This is the original version of the prologue for “A Lack of Fire in Hell,” my current writing project. Reader beware: this is awful writing. I share it for context as I revise and to share what I’ve learned in future posts.
The terror began when I opened my eyes.
Everything blurred. Shadows slowly formed, dancing before faint illumination.
I closed my eyes, letting them adjust. A clock ticked. Faint screams rose between the
ascending seconds, muffled behind materializing walls around me.
I opened my eyes again, slowly this time. A florescent light hung unevenly from a tile ceiling,
the source of the illumination. I lay on a cold, hard surface. My hands turned down, feeling rusted
metal and peeling paint.
Some kind of examination table, I figured. I appeared to be in a hospital room with no windows
except on the opposing wall, misshapen shadows rising and falling on the other side. All the
equipment was thrown about. Damaged electronics and tubing lay everywhere. Pieces of the floor
were missing. Those that remained cracked and worn, the alternating green and white tiles dirtied
with black spots. The wallpaper hung here and there, revealing black mold. The smell was awful, all rot and decay. Dark red spatters and chunks of meat littered everything in sight, as if someone
exploded on the very table I lay upon.
Then I felt the pain, my head suddenly a boiling cauldron, as if a red hot iron had been
pushed from one temple through my skull to the other. My entire body roared with suffering, every muscle radiating the palpable agony of my head and the maddening pain behind my eyes.
What happened to me?
I reached up to my temple – the source of the agony – and screamed. My finger went in
where skin was supposed to be. Wet hot blood poured out from the hole in my head and down my
neck. Blood. My blood. I was covered in it.
I panicked. I tried to get up from the table but couldn’t. I was too weak, my muscles refused
to act. I started to sob, every emotion in the known universe pouring out.
“Help!” I cried. “Help! Please!” My please choked out between sobs and tears. I was going to
die. Bleed to death. Where are the doctors?! Why do I not have an IV?! I tried getting up again, frantic now, needing to save myself. But with what? My pain intensified, muscles straining with the effort, pulling on themselves. My insides churned like a blender, grinding itself into goo. I looked around the room again, searching for a phone, anything to improve my situation. Dizziness started to takeover, whether from blood loss or confusion, I wasn’t sure.
The door to the room burst open. A dark-haired woman stuck her head in. Screams rushed
in from the dark corridor behind her. A new wave of decay washed over me, the smell from the
corridor almost made me vomit. The woman’s eyes bulged from her sockets, taking in every detail
of my room – of me, but it all seemed familiar to her. There was no surprise in her face. Her skin
was deathly white, like a ghost.
“I need help!” I cried to her. She put her finger in front of her mouth, making a shushing
gesture, shaking her head. She waved for me to follow her.
“I can’t,” I said.
“Quiet!” she shrieked.
I got down from the table, nearly falling under my own weight. I tripped over one of the
computer monitors, knocking it sideways.
So many questions came to me. Who are you? How did you get here? Where are we? To be so close to companionship in my horrific state and be unable to speak was unbearable.
She pulled me into the dark corridor. “This way,” she whispered. I hobbled, my legs slowly
remembering how to walk. Remember. Remember what? What can I remember? My mind empty of all
things but the present moment, as if this was the first memory I had in my existence. I looked
behind me. I left a trail of blood, adding to other streaks of red on the white and seafoam green tile
patterns. Blots of guts and other body parts lay scattered everywhere. Lights overhead sparked,
swinging back and forth is if the building shook, but I felt no movement beneath me. As we walked, I brushed a leg, the bone sticking out with tendons exposed. A head rolled to the side. Yells and screams of terror drowned out everything as we passed other rooms where lights flickered behind faded glass windows. I heard machines and equipment being thrown about, crashing and exploding into pieces, clattering against one another. My head was about to explode, reaching the physical limits of pain one could experience.
The woman pointed to a pair of massive doors at the end of the corridor, only a few doors
ahead of us. I noticed for the first time she was clean – not a spot of blood on her. She wore a dark
green tattered dress, some of it ripped to shreds. She turned to face me, her bulging black eyes
“I think that’s the way out,” she whispered.
“How do you know?” I asked, feeling more insignificant with each passing moment. My
thinking started to clear somewhat, realizing I was not in control of my situation – and desperately
needed to be.
As I spoke, the doors shuddered on their hinges. Something slammed into the other side.
Bright light poured through the gap between them as they were forced apart, then pulled themselves back into place.
Nope, I thought. Not that way. She stepped towards the door, pulling me. I jerked my hand
away. She looked back, surprised – and hurt, perhaps.
I shook my head, realizing this was not the way out – and their may not be one at all. But this
“That’s light from outside!” she whispered.
Behind us, from somewhere around a corner, a horrible, high pitch wail echoed from the
dark depths of the building.
Nowhere to go.
Something slammed against one of the corridor window next to us. We both jumped to the
opposing wall. A giant, dark blotch marked the other side of the window where something had been thrown against it.
“Come on!” she said, her voice raspy and tired, but stern.
I slowly walked backward, torn between going with her to the light or finding another way
out. She walked to the doors, ducking to avoid a hanging light, then pulled them open.
Brightness blanked out everything beyond the doors. The woman became a silhouette
between the two doors, a black figure defiant against the unknown beyond. She stood there in the
opening, seemingly dumbfounded at what she saw beyond my line of sight. Chaotic sounds rushed through the darkened corridor.
Just as I was about to walk towards her – changing my mind – something reached for her
leg, wrapping itself around her. She fell, screaming as it pulled her away into the brightness. The
doors slammed closed. And she was gone.
I stood there, motionless with stupefied horror.
What is happening? I just want to go home. Where is home?
I turned and ran, stumbling over the bodily clutter, slipping in draining fluid and mucous.
The doors behind me banged again. I heard what my mind quantified as a thunderous belch behind them, fading as a I tried to put as much distance between myself and that hidden terror that took the bulging-eyed woman. Not just took her – consumed her. My mind raced. I pictured a carnival man behind those doors, waiting, gloating. Who’s next in line to feed the beast?! Want to try? How about you, sir? Come see the mysterious blasphemy for yourself! Why not you, my good fellow?
One of the doors in front of me opened. I stopped, shuddering at what I saw. A man
stepped out of the room, moving into a shadow between the corridor lights, watching me.
Something about him – it – seemed off. Dimensionally off. It lifted its hand to point at me. The arm
was as long as it was tall. It stepped out of the shadow, taking massive steps towards me. The flesh
crawled, as if the hairs on its arms were tiny insects moving about, appearing and disappearing
through holes, cuts and open sores.
Before I could react, one of the grotesquely long arms reached for me, grabbing me by my
bloody shirt, lifting me of the ground. I tried to fight back, but my body refused. Pain and utter
fatigue kept me from doing anything but panicking within my mind. No strength to resist.
“Please!” I shouted. “I need help!” I could only look up at the ceiling as it dragged me back
down the corridor – toward the doors of horror.
Who’s next in line to feed the beast?!
“Help me…” I whispered, my voice failing. All loss of control eroding my sense of self. Of
Suddenly we were at the doors. The thing dragging me burst through them, throwing me
with frightening force into a large, white-tiled room. I landed in a layer of dark red sludge that I
could only imagine its contents but refused to acknowledge the possibility. There was no ceiling that I could tell, or it was too high to see. An impossibly bright light came from above. Dark blobs of red and peach dotted the walls. People all around me crawled through the muck, trying to get to the walls. Some slipped and disappeared into the goop, emerging a second later. Others clamored onward, reaching the wall and looking behind me, wide eyed with fear.
The thing that dragged me here disappeared as the doors slammed closed.
“Get to a wall!” someone shouted. I heard the words but didn’t process them. The
screaming was constant, making my mind was fuzzy. The acute pain throughout my person kept me from reacting.
“It’s going to get you! Get away from the center!”
That got me moving. My arms and legs brushed chunks of meat. As my eyes adjusted and
my brain fog cleared, I saw body parts everywhere. Blood covered the entire floor in different
shades – some pools dry and old, others fresh. As I moved over them, I slipped – my hands falling
into guts and putrescence. Shouts and screams threatened to break my sanity. I vomited, my senses overwhelmed, my mind overloaded.
A sickening growl and slurping rose above the cries for help.
Come see the mysterious blasphemy for yourself!
Upon reaching a wall, I turned to witness the most terrifying sight of my existence. Within
the wall opposite of me was a huge mouth, split vertically and at large enough to swallow an
elephant. Teeth as big as human arms and legs lined both sides inside cracked, bloody lips that
resembled snakes that merged with the broken wall tiles. A massive tongue dug through the pile of biology on the floor, slurping pieces into its dark maw behind blackened teeth.
Hundreds of people lined the room, pressing themselves into the walls. Others crawled
through the bloody mucous. The tongue managed to grab the foot of an unfortunate soul. They
screamed – shrieking for their life as the tongue pulled them into the maw of teeth and disappeared.
Want to try?
I made a sound, my horror expressed in a way I never knew I could make. It wasn’t a scream
as no scream could illustrate the madness before me. I tried to move back to the doors. Have to get
out. Must get out. Have to get out. The thought repeated automatically. Every other thought and
possibility receded in my mind behind the driving terror of my circumstances. I passed others,
slowly crawling in front of them. They ignored me, fixated on the thick, monstrous tongue working its way about the room.
As I neared the doors and reached for the handle, they burst open again, smashing into my
body. I fell back to the ground. Another man landed on top of me, thrown from the corridor.
Screaming, he grabbed my legs, shrieking unpronounceable bursts of terror. I kicked, trying to free
myself. I turned back to the wall. The tongue came our direction, aware of us. It wrapped itself
around the man’s legs and pulled, dragging me along. I kicked, spasmed, flung my arms, grabbing at anything, cursing the man who suddenly wanted me to share in his fate. A hot wetness touched my legs. The tongue had completely enveloped the man on my legs, now working up my own body.
Why not you, my good fellow?
The mouth in the wall seemed to grow. The tongue’s grip intensified, now reaching up to my
waist. I felt the stinking heat of its wretched breath, the stench of millions consumed before me. My vision blurred. I couldn’t breathe. My chest was about to collapse on itself. My muscles went limp as I rose from the floor. Blistering heat burned my exposed skin. Suddenly I was behind the teeth in the wall. Unimaginable pain roared through me.
Then darkness took over.