“Fuck! This is one hell of a creepy book,” Carol said.

“I am literally spooked right now. This place is not helping much. We have been doing this for years and this is the first time, I am actually feeling scared,” Faith added.

“I don’t understand one thing. How can such a book be lying here. Are we the first to explore these catacombs? It does not make sense,” Shirley said.

The three of them were explorers. This was their 13th adventure; an unexplored catacomb in Paris. It was not unexplored, but there were only a few documented articles about it on the internet, which meant that it was still unknown to a lot of explorers. Faith had found the information of dark web while he was browsing through occults that were or are a part of the real world.

They had excavated their way into the catacomb and had spent a few hours, zig-zagging through the maze of tunnels before reaching a chamber like structure. The air was raw inside and cobwebs were surprisingly missing. This particular section looked clean in comparison. Even the wooden benches and chairs were neatly placed. Something wasn’t right and then they had found the book.

There was no title on the book; it was a hard bound and the cover appeared to be leather. Carol was the first to pick up the book and open it. ‘THIS BOOK IS CURSED’ was mentioned on the first page of the book and it was followed by 25 different stories that they had just finished reading. The initial idea was to pick the book and go further towards the exit. They had documented enough data for their blog and seen a lot of graves already. However, they could not fathom how they kept reading further and further before reaching the final page. One thing was strange though; there were a few empty pages in the last.

Shirley took out the compass after wiping the sweat from her forehead. Although, they had no idea about the route, they knew they had to follow along the north west direction to exit the catacomb. Faith kept the book inside her bag and they started following Shirley.

“I don’t know why I don’t feel so good right now. I mean, we have so much data and then there is this book that is going to make us sensational, but I am having a bad feeling,” Carol said.

“We should have left a long back. May be the lack of oxygen is doing that to your brain,” Faith reverted.

Suddenly, the roof in front of them fell scaring them out of their wits and closed the path.

“Fuck!” Shirley cried, with her heart thumping loud. “What was that?”

“I don’t know! Just old wall maybe? Are you alright Shirley?” Carol asked.

Before Shirley could revert, they heard a wailing. It was coming from behind them. The ground shook as more rocks fell from the roof everywhere.

“I think it’s an earthquake,” Faith cried out in fear.

The wailing was now followed with footsteps approaching them. It was getting louder every passing second. Scared, they zagged into a different direction and began running.

“There’s something behind us,” Carol screamed as they ran endlessly, trying to escape whatever was following them. The earth as still shaking as their headlights went haywire.

“No no no no no no no…..” Faith cried. “We are gonna die. We are gonna die,” she cried.

“Faith! Stay calm. Shhhhh. Please. Whatever it was, it can hear us,” Carol said, closing Faith’s mouth with her hand.

Silence prevailed and they could even hear their own heartbeats. “I’ve got some flares in my bag,” Shirley whispered. “I’m going to take one out and look around. Just run along with me okay?”

Faith was now whimpering. Shirley took out the flare and lit it. Just behind her, Faith and Carol noticed a pale face with hollow eyes. As she brought flare up, they noticed a hole in the head of the entity standing behind Shirley. It opened its pitch black lips and shrieked, sending them off the ground. Shirley dropped the flare in the process and the entity stepped on it, extinguishing it.

Shirley took out another flare, lit it and placed it in front of them. As the catacomb was lit, they noticed dozens of other such figures behind the one standing on their flare. “Guys, we need to run,” she said and they began running. The footsteps made it evident that they were being followed. They ran till they came across a dead end. There was a small opening on the sidewall. Carol hit it with foot and it appeared to be hollow. She took out the small hammer from her bag and started hitting the wall.

The flare was about to die, so Shirley took out the last one before throwing it back on the way. The entities were now crawling towards them. Faith noticed how some of them did not even have a head on their body. She shivered in fear and began kicking the wall. The old flare died, leaving the entire way dark, but the wailing and footsteps continued to approach them. Carol took the flare from Shirley once the hole was big enough for them to pass and threw it inside. It was a narrow tunnel leading to somewhere, but they did not have enough time to ponder upon it. The three of them squeezed into the opening one by one, picked up the flare and began running in the only direction available.

The flare died. Although the silence made it clear that they were not being followed, they could not stay where they were and since they were in a tunnel, they decided to keep moving forward.

“How are we going to survive this?” Faith broke the silence.

“I don’t know Faith, but we are making out of here,” Carol said.

“I’m going to…,” Shirley screamed before she could complete. Before they could understand what was happening, they were falling too. The ground had ended beneath them and they had run off the surface towards nothingness. Their bodies collapsed against water and sank. Down at that level inside the water body, they noticed a faint light entering from a certain point and decided to swim towards the source. By that time, the light was the only hope they had and they wanted to take that chance with all the energy that was left inside.

By the time they reached the end, their lungs were ready to collapse. They could notice the bright light outside and pushed themselves towards the opening. Carol was the first one to emerge out and she pulled both Shirley and Faith up. They took a long breath and coughed out the water that had started making its way through their nose and mouth. Noticing around her, Shirley found that they were in a swamp in the middle of woods.

They pulled themselves out and lay on the ground, finding back their senses in the process. “Tell me you’ve still got the book,” Carol asked Faith, jumping up on her feet. “It’s all we have now!”

Faith turned on her stomach and pointed towards the bag that was still hung on her back. Carol opened her bag and pulled out the book that was completely drenched. “No.. no.. no.. Please be fine,” she mumbled while opening the book. Although it was drenched but the words were still there. She sighed and began crying. “We made it guys and the book is still with us.”

They walked through the woods and came across a highway road. Not knowing what else to do, they sat on the road and waited for someone to pass by so they could take a lift back into the town. Carol opened the book and began turning the pages in order to dry them.

“A car!” Shirley screamed and stood on her feet. She walked towards the middle of the road and pulled up her hands to stop the driver. Carol had reached the end of the book by then and what she saw twisted the world around her. The empty pages at the end were now filled with the twenty sixth story titled ‘Zoothapsis’. She gave an overview to the context and found that it was their own story. However, it had a different end reading which, she was terrified and threw the book away. “What happened?” Faith asked noticing how scared Carol looked. Shirley screamed as the car halted after passing right through her.

A man stepped out from the car and went to a nearby tree to take a leak. Shirley was shocked and turned to face her friends who are as frightened as her. Their story had ended when they fell into the water. They had hit their head on the rocks inside the water, which was too shallow to hold even a child. The brutal climax explained how their flesh would be eaten by the colony of rats living in the catacomb.

The man zipped up and turned around but the book caught his attention in the process. He looked around and picked it up. It was drenched, but when he opened the pages, he found that the text was intact. The first page read – ‘THIS BOOK IS CURSED’. He chuckled and decided to take it with him as Carol, Faith and Shirley sat there, mourning for what had happened.

Anmol Rawat

Anmol Rawat is a contributing author of three anthologies - A Little Chorus of Love (also edited and published), Six Degrees - Game of Blogs and Blank Space. He is also a bibliophile, a music lover and a dreamer.
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