Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Haunted Bookshop

Dear Blog Readers,

With trembling fingers I type these words, a vain attempt at leaving some record of what has transpired in the last hour. The bookstore has become a terrifying prison, and all signs indicate escape is impossible -- for I have become my own incarcerator! What did I do? What law did I break, what suffering did I cause, that I should be forced to live such monstrous events, descend into what can only be madness, and live out my final moments writing words that won’t be read – a letter from the very depths of Hell itself.

This morning nothing seemed out of the ordinary, and, like any reasonable person, I would have scoffed to hear but half the things that this letter will have you believe. At 10:00, as usual, I removed the sturdy padlock on the steel security gate that protects O’Gara and Wilson from after-hours undesirables. How was I to know that the least desirable things can slip between bars and under doors, hide between books and even in dark crevices of your own brain! Like the coin of Janus, I weep and laugh at this tragic irony, and so, perhaps, will you. For today was the day for blog-writing, and I was particularly excited to write something frightening, in anticipation of Halloween. (One can only suppose that the persistence of this gruesome pagan holiday, a ghastly carnival, with ritual indulgence of appetite, deception and disguise, the corruption of youth and inculcation of spirit-fears, can only be accounted for by supposing that the otherworldly denizens to whom it does homage must really exist. And indeed, dear Lord forgive me, they do, and are far beyond the pen of Dante himself to describe, or Duhrer to depict.)

After setting down my bag, and, in cruel anticipation of things to come, procuring a two volume set of Greek tragedies for later purchase, I began the serious work of coming up with a topic for the blog. Supernatural or horror – well, certainly, but what books did we have, amenable to being weaved into a coherent narrative? It was deathly cold as I wandered the aisles looking for inspiration, and I took this to mean that our broken furnace still hadn’t been fixed. Had I known then what I do know, ah! That feeble hypothesis would have trembled at the truth, at the yet-concealed evil spirit sucking the life-force out of the very air, quivering with desire to feed on my soul. Perhaps my subconscious sensed it when I decided on the first blog book. This week’s Affordable and Interesting: a terrifying illustrated version of Dracula ($7.50).



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As I thumbed approvingly through its pages, pausing longer at the darkest, most evil drawings, a tremendous crash rang out behind me. I turned immediately to check on the situation at the front of the store. Though I was undeniably alone, the collection of Egyptian metal plates was scattered everywhere, and the largest piece, a bronze table-top, had landed in middle of the display window, crushing a number of books and knocking others over. This shocking discovery occupied my immediate attention for quite some time, and so it was only later, as I tried to clean things up and sort out a reasonable explanation, that I noticed the windows were completely dark. I couldn’t see outside. Even the glass in the door was dark, but I could dimly make out the shadow of the steel security gate, which had somehow been pulled shut and secured with the padlock. I called out a number of times, but no one answered. Calm down, Alan, I told myself over and over again. Just calm down, think rationally about all the evidence. But calming down was extremely difficult, especially when the books began to fall off the shelves. First two or three in philosophy, then an artbook, then something from political science in the back. Suddenly there were hundreds flying through the air, some very near my head, like horrible leather-winged bats. I received several serious paper-cuts on my face, and dropped down huddled on the floor, with my hands behind my head to protect my neck from the sharp hardback corners. Only moments later the lights snapped off, and everything went silent and still. At this point I am entirely crippled with fear, begging for mercy from some power that had obviously decided to ignore me completely. A dim light showed from the first aisle, where we keep the occult books. Like a madman compelled by some force he doesn’t understand, I moved slowly towards the glow, which seemed to be coming from behind the books themselves. Upon close inspection I realized the light was coming from the books themselves! Three, to be exact, and with a stroke of irony let me make them this week’s Collectible, though woe betide their future collector! The paper spine label reads “The Proceedings of the ASPR”.


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I began reading a volume at random, which according to the note in the back was unavailable at any other bookstore.

Quickly I found that ASPR stands for the American Society for Psychical Research, and this particular volume concerned their research into something called the Margery Mediumship. You can imagine my horror when a high, thin voice began to wail softly, ‘Margery. Margery dear, is that you?’ I wheeled around -- nothing. ‘Now turn off the lights, Margery, there’s a good girl. You know how I don’t like the lights Margery, I really don’t like them.’ The voice sounded unhappy, and I dropped the glowing book on the floor, backing slowly away. ‘Margery. Turn it off, Margery, turn it off, off, off!!! It’s killing me Margery, do you want me to die, Margery, because I know you don’t want to die, turn it off, off, off!’ The book became blindingly bright, and I must admit that I passed out from fear. When I awoke, the books were still strewn about the store, but the lights were on. The secondary store computer was also on, though I hadn’t touched it yet, and a CD was playing old blues music. Slowly I stood up and began walking to the front of the store. After only a few steps my right foot slipped out from under me, and I fell, scraping my head badly on an old vintage typewriter behind me. At my feet was a pool of blood, far more than could possibly have come from my injury. A drop fell in the pool. Then another. I looked up, and saw a thin red stream oozing out of the heating vent.

Bang! Bang! Bang! The vent shuddered three times. ‘Mother,’ called a voice. ‘Mother, are you still there?’ The banging again. ‘Help me, please,’ said the voice. ‘Someone please help me.” And still again the banging! Numbly, I went to get one of the tall, rickety wooden ladders for accessing higher shelves. My mind was concocting all sorts of ridiculous stories: perhaps a young girl was stuck in the vent by her mother. That would explain things, I thought. She needs to be rescued. Sure, just rescue the girl, it's probably Margery. How was I to know that I was the one who needed rescuing!? I climbed the ladder, and the banging ceased. ‘Mother?’ ‘MOTHER!’ The voice went from feminine whisper to guttural snarl, and from the vent burst the cause of my eventual madness, the beast of darkness behind the blood and voices. The only way to save me from it, I fear, is by reading this week’s Favorite, the unnassuming sllsk red;las nl;aksh;ll;lk

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Sarah discovered Alan dead, slumped at the computer, when she came in for work at three. No signs of violence or struggle, and no customers in the store. Nothing had happened to the books or the window display, and the four volumes mentioned in his blog were found piled neatly on the front desk. Next to them was the padlock. There was, unfortunately, no sign of this week’s Favorite, though customers are welcome to search for it. The photos were added later, in homage to Alan’s first two selections. Happy Halloween.

1 comment:

Lydia said...

Wow. The fall of the house of Alan. Do you think the rest of us are cursed?