Bogleech.com's 2018 Horror Write-off:
Submitted by Anonymous Anomaly
The woman’s mangled corpse wormed through a crack in the door. Liam took several steps back as her torso twisted and her exposed back scissored open, revealing clusters of teratomic molars.
“You! You left me to die!” Her pale mutilated head flopped around on a broken neck. “You killed me!”
He gripped the axe handle tighter. “I killed no one.”
The woman rose to her full height, limbs and body stretching to give the impression of a massive bony snake. Her back was a massive mandible ready to engulf him… or snap him in two. “Yessss! You! You killed me!”
“I did nothing!” He screamed back. “In case you haven’t realized, we’re BOTH in hell!”
The woman’s writhing ceased.
“Look at yourself! Look at me!” Liam gestured to his own broken form, splintered through with bony spikes like a horrible sea urchin. “You think any of this is normal? There’s a god damn ceiling fan swimming through the hallway! See for yourself!”
“Hey!” Something called back. “Go fuck yourself! I paid for this hallway fair and square!”
Liam grimaced. “And he’s a smartass too.”
The woman’s bones creaked as she swayed in place, then her body slowly reverted its distortions as her wrath dissipated. Her broken, monstrous form was a far cry from a human body, but it was closer than whatever she had just been. “So… you didn’t kill me?”
“Listen honey, I don’t even know who you are.” Liam’s axe-hand gestured wildly. “But I’ve been around the block enough to know what this is, and you’ve haunted the wrong guy. I would be well within my rights to sue you for soul violation.”
Her pupils dilated. “You can do that in hell?”
Liam leered. “You wanna find out?”
The woman squeezed herself back into the wooden crack with a squelch, and was gone. “Watch it, you dizzy ingrate!” said a very territorial ceiling fan. Liam reclined and lit one end of a stick. His lungs no longer worked, of course. How could they with all those spikes? But old habits died hard, and there was something about having an object at least resembling a cigarette that calmed the nerves. In that way, he supposed old habits were actually immortal.
No sooner had he begun relaxing than the door opened and a new figure came in: a slimy, gangrenous man with a dripping sore of a face and eerily long teeth. “Pardon me” it rasped. “Did a teenage girl with back-teeth just drop by?”
Liam flicked away the burning stick. “Yep. Just missed her.”
‘Ah… I see. I need to find her. I have some gloating to do.” With that the man turned and Liam was left in peace for a second time.
Hell certainly took some getting used to. Liam shred his clothes and furniture on a daily basis, sometimes both at once! Having bone spikes jutting out of one’s body AND a bony axe for a hand wasn’t conducive to keeping everything around you intact. One or the other please, but not both. Many days Liam went around naked just to avoid the hassle. He was far from the only one. Hell wasn’t blisteringly hot, but it wasn’t regulated either.
He wasn’t sure where he was going. No one was. Hell was a lifeless cave filled with the deformed. There wasn’t really a reason to do anything ever. But people did anyway. The newer arrivals, at least. There was a general trend between age in hell years and apathy. The oldest arrivals were the ones sitting numbly, refusing to let anything count as stimulation. Dead in death. “Going DD”, they called it.
“Ahh! Liam! It’s so good to see you!” A legless little girl bounced up to him on a spring that looked much like an umbilical cord. There was a clear hole through the center of her head. “I haven’t seen your family in years!”
He ruffled the remains of her hair with his non-weaponized hand. “That’s because they ain’t dead yet kiddo.”
“Oh… right. Sorry, I know two Liams.”
“No you don’t, Bella. You’re a compulsive liar.”
She pouted, but ultimately relinquished. “You’re right… I always slip right back into my old ways. I wish I could just break that habit. How do these things follow us beyond the grave?”
“I don’t know. But they do. Take if from me.” Already his mind was craving another cigarette. It had been years since he had smelled a single thing, but the compulsion was as strong as ever. He thought a few years without actual drug intake would get rid of the compulsion, but it was stalwart.
“You think Hell just freezes our traits? Like we’ll be doing this stuff forever?”
“If that was the case, you’d still have the language of a preschooler, and all those DD’ers would be up and walking.”
“Yeah… I guess you’re right. Hey! HEY! Patrick! Is that you!? Wait up!” She bounced eagerly in the direction of a familiar gangrenous man. Liam felt like there was a story to be told here, but he didn’t bother following up. The years had made him more and more jaded. He knew he was ultimately very close to going DD. Of course he still talked and wandered and admittedly had fun, but DD’ing wasn’t a decision as much as a threshold. Consistent data proved his course was all but written in stone. If he were a more spiritual man he would have said it was destiny.
Well… apparently hell was real. He supposed all bets were off.
The vast black cavern extended in all directions, easily a world unto itself. Maybe several. Liam couldn’t help marvel at its cavernous interior, even as the sheer size ate away at his self esteem.
“Big place, isn’t it?” A man covered in boils and chitin stood beside him. One of his eyes simply didn’t exist. “Very vast. Kind of forces you to realise you’re a part of something greater.”
Liam scoffed. “That or our designer has a pretty sick sense of humor.” His axe hand thrust forward for emphasis.
The man nodded. “I don’t disagree. Sometimes you think you’re a cog in a brilliant machine, and the you find out the whole contraption’s a dump. We’re part of something greater. That don’t mean it’s divine.” The man laughed sadly at his little joke. “I’m close to going DD, what with this growing indifference and my debilitating physical form. I hate not having depth perception. It’s not fair.” For a minute the man’s remaining eye was hard and fiery, easy to imagine as the kind of eyes belonging to a murderer. “How come you’ve got most of your useful organs and I don’t, huh?”
Liam watched a massive stalactite shudder and crumble to dust. Such a beautiful creation, and it would never be seen quite the same way again. “It doesn’t matter what we look like. We all do the same thing one way or another. You’ll do it. Soon I’ll do it. Then my friends. We’ll all die inside hell.”
It took a minute for Liam to realize the man’s gurgling was a laugh. “You act like an expert on the subject.” But Liam didn’t join in. “I always thought that was the case. The dominant theory. I even fought against it in the beginning. But there’s a sort of clarity that comes with it. You realize the way things were meant to be. Going DD isn’t just a state of indifference. It’s an acceptance.
The man laughed again, then spit out a gob of blood. “I ain’t never felt any of that clarity.”
Liam smiled grimly and patted the man’s scaly back. “Then you’re in luck, my friend. You’ll live for a while longer yet.”
The man opened his mouth to say something, but never found the right words to express his thoughts. In the meantime Liam had already gotten up and walked off. He didn’t care about the ultimate conclusion of the dialogue. There were a lot of things he didn’t care about these days.
Liam trundled back to his shabby hotel room, acutely aware of the great cavern, and the emptiness it bred.
The couch welcomed Liam like an old friend, even after the numerous times he’d shredded its fabric. He abandoned all pretenses of caution and flopped into it, feeling his bone spikes dig into the thick cloth. At some point he was going to have to replace the thing before it became little more than dessicated framework. He was going to have to proof the room if he wanted to keep it decent for any reasonable length of time. But as he lay there pondering plans for renovation, he had to ask himself: what was the point? If he proofed his room, it was only so he could keep the illusion of civility, so he could go out and do something he had undoubtedly already done. So he could project earth customs in a cavern that ate away at them like acid on metal.
And it was at that very moment of vague anxiety and precursory speculation, that Liam felt the switch turn in his mind.
All of his worst fears about becoming lethargic and eternally lazy came to light. All the revulsion at the idea of being a braindead vegetable. He was aware of his growing disregard for the material world, but he was unable to find it alarming, not when finding something alarming was in itself a feeling. And yet Liam was not afraid, not even intellectually. There was nothing wrong with this. Far from it. People lived forever, so what if they entered an apathetic state likened to death? He didn’t care, and he suspected the others going DD didn’t either. They had an eternity to wait, and watch, and simply be. If at any moment things were to change, they would, and everyone would be there to see it. Perhaps going DD wasn’t even a final stage, but some precursor to a more abstract afterlife. Whatever the answer, Liam knew he would wait. He would wait as long as he needed.
Liam’s breathing faltered, slowed, and came to a stop. He did not move again.