The trees stood as dark silhouettes against the dimming twilight sky. It was that fleeting moment between night and day, when the creatures of day gave way to the creatures of night. The larks and sparrows settled into their roosts for the night, as the dark web-winged monsters of horror film fame began their hunt. The cats that slept lazily in the sun now prowled, eyes glowing and ears attuned. The owl stirred in the distant oak, fluffing its feathers and hooting its hoot. The rustle to my left was a mystery-a deer, a raccoon, or an opossum.
The horizon continued to darken and the traces of pink were devoured by purples and grays. The shadows of the wood deepened and the tree frogs chirped gaily at the prospect of the cooling moon. My shadow was lost and the first star popped into the night sky. I dared not stay a moment longer, lest I become prey to those that walked the night, those that relished the darkness and always moved in shadows-among them the ones that I sought so intently.
Nature’s light vanished as my foot met the porch step. The insects were already hitting the bug zapper, causing an intense repetitive hissing sound, as they were fried to ultimate crispness. I stood watching their passionate, frantic, persistence as they sought that which caused heady excitement yet bore the promise of grave consequence. I mused how alike we were. I too was in a passionate, frantic, persistent pursuit of an excitement that dizzied my brain and titillated my body-a quest for that which I knew full well might surrender me to the consequences.
I left the porch and entered the cabin. My ears keened, I gently eased the screen door back into the frame. I stood in the darkness looking out into the now blackened space between the porch and the wood. My eyes strained to see into the night. Two weeks had passed since I’d begun the baiting process in hopes of coaxing the illusive creature into my realm. My time was short and my anticipation was growing. I felt my impatience pushing me toward an impulsive act that I knew would carry me, just as the insects, toward my own extinction. Why did I crave this so intensely? Why was the hunger for it so strong? How could the faded text of a long forgotten tome, that begged dusting and reeked of age, push me so hard toward the brink? I’ve determined, now, that these are things I will never know. I reviewed in my mind how meticulously I followed the painfully exacting recipe of the bait this time. I’d measured the exact portions and brewed to the precise second. I’d cooled and cured it for the appropriate number of days. I’d set it at the waning of the moon, on a starless night, after a hard rain. My impatience caused me to rush the recipe in past attempts. My experiment, now obsession, had lasted months. I felt my life would somehow end, if this time I could not at least see the creature-though I knew seeing would not be enough. I wanted to touch it, smell it, taste it. I wanted to know it intimately, all the while knowing I would not likely survive such experiences.
The unknown scholar who had set his hand to this volume imparted such intensity in his words I could not resist them. They teased my brain, dripped from my lips like honey and taunted my fingertips with the depth of their impressions. Though I knew the words were meant to warn, to illuminate and to protect, they instead drew me into the romance of the creature. It at first sounded too remarkable to hold any truth, yet the more I read the more I was convinced of the possibility.
As I could stand not a moment more of waiting, I grabbed the knife from the table and stepped back out onto the porch, all the while the bug zapper reminding me of my risk. Just as I was about to sweeten the bait, I heard the whoosh as it moved in the darkness just out of visual range. I stood motionless, my heart skipping frantically, my body alive, every nerve on alert. I couldn’t tell if the adrenaline that raced my pulse was initiated by fear or sheer ecstasy. I saw its eyes first, almond shaped and narrowed. A strange moan escaped my parched lips, as it drew closer. I held my breath and waited. Instinctively, I stepped back, as another appeared-then another. I had not anticipated this. I found myself courting the danger times three. They sniffed the air as they followed the scent of the bait that was not twenty feet from me.
I know not how I willed myself back into the small safety of the cabin, nor how I made the trip unmolested. Though I know it will afford only a short reprieve, it allows me enough time to write this. Whosoever should find these my last words and read them-take heed of my warning. If you value your sanity and wish to remain whole, do not breech the cover of the book that lies here beneath my words. Rather, set a match to the pages that might otherwise open onto an intensity of obsession and a path of destruction so powerful you could not resist. Were I not so hopelessly possessed by it, I would have already turned it to ash.
Hold the light of day close and keep the darkness from your soul. Be not a moth to the flame, as I have been. Treasure the fragileness of your life and live it not in the realm of what might be, but rather in the realm of what is. Seek not to know the creature that I have become.
There is no time more to explain. Even now they approach me and I am losing myself. I have stayed too long, gone too far, been too reckless. Should you unwisely choose to follow my footsteps, know that I will be waiting breathless, guiltless-and hungry for you.