Let me explain. This book was to be my journal... a diary of sorts. I was planning to keep notes and messages to myself of items that I need to purchase, and errands I needed to run. I had wished to keep a daily account of this generation. So that our decedents will have a rather truthful idea, as to how we lived our lives. The history books today the schools force our young to study are inaccurate, and motivated chiefly by politics. For this reason I was was going to keep a diary. Instead, I shall write a story... A rather weird story, if you don't mind. One problem with this story still remains it is that the tale that I am telling is not yet finished. No... One more act to complete, the final act if you will. But this act is an act of desperation. Let me begin my story...
Today is August 20, 1937. I awoke at my customary time and had my customary breakfast of two eggs, scrambled, two slices of toast smeared with orange marmalade, and a tall glass of milk. Outside the weather was beautiful, not a cloud in the azure sky. I could see the tall majestic trees from my bedroom window. The birds were calling to each other, and I could feel my humanity on the morning of that day. From my kitchen window, I could smell the freshness of the crisp morning air. That is something you won't see in a few years with these abominable contraptions springing up from the assembly lines like rabbits. Instead of purifying the system, these foul monsters bellow there awful stench of corruption that we call exhaust into the air. I, of course, don't own such a beast; I must do all of my travelling on foot.
T oday is the day I go browsing at my favorite bookseller, Howard Block's New and Used Books.’ Mr. Block, the proprietor of this establishment sheltering ancient volumes of new and forgotten lore, is a curious fellow with a somewhat morbid sense of humor. He seems more like the kind of gentlemen who should be writing horror, rather than selling it.
M y walk was peaceful and rather uneventful. My journey took no longer than half an hour. I arrived at a quarter past ten, thankful that not too many automobiles were about. Block had just opened for business a few minutes before my arrival and he was still unpacking some books he had recently acquired from an estate auction.
I opened the door and entered. The four lamps inside the store gave off a dim yellowish glow. The store itself was jammed packed with books. Books to the right, books to the left and books in front of me. Most of these books were old but in very good condition. There were some new books, mostly fiction.
"Why hello, Mr. Thornton! I see we're early today.” Block said, then quickly added, "How are you today?"
"Splendid, just splendid.” I replied.
H e lifted one of his boxes onto the counter while I looked at some of his newer stuff; pulp magazines like "Weird Tales" and other assorted trash. He then called me over to his counter. He had that mischievous gleam in his eyes that I had come to know so well.
"Richard," he said in a semi-whisper as he leaned over the counter. The store was empty save the two of us, so I don't know why he was whispering.
"I do believe that I have something that may be of great interest to you."
Knowing that I am a historian at heart, he said those words in exactly that particular way, just so he could whet my appetite. No doubt, my friend has come across a set of old diaries.
His eyes gazed toward the storeroom, and then glanced out the store window. Feigning suspicion, he turned back to me and said, "I have just purchased some books at auction from the Moriarity Estate – the big one just outside of town." His body straightened and his ever-present smile became twisted in morbid humor. I stood there shortly with my slack jaw gaping at him. Block had acquired the personal possessions of the most decadent family of this era!
The Moriaritys moved here from the East Coast just after the turn of the century. Wallace Moriarity was a businessman and was deeply involved with the stock market. As a matter of fact, he spent a good deal of time on Wall Street; Wallace was seldom seen here on the West Coast. When the stock market crashed back in '29, well... so did Wallace. Right out the window he went and thirty floors down. His wife and child took it rather hard... but not as hard as Wallace! In the years since Wallace's untimely demise, his wife Elizabeth had went slowly, and totally insane until about a week ago she was found floating in her bathtub, drowned. As for their only child Charles, he went screaming out into the woods one rainy night and was never seen again alive. About a week later, a badly decomposed and beheaded corpse was found hanging by the legs from the limb of a tree near the old crypt.
As for the "old crypt," no one is sure for whom it was built nor are they sure by whom. The people of my town shun the place as if the Lucifer himself lived there. Charles's former head was found impaled upon the iron-spiked fence that surrounded the crypt. Of Charles, nothing decent can be said, for he was mixed up with the things of the occult and of the devil. Charles is not unlike most of our misguided youth of today. Like as not, Charles was out in the woods with some of his creepy friends conjuring up spirits. Mayhaps the spirit awoke from his "dirt nap" and turned on poor Charles... serves him right.
Howard was about to lead me into storage room in the back of the store, when another customer entered. I turned to see a young lady dressed entirely in black, as if she just came from a funeral. Her face was veiled, but I am sure it was just as attractive as the rest of her figure. Her black dress contrasted weirdly with the out of doors, but seemed quite at home in this refuge for second had books. She was wearing a perfume that reminded me of lilacs. The scent was barely noticeable, although it did seem to give the musty old bookstore new life.
"Go ahead.” Block said to me, "There's a trunk in the corner full of old books."
He was off, turning on his charm to the mysterious young lady in black, always in the hopes of making a sale. I opened the door of the storeroom and entered into darkness. I fumbled for the light-switch, and then found it. All around me were more books, stacks upon stacks of books. All were in various stages of decay. Some had wormholes, while others were just rotting with age... and all were very, very, dusty. In the corner of the cramped room, just as my antique friend of mine, had said, was in the old trunk. The trunk looked as if it was made in the seventeenth century it had all the sights of fine craftsmanship about it. The trunk stood about three feet in height, three and a half feet in length, and another two in width. The trunk had one of those rounded tops and painted entirely black.
Surrounding the trunk was two tarnished bands of brass. These bands clasped and hinged the old trunk. Only one lock was upon the trunk, and a skeleton key was inserted within, as if holding in some dark secret of the past. The single light in the storeroom began a maddening flicker. Long ominous shadows came and went as the light went on and off. I crossed over to the trunk on a well-used dustless path. I stooped over the trunk and turned a well-used dustless path. I stooped over the trunk and turned the single key in the lock. The lock uttered a loud click as the tumblers released it secrets of the centuries. I stood back, away from the trunk; my mouth felt dry and a sense of uneasiness came over me. I did not want to open the trunk. I hesitated, staring at the patch of undisturbed dust in the center of the lid. In the flickering light, I moved to brush the dust away. I was thinking to myself of the horror of twisted fate! In the alternate moments of light and darkness, I could clearly see the initials C. M. painted in red on the lid.
All was in deathly silence in this mausoleum for tomes forgotten. I stared at the trunk, contemplating the blasphemes stored within. I thought to myself, this... this is why I am here, to see out how other people’s lives were lived. I am a voyeur into the past. Curiosity replaced fear; at least now, someone would know the truth about the late House Moriarity.
I opened the trunk...
No long dead spirit leaped out to take my soul. Nor did any sort of unimaginable evil be let loose into the world, as in the classical Greek tale of Pandora and her box... It was just a box. A musty box at that, filled with more dusty books. I knelt at the box as if it were an alter and began to rummage through it. The contents of the trunk were even more horrible than my first fears led me to believe. The first item was leather bound book written entirely in Latin. The title was, however, unmistakable, it was "The Necronomican" written in the 8th century A.D. by some crazy Arab. Before me was a 15th century translation into Latin from the Arab language. I slid that abhorred book into the corner farthest from myself. The trunk included some recent pieces of correspondence from young Charles to an Englishman by the name of Crowley. Under the letters was a crumbling copy of the "The King In Yellow.” The remains of that foul book went into the same defiled corner. All sorts of dreaded volumes filled that corrupted trunk, a well-used copy of "De Vermis Mysteriis," “Cultes des Goules," "The Book of Eibon," and a fourth edition of reprint of "The Egyptian Book of the Dead," and strangest of all' a monkey's paw. These books of the blameless and the dead went into that now filled, dark corner. What kind of monster was Charles Moriarity? While searching among the past, I have come across the more wicked side of the human race. I know something of the summonings, of the banishments, and the ways of the Dark Rites are not completely lost to me.
The light stopped flickering. My eyes fell upon the single book lying within the trunk. I became short of breath, my head became extremely light, and I started to swoon. I sat myself down on a stool that was in the shadow-darkened corner. As I looked at the final consistent of the trunk, I had a flash of de-ja-vu. I saw a seaside village on the New England coast. Behind the village was the savage filled forest of our Pilgrim ancestors. I continued to stare into the trunk not fully believing my own eyes. At the very bottom of the trunk was a diary. However, this "diary" bore the name of none other than mine own. It read. in a hand written flourish of a much older time than my own, "The Diary of the Hounorable Richard B. Thornton, Esq." Underneath my name, also written in the same lavish script was the legend; "Written in the year of our lord sixteen hundred and ninety three.” This was too much for my already failing heart. How in heaven's name did my name get into that evil trunk? My hands were trembling uncontrollably as I picked up that centuries old volume bearing my name. Aye. Yes, that be my name Richard B. Thornton. As far as I knew, none other had existed in my ancestral past. I did not open the book right away. I couldn't... not here, where others were about. I would have to wait until I was once again in the solitude of my own abode. I took the diary with me as I walked out of the storeroom, turning off the once again flickering light.
Back in the storefront Howard. was reading one of those "Weird Tales" magazines I had mentioned earlier. The woman in black was gone and the store was empty save Block and myself.
"How much for this old thing?” I inquired, holding up the diary so he could only see the back.
"Well... lemme see if that 'old thing' in the relic in good condition I may just want to hold onto it.” He said with a wolfish grin, the one he gets when he knows there is something I want terribly. I did not want him to see my name on the cover of the diary so I said, "How about letting me take this book home, and give it a good going over. Then I’ll make you an offer?” A deal, he often agreed to
"Geeee.... I don't know.” He stalled, making me wait in suspense at his verdict, a game he often liked to play.
"Being that you are a good friend and customer, I don't see why not.” I thanked him for his courtesy and then took my leave with my diary.
I walked out of the store and into what had started out to be a fine day and turned miserably overcast. The wind was picking up and I had not brought even so much as a sweater. I huddled the book closer to my cold body and began to scurry home.
I must not have been thinking on where I was going – my mind was on the diary that I held close to my bosom. I stepped off the sidewalk and into the street, to almost be run down by one of those infernal automobiles. I looked up to see it barreling down upon me. I know not why I did this, but I held the diary in front of me as I scrambled back to the sidewalk.
I continued my trek homeward ever watchful for those damned machines on the loose. All right, I must admit it; from that moment on, I became somewhat paranoid. It wasn't til the fog rolled in that I felt the icy knife of fear cut through my already quivering soul. I felt safe walking next to the church in the older section of town, going that way in the hopes of saving time. My shadow twisted up, long and gargoyle like on the brown stone wall. My pace quickened, and once I thought I heard noises behind me, like the swishing of a dress. The air hung heavy with the scent of perfume. I turned the corner and entered into the more run-down section of town. Here the houses were in ill repair and on the verge of collapsing. The houses are to be torn down in about a week or so. The former residents would have already vacated the premises. Yet I am sure there were a few "hangers on" in these dilapidated structures. I know this for a fact, due to the feeling that those from within were watching me. Twice I swore that had indeed seen someone but I could not be sure. It began to drizzle as I hurried past this section of town and made my way across the open field leading to my house.
My house, built in the early seventies by my father, Hezekiah Thornton, it has been my home for over fifty years now. I inherited it from my father upon his death, which unfortunately came upon his fiftieth birthday. A word about my father, he was the kind of no nonsense type of person. He was the kind of man who believed only in what he saw. He was a brave man and he fought in the war with the south. Born in Massachusetts, he lived his first twenty years there until he went to serve in the Union army back in '62. After the blood and destruction that ravaged the country, my father moved here to the west coast. He built his house, and then settled down to raise a family. I have lived my last twenty years here in comfort and solitude doing my research into the past.
I made it home alive, in spite of being followed by some unseen foe. I locked my door and checked it, as was already a custom of mine. The excitement of my journey home made it impossible for me to examine the diary right away. My nerves were almost spent! First, I must have a cup of soothing coffee. I sat the diary upon the bookcase and proceeded to the kitchen to brew a cup of relief. In about ten minutes, I paced back and forth, for what seemed like hours, I was sitting at the table enjoying my coffee.
I almost choked. Sitting there on the table in front of me was the diary. How it got there, I am not sure. I said I put the diary on the bookcase, didn't I? Yes I did, I put it on the ... bookcase. Yet before me as I sat at my table then feet from the bookcase was the ... diary. I started to reach for it then halted. No, not yet, I was not ready for any revelation the diary may unfold. The drizzle outside turned to rain and I could already hear thunder. I got up away from the kitchen table -- with only my coffee. My intention was to light a fire in the fireplace. Lightning flashed and the electricity went out, and with it the lights. I stood in momentary darkness as I contemplated my next move. I sat my cup down on the mantelpiece and reached for a box of matches. I found them and then after one, two... three strokes I was once again in the light. Using the match as a guide, I went into my bedroom and returned with an old kerosene lamp I saved. I walked back to the fireplace to get my coffee and to resume lighting my fire. To my utter horror -- on the mantelpiece was my coffee... resting on the diary? I almost dropped the lamp as I staggered backwards in surprise. I almost dropped the lamp as I staggered backwards in surprise. I almost dropped the lamp -- scratch that. I started to repeat myself. Mustn't do that, people will think me mad. Some sorcery surely is about. I left the diary on the table in the kitchen.
Resigning myself to fate, I sat down at my desk; I opened the worn diary, not unlike the one I am writing in now. There was no title page but an introduction of sorts, written entirely in English. It was not uncommon for one to keep his or her diary in a language other than their native tongue. The introduction was dated at eleven fifty-nine on August 19th. The script was archaic and the English seemed awkward but not entirely too difficult. The Diary was written in the same language as The King James edition of the Bible. The single light of my lamp caused the book to glow. The introduction read:
"Good Sirs, pray let me explain.” I sat there breathing heavily as the lightning flashed horribly outside. Those words, where have I have I heard them before? I sat there staring out the window as those first words continued to haunt me. I glanced back at the book, then back to the window. I think I saw someone standing just outside my house. I dismissed the thought of a prowler from my mind and began to read some more. "I was planning to keep a journal of this year.” Somewhere I thought... somewhere! "Instead, I shall keep an account of the dealings I undertook with Hazeroth, captain of His most unholy legions, and my mentor.” This Richard Thornton was a sorcerer and knew magick. I turned to about the middle of the diary and my eyes fell on this paragraph:
"I stood out in the virgin forest with not a stitch of clothes on my person. I held in me hand a chalice filled with blood, human blood. I gazed up past the trees into the star filled nite. Me black slave Adjubah, was screaming her chants before a boiling cauldron. A greenish smoke rose up into the nite. Some of the town girls were dancing around the giant pot. Adjubah called to me and said to concentrate on the moon! I focused my attention on that blood red sphere. But me thoughts wandered back to the cup in me hand. In it the blood of Goody Williams, a leader in the recent witch trials in Salem. Suddenly Adjubah's eyes bulged like those of a frog, and she started to speak. Yet she spake as if she be a man. The voice was deep and guttural, filled with hate.
"You shall be called Balthazar, my eternal servant.” I shook with fear and astonishment as it continued. "I Harzeroth, captain of these most unholy legions will school you the lessons concerning life, death, and immorality.” Balthazar my dear friend shall accompany me in the final days as a sorcerer, a lieutenant of HIS army."
"Yes, I was a great conjurer, the most learned in Magick. But alas, in the fiftieth year of life in this physical plane I saw reason to fear the cursed Reaper. In the course of my conjuring, I took what was hers, and she was angered. She set watch on me for almost two years. She haunted me until alas my body became weary and was consumed by her."
Here the book seemed to be directing its words at me! The diary took on the tone of a lecturer and gave this warning. "Behold Richard Balthazar Thornton, listen, and be forewarned, Death came unto me as a woman in the guise of one recently widowed. She took my body, but she DID NOT TAKE MY SOUL. Nay, my soul shall be hidden for centuries until YOU Richard Balthazar Thornton shall give me my total release. Then we shall be -- ONE."
On the following page was an engraving, a woodcut -- it was of me! The garments I was wearing were that of the sixteen hundreds. The picture seemed to glow and pulsate. I sat away from my desk. Suddenly insight came and I saw the awful truth! The trunk was the hiding place of the demon of my past. I closed the book, my body was bathed in sweat, and I was trembling. The suddenly, just as swiftly as the first thought came, I had another: Each and every event of today was as if a prophecy was trying to be fulfilled -- The Diary I found, the woman in black, the car trying to kill me, and being followed and watched on my way home.
I got up quickly and began to light up the fireplace. A sense of urgency hung in the air, as I got a modes blaze going. The air smelled of lilac once more, and I knew Death was approaching. I must play out the final Act before it is too late. I MUST BURN THE DIARY. I wish not to share my remaining years with a God forsaken demon.
I am RICHARD
BALTHE BARCLAY THORNTON ESQ. and
I have destroyed the Diary. After
writing what could have been my last entry of my Story -- the door blew open
and an icy wind appeared. The lamp blew
and then disappeared. The curtain flew;
then She appeared. The scent of lilac
turned slowly to the stench of rotting flesh.
I threw the book into the fire -- but merciful God, the Diary DID NOT
BURN. I threw more wood onto the fire
until it became almost a bonfire. Death
entered and took slow, gloating steps toward me. Think!
Think! I grabbed a poker that was
standing next to the fireplace. I
reached into the fire and retrieved the Diary from the pit. There was not a burn mark on that book! It was even cool to the touch. I looked up to see Death getting ever closer. Panic stricken, I began to tear the books
into shreds. Page by page, piece by
miserable piece went into the fiery pit of my furnace. I was left with only the cover in my hand. The stench of decayed flesh became overpowering,
I looked up to see Death stretching out a withered, bony hand. My back was pressed up against the mantel and
I could feel the heat of the fire behind me.
Quickly I flicked the cover into the fire as the cover burned. Death ceased to call.
On the last page of the diary of Richard B. Thornton, written in archaic English Script was this final paragraph.
"Richard Balthazar Thornton sat there with a grim smile of relief. As he closed his diary, he leaned back in the chair and looked up at the mantelpiece. Only to discover that THE DIARY still existed and was sitting there. His smile faded as he felt the soft hand of a woman’s on his shoulder. He turned slowly, fearfully to see the owner of that warm, soft hand. As he did so, the hand became the hand of Death."