short stories

Part Four: The Book

The Book
You may not like what lies beneath.

The Book

As you enter the room, your eyesight adjusts to the dim light drifting from two standing lamps. The room is lined with bookshelves, and a substantial armchair rests in one corner. There is only one window, but it is covered in a coal-black sheet. Tiny strings of light frame the sheet, a halo against the inky barricade.

Your eyes drift around the room and land directly in front of you, where an imposing Cherrywood desk stands, formidable. Behind it, perched in a high-backed arm chair, is the voice that beckoned you into this gloomy chamber.

The voice is attached to a wisp of a woman, a skeleton draped in dated clothing and garish jewelry: immense emerald earrings, numerous jeweled rings, and a black diamond choker, like a noose around her thin neck.

She smiles at you, signals for you to take a seat across from her, pulls out and lights a Du Maurier. The tabby jumps from the bookshelf to the woman’s lap. You sit in silence for a minute. Three. Five. You wait, and as she finishes her cigarette, she gently removes the tabby and pulls a musty book from underneath her desk.

The book, leather bound and buckled with brass locks, looks familiar to you. You’ve seen something similar before, but you can’t remember where. She pulls a rusted key from a hidden pocket in her dress, unlocks the book, and pushes it towards you.

You hesitate. You’re not sure what you’ll find, you’re anxious about learning something you shouldn’t know, but your curiosity overcomes the unease you feel in the pit of your stomach. You pull it into your lap, and begin to flip through it.

Your breath catches in your throat. The pages look similar to the ones in the book you found in the antique shop, and an uneasy sense of déjà vu creeps under your skin. You see the bearded children, the woman with a crystal ball for a heart, the conjoined twins. But this book is different; there are notes written next to the images, a strange language you can’t quite make out.

You look at the woman and she nods for you to continue. You get to the page with the midnight blue building and notice the writing here is scrawled frantically, as if the writer was in a hurry. Multiple arrows point to the building, and close to what looks like a cellar door is a vine covered arch, swirls emitting from its center.

You begin to close the book but the woman gestures for you to keep looking. You turn another page, and you find a crudely drawn map, with what you think is the building you’re currently in. More arrows, more writing in a strange language. The arrows lead from this building into the streets, meander through, finally ending at another vine covered arch.

You hold the book out towards the woman but she pushes it back to you, reaches under her desk again, this time pulling out a tattered green backpack. She gestures for you to put the book in the bag, and you do. She stands up, you stand up, and she walks around the desk. She kisses your hand, turns you around, and pushes you towards the door.

 

Parts one, two, and three can be found here.

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