Insomniac Nightmares: The Yellow Circle

From the journal of William P. Weatherly, Esq.

July 26, 1927

Made a most curious find this afternoon. Was helping Langley with another of his infernal estate shipments when I came across a book that seemed out of place; looked positively ancient compared to the rest of the items with it. After blowing the dust off and having a closer look, was both repulsed and intrigued. Seemed to be of Arabic origin, given the nature of the script, but the ink was a rust color that brought to mind childish fancies of tomes penned in the author’s own blood, whilst the cover was bound in a substance that felt both like bizarre leather and somehow familiar in an unpleasant way.

Langley unimpressed; said the original owner – a gentleman by the name of Pickford – had been quite eccentric and prone to collecting bizarre objects. Knowing of my own proclivities towards old things and difficult-to-read manuscripts, Langley offered to allow me to keep it, if I wished. Couldn’t refuse the offer, even though there was a strange aura around the tome.

Initial attempts at translation are proving difficult. Appears to be ancient Arabic of some variety. Thus far I have only managed the title: Kitab diggera al-asferah, I believe. “Book of the Circle of Yellow.”

Have never heard of such a thing. Will continue attempts on the text itself, though the script is heavy-handed and faded in places and the tongues of the Middle East were never my speciality. Isn’t as though there is much to do with Roget handling the business, and a project may break the damnable lethargy that’s come over me of late. Perhaps will write to John; his interest in old dusty things outstrips my own and his penchant for pedagoguery will likely shed some additional light.

July 30, 1927

Post from John today. The few transcriptions I sent him have him positively aflutter. He claims the bits of text are about a quasi-religious sect, previously unknown. Further claims the dialect is both a corruption of known writing and at least partially in code. Wishes to come visit, study the book.

I don’t know that this is a good idea. Since taking possession of the tome, my sleep has been broken with nightmares and concentration proves difficult. My own attempts at translation have yielded a name that I suspect to be the author of the entries: Yaji ash-Shutath. My knowledge of the language is nowhere near as complete as John’s, but it seems to be an appellation rather than a name proper; something along the lines of “Herald of the Abnormal.”

Perhaps I am merely becoming a superstitious old fool, but when I finished transcribing the name and attempted to pronounce it aloud, it felt as though a wind blew through my study. My flesh crept and I felt a sudden pain in my side. Probably dyspepsia combined with the nightmares, but something feels unnatural about this book. Had to set it aside.

The nature of the ink still bothers me. Repeatedly I have seen reference to the word d’am. Blood. Given the rusty color and the way that some has flaked off the pages… no. It cannot be; the size of the tome alone forbids it. I have not endeavored to count the pages as of yet, nor make an accounting of how much of each is filled, but the thickness and what I have perused already would imply it is several hundred pages. Such an ink would suffice for a quick note, or a single page if the writer was in extremis. To fill a whole book with it? Preposterous. Perhaps a copper-based substance.

I think I will allow John to look at it after all. Perhaps even to take it away. Perhaps in other hands I will feel easier, and not subject to brooding upon it at all hours of the day and night.

July 31, 1927

Midnight, or thereabouts. Was awakened again by nightmares. Something of fire and hatred pursuing me. I dared not look back, for fear that what I would see would be worse than what I imagined. Fled through empty streets and darkened alleys, finally reaching a wall that allowed no exit.

Resolving to acquit myself honorably, I turned to face my stalker. What I saw I cannot begin to describe. There was a man – or a man-like shape – in the middle, but it was surrounded by myriad tendrils of a substance that seemed to be both liquid and solid, each ringed with thorny barbs. Mouths – some human, some not – danced at the ends of these appendages, each of them singing. The words were in a language I didn’t recognize, and most of the phrases left me when I awoke, clutching the sheets to my body, but one phrase in particular stood out and still gleams in my mind; I transcribe it phonetically, as I can’t begin to comprehend how it is properly written: “Heel legged, fie throwdawg.”

Writing it down seems to ease my shattered nerves. I believe, with proper libation, I may find sleep again. Pray tell the stalker sees fit to leave me be the rest of the night.

July 31, 1927 (later)

I have suffered quite a shock. I am becoming more and more certain that I should leave this matter alone. Curse Langley and his estate sales, and curse his insipid generosity that made him gift me the tome!

After breakfast, retired to the study. Was determined not to look at the Yellow Circle’s memoir, instead preferring to focus on my correspondence. But my gaze kept drifting to the desk drawer, and finally I succumbed. I withdrew the book and set it on my blotter, then opened it to a – seemingly – random page. I do not know why I did this, as my marker was clearly in place, but it felt… natural, somehow, to do this.

I was greeted by a plate depicting my dream stalker from the previous night. Even the expression on the face, eyes slitted and mouth downturned in a scowl of warning or anger, was the same.

How could I have dreamed this image? I am certain, though there is not one scrap of evidence to support it should I be questioned in the matter, that I had not seen this page before. I had been working my way through methodically, and couldn’t have tripped over the depiction in the last quarter of the volume when working from the front. Yet I have seen this very thing. What is happening, here?

A single line of text marks the image. I do not know if it is a name, a description, or unrelated; it does not appear to be any kind of continuation from the page previous, but with John’s assertion that the book is, at least in part, coded, I cannot know for certain. “Y’ai’ng’ngah Yog-Sothoth, Tawil-at’Umr.”

I know it was not my imagination on this occasion. My cigar still rested in the ashtray, smoldering as it had been forgotten in my fright. When I spoke this line, it burst into sudden flame, rising nearly a foot before guttering once more. I cast the book into the rubbish and left the room.

John is welcome to it, if he still wants it after reading this. Perhaps he’ll laugh and we will share a drink and all the ill that will come of it is him thinking I am a doddering old man jumping at shadows, and perhaps he will leave with it.

I would like that, I think.

August 8, 1927

I have been reluctant to put anything down in my journal. It seems that everywhere I hear whispering, feel an unknown presence dogging my every step. When I speak or write of the things in that thrice-damned book, the sensations grow worse. I was more willing to assume it to be a failure in my own mind – and what desperation have I reached when I would rather believe in mental instability than the possibilities the book implies? – did I not now have outside verification.

John arrived late the day before yesterday. We spoke not of the tome, being concerned more with feeding him – he looks so thin, of late – and getting him settled. In the morning, we breakfasted with Langley, who himself is all too amused by this book, believing it’s becoming a bit of an unhealthy fixation.

As we were leaving Langley’s home, John commented on how people were shuffling past me without acknowledging my presence, and how a purchase of tobacco felt awkward and fraught with unnecessary terseness. He continually plucked at his coat and complained of chill winds, though none were apparent to others on that balmy day. When we returned to the house, he requested that I show him the book.

His reaction was unwholesome to say the least. I daresay he looked almost predatory as he laid hands on it, though why it should provoke such a reaction I cannot say. Since I am to be truthful – if to myself if no one else – I should also note that I felt a sudden flare of jealousy and possessiveness, a sensation that I wanted no one to touch the book save myself. For a moment I considered bashing him about the head with a nearby paperweight and taking it from him before he caused it any harm – or worse, attempted to take it from me – though the urge was fleeting and left quickly, shaking me badly.

Once he held it, John began flipping through it furiously, in a manner quite unlike his usual calm demeanor. He usually treated ancient objects with a certain reverence, an awe of its origin and ancestry, tempered with his natural curiosity. None of that was present, now.

When he came upon the page featuring my dream pursuer, he stopped, eyes wide and mouth agape.

“Do you know what you have, here?” he asked. I dare say he was positively frothing.

“No,” said I, “but I don’t believe I like it. Especially not that plate. It gives me the queerest feeling.”

“No wonder,” he said. “For that is one of the Old Gods. Or at least one of their agents.”

I scoffed, of course, told him there was no sense being bothered by fairy tales told by primitives in far away lands, but he grew grave indeed and shook his head while slamming the book shut.

“There are things in the world that most have no knowledge of, but to speak of them so is to invite disaster. I believe this ‘Yellow Circle’ of yours knew of those things, and wrote of them. Thus the code, the perversion of the natural rules of their language. Tell me, have you seen this being elsewhere?”

He must have read the expression upon my face, which I’m certain was quite surprised. “You have, haven’t you?” His question was almost feverish, and he gripped my shoulders, shaking me. “Tell me of it! I must know!”

And so I did. I spoke to him of the dreams – which have continued, increasing in intensity and violence with each passing night. I showed him the few entries in this journal which concern the matter, and told him of my suspicions regarding the book’s materials.

He listened attentively, nodding through it all, and then suggested such a simple thing that I felt foolish for not having thought of it myself.

“If we are in doubt about the provenance of this tome, or the materials it contains, then we should speak to a doctor. They will have reagents and tests that may verify or allay such suspicions. But still, we must translate. We must know what it contains.”

I asked him why. Despite part of me wishing to know more, to put name to the horrors I see in my sleep and rational reason behind my dislike of the thing – or John’s manic reaction to it – part of me would just as soon forget I had come into possession of it at all. To dig further into it seemed to invite madness, worsening my fixation rather than soothing it.

He smiled – a trifle cryptically, I dare say – and shook his head. “You will know soon enough, William. But think of this: If man observed something beyond him, and wrote of it, and spoke of it, and treated it as his god, for lack of better terms… do you not suppose that such things might also, in turn, notice man? And, upon noticing him, grow angry?”

He spoke more, though the gist of his discussion – mad as it may have been – is that, should this book not merely be the psychotic religious ramblings of a dead cult but legitimate fact, that I may have attracted unsavory attention from those entities this Yellow Circle once venerated. Such attention, he assured me, would be most unwelcome, and troubling dreams would be but the cornerstone. Methods by which to protect myself might be within the tome, he argued – else, how would it have survived the ages since it’s writing? – and might become necessary.

I laughed at this, even with the experiences I have suffered in the past few weeks. It seemed impossible not to. “You sound as though you believe in such rubbish. I thought you were a rational man, friend John.”

He did not laugh. He scowled. “The rational man does not laugh at potential danger until he is certain it is not danger. I have seen too much to merely ignore such things.” He would speak no more on the subject, however. Merely requested that I leave him with the book and allow him to begin his work. He has been in the study ever since, nearly a full day’s length. I do not believe he has slept, and know he has not eaten.

We meet with Doctor Brandish tomorrow. Perhaps he will tell me the ink is only ink, the cover only old leather, and the words therein merely fantasy.

But I rather think not.

I hear something from the study. Best check on John.

August 9, 1927

John sleeps, now. Finally. When I entered the study, I discovered the source of the noise; he had collapsed. He was deathly pale, feverish and out of sorts. I believe his long time hunched over the tome led to complete nervous exhaustion. He was babbling, all manner of things that made little sense. Once I had him secure in my spare room, tucked in with a bit of broth and a vase of water on the nightstand, I returned to the study and discovered the notes he had written. Apparently he had managed to translate a sizable piece of the manuscript. I enclose here what he had written.

To you who would read our words, beware. Knowledge of the Yellow Circle is guarded jealously by our membership, and those who know must either join or die.

To those undeterred by our warning, know you this: there are Entities which make our understanding seem small and insignificant, which make our existence paltry and foolish, no greater than the maggot or the newt are to us. Such Entities have made our suffering their wine, the death of our hopes and dreams their meat, and They are always hungry.

It is our purpose to ensure that they take only what they must, that rather than gorging themselves on us in our entirety they sate only their basic need. We do not presume to call it an alliance, contract or treaty. Such Entities are beyond such terms, at least as they apply to such as us, even enlightened above the masses as we may be. The madness these Entities foster in those they grant servitude to is deterrent enough to the use of such words. But so long as they are fed, they are quiet. They sleep in their dead, sunken homes, brushing against us only rarely.

Know that being of the Yellow Circle is a change one cannot fathom. Know that serving its purpose brings madness, pain and death. But death is not the end, nor is madness crippling. Both are merely turned to our whims as our appetites come to match those of our masters, as the concerns of mortal flesh and blood slide away from us and we are granted views that no human mind could begin to understand. The Mad Arab showed us the path, and we accepted it. As djinn we serve our purpose. As al-Azredin, we honor our maker, our mentor.

I can write no further on this. The author delves further into insanity with each step, making more and more frequent mention of blood, eternity and unholy hungers that make me cringe just to think of them. If what John suggests is true, that such things may truly exist and to know of them is to invite discourse with them, then I am perhaps already damned. I find myself glad that I still possess the revolver which saw me through the war of the rebellion; should such unholy things come to take me, I suspect I would use five rounds for them. If it failed, the sixth would be for myself.

Our appointment with the doctor comes soon. I do not believe John will be up to it, but I will keep the meeting. I must know.

August 9, 1927 (Later)

The visit with Brandish has only served to increase my fears. John was, as expected, still unwell. His skin has taken on an unpleasant yellow cast, and his breathing is not at all regular. I alerted Mrs. Niles from up the street and asked if she could mind him for a bit, which she minded not at all, then hurried to my meeting.

The doctor was most interested in the tome, though thankfully he didn’t ask questions regarding the contents. He was much more intrigued by the construction. Applying all manner of substances to one of the pages, he made many hmm and hahs while he worked, then asked for me to leave the room for a time; claimed there was some sort of light processing that I would likely find unpleasant.

As before with John, I felt a momentary surge of peevishness at the idea of being separated from the book – or leaving it in the care of another – but it was not nearly as strong. Perhaps because I knew this man was ultimately uninterested in keeping the thing. I paced outside his door for three quarters of an hour before he called me in to discuss his findings.

They were, although not particularly surprising, quite unpleasant.

The paper itself is regular enough – if such can be said of rice paper that may be as many as five centuries old – but the binding and the ink are both more vile substances. The doctor claims the leather is, in all likelihood, human skin, stretched and tanned in the manner of a beast’s. I noticed that during this portion of the interview, he left his sterile gloves on and would barely touch the thing, often doing it only with the tips of his fingers and a look of disgust passing over his features each time.

The ink, he claimed, was slightly more problematic. Blood was certainly a component, he claimed, but unlike any he had encountered before, human or animal. It seemed resistant to the reagents, and did not fade when he applied salted turpentine; he claimed to be most puzzled by it. He admitted to having taken a few flakes from one of the plates and attempted to examine them with his optics, but would not say what, precisely, the results of that experiment were other than “disturbing.”

He then shooed me out of the office, pausing at the door and laying a fatherly hand on me – as though he could be any sort of father to me… I am easily twenty years his senior – studying me gravely for a time.

“My best advice to you, Mr. Weatherly, is to dispose of this… thing.” The pause before he chose his word was, I am certain, quite deliberate. “It is an abomination. The composition of it speaks to that fact. Do not read it, do not inquire after it. Send it to be burned. I say this in all seriousness and with gravity. Get rid of it.”

My lips twitched in an uncomfortable smile as I nodded and shook his hand. I told him I would consider his opinion most carefully, and took my leave.

My intent, upon returning home, was to do precisely as the doctor had suggested. It was an unholy, vile thing, and should be disposed of. Even if the contents were fallacy and psychotic ravings, the sins committed to create it warranted that, surely. I bid Mrs. Niles good day, checked to ensure John was still sleeping – he seemed slightly better, his breathing less ragged and color coming back to his cheeks – else he attempt to stop me, and stoked the hearth fire, sealing the chimney to provide maximum heat.

I held the blasted tome towards the flames, willing myself to cast it in. I stood like that for several minutes, long enough for the room to grow smoggy and my fingers begin to blister, but somehow I couldn’t let go of it. It should have been the simplest thing, merely opening my fingers and allowing it to fall into the hungry flames below. But something was stopping me. I felt invisible hands clamped over mine, nearly crushing in their intensity, and they would not allow me to release my grip.

I finally turned away, hurling the book against the wall in a rage and frustration I haven’t known since my childhood. I extinguished the fire and opened the windows to air out the room, then went to sit with John. I have been there since.

What am I to do?

August 10, 1927

Wretched, abominable thing! It is the cause of this, I know it!

I must have dozed off while watching John sleep, for soon I found myself again in the deserted back roads and alleys of my home, again pursued by the entity. As before, I fled until there were no routes to flee upon, and as before I turned to face my stalker, resolute that I would not die a coward.

But this time, he reached me. The human-like thing in the center of those horrendous tendrils even bared his teeth in a terrible facsimile of a smile, extending one hand as if in friendship as he drew nearer. Still, I felt nothing but danger, and could see the spiny protrusions from the corner of my eye, spreading out around me and seeking to entrap me in a pulsing, fleshy web.

I heard a voice – no, a Voice, something beyond any level of command or request that any man has ever made of me – echo through my skull, demanding that I bend knee.

“You have learned the secrets. Serve or die,” it told me. As before when I held the book above the fire, I felt ephemeral hands upon my body, pressing me down to one knee, then forcing me completely prone. They crawled up my sides, to my throat, and forced my jaw open before I could even whimper a word of protest. The being’s probes, as though sensing weakness, lunged forward, crawling over me as though I had been covered in many-legged insects. One surged forward and into my mouth.

The taste still lingers, even now, hours after waking. Copper and absinthe and charcoal, blended together in the worst elixir any quack alchemist ever sold on a street. A heavy, viscous texture that coated the inside of my mouth, my teeth, my tongue and my throat, heavy as mud. Burrowing into me, whispering to me, singing to me.

“Serve, and die,” the Voice said.

I jerked awake, toppling the chair at John’s beside. He didn’t wake. I must have hit my face on the bed or the floor, for there was a runner of blood from one corner of my mouth; once I was satisfied that I truly had awakened, that the images before were indeed but a dream, I saw to righting the chair and cleaning myself up before I returned to the study.

I had resolved that the book would be destroyed. If that meant I had to throw myself upon the fire, so be it; I do not believe my old heart could take another nightmare of that magnitude, anyway.

When I entered the study, however, I did not find the book in the corner where I had thrown it. It was instead sitting on my desk, open to the image of my pursuer. When my eyes landed upon it, all resolve fled. I heard the Voice again, though as memory or an actual sound, I still cannot say.

“Read,” it commanded me.

And so I did. The words were no longer so many unintelligible symbols and barely-understood words. Now it seemed as though they were rewriting themselves before my very eyes, arranged into perfectly idiomatic English that I had no difficulty understanding.

I read, God help me.

September (?), 1927

It is done. The way is ready. I have done all that Yaji and his inhuman benefactors have asked. Not that saying such implies that Yaji is human. Far from it. He – and thus by extension, myself – have moved beyond humanity. Beyond concern of guilt or morality. All that matters is that the way is guarded, that the path be tended, and that the Old Ones sleep and dream and feed.

They have been fed well. Once I took my share, of course. John, when he woke, could not understand. I tried to show him the path, to teach him the things the book had taught me once my eyes and gullet had been opened, to feed him the bloody knowledge that would have made him as a god to others, but he would not listen. He ranted and raved, bewailing what he claimed I had become.

It was necessary – pleasurable, even – to ensure he still served a purpose. Those who know must serve or die or die and serve, and his inability to understand marked him as one of the latter. I believe he still roams the house, but his flapping tongue no longer serves as a distraction and I am becoming used to the scent of tombs and rot that trails after him.

Yaji claims I must feast, soon. That I must complete the transformation, and subsist off only the pure substance of life instead of the scraps he grants me and the few rancid contents of my pantry. I hunger for it, but the work must be finished.

The tome, as I believe I mentioned elsewhere in these documents, has suffered damage over the years. Time and elements have conspired to make the ink blurry or missing in some location, and there are rips to be mended in the binding. Like Yaji before me, it was my task, penance and trial to mend such issues, and as all who have come to see the truth of the Yellow Circle, it is the initiate himself who must supply the materials. I was not afraid. My blood now flows as I will it, and Shylock’s bargain would be a triviality at best for such as I have become.

I wonder… perhaps I will attempt it myself once my ascension is complete and I leave this place.

Of course, that which is expended must inevitably be replaced. John has been looking quite ragged. Soon I will have to find another. Yaji claims that soon any and all may sate my needs. I have watched Mrs. Niles pass my window on occasion, though she did not see me, and believe both her closeness and her delectable corpulence will serve my purposes well.

I leave this book behind as both warning and testament. Do not pursue the Yellow Circle. Do not read of the Kitab diggera al-asferah or seek me. I am dust in the night winds, the lamprey that tends the pool of knowledge.

The Old Ones drink of your suffering and sleep, torpid and unaware. I drink of your red waters of life, watching. Waiting. Changing. The time of the al-‘Azredin is upon us.

The sun sinks, taking with it the cursed burning and lethargy that claims me during the daylight hours. Replacing it is the hunger, the drive to serve as I was made to do when first I tasted the noxious gruel that Yaji forced down my throat.

Tonight, I ascend.

Excerpt from the Haversham Review, September 22nd, 1927

Local Lawyer Imprisoned

William P. Weatherly, 62, was arrested today and confined to Lovely Hills sanatorium after an attempted attack on a neighbor. The victim, who asked this reporter not to share her name, claimed that he came to her door shortly after sunset and leapt upon her, attempting to violate her in some fashion. She further claimed that he was speaking gibberish and made repeated attempts to bite her about the neck and throat.

The victim was able to escape by beating Weatherly about the head and face with a paperweight, whereupon she fled into the street and began calling for help. Doctor Miles Brandish and Constable Leonard MacReed, having dinner nearby, came to provide assistance and subdued Weatherly, both sustaining multiple injuries that were treated the following morning without difficulty.

After detaining Weatherly, a search was mounted of his home, revealing the remains of longtime friend and associate John R. Crane, 58. Police claim it appears as though Crane had been deceased for nearly a month given the state of decay. One anonymous source claimed “it looked like someone had been at him. Ate him, like.”

Excerpt from the Haversham Review, September 25th, 1927

Murder Suspect Deceased

William P. Weatherly, 62, of late confined to Lovely Hills sanatorium after the murder of college, John R. Crane and assault of an unidentified neighbor, Doctor Miles Brandish and Constable MacReed, was found dead in his cell this morning. Doctors claim that he was discovered at the base of his window with severe damage to his throat, leading to death via blood loss.

Authorities are thus far uncertain how Weatherly might have accomplished the act, as he had not been permitted use of utensils for the duration of his stay, and no evidence indicating a visitor or other assailant has yet been located. On the wall of his cell, apparently written in the deceased’s own blood, was the word “Yaji.”

Weatherly leaves behind no heirs.

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