hell

BATTLEDRESS…

He scared me some and I always hoped that when I saw him, I’d be on the other side of the street. He’d just start yelling and I didn’t understand because I was just a kid. It was the helmet and fatigues that got to me. Why was he wearing them? It was like he was still in the combat zone and we were his battlefield, this quiet, lonely town.

 

I wondered why he had no help or care. Didn’t anyone love the man with the broken mind, the spirit split in two by the war? Did his family desert him, walk past him on the street as if he were a stranger? Were they afraid to take him in?

 

What about his country? Did we give him enough food and respect, or was the medal we pinned on him compensation enough for all he’d given up? Was he just to rummage through garbage cans, screaming at “the enemy” – townspeople fleeing as if they knew he had murdered and they were next? Was he to spend each winter under discarded cardboard boxes, on top of steam-filled grates? If so, it didnt seem fair or make sense to me.

 

I tried to talk to him but he was too far-gone. He never saw me, even when my terrified hand offered some bread. Those ghosted eyes bore right through mine. They were lost to something that wasnt here and wasnt now. I couldn’t think of anything more terrifying than a once healthy mind that was cracked off from itself.

 

By the time I was a young adult I’d been trying to suppress something that also tortured me. I had this empathy, this way of getting inside someone and feeling what they felt, seeing what they saw. I hated it mostly. It could be painful, but there was one thing I wanted to know: what went on inside this soldier’s head?

 

I was nervous but I couldn’t let it go. It was obsessing me. So I sat in the park one day and watched him, waiting for the opportunity.

 

After he secured a half-eaten sandwich and some pop from an open can, he sat among the birds, cursing them. I watched his breathing, imitated the ins and the outs. I got in sync. He was getting agitated. His breathing became shallow and rapid. His mind was firing up and so was mine.

 

Suddenly I was in:

 

Iraq 2003. We were there. Three man team – Humvee. I’m a gunner: combat military police. Patrolling freeways looking for roadside bombs. Then out of nowhere – Boom! An explosion. Heat, force, dirt flying. Scared shitless but all safe. Lucky this time. Adrenaline. Laughter. Holy fuck. Need to come down. Need a drink…

 

The soldier was flipped out of this memory by his mind going blank, and so I got bumped out also. I stared at him, amazed to experience such a terrifying ordeal. Suddenly he got up and retrieved a small bottle of whiskey he’d hid under some autumn leaves. He drank it back, whipped the bottle away, then hid behind a tree. He scoped out two people walking through the park. His eyes were back on the enemy.

 

Again I tapped into his breathing, relaxing into his mind:

 

Back in the Humvee – a different day. Orders are “shoot on sight.” Two people wearing enemy uniforms. This was a no brainer. Even though they weren’t shooting at us, I took the opportunity. I shot them both DEAD! DEAD! A strange euphoria filled my body. The greatest orgasm ever felt. Flying higher than possible on any drug. Alive, knees weak, attuned to every little thing. Screaming, “I got em. I got em!” High fives from below. I was out of my fucking mind. Killing was amazing!

 

Then that crushing feeling. Getting sucked into that deep hole of fog. The guilt, the madness. Thrill turned to anguish. “Look what you fuckers made me do! I took lives. I took them!” I felt feverish, like I wanted out of my own body. I cycled down into depression, such a lowness of spirit, such damage inside me. I wanted to put a gun to my own head. I was confused. What was I to do? My orders told me I was right, but my soul told me I was wrong. My body enjoyed it. Was I sick or just an animal with no control over how I would react? I sure as fuck wasn’t ready for this.

 

Sobbing broke me out of the man’s flashback once again. I took some deep breaths, glad to be out of his dark spiral. The freedom I had. Holy! Now I understood the cycle, the insanity. Day after day reliving just a few moments that had altered his life forever. The judgment calls that weren’t his, that asked him to go against everything he’d ever been trained to be: a good person who respects life.

 

Now I understood why I liked him. A human can’t live in the mind of a machine.

 

I wanted to rip those fatigues from his body and tear those memories out of his head, but I was powerless. I just had to let him be. This was his fate – to be forever haunted by the ghosts that he’d created.

 

The last time I saw him, I plucked up the courage to thank him for his service. I was grateful that he’d done what he thought was the right and honorable thing. Again he stared right through me and I felt sad that he’d sacrificed his mind for us, so that we could be free…

©kym darkly

HUNTER…

©KYM DARKLY 0

Hunter’s eyes dropped to the floor. Horrified she watched blood drip, drip, drip onto the aisle beside her feet. It came from the cabin that held her suitcase above.

 

In truth she didn’t know how she got here or why that suitcase was hers. She was coming out of a stupor, a drug-induced amnesia it seemed, and was trying to remember, trying to put it all together:

 

Just an hour ago, she had watched each toe swing into view as she had started to come to – one foot in front of the other: click, click, click.

 

She’d felt a weight in her right hand: a steel handle dragging a suitcase behind over gravel and concrete. She’d looked up. She was headed for the bus depot! But why?

 

She’d felt inside her pockets and pulled out four things: a ticket, a key tied to a tag that read #15, another smaller key, and a note. She’d stopped. The ticket was a one way to Gravesmouth. On it was a name. She said it aloud, “Hunter Price.” She assumed it was hers.

 

She’d opened the note and read: Get on the bus. Do not call attention to yourself. Suitcase remains closed at all times until you get to Motel 26, room 15. Do not talk to anyone!

 

She had nowhere else to go. Once on the bus, night fell fast and early. Tiny lights scoured down carving shadows into skeletal cheeks and hollow eyes.

 

It was a slow trip of empty roads and tall trees with a few memories slipping back in: a scuffle, a knife, some blood and someone screaming…

 

Flipping back to the present: horrified, Hunter watched blood drip, drip, drip onto the aisle beside her feet. It came from the cabin that held her suitcase above.

 

There was a man in front listening to some music, and an old woman behind who seemed to be sleeping. Hunter’s hand flew up and switched off the light. She took off her dark, wool coat, removing the contents of the pockets and putting them in her purse. She laid her coat on the floor, using it to sop up the crimson evidence of something she hoped she wasnt guilty of.

 

Hunter slid out of her seat. She would have to pull the suitcase down to stop the blood. She quietly opened the cabin and padded her hand around for the handle. Another hand moving in behind made her jump. It was the man from the seat in front. “I can sure help you with that ma’am.”

“No!” She said.

He seemed surprised.

“It’s not as heavy as it looks.”

The man looked puzzled. He reached in again, “You sure. It ain’t no bother.”

“Yes!” She snapped. “You should never do for someone what they can do for themselves, right?”

Puzzled, the man nodded his head and sat back down. “Just bein’ polite.”

“Thank you,” she said.

He turned back to his seat and put his headset back on.

 

Hunter removed the suitcase. Sitting down, she pulled it in close and pressed the coat around it with her foot. What had she gotten into?

 

Arriving at Gravesmouth, everyone scattered from the depot quickly; even the driver had run inside to get some smokes. It was desolate except for a sole black cab that appeared to be waiting for her.

 

Soon she was inside #15, alone with the case. Peeking through the blinds to make sure no one saw her come in, she locked the door. Turning back, she swallowed hard, then fumbled for the little key in her purse. She shoved it into the lock of the case and rattled it back and forth as hard and fast as she could. What the Hell was inside? As the latch finally broke open, she flung the lid back.

 

She gasped as she saw a face beneath some thick plastic and a pair of hands cupped around the chin.

 

Shaking, Hunter grabbed a pen and paper from the nightstand and wrote a quick “Do not disturb” note to post on the door, but she was arrested by something familiar. She dropped the pen. She stepped back. Ice rippled up her spine.

 

She pulled the note from her purse and held it beside the one she just scrawled. The writing was the same. It was hers. Had she written that note of instructions to herself? If so, why? Why would she do that?

 

Hunter rushed back to the suitcase. She ripped the plastic off the face – at once hit with a disturbing smell and the disgusting sight of a neck that had been sawed through: flesh, blood and bones, mushed with crushed pearls.

 

She bolted backwards. Again something was familiar. The face: she knew this face – the mole, the scar. And then the hands, she knew the ring… What the Hell was going on? Was she crazy?

 

She rushed to the bathroom, turned on the taps. She splashed herself with water.

“This can’t be happening. It’s not happening,” she said looking up at her face – Her face! She leaned in closer to the mirror.

 

Her lips trembled uncontrollably. Her body shook and her knees were giving out.

 

This was the face she saw in the trunk. She touched the grooves in her cheeks, stole a finger over the mole on top of her lip, caught the shine of that ring and the pearls. Was it her? Was that her head? If so, what was she? Was she alive or was she dead?

 

A hard pounding made her gasp. It was the door. Maybe it was the police, but what would they think if they saw her in the flesh and her head in the suitcase? Maybe they’d think she was a magician or that shed killed her twin. Did she have a twin? Maybe she was hallucinating.

 

Another pounding shook the walls. They weren’t the only ones who wanted answers, she thought. She wanted them too and she was ready to face whatever this was, no matter how terrifying.

 

She ran back into the other room. The panes trembled and there was a deep rolling under the floor. A massive shadow stood outside the door.

“I want my merchandise!” its horrific voice yelled.

 

Hunter froze, her mind unraveling, as the door blew off and the panes flew out with a force that sucked her into the air and threw her against a wall, falling at the shadow’s feet.

“I like it when my commodities deliver themselves in pieces,” the voice blasted.

 

And suddenly Hunter understood. It all came back to her in a flash. She’d done one bad thing after another her whole life. Shed been on one long trip to Hell, and someone had made sure shed get there quickly possibly her husband.

 

She, a humble ghost, had delivered her own head to the Almighty Fallen Angel. She had arrived…

 

©kym darkly

 

 

VERY DARK THINGS…

©Tanya Grout

What everyone saw was a shining, articulate woman holding it all together – living her dream: the talk shows, the brilliant performances, the book release. She’d made millions. She was beautiful and smart. She made people laugh; yet behind that glossy image, a nightmare was beginning to unfold.

It was the fast insanity of it all, the dragging of her mind into a quicksand of Hell-bound thoughts. How could this happen: laughing one minute, desperate and lost in the next?

This thing that had crawled into her in the middle of the night was sucking on her soul, draining her life force, and was taking her down, fast! It had burrowed a hole inside that nothing could fill, had manufactured a terrifying emptiness, a darkness, an excruciating migraine of madness.

Was it a demon, a creature, a ghost?

Who could she ask? They would think her crazy. She’d become tabloid fodder, a joke. She would lose her reputation – lose it all. She knew she was sick, but she felt so alone.

Lee looked at the bottle of pills in her hand. It would be so easy: one snap decision to stop the suffering and just like that she’d be gone. Another celebrity overdose – an addict they’d call her, just like they did with all the others. But they’d be wrong and this thing would just move into someone else…

 

©kym darkly

THE DAMNED…

©Tanya Grout

It didn’t come with horns or cloven feet. It had come with a briefcase and in a crisp suit – with sublime sayings it had learned as would a psychopath, a predator. The creature had deceived with gifts, charm, and a moonlit swim, yet it had transformed while I slept over night, back into what it was…

Eighteen feet tall and burning alive with awesome anger, just that one hand clasped and thrust my cracking thorax twenty feet into the air. I instantly knew this beast was him: “the suit.” It had the same cold, ice eyes. The ones I should have fled from, ones I had seen before in others.

Its nails dug in deep like a clamp: how much blood could issue from a desire to break free, to wriggle from its grasp, away from that endless inner darkness?

Exquisite pain ripped through my chest, just a beat before the Devil that it was pierced this Teflon cage of ribs and flesh to freshly break my heart.

Would I ever again have the chance to run before it all got started, to detect the sickness of the monster before it mainlined poison into my soul? Or was I destined to live this eternity sweet-talked through an endless cycle of Hell… and more Hell?

© kym darkly