen even found herself checking that no one was hiding behind the chair.  Of course, the room was empty.  She was all alone inside the house, the door was locked; nobody could have sneaked their way inside.

She needed a drink.  Coffee would be the wise choice, the sensible choice.  No, Helen decided, she needed something stronger.  She had a bottle of red wine somewhere.  She’d light a candle, go in search of it and a glass, and return to the fire.

In spite of all the windows being tightly closed, the flame from the candle flickered.  Several times, she thought that it was going to go out, but it stayed alight.  Shadows loomed ahead, somehow seeming threatening and grotesque and Helen found herself returning to the safety of the fire as soon as she could.

Whoever had invented screw-top caps for wine bottles, she thanked.  Would she have had the nerves to stay in the kitchen and hunt for a cork-screw?  No, not on this night.  The wine was dark, dry and strong.  In the dimness, it appeared to be almost black.  She drank that first glass way too quickly; pouring herself another, she made a vow to take her time with the next one.

She still had work to get through.  More volumes needed to be catalogued, but her eyes and her hands returned to that volume.  Was it some kind of possession?  And more important, was it true?  She needed to return to it, to read more.  Helen simply could not resist the pull of that one strange book.

 

The first blood moon gave rise when it took me.  The stark sky overcome by the red stain I shall never forget.  The clouds parted and Mars glimmered in the black, a red diamond shining for it.  I its unwilling servant henceforth.

Of the acts I committed in its name, the first are of no note.  Self-mutilation to ensure my loyalty to it; to demonstrate its power over me.  Minor wounds and fleeting pain to the prolonged agony of knowing I am its until it is done with me.

I called it a bastard at first, but as I continued to inflict injury to my flesh, my face the only visage of my tormentor, I came to call myself a bastard in time.  Always a bastard I am.  Always a cruel beast it is, and what I do for it, despicable.

If you find yourself scarring your flesh to the pleased growl of the beast, I spare a tear for you, for my tears are all I have left in my control.

When you weep, do not blame yourself but blame the beast within.  Only chastise it silently or endure greater torment.

 

A drop of blood appeared on the page. It was fresh, wet, spreading. Helen, shocked, placed the book open on the floor in front of her. Where could it have come from?

She looked at her finger and even in the dim light could see more blood welling from a cut. She must have done it on the page itself for there was nothing else there, and paper cuts could go quite deep. She should get up, find a Band-Aid, but the thought of leaving the glow of the fire was too daunting. It would not bleed for long. She sucked at it, moved to pick up the tongs to add more fuel to the fire, then picked up the book once more.

Could it be seen as self-mutilation? Surely not, for there had been no intent behind it. Working with books, she was used to getting such cuts on a regular basis, but they rarely bled like this one. Already there was another drop of crimson blood just about to drip from her finger. Quickly, she sucked it up, then removed the metallic taste from her mouth with the wine.

The page was ruined. How could a drop of blood make such a stain?  Mr. Jeffers was going to be so mad. Maybe he would never trust her with Special Collections again. There was an answer though, staring in her face. She could keep the journal to herself, not return it. After all, there was no record that this volume even existed.

Helen’s eyes drifted back to the page. The bloodstain was still flowing, seeming to move its way across the page. As it made contact with the script, it seemed to be drawn in to it, sucked up into the words themselves. In a short time, there was not a sign of that stain to be seen. Impossible! It had to be some kind of optical illusion.

She should put the book back down on the floor. Close it, shut its words away from her mind. She had, Helen realized, so much work still to do. Not only that, but it was starting to become unnerving, scary in the storm-darkened room. Better not to go any further, better to push all those words right to the back of her mind.

But she couldn’t. That book drew her eyes towards it, commanded her attention. She picked it up once more, not even noticing that her blood was flowing again, running its way down her finger.

A soft rush of air caressed her ear, stroking her cheek before disturbing the page she stared at.  She swore she could hear someone whispering her name, but that couldn’t be.  Helen listened intensely, straining to hear over the clamour of the downpour.  She shook her head.  Clearly, she’d had too much to drink.  Then she heard it, quiet like a breeze, but she was sure it had a gruff edge to it: Helen.  Maybe it was a breeze.

Helen rose to her feet, reaching out for the nearby sofa as she stood.  Too much wine and the completeness of the darkness made her balance an unsteady thing.  She slowly made for the kitchen, careful to mind the coffee table and end tables.  The sound seemed to be coming from that direction.

Helen turned as she felt something brush against her shoulder.  There was nothing there.  She took a deep breath to calm her nerves.  Maybe one of the windows wasn’t closed properly.  Helen sucked on her finger, saving more blood from dripping to the floor, and rolled her eyes.  She felt ridiculous, letting her imagination get the better of her.  There was a perfectly reasonable explanation for everything going on.

Then she heard it again, her name drifting through the house.  Helen.  It didn’t sound like the breeze this time.  It was definitely a voice.

Helen shivered, overcome with a chill as goosebumps plagued her body.  She froze where she stood.  She struggled to take deep breaths, her pulse racing with her mind.  She could feel someone watching her and she knew it wasn’t her imagination.  There was someone here with her.

The book! It had to be something to do with that journal. Curse the thing! She’d get rid of it once and for all.

Helen tried to make her way back to the fire, but what had felt like a gentle breeze was now a roaring gale, blowing against her, slowing her progress. Each step was a battle. The wind was not her only enemy, her head swam and it was all she could do to keep herself upright. She had not drunk that much wine, surely. Maybe she as ill.

That voice was stronger now. Both powerful and commanding, it seemed to be coming from everywhere. Over and over, it repeated her name. She wanted to shout, to tell it to stop, but would that not only make it more real?

The fire was in sight now, almost within her reach. She took the journal, held it firmly closed and tossed it in to the flames. She watched in disbelief as the flames spread around it, not touching the journal at all. It wasn’t possible that those pages were remaining untouched as the flames grew bigger, flickering and licking out towards both Helen and the pile of books that she was supposed to be cataloguing.

She took a step back, away from the flames, but could not move all of the books in time. One began to smoke, went up into flames, which leapt to another volume and another. Still that journal lay in the fire, white, not even singed. It held her attention for a moment too long, the carpet was burning and she needed to get out.

Flinging herself towards the door, Helen found that it would not open. It was as though something was holding it, keeping her inside as the smoke and the flames themselves gathered strength. The voice was laughing now, repeating her name, openly mocking her now.

The smoke was filling her lungs, stinging her eyes, filling her nose and her mouth. Helen knew it would not be long before she would suffocate on the smoke.

“Helen!” the voice barked, but it was no longer inside her head.  She turned, looking towards the fire and saw a black figure standing there, the book tucked under its arm.

“Who are you?” she cried out, choking on her raspy voice.  She gasped for breath, but the air was too thick with billowing smoke.  She collapsed to the floor, hacking phlegm onto the rug, tears streaming from her eyes.

Helen forced her quivering gaze to look upon the black figure.  It stepped forward.  Helen watched with rising fear as the figure came towards her, and as it drew nearer, its darkness spread like smoke.

Tears of terror now slipped down her cheeks as she whimpered.  Her body trembled at the terrifying sight as the figure calmly approached.  “Please,” she weakly uttered.

The figure stood over Helen, a black silhouette as though a shadow.  It gazed down at the helpless woman and as it leaned forward, everything faded to black.



© Copyright 2018 Jeff Bezaire. All rights reserved.

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