And now, for something completely atrocious…

My sister recently returned to me something I didn’t even know I had lost: the typed manuscript of the very first piece of serious creative writing I ever did. She had found it between the pages of an old piano lesson book, one of the John W. Shaum series my sisters and I all used when we studied piano several decades ago.

I must have passed the typed copy around my family for editing because it bears two typo corrections in my sister’s distinctively round handwriting and one very faint pencil marking in a fluid hand that can only belong to my mother. I don’t recall when I wrote the story, but, judging from the way it was typed, it must have been before I took Ms. Klein’s typing class in 10th grade. I would guess I was around 13 years old, after I had fallen in love with Poe and immersed myself in literature of the macabre and related genres.

As cliche-ridden and over-wrought as it is, I feel an urge to acknowledge it as my first serious attempt at writing fiction. No self-respecting publication would ever touch it (nor would I ask such a thing) but my blog, not being all that respectable, seems like a reasonable venue in which to present it. So here it is, without modification, for your amusement.

Hell Itself

She opened her eyes suddenly, not knowing what had awakened her. There it was again. Oppression. Evil. The weight of evil in the room.

She turned her head. It was late at night and the room was dark. But there, at the foot of the bed, was an even deeper Darkness. It moved slowly, slowly closer to her.

Coward, she thought. Coming in the night while I’m asleep. That’s Its way, all right. Getting Its victims in their sleep. Sniveling coward.

It perceived these thoughts and shrank back. See, It cringes at my criticism. The yellow pole-cat. At these thoughts, It leaned forward, snarling.

The sound was as the moan of tortured souls. The breath that drifted to her was putrid, reeking of decay and horror. A breath of air from Hell itself.

“You blind slave of evil. I am not afraid of you. I know that even you cannot harm me unless I fear. I don’t fear even your master and his domain.”

A horrid sound came from It, a sound like distorted and cruelly tortured laughter. It screamed, “Enter, foolish mortal, and BEWARE!!!” Again the hideous laughter. Then a great red chasm opened in It.

She sat up, but hesitated.

“What!” the voice shrieked, “you fear?!”

“No! I fear you not!” With this, she stepped into the cavernous hole.

Instantly she was caught up in a swirl of flames, heat, and smoke. She was hurled back and forth in this cyclone column of fire, knowing not in what direction or for how long. Finally, she was flung onto a ledge of black rock, the fiery pillar still roaring as far up and down as she could see.

As her eyes adjusted, she realized that she was lying in the mouth of a large cave. The rock was an unfamiliar type: hard, smooth, and cool, in spite of the swirling holocaust at its entrance.

She stood and walked farther in, through a winding passage. Gradually, so slowly that she didn’t notice, it got darker and darker. She realized with a start that she couldn’t see anything. Still she walked onward.

She began to hear a low murmur. As she walked on, the murmur became more distinct–it was no longer a rumble but individual cries of pain, fear, and anger.

She turned a corner in the passage and stopped just in time avoid plunging down a sheer cliff. Before her was a huge cavern filled with glowing, spectral faces. Each face had a look of such sorrow, pain, and anguish that she recoiled in horror.

But the moans of the tormented were not the only sounds in the chamber. As she looked, she could see winged creatures of fire hovering over the souls, lashing them with whips of ice.

As they struck the souls, they screamed in ecstasy. They lived for the sole purpose of inflicting pain on those unfortunate enough to be under them.

At every cry of pain, they lashed all the harder. There was a huge creature whose color was a morbid green. He was so large, she could see his vile yellow eyes.

And oh! such eyes! She abhorred them from the start. Her horror was so great upon setting her glance on him that she shrank back, hoping to hide herself from his piercing gaze in a depression in the wall.

Suddenly, even as she quailed there, the creature saw her, and shrieked his anger that a mortal should enter his region and not be punished. The horrible sound echoed until the rock trembled with it.

He leaped from his rock, and the others left their posts to join him. They flew, screaming, to the tunnel entrance. Horrified,she began running back into the passage.

None can imagine the terror of one being pursued through a cave by the demons of Hell. The echoing cries, the darkness ahead, the blundering into walls.

She came to the lip of the tunnel, with the swirling inferno before her. Without hesitation, she leapt into it. Once again she was thrown round in a flood of heat, smoke, and fire. On and on, around and around, in an endless circle.

She found herself on her bed, the bedclothes entwined about her, saturated with sweat. She sighed in relief, and lay there for a moment. She then realized that It was still there, strangely silent and unmoving.”Well, I’m still alive,” she gasped. It only sighed a breath of all-too-familiar air.

There was no tortured laughter, no screaming voices to mar the silence of the night. But It was moving, changing. The Darkness swirled slowly into a shape. A horrible shape with wings, sickly yellow eyes, and green flesh.

She screamed and tried to back through the wall. Those yellow eyes glowed, and the thing shrieked with fiendish delight. She shrank back, her eyes wild with fright, her mouth open with an eternal cry.

The creature leaned forward, screaming, with a hideous grin on its livid face. Then slowly, it raised its icy whip as if to strike….

The next day, she was found pressed against the wall, her eyes riveted to one spot in the room. Her mouth was open as if screaming, and her face was twisted with a look of uttermost horror. Upon finding her body, the constable in charge of the investigation commented, “She looks as if she’d seen Hell itself.”

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6 responses to “And now, for something completely atrocious…

  1. My Jungian background would have a field day with this if I’d let it. “A leap into the dark . . .” Such an imagination and good writing for a young woman. I’m glad you published it. And thank you for sharing yourself with us.

    • Jennifer Barricklow

      Please feel free to have a field day! My own views tend toward to the Jungian, so I would be very interested in your perspective on the piece.

      Thanks for reading!

  2. Scary! Amazing writing for a 13 year old!

    • Jennifer Barricklow

      Scary is right: what kind of 13-year-old dreams up something like that?

      Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment!

  3. Wow! Mrs. Skooglund must have had fun reading your writing assignments! That’s the teacher we had when I met you. How fun to look back on that first year of high school!

    • Jennifer Barricklow

      Boy, did you ever jostle some brain cells with that reference! Took me about ten minutes to remember who Mrs. Skooglund was. Thanks for helping resurrect parts of my brain that I thought had mildewed beyond recognition! 🙂

      I’m sure I never wrote anything quite that over-the-top for Susie-Skoog — did she give us any assignments that interesting? Believe it or not, this piece was something I wrote entirely on my own. I’m thinking that the teenage mind is not the sort of place where anyone should be left alone….

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