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