“There are worse things in life than death.” It’s true, at least for me anyway. I don’t even know how long it’s been. I’ve lost count of the days and stopped caring really. There’s no hope of leaving this place; truth be told, alive or dead, and in all honesty, I’d rather the latter.
My name is Edward Croix. I used to be a pawn in the vast game called Wall Street. I was married, had kids, had a nice house with a white picket fence…I can almost barely remember my past life before being taken. All I know is I had it all, I wanted more, and that led to me being here.
There is little to no light in here. I can’t see my hands, hell, I can’t even tell if my eyes are open. All around me, the darkness plays its tricks on me, but the shadows are my only company. I have no real clothing on, save for my underwear…if there was much of that left. It’s probably more like a loin cloth now, I guess. There’s no nearby lakes, bodies of water. No railways, highways, or other things to distinguish exactly where the hell I am. It’s just cold and dark.
Certainly, I’d rather be elsewhere, anywhere in fact, but here even in a grave. You may be wondering where I am? What kind of predicament am I in? I honestly haven’t an answer that could make sense; other than that I believe Hell could be a lot more of a lovely retreat than where I am. There are screams all around me from people. I can hear kids crying, screaming. There’s blood dripping off the equipment they use to torture folks. They even have animals; dogs, cats, and only God knows what else to fuel their sick, demented wheel of torment.
At times, I suppose it’d be night? Well, at night time, they gather up the ‘lucky few’—as they call them—and moments later you can hear this heinous and atrocious whirling sound—like a blender, or a grinder. I’d press my face up against the cold metal door, trying to peek in the small sliver of a crack, down the hall at the ever-so-warm light at the end of the corridor. For a moment, you hear them all clamoring, screaming, begging for their lives, and then a few seconds later—nothing. Nothing but soggy meat sloshing around. To which, I suppose that’s probably what they feed us. Typically, I can hear someone whistling a tune while he makes the makeshift meatloaf. It’s catchy really. Sometimes I feel tempted to whistle along with, but I guess that would be bad practice.
I have no cellmate. No one to converse with over our shared fate. They like us weak. In fact, they like to break our ankles, our feet, our knee caps—and for good measure, cut our Achilles’ tendon. You eventually become accustomed to crawling around. Once, someone tried to strangle one of the guys when they brought food. Props to them…they killed one of the bastards, but they got a one-way ticket to the chef’s choice platter. From what I could hear, they strung the guy up; limb by limb gave him a saline bag and started dismembering him piece by piece. Each time, they’d cauterize the wounds. The guy had a hell of a will to live, I’ll say.
Eventually, they severed his genitals and his tongue…and well…had fun with his orifices using said items. I’d like to think he passed before then, but I don’t know. They probably had fun further defecating, desecrating and fornicating with the poor saps dismembered body.
You’d think that being kept in the dark; you’d not be able to picture things so vividly. However, you hear things, smell things—God, do you smell things, taste things…and you can see clear in the night; the things that go more than bump in the night. You never see their faces. You never see anyone’s face—not even your own. Well, I suppose that’s not entirely true. There was a guy named Keith, good guy, I guess. Well, he had a bad run in with one of the guys. Apparently, there was an exchange of some sexual favors and well…one of the supers caught wind of things and didn’t like the idea of one of the guys spoiling the goods for The Boss. Seeing as he liked his keep fresh, and somewhat clean—least of STDs. Well, old Keith and the one guy had a face swap. The Doc, as he was called, came in and had a field day. He took a box cutter and made Keith’s face come off, and swapped it with the one guy’s. It was a good several hours of screaming. I didn’t get sleep that night. Last I remembered, they wanted to have some more fun with their bodies, but The Boss got tired of it all and ordered them to be tossed into the burn pit.
The women were treated the worst here. Most were slaves: either for sex, ‘housework’, more sex, entertainment [did I mention sex?], and the cruel bearing of The Boss’ bastard children. It didn’t matter to them if they were fat, skinny, big titted, big assed, small and tight, tiny, tall. They were all meat…for pleasure and nourishment. Rape was, of course, standard. They’d have massive orgies in The Boss’ lair, dinner parties…I’m using ‘dinner’ lightly here. They’d have wrestling matches, stripteases, and other typical outside events; just with a slight twist where the loser would be devoured by either animals, ghouls—which was a horrendous fate in itself, or be dragged to the chef to do as he pleased.
The children…Mother of God…the things they’d make the children do, participate in, brainwash them to become…I get so furious! If there were anything worthwhile in here for me to do, it’d be to slay all these bastards, and at the very least, free the kids. They make them perform heinous acts, lewd and crude. They rape them. They make brothers and sisters copulate against their will, and join them. If I ever can get out of here, I will make them all pay!
What’s the use? All the anger I possess, all the seething hatred I have for this place and the last small sliver of the will to live I possess is nothing. I am nothing. I should just kill myself. No…no, I can’t do that. I’ve tried a few times, but they always have a way to revive you. I guess I just wasn’t trying hard enough.
Days pass like water, and still here I am. Locked up. Hungry. Alone. Furious. Depressed. Hellbent. Murderous. I’ve had some dreams as of late. Ones where I walk again, fleet-footed in fact. I tear open and spill the blood of my captors, and free the oppressed. It’s a glorious dream. Sometimes, I have dreams of my past life: kids, wife, all of the good times. I miss my kids. I miss my wife. I don’t even know if they’re alive anymore. Once, they had tried to break me by torturing and killing a woman, and two kids in front of me. I knew it wasn’t them. I knew they were coaxed into screaming my name, and saying “Daddy!” I am anything but stupid. Though, still I felt sorry for the women and children, and their broken family. However, I wasn’t going to be broken. It had been some time since then. I forget how much time had passed. I think it was six months or a year now. I’ll admit I cried for them, but not the way they wanted me to, but because of the loss of innocence.
Someone’s coming! Heavy footsteps…It’s The Boss! The Boss was a giant of a man, at least, his shadow was. It’s always so dark…so, so very dark. His voice was deep and raspy; sounded like he was from the Deep South. I could faintly see his Cheshire smile, “Let’s get you out, stretch your legs a bit.”
I looked about and saw two shadows of men come into my cell and motion for me. I just sat there. I didn’t care. However, I was intrigued as to what my fate would become. They drug me down the corridor, towards that lovely glow…and here I was beginning to think it was my end. Voices whispered, heavy breathing from rooms here and there. Some cried, some laughed. It was a mad house.
They brought me to a stone room where a large wrought iron brazier flickered wildly in the center. The fluorescent lights from above hurt my eyes something fierce. The sat me down on a wooden bench. Comfortable, I thought. There were stretching boards, makeshift crosses, bloody barrels, an iron maiden, and countless other torture paraphernalia. On a solid oak bloodstained table, there was a bone saw, pliers, crowbar, baseball bat, drills, needles, a handgun. A handgun! I couldn’t take my eyes off that instrument of salvation. I glanced at it only momentarily, noting its presence, and my brilliant mind began imagining the way to break free.
The Boss was an older white fellow, long black matted hair, and goatee. He was relatively fit, at least in the arms. He had a big gut that protruded under his dingy white t-shirt. He wiped his hands on his bloodstained blue jeans, further adding to the makeshift paint job. He knelt down before me, peering at me with his icy blue eyes—the flames flickering fiercely to match his crazy. “Do you know why you’re here?”
I cocked my head slightly, pondering, and seemingly being the smart ass I was. “No, sir, but it’s something that I’ve always wanted to know since you placed me in this hell hole. Would you mind enlightening me?”
The Boss smiled an ice cream smile. “You got a smart mouth there, boy. You know what’ll happen if you run it too much, right?”
I shrugged, “Well, shucks, Boss, ya got me there! I reckon you’d string me up and fuck me in the ass with a two-by-four, and then throw me on the fire rack, or some shit!”
The Boss and the guys had a laugh. I’ll admit it; I did too. “Well, well, you’re still quite the firecracker, even after all this time. I’ll tell you what. You can keep your tongue…” The Boss motioned towards me, reaching behind and pulling out a Bowie knife. “But I am going to take one of your fingers. Do you know what I am going to do with that finger?”
“Guessing shove it up your ass, and either force feed it to me, or shove it up my ass, or some dosey doe, Cotton-eyed Joe.” I instantly followed up. I didn’t care. There was nothing they could do to me that could break me. Not anymore.
“Ha ha, hmm. Yes, sir, you’re a tough one.” The Boss sneered, “I wonder, though, if you’ll be so tough,” he stood up and motioned for his lackeys, “when I start your fire.”
One of the guys handed The Boss a gas can. He doused me with the entire contents and then struck a match. “Any last words, boy?”
I smiled, proudly, profoundly. “I’ll see you in Hell, you son of a bitch.”
“Fair enough,” he replied.
At that moment, as that match fell to meet with me, igniting my fiery fate. I knew whatever strength I possessed left, whatever will there was…I had to make this chance, this final attack count. I had to make good on my premise. The gun was still within reach, and though my legs were crippled and mangled, I had grown accustomed to being nimble on them. I sprung from the bench made my move—going for the handgun. The match fell and ignited the bench; with the trail of fire leaping in hot pursuit. The guys slowly motioned to interrupt my efforts, as did The Boss. In fact, he was able to get a good stab in my side, but that wasn’t good enough to save him…any of them. I grabbed my instrument of retribution, and fired several shots at the guys and The Boss; each had three in the gut, and a lovely hole between the eyes.
The flames had caught up by now. Burnt flesh smells horrible as does burnt hair. Albeit, I’d rather the smell any day than the incredible amount of pain it sent me into. There was one thing I was always thankful for; I always had a plan. You see, when I came into the room, I spotted a trough with water. They guys liked to do the whole…waterboarding, CIA type thing, dunk people, etc. In a fiery bolt, I dashed and plummeted into that vat of relief. It still hurt like hell (putting it mildly), but it was better than still being on fire. When I got out of the trough, the pain had remained consistent, but adrenaline was fueling the fire within. There was still work to be done.
I began by gathering scraps of clothing that were littered all around the room and soaked them in the water before wrapping my body diligently. Granted, some of the guys had wandered their way down to the chamber to see what the fuss was about because firing a firearm does that…and it sucks when you don’t have a suppressor. I was no MacGyver, by any means. I was just proficient…in eradicating my tormentors, and hopefully getting the hell out of this place. So a pair of the guys came in, and I did the only thing I could think of to make sure I didn’t miss; play possum. It is surprising how many goons fall for that trick. I mean, I always thought it was hilarious in movies; or where you’re sitting there watching, and you’re like ‘Don’t move! Play dead! Go for the surprise!’ kind of deal. I also suppose it’s a bit sad for those lunkheads. In a way but to Hell with them. They asked for it by all the monstrosities and atrocities they had committed. I laid sprawled on the floor, the gun under my leg. That’s it, take a few more steps you dumb thick fu—. A few shots and they both went down. I’ll admit, I laughed and was amazed at myself and also the artistry of the way they both landed; one’s head in the other’s crotch. I felt the need to say something witty, but I had slightly more pressing matters to tend to.
As I ‘walked’ to the exit of the room, armed to the teeth with all my captor’s weapons of choice, I thought of how I was going to go about fleeing. Do I unlock all the cells and free the people now? Do I kill everyone that dares attack me? Do I flee and get help from the authorities? There were so many scenarios and problematic instances with each one…my head began to ache. I figured, ‘let’s just play it by ear.’
After some more thought, I figured “let’s let the bulls run.” I began opening the locks with haste. I could hear footsteps; they were rushing down the stairs from the crucible above. The people screamed…oh, did the scream! Such cries for bloody vengeance. A few of them darted for the torture room to arm themselves, while others fled to the stairs. It was there, where the guys met the tidal wave of retribution. The now-freed-captives butchered their captors; smashing their heads against the stone stairs, the stoned walls, each other. Hell, some of the people even tore their tormentor’s throats out; either with their bare hands, or teeth. The sight didn’t disturb me as I watched on wielding the flashlight. In fact, I smiled at their disfiguring and dismembering.
I roamed down the corridor, stepping over the bodies of the fallen captors. Some even pleaded for help! Ha! The folks would take care of those left behind, or let them die their just deserved slow and painful death. Soon I’d finally find my way to the arena….and boy oh boy, was it in sheer chaos. It was glorious! Doors and pens for the dogs, pigs, and other animals burst open. Dogs turned on their masters, tearing out their throats, clawing out their eyes, tearing their limbs off. Pigs swarmed the Herder, trampling and devouring him. Rats swarmed their master, Timmy Dementia; gnawing on his face, eyes, nose, ears, and body. Crows flocked and swarmed their former masters; pecking out their eyes, tongues, and lips. The lions, tigers, and bears roared fiercely as they saluted, and slaughtered The Pink Brothers. There were people everywhere. It was an arena jammed full of people spilling each other’s blood. It was absolute chaos, anarchy…revenge. It was…beautiful.
As I made my way across the crucible, there came a man’s boisterous voice over the PA system. “Spoiled little children! I give you a home, food, water, and a place to sleep—and this is how you repay me? No, no, there will be none of this! No more, I say! Those of you that return to your cells may be forgiven, but if you do not. . .if you do not obey your lord, and master—” the voice trailed off, to the sound of a series of mechanical whirls that filled the arena. Time seemed to slow down, to me at least. The arena erupted into a horrendous growl of gunfire. Bullets ripped through people and beasts alike. I ‘ran’ as fast as I was able to. Screams, horrifying cries, and blood filled the crucible. I did not know who this…lord and master were. Maybe someone had assumed the mantle over The Boss? Maybe there was already a coup d’état in place, and I just fouled things up? Whatever the case, I was royally fucked, and hiding under a dead black bear. I watched women, children, man, and beast get torn to pieces with the explosive onslaught. After about a minute, the gunfire stopped.
The arena erupted into a horrendous growl of gunfire. Bullets ripped through people and beasts alike. I ‘ran’ as fast as I was able to. Screams, horrifying cries, and blood filled the crucible. I did not know who this…lord and master were. Maybe someone had assumed the mantle over The Boss? Maybe there was already a coup d’état in place, and I just fouled things up? Whatever the case, I was royally fucked, and hiding under a dead black bear. I watched women, children, man, and beast get torn to pieces with the explosive onslaught. After about a minute, the gunfire stopped.
The voice then spoke again over the PA system. “Disobedient children…look at what you’ve made me do?!” The voice then sighed, “No matter. You are all forgiven. As I am a loving, kind, and gentle lord, and master. However, it will take some time to rebuild—” the voice then seemed to go off on a distant and not-all-there, kind of rant.
The man was old. Really old. I looked around the crucible to see if I could find out where they were; the thought of perhaps dispatching them from afar came to mind. I didn’t see any of the guys around. I also hoped that maybe some folk either still lived downstairs, or had already pressed on; escaping this hellish prison. As I wondered and pondered, there came the voice next to me…my opportunity, my wish granted!
“And you, dear child, you are the catalyst in this rebellion?” Spoke the very old, frail man. He was bald, with pure white tufts of hair that peppered the back of his scalp, and formed his beard. His eyes blue; rich and pure, like a fresh, clear spring day. He was dressed in a golden robe and worn sandals. He held his weight on a solid brown oak staff. I was awestruck, that such an old man was so malevolent and cruel.
“I never wanted to be taken. I am only trying to go home—to find my wife and kids.” I replied, pushing the bear’s dead body off me.
The old man nodded. “None of us are ever asked to be taken, my dear boy. We are all the same as we come in, and the same when we leave. Nothing more, nothing less.”
I was puzzled by the old man’s way with words. “What do you mean?”
He turned and took a few steps, kneeling beside the barely breathing bear. “You see this beast?” I nodded. “His name was Johan. He has been born several thousand times, and soon will be again.” He patted the bear’s head, “Rest, my child, rest.” The bear then took its final breath. The old man stood once again, straight and true. “I could name all of these animals and people…even you, Edward.”
“I…I don’t understand. You are talking madness!”
“Yes, yes, I suppose. However, I ask you this. You have no memories of being taken, do you not?”
“I…it’s all a blur. I can’t really.” I shook my head. It began to ache tremendously.
“What you remember, are the bits and pieces.” The old man smiled. “You see, when we are taken, we lose fragments of our mind…our memories. Only when we are free, do we see everything clearly; the whole picture comes into focus, the movie played without the intermissions.” He grunted as he sat down before me.
I began to weep. “All the pain…all of the suffering. What did you have them do to us?!”
Still did the old man smile. “I had them do nothing that life hadn’t prepared for you already. These people died needlessly…however, they didn’t die needlessly.”
“Why do you speak in riddles?! You are making no sense,” I yelled at him as I collapsed to my knees.
“You claim Hell would offer much respite, and yet, you claimed to suffer tremendously here; feeling the suffering of others—their hate, anger, sadness, despair—such emotions and actions that you shared with both victim, and murderer. You’ve created this world. You alone. You. Are. Alone.”
As the words seemed to ring like a thunderous gong, the people and beasts disappeared. Everything faded until it was just the old man and me under the warm, vibrant sunlight, on a tall grassy hill. “I understand now.”
The old man smiled brightly. “You needn’t hang on anymore, Edward. You are free to go home whenever you want. You needn’t build a prison to confine yourself to. You can stay and fight, and perhaps…perhaps awaken. Awaken to another fight. Or you can make peace with yourself. Let the guilt, the pain, and end your suffering that you’ve endured for all these years.”
I remembered it all…I was in a car accident some time ago with my wife and kids—the kids were killed by a drunk driver, while I remained in a coma…for how long, I don’t know. My wife would come to visit time to time…but she took her life at my bedside. My eyes were always open to the truth, but it hurt so bad that I eventually had closed them after that because the world outside could no longer offer me comfort.
“Home…” I had long since forgotten the meaning. I cried a little bit. “You know me all too well, stranger, but I haven’t the foggiest of who you are.”
The old man smiled brilliantly, “Death knows no strangers, my boy.”
I looked up to the sun, its warmth so inviting. I knew it was a lie, but I knew where I was going. “I’d like to go home then.”
The old man nodded and sat there. “Soon you shall.”
I closed my eyes, as a gentle breeze wafted over my body. A perplexed kaleidoscope of memories of mine own, and those of my past existences came to one; the beginning, and now the end…at least this time around. As it came to a close—the encroaching darkness that would be only for a minute—there I saw the three faces I could only ever know. For I would soon be home.
In the outside world, the machines that helped sustain life beeped maniacally; sounding the alarm at the races—known as life. Doctors, nurses, and other hospital personnel rushed to save the male adult named Edward Croix. He died on a Monday, at 3:18 pm. He was 46.
Robert J. S. T. McCartney
A.B.Normal Publishing and Media Group