Someone in Darkness
an unfinish'd Sesqua Valley story by
W. H. Pugmire, Uninspir'd
The beast came to me at midnight, as I assumed he would. I had been on a two-month excursion to Europe, with most of my time spent with an alchemist acquaintance in Italy, and I had returned with a fascinating little book and an unusual relic. I had enjoyed myself to the full--knowing that, due to my advanced age, this was likely to be my final trip abroad. I did not mind that this was so. My parents brought me to Sesqua Valley eighty years ago, when I was but a child; ending my days within its fantastic shadow was a happy thought. And as long as the beast remained among us, my days would not prove uneventful.
"Agatha Norris--welcome home. I would have come sooner, but I have been away, to New England." I had not heard him enter my abode, but I had sensed his presence in the room, as I became aware of his peculiar odor. He smelled of the valley, a pungent sweetness that was quite outre compared to anything in the outside world. I had been absent from the valley long enough that the smell affected me potently, as it disturbs those outsiders who first encounter it. I turned and nodded to him as he leaned against the wall near to the French windows through which he had entered my cottage. Beyond the tall windows I could see the moonlit garden that spread behind my residence, the sight of which inspired me to walk past the beast and out into the moonlit patch. The perfume of the blooms was a thing that some of us outsiders to the valley used so as to counter the syrupy nature of the Sesquan air.
I heard movement behind me as the creature followed me out into the garden. "I've been back for over one moth, beast. To what do I now owe this singular visitation? You've rarely paid me any attention in all my years of residence."
I did not look at him as he sighed. "I heard that you were visiting a would-be sorcerer in Italy. That's such a magnificent country, so overflowing with elder ways and esoteric secrets. I am, of course, curious about anything you may have gleaned in matters of necromantic art -- although I cannot consider this chap you stayed with as profound in learning."
I could not help but laugh a little at his words. "You censor everyone, Simon, who has grown weary of you and your ways. Andreas simply has no current need of you after the antics of your last visit. He says that you pilfered a book from his library."
The beast discarded the accusations with an irritable sniff. But then he smiled. "Yes, his library was sensational. Andreas has a talent for sniffing out the obscure thing. Of course, he more a collector than a magus--preferring to sit in his comfortable chair and read the formulae that he would never utter. Tsk."
"He does have a knack for discovering the fantastic thing," I agreed, as I rummaged into the deep pocket of my dress and fondled the small red book sequestered there. "We visited an innocuous shop that sold old furniture, where there were some few antique pieces. We came upon this extraordinary thing, a combination bureau and bookcase, whimsically painted. The seller had no idea of its age or worth and allowed us to plunder it. The doors to the bookcase portion had been sealed shut, you see, impossible to open with bare hands. Andreas sensed something, his instincts had been aroused, and so he took out that rather large ritual dagger he is never without and used it to pry open one of the doors. There was a loud splitting of wood as one of the doors cracked open, a noise that so alarmed the seller that Andreas hushed him by producing a large wad of bills with which to purchase the piece. And there it was, on the topmost shelf, the thing that has caused my companiuon's eyes to burn with fever--that marvelous old book. He snatched it and sniffed it and hooted with joy, and then he grabbed my hand and led me from the place as the seller hooted behind us for not taking the purchased bureau."
I paused in my story as Simon Gregory Williams glared at me with silver-hued eyes. Shrugging, I produced the book and tossed it to him. "Aha!" he exclaimed.
"Alas, no. The book is in cipher, and we couldn't crack it. That it is some kind of alchemical journal, some necromantic diary, is obvious from some of the diagrams drawn. He's read widely of such things, although not as widely as you, of course. The text is inscrutable."
"Oh, but I have seen something similar to this, in the correspondence of a chap named Joseph Curwen, from Providence. He corresponded with many European alchemists, often in cipher. Perhaps..."
"Well," I responded, "I have no use of the book. Perhaps it will amuse you. Consider it a present from an Italian friend."
He almost hummed with delight. "I'll do just that." He then peered at the moon and sneered. "But this lunar ambiance is too severe and sane. I've just purchased some ancient candles composed of the hide of a hanged witch. Their dancing light will be the perfect radiance in which to study this wondrous thing. I shall withdraw to my tower. Good evening, Agatha Norris."
* * * * * * * * * * *
Okay, my stomach hurts and I am unwell. I simply cannot go on for nigh. I shall retire to my bedchamber and sleep with my wee kitten, and then I will return and type the rest of this tale that shall never be completed--by me, at any rate. Shalom.
I cannot believe it!! I had almost the entire story typed, and then I pushed the wrong button or something and entirely lost it!!! Bollocks!!!! Two hours of labor entirely lost. Okay, fuck this. I'm going to go ahead and complete the writing of my story and then submit it to Mike for publication in ye Lovecraft eZine.