Thursday 30 August 2012

HELL by Christopher Black

Another crackin' début, this time from Christopher who shows us his take on...  


I don’t believe in hell. 
Not the way the Bible tells it, anyway. The Big Man in the sky passing judgement, the Devil presiding over a seething lake of fire, punishing the souls of the wicked and the damned. I don’t have any faith. 
I mean, it’s the sort of thing we all think about, try to get straight in our heads. Well, I don’t believe in any of that. 
The road south is quiet at this time of night. A dual-carriageway, with the regular flash-flash-flash of streetlights. No sound outside but my tires humming on the road, and nothing much moving out in the darkness. I’m alone with my thoughts. Almost alone. 

No, I don’t believe there’s a hell waiting for us after we die, or heaven, or judgement. I reckon if we want to see any of that stuff then we have to make it for ourselves. 
What would hell on Earth be like? I think about a young woman, with everything going for her. A young woman cut down one night by a car out of control. A young woman with everything smashed out from under her. From the prime of life to half a life. That seems like hell to me. 
Turning out onto the country roads, low-hanging clouds and the still darkness mean I can’t see anything much at all beyond the twin ovals of my headlights. Not that I need to see much. I know where I’m going. I picked the place carefully. Everything was done with care and attention. 

I know exactly what’s waiting out there in the night. Low scrubby hills and gorse, ice age rocks carried south by sweeping glaciers a millennia ago, left to sit out eternity on this blasted moorland. 
I wind down all the windows. Not that I need the cold to keep me alert. I’m on edge as it is. The latex gloves feel strange between my skin and the wheel, but it doesn’t distract me. 
I know what’s out there in the darkness. Half a mile after the last wooden fence post I slow, looking for the rock and the bush, my signposts, the right turn, the crawling sheep track. Bouncing around now, the stones and the potholes punishing the suspension. Twisting through the scrub. 
Or the family. The people who loved her, forced to watch a bright, confident young woman destroyed. A sister who had everything stripped from her. A light extinguished. The people who failed to protect her. 
That’s another circle of hell. To watch her sliding down, stranded in that damned chair. Never to stand again, never to walk. Never happy again. And the man who did this to her? Two years for drunk driving. Out in one. And maybe that’s the innermost circle of hell. Watching him walk away and her life destroyed. Maybe that’s true hell on earth. 
I thread the car through to the spot I picked out. Turn off the engine. Sit in darkness. The faint bleating of sheep on the wind, and nothing else. 
Taking the can from the backseat I start to douse the car, all over, inside, everywhere. Toss the can into the bushes. Strip the gloves, toss them on to the passenger seat. Look around. 

My eyes have adjusted to the darkness. I can make out the grey cloud against the black line of the low hills on every side. We’re in a natural hollow. Nobody will see the fire. Nobody will see the smoke until dawn, still a few hours away. By then, I’ll be long gone. Probably. I don’t know yet. 
I rap on the boot, call him by name. He doesn’t answer but I can hear him twisting about, shifting position. I know he can hear me. Maybe he still thinks he’s getting out of there. That he can talk his way out again. 
Two years it took her to die. Until her will gave out. It took the last of her strength, as the pains lanced up her crippled spine. Two years in the chair. In the end the pills were the only thing she could reach. Two years. I wish I could make it last as long for him, but we do the best we can. 
The match flares, tumbles through the night. The flames catch with a whoomp. They take hold quickly. Now he’s making noise, a lot of it. I listen carefully to every word. I tell myself I’ll remember everything. I’ll remember the pleading and the begging; the words that soon become moans, and then screams. I wish it could be hotter. I dream that it will never stop, that eternity will be this, for him. 
I don’t believe in hell. Not after death. If we want hell we have to make it for ourselves, right here on Earth. And we do. 

Christopher Black is an unpublished UK writer. Luckily he doesn’t do it for the money. He procrastinates inconsistently about noir and other things at his Available In Any Colour blog


  1. Welcome to TKnC, Chris.

    Excellent début, feller. Particularly liked the way you alternate between his thoughts and the action in a slow build, until realisation strikes the reader.

    And, for what it's worth, I have similar notions that the real hell is here. The key is to try to avoid it as much as possible until it's our time to leave...

    Do come again, bud! ;-)


  2. Absolutely, stupendously excellent writing! I don't believe in the mythical hell, either, but I can see why people who do believe in it choose to. Lacking that belief, we who are wronged must seek our own revenge and this story offers a satisfying example. People who drive drunk should know there will be hell to pay.

  3. Brings home the point of that old Frenchman, Jean Paul Sarte's words very, very well. "Hell is other people." First person, Present tense is the absolute best way to tell this chilling tale of comuppance. A moving story, Christopher, told with sad, savage and unrelenting words. Cool.

  4. Col, thank you very much. I'm thrilled to be here.

    Madam, AJ, thank you very much for kind words. I'm glad you appreciated it. I guess we all have our own conceptions of hell, and who we would wish it on. I'm not saying I've got a list pinned up on the fridge or anything...

  5. That was me above, wrong account.

    A fine story indeed, Christopher. Well told in segments of past and present with the ending that the reader really wants - retribution. Nicely done.

  6. Really fantastic story. Loved it!

  7. Wow, thanks guys. I'm glad you liked it, and thanks for commenting.

  8. That was one great story. Perfectly written, and no-holds-barred, well deserved revenge served up. Loved this!

  9. Thanks very much Sean, I appreciate it. Revenge is so simple and natural and powerful, always good material for a story.

  10. I like a good retribution story. I don't think it works in real life so fiction is a good place to cast those fantasies to see what our moral bait catches in those muddied waters.

    Good pace, just enough information delivered at just the right time. Great pay off at the end.

    If you have thought about developing this into a longer piece have you considered writing it from the POV of the man trapped inside the boot of the car? I think that would make an interesting angle for this story.