A Word from the Author
This is a short story I wrote with my love of Lovecraft as the inspiration. I have found that many of his stories take a long time to get to one big “pop” and then that’s it. That is what I have tried to do with this story. The Library in this form is a stand alone story. Another plot has come into my head for a parallel story that will eventually join The Library and a third, as of yet, unimaginable story to create one long, cohesive narrative. A thorough reading of this portion would indicate that there will need to be some changes in order for this to happen. So without further ado, I give you The Library. Enjoy.
The family was old, well known in its circles, customarily disliked, and avoided. They settled on the east coast in the 1500’s. The progenitors of were poor, at first, but made work originally in shipping and trading. They began almost as indentured servants, but worked their way through the ranks until they had reached the top. re was eventually a shift into the jewelry market. Later generations became immensely wealthy. They began to amass large estates, facilities for the manufacture of jewelry and ships, and large tracts of land in the west.
The disdain for the family grew over the years. Many were hated for their strange ways, particularly in pagan like rituals and decadence. They became more and more mysterious through the years, becoming more reclusive until most seemed to simply disappear.
Bradford Robert Marshall was separated from the lineage. Not far enough, however, to be forgotten. His great grandparents broke away from the old family in the east and moved to the interior of the country to one of the forgotten tracts in Ohio. They grew distant from the mystery in an area where the negative reputation was unknown. Due to the extreme aversion to the family, their reputation was not well known outside of where they settled. They were basically left in complete isolation. The stories faded quickly to lower, hushed, and less prevalent stories throughout the surrounding towns, as most people did not like to talk about them out of fear. The people who did maintain contact with the Marsh family grew to be more like them. Their settled regions were eventually left alone to rot and die.
Marshall’s grandparents and parents may have forgotten the ways of their relatives, through simple farm life, but the family fortune did not forget them. They were always well off, with untold fortunes hidden away and nearly forgotten. Marshall’s parents owned and operated a large tobacco farm. Marshall grew up with hard work. As a boy he enjoyed the open spaces of the. He helped out as much as he could, developing an aptitude for mechanics. Marshall was very independent and smart, he did well in school, but could be lazy.
He and his parents lived a simple life, and never worried about money. At the death of his parents Marshall was bequeathed vaults of treasure literally stacked with money, jewels and gold, as well as an old family estate back east. All of this would be given to Marshall upon his graduation from the university.
After high school, Marshall attended university in Wisconsin. He studied engineering. As he gained more actual life experiences, Marshall began to realize how sheltered he had been at home. He began to rebel from his parents to some extent when his eyes were opened to art, music and literature mostly, as well as partying and drugs as a young man. The university is truly a place where young adults can find who they truly are away from discerning eyes, lock, and key. Despite his new interests, he completed his engineering degree. By the time he had finished his studies, he had, one could tell, almost a full life of experience. He was not fat, nor overly thin, tall with brown hair. In order to impress the fairer sex during his partying days, Marshall had become relatively muscular. However, the days of partying had taken a toll on him to some extent. It was not immediately noticeable to, but upon further observation, one could see that some permanent redness had developed in his cheeks from burst blood vessels. His striking steel blue eyes with the brown spot in his left iris too seemed too often bloodshot. Women were generally attracted to him, but he was in no way looking to settle down. Marshall had become a fan of the so called ‘one night stand’, but had generally lost interest in interpersonal relationships. His partying days were behind him.
On the day of his graduation, Marshall learned of his sudden wealth and estate in the east. He decided, with little forethought, to leave in two days on an available flight. His parents were upset. They knew some of the rumors of the family back east and were very uncomfortable with the idea of their son getting involved in the old ways. Marshall, however, did not care what they thought and decided to go through with the move. He began making arrangements immediately.
Marshall booked himself a first class flight from Cincinnati to Boston. He boarded the plane which seemed like it would be full judging by the area around the gate, however, being in first class he boarded the nearly empty plane first. He was one of two passengers riding first class, the other man was across the cabin. Marshall liked the feeling of being alone after the almost claustrophobic feeling of the cramped terminal. Now on the plane all was quiet, clean, and comfortable.
He thought briefly about the plans he had made to get from Boston to his new home. He had purchased a new car to be delivered to his home. From there his new personal driver would bring the car to Boston to drive him home. Upon revisiting this plan he realized how impractical it seemed, but he was a multimillionaire after all.
The expense of the first class seating was almost wasted as Marshall quickly fell asleep. The flight was relatively short and Marshall was awoken by the pilot thanking the passengers over the communications system as well as reporting the local time and temperature. It was 10 pm and 62 degrees Fahrenheit. Marshall smiled. This was practically summer weather compared to the bitterly cold fall he had been experiencing in Wisconsin.
Marshall went through the tedious task of collecting his luggage relatively quickly. He was more excited than originally expected for this new adventure. Marshall’s bags were few as most of his possessions were being shipped and would not arrive for over a month.
Once the bags were found it was time to find the driver. After a brief survey of the crowd Marshall’s eyes locked on a sign saying B. R. Marshall in a neat script. The paper on which the name was written was rather yellowed and old looking. The apparent age of the sign, however, paled in comparison with the apparent age of the hunched creature grasping it feebly by the two vertical edges. Again, the man looked incredibly old. His skin was pale and deeply wrinkled. The skin surrounding his sunken, glassy eyes was dark and in stark contrast with the overall pallid look. Marshall could hardly believe the man standing before him. All of this wealth and this was the best driver they could come up with? No time to worry about that, Marshall was tired again so he followed the ancient driver out to his new car. The incredibly soft, warm leather in the back seat of the brand new Bentley even made the first class flight accommodations seem lacking.
Marshall had never been in a city as big as Boston to this point, but from the brief impression he got, he was unimpressed. Too much noise and too many people. He suddenly longed for the simplicity of his childhood. He began to wonder if this was all a mistake, if he should return home, but these thoughts were cut short by a deep sleep. The driver proceeded to take Marshall to his new home.
They travelled monotonously along Highway 3 to the south and eventually broke off of the main highway to the east. When he awoke, Marshall could smell wet earth. A faint scent of ocean salt also hung in the air. These two aromas almost completely masked the smell of dead fish and the general miasma of rot. The roads were getting rougher as they travelled further from the nicely manicured lawns and modern homes and into a thin strip of woods on the west side of a marsh. Slowly, as they passed a cluster of trees, the giant manor loomed dark and somewhat foreboding ahead of the car. The driver looked back at Marshall with scarcely one sunken eye as Marshall’s mouth fell agape. Under normal circumstances the drive was only about 45 minutes from the outskirts of Boston, but it felt as if they had traveled two hundred years into the past.
The house appeared to be completely black as they passed out of the roads lit by street lights. The moon was full and the sky was clear back-lighting the manor. The lights they had passed seemed to be an indication of the years they were seemingly passing through as they approached the home. The lights were no longer the bright, overhead halogen lights of the big city or the suburban area they had passed much nearer the highway. The lights lining the street leading to the house had round, glass orbs with ornate iron black poles and tops. Contrary to most of the landscape, the light emanating from these poles seemed warm and inviting. This, in an odd way, made the landscape all the more ominous. Marshall wished to be back on the well lit streets for a moment but his sense of adventure overcame him once again, and he needed to get inside the house.
The twelve cylinders of the Bentley rumbled and reverberated off the house as they crept closer up the U-shaped drive and stopped in front of the double main doors. Now that Marshall was able to step out of the car, the door of which was opened with almost unnatural speed by the driver, he was able to get a good look at structure.
It was, as he expected, and old gambrel roofed colonial, and from what he had heard built around 1710. The main part of the home was two stories with Cape Cod style windows indicating a third floor. Dim lamps lit the windows. There stood three chimneys in the main structure. The house was oriented on a north south axis and there were additional wings on the north and south faces of the main structure. Each of these was a single true story, also with Cape Cod windows indicating second floor of each.
As it was dark, despite the moon and clear sky, Marshall proceeded to the front door. The driver was uncomfortable close behind with the luggage. Marshall jumped slightly as the door handle turned and the door opened. He was greeted by his new staff, he was completely unaware he that he even had any.
There were four, not counting the driver, two maids, a man assumed to be a chef by his garb, and a butler. All of them were very traditionally dressed, three were quite stern faced. They all uttered an ‘evening sir,’ which had to be in an ancient accent. The fourth, a younger looking maid, appeared to be in her early twenties. Marshall noticed her first as she seemed to be completely out of place. She, like the older maid, was wearing an old fashioned maids uniform; a knee length black dress, black nylons, black shoes, and a white apron. Her jet black hair was pulled back tight and tied into a bun. Marshall was almost confused by the fact that she looked genuinely pleased to be meeting him. Her face was pretty, but she was rather thin, almost verging on gaunt. Her bright eyes held the mystery of knowing dark things that a girl like her should not know.
The chef, a middle aged man, was wearing black pants and shoes, a white shirt with the sleeves rolled up, and a white apron with just the faintest sign of blood splatter. He asked if Marshall ‘required’ anything to eat, and, when turned down, excused himself to the south wing, apparently where he lived. The older maid seemed about the same age as the chef. She was plump and stern faced. She told Marshall that his bed had been prepared on the second floor to the right, and that ‘they’ would be ‘retiring’ for the evening. With that she grabbed the younger maid by the arm and proceeded to the south wing. The butler looked identical to the driver. They had to be brothers, if not twins. He was wearing a black tuxedo with a black tie and white gloves. The traditional look of these new characters was comical to Marshall, which was a welcome relief to the horrible tension in the room. The butler asked if Marshall would like a tour of his new home which Marshall also turned down. This made the butler seem uncomfortable as he and the driver looked at one another and ‘retired’ to the north wing.
Marshall decided to take a look around for himself before retiring for the evening. He was standing in the entry way or foyer with large rooms to either side of him. The room to his left was lit by very antique looking lamps. At least the house was fitted with electricity. The room to his right was dark, but with the ambient light, Marshall could see that the furniture in this room was covered in white sheets so he decided to leave that room alone for the time being and proceeded to his left. At this point it was apparent that the old house was very well maintained. The floor did not creak ant the dark, ornate wood in the room shined dustless in the dim light. There were, however, still drafts present in the home, but this was to be expected.
Everything was clearly very old but well kept in the room. There stood two high backed chairs, a couch, and a low table. The chairs and couch were dark red with a satin like fabric framed in dark wood with claw feet. The table was in the same style, appeared to be hand carved, and was highly polished. The walls of the room were dimly lit but appeared to be of a dark cream colored plaster . There were many darkly stained shelves or cases surrounding the room, all of them empty, suggesting many books had been removed from the room. Hanging on the walls were very old paintings framed in the most ornate gilded frames Marshall had ever seen. The paintings were all very realistic portraits, something in the paintings and their frames made Marshall feel uncomfortable and he had to move on. The room also held a large fireplace with a beautifully carved wooden mantle and a large ornate grandfather clock. The ceiling of the room was covered in large dark wood panels.
Marshall took a brief look around the rest of the first floor. Off of this main living space there was a relatively modern looking kitchen containing a lot of stainless steel appliances. It was a kitchen one would expect to see in a large restaurant. There was a dining room to match the living room, another foyer that appeared to lead out to a patio on the east side of the house. The other sitting room sat quietly in the dark with its covered furniture. Marshall correctly assumed that the north and south wings of the house were the quarters of the servants.
After his perusal of the first floor, Marshall decided to head up the stairs in the front foyer. At the top of the stairs he took note of the door to his right, apparently his bedroom, and a series of two doors on each side of the long dimly lit hallway to his left. There was also one door at the far end. All doors were closed.
Marshall turned the knob of the door to his right and pushed the door open to enter his bedroom for the night. The room was a massive rectangle with the same cream colored walls and dark wood as the other rooms and was, thankfully, sparsely decorated. Several chests of drawers stood around the walls of the room, There were two windows on the south wall and one on each of the east and west walls. Each window was hung with thick, rich burgundy curtains. The only other item in room was the massive four post bed. It was constructed of clearly ancient dark wood and stacked with blankets. A fire place to match the one in the living room had a few small coals still smoldering therein.
Marshall was asleep by the time his head hit the pillow. Travelling can do that to a person.
Marshall awoke early the next morning. He felt as if the previous night had to have been a dream, but as he rubbed his eyes, he found himself in the massive four post bed in the massive rectangular room. After a quick shower, Marshall returned to his to find his clothes set out for him. A dress shirt, pants, shoes, socks, and a vest were laying on the bed. This seemed a bit formal as he had no real plans for the day, and he realized that having servants like this would really take some getting used to, until then, it would likely be quite annoying.
Marshall followed the smell of frying bacon and eggs down to the dining room. He sat at the large solid oak table. The butler and the young maid were standing at the wall but moved forward to serve him his breakfast. Marshall halted them with a wave of his hand. He could serve himself and requested that the butler excused himself. The butler looked agitated but did as he was told and left the dining room, glaring at the maid as he did so.
Marshall motioned for the maid to sit and join him. Over breakfast, the two of them spoke, the young maid only reluctantly at first. Marshall found that the girl’s name was Elizabeth, and decided he would call her Liz despite her protests. She was the daughter of the elder maid and chef. Liz spoke of her life at the manor, as she had rarely even been outside its premises. She was taught what she needed to know by her parents with supplemental trips to the small, old town nearby to read at the library. She told Marshall that she was quite pleased to meet him as her circle of acquaintances was quite small indeed. Other than the servants of the estate she had only ever met a few grocers, traders, and the librarian in town, de la Poer.
Marshall could hardly believe that in this modern of a world, there could exist so sheltered a person. He inquired further about the small town and made the decision to travel there during the day. He made arrangements with the driver to leave for town at ten o’clock.
He was happy to be leaving the house as he felt he was always under the watchful eye of the older servants.
The town was a short drive, about fifteen minutes, over decrepit, winding roads and run down bridge over marshes. It was a small town indeed, located right on the coast. Many would expect a quaint seaside village like this to have all the charm in the world. Charm was the last on Marshall’s mind.
Like seemingly everything else he had encountered thus far, the town was ancient. There was one narrow road running through the town. A series of cramped old buildings lined both sides of the street which ran parallel to the coast. To the north of town the road ended in hills leading up to a horribly high, vertical, stone gray cliff. To the south were visible an old stone church with a high steeple raised on a hill with another massive building which looked like a warehouse right on the coast. This building was of brick with large letters on the sign saying Marsh Trading Co. The letters, as was the building, were in a horrible state of disrepair. The once bold red bricks were stained almost black with the weather and the years. Marshall recalled the bits of his family history he could and knew that this must have been one of the family businesses. He would have to look into later.
For now, Marshall turned his attention to the main portion of the town. There stood no more than twenty buildings, remnants of what was likely once a vibrant trading and fishing port. Most were boarded up with broken windows and all were stained with the rains of the ages like the large warehouse. A few shops still seemed operational including a fish monger, butcher, and grocer, as well as a jeweler, and of course the library as mentioned by Liz. Looking out into the ocean, there were several long wooden docks extending away from shore. The was but one fishing boat still moored in the small harbor. A long breakwater also extended out into the ocean.
Marshall had the driver drop him off at the north and of the street and said he could go and pick him up later in the evening.
Marshall walked down the street towards the library looking into a few of the shops as he did so. The people he saw all looked old and corroded with years of coastal life. Almost as weathered as the buildings that lined the streets around him.
Upon entering the library, Marshall was greeted with the smell one might expect in a library originally constructed in the mid seventeen hundreds. The building was one of the largest structures on the main street. The exterior, like the others, had been stained with the winds and rain of the centuries. Arguably as old as Newport’s Redwood library (built in 1747) the style was more that of libraries built more than one hundred years prior, such as Oxford’s Boldeian Library, though clearly not so large, much of the architectural design was similar. It was a two story rectangular structure, probably two hundred feet in width with great Corinthian columns. The roof was topped with four tall statues, possibly the likenesses of some great authors or the founders of the town, the details were long forgotten. The tall rectangular windows on the front (east facing) side, with their gothic style flourishes around the panes, were thickly curtained from the inside. There was a rotunda centrally located protruding up another story.
The former splendor and affluence of the town could be clearly seen in the structure, and the demise of the town could be clearly seen in its outward state of disrepair.
As earlier mentioned, Marshall was greeted with an overpowering smell as the front door opened outward to allow him in. The odor was actually a welcome reprieve from the miasma of the dilapidated streets. The semi acrid smell of the old acid paper, the rich smell of leather bindings, the intermingling smells of the old wooden stacks embedded with the faint smell of tobacco smoke, it could have all been overpowering if not for the fact that it paled in comparison to the shock of the impressive appearance of the interior architecture, the highly polished and ornately decorated shelving, and the preponderance of books. The main room of the library was arranged in three concentric semi circles, the paneled ceiling was vaulted to the second floor, with a full circle of ten foot high shelves completely filled with books, and into the rotunda. Rolling ladders were affixed to each section of the shelves, with brass fittings and rungs. The books lining the shelves were varied, some looking as though if they were touched, they would whither into dust, some looking as thought they were purchased only yesterday.
At the center of the inmost semi circle of shelves was a heavy wooden desk, richly stained and highly polished. It was raised on a pedestal about a foot and a half off the Parquet floor. Sprawled atop the great desk was a long haired, charcoal gray cat. As Marshall walked through the front door the big tom partially opened one yellow eye and emitted a long, deep, growling whine. The old man behind the cat, however, did not stir. He was deeply wrinkled, his eyes were deep set with graying lids, his hair long white and wispy. He snored gently through the large, reddened nose under is small spectacles. His skin had a grayish cast, and if not for the soft, rhythmic snoring, one might assume he was dead. Behind the old man was a large unit of small drawers, likely the card catalog for the great library. Of course there would be no computer database for a place like this.
As Marshall began to take a cursory look around the main area of the library, the huge cat stood, extended its fore-paws (unfurling and retracting his claws), extended his tail straight into the air, and yawned revealing his pink tongue and sharp white teeth. The cat dropped to the floor and lurked on behind Marshall, keeping his belly close to the floor and staying just out of Marshall’s line of sight.
This area of the library seemed to hold all of the classics of the centuries, from many countries, old hand written volumes through new mass produced, glossy spindled prints. Volume upon volume lining shelf upon shelf. Dickens, Melville, de Maupassant, Robert Louis Stevenson, Jules Verne, Dumas, Twain, Homer, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Jack London, Wells, Doyle, and thousands of other, older books unrecognizable to Marshall due to their age, state, or foreign nature were all present.
By this time, the aged librarian had become aware of the stranger’s presence, likely roused by the movement of the cat (who was not one for more movement than necessary), and had stood quietly and proceeded forth into the stacks to find conversation. He observed Marshall running a finger down one of the highly polished shelf fronts, stopping here and there to look at one of the more interesting foreign tomes. It had been a long time anybody had been in the library, longer still since he had seen a new face.
“Welcome to my library,” the voice cracked and came from lungs and throat stained with a lifetime of pipe tobacco, it sounded as old and dusty as some of the books.
Marshall turned with a start, although he had expected to meet the man at some point in his venture, he had not expected the old man capable of sneaking up on him. “Hello,” he replied.
“My name is de la Poer, it is nice to see somebody new admiring my pride and joy…my life’s work really.”
“Bradford Marshall, pleasure. It really is an impressive collection, the building is truly magnificent. I would have expected a much greater state of disrepair judging by the state of the town surroundings and the exterior of your building.”
“Indeed, I spend my days, and some of my nights, just to maintain this particular gallery. In my younger days I was able to maintain the entire building, however, over the years much of the north, south, and particularly the west wings have fallen in the same state as their surroundings. I actually have not had many guests here for years, so I mostly just keep up appearances here for my own entertainment. I am happy to have someone here to appreciate it after all these years. Out of curiosity Mr. Marshall, what are you doing here? That is to say the town does not see many new faces.”
“To be honest, I have recently inherited a large estate through my grandparents on my father’s side. I moved here from Ohio to a large manor a few miles from here. I came in to have a look at the town and thought the library might be an enjoyable venue to spend the afternoon. You really have done a wonderful job keeping this space up, if I do say so myself. The wood is so beautifully maintained and the volume of books is almost staggering.”
“Marshall…interesting, I may have known some of the family in the past. The Marsh family anyway…they were big players in the development of the town, until everything started to … move on…I suppose….but there is no need to discuss such matters now. As I have said I do not get many visitors here and it would be my honor for you to consider this library like a second home for you. I am aware of how stuffy the old manors here can be, there is plenty of space here for the three of us here,” said de la Poer motioning towards the cat, ”although he can be a little disconcerting at times, as he is wont to slink around, he is practically harmless. Boche, I call him.”
“I do have a great interest in reading, and the mood in here does seem lighter than what I had experienced thus far. I have had the feeling of being watched since I arrived here, just a matter of being a new face in an old town I trust.”
“I am sure that’s all Mr. Marshall. As I said feel free to take full reign of the premises, although I must ask that you avoid the west wing, the disrepair there is particularly bad. There are many rotting floor boards, and it is rather dark in there.
Over the next few months, Marshall began to spend more and more time in the library. Time at his estate was generally unpleasant. Although he had taken the time to set up the study on the first floor to his liking, he felt like he was always under the watchful eye of his staff. He had uncovered the furniture in the study, revealing beautiful, if not plain gaudy, carved and gilded furniture upholstered with a rich black fabric. The fireplace mantle was carved from large pieces of apparently black wood, it always felt cold, even with a fire blazing beyond the hearth. The carvings were grotesque; it was apparently some sort of undersea theme, with kelp like main structures, small fish and some larger creature, and always a vague hint of something leering just out of view. Marshall was reminded of some of the picture frames and stranger pieces of jewelry held on to by his grandparents. His staff did not like him using this room. He mostly spent his home time here because he did not much care for them. His advances on the young maid, Liz, were initially shunned but after he started to be accepted by her, she suddenly became more distant, watched more closely by the others, and almost never left alone with him.
The feeling in the house had become so lugubrious that he spent much of his days and often long into the night at his new found haven in the library, where the air was never more morose than the particular story he had chosen.
Marshall would spend a good long time wandering through the stacks choosing his books. He found interest in older scientific publications, as well as many of the American classics. He found the campy racism of Twain very amusing, Marshall had a good relationship with the dark humor so finely wrought into some of the works of Dickens. Poetry was a good way to spend some of his lazier days, the classic Greek sagas were of much enjoyment as were some of the Russian philosophies of Marx and Nietzsche, although he always found them to be a bit delusional.
Some days were spent just chatting leisurely with de la Poer, the old man had had plenty of time for reading in his day and always made a good sounding board for Marshall’s critiques and jests. Other days were spent playing with Boche, trying to confuse him, or getting him to give chase. Marshall now affectionately knew the cat as Buffo (he had found Boche a pretentious name, and he liked Germans, also the rotund nature of the cat was toad-like), and would sometimes sneak the cat into his car for a little company while reading or studying at home. Marshall had all but stopped using his driver, or any of his staff for that matter, and began driving himself. This gave him a greater sense of freedom and the staff truly did not seem to mind his absence.
He reveled in his late night drives, with the window cracked and a small cigar in the corner of his mouth. Marshall had also grown to enjoy the company of late night AM radio and found the callers on George Noory’s Coast to Coast a welcome reprieve from reality. This new found interest may have been the beginning of Marshall’s love of horror and the occult. He had often come across the morose tales of Poe in his reading of the American classics but now gladly took solace in the much less pretentious but equally brilliant writings of Stephen King, The Talisman and Black House being two of his favorite books. Of course other contemporary authors found his eyes greedily working through page after page. He always seemed to find his way back to stories from around the turn of the last century, Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper being a nice story to turn to, and of course he could not avoid the greatest American horror author H.P. Lovecraft, as well as his friends, and writers of the mythos.
Marshall’s interest in this genre may have begun to get the better of him. He could not avoid thoughts of monsters, ghosts, and cultists, especially in the strange town he now found himself. He started delving into books pertaining to the black arts, never trying to summon anything, only curious as to what they contained, clues to hidden knowledge of things that seemed all around him. He began to see hints of magic relating to older books, books that had been long forgotten or perhaps purposely removed from human consciousness. Books such as die Unausprachliche Kulten von Juntzt, Ars Magna et Ultima, Azathoth and Other Horrors by Pickman, the Book of Hidden Things, Book of Dyzan, Invocations to Dagon, The Daemonolatreia, Ghorld Nigral, Occultus, Regnum Congo, Thaumaturgical Prodigies in the New English Canaan, De Furtivis Literarum Notis, and perhaps most notably, the Necronomicon of the Mad Arab Abdul Alhazred were all of a new found interest.
Marshall of course turned to de la Poer to look for insight into the possible existence of such dark literature. De la Poer became very uncomfortable at the mention of such unspeakably dark books, and it was clear to Marshall that he knew something.
“Marshall, these books…if they exist…can bring nothing but hardship. If you were to find them, it may be all too easy to fall into old ways. This town, founded by your ancestors, is said to have had help in its early success. Originally the people of this town were very intelligent and looked to books for always expanding knowledge. However, legend has it that the people found dark deals that could be made…things that could be summoned…things that could bring great wealth. Of course things like this come with a great cost.
“The people of the town here have stuck to some of these negative beliefs; they have fallen away from using true knowledge and have resorted to cult like rituals to try to turn the fortune of the town…
“This is all just legend of course, I do not bother myself much with the matters of the town. It would serve you best to not go poking around…and Marsh, please continue to avoid the west wing.
Clearly Marshall had thoughts of his own preconceived on these matters and heard all he needed to hear from de la Poer. The west wing would of course be the first place he would go the very next evening.
As he drove home on that particular Friday, Marshall could not overlook the flickering lights and the low rhythmic chanting coming from the basement of the old church. He would have his answers soon enough.
Light shone up through the crack in the floorboards beneath him, certainly not the humming white light of the world Marshall was most familiar with, and knew by now he was in fact quite distant from though he expected still existed mere miles from this strange in-between place. Neither was it he soft steady orange yellow glow standard to this, his new reality. No, it was something older, something that had no business being used for lighting in the modern world, it was the soft flickering light of a torch. Marshall could suddenly smell a faint hint of smoke. The light danced up the dusty, but high quality, carved wood of the ancient shelves, onto and between the spines of these forbidden and forgotten books that stood towering around him. The soft, flickering glow of the light invoked images of cultists deep in the woods around black monoliths and wood fires, or in cold, damp caves along coast, leaping and shrieking praises to dark gods of the abyss that he could only hope were merely constructs of a bored brilliant mind.
But he knew they could not be mere fancy, and this, this moment was his best chance of digging down into the mysteries of this old, forgotten place. Before Marshall even though about it he was on his knees with his knife between the two boards emitting the light. The wood was relatively soft and gave way with ease, cracking away from the rusted nails with a sharp squeal. Marshall dropped his knife and grabbed the next board. He pulled it away with relative ease. The light was now spilling more and more into the horror filled room causing the cultists to leap more wildly around the spines of the ancient volumes. As the glow began to fall around the room there was a loud cracking sound as the disturbed floor gave way. The molded, rotting wood could not withstand the sudden structural change after sitting untouched for what could have been hundreds of years.
The fall was roughly ten feet and was over before Marshall realized what was happening. He lay on the damp floor of a rock hewn chamber he estimated to be forty by forty feet. The walls sloped gently out forming a sort of dome with the ceiling now missing. The walls seemed mostly black with hints of green and white mineral veins running through them. One torch was hung to Marshall’s left, another one hundred eighty degrees around to his right. The dancing light seemed even more hellish reflecting off the damp surfaces and playing with the mineral veins. A tunnel so black the light from this current chamber did not seem capable of penetrating led off from the direction of Marshall’s feet.
He was sure to take in his surroundings before he started to take in his personal situation. Marshall lay flat on his back in a pile of rubble. Dust was still snowing down on him and the heap of book and splintered wood that was once grotesquely carven shelves only twenty seconds before. The wind had been knocked from Marshall and he decided not to test his limbs until it had been regained. He started with his legs as they would be of the utmost importance in getting out of this dank cellar. His right, then left leg check out as functional. Now his arms, left then right, seemed to be operational. A shooting pain in Marshall’s right arm proved to indicate a problem. The source was likely the splinter of wood protruding from his forearm, three inches in, three out, buried into his now screaming flesh. Marshall drew it out with little hesitation or thought. This only seemed to intensify the pain, but also served another purpose. It brought his mind back to his body, pulled him from the shock he was in. Marshall tied a handkerchief around his forearm and stood up. He noticed a trickle of blood on the back of his head near his neck. Not much he could do about it, Marshall proceeded to rip one of the cobwebbed torches from the wall.
His former examination of the cavern had indicated nowhere to go but into the black tunnel. There was a cool breeze coming from within, carrying with it a smell of ancient rot, moisture, and a subtle hint of the sea. Assuming he would find a way out, Marshall progressed towards the tunnel. The inky black seemed to surround him threatening to choke out the light form his torch, but it held out, seemingly his only hope and friend anywhere around.
The light shone on the walls around Marshall showing murals as far as he could see. They were depicting, as he half expected at this point, the distinctive people of the town genuflecting and seeming to worship the gods he had hoped he would never have to see more of. They were the same as depicted in the books. Grotesque perversions of toads, fish, goats, octopuses, and plants. He shuddered with each new painting. Progressing always downward at an increasing rate Marshall went into the blackness. The further he progressed, the further the murals went back through time. Back through decades with each one to two hundred yards. Through the 1900’s, 1800’s, 1700’s, down through the first settlers of the country, and then into native Indian peoples who must have begun this construction. Down through what he assumed must have been around the turn of the last millennium as depicted by a brief appearance of what were likely Vikings who had lost their way.
Around this time Marshall’s torch seemed to start to lose strength. His eyes had not adjusted because of the light from the torch. He had only able to see around ten to fifteen feet in front of himself, but as the light faded and the murals mercifully turned to blackness Marshall became aware of a faint glow from the tunnel ahead of him. Simultaneously, there became evident the low rumble of a persistent chant. This both excited and struck Marshall with a deep feeling of foreboding.
Assuming Marshall was nearing an answer or an exit, he proceeded still downward towards the chant and the light. As he approached the end of the tunnel he noted that the light was again coming from flame. The flickering light was keeping rhythm with the low chanting in the most horrible way. Marshall had a dread feeling in the deepest recesses of his soul, fearing what he might find at the end of this nitrous, deep, wet, black tunnel.
This chamber was similar in size and shape to the chamber Marshall had initially fallen into. This chamber was, however, wholly different. Sculpted arches wound their way overhead. They seemed to be of solid gold with sections of some strange, lustrous white metal. The carvings were of the same monstrous inclination that Marshall had become more and more familiar with since he had moved to this forsaken coast. The same creatures reared up from the decadent gold arches as lined the walls of the abhorrent tunnel that brought Marshall to its hellish climax. Red jewels dotted the arches as eyes of the innumerable monstrous carvings. The walls themselves were gilded and glittering smooth gold reflecting the flames. They had a pouring, liquid appearance. The light source was a single large fire in the center of the gilded chamber. No wood was visible and the flames seemed to come from a crack in the smooth stone floor. Whether it was an ignited gas or a flame straight from the bowels of the earth herself was unclear. The light from the fire shone and was reflected a thousand times from every surface, most horribly form the lustrous white metal that formed the accursed alter at the head of the room. It was carved with the image of a grotesque representation of a cloaked toad deity surrounded by bowed humans and piles of unnamable offerings.
For once, the room went completely unnoticed by Marshall, surprisingly so as it is the most notable room he has ever been in. His eyes, along with his entire body and soul became fixated on the source of the low, grumbling, foreign sounding chant. Marshall was completely frozen. The chanter seemed to take no notice of the intruder, and without missing a beat finished its current stanza before pausing. Without raising its cloaked head, the dread form spoke directly to the transfixed Marshall.
“You should not have come here Marsh.”
Marshall still stood frozen.
“Your family turned away from me, you are no longer in the favor of the old gods.”
The voice was coming to Marshall from nowhere in specific, but everywhere in the room at the same time. His mind was suddenly flooded with images of his family going back generations, worshiping this horror in grottoes and twilit caves along the Atlantic. In return for their abhorrent sacrifices and rituals, the Marshes were rewarded with the lustrous white metal brought to and buried in the earth from across unimaginable, untold abysses of vacuous void. The Marshes therefore amassed their astounding wealth, but at what cost? Their souls were being eaten away and eternally damned. They were rejected more and more by society as their bodies began to reflect their spiritual states. Marshall then saw his grandparents leaving it all behind in hopes of a better life for their offspring. This is where the pictures stopped. Marshall’s mind went black for one merciful moment before he was thrust back into his horrid reality.
He was still standing before the creature that stood behind the altar. He could see nothing of it save a head shrouded in a dark hood. The beast started to move to its left. To Marshall it looked to be floating or hovering. As it moved he became dizzy, almost nauseous, at the implications that surrounded the existence of this being. It was as if it was right in front of him but it was elsewhere at the same time. It was everywhere but incredibly far away. It was inconceivable, indescribable in its entirety, but as it appeared to Marshall it was, at first glance, a semi-anthropoid figure in a robe that was red and black at the same time, like fresh blood from a deep wound. Its arms were folded and enclosed in the billowing sleeves of the robe. The length of the body and where legs should be seethed and writhed as if concealing hundreds or even thousands of tentacles, sliding moist and black over one another like a spring nest of snakes waking abruptly from a long winter.
The arms started unfolding, sliding out revealing scale and slime covered three clawed hands. Just the sight of the hands would have been enough to send an unsuspecting person to madness. The repulsive hands began to move unmercifully yet slowly up to pull down the hood. As the hood fell away, Marshall saw, as his eyes were frozen open, pupils dilated to a point where the multicolored irises were no longer visible, the face of this cosmic horror. In the fire light it shone slimy and wet, it appeared to Marshall, as best as his mind could comprehend it as a grotesque scaled toad with ram’s horns, dripping in moss and mold, its eyes were blackness and fire at the same time. It was a face familiarized to him by countless statues and pieces of jewelry he had seen a thousand times, yet to see it there in front of him was so much worse. It was too much for a man to bear. The last thing his mind took note of was the slick, silent, black tentacles sliding out from the robe reaching towards him. There was no escape. Marshall finally and mercifully slipped into unconsciousness.
Marshall was now sliding through a liquid black void. Vacuous and filled simultaneously. There was no light, however, he could feel that he was still falling down unending through the wet void. He did not know where, when, or who he was. Pinpoints of light began to appear turning into blinding white streaks. Few at first, unending infinities of time between each one, then more, faster, then in clusters, swirling groups, he was falling through time and space, always falling the feeling in the pit of his stomach. Falling for unimaginable amounts of time. Galaxies, lives, stars, planets were all blinking in and out of existence before his eyeless eyes. He was vaguely aware of a dim yet monstrous piping from somewhere infinitely far away, reeling trying to drive him deeper into his madness.
Gradually everything became brighter and brighter, blindingly white, pure as driven snow enveloping the existence around him and his own existence.
Marshall woke with a start. Like from a falling dream landing in his favorite armchair in the study. Buffo curled up snoring warmly to his left. The bright yellow lamp behind him, welcoming him back. The fire in front of him slowly dying out. There was a book in his lap. He did not even look to see the title before throwing it into the fire. He figured he should take it easy on reading for a while.
The old librarian, de la Poer, shuffled up to the door of his ancient library. He inserted the key into the door, but found it unlocked. Marshall must have had left it unlocked when he exited Friday night.
A lone fly buzzed drunkenly out the door past the bespectacled librarian’s eyes. Following it was the acidic smell of rotting flesh. He had warned Marshall that the building was old and the floors of the back rooms were unstable, had he not?
Lying in the basement in the heap of rubble, as de la Poer had expected, was the bloated, maggot-ridden, rotting body of Bradford Marshall.