The rain pelted Carlos as he ran across the parking lot. His blue jacket shined in the streetlights as the rain slid off. His sneakers were soaked, and his jeans were now a dark blue from the absorbed rain. The black backpack was tied tightly to his body and bounced slightly against him. His breathing was heavy, and his limbs ached with a burning fire from running the past two blocks. Zigzagging through the parked cars, he glanced behind.
Walking at an unprecedented pace was a tall, slender man in a trenchcoat. His head was hung down, and the matching brown fedora glowed under the light. Although everything was soaked from the heavy rain, the man was dry. There was an eerie elegance to his gait as the cars and water seemed to move around him rather than the man moving by them.
A chill crawled across Carlos’s skin as he hit the corridor to his building. Lunging up the stairs, two at a time, he paused for a second. In his peripheral, the man was standing with his arms up. Though his body wanted to stop, his mind whipped adrenaline into him and forced the last steps to be conquered.
Briskly he walked past the other apartments. The lights flickering as the wind howled around, and the rain fell harder. A sense of doom glided around the small corridor as the keys jingled out of Carlos’s pocket and fumbled into the lock. Forcing the door, open he spun around to close it and was met with the trenchcoat man in his doorway.
The door slammed violently into the crooked smile as the man looked up, and Carlos locked the door fumbling to get the deadbolt in.
“My good sir,” the man said in a deep, intense but pleasant tone. “Please…hand over the book and do not open it. It is for your own good.” Footsteps paced around for a while with an unnatural flow and slowly began to fade away.
An awkward silence filled the small apartment. Carlos didn’t move for some time, uncertain if the man would try to barge in. It took a bit, but when Carlos was confident, he removed his backpack and gently laid it against the wall.
A puddle formed around him on the cold gray floor, as he removed the drenched sneakers and socks. The silence was broken with an electric hum as the AC unit engaged. Carlos placed the bag on the small black coffee table and went to the bedroom. It was a small one-bedroom apartment, typical kitchen/dining room combination, with a small area tucked away for a washer and dryer. A decent-sized patio and a small workstation.
As Carlos changed in the bedroom, there was a loud thud. He paused. Thoughts flashed through his mind as he froze with his shirt midway. The steady hum flowed through the apartment. Slowly he peeked out of the doorway and looked into the living room. Nothing unusual. Cautiously he carried the soaked clothing and placed them in the washing machine. A small trail of water following behind as he set the device and closed the lid. As Carlos turned the machine on, another loud thud shocked him into a jump. This time the sound of shattered glass followed and the whistling of a furious wind.
Cautiously he snuck to the source and saw the glass patio door cracked. The cheap plastic blinds flapped from a small hole in the window of the door, and the wild whistling intensified. Thunder boomed, shaking the door, and a flash of light lit the sky, revealing two dead birds. Carlos flipped the light switch, and chills crawled on his skin. The patio floor was covered in glass and blood along with two small birds laying against the cold, wet cement. A sense of disgust and confusion ran through him as he stared into the eyes of a bird. The dark pupils twitched, looking around in a panic. Their bodies still shivered a little and then stopped. Their chest fell slowly, and the rain fell harder. Carlos’s body was still with fear as the thunder roared and in the quick illumination of another lightning bolt cracked. This time in the distance, he saw something run into the stairway of his building.
The cold air furiously clung to his feet as Carlos wobbled uncertainly about his next move. Quickly he closed the door and grabbed his phone, which was lying on top of the disheveled bed. His fingers pounded 911 and hovered over the call button. The green phone button glowed at him, taunting him to call. The problem was if he called, he would have to explain the book.
It was stolen; Carlos took the book from a rundown bookstore. He had never done anything like stealing. Sure he lied every now and then to avoid trouble, but nothing so brash as stealing. The strangest part was the book seemed to call to him. He wanted to have it, own it, he had never seen it before, but something told him to take it. He broke into the store when the old man closed the shop and took it. He couldn’t call the police without incriminating himself. Carlos tossed the phone aside onto the small wooden dining table and grabbed the bag. Throwing himself on the couch, he picked up the remote from the couch arm and stared at the female reporter.
Some time passed, and the only change was the intensity of the storm. The television issued a few flood warnings but nothing out of the norm. He cleaned up the birds from the patio and sat staring at his bag. Unlatching it, he pulled out the giant black book. It was a worn-out black leather with a significant symbol on the cover glowing unnaturally. It was like the book itself was moving and changing. Carlos couldn’t look away, but he also noticed the symbol seemed to glitter. Slowly he reached out to touch the logo. He traced a disconnected star; each point ended sharply, almost like he could cut himself on them. In the center was what appeared to be an eye with two pupils connected, but it seemed to fade into a small flame.
As he did this tracing, the trenchcoated man’s voice echoed inside his head, “Don’t open the book…” Carlos’s body tried to fight the urge to open the book, but his mind pushed harder. As he lifted the book cover, an unusual sensation washed over Carlos. The hairs on his neck rose up, goosebumps filled his skin, and a massive sense of dread overwhelmed his body. The smell of the ocean mixed with rotten fish filled his sense of smell, and he fell back onto the couch, suddenly exhausted.
After a few minutes passed, he regained his senses and looked to now an open book. It was blank. He slipped through the pages, and each one was blank.
It can’t be! All this trouble for nothing! Carlos was angry. He slammed the book shut and cursing his luck and stood up, tossing it hard onto the floor.
“I warned you.” A heavy knock followed the familiar voice of the trenchcoat man. “Now you carry his curse and can never escape.” The knocking became louder and faster. Carlos stormed over to the door, flipped the locks, and as he swung the door open, a thunderous crash echoed through the night. The lights flickered as Carlos stood face to face with nothing. No one was at the door. He stepped out and looked around. No one was in the hallway except the howling of the storm and a few trash bags from the neighbors.
Carlos locked the door again, and as he turned away, the book flipped open. The television warped into distorted images, and the book began to bleed black goo. The room spun, and Carlos tried to steady himself but fell. As he fell onto the floor, a loud whining sound forced its way into his skull. Carlos was suddenly tired again, and as his vision dimmed, the familiar trenchcoat man stood at the patio door laughing. The goo reached out with an amebous arm toward Carlos, and darkness took over.
When Carlo’s vision came back to him, he could smell the putrid ocean. Something was off about his apartment. Pushing himself up, he saw the stranger sitting on the couch. Silently flipping through a red book.
“Glad to see you survived the master’s call. Very few survive.” the man said callously. He flipped a page gently with his long bony fingers, never looking up from the red book. Carlos leaned against the wall near him and noticed the entire apartment was covered in symbols. Every inch of the ceiling, doors, and furniture were covered in symbols. “I’m sure you have any questions, but for now, don’t try too hard. You’ll hurt yourself.” He chuckled and closed his book with a loud slap. Slowly his head turned to Carlos. His moon-like face with black holes where the eyes should be pierced in Carlos’s soul. The patio was black, and all sound ceased to exist.
“Who are you?” Carlos squeaked. There was a primal fear inside of him. This was not right, and he knew it. The man never looked away and sat perfectly still.
“You and your mundane, useless questions.” The man sighed, annoyed. “I have many names, but you wouldn’t be able to pronounce them, so let’s go with…legion.” The room slowly began to spin, and Legion glided up, appearing before him in a flash. “You took something that wasn’t meant for you. Instead of leaving it alone, you took it for your own. Now you belong to him.” The darkness from the patio flowed into the apartment, and everything melted together.
“Wha…what is going on?” Carlos crawled back but was stuck.
“Ah yes, you humans are so damn delicate.” Legion’s finger reached out, and Carlos flinched away. “The gifts are too intense for you sometimes. You stole the Book of Madness, his most holy book given to chosen few. The darkness stopped behind the stranger and left Carlos on a small portion of the floor. In the pitch darkness, Legion smiled. It was as if the Cheshire cat took form before his eyes. “The blessings from the book are meant for those hand-picked by our Lord. Instead, you stole that blessing and had to be tested.
“The bookstore…” The horror began to slide around Carlos’s safe space. The stranger stood, but a strange glowed began to fill him.
“Ah yes, you broke into the bookstore and stole the vessel from the chosen one. You see, curiosity killed the cat, and my Lord brought you back. Of course, he must have liked something about you. You see, he gave you something special. He told me not to interfere.”
“Who is he?” Carlos asked with a confused calmness. Carlos’s mind couldn’t handle the darkness. There were eyes everywhere, or at least what appeared to be eyes. They were like out of place torches, and his head began to hurt.
Laughing Legion blended into the darkness as he bent toward Carlos. “He is madness and insanity, He is the inspiration and destruction. He is the whisper in your ear, which tells you to steal and be dishonest, and now he creeps along your skin and makes you feel whole. You are here because he asked you to be here, and you agreed.” Carlos shivered in fear, his pants stained with a warm liquid. Legion grabbed Carlos and pinched tightly.
“And now… you will start your new life of madness.” There was a painful sensation as the rancid sea filled his nose, and the whining sound came back again. Legion pushed Carlos, and his body felt like it was being swallowed into an abyss. He wanted to scream but couldn’t, and as he fell for what seemed like an eternity, there was an old voice laughing. The source was impossible to find, but it echoed in that nothingness around Carlos. It made his body vibrate painfully, and as he closed his eyes, he could only pray it was over when he woke up from this nightmare.