Terry Rankin was a simple man from rural parts of Massachusetts. He never had much book learning, but he worked hard and kept out of trouble. When the Depression came, he found himself lucky to find work at the University cleaning up the libraries and halls. He did such a good job, that they put him in charge of cleaning the lower levels of Widener Library. Biggest on campus. He even had a key to the lower stacks where those rich students weren’t even allowed. That made him proud.
He did like to read, and he liked the fantastic. H.G. Welles, Jules Verne, and H.P. Lovecraft. Sometimes he wished his duties let him spend more time looking through the books. One night he decided to take a break in the lower stacks. In a pile of unsorted old books, he saw a book that looked like it was right out of one of his fantasy stories.
The book had a strange leather cover and looked old enough to be locked up next to the Gutenberg Bible. He opened it up carefully, half expecting it to fall apart in his hands, but it was solid, smelling slightly of decay. He’d never learned a language outside of English, so the words inside were unfamiliar. Somehow, though, he understood what they said.
He returned to the book every night, each night studying it more and more until his boss began to notice his work slacking. He was more careful after that, but hungered for more. Terry tried his first incantation at midnight on Halloween.
The spells were simple at first, but soon he was able to master several techniques. Over the next year, he was even able to summon servants. Copies of himself. They did the work at night, while he poured himself fully into study of this ancient tome. During the day, as he slept, they faded into nothingness. His first and strongest duplicate, named Cyrill after a baby brother that died of the Spanish Flu, searched the rest of the library for more secrets to unlock. He did his job well, and studied alongside his creator.
This could not last. The more Terry obsessed over his newfound access to the beyond, the more it consumed his sanity. He could not keep this part of his life separate from the rest, and he was close to getting fired and losing access to the his treasured tome and the rest of the library. Terry confided in Cyrill that he would destroy the whole campus, and perhaps the whole East Coast, if he could no longer be near the book.
Cyrill could not let that happen. One night while Terry was once again hunched over the books, Cyrill dismissed the other duplicates. Terry did not look up as he approached, and Cyrill was used that inattention and familarity to cut his creator’s throat. Cyrill, just like every morning, faded into nothingness as the sun came up.
When he awoke, he was in the city of Sigil. He was a new life, created by a mortal, and no gods or men could claim him as a servant.