It was dark outside already, although not very late. Daylight savings time had been over for a while.
It felt like for hours we had been sitting there, in absolute silence. Our eyes never met. She grabbed the bottom of her dress as if trying to stay in place, holding on to it as something slowly pulled her away. She kept her head down, still, like some form of gothic gargoyle returning to its natural position.
I kept wondering what had led me to agree to this, we had only met a few moments ago and I barely knew a thing about her. A lingering feeling of doubt or maybe morbid wonder stressed my mind as I thought about whether it had been a good idea, or rather what the outcome could be, but my mind was blank, it was all gibberish. Senseless ideas just stumbled around in my brain leaving me unable to think my situation through.
The room was almost pitch black now, the windows allowing a small fraction of light in, coloring our silhouettes on top of that couch which seemed to shrink with every passing second, becoming smaller and smaller giving me a sense of claustrophobia. I would have gotten up to turn on the lights a while ago, but my limbs were still like stone, I could feel a chill running beneath my skin freezing me in my seat.
Maybe it’s not that I couldn’t, but I knew there was no point in moving away,
I had nowhere to go anymore.
I had met the girl that same day at a local bookshop just a few streets away from home. She was looking through a pile of old books the owner kept at the back. It was all pretty unappealing stuff for the regular customer, old publications filled with grammatical errors, unauthorized editions of all kinds of books, everything at bargain prices. It was almost a reasonable trade-off.
Amidst the chaos of unwanted texts you could sometimes find rare items, tomes of a variety of topics all radical, mysterious and eye catching. Things a true collector would appreciate. I suppose knowing this made me specially curious about the girl. What kind of thing could she be after?
As I glanced at her from the other side of the shop I could feel she had already noticed me, so I walked up to her, looking at the books she moved around. I asked her name, she said “Jackie”. It seemed so innocent.
She asked me for help as she was looking through the overwhelming mountain of dusty books. I helped her set them aside as we skimmed through covers of unofficial biographies, alternative science and even some shady guides to the occult. Her expression changed as she grabbed one of them, focusing all her attention into it, flipping it around and moving back and forth between pages with a preoccupied look in her face like she was trying to find the smallest of details, proof that it was the one.
Finally she smiled and showed it to me. It was a big, bright red book with thick hardcover. Nothing on front or back, just a golden ribbon protruding from the insides. She told me it was written by a once famous archeologist, who had fallen into obscurity once his reputation was tainted in a scandal, in which major figures from all over the world accused him of falsifying all kinds of information and items regarding a supposed long lost tribe he had found on his own. He was labeled a madman and laughed out of the prominent guild to which he belonged to, spending the rest of his days continuing the study of his so called greatest finding and publishing all kinds of papers on it.
This book was a one of a kind, it was the culmination of that man’s work. A huge encyclopedia full of knowledge of ancient rites, languages and culture never before seen by man. Things so far beyond our understanding that didn’t fit in with the history of the world.
The story captured my attention like nothing else, I was hooked into thoughts of dwelling further and learning more about these alien tribes. My mind drifted away into worlds of endless possibilities and sinister meanings, whether it was all just the crazy ramblings of a beaten old man or not, I needed to know more.
We took the book to the counter, but the old man didn’t seem to recognize it.
He looked between the pages and muttered a price, as if made up in the spot.
She paid five dollars for it, something she considered a steal.
We walked out of the shop and it was then that she turned to me and asked me if she could come to my house to show me something, she seemed eager and pushy, but I was so captivated by the book myself that I agreed. Looking back there was a somber tone to her voice, something dark telling of her real intentions. Anyone else would have seen it as a warning, but I was daring, deep inside I hoped for something to happen.
The clock finally hit midnight and the room filled up with a brooding darkness, palpable, oozing from its every corner. Somehow I could feel as her eyes opened up, shining weakly with remnants of the moonlight that made their way through the windows’ curtains.
She turned her head up in swift motion and started chanting quietly, words that didn’t sound like words. A language so alien to me it was repulsive to listen. It was as if my very core, my humanity, rejected those foul noises coming out of her mouth, drowning my soul in a wave of sorrow and seeping hatred. There was just no way that any human mouth could produce such haunting sounds.
Again without even moving I could sense as her face began to melt away along with her chants, dripping over her body like flesh turned to wax.
As she kept going she increased the volume, louder and louder until she was screaming and her voice echoed through every inch of the house. And as she did, I could see light coming through the windows, becoming ever brighter, absolutely impossible. The objects in the room gained frightening colors unseen by my eyes and reflective properties that made no sense in our ordinary world.
It was like the very earth shifted its shape around me yet I remained completely still, sitting on that brown couch next to Jackie.
Suddenly the chanting came to a halt. The room was glowing bright red and a deadly silence reigned. For a second I believed to have regained control of my movement, but soon realized I again moved instinctively to fulfill the rites. I did not stand up, but my head turned slowly towards my companion.
What I saw then I cannot explain for I haven’t even begun to understand myself. It stays embedded in my eyes as a hellish reminder of what did happen that night and what I know will be my eventual demise.
As I turned to look to Jackie, I saw what was left of her face, or at least I
expected to, yet I was greeted with nothingness. A vast, terrifying and menacing void placed right where her eyes should have been, defying every single law of our mortal physics.
The more I looked into it, the more I felt as it stared back at me. The infinite emptiness lured me in like a magnet, pulling me closer to her, bathing my eyes in that pitch black marvel.
Then a whisper and a blink.
Inside the void I could see it now, it was hypnotizing and horrifying, it was
unnerving and impossible… it was me. Inside of that hole I was staring at my own face. It was grinning, mocking me. His eyes were dead and his expression completely blank except for that lunatic grin, a laughing mask made of flesh that foretold my end.
She stood up and left. Never to be seen again.
I woke up the next morning cold as a corpse right there on the couch, exhausted and aching, unable to move easily. Finally regaining my senses I noticed Jackie had left the book behind and quickly picked it up. I spent the next weeks desperately looking for answers to what had happened to me and a possible way to revert whatever nightmarish spell she had cast on me, all in vain.
All I could find from my tiresome search were those wicked chants that still
rumbled in the walls of the house. The book showed a romanization of the cursive symbols that represented the language of the tribe, and a rough translation:
“SHRAKHXT ZXALKNAN QRALLKXT”
“Come, Lord Shrawkhaxt”
“FVAXTX SKKAAX ZKLAQQ”
“Reclaim this body”
As of writing this I have given up all hope of reversing the curse that was placed on me and accepted my horrible fate whatever it may be. I still lay awake at night, thinking about it, picturing what the worst possible scenario could look like. Even though I know exactly what will happen.
I keep catching glimpses of that mask through reflections on the glass. Whenever I look at myself in the mirror at night I can see it still grinning, waiting. Sometimes I feel like smiling back.