He ran, panting franticly with beads of perspiration oozing, almost spraying out of his pores. The young man’s heart was pounding inside his ribcage, accelerating with every turn he made, and every step he took. He made a hard left into an alleyway next to an old apartment building, and hid behind an over-stuffed dumpster. He was shaking in a way he thought was never possible; the man looked at his watch, trying to focus his vision on its face. He eventually saw the hands, which told him that it was one o’clock in the early morning. He put his back against the cold dumpster, and tried to collect his senses, to calm his petrified nerves, but the sound that echoed through the alley did not allow his heart to rest. It wasn’t footsteps, or at least it did not sound like footsteps ought to sound. A click-clacking noise followed by the sound of friction on the asphalt, getting closer.
Click-clack-frrp, click-clack-frrp, click-clack-frrp!
Then it stopped, and Adam Fitch’s breathing ceased with it. The slender faced man, with his thin mustache, and his strawberry-blonde hair peered slowly from behind the dumpster. Fitch gave a sigh of relief when he saw nothing in the alley. He crouched on the ground, with his face in his palms, giggling at first, and then laughing hysterically. He laughed so hard that for a mere second, he did not feel the sharp claws that dug deep into his back, snatching him, and snapping his neck in the process.
The sun shone behind a filter screen of mist, silently projecting its light onto Bristol City in the United Kingdom as it awoke. Alisha Spencer was already riding her bike, on her way to Central Library; for she didn’t get any sleep the preceding night, or the night before that. Ever since her boyfriend had disappeared a month ago, she felt as if a light went out inside her soul, as if she was an empty shell not knowing when exactly she’ll be whole again. She pedaled through City Center, one foot after the other in circular motions. She knew it was true, but did not want to believe it; Alisha knew Adam was dead. What she didn’t know was how he died, and she planned to find out. The problem was that the police didn’t acknowledge the fact that he was dead, for some time, they disregarded the thought of him being missing in the first place. They said that he took off, left town, and didn’t tell anyone. But after some pressure from Adam’s family, they put him back on the missing persons’ list. Alisha couldn’t organize her thoughts, she knew she needed a plan, but her mind wouldn’t let her think clearly. She forced the sorrow out; she shoved the pain aside, and took it upon herself to figure out how she’d begin her search. Before his disappearance, Adam frequented Central Library. For what reason, Alisha didn’t know, but she believed that he was researching strange topics about the supernatural, and the unknown. It began when Adam found a used book, a collection of weird tales. These stories of the occult aroused his curiosity; Alisha remembered how he used to talk about these things, and how excited he seemed whenever he bought a new book on the topic. But somewhere along the line, Adam changed. It was as if there had been a dark cloud hovering over him wherever he went; he got thinner, and did not speak much, spending most of his time in libraries. It physically hurt her whenever she thought about how helpless she felt when he was like that. These memories came and went as she locked her bike in front of the library, and went inside.
“He’s a good kid;” the gray-haired librarian said “He came in here a lot, kept to himself.”
Alisha took Adam’s picture from the librarian. The man wore the wrinkling mask of old age, but had the air of a much younger individual. His name, Mr. George Stephenson, was engraved on a bronze colored name plate set on his desk. The room smelt a bit stuffy, a mixture of cigar smoke, and old age.
“The boy had strange reading habits.” Mr. Stephenson added “He started off with a lot of Lovecraftian fiction, but then shifted to darker works.”
“Such as?” Alisha asked, putting the picture back in her pocket.
“He asked for old books,” The librarian said “Books the library does not keep in the open, some of which are even banned.”
“What kind of old books?”
Alisha stared at Mr. Stephenson for a while, not really comprehending his words. She knew Adam got into that kind of writings, but black magic? That she could not believe.
“Did you give him these books?” she asked, hearing her own voice as if from a distant location.
“Yes,” he said “Copies, but the last one he read was an original.”
“Can I see it?”
The librarian frowned a little, then got up, and turned to the painting that hung on the wall behind him. He took the painting off the wall, revealing a medium sized safe. George opened the safe, and produced a thick volume, leather bound and weathering; he slammed it on the desk with a thud. The black book had strange markings on it, printed in worn golden ink.
“The Book of Czarians,” he said “Its author, unknown.”
Alisha ran her hand on the book, touching the old leather under her fingertips. She felt the metallic latch that had a lock on it, stared at it for a minute with her greyish eyes, and then turned to the librarian. Stephenson took out a key from the safe, and placed it on the book.
“You can borrow it if you want,” he said “But don’t show it to anyone, and bring it back tomorrow.”
“Thank you, sir.” Alisha said as she picked up the book, which weighed no less than fifteen kilograms. She put it inside her bag, and walked out of the librarian’s office. There was something creeping under her pale skin, she did not know what.
Alisha spent her day in her apartment, with her face buried in that ghastly book. Its pages were sickeningly yellow, and reeked of something unlike the aroma of old books. Even the texture of its pages felt wrong. She didn’t understand a word when she started reading, but after a while, things got clearer. She knew it was nonsense; it was all made up by some crazy author. The book talked of a strange race which existed in a parallel universe. They were waiting until the time was right for them to flood the earth, and devour mankind. There was a gate that held them back; there was a key-keeper, and a key. The book referred to the key as ‘The Gollath’, a creature that fed on human flesh.
Night fell outside Alisha’s place, as she sat smoking her twentieth cigarette with shaking hands. She was sitting on the couch staring at the evil book when she heard a knock on the door. She opened it, and the smoke in her lungs froze at the sight of Adam, who stood in her doorway.
“A-Adam?” she whispered “How? H-how?”
He walked in, and kissed her without uttering a word; Alisha felt the tears running down her cheeks.
“You’re yummy.” He groaned with a voice not his.
Adam opened his mouth unnaturally wide, and Alisha heard the sound of his jaw snapping. He twisted and turned, until all of a sudden, his flesh exploded. Alisha tried to scream, but all that came out was a silent squeal. In front of her, stood a grotesque creature not of this earth, with a humanoid canine facial bone structure, and hollow eyes; its neck had spicks, and was a meter long. It had large scaly wings, long legs that bent both ways, and three tails. It walked towards Alisha, its claws clicking on the floor; its tails slithering with a frrrp-frrrp sound. Alisha screamed, but the creature silenced her by leaping through the air, and biting her head off.
Mr. George Stephenson walked into the apartment not stepping into the blood puddle on the floor. The Gollath was finishing the rest of his meal as George picked up the book, and stood by the desk watching the creature. It looked up, let out a low-pitched gargling sound, and rapidly transformed to a human being, looking like Alisha.
“We’ve been doing this for centuries,” said George “Why are you so messy?”
“I was hungry, Keeper,” The Gollath said in Alisha’s voice “The time is almost right.”
Stephenson chuckled, and locked the book. He smiled at the thought of all those who died because they touched its pages. It was almost time for him to open the gate, and set the Czarians free. The end was near, and he couldn’t have been more pleased.