It was Christmas Eve. I had walked into the adjoining room to check on whether I had a certain book in my collection, and when I returned to my desk, the note was lying there and it had most certainly not been there when I had left the desk. I had been away for perhaps a half of a minute, no more, and yet there was neither sign nor sound of anyone’s recent presence. I opened the door and looked out into the corridor, but it was empty and I heard only silence.
Perplexed as to how it had got there, I closed the door, sat down at my desk again and picked up the note. It had been written in black ink, with a pen whose nib was clearly in need of replacing.
“You will find something of interest at the library. Come now.”
The letters were poorly formed, as if done in haste, or written by an unpractised hand. I looked out of the window, across the quad to the library building. All looked as it always did, with the exception of the Christmas tree that stood in the centre of the grass. The last of the daylight was almost gone from the afternoon, and snow was falling. December is my least favourite month, and it was cold outside, but I knew that I would not be able to resist going to see what this was about, so I supposed that the sooner I did it the better. I sighed, and with a lantern in my hand I went out into the snow.
I am familiar with the layout of the library I use it almost every day but always in daylight hours. As I approached the black oak door, the lantern casting a glow of illumination that was rather smaller than ideal, it looked somehow foreboding. Now, I am a scientist, and I have no truck with anything that can not be measured, quantified and proven, but even so I could not shake a certain feeling of unease as I lifted the iron catch.
I considered lighting some of the candles in their sconces, but I did not plan to be there for long enough to make that worthwhile. In the light of the lantern I looked around. The reading desks and the shelves appeared as they always had, and I could see nothing that attracted my attention as I moved slowly further into the room and along the aisle between the book-lined walls.
I had reached the end of the aisle, and was about to turn back when the pool of light from my lantern moved and I found myself looking at a small door. It was set into the wall at the end, between the bookcases, and I had no recollection of its having been there before. Surely I would have noticed a door here in the years in which I had been using this place. It was smaller than a usual door perhaps some four and a half feet in height, and a couple of feet wide, made of the same black oak as the outer door, and with a similar iron catch on it.
A cupboard, perhaps, that I had not noticed previously. I reached out a hand and lifted the catch. The door opened easily, but with a creak. Beyond it were not the expected piles of books, but stone steps, descending into darkness.
Now as far as I had been aware, the library was constructed with but a single floor no cellars - and so this came as something of a surprise to me. With, I freely admit, a certain trepidation but with my curiosity now piqued - I bent to enter the doorway, and carefully and slowly made my way down the uneven steps. They continued for some time, and then came to an end, opening into what I supposed was a room. My lantern illuminated only a small area, the rest of the space remaining in darkness. I could see before me only the stone floor. I was about to walk forward when there came a noise. It was the sound of distant, but unmistakable, laugher. And it was not the kind of laughter that may be given rise to by the telling of a joke or a witty remark it carried an urgency, a breathlessness, and a hopelessness that curdled my blood. Whoever it was, he was in distress, and I felt that he would have been calling for help had he been able.
The sound ended and silence returned. Because of the strange acoustics I had not been able to pinpoint the direction from which the laughter had come, and so I started forward, away from the steps. After perhaps ten paces I came to a wall with another door in it, of normal size. As quietly as I could, I pushed it open.
The sound came again. This time it seemed to be a little closer and it was a long, drawn-out shriek. A shudder of fear ran through me: what devilish process could give birth to such a sound? I was able to determine the direction now it had come from my left. I raised the lantern and searched the darkness, but saw nothing. I considered calling out, but my nerve failed me.
And then I heard another sound. Begging, pleading. Unutterable anguish.
For a while I considered turning back, but my curiosity had got the better of me and with infinite caution I progressed further towards where the sound had come from, trying to approach undetected, but realising that the glow of my lantern would advertise my presence anyway. From the echoes of my footsteps I could tell that the room was large.
After a few moments, I became aware of dim lights at the edge of the darkness before me. As I continued to move forward, these lights began to resolve themselves into candles in sconces. The sconces were attached to columns which enclosed a rectangular space rather in the manner of a small theatre the columns being connected by low walls. There was an opening in the wall by the nearest of the columns. I extinguished my lantern and moved closer still, concealing myself behind the pillar, so that I would be able to look around it. I put the lantern down quietly on the stone floor.
When I looked up again, the sight that met my astonished gaze was like a scene from the Inferno by Dante: figures in black habits, their faces shrouded by cowls, surrounded a sturdy wooden table on which a naked young man had been rendered exposed and defenceless by ropes around his extremities. His arms were wide apart beyond his head, his feet similarly spread and fixed immovably to the lower ends of the table. He was struggling desperately but impotently as the figures moved about him.
And when they moved, they did not walk they glided. I gasped and crossed myself. What unholy work of the devil was I witnessing?
Some of the hooded figures clutched feathers in their bony hands, others did not, but they were all stroking and caressing the boy’s body with the utmost concentration. The feathers and fingertips glided over his skin lightly, in unpredictable patterns. As I watched I realised where the sound I had heard earlier had come from: the boy began to chuckle and squirm on the table under the stroking.
As if at an unspoken command, the fingers increased both their speed and their pressure, and the feathers closed in on the boy’s privates which were exhibiting extreme arousal. The young man’s giggling became full laughter.
Again the unspoken command came, and the figures once more increased the degree of their work. Those with feathers put them aside and joined the others in digging their fingers sadistically into the boy’s muscles, into his sides, his inner thighs, his armpits and stomach, or raked talon-like fingers down his ribs, or scratched long, wickedly-pointed fingernails over his soft, defenceless soles. It was clear to me that they somehow knew the places on his body that were the most vulnerable and unbearable to him, and that they were carefully targetting those very spots. His laughter metamorphosed into the shriek I had heard earlier as the boy writhed and fought his restraints on the table in an agony of unendurable ticklishness.
I was witnessing pure torture. I did not know what to do the young man was clearly in extremis, and I knew that I should rescue him but of a sudden I realised that my body was responding to the sight before me in a way that I would have found shameful had I observed it from without. The sight of this young man being worked on by those shadowy figures, unable to stop the torture or to get away from it in any way, his manhood hard and waving in the air, affected me greatly, and to my shame I have to confess that I was powerless to look away from it.
The figures stopped, and for a brief moment the boy collapsed back onto the table in desperate relief, sobbing quietly. But then, seeming to know what was going to happen to him next, he abruptly stopped sobbing, and thrust his hips powerfully forwards, arching his back as far as he was able. And now the figures changed their technique. Fingers returned to his armpits, to his nipples, to his legs and inner thighs, and to the soles of his feet - but very gently, stroking lightly and slowly almost lovingly. It was the other hands that had my attention, however. One began to tickle the boy’s balls with the tip of a feather, and a second one took the straining manhood in a gentle grip and began to stroke it slowly. The fingers paid particular attention to the tip where I know from personal experience the seat of lust resides.
For the first time now I noticed that there was a strip of leather fastened around the boy’s head, completely covering his eyes. This caused my own manhood to jerk in arousal the thought that these fiends had rendered their victim unable to see, undoubtedly to increase the effectiveness of their devilish work, as he could not tell where the fingers would attack next, and so that he would have nothing to distract him from the torture itself was a thought which excited me more than I would like to admit. I found myself in an extreme state of arousal.
“Please… Please . Finish me.” The words were whispered in pure desperation, in extreme anguish, and there was a longing in them that communicated the suggestion that he had been undergoing this torture for a very long time. At first I thought that he was pleading with them to kill him: to put him out of his misery but I realised later that the real reason was very different indeed.
The figures appeared to pay not the slightest attention to his pleas other than wet, slurping groans of sadistic pleasure that escaped their lips. The hands continued to tease and to caress, stopping suddenly when they determined that the boy was on the point of ejaculating. Then they would pause, motionless for a few seconds, until such time that their work could be resumed, bringing him to yet another precipice of orgasm, but no further. At the very apex of each precipice, a hideous, long and thin prehensile tongue would emerge from the shadows of the hooded face and lick the juices from the very tip of the boy’s manhood. This caused a sudden, strenuous arching of his back and brought the most violent, strangled cry of need from him yet. The devilish fiend did this as slowly as possible, to maximise the boy’s response while still ensuring that his orgasm was unattainable.
The young man was in the prime of life at that age where sexual need is at its very peak, and each time the hand and the feather stopped, so that he could not achieve orgasm, and the tongue had retracted after licking the tip, the boy wailed hideously and piteously. His hips thrust with an effort to fuck the teasing hand, or to find that inexpressibly wonderful tongue again - but by then,neither was touching him.
After an unconscionable number of repeats of this inhuman torture, the whole cycle would begin once more: gentle tickling; followed by firmer, faster, work; then full, unbearable tickle torture; and finally prolonged and repeated teasing of his manhood, bringing him again and again to the very brink of release, but then, after the touch of the tongue, stopping just too soon.
I wondered that the young man had not been driven insane by this treatment, but he seemed, horrifyingly, to be in full possession of his faculties. I felt that it may have been better for him had he actually passed into insanity - and yet, in some strange way he seemed to be enjoying it: his manhood was at a full, solid erection, and each time the hard tickling stopped he would present his privates urgently and impatiently to the hand and the feather that would begin to tease them.
As the fingers began to stroke the boy’s manhood again, I began to unfasten the belt of my trousers - I was in almost equally desperate need of release. As I did so, a hand gripped my shoulder.
In a shock of panic I turned, and found a hooded head inches from my own, its face hidden completely by the darkness of the cowl. Immediately, my strength seemed to desert me, and a fog descended around my mind. I could no longer think clearly. Without a word, the figure led me around the column and towards the table I found myself completely unable to resist, and following like an automaton. To my astonishment the boy had gone; there was no sign of him. The table stood empty, its ropes lying ready for its next victim.
I do not remember removing my clothing, but there came a point where my strength returned in full, the fog in my head lifted suddenly, and my awareness came back to me with crystal clarity. I found myself naked, and tied down in the same position the boy had been in. I could feel that the table was warm, as if from the body heat of its former writhing occupant. The last thing I saw was the hooded figures crowding around the table as the piece of leather was tied over my eyes. I heard gurgling sounds of anticipation coming from them, but from that point I could see nothing.
My friends, I can not begin to tell you how excruciating was my experience under their hands. Watching the boy being tortured from the safety of the pillar had been one thing, but actually being the victim of these fiends was something else entirely. I have no idea for how long they kept me there and worked on me, but my laughter, shrieks, screams and begging and the creaks of the table as I writhed and struggled to escape with every ounce of my strength - reverberated from the stone walls and columns for what seemed like an eternity. I thought it would never end that I was in a hell of a kind I had never dreamed possible. I begged for release.
And yet. And yet, a part of me wanted this unbearable torture to go on forever. In the midst of my screams I was experiencing a state of arousal the like of which I had never felt before. It was a torture that was aimed precisely at the very core of my being a man. My maleness, my masculinity, was the very centre of it the whole, calculated point of it; although I begged and pleaded, although I writhed under their fingers, and although I could not even begin to bear it, it engendered a feeling that I can only describe as a triumph of maleness. The gentle tickling, followed by the hard digging in of fingers at all of my most unendurably sensitive places was unimaginably dreadful, but it served to make the work that followed directly on my manhood - more effective by orders of magnitude. I understood now why the boy had pushed his hips out, towards the hand that would begin taking him on another journey towards orgasm: although I knew that, like the boy before me, I would never be allowed actually to reach that orgasm, the knowledge that it was about to start was compelling beyond words, and I wanted, needed that more than I had ever wanted anything in my life before. I found myself shamelessly thrusting my hips forward as hard as I could, just as he had done.
And the moment when the hand stopped - leaving me poised on the very brink of the ejaculation my body craved with every fibre of its being - that was the worst thing of all. No that was not the worst thing. The worst thing was when that tongue slid over the tip of my manhood, licking. It did it only once each time, but it brought me to within less than a heartbeat from orgasm. That moment was the most excruciatingly - the most transcendentally - wonderful thing I believe that any male has ever experienced. And when the fiend ended that moment, leaving me flailing on the brink but unable to push myself over it, and feeling the holy grail of orgasm receding, unattainable yet again, the unbearable frustration was so intense that it made this grown man cry. But every single time, after the wailing, after the crying, when those supernaturally talented fingers began their work again, bringing me up and up and up… I forgot the inevitable frustration that was coming, and all that I was capable of thinking about was the pure, intense pleasure of those fingers on me.
For how long I was down there, tied helpless to the table while those devils worked on me, I have not the slightest idea. When I came to my senses I was back in the library, with no recollection of how I had got there. I was sitting on the stone floor by the end of the bookcases, and there was no sign of the small door. I searched the wall, by the light of the lantern, but found nothing; it was as if it had never been.
It was Christmas Eve and I knew I should really be thinking about dressing and going into the main hall for the festival feast. But I was far too preoccupied. In my mind I was re-living what I had been through. Had it been just in my mind? Doors do not appear and disappear as if by magic. Steps leading down to non-existent library cellar rooms where shrouded figures torture people are not possible in my world of logical reality. And yet every nerve in my body was telling me that it had been real.
As I sat there deep in thought, I realised that a hunger had been awoken in me; a hunger that had not been there before, and one that I knew without question would not rest until it was satisfied regularly. I could not understand it this was not me. I had no such cravings. But yet I knew in the deepest part of my soul that it was a part of me. I shook my head in confusion.
But how was a college lecturer going to sate a hunger such as that? I had no idea. I pulled myself to my feet, and walked unsteadily towards the exit.
On the way past the vacant reading desks I noticed a book on one of them. Wearily I picked it up, intending to return it to its shelf, when I noticed that the binding appeared to be very ancient. I read the title: “Vocatio Legionis”. It was unfamiliar to me, and my Latin is not good. There was no date on the cover and I had no idea in what category it belonged. Idly I opened it - and immediately let out a gasp as I saw the frontispiece: it showed a scene identical to the one I had just witnessed in the cellar.
I sank down onto a chair slowly, and turned the page. It was an extremely thin volume and, after the frontispiece, appeared to have only a single other page in it. This was illuminated with gold, and a single line of text, meticulously executed in Gothic script, was framed by an arch of more hand-executed images depicting cowled figures with bony hands - some holding feathers. The lower half of the page showed a sturdy oak table, ropes lying at its four corners. The table was unoccupied, and the cowled figures looked as if they were impatient, waiting, wanting.
I transferred my attention to the single line of script. It, also, appeared to be in Latin, and my knowledge of that language was not up to the task of translating it.
“Te voco, legio umbrarum. Libenter offero corpus meum.”
I stared at the page for a long time, wondering what the words meant, what the book was, how it had come to be there on the table. I picked it up, made my way back to my study, and sat down at my desk. In need of a drink, I poured a large whisky from the decanter.
I ran the book through my fingers, put it down, and then opened it again. The line of text stared back at me. It looked for all the world like a spell, an invocation of some kind. Invocations are not a part of my world structure, and a snort of derision started in my throat. But then my aching body reminded me of what I had been through. Or what I imagined I had been through.
I do not know how long I sat there, but at some point I must have fallen asleep, as the next thing I knew it was morning. Christmas morning. The snow had settled in the quad and the sounds that had woken me were those of distant, early merriment coming from the students who had stayed on campus for the holiday. I bathed and changed, and spent the morning socialising with them and the other lecturers, but my mind was elsewhere. Before very long I excused myself and went back to my study. I picked up the book and looked again at the line of text surrounded by the images.
I knew I could not bear another encounter with the shrouded fiends that I would do anything to avoid it. And yet I was conscious of the hunger. It was gnawing at me with increasing urgency.
Oh for God’s sake, I told myself, a spell to call fiends? The very idea is laughable. You are a man of science, and such things are the stuff of alchemy. Say the words. Prove to yourself that nothing will happen. Have done with it once and for all, then throw the ridiculous book away.
I held it in my hand, open at the page. I knew it was irrational, but I was deathly afraid to speak the words. I thought of the hooded figures, of the table, of the screams. And of the feelings I had experienced. And the hunger returned. With a start I realised that my manhood was engorged.
I took a breath. “Te voco, legio umbrarum. Libenter offero corpus meum.” I spoke it loudly and firmly.
Nothing happened. Perhaps it was my pronunciation. There was no smoke, there were no strange lights, no shrouded figures appeared. I let out a grunt partly of derision at my gullibility, and partly of extreme, intense, disappointment. The hunger had not gone away. I threw the book down on the desk and took a sip of my whisky.
Through the window, it was too dark to see the library building, but I could feel it looming the other side of the quad. With a sigh of resignation, I got up, took the lantern and walked over there. Everything was as normal as I wandered down the aisle between the bookcases.
The small black door was there.
I swallowed. What would happen if I just turned around and left now? Without opening it? I gazed at the door. I knew what was beyond it. And in spite of the unbearable hunger I also knew that I couldn’t take it. I was not strong enough.
I turned to go back to my study.
But then, instead of walking away, I stopped, and turned again. I paused for a moment, then reached out my hand, and lifted the catch.
Holding the lantern before me, I descended the stone steps.