This story is by Jesse Robert Zabel and was part of our 2019 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
A pungent stench is the first thing I noticed upon regaining consciousness. The ground below me was cold and hard. Darkness was the only thing I could see in this dreadful room, except for a thin horizontal crack in the wall, shining the tiniest light onto the floor. How long had I been in this place? My memory was lost, but a familiar horror welled up inside me.
I realized that my hands and feet were bound, and that I could not move. I tried to scream, but I could force nothing but a desperate grunt from my mouth. I bit my tongue to see if this was even real. The pain was sharp, now I knew this was no dream.
The room was cold, yet I could feel my body temperature rise along with my sense of panic. The anxiety of the moment shook me. So many questions, yet I couldn’t even bring words to my lips. A disturbing thought penetrated my mind. If I couldn’t speak, did I even have lips?
With all the strength I could muster, I pushed my body from the ground and upright against a wall. The wall was just as cold and hard as the floor had been, but sitting up had made the panic subside momentarily. It came back as quick as it left when I noticed movement. Something had passed on the other side of the crack in the wall. Then the light that shone in started to change. It turned the color of blood and leaked into the room splashing the floor. The crack slowly grew wider, and the red light crawled along the floor until it shone just in front of me. I inched away from it, knowing its intentions to be impure, until I was sideways against the wall.
The deep red shone down onto the concrete and as it did vapors rose from it, as if just the touch of this evil light could heat stone. If it did that to stone, what could it do to skin? I pictured a man melting like an ice cream cone might on a hot day. That horrible thought stuck with me and I went for a scream.
Again nothing but grunts and air. I could not speak. Had I ever spoken before? I know the words, but now I’m unsure. Then I saw them. Eyes, so many eyes! Where the vapors were rising were eyes!
The crack had grown wider now and the light crept along the walls, coming closer to my being with every second. The eyes all focused on me and dread gripped my soul. I thought maybe I’d die of fright. These eyes could see right through me and they stared, judged, and blinked. There was nothing I could do but watch in horror as eyeball after eyeball emerged from the wall. As if the walls were sand and the eyes were worms, un-burrowing for the first time in years.
These eyes looked at me with contempt. They were getting closer, a new one emerging every second. Then I noticed a different set of eyes, even more sinister than the wall demons. These were bigger and gazed upon my condition from beyond the crack in the wall. A great and deep laughter came from this thing beyond the room, and it brought its mouth up to show me its satisfied grin.
That laughter boomed and echoed off the walls, and bounced around in my mind, making it impossible to think straight. The eyes looked back and forth frantically. Even they looked terrified for they lacked the focus they once had.
I heard shouts outside the room that quickly turned to anguished screams. From both the wall to my left and my right something pounded heavily on the other side.
Oh the noises that followed were worse than the screams and laughter. The shouts that had turned to screams had morphed, turning into something altogether inhuman. A sort of gurgling sound. I realized with a fear unknown to me, someone was drowning. Those gargles had been the sound of a man gasping for air. It, as well as the pounding, came from both sides. Then suddenly all was quiet.
A silence hung on the air even louder than the screams that preceded it. The light had crept up around me. The entire room was illuminated and I could see what bound me: snakes. All around my body, these snakes had coiled into my restraints. They interlocked with each other, and now noticing that I know what they are, they squeezed me tight until I could hardly breathe. The laughter boomed again. Each laugh echoed louder than the last, and then one by one the eyeballs exploded.
Blood rained down from the holes where the eyes had been, and splattered the walls in gore. I bit down on my tongue as hard as I could. This scene was too much and I wanted out. So, I bit down hard and with a fury. Blood rushed into my mouth, much like it had rained onto the floor moments before. Why was I here? What made me deserve this agony? The only way out was death and this was my only chance.
Where the eyes had been a fire sprung forth. The room filled quickly with smoke and flames. I felt my skin get so hot I thought for sure I’d roast and melt away. This was my end, my time to go. I don’t know why or how I came to be in this room of terrors, but I felt sure I would perish here. Even the snakes were afraid and they tightened even more. This I would wish on no one.
Abruptly the laughter ended and the crack closed shut. The red light left the room but the fires illuminated my demise. Death couldn’t come soon enough and I welcomed it.
The wall in front of me slid aside, and the red light filled the room once more. A great thud sounded out and in the entrance to this, my personal hell, was a great demon smiling down on my pathetic existence. It was massive, with the head of a goat and great horns, lined with gold and diamond, sprouting from his skull. It grinned its evil at me and strode into the fiery hell pit I was in. Hairy was this demon, and in it’s oversized arms it held a syringe as large as my own body.
The beast ignored the flames that licked it’s fur and walked up to me. It bent down to look into my eyes. I finally mustered up a scream, but it was drowned out by the booming laughter I so dreaded. In the syringe was what appeared to be magma. Now I would melt from the inside as well!
Confusion and fear raced through my warped mind. I cried my final tears as the demon thrust his needle deep into my neck. He pressed down on the plunger and I felt it inside me. Coursing through my veins, the hottest heat I’ve ever known, and it emanated from within me. I closed my eyes to drift into death, but it never came. All I could feel was despair.
I opened my eyes and the demon had become a man. The man was holding a syringe, but it was not giant like before. The red light was white light now and the holes were gone. I tried to speak, but my mouth was covered in some kind of muzzle. The snakes on my body had become a jacket that bound me together tight. The man looked at me and laughed at my horror and confusion.
“Sorry I was late Frankie. I know how you can get without your medicine. Look at you! You’re bleeding everywhere.” said the man who had just been a monster. I looked around again and now I knew I was in prison. The crack had been a window to my cell. Now I knew this was solitary confinement. The stench I had smelled before was other inmates smearing feces on the walls, or overflowing their toilets. The screams had been their punishment.
I realized now that I’m trapped and after all I’ve seen I don’t get to enjoy the release of death. Instead I’ll have those visions and those torments again and for the rest of time, until my body gives out and I can rest. I long for the day I escape this room and my own mind to embrace the darkness.
Only death will give me freedom and I pray for it now and forever.