The story so far:
I stood in the doorway glaring at the preacher strolling across the lawn. Then, my eye caught a glimpse of something. No, it couldn’t be!? How could he? There shining in he grass was the silver charm bracelet my wife was buried with. How? I found myself walking towards it uncontrollably.
“MMmoooooouuuuuu,” a howling hoarse noise and a stinging scream forced me to rip my attention from the hideousness of everything the preacher was, just in time to see a blue truck, close.
A brilliant white light pierced the blackness streaming into my consciousness. I felt dazed and loosely existing, and then I heard faint concerned voices. People were standing above me in white, doctors.
“Damn it get me 2 more units of blood and swab this area I can’t see the brachial artery!” the doctor yelled working his instruments furiously.
The nurse reached over with her swab, and saw a red puddle forming on his opposite side, “He’s bleeding out from his other arm. If we don’t stop this….”
The bleeping tone sounding off my pulse started to slow then became a long continuous hum. Could I hear my own heart stop beating? Was I supposed to hear that? I turned my head, gazing through the blinding white, Sandy, my lovely wife, but how? I’m so happy to see you…. But it wasn’t so. No, it was the nurse. She had the same brown hai…
I felt cold and dismally alone. It was a cold exposed numbing feeling. And something else, it was stone, that’s it, and ash, I could smell ash. I was face down on a stone slated floor. I opened my eyes, nothing. Black. Just black. Was I unconscious? I stirred, I had fingers, arms, and legs, they were working, working to get me on my feet. I was standing up now, a little unbalanced but up. Then a faint pop emitted from some far off invisible place. But all I could see was hideous blackness. Was I blind? Did that cursed preacher take my sight? I swiveled about. There was something. A reddish hue of fog lingered far away above the very space of black in front of me. If it was anything, it was a distance off, waiting silently a aas if watching me, thinking about me. I instinctively started to move towards it, shuffling my feet with my hands outstretched in this abysmal deep. I could hear nothing now, except my own low breathing. Then I felt something! What was this stopping my fingers!? A solid leathery flat surface stopped my hand from drifting through the black. I wanted to rip my hand away, but I had to know, know something about were I was. I ran my fingers forward till they stopped against another similar surface jutting out a little more. I guided m m y hand across this one as well. There was another next to it, like oblong bricks, a wall? I felt another longer, then another smaller. My hand instinctively slid down to inspect the base of the walled materials, and found they were resting on a... a shelf. A bookshelf, where am I? That red cloud still lulled above in the distance. I fumbled along in the pitch black slowly striving towards it, guided by bookshelves. Tomes, small books, long cases, loose papers, and lining of wood shelving were my guide. Case after case I clung against, feeling, probing, exploring with my hands as I trudged onward. I was lost in this endless void of shelves and books. I must have been walking for hours now, in the same direction, along the same line of bookshelves. A few times I had heard that pop again, was it something waiting for me? Was it waiting just there beyond the next case? Maybe it was calling others to join him. I was closer to the hue of maroon vapor; it seemed less cloud-like now, but some kind of illusion moving in place like a beating glow of life. Pop. That pop again? It sounded familiar now, and closer. I groped on over a similar set of books, about twenty volumes, no thirty. It must have been a set of encyclopedias or a collection of st ories. Then my hand stopped at the end of the shelf and I began to reach over and around it for the next. There was no shelving. Nothing. The book shelf ended. All I could see was that red murmur waiting over this darkness that surrounded me. Should I keep heading forward? Was the next step a fall into an endless chasm housing a beast so hungry he could smell me from miles down? I began inching forward, shuffling once again, hands ready to embrace whatever was waiting. My hand struck something. Something solid, smooth, the next shelf! It was just a gap between bookcases! On I went for another hour, or 3? I was here for so long I couldn’t tell anymore. I just wanted to see again. It seemed like something was holding my eyes shut. But they were wide open, seeing, nothing. My most trusted sense was being stubborn, my eyes refused to see what was just inches from me! But I could see just one thing that became as normal to me as the blackness. I could see that cursed red haunting mist. I had to get there, to see again, and to know something more. On I went wondering if I would make it anywhere, if that mist was actually miles across and lay days or weeks of walking ahead. I was getting more and more desperate, and moving faster now. My legs were aching, but I hurried along. Then, just as I was thinking of dropping to my knees and feeling that same slated stone against my face, my hands hit a corner, the shelving starting to lead off to the left. I felt along it with my cautious hands. Then I shuffled along for 3 cases, and it stopped again. I groped, inching around it, and oh what I saw! My sight burst back into existence, my sense returning like meeting a long lost friend. I could discern a reddish tone glinting off the shelves hundreds of feet down. I was flanked on either side by bookshelves from what I could make out. But I couldn’t see the light directly. It must be just around the very end of these shelves. I started moving faster, the edges of blackness against the red down the isle starting to grow around me as I got closer. Red outlines were more distinct now... bindings of books and contours of shelving starting emerging from the black, guiding me ever forward. A pop, followed by a crackling, I knew that noise! Could it be a fire? The abominable red cloud was just light from a fire? Something natural, something I could understand? I had to get there. I jaunted on now at a normal pace seeing enough to walk freely but cautiously still holding my hands out in case I tripped or stumbled. I was getting closer. Red bound book covers, blue sets of encyclopedias, green scraggily worn tomes walled me in on either side. The markings on the books were becoming apparent now as I soldiered on, but indecipherable, like strange characters of some alien language. Was that title in Latin? It wasn’t bright enough to be exactly certain. A flicker of light glanced across the shelves as the fire danced just around the edge ahead of me. Just three cases away, I moved faster now, so close to an explanation. 2 cases, I was almost starting to run, so close. What was this catacomb? The last case, I rounded the edge, and froze. Something or someone was stooping there, motionless. Had it not heard my shoes along the stone floor? I looked down. I wasn’t wearing any. I wasn’t wearing a stitch of clothing, how had I not noticed? I felt cold again, but not alone. There something stood. A silhouetted form placed against the fire, its back to me. It had something in its hands, a book. It was reading, of course, what else would someone do in this place? I started to feel a nervous cold sweat sweep over me. I wanted to wake up, to leave, I couldn’t. It was that paccant preacher’s will to bring me here, to this, beast.
Twisted knobbed horns adorned his horrible head; he was a demon? He must be. His large nubby fingers groped the massive tome he was reading intently. He stood on hooves; it looked like a horse balancing on its hind legs. The matted grizzled hair of his thick legs stopped at his waist opening into a muscular disfigured scarred torso. This is all I could see from behind him. A boney crunch jabbed into the air, something watery dripped from his head and spattered on the floor, he was eating. Slam! He quickly shut the book.
I froze, what was I doing here, where am I?
A clacking sounded off as he turned to face me, maneuvering on his hooves. My mouth went dry, I could feel a single drop of sweat roll down my back and rest in the nook just above the base of my spine. He had turned to face me and was walking over, then stopped. I wanted to yell, to run, but I froze. The world drifted past me, I felt as if I didn’t exist.
“Havipp vosip adveho pro librig,” he half gargled with a horrible forced tone sputtering whatever liquid was in his mouth onto my face and chest. He glared intently at me not of malice, not vengeance, nor death, but something that made me reach into myself to gain control again, to run. It was difficult to see in the fire light but I could make out his hideous form well enough. He had the boney head of an oversized deer with bulging eyes and bushy unkempt brows. One eye was secreting a puss drizzling down folds of sagging skin into uneven rows of jutting cracked teeth splitting through his gnarled lips. Christ! What was this? He’s going to rip my spinal cord out like I’ve seen in those horror movies, sink his teeth into my face and listen to me whine in horror. That stare!
“Humanusg? exspecto hic,” he clamored, in that unmistakable horrid tone accompanied by spittle, but was it with a hint of a question?
He walked past me into the darkness. I listened as his hooves clanked off into the distance. Each step he took delivered him farther from me. I just stood there, motionless staring through the air where he had stood. I was too scared to move my eyes. What was that? What was that? I kept asking myself the same question not daring to move. Not daring to think about anything else. I must, I must get out of here! Then I felt a searing pain in my face, my jaw. My jaw was aching. I had clamped it shut and didn’t notice till now. I opened my mouth and took a shaky breath. I stood there naked with streaks of his saliva dripping down me swirling together with my own sweat glistening against the crackling fire. The preacher knew what I did. I knew what I did. Why did I do it? The preacher must have been sent. How did they know that I...
“Legogiv!” he garbled from right in front of me just immerging from the darkness. I jumped and grasped clumsily catching myself on the shelf behind me, knocking books to the floor and catching my balance on one foot. I had been thinking about that preacher, I hadn’t even noticed his rhythmic hooves clacking back to me. He held a book out to me. I stared at it as he held it with those nubs. The book had a deep blue peeling cover with black letters printed in English. He stood patiently, with that stare, that same deliberate stare as before. I slowly stood upright and reached out for the volume. He dropped it into my hands. It felt strangely heavy for its size. He motioned toward the fire with his hand as he began walking back. He took up his large book once more opening it to the page he kept marked with his dripping meaty victuals.
Was I going to read next to him? He wasn’t going to do the spine thing? Christ. I hesitated. I could run back to the blackness, away from him, but he could find me. How did he find books in this impossible dark?
I walked over to embrace the light of the orange hue glowing off the fire. I looked at the book in the flickering glow. “Hell,” I said quietly under my breath reading the cover. That preacher, they knew, someone knew what I did. The first page read:
Here lies your salvation
I turned the page. It was entitled; Hell ~ A guide to living. It was followed by a table of contents; Destinations and Damnations, Creatures, Maps and Tables, Black Liquid of Larguid Lake, The Creeping Walls, and on and on till the last chapter, number 36, which read; Help: A Welcoming of Nothing Welcome. I quickly shuffled to the last chapter, number 36. The chapter consisted of one page. It read:
Help: A Welcoming of Nothing Welcome
Welcome! This is your most undoubtedly final resting place. If you are holding this book, you are in Satan’s humble abode, and have one of 36 copies that remain in hell. You are among the damned population of 2,345,456…
the number changed on the page! As if an invisible hand had erased the number and wrote a new one that instant. Again it changed. I read on.
This book is just a mere glimmer of the merest chance of a mere fleeting hope that you may understand your current standing a little better and may possibly by some chance in hell, escape. Study it well, if hell permits, which it douth not, and you may be the first of, 0, to be cast from hell to a better place. May strength be with you.
Those were the last passing words of human warmth I read. The fire was my warmth now, my light, my reason for existing now. The beast next to me was slurping from a dark tankard. He thrust it toward me. I heard the contents jostle inside with a watery splash. I was thirsty. Oh how I longed for some cool refreshing water for my acrid dry throat. I reached out and once again received something unnaturally heavy for its size. I held the tankard to my nose and took in a metallic watery smell. I didn’t care, I had been walking for a day, I needed something to drink. It tasted like warm rusty water. But water, nonetheless. I turned to return his mug but he was at another. I bent down resting it on the black slate ash covered floor. The floor that stretched to the bookshelves and as far as the orange glow would carry it. I was lost in an abyss of books, darkness, and foul company. And, I hated reading.