PART I: INHERITANCE
Chapter 1 - The Discovery
[found in the basement of Fulcanelli’s, a rare bookstore]
August 6th, 1921
It's amazing what you can discover when you live all on your own. What you notice that other people might pass by. What consumes you, when others might just let it lie. What obsessions fill the void that most paper over with companionship. My companions were lifeless, little more than words, and ink and paper. They were, at least. Until...
Before, I lived what most would consider unremarkable life. A Bostonian bookkeeper buried under ancient tomes and dust. More at home among words than men. More alone than not. I like my life this way, despite what others might think. I see the way they look at me, and how I am shunned. Even here, in 'enlightened' New England, nothing scares people more than a man of dark skin and surprising erudition.
Books, however, they never disappoint you; they do not judge or condemn; they are not prejudiced, nor are the capable of hate (leave that to their authors); they never leave you; and aside from the way entropy slowly consumes all things, they never change. I write this all to say, dear journal, how very fitting that I should be the one to uncover this majesty. I am a lover of books, it is mere... destiny that one should choose to love me back.
When the proprietor of his eponymous shop, Merle Fulcanelli, died without an heir, there was no one to object when I, his lowly attendant, stepped into his shoes as owner. And yet, his passing left many a mystery to discover. Underneath the shop sprawl many winding catacombs, leading to rooms packed high with ancient texts. Many a year I could while away, and indeed have since Merle returned to the Earth, trying to read and catalogue them all.
One drafty night, as I wandered down a hall I thought I knew well, I stumbled into a room I never laid eyes on before. A door that seemed to open up in front of me, appearing from nothing in the wall. One that I could have sworn I had never seen before and yet, upon looking at for just a minute, seemed intimately familiar.
At first glance it looked much like the others: stone walls, scores upon scores of books on rotting wooden shelves, the pleasant, pulpy smell of old paper and long undisturbed air. But as I began to leaf through one book, and then another, and then another, its strangeness became fast apparent. Every book was a mirror for every other. Each bore the same title, scrawled in red ink that looked for all the world like clotted blood: Maligna Mente. The Evil Intent. Or The Lingering Madness, depending on your mood.
Pulling books at random from the shelves, another oddity manifested itself. Several tomes were in English, others in French or Spanish or Italian, others in hieroglyphs I couldn't even begin to decipher. And despite that, somehow I knew, each book bore the same prose. Words that seeped off the page and into my mind.
These books, reflections of one another, were all handwritten, each in a different, increasingly frenzied hand. I wondered what might possess a man, or league of men, to obsessively copy this tome so. After reading, more aptly after my eyes and fingers absorbed these malignant words, I began to understand.
My own hands began to itch.