In 1891, a weird book circulated through the black market of ancient manuscripts. Weird is the exact adjective to describe it. Everything in it was weird: the title, the illustrations, the text … Even the alphabet with which it was written was weird. Nobody understood anything about it, not a single word, not a single illustration (except one that Osborne interpreted as the figure of a dromedary upside down and without legs, but that was only a conjecture). That book was a complete enigma. The linguists who examined it ruled that it was either the work of a madman, or the work of a sane man who pretended to be mad in order to travel for free to Stockholm, or a madman who feigned sanity to pose as a kangaroo, or someone in his pyjamas who could not wait to urinate. That’s how strange this book was! It was also said that it was cursed and that everyone who came into contact with it either caught his fingers with a door or received a reprimand at work. However, Gurney was not afraid of the curse and, as he was a man of substance, he acquired the book at a clandestine auction. That same night he took it to the headquarters of the Society for Psychical Research, where the senior members had occasion to browse and express their opinion on it. Barret thought that it had probably been written in a dead language. Balfour judged it more likely that it had been written by a dead man. Saphiro, on the other hand, was sure that it was of extraterrestrial origin because certain words seemed familiar to him (Saphiro thought he came from a planet close to the North Star). James did not want to speak out for fear of the curse. Sidgwick suggested that it must be a magic book. Myers thought it was not even a book: it had a book shape but deep down it was something else he could not pin down (maybe an ironing board or a rug made of scraps). However, they all agreed on its weirdness. It was not even known what the right was and what the reverse was.
The fact is that, late at night, the senior members decided to postpone their investigation for the next day, and they all went home very intrigued by the mysterious book that Sidgwick (who, as the president of the SPR, was the only one who knew the combination) stored in the safe of the Society. The surprise was enormous when the next day they found that the safe was empty. It was still closed as they left it, but there was no sign of the book. It was as if it had vanished. Osborne said that that was exactly what had probably happened and interpreted it as a confirmation of its extraterrestrial origin. Myers called imbecile Osborne, things got a little heated and a fight broke out. When Sidgwick and Gurney managed to appease them, everyone stood staring at the fireplace: the vanished book lay on its shelf! How the hell had it ended up there? To top it off, now the book had more pages: it had gained weight! As a result of all this, the mystery surrounding the weird book had also gained weight. Would it be a living being? Saphiro ventured to speak to it, but received silence for an answer. Then Gurney took the book and, in an outburst of anger, began to shake and insult it: “Speak, scoundrel, who are you?!” But when he felt strangely looked at by his colleagues, he got all flustered and left the book again on the mantelshelf. There was no doubt: it was a paranormal book. If only they had known what it was about! Some suggested that perhaps numismatic, others zoology, others Turkish or Bushman cuisine… Henry Sidgwick insisted that it must be a book of magic that was merely implementing its own spells.
And as if to confirm this assumption, suddenly the weird book opened in the middle and, beating its two halves elegantly as if they were the wings of an eagle, went flying through the window and rose into the air.
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