(I fell behind this weekend, I know. Here's a lengthy one. Thanks to Anna and especially Nicole for research help.)
THE BOOKIn what may have been the worst case of miss shelving in the history of time, the book was placed in the children's section of the Greylock Public Library. Somehow it ended up slipped in between National Velvet & The Neverending Story, which is curious since the book gives no indication of its title. How it end up at the Greylock branch at all is curious as well. There are only so many copies and most are guarded extremely closely by their owners. But the copies of the book have been known to surface in odd places at odd time, so it is not without precedence. And this was one of those small Massachusetts's sea towns where these sorts of things seemed to happen. It may have even been by design.
Young Nicolas Brogan felt drawn to the book. The unadorned leather binding, the deep brown stains in one corner. The rough edges of the pages. The tattered red silk ribbon bookmark. The rusted metal clasp. It was a bit over sized but not to stand out amongst many of the children's books. It was perhaps thick, but it was not a complete edition of the book at only 400 some pages. (The last know complete edition, John Dee's flawed translation from the 1603, ran over a thousand, if accounts are to be believed.) What decided it for Nicolas was the short glance at the inside. The chaotic drawings and mess of words. And especially the hand written notes filling the margins, scribbled in at least a dozen different hands. He was good reader for an eight year old but many of the word, even the letters themselves, were foreign to him. But fragments could be deciphered. On the top of one page, someone had written in a shaky letters
That is not dead which can eternal lie.
And with strange aeons even death may die.
Nicolas knew it wasn't a normal book.
The librarian paid little attention to what was being checked out. She scanned the barcode taped to the spine (which, oddly enough, came up as The Places You'll Go) and sent him on his way. Nicolas' mom was distracted by the fact that her Pilate's class had been cancelled and only asked him if he had found something interesting. "Uh huh," mumbled Nicolas, clutching the volume to his chest. She left it at that as she juggled driving and texting and wonder what the hell she was going to make for dinner.
Late that night, Nicolas huddled under his covers with a flashlight and flipped through the book. It made little sense to him but the drawing were neat: animals and creatures; men and women doing things he only had a vague notion were naughty; lines and curves; knifes and swords. Nicolas wanted more than anything to understand but the words seemed to scuttle across the page. But he was a determined young boy.
The book, of course, has driven men mad. Just reading it can open one's mind to horrors beyond horrors. Perhaps the fact that Nicolas had so little experience of the world to place it in context shielded him from having his reality ripped inside out. Or perhaps it is that a child's mild is ready to accept anything, has not been made rigid by years, that it was no different from believing that the worlds of Star Wars or Lord of the Rings could be real. The hows and whys are not important. The facts are that Nicolas Brogan focused his entire attention on the pages and managed to sound out words that had not been spoken in decades.
Through random circumstances everything was aligned that night. It was the right time of year and the right stars were in their right positions in the sky. The elements of the ritual just happened to be amongst the things an eight year old boy collects on his journeys through the neighborhood: an old coin (that happened to bare the likeness of Emperor Septimius Severus and had last been owned by a lady of the night); the skull of a bird (that had happened to drown in the first rain of Spring); a stone in the shape of a heart; an iron spike (that happened to have been driven into the lung of a police officer). The tooth beneath Nicolas pillow in fact covered at least three of the elements required, including "a sacrifice of one's own flesh." At the moment Nicolas finished whispering the words, his parents climaxed together in joyless copulation in the room below him.
A ritual that many before had failed at before him, that had destroyed souls and shattered minds, was complete to perfection by Nicolas Brogan under his Transformer sheets.
Nicolas pushed his head out from the covers at the silent tearing sound. The air at the end of his bed split and cracked and opened up. It opened up into the depth of the nothingness beyond our world, a void that sunk into infinite abyss. A chaos of black could be glimpsed. Great globes of of light approached the opening. Surrounding the globes were tendrils of amorphous black flesh, blood and pain, flowed and crept from the nearest globes as they broke apart. In time primal, the eldritch, hideous horror of the realm of The Old Ones, the monstrous noxious form of the formless, drew itself towards our world. And a voice of a thousand souls immortal, murderous and vile, frothed and spit and addressed the wide eyed Nicolas.
"You call me, the Lurker of the Threshold, into your world. I am Yog-Sothoth. All-in-one. One-in-all. Yog-Sothoth is the gate and the gate is Yog-Sothoth. Time is nothing to me as I am all time. Into your world Yog-Sothoth spews and the era have man shall end. That is the trade. Infinite knowledge for my passage to the realm of flesh. All that has been known and all that has never been known and all that shall been know has been tasted in Yog-Sothoth's maw. You call me and that knowledge is yours to be had. Power and suffering beyond measure. All you have to do is say the words, but, be warned! For this knowledge can–"
"Am I getting a Wii for Christmas?"
The formless thing stopped moving at the edge of the opening. A silence stretched into the emptiness. Nicolas has shifted out from the covers, the book still in his hands, and sat bouncing on his knees at head of his bed.
Yog-Sothoth remained unmoving. Slowly it opened its maws and slithered, "Um... What?"
Nicolas picked at his nose and said, "You know everything, right? I really want a Wii and I didn't get one for my birthday so I really really want on for Christmas. Am I going to get one?"
Yog-Sothoth shifted slightly. "The secrets of the universe are open to you... and you want to know... if you are getting a... Wii... for Christmas?"
"Yes. If you don't know just say so."
"I am Yog-Sothoth, All-in-One, One-in—"
"You said that part."
"Okay, yes. You are getting a Wii. Your dad hid it in his closet above his ties."
The Lurker swelled again, it protoplasmic tendrils gripping at the edges of the rip. "Now! What other mysteries to you wish to have stabbed into you small mind, to be enlightened and blinded and–"
"Why did Sally throw a rock at me yesterday?"
"Look, there is so much–"
"And babies. Where do they come from? It has to do with s-e-x, right? Do you know where my G.I. Joe got lost? Why does orange juice taste weird right after I brush my teeth? Timothy said that dinosaurs are just birds, but he's a liar, right?"
"When can I have my own dog? I think I like Sally and Dad said she likes me too but it is stupid to throw rocks at someone you like, right? I am I going to be an astronaut? Are there really aliens in space?"
"Oh, oh. I know that one! In the great void, The Old Ones, the They, live and shall–"
"Why are tomatoes gross but not tomato sauce? Can you make ice cream with Twizzlers in it? Why do people have ear lobes? If Optimus Prime fought the Power Rangers who would win? What is better, burritos or pizza? Can you be an astronauts and NASCAR driver? How about Wolverine and Optimus Prime? Timothy said cooties are real, but they aren't, right? And–"
Yog-Sothoth had backed from the opening and was slowly closing it. The globes of light dimmed as if trying as unobtrusively as possible to slink from the room.
"Where are you going?"
"Well, you know, this is not really my... um... expertise. Really, kid, you should ask your parents. So I'm just gonna go."
"Look. Try me in a few years, okay? I'm not going anywhere. Because, well, you know... All-in-one..."
"Right! So... um... yeah."
And with that, the Lurker of the Threshold closed the porthole behind him. All that remained in Nicolas' room was the slight smell of fish and cobber.
Nicolas picked his nose again and thought for a few moments. Then, remembering that in just two months he would be opening a Wii under the Christmas tree, he crawled back under the sheets.
Later, the book fell between the foot of the mattress and the endboard and unto the floor under the bed. It would lay there, next to G.I. Joe for quite awhile.