Checking out at the Library

The Book was bound in black leather, gold, and iron. The leather and gold formed the cover. The iron came in the form of a chain, with links each as thick around as a man's thumb, and a lock that would have taken a carnival strongman to manipulate. The keyhole suggested that its mate might double as a walking stick, given its obvious size. Which was why Poor Temmy was so surprised when he found The Book open and unbound as he brought his cleaning cart into the Necromancer's Wing of the Geinodes Club on his evening rounds.

The Necromancer's Wing was the last stop, in every sense. Poor Temmy had only to get in and out, knock the wads of obvious dust off of certain very well-marked bookshelves, and he could head home for the night.  The hunched-over cleaningsman always told himself that he shouldn't save it until the end -- maybe do the Thaumaturge's Wing last, which was well-lit and full of wonderful clockwork creations and made no suggestion that its dark places would swallow him whole of their own volition. But that fruity little dhampyr was the only one who was ever around late, and Poor Temmy did not hold with that, no sir.

Of course, he didn't hold much with being consumed by dark nothingness, either, so the Necromancer's Wing usually got only the a series of increasingly erratic of wipe-downs before his hand shook so badly he could no longer hold a duster, and he fled in a near-panic from the place. Every night. It never got better.

Tonight, though, the dark was different. Yes, it was filled with the patina of rot and with shadows that bent after you when you passed, but tonight even the shadows were on good behavior. The Book was on its customary stand, which Poor Temmy was Not To Touch, but whenever he scuttled past it, nothing cold and insubstantial wisped after him. Elsewhere in the Wing, the night held onto every one of its terrors, but near The Book, the dark was just... empty. Empty of light, and of everything else that Poor Temmy had ever imagined it contained.  All those terrors that might have been hiding in the gloom... they simply weren't there.

Poor Temmy lingered.

The Book was... "beautiful" was the wrong word... enthralling. Its pages were each trimmed in gold filigree, and the writing inside was crisp and firm, as if its author were possessed of some absolute clarity. Poor Temmy had never been absolute about anything in his life -- a sin to which he faithfully confessed every sevenday, more from a vague sense of unease than actual fear of the Lord -- and though he had no idea what the strange lettering might say, the straight lines and perfect arches looked as if they'd been planned by an architect.  They made him feel awed, as if looking at a mighty cathedral. They were even easy on the eyes: rather than a harsh black on white as he'd seen elsewhere in the libraries of the Club, these words were a dark brown, on pages almost sepia in coloration. They looked thick, too, those pages, satisfying. They weren't paper, he thought, but something more... human. Poor Temmy imagined that turning one of those pages would feel like an accomplishment.

When he found that he was right, he was not sure what baffled him more: how the almost sensuous crinkle of the page made his spine shudder in delight, or the fact that he'd dared touch The Book at all.

What did not seem in the least odd to him was that the next page was perfectly readable to him. It also seemed quite natural, when he flipped back to the previous page he'd just found to be incomprehensible, that he should be able to understand it with ease.

That is not dead which can eternal lie...

It bothered him for a moment, as his fingers lovingly caressed the pages, when the words began to slide off of The Book and onto his flesh.  It hurt, the way that they tore his skin open to allow fresh blood to seep out to trace those straight lines and perfect arches.  It hurt, but oh, how he wanted them.  They deserved fresh blood, not the dried stuff that had caked those pages.  As he watched them carve themselves onto his flesh, fleeing the bindings of The Book for human skin far more supple than dead leather, he could also feel the words burning themselves indelibly into his mind.

... and with strange aeons even death may die.

His posture straightened.  His thoughts expanded.  His sense of being Poor Temmy, the orphaned boy who'd grown up in the streets of Industry and taken every beating that had been his lot with pathetic pleas of "I'm sorry, I'm sorry"... it seemed very distant.  Distant, insignificant... hard to understand.  The world was so much more than just a flimsy, meaty shell moving about on a rock that fled the inevitable doom of the universe through space and time.

It had order.  It had meaning.  It had the words.

Blood-runes welling all across its body, the thing that had been Poor Temmy approached a glass display case containing several scrolls, vials, and a ceremonial dagger.  For a moment, a cursed language appeared faintly on the glass, which then burst outward from the case in suicidal horror.  The thing reached for the dagger, and methodically cut the scraps of clothing away from its body, revealing the runes to the world.  Gathering clumps of hair in its blood-slicked fist, it cut them away down to the scalp, so that no word should remain hidden from the world.

It turned the dagger over in its hand.  For now, blood smeared only its hilt.  The words... they were not meant to be kept to itself.  They were meant to be shared.

It would share them with everyone.

Blade readied, it strode out of the Necromancer's Wing, to begin.

A short time later, after the first screams began, an unseen hand possessed of absolute clarity commenced tracing straight lines and perfect arches onto the empty pages of The Book, in a wet, red ink.