Short Stories

Short Story: Fever

My family presumes I am dead. It is better that way. I cannot go home without putting everyone in danger. It started with a book which arrived at my house. It was supposed to be just another commission to restore, but the more work I put into the pages, the more lost I got. Hours disappeared and then days and weeks, and when I was in the present, I wasn’t sure what I had seen or heard. My sister complained when my phone calls became infrequent. That wasn’t what spooked her the most. It was the bizarre calls where she heard nothing but me breathing heavily and occasionally screaming. I couldn’t stop. If I locked the book inside my work desk, I suddenly woke up in the middle of the night with a pen behind my ear and brush in my hand, working on it. Then things got a lot scarier. The creatures drawn in the margins came alive. They slithered away from the pages when I wasn’t looking. Or I was sure they did. I tried to decipher the text written in the book to understand what was happening to me, but I couldn’t read the ancient words. No one who I contacted could. They said it was gibberish. The one who sent me the book didn’t answer any of my messages.

At first, I thought I was slowly poisoned by the book. That there was lead or something else to make me hallucinate the creatures and lose time, but I tested it. The ink had no heavy metals or other toxins; neither did the paper. At one of my most desperate moments, I took the book with me to the grand central train station and locked it in one of the public lockers. The next day the book was back on my desk. I have no memory if I retrieved it or not, but nothing has been the same from that day on.

People were found dead in my neighborhood, people went missing, and this feverish atmosphere haunted the streets. I cannot explain it. It was this creepy feeling, which didn’t leave me alone. I was never harmed as if the book was protecting me. As if it needed me to work on it. And I did work, the images, the lines, everything became stronger. There were more unhuman like creatures in the margins. Ones with tentacles, some with gas-like appearance with menacing eyes and teeth, scaly monsters morphed into humans.

I knew I had to leave the city when I found my next-door neighbor brutally murdered. His eyes were dug out, and his guts were splattered all over his apartment. I took the book with me and headed to the countryside to find a remote cabin to be rent. Everything was fine until the woods around the place began to crawl creatures from my worst nightmares. I decided to burn the book. Then I buried it. And when neither of those helped, I threw it into the nearby lake. It came back. I had no other choice than to finish my restoration. It was the best work I had done. The pages came alive from the colors and the lines. I was proud and barely a ghost who I once had been. The dark lines under my eyes had turned hollow as had my cheeks. I wasn’t sure when was the last time I had eaten. Again, I tried to contact the woman who had sent the book, but the phone number was disconnected.

I was beginning to think, and I still do, that whoever commissioned me found a way to pass on the book. That the restoration request and the hefty sum was means to make sure the book wouldn’t return to the sender. I entertained the thought to do the same to an unsuspecting enthusiast or professional. I even had an address of a curator who would find the book fascinating, but I couldn’t. It seemed wrong. I guess I am one of those people who would suffer, so others didn’t have to. The one who chose to think for the rest of her life that she had murdered someone even when she hadn’t, rather than let someone be murdered and never remember that.

I have stayed away from the big cities for a year now. Or I am sure it has been a year since I finished the restoration. The creatures follow me, and I have stopped reading the news of the towns I visit. People disappear. People die. I am not sure what would happen if I killed myself. Now I have locked myself into another remote cabin. It has been a month since I have seen other human being. The dreams are getting worst. So has the news. My isolation is feeding something big. And when it comes, I cannot stop it. No one can. I’m sorry.

Thank you for reading! Have a great September day ❤

© K.A. Ashcomb

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