Welcome to Hell

A Chiller from Jearl Rugh’s Thriller: 

Just in time for Halloween, here’s a passage from Born to Make the Kill.

 

Like a dreamless sleep, over the last day Hank had no connection with the life ebbing from him one heart beat at a time. No day nor night, no sunrise nor sunset, no past nor present and the future, a concept yet unborn. Comatose, the lost day started like the last breath before anesthesia rips all thought away and ended at the same moment—no sense of time’s ceaseless movement. No reality—no dark nor light, no sound nor sight, no scent nor touch—just nothing. Until there was something most terrifying.

Hank felt his body pummel through a density like that of the earth’s crust. Whether pushed or pulled, a power greater than he drove him like a relentless missile deeper in his descent and bored a path through the solid mass. The solidity compressed behind him as he pierced through and left no evidence of his passing. His flesh ripped away from his muscles and then the muscles split open with excruciating gashes as he descended further through the compaction. He couldn’t move a limb by his own will and he dared not open his eyes as he knew that against the onslaught of the mass they would be shred to ribbons.

Then, in the terror, there were hands, disembodied hands, millions of hands grabbed and pulled at him as he passed though. They slashed at his lacerated flesh and exposed muscles, and worked their razor-edged fingers into the wounds to tear them deeper and deeper until the bone was bare. How they came out from this density he couldn’t imagine. No one could. And then he heard them; the voices that once belonged to the hands. They screamed and shrieked, not from the horror of their eternal damnation but for the pain, the searing torment of the endless millennia of their punishment.

He broke through the dense crust and began to free-fall. At first relief to be released from the agony of his flesh being ripped away brought calm to his mind, but then he felt them. They floated all around him. Some were solid and slashed into him like a whip of vengeance. Some writhed over his body like a swarm of vipers. Others piercing through him and left a freezing chill and something like shattered icicles in their tunneled path. He opened his eyes only to be confronted with the shifting faces of the screaming horde. Their mouths were wide black holes that morphed in grotesque shapes, and their eye sockets were orange flashing balls of flame. They never took a breath so the shattering timbre of their anguish never ceased.

As he tried without success to avoid the inevitable and continuous collisions, he sensed a dread fill his soul with a darkness blacker than the densest ink in a writer’s well, and knowledge beyond imagination witnessed that these were the fortunate ones. Terror engulfed him as he realized his doom would yet be revealed.

As he continued to plummet and the voice’s crescendo penetrated every fiber of his being, the most acrid, sulfuric scent he could imagine filled his nostrils. Something from his past described it as brimstone. It came from the smoke that rose to meet him. It filled his lungs until he could no longer cough it out or breathe it in and as it passed over his tongue, it filled his mouth with a polluted bitterness. The pace of his plunge escalated and the smoke, so dense he could feel it against his body, thrashed, whipped and snarled. But he couldn’t see its source.

Then he felt a new sensation—warmth—but not a comfort like a blanket on a chilly Boston night—heat. The heat of a thousand suns intensified by millions of magnifying glasses focused their pin points of light on every cell of his ravaged skin. The further he fell the more intense it became until it was intolerable, but even then it increased. The smell of his burning flesh began to fill the already noxious air and he saw what remained of his skin had begun to blister, blacken, smolder and melt. Next his bones began to burn and boil from the inside out. His marrow turned into something like smelting steel. The source of the heat now revealed itself. Orange, green, blue and black flames leapt from some vast unknown body through the smoke and seared his flesh even more. He opened his mouth to scream, but when no air filled his lungs, no sound escaped.

And then there was silence.

A silence so deafening he thought he would lose his mind. A silence so dark, so sinister, he feared whatever may lie before him, would be so much worse than what he had passed through. He recognized his mind functioned fully, but his body was paralyzed as if it had turned to stone. His face began to contort beyond his will into the shape of a demonic scream. The fall stopped and he was suspended over the raging caldron below. The flames lapped up and engulfed him, burned him, charred him, but did not consume him.

Then a distinct voice came out of the din and mayhem.

“Welcome, Henry Plancrest-Rogers,” the deep haunted voice resonated from a place within his own skull.

Laughter from the host of the tormented erupted uncontrolled and then it twisted into contempt, sneers, and derision as they gave sardonic jeers at his arrival.

“Where am I? Who are you? What is this place?” Hank screamed and was surprised that he had found breath and that his voice had begun to work again.

”Welcome to Hell!” came the voice again and it echoed unrestrained in his mind. “This is the place of the damned, the place of the unrepentant.”

by Featured Author, Jerry Rugh  Published with permission

jearlrugh.com

 

Road Home

Caroline walked through the heat in the last embers of sunset, down the freeway off-ramp hoping against Hope that a cop wouldn’t catch her now that she was almost out of the illegal hitch-hiking zone.  The hot wind stirred dust onto her back as she headed into Truck Town, stuck for another night.

Caroline washed her hands and dabbed the sweat from her face.  The image in the mirror looked morose.  She was worn from nursing and grieving her aunt’s cancer.  Things were never going to get better there.  It wasn’t her problem.  She had to go.  Despair hung in the shadows surrounded by her long dark hair—full of dirt and tired dreams.  She thought going to Vegas would be exciting.  Maybe if she had some money things would be different.  She considered what she might have to sell.

Maybe she could get a ride if she offered one of the truckers some companionship.  It didn’t have to lead to anything extreme.  She could just smile and laugh and flatter him.   She tried a fetching smile and gave a flirtatious giggle to the mirror.  Okay, just a regular smirk would do.

Ben watched for the girl as she came out of the restroom, and he was pleased with the transformation.  Seems she was looking for more than a quick pit stop.

“Mind if I sit?” she tried the guy on the end stool.

“I’m Ben.  And you’re very welcome.  I always welcome the company of a gal as pretty as you.”

She giggled her ridiculous chortle and didn’t even notice.  He warmed to it like the sound of a pouring cup of coffee. He gave out an obvious leer.

She was flustered by his reaction and tried to diffuse the situation without losing a potential ride.“I might be willing to keep you company for awhile if you’re going my way. I’m gonna get a job in Vegas, and I’m a good friend to talk to.”

Desperation, he surmised.  He would take her—real slow.  “I like some good conversation.”  Ben gave her a crooked grin and signaled the waitress to bring another coffee and slice of pie.

Though the words suggested she might get to her destination, she felt Despair’s chill finger run down her spine. She went silent and let him ramble on until a pause made her scramble for a topic to hold up her end of the bargain.  “Uh, what’s the craziest thing that ever happened on a load?”

His mind flashed images of Greta, the wildest woman west of the continental divide, but he tamed the story to female-friendly crazy.  “One night when I was running out near Duluth, in the dead of winter, a huge white wolf was sitting in the middle of the highway.  I couldn’t hit the brakes on a downhill in the snow, so I moved across the lanes and prayed to Jeezuz not to jack-knife.  I maintained the rig and continued down the highway, and within another mile, there was another white wolf in the same lane—just standing there.  They didn’t even flinch when my rig rumbled by.  They just shimmered in the moonlight like ghostly apparitions.   But I know they were there.  Made me shiver to the bone.”

She shivered too.  “I saw a wolf once at my aunt’s place—my home.”

He noted the perky shape of her nose and her pursed lips as she focused on her memory. Her eyes looked far away. When her guard dropped, a flicker of pain showed and was gone.

“He came out from the rocks as I was walking at night under the stars.  There was a full moon, and the shadows were stark on the landscape. I used to wander when the moon was full.  My uncle—well, my aunt’s significant other, if you could call him significant—used to get drunk every night.  If I was too handy he’d come to my room, so I took to being as far away from him as I could.”  She paused, and cleared her throat lightly.

“So the wolf’s shape rose out of the shadows.  He seemed to be larger than the world when my heart beat with fear.  He was all alone, and it seemed like his spirit spoke to mine.  I was so tired of helping my aunt with her cancer treatment, and my uncle was no help at all.”  She went distant again, then continued.  “The wolf all alone out there inspired me to think of myself for a change…”

“I think we’d better hit the highway, little lady,” Ben interrupted when she paused again.

She shoveled in the last three bits of cinnamon-apple goodness and smiled at the change still safe within her pack.  She wondered if she would keep herself equally secure.  She looked at Ben’s face as he paid the bill.  He resembled their neighbor in town by Aunt Eva’s.  Jacob McLaren was a good man.  Why shouldn’t Ben be the same?  Her experience with loony humans and normal looking men took the comfort out of reason.

As she approached Ben’s truck, she felt the drag of Despair hitching a ride with them.  She pushed down the sensation.  She couldn’t stop now.  Not just because of some weird feeling.  She had to fight that to start this trip in the first place.  It was probably just guilt about leaving her aunt and fear of the unknown.  But she couldn’t cure her aunt, and she wasn’t going to let fear get in her way.

Ben broke into her dazed view of the road stripes flashing by,“What if you can’t get a job?”

A stab of fear passed through her gut as he voiced what haunted her most.  “I’ll be fine.”

He was silent.

She looked out at the black landscape sliding by without definition.  It reminded her of the land around her aunt’s place.  A dark hole opened in her soul.

“Where will you be staying?”

That was a question for sure.  Was he offering her a place to stay—with him?  Hope cautiously approached her, and Despair licked his lips.

Caroline gave Ben a pressed lip grin, and he returned it with a hungry smile.  She felt trapped and relieved.  A dangerous roof was better than no roof.  The streets would be worse than a room with Ben.  Her stomach flip-flopped.  Apparently it didn’t believe that any more than her heart did.

Caroline’s exhaustion trumped her anxiety as she sped toward Vegas taking the gamble of her life.  She dropped into an uneasy dream where she lay embedded in the roadway as semi-trucks kept barreling on by—tires missing her imprisoned body by half a tread.  She tried to cry out but couldn’t find her voice.  She knew it was just a matter of time before she was ground into the highway, where her dust would be blown away by the desert wind to be lost among the billion grains of dirt and sand.

Her fevered form eased into more soothing dreams.  A spirit wolf, formed of light from the stars, bounded over to her with Hope riding in its wake.  She became a being of light as well and rode the wolf down from the heights across the desert to the sea.  The wolf continued into the surf.  Caroline was engulfed in cool water and moonlight.  She clung to the wolf, believing the beautiful beast would set her free.  Her mind and spirit swam in the reflection of the heavens until she knew no more.  The spirit wolf nudged her to consciousness as they came ashore to a land as familiar as her own face.  It was her aunt’s land in California.  The place she had left on the far shore—but it was transformed with light, and Hope smiled upon her.  Her aunt stood in the doorway of their home and welcomed her with a strong embrace.

Caroline blinked awake and heaved a rich sigh.  She looked at Ben from the side of her eye.  She was sure she had him sized up right.  He’d never let her stay with him unscathed.  He’d expect fringe for his offered benefits.  But maybe things would be different if she confronted him head on—one lone wolf to another.

“Ben.  I hate to do this when we’ve come such a long way.  But I’ve come a long way myself, and I’ve come to a decision.  I don’t want to stay with you in Vegas—or anywhere else for that matter.  I’m not gonna sell myself to get anywhere, and I’m not gonna run away.  I left my aunt, sick and on her own, partly because I was afraid of my uncle.  But things are no different on the road.  You’ve been good to me, and I know you want something in return.  But what I want is to be left free on the highway.  I want to find my way back home.”

Ben boiled inside for a moment as he looked out over the last of the open desert under the moonlight.  His desire for the girl was at a fever-pitch, but he could see she wasn’t the despairing waif he had started out with from Truck Town.  She reminded him of that ghost-wolf on the road.

They were both silent as they came to the edge of The Strip.  Day was breaking and the desert sky was aglow with color.  Glorious morning, outshining the neon.

by Sheri J. Kennedy  from Essence Churning short story collection. Published with Permission

Image by Sheri J. Kennedy from THE Companion BOOK sketchbook project

Escorting in Twilight

Elle Yomin knelt down to be eye-level with the boy; her long hair touching the floor. He drew his knees up to his chest. She felt a chill despite the warmth of the fireplace, certain that this child’s wandering was by Quinton’s guidance

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“They’ll come for him,” Alle said, holding a pair of spectacles at his side. The boy pressed his back against the wall. “You’d think he’s never seen a bearded man before.”

She felt the cautious look he gave her without having to see his face. Her main concern was to alleviate the fear before her. Of course the child was scared, not knowing what was being said. Sadly, Elle knew that neither she nor her husband spoke the dialect. “Then we have to protect him,” she said.

“I didn’t say we wouldn’t, dear.” He spat into his hand and held it out before the boy.

Elle gestured for him to spit into Alle’s hand.  The boy didn’t move. She took her husband’s hand and spat into it. Alle’s expression made the boy smile. With a nod, she encouraged him to do the same.

He complied, watching as Alle mixed the spittle together. Long slender fingers wiped the juices on the earpieces of a pair of spectacles, the color turning a shade darker than before. Smiling, Mr. Yomin held the spectacles out, the frightened, yet curious boy putting them on.

Day“Good,” Mr. Yomin said, “now we don’t have to play guessing games.”

“We don’t,” the boy asked softly, a confused expression on his face now.

Elle took the boy’s hands in hers. “No, dear, we don’t.” She introduced herself and her husband. “And what is your name?”

“Atkinson,” he said. “Can you help me find my sister?”

Excerpt by T. Tommia Wright   Published with Permission

Tommiastablet.wordpress.com
Find out more about T. Tommia Wright, Featured Author and her New Release: Reflections on Water – A collection of photos accompanied by original poems and favorite Bible verses