Necronomicon: Papers of Penance

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Marwin's Letter

I predicted a rainstorm on the thirty-first of July.

Though all I saw was a perfect blue sky and a strong breeze, I wondered what I would do if the tables turned. That way, I’d either be prepared for the worst, or pleasantly surprised. I then decided it wouldn’t matter, as I’d get cold either way.

It was 80 degrees Fahrenheit (27°C), but I still needed a thick grey jumper over a white shirt. That’s what I wore that day, along with shorts so blue it could match a projector screen. It was no different from what I wear at school. I’m content wearing the same thing every day, and the day would’ve been perfect if it weren’t for the destination.

You know the legends of Keziah Mason—one of the condemned witches of Salem 1692. In her trial, she confessed to her judge about ‘lines and curves to the walls of space and other spaces beyond’, as well as started rumours about a mysterious figure and a book of forbidden knowledge. Before her execution, she disappeared. No one could describe how she did so, and not even Cotton Mather could describe the symbols smeared onto her cell with 'red, sticky fluid'.

Since then, people have tried getting into that same knowledge; rituals, sacrifices, you name it. Hundreds of years later, a cult even built a church in her name in the middle of an island. And at some point, those cultists disappeared as well. What’s even stranger, the grey stone walls had those same lines and curves the witch had left.

No one had touched the island ever since. The most people did to get in touch was take pictures while keeping distance. If it were me, I would’ve done the same. Whoever thought going to an abandoned island was a good idea, they were a real genius.

The reason I came along with eleven other people? I’d have nothing else to do while waiting for my plane to Germany, which was on the fifth of August. I had packed everything I needed, left my textbooks in our dorm, and told my family when I’d come home. All I had to do was wait. I could’ve gone somewhere else to kill my time—except I’ve seen every corner of Arkham, and pretending a quarantine would bore me to death.

They know I get seasick. Not horrible, but bad enough to lose my sense of the next few minutes. The only thing I could do was to bear with it and remind myself that the destination was what counted.

Gingersnaps helped. Utterson offered me two, and I took a bite. It was literal cardboard. Seeing my reaction, he snickered and asked me if I could stomach anything else. I said no, adding that he looked like he needed it more than me. As Utterson pushed his glasses and looked away, I held back a smug satisfaction.

Utterson looked unusual in an indigo parka. Knowing how superfluous he could be, a white shirt and khaki trousers were the closest to modern he could get. To give him credit, though, he managed to match his parka with his eyes, and his espadrilles were a big improvement from his derby shoes.

Utterson told me I’d fall into one of his traps again. He was right. But back then I thought I was smart enough to know his tricks, so I told him to bring something better or not try at all.

We weren’t enemies. Our friendship was...complicated. Rivals at best. One day he’d do something like this, and another he’d be nice and genuine. Sometimes his shenanigans were continuous, sometimes they were occasional. Sometimes he’d stop interacting with me for weeks, before one day screaming ‘Road roller’ in an odd accent as he threw a toy road roller at me in the middle of the class.

Of course, we made up afterward. But the number of times we had done so was more than the times I had taken long showers. Perhaps that was the best thing about Utterson. His head was thicker than the thickest hardcover of the Holy Bible, and you couldn’t really get rid of him no matter what.

But this time was weak. Even Sawney agreed. Except he didn’t say it in front of Utterson’s face and only told me it was a good one. I nodded because in fact, I won. He offered me a can of beer as a small celebration. I rejected, but only because I don’t drink.

After that, I was a little bored and I had a slight headache. Sawney told me I had a ‘funeral face’, before asking me if I was thinking about Pierre. I said no. He asked me if I noticed something odd from him. I said, ‘Sure.’

We glanced at said person, who was standing alone on the deck behind us. His platinum hair was swaying in the wind, as light aroma of tea wafted up from his hands. Without his acquaintance Silvia, he seemed lonely. Otherwise she would remind him not to drink so much tea, and he would agree before coming up to Normand and saying, ‘Normand, bring me another one.’

Pierre didn’t seem like he wanted to come here. But he was giving me no choice when he invited me. He didn’t say I must come; though I noticed a pattern of questions like, ‘Are you sure?’ and ‘We’ve never seen you relax before. Joining us would be delightful.’

So I asked Papa on what he thought. He was a vicar, and a strict one too. He didn’t even use his phone much, but I called him because I’d find even less luck with Mama. To my surprise, he answered. As I explained my predicament to him, he went silent. Surprise hit me again when he said, ‘Sure, why not? Take care and don’t forget the Necronomicon. Like I said, don’t do anything...rash.’

I said I wouldn’t even think about it. He went silent again. When I asked him what’s wrong, he said that I must have thought about it at some point. ‘Not that it’s wrong. We’ve all thought of it one time, but as long as you don’t give in, that’s okay. Remember. God is faithful. He won’t allow temptation to overwhelm you. When your faith is put to the test, God will help you pass it.’

Corinthans 10:15. Right. I smiled and wished him a good summer. He wished me back, though he added that the rest of the family was going to Harz without me. He laughed and hung up before I could stop him.

That was two days before the sail. He didn’t tell me wether he allowed me to come, but I did. Like I said, I’d have nothing to do waiting for the plane anyway.

Sawney asked if we should talk to Pierre. I said no, as he probably wanted to be alone. Besides, I wasn’t close friends to anyone, so confronting him would only make things more awkward. Sawney said it had never been the case with me, but I reminded him that I only talk as a means to an end.

Our boat stopped by the beach. I was thankful for Sawney, as he kept me from my seasickness untill I fell flat-faced the moment I stepped down the boat. From there, I heard Pierre’s faint voice to set the anchor down. He came up to me and said, ‘See? You don’t even need a paper bag. Told you it’s not gonna take long.’

He was true at that. Only an hour had passed, so I trusted him enough to accept his helping hand.

Pierre was wearing a light-grey and livid jacket, and baggy black pants that didn’t match with his striped slides. I always wondered about his fashon sense outside of school. Needless to say, I was dazzled. ‘I rarely wear my favourite jacket, though,’ he said. ‘Might as well keep it, so I can wear it for the next ten years.’

Some people were already preparing to swim. The beach was beautiful, but it wasn’t why we were there. I told Pierre I would get a grand look at the scenery before going to the main spotlight. He gave me a green light. We would meet in front of the church, he said.

The island was covered in mossy rocks and a few patches of trees, and I had to cross a plateau to see its full view. The earthy landscapes set against the hard blue sky. Looking a little closer, waterfalls and rivers were running down a few valleys as well. The picture of Harz invoked from the back of my mind. Those mountains are the most beautiful in summer, though my family likes to visit there in autumn. They like the breeze, they say; and I would be the only one shivering despite wearing the most layers. That’s why I was upset they’re going without me.

The church stood on the centre of the island, with red, sticky fluid smeared onto its walls and doors. They must’ve been at least thrice my height. I untied the chains around the doors’ levers. Their rusty touch made me drop them onto the floor as soon as possible. It took me half my strength to open the doors themselves, and even then a loud screech rewarded my ears.

The only light inside was the midday sun, but the place was already radiating with archaism. Images and scenes came to life as colours wander across the floor. Each pane of stained glass retold a somewhat romanticised story of the witch, from her ordinary life to escape from humanity.

Several monoliths, ornated with ancient hieroglyphs, stood facing each other. Those symbols rang a familiar note; but when I tried to remember, nothing popped up.

Those monoliths formed a long pathway, leading to a dust-carpeted staircase. On the top platform, a garden of light loomed over a pile of burnt wood. It probably used to be an altar.

In front of me was Keziah Mason herself. Her right hand was facing toward me, as a sacred being would bless those who place their eyes on her. Her left hand was holding a book. Its cover was a circle with sigils over sigils, until it was no longer a pentagram.

Colour faded from my face. It was the Necronomicon. The cursed book of the dead, condemning those who attempt to master its arcane knowledge. From the bookcase on my belt, I held it up to compare. At first I was dazed by its resemblance. Then a sense of wonder came, before it hit me with a minacious feeling. Why was the book there? What does it have to do with her?

A landslide of questions came forth, until a faint click came from the front doors. Pierre was checking on me. As I walked toward them, the doors moved again.

Something from the back interrupted me. It was only wind. Yet, I felt a presence as it swirled inside the airless room. I went back to open the doors. They resisted. A gurgling sound of living tar began to fill my ears. Something behind me crashed. The pulpit fell down, and the next thing I knew, warm fluid was running down my arm.

Blood trickled down and crept onto the innocent floor. A needle of pain pierced onto my back and spread throughout my upper body. I fought it, heavy breaths oppressing as I yanked the doorknobs. Minute clicks responded. The light began to dim, and the colours began to fade. Shivering hands gripped on rusty metal, the banging on the doors growing louder every second.

All at once, everything stopped. I was confused. But something swept me away, and soon I welcomed the blanket of darkness. The last thing I heard was the gentle crescendo of rainfall.

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