Grey clouds cast long dark shadows over the streets, and as Elliot took his morning jog around the empty city centre, the elongated shadows appeared to stretch their necks in his direction.
It was early November and the sun had barely risen. Elliot seemed to be the only living being in the streets of Brussels.
Every shop appeared to be closed.
The absence of people and the quietness in the usually busy tourist area created an ominous stillness that made shivers spread across Elliot’s spine. The air was chilly and it made his warm breath turn into cold steam. Just as he thought about turning back and returning to his hotel, he spotted something peculiar. A small shop.
A shop that was open.
It didn’t look new.
In fact it seemed very old, there were many off-coloured bricks around the front, their glass window display was dirty with dust and grime.
The store itself was so small, it fit between two closed clothing shops like it had physically squeezed itself into that narrow gap. The front was only as wide as the wooden door and glass pane at the entrance. Above the door there was a glowing neon sign that read, ‘la séduction’ and below that another sign that read “Open”.
Normally Elliot would never look at a place like this twice, but his curiosity got the better of him. Unable to help himself he walked inside.
As he opened the wooden door a bell rang signalling a customer. Elliot had assumed that the store would be some kind of sex shop based on the name, but in fact, it was filled with books.
There was a thick smell of dust and wood.
“Bonjour!” He called out. No one answered him.
Elliot ventured further into the store and inquisitively looked at the books on sale. At first he saw obvious classics, such as Faust, Anna Karenina and Dorian Gray, but the further in he went the more obscure the books became. There were many titles that he had never heard of Elliot considered himself a well-rounded reader.
Many of the titles were in French and Dutch but Elliot understood them since he could speak both languages quite decently. The titles all had very dark themes on death, necromancy, ritual magic and witchcraft. There were even some Grimoires, perhaps this was a Wiccan book shop. He scanned the books randomly, but then he stopped, one caught his eye.
There was no title on the spine of this book, but it shone due to its silver colour. Elliot hadn’t seen many hardback books that had silver colours. When he picked it up it even had a cool metallic feel, it was different from the average leather-bound book. It actually had a metal casing.
When he pulled it out he saw the engraving of a gruesome beast on the cover. He had never seen anything like it, the beast was a creature from hell. It had elongated nails, jagged teeth, and a ravenous crazed look on its face. There seemed to be rubies set into the engraving of the beast as its eyes were blood red and they seemed to watch him with hunger.
I There was no blurb at the back or title, just that engraving of the beast.
Wanting to know more he opened the clasp on the book. As he did this a wild wind seemed to run through the store. The whole shop creaked and groaned, some books fell.
The temperature dropped drastically.
Elliot was startled, and even more so when he saw a tiny old man watching him. The man had these dark beady black eyes so deep and murky. He was bald but there were still strands of long black and grey hairs clinging to his scalp, and he had thick bushy eyebrows. He was dressed in a brown outdated suit.
“So it chose you,” he said in French, as he spoke he flashed his yellow crooked teeth.
“Oh sorry, was the store closed? The door wasn’t shut and the sign was on, and I just walked in” Elliot quickly apologised.
“No we are open, we are always open,” the Old Man answered.
Elliot scrambled to pick up the fallen books, “A huge wind came in, and there was possibly an earthquake just now, many things just fell down.”
The little old man didn’t respond, he just observed Elliot.
“Do you want to know the title of that one?” asked the man.
Elliot looked at the mysterious book and then back at the old man.
“It’s called Macrocosm”.
Elliot was surprised. Macrocosm quite literally meant ‘everything that exists’.
“Do you want it?” asked the old man, “I think the book wants you.”
That was the weirdest sales pitch Elliot had ever heard. He awkwardly looked at the book again. He did want it, he didn’t know why but he felt this strange attraction to it.
“How much is it?”
The creepy old man smiled widely at his response.
“There is no cost. Take it, you are now its owner but know this, there is no returning this book not until it’s done with you or you’re done with it.” The man smiled wider.
Elliot felt uneasy but for some reason, he really wanted the book.
“It is just a book and it is free” Elliot thought, “Why am I nervous?”
He nodded at the old man, “Thank you, then I’ll be taking it.”
The man didn’t stop him as he left the store, yet Elliot found himself almost running out.
He ran all the way back to his hotel.
As he walked into the Lobby he suddenly felt extremely tired.
The sudden tiredness caused him to sway as he went to his room. Soon his head was buried in his plump feather pillow.
He closed his eyes and he drifted off into a deep sleep.
Elliot heard the sound of panting as if some sick animal was nearby.
For some reason, he felt unbearably hot, as if he had fallen asleep in the Arabian Desert and was being slowly roasted under the scorching sun.
The smell of burnt meat and something rotten filled his nostrils. “What’s going on?” Elliot couldn’t help but think as he opened his eyes.
The moment he opened them he wanted to close them again.
“Am…am I in hell?”
He was naked.
The sun was red, the whole world around him was dyed red as if the landscape had been bathed in blood. And, he was lying in the middle of a mountain made of fresh rotting corpses.
Flies buzzed off of mottled flesh and maggots swam around them. Right next to Elliot was the corpse of a woman, what remained of her torso was naked from the waist up. She might have been attractive when she was alive but right now half her entrails were leaking out next to him, and her eyeballs had popped out of her head.
The pink flesh of her eye sockets oozed with black pus and maggots were swarming in them.
Elliot felt sick, all of this was too much. All the corpses, the thick smell of blood and rotting flesh. All of it was too potent.
When he moved he felt the squish of decaying flesh under him. He glanced down and saw the insides of what used to be a person. He was sitting in the contents of their stomach.
Elliot closed his eyes and tried to will himself awake, but he couldn’t.
“Huhhhhh, Huhhhhhhhh, Huhhhhhhhh” he could hear that sound again like some animal was panting heavily.
On top of this mound of bodies, not too far from Elliot, stood a beast.
It was the type of animal that Elliot was sure didn’t exist in the normal world.
It had the face of a child, but instead of a nose, it had a pig’s snout. Its body was bigger than an adult male and was hunched over, the spikes of its spine jutting out it’s back. It was covered in light patchy fur and blood.