Redemption, Uncategorized

Redemption Pt. 3

Redemption Pt. 3

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 three.

 

 

 

“Blood pressure is a little high. Is she still sedated?”

Don’t they hear me screaming?

 

I jolt up into a sitting position. It is night time. 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. The heat bothers me, I toss and turn uneasily. The feeling of déjà vu’ consumes me, but I push it away, as I wish I could push away the restraints. My skin has a slight tingly feel to it, like a foot that has fallen asleep after being sat on for too long. The door behind me opens and the winged Craftmaster, the Light One, walks in. Her presence is soothing and I feel the heat in my face drain away, leaving me feeling refreshed and cool.

She quickly unbuckles the jacket and slides it over my head. “Are you alright?”

I shake my head, “I don’t know. I think I had a nightmare.”

Her eyes are sad, but she says nothing. Her wings flutter behind her softly, creating an artificial breeze. I can see the powerful muscles beneath the feathers tensing and relaxing with every beat. “Do you know where you are?”

“Of course,” I say.

“Do you know who you are?”

“Galia,” I answer uncertainly.

“I asked who you are, not your name.” She lays a hand on my right shoulder, but I flinch away. She’s seen my records; she should know how I feel about touch. Besides, she is so clean and pure, she shouldn’t be touching me. Can’t she see how filthy I am?

“Come with me,” she holds out her hand.

“Why?”

“You have seen one option, but there is another.”

I stand, reach for her hand, and stop. I can smell the sulfur on my palms; surely she would not want the same smell on her. As if sensing my hesitation, she grabs my hand in her own and pulls me toward the door. She opens it and we walk through.

We step out into a new land. We stand in the middle of a large never-ending meadow. The yellow and green grasses reach up to my waist and wave their long stems in greeting as the breeze rolls over. The grass tickles my bare calves as if to invite me to roll around in their embrace. My fingers lightly caress the tops of the stems as if I were playing the keys of a piano. I have been released from my restraints. The sky above is a blue that I have never before seen. It is brighter than I have ever seen, almost white, and yet deeper than the ocean. It is a blue that has never been discolored by even the thought of pollution. It is daytime, yet I can see thousands of stars above me. They are all the brighter in the pale blue sky. I see the Big Dipper, Orion’s Belt, the Bear, and so many others that I do not know the names of. Somewhere off to the right side of the sky I see a swirling mass of blue, purple, green, and red stars.

I can no longer smell the sharp odor of sulfur. There are perfumes here that I cannot even describe. They float along the air. I smell the sweet scent of baking bread, warm and fresh. It is the smell of baking day back at home. There is the smell of roasting meat with spices that make my mouth water. Beneath that there is the hint of burnt hot dogs. A smile tugs on my lips as it makes me think of Fourth of July and the time my dad forgot the meat on the grill. The syrupy scent of crushed grapes makes me close my eyes in delight. Although I see no sun in the sky, my skin tingles in the warmth of the light. The heat here is comforting and in no way oppressive. I feel as though I can stay in this moment forever. I stretch my bare feet. My toes span and pull up the soft cool dirt. I smell it then, the earthy aroma that brings me back to childhood that reminds me of digging up worms with my friends.

When my eyes finally reopen, I do not know how long I have been here. The Light One still stands beside me. Her face is uplifted, and light shines on it, blurring the facial details. Or does the light come from within her?

“Who are you?” I ask out of curiosity.

She turns toward me, “You may call be Gabriel.”

“Gabriel?” The name stirs a memory in my mind. “How do I know that name?”

“I appear in various forms,” Gabriel’s hair shortens and her stance grows. Suddenly her figure is more male than female and although his face still shines blurring specific details, I can tell he is a man. When he speaks, it is with a deep base. “Come with me.”

He walks across the meadow, making a temporary path in his wake that I follow with ease. Behind us the grass springs back into place as though we were never here. We walk for several minutes though I never grow tired or weary. I seem to have an abundant source of energy, as the soles of my bare feet dig into the soft warm earth with every step. We make our way over a small hill and finding ourselves on the other side, my mouth gapes open in surprise. Blocking the path in front of me in a steadily flowing stream that stretches to the east and the west as far as my eyes can see. The water is as clear as diamonds that sparkle and shine in the light. I can see the river bed nearly ten feet deep. The mud is covered with smooth rocks and moon-colored pebbles. There is an overwhelming urge to lie down beside the river. I glance at Gabriel to ask him for permission, and see that he has already sat down upon one of the large rocks by the river.

Without thinking I strip off the coarse standard-issued dressing gown, standing naked in the field. I run and jump into the river, completely submerging my brown body beneath the water. I open my eyes and see a new world. There are bright green plants growing down here and schools of rainbow-colored fish. The water wraps my body in a cool and refreshing blanket that holds me up in its gentle arms. To my surprise, I do not feel the need to breathe. I contemplate never resurfacing. For minutes I play tag with the guppies and collect the smoothest of pebbles in my fingers. There are oysters down here, opening their pink mouths, offering me their jewels. Above me I see Gabriel’s shadow and know he is waiting.

I surface to the warm meadow, and feel no regret. I walk out, my back straight and strong, before lying down on the soft grass letting the sun bake-dry my tanned skin that has long since missed the light. I should feel embarrassment for my bare body, but I feel none. After all there is no one here to see. Gabriel is neither man nor woman to judge my appearance, he is beyond that. Besides that, he is not even looking in my direction. Lazily I gaze at my surroundings. In the far distance I see a city of glass with tall skyscrapers and spirals that tower into the sky. The light is stronger there, almost as if that is where it originates from. I strain my eyes. Are those gates I see? Constructed of golden bars and decorated with pearls the size of beach balls?

“What is that place?” I finally ask.

“Paradise,” he says simply.

I look around. “Isn’t this paradise?”

He smiles gently at the horizon, “We are still on the outskirts.”

“Can we go there?”

Gabriel looks at me, “We have to go somewhere else first.”

Curious I stand and dress.

There is a small wooden building a few feet ahead of us. It has come from nowhere and yet I do not question it. Gabriel opens the door and waits for me to enter. I look into the frame, unable to see anything through the darkness. I look at Gabriel, thinking to ask him to go first, although I do not want to seem like a coward.

“Do not be afraid.”

I swallow down the egg in my throat and nod, although I wish we could go back to the river. I trust him. Holding this trust in my heart, I walk into a large white room. The room itself is probably fifty feet by fifty feet. Each of the four walls is twenty feet high with a vaulted ceiling. The room is light and airy despite the fact that there are no windows. Strangely enough, there are long white curtains at each corner that could shield the walls from view. Suddenly, the walls turn on. Or at least that is how it appears. The walls are covered with screens. Most of the screens take up a fourth or even half of the walls. One wall remains mysteriously blank. I watch in morbid fascination as I realize who stars in each image.

Me.

There I am as a child stealing my friend’s toy. A small infraction. On another screen, I’m in middle school, cheating on that one Spanish test and then lying about it when I was caught. I can see my brother and I fighting, screaming horrible things at one another. Our parents had found my stash of weed. I blamed him and he took the fall because he wanted to help me without getting me in trouble. I watch the screen, and as if someone knew, the sound blared on.

“I’m your big brother, let me help you. You know this stuff will get you into trouble.”

I watch the screen in dismay, watching the scene unfold. I shook his hand off my arm, “Screw off, Jared! I know what I’m doing. Just because you’re a goody-too-shoes with no friends except your stupid books. You don’t know anything about the real world.”

Jared set his jaw, “If I find any again, I’ll tell mom and dad you’re a junkie.”

“Fine, you stupid tattle-tale. I won’t do it again, okay?”

Jared left the room, but the me on screen didn’t. I watch as she walks to the drawer and pulls out the small zip-lock baggie. I turn away from that screen.

I see all those instances when I disobeyed my parents, smoking on the roof or sneaking out the window in the short skirt my dad thought I threw away. Again and again, I see myself reflected in the images: disobeying, lying, stealing, lusting, and acting out. There is the party where I drank myself into a stupor and woke up on the bathroom floor with vomit on my face. All my so-called friends had done was to turn me over to make sure I didn’t drown in my own spit before leaving me to return to the party. I remember I had to walk home that night, and had been violently ill for weeks after. It didn’t stop me though. As soon as I was better, I was back at the next hang-out.

Suddenly, I am glad that Gabriel waited outside. I do not want him to see this, any of this. These are the moments in my life that I am embarrassed of, although there is a worse memory that has not appeared. A memory that I do not want to relive. As if sensing my thoughts, the wall with the one large empty screen lights up. Though the videos continue on the other screens, their sounds have been muted. All attention is focused on this one wall in front of me.

There it is, that night I have tried so hard to forget. I watch myself on the screen. The music blares out of speakers I do not see. I hold my hands to my ears, but I still hear it. I’ll never forget that song. Cursing and obscene suggestions shriek along with the unoriginal tune. On the screen is the image of me dancing up on one of the tables with a red plastic cup in one hand and frizzy crimped brown hair falling in my red-rimmed eyes. I can see him in the background, the monster from my nightmare, Adam Bret. His eyes follow the dancing girl that I used to be. I want to scream at the projection. I want to grab myself and shake her until she realizes what she is doing. I slam my fist into the wall, hoping to shatter the screen. There is not so much as a crack. The video continues to play. I fall to my knees; helpless to stop what I know is coming. I watch powerlessly as Adam approaches me in the screen, gently taking my hand is his and motioning his head toward the stairs. To my everlasting shame, I followed him, smiling at the attention.

Somehow I fall into the memory. I remember it. I can smell it. I can feel it!

My skin was sticky with sweat and spilled beer. My hair smelled like burnt hair spray and my eyelashes stuck together with every bat. But Adam Bret didn’t seem to notice these imperfections. He was smiling at me like I was the only girl on this planet, and he was a senior! I was just a sophomore. I saw the other girls’ looks as I followed him up the stairs. I told myself they were just jealous. His sweaty palm grasped mine, guiding me up the stairs and down the hall. I remember wondering how he knew where to go.

We enter a room. His room. He turns on a CD and puts his hands around my waist. We’re dancing and it’s Heaven. He’s whispering things in my ears. Things I don’t understand because all I can hear is a loud buzz in my brain. Then his hands are no longer on my waist, but at my zipper. Suddenly he’s pushing me down, and he’s holding me down, and I’m saying-

“No! Get off!”

But he’s not listening and all I can smell is his cologne.

 

My head jerks down. No. I am not there, I am not there! The screen plays on, but I am not there. I had fallen into the memory of that night, that horrible night. I walked home alone. No one believed me. Not even my friends. I was just some girl who regretted it afterward so I cried “wolf”.

I look away from all the screens; I do not want to see anymore. Surrounded by all my faults, I feel insignificantly small. Lilith was right. If anyone belongs in Hell, it is me. Not for my sin, but for my stupidity. Isn’t that some kind of sin? I curl into a ball, willing myself to disappear. I know that any minute now a crack will open up below me and swallow me whole. I will plummet back into the burning Hell. Maybe I will spend an eternity with the others crying out Mea Culpa, Meal Culpa! A wail escapes my lips like a moan.

Yet there is no crack that swallows me up.

Someone lays a hand on my shoulder; I assume it is Gabriel, having heard my cries. I jerk my shoulder out of his grasp

“Leave me alone, Gabriel. I don’t want you to see this.”

“You are never alone,” a new voice says. The voice wraps me in a blanket of warmth and is as smooth as honey.

I look up into the face of a man. He is ordinary, ordinary stature, brown skin, brown hair, hazel eyes, and yet, he is extraordinary in every single way. His very face seems to shine with a light that comes from within. His eyes are bright with kindness that I have never encountered before. Yet deep within the same eyes, I can see sorrow and grief and pain, deeper than all the pain combined at the asylum. He seems to understand the agony I feel without saying a word. His cheeks are dimpled with laugh lines that mostly hide the sorrow lines under his eyes. He radiates love and safety.

And purity.

I hide my face in my knees. “Please, you shouldn’t be next to me.” Can’t he see how filthy I am? My sins are literally on display for him to see. It’s then that I notice now the sound of the TVs is gone, as though the speakers were suddenly disconnected.

He kneels beside me, lifting my face to his. Silently, He lifts me to my feet. He is gentle, but insistent. My hands in His, I can feel pure strength coursing through His arms. Yet, there is something odd about His hands, some strange feeling in their grasp. Once steadily on my feet, He releases my hands and walks over to the corners of the room. One by one He reaches up to grab hold of the curtains and I realize what felt different about His hands. In the middle of each of His palms are identical two inch holes. I gape in astonishment as He pulls the white curtains over the screens on the walls. He does this to each wall, until all the curtains are closed. Yet still I can see the screens. Though the images are blurred, they are still there.

I bury my face in my hands, tears springing from my eyes. Curtains are not enough to hide my faults. My hands are pulled away from my face by the man with the kind eyes. He motions to the curtains as if to say watch.

I watch as the top of the curtains darken and stain with some dark red liquid. Then the coppery smell hits me and lingers on my tongue. I realize it is blood. Streams of blood turn into rivers that turn into torrents coursing down the white sheets. The bright color bleeds down until the entire curtain is covered in a red hue. I can no longer see the screens even if I tried. In amazement I turn to look at the Man. I gasp aloud. The holes in His hands look fresh as though they had just happened. Blood pours over His wrists and fingers, pooling on the floor, joining blood from His side and feet. The pain in His face is unbearable and only rivaled by the love in His eyes. I am unable to look away.

“You are never alone.” He smiles, “I love you.”

He falls to his knees with that same smile on His face as the blood pools around him. I splash in the puddle to reach him. “Somebody help him!”

 

 

Be sure to stop by my page tomorrow for Part Four the Conclusion of Redemption.

Redemption

Redemption Pt. 2

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.”

“Why not?”

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!