The Forbidden Tome
By: Travis Ray Fletcher
He always had a curiosity for the macabre and the arcane lurking deep inside of him, ever since his youth when he first began to form his own unique thoughts. These thoughts mutated over the course of a tormented timeline and, despite the best efforts of his God-fearing parents, became an obsession that rivaled no other. No matter how deeply he understood that he was not normal, not fit for the society constructed around him, the carnal hunger to become familiar with the dark arts was one he could never resist. Finally on his own and away from the judgemental gaze of those he once called family he decided he could wait no longer and, through actions both illegal and immoral, acquired The Forbidden Tome he had heard so much yet learned so little about.
On extremely rare occasions he wandered into the concrete jungle to acquire sustenance that would never satiate the hunger he felt. Among these already extremely rare trips, he would even more rarely meet someone who saw the world like him, and these people always mentioned The Forbidden Tome held the answers to all his questions and the solutions to all his problems. Granted, he acknowledged this sounded far too good to be true, but he was out of options. The drugs that once filled the hole in his abdomen no longer overcame the tolerance he had developed towards them, and even then they were a temporary sensory solution to what was essentially an issue of spirituality and human identity to him. He never felt comfortable in his own skin, like he did not belong on this mortal plane, and the true world lay just beyond the senses that his feeble human mind was created to experience. Evolution had failed his true purpose, and denied him understanding of the true stakes of the universe. There was something else out there just beyond what he could comprehend, and The Forbidden Tome was promised by all who claimed to have opened it to bring satisfaction to his cravings, comprehension to his confusion, enlightenment to his soul.
Virtually all nations and societies have banned this text, and the methods through which it ended up on his kitchen table were long and arduous. Along the way, he was forced to sacrifice his mind and health, hurt those close to him, and risk his freedom, but these were prices worth paying for the chance to satiate his burning desire to read the contents of The Forbidden Tome and achieve his purpose. This mere amalgamation of ink and paper had single handedly caused more pain, suffering, and death than any text before or since it was penned by its unholy creator. Neither religious nor political text could rival the impact The Forbidden Tome had on those who dared to read it. As the reality of the situation finally began to set in, he began to question it all. He gave up a family, a home, and his health to get to this point, for what? To chase some fleeting feelings that the spiritual world could be accessed? To fill his belly beyond what a lifetime’s worth of eating had been able to? Couldn’t anyone say they have felt like that at one point or another in their lives, and yet still not reached the conclusions he had? No, he had come too far. It was too late for second guessing or regrets. Finally the moment was here, and after a lifetime of anticipation his nerves would not prevent him from opening The Forbidden Tome.
Sitting in a far corner of the room, his ears throbbed as The Forbidden Tome seemed to emit pressure waves that bounced endlessly around the room. He heard whispers he could not verify as either genuine or hallucinations, but regardless of their nature they emanated from the book. The souls of those damned by The Forbidden Tome seemed to scream out of it, begging for an end to their eternal suffering, and it was only he who could be their savior. His gut wrenched both from nerves and from a hunger born of being so tantalizingly close to the realization that years upon years of life were building up to. He folded over at the hips and vomited profusely onto the floor, the acidic flavor burning his tongue and lips with searing pain beyond what his biological makeup should be capable of. He screamed in pain, curled into a ball on the floor as his mouth released a foul smoke from the smoldering of his flesh. He recovered, knees shaking, content with what had happened. An emptier stomach allowed him more room to consume the contents of The Forbidden Tome, he reasoned. He was sweating profusely, swearing that the room must be at least 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The sweat rolled down his face and his shirt clung to his emaciated body just as dearly as he clung to The Forbidden Tome for purpose and salvation. Looking around, the walls of his feeble apartment appeared to glow hues of orange and red, emanating suffocating waves of heat that burned so warmly he could not believe the very senses that denied him enlightenment were capable of registering such extremes. Coupled with the wailing of The Forbidden Tome, he was sure someone would come to stop him, to prevent him from getting across the room and placing his hand underneath the front cover. Out of fear of interruption, he decided he could delay the inevitable no longer. The moment had come. He crawled over to the table one grueling inch at a time and climbed the smooth, miles high legs of the table. When he was finally upright, he placed his hand on The Forbidden Tome and realized the cover weighed thousands of pounds. Summoning the last of his feeble strength, he used both hands to pull up on the front cover with all of his might, dropping it open with the weight of millions of human lives slamming onto the table. His eyes focused, as he finally saw the answers to all of his questions lay before him. Beneath him, on the first of many pages, was a photograph of Paula Dean with the caption “Cooking with butter the Southern way!”
Biographical Note: Travis Fletcher is a junior at Heidelberg University in Tiffin, Ohio. He is studying English Education and English Literature, and plans to continue his education in hopes of becoming a college professor.