Where it came from, I cannot say with any certainty. Nor can I be sure this world is finally free of it. All I can offer is my tale, as I feel it my duty to warn others who may fall under its influence.
I first encountered it within a bookshop. A small, unremarkable, establishment, specializing in older volumes and literary oddities. I cannot recall anything particular which drew my attention to the book. At the time I considered it no more than whimsy, but have since come to believe I was compelled. Neither can I offer an estimate as to the age of the volume. It felt old, and the leather bindings appeared worn. But the pages within seemed barely touched, with only a hint of age around the edges. All I may say with certainty is that whatever compulsion drew me to it also bade me purchase it, and so it passed into my possession.
When I came to read it, I discovered that the story held within the tome was called simply 'The Story'. Whether always known as such, I have been unable to determine, but in my fearful musings I have imagined it may once have had another, darker, name, now hidden for reasons unknowable.
In reading, I came to realise the story was telling me of its own history, or its possible origins, leastways, for it held several versions, which appeared to have been speculated by other readers over its history.
One held that, in times so ancient the names of the greatest civilisations are no longer remembered, a long-forgotten god, the last of its kind, in the moment of passing, passed this Story to mankind. Hidden within its words lie the means to its resurrection, and when the Story is known by every living being, it shall return.
Or maybe it was the child-priest of an unremembered divinity, gripped by ecstasy, who dictated it to his servants, its meaning unknown, and spent the remainder of his short days murmuring it softly to himself, over and over.
Another claims the Story was sent by beings from beyond. From beyond the stars, and beyond the dark. Beings our minds would surely break before comprehending. This tale claims the words of the Story, once known by all, will subjugate us to their will, ensuring the spread of their dominion.
Yet another tells that the Story was told amongst the wise men of old, wisdom passed through the generations. In its telling, the Story became aware, and communed with these wise men, becoming a part of them, even as they became a part of it. This tale holds it to contain the wisdoms of these wise men, which it passes to those who comprehend it. But I find such benevolence suspect, given what it has made of me.
Without truly knowing its origins, neither may I, with any accuracy, guess its true intentions. Whether it merely propagates itself to ensure its own survival, or whether it is possessed of more sinister goals. Yet I fear the worst.
Regardless of its origin or goals, the Story has no vagueness when describing how it has survived. It ensconces those who read it, fascinating them into retelling it, spreading it to new victims. It is for this reason that I cannot be sure the book in which I encountered it was the only copy, and why I still have reason to fear.
The one thing I may state with any certainty is the change it has wrought upon me. It seldom leaves my thoughts. Even when my mind can turn to other things, I feel an unease within, and recall it, skulking in the shadows of my consciousness. Nor does sleep provide escape from its thrall. I vividly recall dreams in which it haunts me, manifesting as a corporeal, if indescribable, being.
It was in this state which I burned the book, over what I imagined to be its crackling wails and pleas. Reduced, in its entirety, to ashes, I spread it across the ocean waves. And yet it continues to haunt my every step, and not simply the fear that it may still exist elsewhere.
So it is that I write this, as a warning to others who may encounter this abomination. Should you ever come across a tale called simply 'The Story', do not read it, I beg of you.