Sunday, April 23, 2006

Item: Devonshire, England 1934

"Ah, my dear Carmichael!" Gilbert addressed the empty drawing room, raising an empty glass to the uppermost shelf of the immense bookcase in the western corner, where a dark gap in the row of heavy tomes suggested - rather obviously, thought Gilbert - the black hole of a vacant tooth socket. "Tonight, my good man, I toast you from this empty glass."

A moment passed, during which Gilbert kept his arm raised to the corner and collected his thoughts. "To your bones, old man, may they serve me well." Unable to resist, he added with a grim chuckle, "Until, of course, they are rotting in hell."

He lowered his arm and another moment crept through the still room as he savored his empty toast and recollected the care with which he had manipulated Carmichael. It had not been easy deceiving a man of Carmichael's intelligence but - after nearly three years of grueling and laborious machinations, lubricated and kept smoothly running in no small part by the confidence he had won from Carmichael through well played sympathy and mock friendship - he had finally secured the object of his deception.

Turning to the desk behind him with a satisfied smile, Gilbert eyed the large volume which lay there. The missing tooth, he mused; a perfect fit for that empty space in his collection, which he had kept open and waiting for just this tome: La Langue des Mort par Jacques Perdue.

The smile on Gilbert's face widened as he read the title. Little was known about Perdue. As the surname suggested - if, indeed, the entire name was not a fabrication as Gilbert suspected - all but the barest facts about the man had been lost to history. Born in Marseille in 1602. Missing and presumed dead in 1678, or 1679, depending on which biographer one believed. This and the grimoire before him, The Language of the Dead, produced during the last twenty of those seventy odd years, were all that remained of the man.

Perdue's book, long coveted and finally wrested from Carmichael by Gilbert, was the only known transcription of the ancient and terrible tongue of its title - learned, claimed the author, after many years of communication with entities described as being from "realms beyond the five senses of man."

Gilbert smiled again, filled his empty glass from the bottle of wine beside the old grimoire. Carmichael, owner of the book for nearly a decade, hadn't known what to do with the thing despite his formidable intelligence. Or maybe he'd simply been afraid. Gilbert, on the other hand, knew how to use Purdue's book and was not afraid to do so - which was why he was the hoary tome's new owner.

Now Carmichael, or what was left of him, wandered the countryside serving Gilbert's will. Reaching down, he stroked the leather binding of the book. Yes, a few choice word combinations, courtesy of Purdue and his entities, had turned Carmichael's own dogs against him, and what is more, raised his dead and savaged body.

Gilbert sipped his wine, shuddered with a chill delight to think of Carmichael's frightful remains even now, perhaps, paying a visit on his behalf to that vindictive old bastard, Roberts. Ha, he thought, Roberts would finally get what he had coming to him!

It was then (rather poetically, Gilbert might have thought later, had he survived) that the drawing room window shattered behind him with a catastrophic clatter. He swung himself around, wine trailing from his glass and describing his motion in a crimson arc. Clambering through the smashed window, shards of glass jutting from his already torn and bloodied body, was Carmichael.

Gasping, Gilbert dropped his glass, now mostly empty, to the floor. "Wh- Wh- What are you doing!?" he shrieked dumbly.

The thing that had been Carmichael lurched, bleeding, into the room, raising tattered hands toward Gilbert. Clutched in the bloody fingers and dog chewed stumps of the ghastly right hand, Gilbert saw a folded piece of paper bearing his name in a familiar script. Carmichael shuffled forward and with horror Gilbert realized he was being offered a missive of some ghastly sort.

With his heart rising in his throat and his bowels churning in terror, he plucked the paper from the cold hand, flipped it open and read the last words of his life:

You were wrong, old boy, all these years! Purdue wrote two editions of his book. One containing information omitted from the other. Thank you for acquiring Carmichael's copy for my collection. Carmichael will bring it to me directly, as instructed, when he has done with you.

All my worst,

E. Roberts

- Transcribed by Richard Cody, 2006 -


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