Joy wasn’t sure how she’d found the book, it must have been fate! She had known the minute her fingers had touched the skin cover and the scent of two hundred year old pages filled her lungs. She had looked closely just be sure then with a quick glance around the storeroom, put the book into her bag.
Hurrying home as a storm ripped across the sky, Joy was glad she only lived streets away from where she worked at Rare Eager, Secondhand and Antiques shop. She stumbled into the hallway of the two bedroom terrace house, dripping wet like she had just got out of a swimming pool.
She turned the lights on, locked the front door then took off her soaked shoes and coat. Going upstairs, she took the rest of her clothes off- blue blouse and black trousers- and changed into fleece PJs. She dried her short blonde hair and took her makeup off.
Pausing, Joy listened but the house was almost silent; just the hum of the fridge and heaters. Outside, rain and wind battered everything, Thunder rumbled and lightening forked across the sky like the bolts of an angry God.
‘Autumn weather for sure,’ Joy said aloud and closed the curtains.
Having all ready eaten before and feeling fine that she was now dry, Joy got into bed. She glanced at the alarm clock and saw the hands were on quarter to nine. She sighed, tiredness sinking in. She had worked late tonight with the re-stocking of the shop and was ready to sleep but first….
Joy pulled the book from her bag.
The skin cover was like worn leather, paled and roughed over the years and there were no markers anywhere upon it to say what the contains were or who by. Joy ran her fingers over it and thought she could just feel were letter might once have been.
Without opening the book, she looked at the hand cut pages. They were not straight but jagged and hard against her fingers. They were a dark yellow colour and tempted a reader in.
Joy went to open the book but her boss, the shop’s owner, Mr. Eager, came into her head. He was old, mid-sixties with a bald head, wrinkles like a walnut and strange odd colored eyes. From his mouth came the words, ‘…it’s a book full of such disturbing horror stories it was banned! Most of the copies were burnt back then….There’s one around here somewhere. I brought it years ago in London.’
‘Have you ever read it?’ Joy had asked.
‘The first page and that was enough for me!’
‘And where is it now?’
Mr. Eager shrugged and answered, ‘lost in here someplace!’
Joy had taken in the stuffed shop which one could barely move around in let alone find anything they actually wanted! But wasn’t that the look and draw of secondhand and antique places?
With a shake of her head, Joy told herself, ‘I’ll return it tomorrow and show Mr Eager. Pretend I ‘just’ found it and ask if I can have it.’
Letting her fingers rest on the cover about to open it and began reading, Joy wondered why she had taken it in the first place.
She had stole before, little things, like; her childhood friend’s pencil case, a poster from school, a pot horse from her aunt’s house and once in desperate need after a night out, clothes from a washing line.
‘Why did I take this book?’ Joy wondered.
She looked down and felt drawn to forget everything and just open the cover. Were the stories inside as scary as Mr. Eager had said?
Opening the book, Joy saw there were no other publisher and introduction pages like at the start of other books, there was the begin of the first story instead. Shrugging and deciding she didn’t care, Joy curled up and began reading.
It seemed standard 1800s’ horror story telling, a little gross in parts but an interesting read. The stories were short and Joy read three or four of them before she started to doze off.
Putting the book under her bed, she vowed to take it back in the morning and fell asleep.
A soft thud and scraping noise disturbed her. Joy rolled over and still half-asleep listened. The noise didn’t come again and she drifted off.
Three more thuds, louder this time and more scraping like something was being dragged echoed through the house. Joy woke almost fully, she turned on the light and looked around. The storm had died down now and it was just a rain tapping against the window.
The noises didn’t come again as she wondered what they were; perhaps, it was an animal or a neighbour. Maybe, apart of my dream! What was that about anyway?
Joy turned off the light and settled back down. A creeping feeling came over her and sleep didn’t want to come back. She lay in the darkness, thinking and listening.
The sounds stared again. Someone was dragging something on a carpet and thumping it about. Then there was a different sound, like a chomp and a heave as if the person doing the dragging before was now trying to pull something up whilst eating an apple.
Joy almost giggled at that thought but realised the noise was too close, all most like it’s in my bedroom!
She turned on the light, scowled herself for being silly, it’s just something outside….What’s that on my bedside table?
It was the book!
Confused because she knew she had put it under her bed, Joy went to pick it up. Before her hands could touch it the book began to open!
The cover raised slowly. The pages had become long sharp triangle teeth. They moved, opening like they were in a mouth and a long, two forked tongue began to reel out, sensing the air like a snake’s.
Joy moved backwards across the bed and put her hands to her mouth to cover a scream.
‘It’s just a dream!’ she cried.
The book’s ‘tongue’ went back in and the covers opened further like a shark’s jaw. The book let out a monstrous growl and jumped at Joy’s face.
The scream erupted out of her and Joy threw her hands upwards to defend her face and fight off the book, but the book had grown so wide that it just swallowed her whole.
With the scratching and ruffling sounds of tumbling pages, the book fell closed on Joy’s bed, right were she’d been a few seconds ago.
(Based in part on a dream I had).