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You know I'm a historian, and Latin teacher. I taught at Cambridge for many years, until now. I don't know if you remember my age, but with a few disabilities, I was unable to conveniently make the journey from my home to Cambridge every day, thus settled into early retirement at forty, ten years ago. I had left a wealthy man, and if I balanced my savings, I could live the rest of my days without working another day. But my work is never done, oh how I wish it were so.
Every now and then, usually once a month, I get an offer from some archaeologist or historian, asking for my help. Most of these I decline, but sometimes one gets stuck in my head, and I accept, if only to relieve the unending boredom of retirement. Even though, officially, I gave up on life with disabilities, I still had a bit of youth in me. If only I had not.
The most recent of these requests came two months ago, from Cornwall. An old college of mine, Martin, claimed to have found something. He would not say more than that, and simply told me to be there at the nearest opportunity. Overcome with curiosity, and filled with the boredom of ten years retirement, I agreed.
What did he find? When I reached Martin, he seemed in obvious excitement, tinged with fear, though he refused to tell me what the fear was from. He gave me what looked to be a book, missing one half and the back cover, cracked with at least four hundred years of age, bound in leather. 'Be delicate,' he told me, then proceeded to gently lift the cover.
What I saw was a symbol. It looked to be a small circle, in the direct center of the page, the ink eroded with time. The circle had, upon it, a diagonal cross, appearing like an X mark.
"Every page is like that," Martin told me later in his study. "Every single one. Some of my contacts carbon dated the leather to be seven hundred years old. Now try this." He raised a small vial, filled with a black, powder like substance, and sprinkled it on the open page.
"Carbon," he informed me when I brought to him the question of what it contained.
"The page isn't damaged, just watch." Now he took out half a lemon, and squeezed a single drop.
"Sulfuric acid," he informed me. "Now watch the symbol."
All I could see was Martin damaging the book. But looking at the symbol, there was a clear L in the center. You would have to squint to see it, but you would be able to.
"Carbon and sulfuric acid," Martin informed me.
"Someone figured out a chemical reaction even we don't know about - this is going in the books. Someone knew about chemistry that we don't know about six hundred years ago. Someone hid a message in here."
I pressed Martin for questions, but he halted them with a parchment of paper.
"Dave, I think you want to see this. The letters, in order of how they appear. That pattern is repeated through the hundred and four pages, those exact letters in that exact order, over and over again. Thirteen times over."
I glanced over it. "LIBERAME." A piece of information came to mind. 'Martin, you made a mistake. Add a space here,' I told him, pointing at the thin line between the A and the M.
"Set me free. Libera, to liberate. Me, carrying the same meaning today as it did in ancient Rome. One thing," I continued, "does not make sense. Why would a middle ages man find out about these chemical reactions even we have no clue about, then learn a language dead to his time, and repeat those words over and over again? Explain that."
Martin spoke up. "Even Google translate can tell you what it means. I hoped you would know why that happened. And there is one last thing. Look at the back page. Page one hundred and five, or the inside back cover, or whatever you want to call it. Take a look."
A figure was on that page. A humanoid creature, with strange proportions I could not explain. Its legs and arms were abnormally long, and stood between two rocks, bound to them by what appeared to be ropes. And beneath it, a sentence. This one had not been doused in carbon nor sulfuric acid. This one was meant to be read. Ud Rocashaas.
Martin spoke up. "Old Cornish. The Latin I discovered by chance - the carbon dosage was routine for carbon dating, the sulfuric acid added accidentally when we tested it. The Cornish proves it to have been written here, but why the Latin?"
"What does it mean, though?" I asked.
"Ud Rocashaas. It hated the dark places. I believe its a metaphor for slavery - look at the image. A man, chained between two stones."
"Those look more like ropes..." I tried to say.
"Rope, chain, is there a difference? Both are used in binding, in constraints. Now I need to get to sleep, and you need to figure out what that is." I could tell there was more to what he said - he was hiding something. The fast pace at which he spoke proved he was afraid of something. But I did not press him.
I agreed - even though it was almost midnight, I had slept the seven hours on the plane, while Martin had been awake this entire time.
Half an hour was spent going through every page. Each had been doused in a safe amount of carbon and acid in advance, allowing their contents to be visible to me. The only pattern was the symbol and those words - set me free.
My eyes closed then, and even while I type this, I don't know what it was I saw. But I know it was not human.
From a distance, perhaps, it could have been mistaken for one. A tall man, but when I say tall, I mean tall. I mean three meters high. It wore a business suit, one which looked like denim, a sort that can set a man back a few thousand. But neither of these were what distinguished him.
Its face. Or rather, his lack of one. For I could see it standing within the very same room, appearing three meters tall yet remaining within the constraints of this room without any effort. I knew that, physically, this was impossible - the room looked the same size, yet it was clearly too large to fit within, but did not even struggle to do it. It stood fully upright, and from my angle I could see it quite clearly.
It lacked eyes. It lacked a mouth. It lacked ears, hair, anything on his face, leaving him nothing more than a tall mannequin. And when I saw his size, I came to the only logical conclusion - I was dreaming.
Its voice. A voice that belonged to no human, no thing that should exist. I cannot describe it, nor how it spoke. It had no mouth, and I am a man of science, but I am unable to explain. I could hear only a single chant. Libera me. Libera me. Libera me.
And now I could see it clearly. I could see tendrils emanating from the creature, reaching into the walls. No, they were not from the creature. They bound the creature. The base of a single tendril, the point where it connected to that thing. I could see one, and the tendril, at that point, was a chain. I could not tell the material, but it had to be some kind of metal. No rust upon it, gleaming as though it were made that day, fresh from the forge. The nail that held the tendril to the creature, that held the creature to the tendril.
And then, it vanished. At the seventh time it stated the chant, it vanished. My eyes had not deceived me, I was sure of that. And I had not slept long - the clock next to me stated the time to be seven minutes past when I closed my eyes. Seven minutes.
I forced myself to try and forget. A hallucination, I told myself, brought on by my age and sleeplessness. Even so, I could not forget that thing.
I decided to tell Martin about it, but chose to wait until the next morning. That was the last opportunity I had to speak to him, for the next morning, I awoke to screaming.
Martin had an olive tree in the center of his garden. Cultivated across several generations, it had grown twisted, its branches jagged and leering, its trunk having forked into a Y near the base. I looked out my window, and saw a woman. His wife, looking at the tree. Or rather, looking at what was above the tree.
I raised my eyes to see what she was screaming at. And there I saw Martin. He was high up in the tree, but not climbing it. A tree limb had impaled him through the chest, pinning him there. There was very little blood around it, almost none seeping through.
The police arrived an hour later. Martin lived on a remote country household, around half an hours' drive from the main city. The first thing they did was interrogate me, and it seemed as though I was the prime suspect. In the end it was classified as suicide - according to them, Martin leapt from the top floor and impaled himself on the branch.
The next day, the funeral was held.
Martin was an antisocial man, and thus only eight people, myself included, turned up. After the others left, I remained for a few minutes, said a few words. And I saw it again.
The thing stood next to me. This time, I didn't panic. Sensing what it was looking at, the gravestone. I turned, but my mask of calm began to break down.
"Tell me," I said, forcing every word, "Why?"
Its neck turned, and faced me. I could feel it staring me down, without eyes. I could feel a pressure on my mind, and I knew distinctly that this thing was keeping me calm, somehow. Somehow it stopped me panicking. Somehow this creature prevented me from gathering the fear to run.
And I could see an expression. I don't know how to describe it, but somewhere in that face, there was a meaning. I knew he had never meant for this. I realized what had happened - as with me, he sent the same message to Martin. But seeing that thing drove me to fear - I had no idea how many times he contacted Martin.
Seeing him every night, and perhaps at other times when he tried to get a message across, could bring someone to the verge of suicide. As with Martin. I had been terrified almost to the point of heart attack the previous night, and my fear paralyzed me. If that happened several times, perhaps like Martin, I would have ended it.
And once more, he spoke. Numquam Voluit. Placere libera me. Placere. I did not have to think to know what he meant. And so I decided to spread this. Put it up in some remote corner of the Internet. Every other site I tried rejected it, claiming it as fiction. I claim the opposite. This was the only place where I could post it.
If you see him, please, do not be afraid. Listen to him. Listen to his instructions, and free him.
Written by Tenzinkendrick