He hid there, in the damned book. Said he was a prisoner. That’s a laugh. He’s a prisoner like a junkie is a prisoner. He stays in that book because he likes his fix. He loves his fix. He needs it.
I am an author. I write books.
He told me to write. Like the angel told Mohamed. Write. I’ll write! I’ll write the truth. I’ve never written a word of truth in my life. But I’ll do it now.
Maybe I should thank the old sadist for that, for freeing me from my bonds, showing me my own true capacity for horror.
His name is Mendax Emptor. He never told me that, I found it in his book. I found there many other things, many paths to madness. He is a demon, a real demon, in the flesh, as old as man. And he is not alone in his kind. There are more. But he is unique. To hear him tell it, his kind are more base, more primitive. He is older and somehow apart. If I go on, I’ll need to know more.
It started with his book. A scattered collection of disjointed stories with one simple element tying them together, him. He claimed his book was a collection of private, never published stories from well-known, or even great novelists. But they are transparently his.
I found his book, unbound, typed from a single ancient machine no doubt, some hundreds of pages. It rested on the desk of my editor, Carol. My first reaction on seeing it was to think it was something she wanted me to review for her. Carol is a very good editor, who, like almost everyone else in this business, wants to be a very mediocre author. The thing was thick and appeared aged.
She was out, getting something, coffee, a contract, something, nothing. I picked it up. The first page, the covering page, so plainly invited me in with its mundane disclosure of private content and a warning. I had to laugh.
This document is the private work of the author. It is protected by international copyright. With this notice you are further advised that this document is confidential in all respects. Only persons authorized in writing by the author may read this document or any portion of it.
If you have discovered this document, you are instructed to return it to the place you found it and not to disclose its existence to any person. Do not open it or make any attempt to discover its contents. All violations of this notice and the directives herein will be punished to the full extent.
Of course then my laugh was arrogant. I was the great author, the best seller, movie deals, my next book signed and handsomely advanced. I smirked and smiled at the absurd premise.
All violations of this notice and the directives herein will be punished to the full extent.
Now, my laugh is not arrogant, it is madness.
“What is that? You did not tell me you already had a manuscript. I thought we were getting you ready to write.”
I looked up from the first page with the transparent warning invitation.
“I found this…” Something made me stop. I looked down at the collection of pages resting in my lap. “This is an old manuscript from earlier, before my first book actually.” I lied. “I thought it might have something I could use.”
“Can I see it?”
“No. I need a little more time with it. I’ll let you know if there’s anything here.”
She shrugged and looked out over her glasses.
“So what are you expected to deliver? Did you and Richard agree on the storyline?”
Richard was my agent. He was slowly sucking the life out of me while we both got rich.
“Yes, we have.”
I placed the found manuscript into my satchel and for an hour discussed my next book. Formulaic, slasher sadist. New evil character. Remorseless, soulless, terror monger. Like all my other evil guys. But now he had to be new, different. I did not have a clue how I would once again bend the same story.
But, with a million-dollar advance and a signed movie deal after it makes bestseller, I’d come up with something.
I vowed to write that night.
Meeting My Demon
There was a sound, brief, like a scraping. It startled me from contemplation of my new character. The hair of my arms stood on end.
Something’s out there.
It was looking at me. Unseen eyes bore into the back of my neck.
It wants in! How could I know that?
I rose and looked quickly around the room, at the front door, at the windows. I looked up the stairs to the landing overlooking my living room. Nothing.
Get a hold of yourself! It was just a sound.
It wanted the manuscript I took from Carol’s office. I do not know how I knew this, but I did. It was angry.
My satchel, the manuscript, I left it next to the door.
Something heavy fell against the front door.
"But I haven’t turned past the first page, the warning page."
I was addressing it, at least in my thoughts, whatever it was that was out there.
I was, for the first time in my life, truly frightened. I was afraid to go to the door, to see what was on the other side, afraid to turn the page of the found manuscript, afraid to move.
“Return my book.”
What the ...!
I heard it, I think. I looked wildly around me, turning a full circle, searching up and down.
“No. No. I won’t!” I shouted into the empty space around me.
“You have to read it. Give it back!”
“But I found it. She didn’t even know it was there. Why should I give it back?”
I was scared to death but could not stop myself from defying this terror.
“I’ll come to you. I’ll get into you. I’ll tear you apart from the inside. I’ll bring you madness.”
I believed him. Suddenly there was a scratching sound, upstairs.
“She wants to be like you. Give her back the book. It’s her turn.”
“What? What? No! I'm keeping it!”
Now it was banging at the front door. Loud. It wouldn’t stop.
I bolted straight up in my bed, sweating, shivering. I looked around me, terrified. I had been dreaming.
Oh my God!
It was the most terrifying dream of my life.
The dreams continued. Sleeping and waking.
For many days we fought, he there in my head, never actually showing himself. And so, as I descended slowly into madness, it all became increasingly clear. He wanted Carol, but got me. I resisted his constant call to read the book. At some point he stopped telling me to give it back to Carol. He wanted ME to read it. At length, as he incessantly screamed in my head, I began to hear his desperation. He was afraid.
I asked him why I had to read it. What if I just burned it? This brought forth from him a terrible nightmare voice, quaking in its ferocity, driving a deep harmonic thru my skull so that my teeth ached.
Oh the agony of that voice. Though I knew its sound was only in my head, I could feel it all through my bones as it grew in volume and deeper harmonic. I fell to the floor begging him to stop.
“READ.” He said, and finally stopped the voice.
I crawled to where I had left my satchel, with Emptor’s book inside, still there by the front door. I had not touched it since that first night, since my first dream. I propped my back against the wall, sitting with my mouth slack, open, drool escaping from a downturned mask of terror. I lifted the satchel onto my lap and pulled the book free. I parted the pages.
Blank. Empty. Frantically I flipped the pages, nothing! I went to the end, all empty.
The voice sounded, low, penetrating. A hopeless sound from deep within escaped my throat and I looked up into blackness as all reality fell away from me. I was dying, falling into hell.
“Start at the beginning,” the nightmare voice quaked as I disappeared.
When I woke, the book lay neatly on the floor next to me, warning page up, my hand resting atop. My face clung to the floor as I peeled it away from crusted spittle. I hurt in my bones, a dull ache everywhere.
He was with me, somewhere in the house. I had let him out. I don’t know how, but until I opened the book, he was trapped inside. It was clear to me now, and it was too late.
“You caused me great problems my author.”
He stood in the shadows. I could make out his form, but no details.
He raised his hand to the side of his head, waving his fingers in succession, one after the other.
“I used the demon voice. It would have been bad for both of us if you had not survived. You left me no option.”
His voice sounded into the room, sound waves propagating through the air, reaching the inner workings of my ear, creating physical sound.
With this he moved rapidly toward me, bobbing his head and torso like a large bird. He stopped a meter in front of me and rose to a height shoulder and head greater than myself, looming over me.
“You should be comfortable.” He curled his hand again, held at a level with his eye. He cast his gaze to my leather reading chair a few feet away. “You should sit.”
And so began my descent into madness, the corruption of my soul lay before me, and too, my first life taken.
…I watched the light leave her eyes. I was intent on it. She had been so beautiful, so young, so alive! Now she was rotting flesh, a bag of bones, my first terrible kill.
I had always sought them, these young women, even before my demon. I daily stalked the corridors of my lair, the English Building. Fame and fortune surely freed me from the necessity of my tenure, but the absolute abundance of prey made it impossible to give it up. I was there, on faculty, at the university, precisely because I wanted, needed, my fix; young women to seduce. I needed the desire of those too young to see my darkness. I needed their bodies, to possess them, to be in them. All this, I was before my demon.
It was so fitting that my demon should show me the corruption of these hopeless women. Now, it was not conquest I sought, I sought revenge. I sought justice.
With each new body I pursued the old conquest of the flesh, because I was still the same man I had been, only now, with my demon, now, I wanted terror. I needed to see the fear and final horror in their eyes. To see life leave in the final instant of realization; this really is the end.
I devised more terrible incarnations for each of my victims. It was a challenge to reveal my dark, base corruption of soul more precisely, more horribly. After carnal satisfaction I put the mask upon my face, a special one for each, unique. The mask was not separate from me, it was me. I did not wear it. I was it. In the end, the last one before I could finally write these lines, my mask was perfect.
I turned to her, naked, beautiful. Her face dissolved into a thousand compositions of terror and hopelessness, right there before me. It was wonderful. I smothered her life in my hand, my perfect horror face the last thing reflected in her dead eyes. A pin fell from my mask, stabbing her dulling eye.
I crawled off of her, walked into my office, and began to write, finally, this story.
He will leave me now to my fate. To be discovered for my crimes? To go on killing? Continue to write? He does not care. I have corrupted and killed enough whose beauty and youth offend him.
And I have written the story. Now I am free, to live with my horror, or to die.