Redemption Pt. 2
This short story, called “Redemption,” was published in The Dazed Starling in 2015 and incorporates magical realism. All words and ideas are copyrighted by KaylaAnn. I will be sharing it in four consecutive parts. This story may include material not suitable for younger audiences or those easily triggered due to violent, sexual, scary, supernatural or mature content. This is Part Two.
“Strap her down, I said. It’s time to start the procedure.”
Then they do.
It is night time. I don’t really remember how I got here. Last thing I remember is the room with the table and wires and the blank place in my mind that is like Heaven. Oh well.
A bare branch scratches my foggy window, but I pay it no attention. It is a nightly sonnet that I often fall asleep to. My arms remain strapped to my sides in a tight cocoon of heat. I wrap myself in endless hugs, a constant flow of unending love, yet still, I feel cold. Softly I sing to myself, songs that fill my mind with images of playgrounds and jump ropes and of white bows tied affectionately into my dark braided hair.
Knock, knock, knock!
I crane my neck, turning it around to look at the door behind my head. “Who’s there?”
No answer. Perhaps it was only the branch, changing its all-too-familiar tune.
“Candy apples on a stick,” I sing, “make my tummy go 246.”
What is 246 anyway? I have never understood the saying, but I continue anyway. “Not because I’m dirty –”
But I am, aren’t I?
Knock, knock, knock!
I twist my neck, “Go away. Let me finish my rhyme.”
Knock, knock, knock!
My lips turn down and I huff irritability. Using my feet to propel my shoulders forward, I swing my body into a sitting position and then stand. I wobble to the door on sleepy feet. I reach the door, but my hands cannot grasp the knob. A bubble of laughter boils up my throat as I imagine the door knob frowning in disapproval at my trapped arms. The knocker refuses to come in, but I cannot go out. I turn around to go back to my bed.
The Dark One stands in my way. I don’t know how she got in here. There is no other door besides the locked one behind me. Beside her on the wall stands a mirror that I have never seen before. I look away before my reflection can catch my eye; she often stares back at me, but only in confusion. Her eyes always ask the same question: “Who are you?”
“What are you doing here?” I ask her, not sure if I am addressing the Dark One or my reflection.
“You see much, but not enough,” her rough voice announces. The Dark One and my reflection speak with one voice. The black-eyed Craftmaster walks around me, until she is behind me. “I will show you your fate.”
Her hands grasp my left shoulder, shoving me toward the mirror. Without meaning to, my eyes glance up and catch their counterparts in the reflection. Wide, scared, brown eyes like melted chocolate chips stare back at me. The Craftmaster in the mirror is even stranger than the one that stands in my room. Her pitch black eyes are set deep in a bluish-white and sickly face. Her coal black hair is shorn at shoulder-length with uneven ends. Her long finger nails curl into claws and a long black tail with a barbed end wiggles around her feet like a cat’s.
“Walk forward,” she commands.
I do not want to. What will I see? Yet she leaves me no choice and forces me toward the mirror. My reflection reaches out whether to push me away or to pull me in, I don’t know. I am not surprised when the glass bends around my body, allowing me passage, not to the other side of my room, but to another place entirely.
I walk into what looks like a hospital waiting room, yet it is at least the size of a football field. The cold white speckled tile beneath my feet is cracked and dying weeds push through. Spots of dirt and blood splatter the floor and walls. The chairs are wooden stools with splinters that stick out like thorns and cause their occupants to wince in pain with every movement. The occupants themselves are a mess. Nearly all of the stools are filled and even more sit on the floor or lean against walls. They sit or stand without saying a word, although most emanate moans, sobs, or even the occasional scream. While some are bloodied, others are clean and seemingly unharmed. These are the ones who sit on the floor, rocking back and forth, back and forth, crying softly into their knees.
“What is this place?” I ask. “Who are you?”
“My name is Lilith. Welcome to Perdition.” She smiles gleefully at the scene around her.
Without meaning to, I find myself walking through the crowd, taking closer looks and scrutinizing the individuals. A thin woman with skin pulled tightly across her cheek bones repeatedly stabs the crook of her arm with an empty needle. Can’t she see that there is nothing to shove in her veins? A man sits against the wall with a dark grey cloud surrounding his body from the torso up. There is no way to make out any distinctive features except for the glow that emanates from the middle the fog. Chapped and dry lips wrap themselves around several lit cigarettes. How can he even breathe? Next to him, an old woman shoots dirty looks. She is seemingly normal, apart from the empty cavity in her chest where her heart should have been. Man, woman, woman, man, again and again, these ghost-like human beings pass before my eyes. They begin to meld into one another, yet even as the individuals fade, a thought stands out.
“Where are the children?” I ask.
Lilith hisses, “No child will ever end up here.”
She huffs irritably,” Curiosity is a sin, or do you not know that?”
On we walk through the broken and haunting crowd. I no longer look, there is no point. We are reaching the end of the room. Sticking out of the wall is a small reception area. There are no flower plaited pens, no sign-in sheets, not even an elderly receptionist in a floral shirt. A short man with red skin, black eyes, and three horns sits naked behind the desk. His body is covered in a layer of fur, successfully clothing him. Still, my eyes cannot linger on him for long. I sneak another peak and his eyes snare mine. They are filled with pride, wrath, envy, greed, and other emotions I cannot describe. He releases me to glance approvingly at Lilith. She does not return the glance, only continues haughtily on, pushing on my left shoulder through an open door and into a long hall. Behind me I hear the man-demon call out, “Now serving number 106,534,231,001.” There is the slamming of a door that reverberates in my mind.
“On my count. One, two, three.”
A buzz of electricity echoes in my ears.
The hallway stretches out before me, growing steadily colder. Ice freezes over the dirt ground and creeps along the corridor walls. I struggle not to slip and fall.
There are several doors every few feet. Different sounds come from one after the other. There is the sound of wild animals tearing each other apart behind a prison cell door. From another, comes the sound of endless scream after scream. One of the doors remains open and glancing inside I see what appears to be an never-ending family reunion, the family sitting down at dinner, arguing and yelling. When they reach for the food, their hands pass through. When they reach for their drinks, the liquids vaporize into mist. It is the last room on the right however, that causes me to stop completely in my tracks.
The door opens up to what looks like a hospital sanctuary. In the front of a room lies a large cross which has fallen to the floor. The stain glass windows are shattered in several places. The dull rainbow-colored glass has been grounded into the carpet that is torn up in sections. There are no pews, only boards which to kneel upon. Nails stick out along the board, piercing the knees of several occupants who kneel before the fallen cross with blood trickling onto the floor. Tears of blood stream down their cheeks as they moan and gnash their teeth together; spit flying from their mouths. Letters on the top of the front wall, written in a liquid looking suspiciously like blood, reads “Mea Culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.” Immediately I understand: My fault, my fault, my most grievous fault.
“What have they done?”
“There is such a thing as the Unforgivable Sin,” she says cheerfully. “Move along.”
I don’t want to. I dig my feet it, knowing there are worse horrors ahead of me. “No, I want to go back.”
“There is no going back. This is where you belong.”
I can feel the blood drain from my face, “N-no. I can’t belong here.”
“Of course you do.” She grabs my arm, her nails digging into the soft skin. She drags me down the hall, the ice melting and dripping down the walls as we delve deeper into a level of heat that causes all of my pores to open and gush out their tears. I struggle against her, digging my feet into the hard earth that yields no help. “Let me go! I don’t belong here!”
Lilith stops, “Who are you to say that you do not belong? Do you know who you are? What you deserve?”
My eyes are wide with fear. “I don’t know, but not this.”
Lilith’s face twists into that of a man’s, or I suppose I should say, a boy’s. He was just about to turn eighteen when I had the misfortune of coming across his path two years ago. His dark green eyes are filled with greed and desire. He grabs my wrists, pushing me up against the hallway wall. “You know you deserve this Galia. You brought this upon yourself.”
But I am no longer thinking of where I am, but of that night. My fists pound against his chest, “No, no, no!”
Lilith is back and pushes me through the door at the end of the hall. The smell is sharp and overwhelming. Clouds of it fill my nostrils and lungs. I start to cough and squint my stinging eyes shut, trying to block the flow of tears. The heat is intense, and I scream, feeling the blisters popping out all over my skin. Electricity seems to race through my veins, zapping each nerve that it hits. With great effort, I force my burned eyelids open. The room is a cavern and the cavern is on fire. I crouch at the edge of the lip of the cave. Below me lies a pit that has no bottom and is consumed by fire and smoke and darkness. Beside me Lilith bows with her face low to the floor. Before me, out of the pit rises a shadow the size of giant.
The scream tears my throat and blood splatters my lips.
And finally, I understand. I am in Hell.
Be sure to stop by my page tomorrow for Redemption Pt. 3!