Saturday, November 27, 2010

A Very Dangerous Book

The Book: “Use the spells of the Ancient Ones” was a limited re-print of a book originally published some 350 years previously.

The advert in a Sunday tabloid received 500 enquiries, 100 of which resulted in orders which quickly exhausted the limited print run of 100.

Twenty were never read. Two were damaged in the post and never arrived at their destination. The remaining seventy-eight were read with lesser or greater levels of comprehension. But only one copy was read through properly and the implications of the contents fully digested and completely understood by the reader.

Andrew Grey. Even his name mocked him. A. Grey. “Grey by name, grey by nature” might have been said of him. If anyone had ever taken any interest in him.

Because nobody had ever taken any interest in Grey whatsoever. It was almost as if he possessed some kind of preternatural ability to suck the vitality and the interest out of the air that surrounded him. Like a self-harming Harry Potter Dementor, in fact...

There are some people with that ability who do not notice, because they are of limited intelligence and fill their empty, meaningless lives with hobbies that seem ridiculous obsessions to other people, yet are of all-consuming interest to themselves. Such as collecting different types of burnt matches, for example.

Yet, sadly, in the case of Grey, he was of reasonable intelligence. He knew precisely what he was. The antithesis of all things even remotely of interest. He was not a bore. For how could zero bore anyone?

In school he was very rarely bullied. Why would anyone bully a cipher, a nothing? He was not bullied because he was not even worth bullying. Nobody played with him, either. He was never picked for games, rarely asked to answer questions. To nothing, went nothing.

His father died when Grey was ten and when Grey was 16 he was able to walk straight into a job as a clerk in a large insurance company. He was fortunate that it was at a time of full employment and the company was expanding and needed to take on anyone that it could find. So ironically, even nothing could fill a space.

He had his own office and received annual pay rises because a computerised salary system reduces all people to zeros and ones, even a cipher such as Grey.

And because he was not noticeable even during times of major staff reductions his position was safe. He did his job competently, so nobody noticed him.

He had been a bitter disappointment to his mother so when his mother decided to marry an Australian businessman and move with him to Australia, when Grey had just turned 17, she decided not to take him with her.

In order to salve her conscience she made their small terraced house over to him. The fact that, in his mind, his own mother had turned against him, made him hate her. So perhaps not unnaturally, he declined to see her off at the airport.

She wrote one letter to him, but he did not bother to open it. Instead he wrote: “Return to Judas” on the envelope and sent it back. He never heard from her again.

Some 20 years had passed by. Grey had liked to spend his evenings walking through the old part of town, but a group of youths so drunk that even nothing seemed like an attractive target, had beaten him and mugged him.

He had not been out walking since that incident five years previously, He spent his time broodingly watching TV, listening to the radio and reading. He had always loved reading. For a time he was able to lose himself within the book, forgetting that he was nothing.

He saw the advert for the book “Use the Spells of the Ancient Ones” in one of the Sunday newspapers that he had delivered every week.

The advert fascinated him. Usually he ignored such adverts but someone who had mastered the skill of copywriting had written the copy. And had written it well.

Are YOU Sick to death of being ignored? Bothered by the fact that other people seem to get all the glory, all the praise, or can do what they want, when they want? Whilst you are ignored or even reviled by your peers and family members?”

It hooked him, he found it intriguing. He read on and was immediately struck by the injustice of his situation. His miserable existence. The mother who had abandoned him. The gang of youths who had robbed him of his one pleasure of going on walks through the ancient streets of his home town.

Hot tears born of a misery that had festered within him for all of his life coursed down his cheeks. He must have that book! He sent his order and cheque off in time to catch the one Sunday collection of mail.

Four days later he tore open the padded envelope in a frenzy of anticipation. And he read through the ancient and difficult text several times.

If he had any colleagues to share his lonely workday with, they might have noticed that he was less grey, somewhat less of a cipher.

The one spell that fascinated him above all others was: “A defence against footpads and cutpurses.” From his understanding of the spell, if someone came towards you to mug you, then you intoned the words of the mantra that was contained in the spell and a glowing green Demon appeared above your head to frighten them off.

Madness? Perhaps. Yet Grey KNEW the spell would work. Trembling with excitement he left his house early one evening and walked to the part of town where he had been mugged. He doubted that he would meet the gang that had robbed him five years previously, but he wanted to find someone. Anyone for him to take his revenge on.

He was aware that since he had last been into town in the evenings, things had changed. And not for the better, in his opinion.

He had always liked window shopping. That was no longer possible as virtually every shop had now had to put up steel security shutters to protect the stock from what used to be called “smash and grab” robbers, but which were now called “ram raiders” where criminals used stolen cars to smash through the shop frontages.

After three hours of wandering around he began to feel tired, he was thinking about going home when he heard a commotion from a side street. He increased his pace, yet did not run.

Three young men came out of the narrow street. One looked at him and shouted: “You ain’t seen us, right? If you grass us up, I’ll ****ing kill you, right?

This was it! Grey’s moment to test out his hypothesis! He intoned the words of the mantra. Almost instantly the group of young men and the area around them was transfixed with a bright and sickening green light!

The leader of the group screamed like a terrified child and the sudden foetid stench that emanated from him was testament to the fact that he had fouled himself.

He and his two companions ran off, whimpering and gibbering with fear.

As the green light faded, Grey chuckled to himself. The laughter sounded strange in his ears. Not that he laughed often, to be sure...

There was nothing about the incident in the local paper the next day, but then Grey had not expected there to be. Seeing a glowing green Demon appear over the head of someone that you were trying to mug or frighten would not be anything any self-respecting would-be thief would want to tell anyone about!

Grey could not wait to go out again. He fretted all day at work until it was time to go out and see what he could do that evening. He could not eat due to his excitement and instead decided to make do with a cup of tea.

This time he did not have long to wait. He came across two young men who had been trying to sexually assault a young girl. When Grey arrived on the scene the girl was able to make her escape and ran off, when Grey told her to.

The older and larger of the youths turned his flabby and decidedly unhealthy looking face towards him.

He looked at Grey with utter hatred. “You stopped my fun. I will punish you for that. That’s right, isn’t it?” He looked towards his slightly younger companion.

His companion, who was a slightly-built male, copied, apishly,: “Yeah. That’s right. Punish.”

You think so, do you?” Said Grey, a hint of mockery in his voice. He intoned the mantra and the bright green glow illuminated the area, once again.

This time the effect on the 'audience' was even more dramatic. Years of having his mother stuff him full of everything that was bad for him had given the larger youth a very badly diseased heart. The report of the pathologist to the coroner said, in part: “I have rarely, if ever, seen a heart in such a poor condition in a person of such a youthful age. Much of the muscle material had already turned to fat.”

He had looked towards Grey, his eyes wide with fear. He screamed and his heart failed in an instant and he fell on his companion who had been rooted trembling to the spot by fear, knocking him out and pinning him to the ground.

Grey laughed as he turned in the street. Almost every business in the street had replaced their shop frontages with steel shutters. Except for one. A bank on the corner of the street. The frontage was made up of mirrored glass.

Grey suddenly realised that he had failed to fully understand the spell. The purpose of the spell was not to manifest a glowing green demon above the head of the person intoning the mantra.

The purpose of the spell was to transform the person intoning the mantra into a glowing green demon.

As soon as Grey saw his ghastly and utterly horrible reflection in the mirrored glass, he collapsed to the pavement, dead before he hit, the green glow fading rapidly as he returned to human form.

This time the story DID make front-page news in the local evening paper. And the nationals picked up on it the next day, too.

A girl had flagged down a police car and told them that a man had stopped two men who had been trying to assault her. The man had told her to run away, and she had done so. Not long afterwards, she had heard a terrible scream. She had looked back and had seen a weird, eerie green light in the area that she had ran from.

Two officers had taken the girl to the police station, whilst two others rushed to the scene. They found two men who were dead and another man who was unconscious, trapped beneath the body of his monstrously obese, dead companion.

When he regained consciousness, the survivor began raving and screaming about a green demon. The police were convinced that he had taken hallucinogenic drugs, a theory that was scuttled by the negative toxicological reports on both him and the two dead men.

Had they undertaken DNA tests on Grey, they might have found some rather remarkable results. But they didn’t and his death was ascribed to Sudden Adult Death Syndrome, brought on by fear.

In a cottage in rural Scotland, many, many miles from the nearest town, the only person who had really understood the book and the implications of its contents put his copy down on an elderly oak table. He spoke to his companion, a large, friendly-looking black cat, as he stroked her back. “Puss, I only hope nobody tries any of those spells. This book would be a very dangerous book if it fell into the wrong hands.”


Carla said...

This is really neat! I love that it's set up to make you think the only person who understood it was Grey in the beginning. What a cool little story! Thanks for posting!

Matt said...

Carla, thank you very much for yuor comment on my story.

I must admit I am having fun, publishing some of my fiction. I was inspired to do this by Alexis, who offered me encouragement to do this.

And, after all, encouragement is what most writers need!

Weston Krogstadt said...

The Screaming Nephite lives!

AlexisAR said...

Great, Wesley! The screaming Nephite!!!!

Very intriguing story, Matt. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I must be getting tired or at least dull-witted, because the first two paragraphs had me believing it was for real-- that you'd uncovered a new LDS scripture or something.

Matt said...

Alexis, looking back at it, I think that what set the story up was the mundaneness of the first couple of paragraphs.