De Vermiis Mysteriis

I woke from a deep sleep with a start.  For a moment I couldn't understand where I was, then I realised that there was a strange, actinic light streaming in through the window.  My room was cast in sharp relief; shadows were too black to see into, and the whiteness of the light washed the colour out of everything else.  I shivered, but not from cold.  Something felt very wrong about the light.

Getting out of bed, I looked out of the window.  The light was somehow emanating from the ground around the house, a sickly lambency that strengthened as it got further away, reaching its peak brightness somewhere near the roof.  The house seemed to shudder suddenly, and then all the floors, staircases and roof timbers started creaking and groaning at once.  The sound they made, though unpleasant and unnerving was nothing compared with what came next: a guttural chanting, or words or sounds that I'd never heard before, started from somewhere outside the house.  The voice, or possibly voices, making the chanting were strong and confident.  I was terrified.

I pulled my clothes on in a fever of haste, hopping around as I nearly overbalanced trying to get my feet down my trouser-legs.  Finally dressed, I looked around my room; there was little in there as for all the Professors kindnesses I'd had no money to spend and so had virtually nothing other than my clothes to call my own.  I grabbed my knife from the bedside table, and then fled the house.

The house shook twice more as I left, once as I descended the stairs, forcing me to clutch the balustrade until it stopped, and once as I crossed the hall to the front door.  Outside, I ignored the drive and cut across the lawns, heading for the hill to the east of the house.  Beyond the lawns the ground was soft, though not muddy, almost as though it had been recently dug over.  The grass growing thickly atop it gave the lie to that idea though.  I struggled through until the ground starting sloping upwards when the going became much firmer and I could make good time on the ascent.

The whole time I was fleeing the chanting was continuing, sometimes rising and sometimes falling, always in a cadence that felt as though it might be comprehensible if I were just to stop and listen for a little.  I had the oddest notion that the sounds I could hear were pre-words, things that later became language, things that could be understood by anyone willing to delve deeply enough inside themselves.  The light from the ground faded away towards the hill, where I realised that the moon was out and granting plenty of light to see my footing by.  I was also struck by the contrast; the moon's light was cold and silvery but infinitely preferable to the actinic white light that somehow washed up from the ground around the house.

At the crest of the hill I stopped and made myself turn around and look back.  The lambent ground around the house was rippling and undulating as though the house were the epicentre of an earthquake.  As I stared, mesmerised by it, I began to perceive a pattern to the ripples, and very slowly it dawned on me that what I was seeing was the movements of something monstrous under the ground, something that travel through the soil itself.

When I then saw a shape that could only be the Professor, stood on the roof holding up someone else next to him, and realised that he must be chanting, I knew that the underground behemoth must be some leviathan worm.  The book, De Vermiis Mysteriis, must have possessed his mind to bring him to do something like this, to summon such a creature from whatever dread depths it dwelled in.

When the worm burst out of the ground, showering the house and the surrounding land with clods of soil the size of my head I quaked and trembled, I fell to my knees, but I could not look away.  I saw the Professor throw the person he was holding down from the roof, saw the titanic maw of the worm move like a striking snake to catch and consume, and I am sure to my soul that I now know what became of the poultry-girl.  The worm paused, then swayed before the Professor as though mesmerized itself, and I saw him walk to the edge of the roof and gesture.  He must have commanded it to come in close, for it bent its length until the Professor could step aboard it and seat himself behind whatever head a worm may have.

I could no longer watch; I turned and ran.  There are somethings that a man should not have to see.

The End

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