Short Story Saturday: A Lesson in Humility

Short Story Saturday: A Lesson in Humility - Photo by George Sharvashidze from Pexels
Photo by George Sharvashidze from Pexels

Hello everyone! As part of Short Story Saturday, I have posted another short story, this one entitled A Lesson in Humility. The original writing prompt is taken from

It was not a family reunion that should have ever happened. It defied the laws of… God? Nature? Life itself? To think it none of this would have ever happened had I not been so desirous for fame. Such is the price of learning a lesson in humility.

I’m an author of very little renown, likely I’m nobody you’ve ever heard of. You may be familiar with my grandfather, though. If you’re a fan of his works, you’ll know who I mean. I think about him daily.

Of course, he’d be easier to forget if I didn’t have to pass his grave daily. Admittedly, as convenient as it was, I shouldn’t have buried him so close to home. Loathe as I am to admit this, his fame haunts me. Appropriate, I suppose, as he did love to write about the supernatural.

I’ve never attempted to capitalize on his family’s legacy until recently. Perhaps my muse finally found a way to message me. Regardless, I was suddenly struck with the desire to shoot a series of pictures of me using the technology my grandfather used when he wrote his novels. Then I’d overlay that with shots of me using the tools we use today. I wanted it to be a kind of tribute to him and his works, to convey the notion that I was continuing his legacy.

True, it was a bit exploitative but I’m currently far beyond caring about such frivolous matters. At this point, I’m almost willing to do anything if it means fame and fortune. To that end and to complete my nefarious plan, I visited a local antique shop. There I found a teakwood desk and a metallic typewriter, both of which I immediately purchased. As I was stepping out the door with one of my procured items literally in my hands, I saw something out of the corner of my eye, something I now wish I had never seen.

So enraptured I was with this object that I released the desk much to the surprise of the elderly, ashen-haired proprietor who was assisting me. He immediately dropped the table in surprise which landed with a loud crash onto the lacquered floor narrowly missing his toes.

After profusely apologizing for my actions, which the good-natured man accepted with only slight reservation, I told him what had distracted me. Tucked away in the darkest corner of the store was a grimoire. It appeared to be floating in midair. Upon hearing this, an odd smile spread upon the proprietor’s lips. He nodded once before guiding me toward the item while in a trance-like state. Once there, upon closer inspection, I quickly realized that the grimoire wasn’t floating. Rather, it was merely lying atop a black pulpit.

Still, how I was able to see it is a mystery that haunts me to this day. It was located at the opposite end of that poorly illuminated store. Was it the aforementioned illusion that captured my eye? Perhaps, but I don’t believe so. As ludicrous as it sounds, I believe I was beckoned by the grimoire itself. Indeed, just being in its mere presence made me feel compelled to pick it up, so naturally, I did. The tome’s thousands of yellow pages were bound together by a strange material that I first assumed was leather. Further scrutiny revealed that the cover was composed of some sort of hide that I had never seen or felt before. Curiosity got the better of me. I had to read what was inside. However, that proved impossible for the thick metal clasps kept the grimoire firmly shut.

“I thought I got rid of that thing,” the elderly man murmured almost to himself. He seemingly hadn’t yet escaped his trance-like state. “Don’t know who brought it back or set it up like this.”

“It wasn’t you?”

He grimly shook his head once. “Nope, threw it away.” There was a slight pause as the man rubbed his chin in silence. “I suppose one of my weekenders could have brought it back. They’re into weird stuff like this.”

“Why did you throw the book away?”

“Could never find a buyer. Shame too, that book has quite a history, ‘least if a crazed, disheveled, filthy young man with bugged eyes and white hair is to be believed. Not that I could ever trust a guy from San Francisco. Or any west coaster, for that matter. Never trust anyone outside of New England, I always say.”

The proprietor tilted his head and stroked his beard listlessly as he continued. “Anyways, he claimed something about a half-crazed Arab owning it. Then a Pope banning it? Think at some point a worm had it or something? Maybe at some point, the Salem Witch Trials were mentioned? He might’ve said something about a Magician?”

He shrugged demonstrably. “Dunno. All I really know is he wanted to get rid of it. And was only too happy when I offered to take it. Never could quite figure out what got him all scared. Then again, maybe I could have if I ever figured out how to get the damn thing open.”

To illustrate this, he grabbed the grimoire from my hand and began fiddling around with the clasps to no avail. He then handed it back.

“Tried everything, from breaking them apart with a hammer, to prying them open with a screwdriver, to sawing them off with my circular saw. Nothing’s worked.”

“I guess that’s when you threw it away.”


My lips trembled. Words escaped my lips but it felt as if I couldn’t control what I said. “I must have this grimoire.”

“Okay,” the proprietor said while he raised an eyebrow. He looked at me quizzically for what felt like hours but was likely only seconds. Then he shrugged. “Well, why not? I was trying to get rid of it, anyway. It’s yours, on the house.”

I nodded appreciatively and silently. My hands suddenly quaked. A mixture of apprehension and yearning enveloped my very being. It was not a matter of merely wanting the grimoire. That would not adequately describe the emotions that I was experiencing. I yearned for it. I desired it. The book demanded that I have it. Even though, deep down, I feared it.

Without saying another word to each other, we finished loading the desk and the typewriter into the car. I did not even have the courtesy of thanking him for his assistance before I left the lot and began my drive back home. Almost immediately I heard a strange sound. I moved my head towards the source, to the grimoire that I had been gifted now sitting next to me on the passenger seat. Shortly, I realized that the sound was a gravelly voice emanating from the tome.

The hallucinations began shortly after. My senses were assaulted with grave and dire images so vivid it was almost as if I was witnessing everything right before my very eyes. Visions of sons killing fathers. Of decaying corpses littering the streets. Of wailing women lamenting the fallen. Of death. Of violence. Of destruction. Of mayhem and terror!

With each passing moment, the phantasmagorias became more gruesome! With each passing moment, they became more terrifying! With each passing moment, they became more infernal! I could see nothing but these horrors!

These visions haunted me! They mocked me! They consumed me!

I became increasingly desperate. I yearned to apply a knife to my skull. I wanted to cut the images out of my brain. I would have done so had I the foresight of bringing one with me.

Madness nearly overwhelmed. I am unsure how I made it home.

The grimoire! Somewhere within its pages was the remedy I so desperately craved.

My very being became possessed by this notion. Leaving the table and the typewriter in my car, I rushed toward the door with the grimoire in hand. The haste and desperation in which I exited my vehicle surely would have drawn the ire and scrutiny of my neighbors had I any. I’m instead isolated and alone fifteen miles away from civilization. I now reside at the home I inherited from my grandfather. It’s the perfect location to write distraction-free and, more importantly, avoids prying eyes.

After frantically unlocking my door, I dashed inside and threw the book onto the kitchen table. I then feverishly searched for a means to open the clasps, ransacking my own drawers, cabinets, and shelves in the process. Almost every object I owned, sharp or otherwise, that could be logically or illogically used to pry them open or break them apart was attempted or applied to the clasps. Nothing worked. The visions continued to grow ever more relentless. All the options I had available were soon exhausted. I sat in one of the kitchen chairs and began to weep, broken both physically and mentally. What could end this madness?

I heard a metallic click. The sound of pages unfolding and turning followed soon after. With trepidation, I removed my hands from my eyes and looked down. The manuscript was open.

It must have sensed my earnestness, my sincerity, the gravity of my dismal situation! The tome must have grasped my anguish, my pain, my sorrow! It doubtlessly chose to unfasten its clasps at that very moment to show how I might end my suffering! That’s why neither I nor the elderly clerk could open the book ourselves earlier! The tome can only open when it has deemed someone worthy! The passage it opened to contained the cure, I just knew. Yes, it held the panacea I desired! My eyes fervently consumed every word.

The tome was written in a language that I had never seen before. Lines and figures seemed to move before my very eyes. Was it fatigue or was it really happening? I cannot say. Somehow, even though it was written in a language I had never seen before, I comprehended everything. I read each word aloud. It told a macabre tale about the nature of life and death. It concluded with a rhyming couplet, the only one of its kind.

That is not dead which can eternal lie.
And with strange aeons, even death may die.

That was when I blacked out.

I’m not sure how much time passed before I regained consciousness. I only remember waking up to find myself staring at the ceiling lying amongst the debris I had previously flung to the kitchen floor. The chair I was sitting on was partially lodged into the back wall. When I managed to pull myself to one knee, a slow and deliberate process, I had recovered enough to become mindful of a putrefying smell. My hands covered my face as I finally fully ascended to my feet. Even breathing through my mouth proved difficult, though. It was almost as if the very air had become thicker and more putrid. The entire atmosphere had changed. I was nauseated. Several times I nearly vomited.

By this time, I was staggering. In my daze, I slammed into the table. It shook but the grimoire didn’t budge. Through blurred vision, I gazed downwards towards it. I could not believe my eyes. Surrounding the vile book and forming sporadically on the table were small green flames. In a daze, I placed my hand over them. They emitted no heat. I then tried placing a hand on the tome. My hand was immediately repelled. At first, I thought there was some sort of force field surrounding the grimoire, but upon further examination, I realized a vortex had formed just above its pages. It had created a small and slow tornado. Slow being a relative term as the wind was quick enough to fend off my hand.

My attention turned elsewhere. Above the wind, I heard another noise. It was barely perceptible at first but it quickly grew louder, clearer, and most of all, angrier with every passing moment. It was the sound of tormented pain, an anguished groan accompanied by dragging feet. And those sounds were getting closer to my home.

A sudden bang nearly made me leap out of my skin. Successive bangs followed, each one more frenzied and violent. Whoever or whatever was out there wanted in desperately. I was frozen with shock and trepidation. For a while, I stood there, dumbfounded, unable to move.

I denied any of this was happening. I convinced myself this was all a dream. I recited prayer after prayer begging to be released from this nightmare. It was futile.

Panic nearly set in. I wanted to run, to hide, to curl up into a ball and hope the problem would vanish on its own. Logic eluded me. The only emotion I felt was the impulse to escape.

The fear soon subsided, albeit only slightly. In its place was a strange sort of curiosity. The peephole was beckoning. I had to answer its call. Perhaps my anxiety was unfounded. Perhaps the individual outside was just an injured man needing assistance. Perhaps this whole affair was silly, a mere overreaction.

No, wait. That wasn’t it. It was something else altogether that compelled me towards the door.

I needed to know.

I dragged myself both literally and figuratively to the door. It was the longest ten-foot walk in my life. There I took a couple of heavy breaths before closing my eyes. After one more moment of hesitation, I opened an eye and looked out the peephole.

My blood ran cold. I felt myself go pale. A sickness, a revulsion, a queasiness came over me. I vomited on the floor.

Outside a putrefying and ensanguined man was pounding on my door. His skin was a sickly green. His eyes, barely in his skull, were rolling around like tiny rubber balls. His mouth was agape and his tongue hung off to the side. Green saliva dripped from his brown, rotting teeth. Tufts of dirty white hair sprung from the sides of his otherwise bald head. Parts of him, most notably his nose and his entire left hand, were missing. His clothes were in tatters stained with mud and dirt. He had two large holes in his stomach and chest. A maroon fluid flowed from his wounds and dripped from his mouth.

I recognized him immediately. He was my grandfather. He had risen from the grave.

“Dear God in Heaven,” I said to myself as I frantically ran up the stairs. My destination was my bedroom. I needed to get to the gun safe where I stored my shotgun. “He’s back. I thought I’d only have to shoot him once.”

If you enjoyed this story, then perhaps you’d be interested in reading more by pressing the “short story” tag below or clicking this(short story) link or this(genre and tags) link or this(story list) link. I would also urge you to share this story with others and comment below. Please check out my books page as well by pressing here. Thank you for reading my story.


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