“The Nonbelievers” and a Haunted Book from Paris

“The Nonvelievers,” my second published work, hit the web in December through Under the Bed’s monthly Horror short story magazine (it can be found here if you’re interested: http://www.fictionmagazines.com/shop/u-t-b/under-the-bed-vol-2-issue-3/).

A lot of people aren’t into horror – I get it. Sometimes I feel like I shouldn’t be. Getting scared is certainly a rush, but we’ve all hade nights where we make sure the doors are locked, or lingered at the top of the basement stairs when the light wouldn’t turn on, or been forced by our spouse to brave the attic to get the Christmas decorations. Fun fact: my attic door has a latch on it and leads right into my bedroom. So, yeah, that’s not creepy at all.

I think one thing most writers and film makers have inexplicably forgotten is that, almost without exception, our mind is the scariest thing on this planet. It’s scarier than any CGI monster, masked slasher, or drooling zombie. Why? Because our mind has a way of knowing exactly what we’re scared of. It knows that spider legs give us the willies and that the thought of a hand clawing at the basement door will force us to listen to Disney princess theme songs to help us find our happy place.

So things that are unseen are almost universally scarier than those that are. An exception like Stephen King’s “The Mist” or John Carpenter’s “The Thing” come to mind (not that crappy prequel), but even those films kept true to the rule, in spirit, because their monsters could essentially be anything or anyone, so even after you see them, the thrill isn’t gone.

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“One of the few horror films where the black guy doesn’t die…well until the end from extreme cold”

I experienced this phenomena quite vividly on a trip overseas a few weeks ago. I had the chance to take a two day trip to Paris and got a quick, Reader’s Digest version of the city. The Eiffel Tower, Arc De Triumphe, Notre Dame, etc. My wife wasn’t able to go with me so I made it a priority to get her some unique souvenirs. One thing my wife loves is books, particularly old books, so when I stumbled upon an antique book stand just outside the Basilica I knew I had to find one for her.

All the books were wrapped in plastic and I wasn’t about to be “that American” that opened them up like I was sampling snack foods in Dollar General, so I was forced to choose sight unseen, save the cover. The book I decided on had a soft, peach hue with small cartoon angels depicted on the cover. The title was obviously in French and, without cell phone signal or internet, I wasn’t able to translate. “Diabolico foutro Manie? huh, sounds good to me.” (if you google it, please know it’s certainly NSFW)

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“Diabolico? I wonder if that means ‘Diabolical?’ Nah, I’m sure there’s nothing creepy about this book”

It was hours before I realized I’d been stupidly carrying it around with me all day without ever even glancing inside the front cover. I pulled it out and undid the wrapping while a couple of my friends stood around to see what I’d bought. It was old – a later print of a book first published in the 1830’s – and all in French. I looked through the introduction and gathered it was a textbook of some kind, and then found the first picture.

“What, uh…whatcha got there?” my friend asked.

I stood with a confused look and responded “I’m not exactly sure.”

Turns out it was an educational book covering a movement during the early decades of the 1800’s in France that found artists obsessing over “demonic eroticism.” If your mind can’t quite visualize what that is, be thankful. Suffice it say, these lithographs covered everything from dancing penis demons to guillotines retrofitted with rubber sex toys (among other things)…so, yeah, I was slightly surprised to find demon rape in the book I bought and also wasn’t exactly certain how to explain to my wife that this particular book was what I was bringing back from Paris to her.

When I got back to my room I talked to her over facebook. She asked how the day went and what I got to see and we eventually reached the topic of what I got her. “I found a book,” I said.

“Really? What kind of book?”

“An old book…”

“Oooo I love old books. What’s it about?

“Uh, it’s very…unique.”

It took her a bit to find it on the internet (turns out I probably could have turned a profit had I sold it), but the more she found, the more disgusted she got. The conversation started out with possibly putting it on a high book shelf where no one would see it. Then we thought maybe the garage was the best place for it. And finally, after sitting in a dark hotel room with it for about an hour, I decided it wasn’t coming home with me.

But, lying in bed in a quiet room in Germany, my brain did what any normal brain does – it began to wander. I rolled over and saw it on the nightstand and put it on the floor. Then I realized the thought of it anywhere near the underside of my bed was deeply disturbing and I put it in the trash can, which I then put in the bathroom and then I promptly shut the door.

Was the book haunted? Nah. Of course not. That abomination wasn’t whispering in the darkness. It didn’t open it’s pages and spit up pea soup and ,thankfully, it didn’t follow me home (although the thought of opening the cargo bay of the plane I was flying and tossing it into the middle of the Atlantic Ocean did cross my mind…just to make sure), but that didn’t stop my mind from wandering.

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“At least the book was kind enough not to lock me in a jungle for 8 years, although the content rating certainly wasn’t PG”

I’m not even exactly sure what spooked me specifically (maybe it was the devils raping people…yeah probably that), but there was just some vibe I got – an aura, a gut feeling, whatever you want to call it – and once my mind got a hold of it, it couldn’t get enough. It wandered towards thoughts of my wife, my daughter, finding the book in the attic, the demons disappearing from the pages and hearing voices at night before going to bed… Seriously, how much scarier is that than a CGI demon breathing fire or holding some stupid red trident? The answer is way more scary.

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The French artist was like “Yeah but it needs to be scarier. Maybe it needs more penises.”

I’m actually considering writing a short story on the ordeal (with plenty of exaggeration and creative license) called simply “Diabolico.” I’ve got the basic outline written, but every time I try to delve into the story, it awakens those thoughts again and convinces me I made the right choice letting some (possibly unfortunate) hotel maid find it locked in the bathroom. Regardless, it’s one of the things that creeps me out most about the horror genre, but the thing that keeps bringing me back. Things that are scary stay with you, linger, and remind you that sometimes it’s okay to sleep with a lamp on. And every so often, just for kicks, they apparently add a dildo for some strange reason.

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