I have undertaken a journey in search of glory and professional recognition but as I approach my final hours I must recount the hardships I have endured in this quest. I have to say that the sole purpose of these pages is to deter any man from pursuing an expedition such as the one I so naively embarked on. It all started in the fall of 19–; during this time I held a position as a professor of anthropology at the University of Buenos Aires, where I was conducting a lecture on the lexicon and its features. Towards the end of the semester, I was visited by a man that introduced himself as a representative of the Italian Hospital and although he was dressed in fine clothing his eyes evoked a dismal sensation in me. He bore the tragic news of my grandfather’s hospitalization as a result of a heart attack. My grandfather, Dr. Manuel Hernandez, a celebrated anthropologist whose work included the exploration of ancient ruins found in the Galan Mountains, laid the foundation in the field of glyph deciphering. When I reached his bedside, I found him laid strewn across the bed with numerous apparatuses attached to his body. The medical staff informed me that he was brought in after suffering a collapse at a local coffee shop but that his condition was stable. I remained by his bedside that night but noticed that he became restless and began to move around his bed. The incident culminated with my grandfather’s awakening and frantic attempt to get out of bed.
In his delirium, he spoke of megalithic cities and claimed to have seen the remains of a race that lived eons before mankind. The hospital staff and I regarded these tales as mere tricks of the mind, a product of the fever he suffered from. His condition remained stable for several weeks but his physical body would prove to have reached its living capacity and expire a few months later. Before his passing, when I began my career in the field of anthropology, my grandfather gave me a key to his personal archives and asked me not to use the key until after his dead. He claimed that the archives contained his most secretive research and that if it were to fall in the wrong hands, insanity would surely follow the reader.
After the funeral, looking down at the key in my hand, I decided to search for his personal archives. In his office laid a vast collection of books, photographs and various artifacts, which I meticulously rearranged to ease my search. The task took me several days but when I finally narrowed my search to the last pile of boxes my perseverance was rewarded. In the contents of a cardboard box I found a smaller metal box. From the looks of the container, one could deduce that this was not an ordinary box; for it was elegantly decorated with carved images of a humanoid race worshiping what appeared to be chimera gods; part human and part animal. The craftsmanship of the box was impressive, but as I further examined the object I noticed an inscription carved on its edge. The writing was in Latin and it translated to the following: “That is not dead which can eternal lie and with strange eons even death may die”. This inscription could only have alluded to the horrors contained in Pandora’s Box. I proceeded to unlock the box and was astonished when I gazed at the contents. There it lay; bound in human leather, the ancient, mystical and forbidden text known as the al-Azif. Tales of its existence were rumored throughout the ages and phrases from its pages murmured in the whispers of the night. After Pope Gregory IX suppressed and burnt all remaining copies, I could not conceive the idea of how my grandfather obtained a copy of such an ancient work of literature. In the same box, I also found an envelope which was addressed to “my beloved grandson”. The envelope contained a letter in which my grandfather described the events that led to his discovery of the al-Azif.
The discovery took place during his excavation in the Galan Mountains, where a volcanic upheaval had uncovered the remains of an ancient city. The site was discovered by a resident of the Catamarca Province who had stumbled upon the ancient stonework while grazing his herd. My grandfather was contacted immediately by the University of Buenos Aires and asked to assess the archaeological potential of the site. Upon his arrival a team of locals guided him through the treacherous terrain but by the time they reached the site, twilight was closing in and the team decided to camp and wait till the following morning to commence the assessment. That night, my grandfather’s sleep was perturbed by nightmares of the most bizarre nature and he attributed them as the source of his discovery. In these nightmares, he ran through the desert sands of an ancient city in an attempt to escape from an invisible malignant entity. He sought refuge in the forgotten subterranean passages of the city and during his frantic escape the passages lead him to a stygian crypt. Found in the crypt were the remains of the ancient kings of Irma, preserved in shrouds and riches. As he walked through the tombs, he heard numerous whispers that told him to open one of the ancient caskets. As he opened the casket, a gust of wind emerged from the container and began to absorb his body into the casket. Awakened by these visions he was determined to sleep no more.
The excavation began the following morning and as quickly as it had started; tremors and danger of volcanic activity hindered the progress of the assessment. Although progress was minimal, during the following days my grandfather was able to gather enough archeological artifacts to initiate his initial experiments. The results revealed the stone to be 2.2 million years in age and the artifacts to be thousands of years older than any of the ancient civilizations known today. These results were astonishing, for if the date of these artifacts were accurate, our complete perception of when humanity commenced could change. These were controversial findings and my grandfather decided to run multiple tests before he could confirm his results. With precision, the remaining tests supported the first findings. This was substantial evidence that would forever change the notion of the origins of mankind. Before he concluded this investigation, he decided to conduct a final excavation in the northern part of the site, where he made his most horrifying discovery. There, in an ancient casket, he found 13 jars containing ancient scrolls, some written in Arabic and others in unknown glyphs. After further testing, the scrolls written in Arabic were dated to 730 A.D. The discrepancy with his initial findings was puzzling since the ancient civilizations of Arabia did not flourish during this ancient period of time.
That night, he began his work to decipher the ancient glyphs but the task proved to be more difficult and time consuming than anticipated. After a few weeks he received a notification from the university asking for a progress report, but failed to submit an official report. He needed more time to conclude his experiment and after applying every grammatical and linguistic pattern to the ancient text he felt cheated, for every attempt that brought him close to clarity was quickly discarded as a mismatch. His work persisted for months and the university threatened to terminate his funding if he did not comply with a full progress report. He was not able to fully decipher the text but soon reported to the university his preliminary findings. He became obsessed with the glyphs that he almost forgot about the other scrolls found in the site. He proceeded to dedicate his efforts in analyzing the text in Arabic. By that time he had already returned to Buenos Aires and during the winter of 19– he came to a major breakthrough when he discovered that the texts were remains of the al-Azif. During this time, he recounted to have suffered from nightmares and episodes of sleep paralysis where an unknown presence would hold him in thrall to his bed. The product of his work resulted in the compilation of these scrolls into the al-Azif and the creation of the container holding the book, which illustrations were taken from visions of his nightmares.
His letter did not detail the events following the creation of the al-Azif and with this tale he left my mind perplexed at the events I had just read. After reading my grandfather’s published work and official reports to the university I noticed that he did not mentioned the finding of the al-Azif which led me to focus my attention in the contents of the book and its relation to the ancient scrolls. I began to study the book with the same ardor that carried me through my graduate studies and as a result I increasingly became obsessed with the text. Initially, I began to occasionally miss lectures but my obsession with the book soon pushed me to completely stop going to work. I submitted a leave of absence to the university on grounds of personal conflicts and was granted my petition within a matter of days. With my responsibilities to the university temporarily suspended, I retired to my home where I was able to immerse myself deeper in the study of the text.
My wife began to grow concerned when I started to spend entire days in my office without any food consumption, for she had noticed a rapid decline in my body weight. My daughter began to ask with more frequency the reason for my seclusion and why my appearance seemed to have a somber tone. I tried to appease both of their minds by allowing them to see me during the day for a few hours but my quest for knowledge was stronger than my will and soon found myself withdrawing back to isolation. As the months passed my seclusion intensified to the point that my wife and daughter abandoned me, for they felt that they could no longer live with the stranger I had become. When I finally concluded my studies I realized that my family had abandoned me and although I desired to amend the damage I had caused my family, what I had discovered beckoned me to embark on a voyage to confirm my speculations.
During his preliminary research my grandfather had laid a crude but useful technique which after a few manipulations allowed me to fully decode the ancient scrolls he found in the Galan Mountains. The scrolls were from an ancient race that existed eons before mankind; a race that has been known throughout time as the “lizard people” by the Hopi Indians of North America and the Nāgas by the Hindu in India. This race kept records of the events that had occurred since the formation of the earth and had witnessed the evolution of mankind. This and other gruesome tales were the contents of the ancient scrolls, but the tale that drew my attention told of a relentless ruler that had possession of the al-Azif and during an encounter with an angry multitude the book was torn to pieces and scattered to the most remote places on earth. There were five secret locations but four were found and kept hidden by the descendants of this mysterious race. The last piece was buried in a nameless grave and an altar to the spirits of the desert was erected above it to deter anyone from excavating the site.
This discovery was crucial, for it identified in theory the location of the remaining pages of the book. However, the only way to confirm this hypothesis was to travel to the vast pagan lands of Arabia where I speculated the remaining pieces of the book could be found. I immediately submitted a letter to the university requesting funding to continue my grandfather’s work but concealed my true intentions from the department officials for they would have not supported such a farfetched expedition in search of the al-Azif. I knew that the discovery of this text would be the biggest archeological finding of the century and I wanted to be the one to make this discovery.
With generous funding from the university I was able to reach my destination and commence my expedition. Arriving at Sana’a, I purchased provisions and a camel to travel north east of the city and into the border of the Rub’ al Khali. Upon my arrival I had arranged for a member of the Bedu tribe to meet me at this location. The Bedu have lived on this wasteland since before recorded time and know the land better than anyone. Without the guidance of the Bedu, one should forsake any hope of penetrating the sands of the Rub’ al Khali for its arid hills would swallow any man and leave no traces of his passage. A man with a rugged countenance was waiting for me and introduced himself as Cabd-Al Hadi, the son of a shepherd. During our travel we endured a scorching heat, and withstood suffocating winds that filled our lungs with dust particles. As I recalled, I was on the verge of suffocation when Cabd decided to settle and wait for the winds to abate. He placed our camels next to each other and created a makeshift tent between them using blankets and pieces of cloth. We must have waited the entire afternoon because by the time the sand storm had ceased, twilight had approached our location. We decided to continue our journey in the cool of the night to avoid the blistering heat.
After traveling for several nights, we finally came across a sand dune that was unlike any of the ones I had seen in the landscape. This dune towered above all of them and seemed to have been carved out of the sands by the violent winds native to this region. At last I had reached the destination that would bring me the recognition and prestige I craved. I could not contain my excitement and I eagerly began to unload my supplies, but was surprised when I found out that Cabd would not be accompanying me to the other side of the dune. His reason left me wondering about the religious beliefs of the Bedu, for they avoid coming to this forsaken place due to the fear of the evil spirits that dwell here. I disregarded his reasons, for my excitement was greater than any fear a man can experience. I ventured alone into the sands and once at the top I gazed at the landscape as it was illuminated by the light of the moon. I caught a glimpse of a stone protruding from the sands and quickly slid down the sand to inspect the stone. As I examined the stone, I notice that it contained inscriptions that were very similar to the ones I had seen in the box containing the al-Azif. I went back to find Cabd and decided that I would set up camp alone next to the site, since Cabd was frightened to venture beyond the dune. That night, my excitement reached high levels and unable to sleep, I decided to start my excavation. As I uncovered the stonework, a sinister wind blew through my campsite as if an unknown force wanted to prevent me from uncovering the ruins. I disregarded this incident as mere tricks of the mind and continued excavating until my body was exhausted. My excavation lasted for a few nights until I finally exposed the monolith hidden beneath the sands. An entrance lay at the bottom of the monolith and contained steps leading down into the entrails of the earth. If my calculations were correct, this was the entrance to the chamber where the remaining pages of the al-Azif were buried.
I now found myself staring into the abyss; I lit a torch and began my descent into the darkness. The passage was narrow and the steps crumbled with every footstep. As I continued my descent, the passage became increasingly difficult to navigate and the temperature began to drop. The distance I descended was enormous but I could not deduce the exact distance, for the strenuous difficulty of the descent demanded my complete focus on every step I took. When I reached the bottom, I lifted my torch to illuminate the room and realized that I was in the resting chamber of the individual for which this tomb was designed. The chamber was made with rudimentary stonework and at the end of the chamber laid an alcove that showed marks of deterioration due to the passage of time. Inside were the remains of an individual wrapped in shrouds that also showed the same temporal deterioration. I proceeded to remove the shrouds and was astonished by what my eyes beheld. There laid the remains of a man who was holding to his chest the last pages of the al-Azif. I freed the pages from his grasp and began to read the contents.
The pages were written in Arabic and were difficult to read due to their extensive deterioration; however, I was able to decipher the text, which translated to the following:
“I Abdul-Al Hazred have seen the darkest depths of hell and have witness what man can only perceive in his nightmares. These visions have tormented my body and soul, and as a result I now write these pages to warn any mortal about the dark powers contained in the al-Azif. Be warned stranger of the contents of these pages for the evil contained in them knows no bound. What once existed will one day return to its origins, for we are part of Them and They are part of us. Although man is unable to see Them, we can feel their presence in the darkness. They are the sinister whispers we hear in the wind. They are the reason why dogs howl in the late hours of the night. We will soon be reunited once again, ashes to ashes and dust to dust.”
Although I was startled by these words, I disregarded the warning and began reading the forbidden pages. The pages contained various incantations and works of black magic, which as described by the book were once used by necromancers to raise the dead. As I continued to read, I could not have been mentally prepared for the events that were about to unfold in this stygian vault, for they were to be the final seal in my destiny. As I read one of the incantations out loud, “Lords of time and darkness. You are and always will be. Waiting endlessly, drink the wine of the living. That which is eternal, I ask thee to open the gates and let me peer into the darkness” with no anticipation, a gust of wind rushed from the entrance of the tomb and extinguished the fire in my torch. I was startled by the sudden darkness and I frantically began to light my torch. During this process I accidentally struck my finger with the flint stones and began to bleed. The blood from my hands poured into the earth and at the moment I did not realized that a few drops of blood was all the ritual needed to come to a conclusion. I had unwillingly performed one of the ancient rituals. Now, what once lay dead was about to become reanimated. In the darkness I started to hear the beating of the fiend’s heart. It grew louder and louder until it finally culminated with a hellish cry. When I had finally managed to light my torch, I was frozen in fear when I gained sight of the fiend now standing before of me. Still covered in shrouds, there it stood, ancient and decayed. Looking around to see where he was, he soon fixed his glare straight at me and with a voice as deep as the depths in which we found ourselves in, he asked who I was. Although I was frozen by the fear running through my veins, I calmly answered: “It is I, Cabd-Al Hadi” thinking that the cultural familiarity would appeal to the fiend’s submissive side. He was able to see through the lie and answered with the following tale.
“When you become part of Them, you gain knowledge of past, present and future. I know who you really are and that what you seek in this place is founded on greed; a desire for glory and academic recognition. Since you failed to obey the warning in my text, I know the fate that awaits you. However, I know that as a scholar you seek information regarding the origins of the al-Azif and therefore I will tell you how the al-Azif came to be before your fate is sealed.
I flourished during the period of the Ommiade Caliphs in the 8th century and as the son of a shepherd, I lived in poverty. I was a wretch for I did not want to live a life of poverty. What my heart really desired were earthly riches and my peers’ admiration. I was determined to change my situation and sought the easiest way to obtain what I most wanted. I have always believed in the deity and was a devoted follower, but I knew that there were also dark forces that could deliver what my heart desired. I visited the dark shamans of the Al-Sulaba and asked them to help me obtain the wealth I craved for. At the cost of a few dirhams, I obtained their guidance in the blackened arts. They instructed me in various rituals that I performed in my dwelling during the dark of night. After months of practice without any results, I finally made contact with an entity that went by the name Buer. This being did not approach me in his demonic depiction, but rather he presented himself in the form of a man. He was tall and although very handsome, his face was as dead as the desert in which we find ourselves in. The being offered to fulfill my desires in exchange for faithful devotion to his will. I accepted the offer and was instructed in rituals more powerful than the ones I’ve previously learned. I soon learned how to control animals such as dogs and use them to cast calamity on my enemies. During this time, through his teachings I gained forbidden knowledge that I later transcribed into what I called the al-Azif.
To continue my training he required me to perform monthly rituals that first involved the sacrifice of animals such as chickens and dogs, but his demands soon escalated to levels in which the sacrifices required the blood of an infant. I hesitated at first but I had made a commitment that I could not break and began pondering on the various ways in which I was going to obtain this offering. Not far from where I lived a peasant woman had given birth to a baby boy; I decided to visit her in the middle of the night and take the baby by force. When the demon appeared to claim his sacrifice, I told him that I did not want to continue the training but rather that I just desired to become a wealthy man. He did not comply with his end of the deal and as a result the contract that bound us was terminated. I decided to perform one of the ancient rituals I had transcribed in the al-Azif to communicating with an entity that dwelled in lower levels than Buer. The ritual was simple and only required the sacrifice of lesser animals. I executed the ritual for many nights and even offered my own blood as a sacrifice but my efforts were futile. During the last night I attempted the ritual I hopelessly went to sleep, thinking of other ways to communicate with this being. That night, I was surprisingly woken up by footsteps coming from outside my dwelling.
As I rushed outside, I saw a pig standing on his two hind legs looking straight at me. I was astonished by the sight but felt no fear of the creature and asked him who he was. He replied by telling me that he was here to answer my calling and introduced himself as Lucifuge Rofocale. He told me that my efforts have not been in vain and asked me to accompany him into the desert. We walked in silence for miles and finally came across a cave in the sands. He entered and beckoned me to follow. In the darkness of the cave the entity would become both visible and invisible as he taunted my senses. He assured me that he could provide me with the wealth I craved for but that the cost was very high and would have to be delivered immediately. He asked for the life of one of my loved ones and disappeared in the darkness. I exited the cave and while I walked back to my dwelling I asked myself who I could give as an offering. With tears in my eyes, I decided to offer my grandmother, for she was older and had already lived a plentiful life. That same night, I grabbed my blade and while my grandmother was sleeping, I butcher her body. The atrocities I committed were beyond description, but as I stood beholding my deed, the pig appeared once more and confirmed my sacrifice.
Within a few weeks, I was quickly contacted by the servants of Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik and asked to accompany them to the palace. When I arrived Hisham was sitting in his golden throne and revealed the reason for my calling. He claimed to have seen me in a dream where I emerged victorious from a battle against the forces of the east. He took this dream as a premonition for the threat to come and quickly promoted me into the high ranks of the military. During one of the trainings in the northland I was contacted by the demon, now in the form of jackal, and was warned of the civil revolution that was about to unfold. I was also instructed to take sides with the Abbasid rebels in their mission to overthrow the Caliphate. That night, I was confronted by a legion of rebels heading to the Zab River and after being apprehended I offered my loyalty for the cause. They accepted my loyalty and allowed me to join their army. While in battle I was possessed by an unnatural force that prompted me to commit heinous acts against my rivals. My deeds were so horrendous that I dare not mention the details. After the battle in the Zab River, we carried the massacre to Damascus where I murdered nearly all members of the Omayyad clan. The revolution was a success and as a reward for my commitment to the revolution, I was granted dominion over the southwest region where I settled in the city of Sana’a.
During this time, the fury I carried inside me grew to such extreme levels that I sought various ways to satisfy my thirst for gore. I visited the neighboring towns in search for the most beautiful girls and lured them into my palace with promise of employment. When the girls did not come willingly, I proceeded to beat them into unconsciousness and drag them with me. I would keep them captive in the palace to satisfy my brain’s lust and although the atrocities I committed can be seen as the works of a madman, they were a necessity for the preservation of my sanity. Just like an addiction, I would suffer from somatic symptoms that would manifest in the form of nausea and body aches. The discomfort only prompted me to seek relief in the butchering of girls.
As the number of victims started to escalate, a dismal reputation of my palace began to grow in the neighboring towns and my infamy began to spread throughout the land. During this period, the demon appeared to me once again, but this time in the form of a hideous woman. This form, although more familiar, was more frightening than any of the previous ones, for the odd proportions of the facial features gave her a hellish appearance. She was always near, and I could feel her presence everywhere I went. At night, the woman would appear and force me into sexual encounters that would include her and other demons. In the case that I was to refuse to participate, she would punish me with corporal torture. These visits aggravated my mental stability and with it the intensity and savagery of my torture techniques increased.
At this point, the relations we held with the Chinese was deteriorating and culminated with an order from the Caliphate to attack the forces in the east. I departed from the palace and joined our troops at the outskirts of the Talas River. By dawn the carnage began and just as I had experienced before, my knife was frantically taking lives. Although we emerged victorious from the battle, I suffered from bodily injuries that left me in a period of recovery when I returned to the palace. Even though I was recovering, I could not stop my sadistic urges and continued the torture.
These events culminated with the discovery of numerous bodies buried in various locations but, since I was the highest authority in the region I could not be prosecuted. Even so, my deeds were divulged throughout the land and I became known as an infamous butcher who lived his decree to the fullest. Although I now had an abundance of earthly riches, I was not able to enjoy them to the fullest for I would constantly be tormented by the demon. Besides the physical abuse, she would torment my mind to the point that my sanity collapsed. Not even the torture I gave to those girls could maintain my sanity and I knew that my ending was drawing nearer. I decided to write the letter you now hold in your hands, giving a warning to those who seek the dark powers of the al-Azif. Soon after, I suffered from a collapse of the central nervous system and was left in an incapacitated state where I lost complete control of my body. The dark power I had unleashed that faithful night with the al-Azif lead to my demise and one night, a group of rebels broke into the palace to take their revenge upon my earthly body. Although I could not move a single muscle, I still had complete preservation of my tactile senses and was writhing in the throbbing pain. The rebels released their fury in my body and proceeded to drag me outside the palace. What I encountered there was the gruesome sight of the gallows. I was to be tortured and hanged as a punishment for my deeds.
As the rebels extinguished the life left in my body, the town’s elders decided that the al-Azif was to be torn to pieces and each piece to be scattered among the most remote places on earth. I was to be buried with the last piece of the dreaded book and my last written words. In order to deter anyone from finding this forbidden text, the elders decided to seal my tomb within this monolith and asked the spirits of the deserts to guard my tomb. What they did not take into account is that the al-Azif is an entity of its own that cannot be destroyed, for it is alive and through the forces it commands, it can make contact with the living using the dimension we know as dreams. I knew that the al-Azif would make contact with others and that I would soon confront a seeker of the book’s dark powers. I hold my highest level of confidence that you will not be leaving this place with this demonic book, for the spirits of the desert stand guard. As I have already mentioned, we should soon join Them, for we are part of Them, ashes to ashes and dust to dust.”
With these words, the mad Arab returned to his resting place and any traces of reanimation vanished from his body. I soon found myself in complete darkness for my torch ran out of fuel and became extinguished. In the darkness, my ears rang with the morbid tale I had just heard and although my mind had not completely made sense of the event that had unfolded before my eyes, it kept me calm enough to preserve my sanity. I knew I had to get out of that accursed crypt but could not leave without the book I had come for. I palpated through the darkness looking for the al-Azif and when I felt its familiar shape, I quickly placed it in my bag. At this instant a gust of wind came rushing from the entrance of the crypt and filled the chamber with its presence. The mysterious appearance of the wind filled the air with a sinister feeling that prompted me to accelerate my search for the exit. When I finally reached the staircase, the wind had increased its strength. I struggled to climb my way back to the surface, for the darkness and the wind made it increasingly difficult to continue my ascent. The struggle was immense, but a sense of relief filled me when I saw the exit illuminated by the light of the moon.
When I surfaced, I was astounded to see that what once was a surrounded by sand dunes now was a flat wasteland. There were no topographical landmarks, only infinite seas of sand from every direction. I called for Cabd and received no reply, only the sound of emptiness. Under the light of the moon, I stood helpless and alone. I then recalled the warnings of the mad Arab and the legend of the spirits of the desert, which were meant to prevent anyone from attaining these forbidden pages. I wandered aimlessly for many days in hopes of finding my way back to civilization but my attempts were futile. I became a prisoner to the sands from which I had ripped this dreaded book. I knew that my probabilities of survival were miniscule and now that dehydration had deteriorated my body, I began to write these pages before it was too late. I will soon become part of Them and perish in the sands. What it is to become of the al-Azif I do not know, but will soon gain infinite knowledge just like the mad Arab Abdul-Al Hazred. What once existed will soon return to its origins, ashes to ashes and dust to dust.
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Deadman’s Tome Book of Horrors Anthology
Deadman’s Tome is a growing horror zine that publishes short stories and flash fiction whether it’s ghost stories, zombie invasions, bigfoot sightings, slasher sprees, bizarre fiction, classic horror literature, lovecraftian literature, or erotica. The darker the tale the better. If you enjoyed the story, or even if you didn’t, leave a comment below as it helps the authors.