Thursday, 18 June 2009
LITTLE POCKETS OF HELL - by Lee Hughes
LITTLE POCKETS OF HELL
Heaven, it is a strange place. A land hidden from the living and kept aside for the good folk when they ventured into the valley of death. Benny knew it to be a place built on the foundations of rumour and fear. For some it was a place for forgiveness. Whilst for the unlucky it closed up its doors and pretended no one was home. Benny didn't put any stock in heaven and hated what its honcho had done to his own family.
Hell, he hated that too for welcoming his mother and putting her through things that he didn't want to think about. Hell, Benny knew, was the place where the bad folk went that didn't ask for forgiveness. Father Sullivan had given him all the education he needed. The murderers, gamblers, whores, rapists and the gays that didn't say sorry forever burnt in Hell.
His mother was in Hell but shouldn't be. Father Sullivan had told him enough times though that Hell was where she was. And she was being punished for the evil that she had done. Benny cried that night as he lay in pain and wondered when Father Sullivan was going to get his punishment. But it wasn't for his sore insides that he wept, it was for his mother.
Now a man, in his own eyes. At seventeen and a bit years old. Benny nailed shut the doors of community centre. He'd been around earlier in the day and done the same with the fire-exit.
Twelve years ago...
Benjamin lay upon his belly. The sun shone in through the bay-window and doused him in its light. In each hand he gripped a small soldier. Both warriors were in the midst of killing each other, all in the name of glory. Wet gunshot noises fired from the barrel of Benjamin’s mouth.
A fatal shot was delivered by the right-hand soldier. The left-hand soldier was dead and hastily removed from the heat of the battle. Benjamin cast the fallen to the carpet where it lay with the rest of the dead. The soldier's final resting place was a patterned killing field.
Ben grabbed up a fresh soldier and ordered him into battle. But before there could be another casualty of war, a shadow, one long and familiar cast itself before him creating a ceasefire.
Benjamin looked up and smiled at his mother who stood in the doorway clutching a tumbler of golden liquid. A drink which he himself was never permitted to drink, but one which his mother always seemed to have close to hand. She smiled, her lips curved into a dreamy smile and her eyes were distant and glazed. Her gaze was trained upon her five year old boy, but yet she seemed to stare straight through him.
"Do you want to play a game Benjamin?"
His little eyes lit up. For Mummy never wanted to play games with him anymore. He was speechless and found that all he could do was to nod enthusiastically.
She turned and walked away. Benjamin tossed aside his toys and scrambled after her. She headed up the stairs. Her flowery summer dress billowed about her ankles with each step taken. Benjamin was mesmerised by her long tawny hair as it flowed around her shoulders.
In silence he followed. Not wanting to say anything which might make his mother angry and stop her from wanting to be his playmate. For this was indeed a rare treat. She led him to the master bedroom. She directed Benjamin over to a chair by the window.
"Sit down over there," she said.
And without question Benjamin did as she bid. In silence he watched as she picked up a length of rope from the floor. He remained silent when she began to bind him to the chair. He was puzzled. But even when the rope became so tight it hurt he didn’t say a single thing. There had to be a reason. It had to be part of the game that his mother wanted them both to play.
Once he was secured she gracefully went to the dresser. She picked up her glass and took a long drink from it. She had long since become immune to its burn. She looked euphoric as she swallowed the bourbon. He watched as his mother picked up the chair from the dresser and carried it over to the door. With a movement that was ladylike she raised one leg, but just enough so that she could free the sandal from it. She did the same with the other foot. Absently Benjamin’s mother cast one sandal aside and kept the other as she climbed up onto the chair.
Benjamin’s face was one of confusion. That slowly changed to unease that turned to fear as he watched his mother take her sandal and smash the arched window above the door frame.
The immediate smash was loud. The noises that followed were quieter. Little tinkles as the shards rained down upon the wooden flooring. His mother stepped down from the chair and didn’t seem to care as she stepped upon the broken glass. Shards pierced the soles of her feet. She walked across the room. Benjamin could only watch the tracks that her bare and ruined feet made. Bloody footprints dogged her as she came towards him. Benjamin wanted to cry but had forgotten how. She lowered herself down until her face was at his eye level.
"You look like him you know. Every day you look a little more like him...and I can’t bear it, I don’t want to see you turn into him, would you be the same as him Benjamin? would you leave me too?...would you?"
She didn’t wait for an answer she was on the move again. She went back over to the dresser. She tinkered with the small record player. Settling the needle into place and then closing her eyes as the music started. Hearing it now and also hearing it at another time. A time in the past, a time where once she had danced to it with a man that she dearly loved.
She opened her eyes, focused them as best as she could through the new tears and old drink. She didn’t see Benjamin, she saw Jonathon.
"Why did you go Jonathon? Why did you desert me?"
The tears grew thicker until they spilled the banks of her lids. She moved closer to Benjamin, creating more crimson tracks behind her.
"Was it because of Benjamin? Did you leave because of him?" Her focus changed. It sharpened a little, her tone did the same as she saw Benjamin once more.
"He left me because of you Benjamin. He left because of you, because you came into our lives, he left mine."
She struck him. It was open-handed but it was hard enough to draw blood from his quivering bottom lip. He still couldn’t find a voice, shock was setting in. Her eyes hardened.
"You must be punished, you must be."
Her words made Benjamin’s eyes widen. She straightened up and made another row of bloody tattoos upon the floor. She picked up more rope. This piece had a simple looking noose at one end. She climbed the chair then looped the plain end of the rope through where the glass had once been housed and tied it off in a simple knot. Absently she checked the length of the rope before dipping her head through. She tightened the noose.
All the while she stared at Benjamin who couldn’t take his own eyes away from the madness in hers. He watched as she kicked the chair away. He watched her drop. She didn’t drop far before the rope caught her and caused her to dangle. The fall was nowhere near long enough to break her neck. She was choking. Her eyes bulged and her tongue stuck out as far as it could.
Benjamin stared as his mother thrashed about as though fitting. He watched as she pissed herself. He watched until she finally stilled. It was only then that he managed to snap his eyes shut. The torment did not end with the darkness he created. His hearing became sharper and he could hear the pitter-patter of blood and urine as it dripped from her toes to land upon the floor.
For four long hours he was forced to endure that before he was found.
Benny wiped away the tears of remembrance as he began to pour the petrol through the letterbox. A full tenner's worth flowed through. Benny lit the match and only had to throw it near the door for the petrol to light.
The community centre on a Wednesday night was where the dirty gamblers went to talk to one another about not being bad again. But saying that you would not gamble was different to saying sorry to God. Hell would still welcome them. Tonight Hell would get fourteen new sinners and it would lose one prisoner of circumstance.
Benny thumped his temples to steady his fury. It only took small thoughts of his mother in Hell, the Catholic priest that raped him and all the times he was told that suicides went to Hell. A normal murderer could get forgiveness for killing another. It was impossible to ask for forgiveness for self murder, you were too dead to relent.
The flames began to chew on the insides of the building. He could hear the calls for help. The thumping on the emergency exit. He could imagine the alarms being smashed inside and the silence that would ensue. The sky above the building began to wear a hat of thick smoke. The sinners inside had begun to try and break the windows in silly bids to escape. The windows wouldn't break, the council had seen to that to stop the vandals.
Benny could feel Hell coming to claim its new inmates. He could feel the swelling evil erupt with brazen disregard for anything and everything. Benny had opened up a little pocket of Hell and now was the time to make things right.
The door was weakened from the heat and the flames. Benny ran at it and shouldered it. He bounced off it. The shoulder of his coat smoldered through the heat. He ran at the door again. This time it gave and the building admitted him into its furnace.
Without thought he ran deeper into the flames, all the while calling for his mother. He passed by bodies of sinners, some unconscious and some dead. The fire was everywhere, lapping at the walls, crawling on orange-red bellies across the carpets. A swarm of frenzied death looking for more to eat. His lungs shrivelled as the heat sucked the air from them.
This was Hell, he had waited years for this rescue. The flames danced around him. He could see his mother. Summer dress and long hair all. Hands of flames pushed him towards her, tendrils of smoke sang at his melting ears. Murderer, Murderer, Murderer was their chorus. The welcoming song of Pandemonium carried him to his eternity.
Lee Hughes has had his short fiction published on Thrillers, Killers 'n' Chillers, A Twist of Noir, MicroHorror and in Cern Zoo: Nemonymous 9. He currently lives on the Isle of Man with his wife.