The Entity: Hierophage

A short story by Ryan Norris

It is said that fate is predetermined while destiny is chosen. The million-dollar question being, do we really have a choice or is it all inevitable? I was never one to believe in fate. Too many times had I seen people with great potential fall to mediocracy, either in their reluctance to embrace challenge or in accepting what others have chosen for them. Most do not want to be challenged or to think independently. They would rather stick to what they know, do as they are told, because ignorance is bliss. But me, I was searching for a way out of the cage, out of the machine, I wanted to feel free. Being raised a Catholic, I was told that God prescribed my fate; that he had a “plan” for me, but that never sat right with me. No one was going to dictate my fate, not even God. I needed to decide my own destiny.

So, I started by looking at all the things I was raised to fear or hate like Wicca, Buddhism, and Taoism. Those are better than Catholicism in my opinion, but there seems to be a lot of inflated crap mixed with small kernels of meaning sprinkled throughout. Then, I went to the dark side, the occult world: Thelema, Shaivism, Odinism, and Dark Paganism. I learned about the tarot, the sacred Kabbalah, and Hermeticism. I learned about the ancient I Ching, the Runes, and mythologies from deep history up to present day. Nothing seemed to give me what I wanted. It all was saying the same basic thing but in a million different ways. That message as I saw it was “We know what you never will, so you must have faith.” Yeah, well, faith saw me abused as a kid and spiritually numb as an adult. I wanted to feel these concepts. I wanted to live a life guided by destiny rather than being tyrannized by fate.

My search for spiritual freedom would take me through so many books it made my head spin. The Grimoire Vernum, the Lesser Keys of Solomen, the Ars Goetia, the Book of the Law, yet none of the traditional, more well-known books held the same mystique and allure as one that has illuded scholars for a millennium, maybe more. The Compendium Sinistra. A book, it is said, that only a lucky few have gazed upon its cover. Even fewer have opened it, and fewer still actually read out of it. No one knows who wrote it. Some say God, some say the devil, some say it was a lunatic hyped up on primitive psychedelics. No one agrees on the specifics, but all of them concur on the dangers this book is said to pose to anyone who dares to seek it. Threats of madness, sickness, curses, and death surround this unique book more than any others. I knew this was the book I wanted – no, I needed this book.

My search led me to many, and I mean many, dead ends. I was told by priests and pastors that my immortal soul was in danger. I was told by so-called shaman and gurus over and over to give it up, that I would only destroy myself, that I was ignorant of what I was seeking. How could they think such a thing? I read all I could, chased every lead presented to me and they still thought of me as an unworthy ignorant fool.

I was, however, chasing a trail that was quickly going cold. In my frustration, I almost gave up until I learned about a man named Mario Legosi, an Italian aristocrat looking to avoid the political tension of mid 1800s Italy. Legend says Legosi found the Compendium and brought it with him to America in 1857. Two years later, he disappeared. Some say he was murdered; others say he was abducted, the stories are vague, and no one knows exactly what happened to him. However, what is known is that he settled here in Belle County. In fact, he settled just outside of Belle township itself; that is just a 30-minute drive from my home in New Rock. I would’ve made the trip myself, however, there have been happenings on that property that have made visiting the site illegal. More recently, a man who was helping his father renovate the legendary Belle house, now known as the infamous Scapelli murder house, went insane. He was institutionalized with a suspicion of murdering his father and older brother. The ravings of this madman lead me to a book shop here in my hometown of New Rock. Obscure Tomes, owned by a man named Samuel Cronenberg. It was a dark, starless night when I walked into the small, colonial New England style bookstore.

“Welcome, browse freely but do so with respect as I have little patience for rudeness.” A short old man standing on a ladder, placing books on a shelf spoke with a monotoned apathy as he worked. His dark green sweater-vest accented a dark brownish-orange long-sleeved shirt that was tucked into black dress pants with a black belt. He never looked at me. He just kept going up and down the ladder, shelving books that were piled on a rolling cart. I stood by the door for a moment and looked at the store for the first time. There were no signs to indicate genres or any kind of ordering or structure. There were shelves and tables filled with books of all kinds. Leather bound. Paperbacks. Hardcovers. I walked over to a table on the right side. It had Moby Dick sitting on top of Joseph Campbell’s Hero of a Thousand Faces, a copy of Lovecraft’s Collection sitting next to the King James bible. I had heard of Obscure Tomes and even considered visiting once or twice, but I never quite felt compelled to come; until now that is. I turned and inquired, “How are the books organized?”

The old man never looked at me and just said, “They aren’t. Looking for something specific?” I wasn’t sure what to expect from this guy, so I gave him a partial truth.

“Sort of. I have an idea of what I’m looking for.” He finally glanced at me from over top of his glasses which practically sat on the tip of his long and pointed nose.

“An idea?” He displayed his amused disappointment by chuckling and lightly shaking his head. “Ideas are dangerous, son! Don’t you know that?” He went back to putting his books away.

“Well, isn’t that what you sell? Ideas?” He stopped mid-way up the ladder and looked over his left shoulder at me. “Do I look like a politician? Or a priest?” Amused, I responded with, “No, but you do look like you know more than the average idiot walking down that sidewalk right now.” I could see his eyes crinkle just ever so slightly. Did he just smile, or wince? I couldn’t tell. With an audible sigh he backed down off the ladder and put down the books he was holding. We both stepped toward one another until we stood but only a few feet from one another among the shelves and tables of old and new literature.

“Okay son, which urban legend are you hunting? Hmm?”

“Not an urban legend. An ancient legend. I’m looking for a book that may be considered forbidden due to its content.”

Before I could utter another syllable, the old man’s expression darkened and his face went pale, “Does this look like a historical museum or something? I deal in works of literature, both common and rare. I do not get involved with religious gobbledygook or pseudo-spiritual rhetoric.” His eyes locked onto mine with an unblinking stare that hinted at his sudden anger with me. I considered my words carefully as I couldn’t risk upsetting the man. I was so sure the book was there.

“Look, I mean no offense. I am a student of the esoteric arts, and my interest is to learn what I can from what I can. I am not looking for a profit or for fame.” The old man cut in with a quick and sharp question, “Then what are you after?”

I hesitated, and maybe that betrayed my eagerness, but I was so close, so close. “Liberation,” I admitted, “from all that keeps me bound by fate.” The old man turned on his heels and quickly walked behind the counter and began fishing around for something. “Six o’ clock, dinner time. Come on, son. Time to leave.”

I could no longer hide my enthusiasm and pleaded, “Now hold on a minute, just hear me out! You are Samuel Cronenberg, owner of this bookstore, right?” The old man shot me a death glare. “So what?” I took a chance and admitted to what I already knew. “Your real name however is Tolis, Vernon Tolis. You’re the younger brother of Jeremiah Tolis, the auctioneer who disappeared two years ago out in Belle Township, right? The one who did the Scapelli estate auction?” The old man turned his face away in what I assumed was pain of grief, but I would come to realized it was to hide his true initial reaction.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. My name is Cronenberg. Samuel Cronenberg. Now, I am asking you kindly to leave my store. Now!” I expected this kind of reaction, but it was the way his voice quivered that told me I hit something personal.

I tried to hide my frustration by changing my tone to something more inquisitive. “With all due respect, sir, I spent a long time searching for a book that may have ended up at that house. I even went to Dolton Psychiatric Hospital and spoke to Daniel Brubaker myself. It was through him that I learned about a Jeremiah Tolis, the man who auctioned off Scapelli’s possessions. My research told me he was into the occult as well. It was through public records of his last name that I found this bookshop; owned by one Vernon Tolis, Jeremiah’s younger brother. Then a year and a half later the shop is suddenly owned by a Samuel Cronenberg without any record of sale or title transfer. The only way that could happen is if someone had their name legally changed. Am I right?”

Another long, audible sigh came from the old man and then, “My brother was a delusional maniac. We hadn’t spoken to each other in a longtime and then…” He paused and then returning to his apathetic angst he once again said, “You need to go now, son. I haven’t had my dinner yet and I tend to become aggravated more easily when I’m hungry without some stranger prying into family matters. Now, please, if you would be so kind as to leave my store.”

I was too determined to let this chance go. I continued to reason with him. “Mr. Tolis, please. I have invested a lot of time and energy in finding this book. Your brother was my final lead. Since he disappeared, you are my last hope.” Vernon looked me dead in the eyes as he picked up a long black raincoat and hat from a table behind the counter. He stood there in what I assumed was a moment of thought. Dawning the coat and hat, his face suddenly twisted into an uncanny grimace.

“Okay, son. I can tell you’re not going to let it go. I know the book you’re looking for. The Compendium Sinistra.” he seemed to tense up when he said it and then asked, “Why?”

“I have spent my life feeling like my fate was in the hands of others. I’ve never felt like I had any control over my life or what happens to me. I want to be free to live in comfort and peace. I want to control my destiny.” The old man considered my response, then he walked over to the front door, locked it, and turned the sign from open to closed. “Follow me.” He took me into the back of the store where there was a book restoration station, office area, and door with no doorknob and just a deadbolt lock. “Okay then, let’s hear it.”

“I know that it may have ended up here in Belle County. I know about Mario Legosi up in Belle township and his ties to the occult. I know about the happenings on the infamous Belle House property since it was usurped by the British general Friedrich Belle and even the native legends.”

He interrupted me again. “Did you also know that any who dare to so much as look at the cover are said to be haunted by a deadly madness?”

I gave a chuckle, “Of course, I’ve done my homework before I came to you. The part I am interested in is the section on killing a god.”

He thought for a moment as I waited for his next move. “Perhaps, but whether or not you’re truly prepared for it has yet to be seen.” He said with a strange dead-eyed smile. “But I must insist you do not continue to hunt this book down. Not even Legosi could handle it; and all that business about killing a god? That is a lose-lose situation, son. You should return to your church or to your atheism and leave the gods to their slumber. To kill a god, one would have to become a god.”

I could no longer contain my annoyance, “Look, you clearly know that I know your brother was at the Belle House because he believed Legosi hid the book somewhere on that property before he vanished. You are afraid of it, but I am not. I just…”

He cut me off again with, “I am not afraid of it! It’s just a book. I’m afraid of you, of what might be lurking within you. That book will magnify the darkness inside you, and only the gods would know what kind of monster that may unleash.” I didn’t know what to say to that. On the one hand he was completely correct, and I would tell anyone the same thing myself if I was in his position. On the other hand, I just drove 45 minutes to this shop and the whole damn reason why I even walked in here in the first place was because I was certain the book was here. Then a realization hit me. “You read out of it didn’t you?”

The old man retracted and turned away. “I… Jeremiah brought it to me when he found it. We looked it over together. It was shortly after that that he began to act differently. Then he went missing.” As he said this, his eyes went off into the distance and fear once again washed his face pale.

I stood up straight and with determined solidarity I said, “I am solid in mind and spirit. I spend 15 minutes a day meditating, I’ve taught myself so much about the Golden Dawn and the Ordo Templi Orientis, and Demonology. What I haven’t learned, though, is true freedom, in body, mind, and spirit. I am not looking to summon a demon to make me rich.”

The old man shifted his gaze from fear to apathy as he retracted his hand from his pocket. “Fine then. Take this key. Use it on that door,” he said pointing to the door with the ornate lock and setting the strange key on the counter, “and use the same key on the case. I will be leaving. When you’re done put the key on the desk over there and lock it all back up when you leave.” He then briskly walked out to the front door and left the building.

I took a deep breath and walked over to the strange door and put the key in the lock. I turned it and heard the bolt retract with a metallic click. The door opened without any further effort from me. The room was lit in a red light like a darkroom. A single table with a glass case sat in the center of the room. I took the key out of the door lock and walked up to the case. Shaking, my hand turned the key. The lock clicked, and the case opened with a squeal of the hinges. The book sat nested inside the hardwood box and the cover was adorned with strange geometric shapes and markings that didn’t look like any language I had ever seen. I tried to lift it out, but the sheer weight of the thing made that quite difficult. After some struggle I got it out. It was massive, it had to weigh 15 maybe 20 pounds. I took a breath and opened the cover.

There were strange symbols or glyphs written in black ink on thick yellowed paper. Under that was a strange drawling of a hand with more symbols placed on the fingertips and the palm. I turned to the next page and saw more strange symbols and illustrations. There were no discernible languages in this thing. Just some strange glyphic writing with horrific illustrations and arcane symbols and sigils; things that didn’t make sense. I turned over a large chunk of pages to the center of the book. That’s where I found an illustration of what appeared to be a horned, androgynous figure holding a bearded, severed head in its right hand and a bloody axe in its left hand. On the opposite page, I saw a large intricate design that looks like some elaborate maze. There were strange arcane symbols acting as a boarder enclosing the strange maze on the page. I began to feel a sinking feeling in my stomach and vertigo began to swirl in my head. My thoughts began to writhe in my skull, and I heard something strange, like the low roar of a thousand whispers growing to a crescendo. I couldn’t look away.

The roar began to rumble like thunder announcing its approach. The vertigo became so intense I stumbled as I felt my legs grow weak. The rumble was beginning to shake the building. I felt the floor pulsating underfoot and I could hear books falling to the floor out in the store. My eyes refused to look away from the maze. What the hell is this? I thought. I wanted to step away, to look away, but I couldn’t. I wanted to let my legs buckle and fall to the floor, so I didn’t have to be trapped on this page, but I just kept staring as if something unseen held me in place. My eyes began to burn and tear up. Then a bright white light blasted my vision, and I was pushed back by an inexplicable burst of wind that seemed to emerge violently from the book itself. I slammed into the wall behind me, and my eyes finally broke from the page. In an instant all fell silent and still. The vertigo remained and I vomited on the floor. I needed to get some air. I left the book open on the table and frantically crawled out of the room. I stood up hoping to get to the door. The only problem was the store wasn’t the same when I left the backroom.

The books were gone, and an empty store lay in front of me. I ran up to the door and saw the doorknob was gone and the deadbolt was replaced by a strange ornate looking lock. It had a single keyhole that looked like something out of the 1700s. I couldn’t see any way of opening the door at this point. I began to panic. I ran to the back and looked for another door. Nothing. I tried to break the windows, but they didn’t even bend when I tried to kick at them. I looked outside and saw something that made my stomach drop. No street, no other buildings, but what looked like large stone or concrete walls and archways. My panic turned to utter terror as I tried to keep my sanity.

The sound of metallic clicks and squeaks came from the lock on the door and the door began to slowly creak open. I was shaking and sweating as I stepped towards the door. Looking out of the threshold, I confirmed that the store now sat inside of some massive stone labyrinth. The sound of thunder rumbling in the distance rolled across the black starless sky. I shook off the vertigo as best I could, but it never really went away. With legs of jelly, I turned to go back into the store only to find it replaced by another solid stone wall. Panic began to truly take me. Was I going insane? What did that thing do to me? Where am I? The endless questions ricocheted throughout my mind as I tried to process everything. With nothing else to do, I turned and entered the labyrinth.

Twisting corridors, dead ends, and endlessness seemed to be built right into the foundation of this thing. I don’t know how long I wandered alone in that eldritch place. Any rational sense of time was gone, and my head swam in a sea of confusion and horror. I eventually came to a circular area that featured a door in the stone wall. A lone solid wood door with a doorknob. As inconspicuous as any door one would see in a house.

I ran to the door, grabbed the knob, and turned it. The door opened with a familiar creaking and as it opened, I saw that beyond it was the inside of the bookstore, still empty, but at least I found it again. Upon entering, the door slammed shut behind making me jump and scream. Trying the doorknob again, I found it did not turn, and the door wouldn’t budge. Now I was trapped in a windowless place that looked like the bookstore but obviously wasn’t. I began to feel my mind slipping into a psychosis of screaming panic, mumbled self-talk, and frantically trying to break down the walls with the only tools I had: my arms and legs.

At the peak of my psychosis a cracking sound caught my attention. The backroom doorway began to glow in an ominous light. The door slowly began to open and then it closed by itself. As soon as it latched it burst open again slamming into the wall with such force it came off the hinges. In the pulsing glow was a figure silhouetted in the eerie unnatural light. It was as if this figure was the source of the glow. It appeared horned and holding an axe in its left hand. Floorboards creaked as I heard its bare fleshy feet slowly stomp on the floor as it emerged from the threshold. I was frozen in horror as it stomped towards me. Words cannot describe the panic that took me.

It bellowed in a thunderous voice, but its words were incomprehensible, as if it was speaking some eldritch language through a thousand voices all singing in a chaotic unity. Suddenly, a screaming voice pierced my mind with an instant headache, “Remove this crown or face my axe!” Still frozen, I felt my throat regurgitate a scream so primal you’d swear an animal was being slowly tortured to death. It kept stepping closer. “Remove this crown or face my axe!” it bellowed again. It stood almost nose to nose with me as I continued to scream with utter horror. Its right hand grabbed my hair. Its black eyes had pupils like stars isolated in a black void. Its wicked-tooth grin bared teeth that looked like knives. “Your fate is nigh!” It bellowed out a thunderous growl, it raised its axe, and swung at my neck…

Three Days Later

A short old man known as Samuel entered his home with the jungle of keys in a stiff lock. He removed his glasses from his pointed nose and sat in a worn armchair. He gave a long sigh, weary from the days events, and turned on the TV.

“Good evening, I’m Glen Trevors and this is channel seven news at eleven. Our top story tonight, more details have come to light regarding a gruesome murder in a local bookstore that is leaving authorities baffled. 27-year-old Thomas Reichenbaugh was found decapitated when the store owner, 63-year-old Samuel Cronenberg, returned from dinner three nights ago. Investigators say there were no signs of forced entry, yet Cronenberg insists he never saw Reichenbaugh before. There also was no evidence of anyone else being in the store other than the victim while the owner was out. Nothing was stolen or out of place, and the strangest detail yet, though the body was decapitated, the head of the victim has yet to be found. Police are asking for anyone who may know something about the case to call the police department in New Rock.”

The old man shook his head and said to himself, “Arrogant fool. I warned you! Now look at you! Dead. Just like Jeremiah. Stupid, ignorant, arrogant fools, the both of you!” He rubbed his eyes, his head fall back, and drifted off to sleep.

The Orders of The Sect of the Horned God

The Order of Pan
The Order of Cernunnos
The Order of Prometheus
The Order of Dionysis
The Order of Shiva

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