My name is Montgomery Vale, and I do not believe in magic.
I repeat myself: I do not believe in magic.
I do not believe in magic, and therefore nothing I am about to write can be true. I am an old man, asleep in my bed, and the night’s ill humours are clearly affecting my dreams. I write to calm my nerves, to simply record the events of recent hours. For if I am sane—if any of this has truly happened—I must leave warning for others.
I write because I may be insane, for surely none of this can have happened.
I write because the door must not be opened.
It seems ages ago that I found the book, but it can scarcely have been more than a day. I found it in my own library, on the floor by the fireplace. It was a massive tome, five inches thick, bound in a curious, tooled leather. The cover bore a nameplate of a cracked material I could not identify bearing a single word: Balremesh.
I hesitated to open the book at first. Something about it seemed to warn me away. An unusual thought possessed me: I felt as if the thing hated me. At the time, I dismissed it, believing myself foolish. I set the book—heavier than it should have been—on my writing-desk and examined it. It was warm to the touch, no doubt from its proximity to the fire. It was, as I have said, bound in a dry, old, dark-stained leather that flaked away under pressure, engraved deeply with arcane signs and symbols such like I had never seen. Horrid carvings of alien, mutated insects and other crawling things, rendered in extraordinary detail, adorned the spine and the edges. The pages, hundreds of them, thick and discolored, were gilded with a reddish material. It was incredibly old.
Did the fire dim as I opened the book? I thought that it did. The fire went down and the darkness in the room increased, became a palpable thing, eager to peruse the book alongside me. And that sound! A sigh, perhaps, or a muted moan, no doubt from a servant in another room, or a mere figment of my imagination. Even then, as I first opened it, the laws of reality seemed changed. A book does not sigh, and its opening does not suppress the light of the fire. It does not because it can not.
I did not, at first, recognize the language the book was scribed in. I say “scribed” because surely no printer’s press could have produced these lines of script; irregular, slanted, sometimes running across one another, all in a thin ink more red than black. The script seemed varied; sometimes cramped and blocky and in other places more fluid and open, in a number of different hands, obviously the work of madmen or deviants.
And then… and then, the text changed. It swam under my eyes, turned, and emerged as readable, if untrained, English. I recall blinking, rubbing my eyes. I recall the impression that I had simply not been looking at the words correctly, feeling that the text had adjusted itself to my deficiencies and made itself manifest to my flawed eyes. Why did I not consign it to the flames then and there? I could have; the book held no control over me at that time. Or perhaps it did; perhaps I could never have destroyed it at all.
I know not how long I read last night. I remember none of it; I only remember awakening, hours later, still at my desk, the Balremesh opened to blank pages beneath me. I know I slept but fitfully, my dreaming filled with confined, dark spaces and small, dangerous things, hidden carefully in corners, which skittered away when looked for. I leafed through the book again to discover the pages entirely empty. The leaves of the book remained mottled, stained with age and other nameless substances, but not a single one now bore any writing in any language.
I remembered but a single phrase, rendered in an alien tongue yet somehow perfectly understandable. Baal-Ramash y’gthul khatevish paan m’qthakk. Welcome, revealer, Baal-Ramash, scourge of sin. I remember it as clearly as my own name; as clearly as my mother’s face.
I am to open the door. I am to be the revealer of Baal-Ramash. Baal-Ramash y’gthul khatevish paan m’qthakk. But I must not. I must not open the door!
But I outpace myself. There is more of the tale yet to be told, before the door.
I closed the book and abandoned my writing-desk, intending to leave the foul thing and my library behind for a time. And then, somehow, suddenly, I found myself seated again, the book opened, the pages as stubbornly blank as before.
I tried again. I made it as far as the exit to the hallway. My hand reached for the door handle… and stopped. The book. Was the book closed, as it should be? I returned to my desk and closed the book. The insectoid creatures on the spine seemed more numerous and more malevolent than ever, and seemed to stare at me. I again turned to leave.
The book slid from my writing-desk, landed on its back, open again.
But, this time, the book once again bore an inscription. Written in a bold, broad hand that seemed scorched into the paper, in a single line spread across both of the pages, that same arcane phrase that had burned itself into my memory: Baal-Ramash y’gthul khatevish paan m’qthakk. Welcome, revealer, Baal-Ramash, scourge of sin. And below, a woodcut drawing of thousands upon thousands of specimens of the degenerate, mutated horde.
It was then that the sounds began.
At first, they were subtle, whispers and moans hovering just above the threshold of what my ears could detect; always behind me, concealed by one of the shelves of my library or in some shadowed place the fire’s light left untouched. Soon enough they grew to include other sounds; clattering in the walls and the floor, and the mad scramblings of dozens of diminutive invaders that sight and touch would or could not reveal. At times I nearly saw them—always, always in the corners of the room, or the dark angles between bookshelves. And always they disappeared as I drew closer.
I do not know when the door appeared.
It may be that it has always been there. It may be that it revealed itself when I first opened the Balremesh, or that the my night of unremembered reading somehow summoned it. It is there now, however—an ornate, stone door, with the same plate on its face as the cover of the book, and the same word: Balremesh.
It floats in the air, just before my fireplace, in the same spot where I first discovered the accursed book itself. But it cannot. It floats in the air without stand or hanging-wire as if perfectly natural. But such a thing cannot be. There is a handle. I know in my soul that the door is not locked, that I need only to reach out and take the handle and the door will open. But how, and to what?
I know that I am to open the door. The book wants me to open the door. It demands that I obey it. The sounds grow louder; the creatures no longer take such care to keep from my sight. Baal-Ramash y’gthul khatevish paan m’qthakk. Welcome, revealer, Baal-Ramash, scourge of sin.
In truth it can make no difference. I do not believe in magic, or spectral doors, or the strange creatures that emerge from blank books in the dead of night. None of this can be true. I am surely dreaming, and I will awaken in my bed or, perhaps, in my reading-chair in front of the fireplace.
I know that I am to open the door, and I know that I must not open the door.
I must not.
I must not open the door.
But I will.