The Dead Poets’, Manual Writers’ and Pseudonym Authors’ Society

Julian Jersey’s job sucked, and on a particularly sucky day at the office things got so dull that he decided to summon a demon from another dimension.

You see, writing user instructions for cheap furniture and electronics was boring at the best of times (although it included several stimulating challenges including but not limited to formulating bullet-proof how-tos that deprived the customer of any and all legal claims if the worst should happen and somebody lost a finger. Or a hand. Or a reproductive organ), but ever since Rich Gimmons, the only person at the office not totally dull, was sacked after being sent to prison, it totally sucked. Sometimes this dull job of his became too much to handle even for such a master of daydreaming and distraction as himself.

Julian had actually even begun to suspect that nobody really read his work anyway. Sometimes he fancied himself in league with the great masters. Homer. Shakespeare. Franklin W. Dixon. Surely their contemporaries didn’t afford them heroic status during their lifetimes? The latter, even, he wasn’t totally sure was a real person. Well, the same could be said about the former. And Master William? He could as well be grouped in with the other two, as far as Julian was concerned. At least non-existent people didn’t have to suffer lousy jobs and lousy payment for lousy jobs. He sat sometimes looking out his twelfth story window, dreaming away to a time in the distant future when his work, too, was afforded the attention it deserved, and he himself was contemplated in the same way as scholars of his own time pondered the writers of The Iliad, Macbeth and The Hardy Boys.

That people of today didn’t seem to acknowledge and appreciate his masterly user instructions was of course only natural. For heroes and poets, after all, fame is a benefit that comes with death. Therefore he struggled on, making the best of the situation and even occasionally squeezing in small bits and pieces of verse in between the third and fourth steps of “How-to-Build-Billy-the-Shelf”. Nobody would read the crap in his lifetime, anyway.

The ritual he found on Google, and the demon came with a loud explosion in a puff of smoke and a nice symmetrical cardboard-box with its name printed in a tacky font across the front label. Julian eagerly tore open the box and started digging around in the compact mass of Styrofoam flakes that welled out of the package as soon as he opened the lids (he always wondered how the people at the packing department even managed to fit that much Styrofoam into boxes in the first place, because he never managed to fit it back in).

One of his hands closed around a paper folder, the other around something small and furry. The flakes fell away, and he retrieved from the box some kind of manual, and a little hairy demon the size of his thumb. It grinned demonically at him, and he knew that this was the real deal. Sadly, the manual was written in some strange font that he couldn’t read – but what the heck, who read manuals anyway? He held the demon in one hand, and lifted the box with the other. More Styrofoam fell soundlessly to the floor. Shalyoo was the name written on it – along with more letters he couldn’t make out.

Schalyoo…”, he muttered to himself and glanced at the fluffy evilness in his right hand. It already seemed to have grown a little. Perhaps they came in travel size and expanded on unpacking? What an idea… The little creature looked back at him with a defiant grin. The next moment the door to Julian’s office swung open and his boss’ head poked inside.

He wanted to know what the fuck Julian was doing making all that noise. When he saw all the Styrofoam he raised his eyebrows, and when he laid eyes on the little creature from another dimension his expression turned into a rather even mixture between incredulity and fear. He wanted to know what the fuck that thing was as well. Julian answered conscientiously that he thought the creature’s name was Schalyoo, and that he had summoned it from Hell in a moment of boredom. Schalyoo itself, which had apparently been growing some more while Julian was talking to his boss and was now the size of his hand, soberly jumped up into the air and bit Julian’s boss’ head off.

The first emotion to strike Julian’s mind at this rather drastic turn of events was not, as might be assumed, fear and disgust at the limp body falling with a thump to the floor of his office and the blood gushing out of its severed neck. No, initially he was simply amazed that such a relatively small creature could fit a man’s entire head into its mouth and then swallow it whole. Then the full impact of what had transpired before his eyes struck him, and he fell to his knees and yelled “Schalyoo! No!”

The creature grinned at him, displaying several rows of oversized, very sharp teeth, and grew some more. Its belly was round now, Julian observed, and he imagined he could discern the contours of a human nose poking out through the soft, furry skin of the demon’s abdomen. Then it licked its lips and jumped away, out the door. It was not until Julian heard the screams of fear and pain drifting up the corridor that he was able to muster up the will to defy his paralysis and stumble out the door after it, avoiding the sight of the limp body as best as he could.

The creature called Schalyoo ate the heads of ninety percent of the people in the building. Some areas it would simply not enter, so some of the cleaning staff, at least, got away safely. Julian it never touched, but stopped and purred smilingly every time he caught up with it and called its name. Then it grew and jumped off again on its killing spree. When the building was empty, it left through the front door and snapped the head off of a passing Chihuahua in a by-the-way fashion when crossing the street. Julian tried to follow, but was soon thrown off the chase by crossing cars and inquisitive press and police. The last he saw of the creature was its silhouette, now twice man-sized, in front of the burning wreck of a car a couple of blocks away, before it disappeared between the buildings.

Julian told the police everything, and after some consideration he gave the press the whole story, as well. The police set to work immediately roping off the stricken area (although the fact that the stricken area all the time expanded made their efforts quite futile), and did their best to make sense of the situation. The journalists were more effective, and soon Julian’s face was on every TV-screen in the city, and the name Schalyoo on every person’s lips. People were ordered to stay inside and keep away from doors and windows, and this helped for a while – before the creature had grown to such proportions that it could begin cracking houses like nutshells and plucking people from their homes like very small grapes, dropping their bodies back to the ground like apple cores after their tasty heads had been devoured. The National Guard was called in before long, but by then Schalyoo had grown so much that none of their weapons affected it – and they didn’t dare try a nuclear strike.

Things exploded everywhere, people were crawling around in the streets and police and military fought for space in a city that more and more began resembling an outright war zone. The president appeared on TV conducting a speech with lots of mentions of our Lord and Saviour. The speech had to be interrupted, however, when Schalyoo stepped down close to the White House and Mr. President with family had to be evacuated. Simply put, it was mayhem – and all the while the creature continued to grow.

Julian became something of a national celebrity, appearing regularly on TV and radio broadcasts simultaneously as Schalyoo sacked the country. He was allowed to publish several of his user instructions in a large anthology, with every other how-to alternated with a little poem or story of his own. This, of course, made him happy – but he could never quite shake off the feeling that he was responsible for the terror (no shit).

The disaster finally turned into some kind of strange every-day situation, and people began to adapt. The weather report began to include Schalyoo-reports as well, informing the public about where in the country the creature should be expected to rampage in the next twenty four hours. People could thus plan their lives, and most often not too many died as a result of miscalculations on this front. The problem was that there was no way to really adapt to the crisis since Schalyoo kept growing all the time. Nobody knew why. Then one day the creature crossed the sea, and the entire world was in turmoil.

Julian Jersey watched the live broadcast from his new penthouse apartment as the crossing was reported by all news bureaus at once. He had an important press conference in a couple of hours about his new book, but at the moment he was caught up in an inescapable vortex of guilt. It was not so much that he had summoned the creature from another dimension that plagued him, as the feeling that he should have read the user instructions before unpacking it. Now he sat with the cardboard box in his hands, struggling to make something out of the strange letters crammed over the sheets that came with it. All to no avail. And what was worse was that he didn’t even know where to send his complaints about the poor manual.

He was not alone in watching this broadcast. In another dimension the Dead Poets’, Manual Writers’ and Pseudonym Authors’ Society had gathered before their altar to observe the commotion. Franklin W. Dixon smiled sinisterly, Homer shook his head and William Shakespeare eagerly produced quill and scroll from somewhere inside his robes to document the mortals’ tragic misfortune. Behind them in the darkness several voices began muttering while pens and notepads were retrieved from pockets and little convenient fanny-packs. This was proving to be a very productive month, and the Society never missed out on an opportunity to occupy themselves. Fame really was a benefit that came with death (for some), but it was also the only benefit that came with death. Homer looked troubled, as always. He’d never liked the idea of tricking people into hubris, because that would imply that the ones doing the tricking had the right to meddle in the affairs of mortals – the task of the gods – and to him that equaled hubris in itself. He’d much rather have had the mortals tricking themselves, leaving him to record the comical or tragic outcomes. William just smiled, always loving the drama following in the wake of a good misunderstanding. Dixon just hated everybody. In fact, this affair with the summonings had been his idea to begin with. Maybe it was because he wasn’t entirely sure of his own existence. Who knows.

There were others there in the dark dimension with them, all dressed in that kind of black robes favoured by evil cultists, ring-wraiths and sith-lords, but these three were the leaders. They had long been watching Julian Jersey, knowing him to be a potential victim and maybe also a future member of their Society. After all, they had all started out just like him (with the possible exception of Franklin W. Dixon).

Behind them in the darkness loomed uncountable rows of symmetrical cardboard boxes, all ready to be delivered in the blink of an eye to whomever wished to incorporate a little dangerous excitement into their everyday lives. They were all adorned with a laminated label on the front, with the name of the contents printed in big, bright, common letters, and below was a lengthy disclaimer written in a language the Society had made up themselves, as a joke. This same language comprised the exhaustive user’s manual that was included in every package, informing the customer how to handle the product in order to ensure the most beneficial outcome for everyone involved. For example the manual warned the user about the risk inherent in calling the product by its label name too frequently, since this triggered its inbuilt proliferating function. It also encouraged the user to keep the product away from domestic animals, children, wild animals, receptionists, firemen, grownups and all other species and persons the user didn’t want dead, or at least beheaded. It should also not be fed after midnight.

The last pages were entirely made up of a collection of very witty formulations (sometimes in rhyme) that effectively deprived the user of all legal claims should he or she refrain from following the instructions and advice provided in this folder. There actually was a phone number at the very bottom – in fully legible, though very, very small, numbers this time – but nobody every called it. And this was probably just as well, since it had long since been taken over by a pizza baker in your town. Homer always thought this was stretching it a bit – I mean, someone might want to call and ask something, especially since the language used in the folder was one nobody knew save for the Society themselves. But Dixon irritably dismissed this notion at once; being famous after death (if assuming one had in fact actually lived and existed at one point) is really quite boring, and they could not be blamed for wanting some fun at least. Besides, he dryly observed, nobody reads these fucking instructions anyway.

And somewhere in the darkness behind them another box dematerialised with a loud explosion and a puff of purple smoke.

THE END

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Published by

voeko

Chris is a freelance writer struggling with the novel that will make them an author.

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