Author’s Note: I will post all six parts before Halloween weekend. So stay tuned for one helluva horror story.
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As it turned out, the Hell portrayed in Turtle’s dreams looked like the byproduct of a collegiate man-child steeped in pop culture, rock music, and a lot of hallucinogens. AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” blared from the speakers of an unseen jukebox as we strode through the grandiose double doors of the antebellum home turned satanic frat house. Thick tendrils of smoke or fog curled around our feet as we moved through the riotous throng packed into the entry hall. Over the doors, a tooled wood sign read: Abandon All Inhibitions Ye Who Enter Here.
Faces of friends and enemies mixed with those of fiends. Together they capered wildly, spastically to the power chords of rock ‘n roll’s finest. I felt overwhelmed, my senses assaulted by the cacophony.
I turned back toward the doors, but there was nowhere to go. No moon, no stars shined in the night sky. The mist covered the parking lot like a blanket. The strange orange hue of the street lights obscured all but the house and its adjacent grounds.
“What the hell, Turtle?” Klaus demanded, seizing our friend by the collar of his faded Wolverine tee and wresting my attention from the dreamscape outside the house.
“Exactly!” Turtle answered. “What version of hell is this? Mine? Or one of yours? Because I didn’t have this nightmare until after I’d met both of you. And each of you is in the dream. But whose hell is this? Because you’re both there every time it happens.”
“Every time what happens?” I inquired, my sense of dread growing.
“You’ll see.” Turtle’s mercurial smile made me want to smash his remaining teeth out of his skull. “There’s still time yet. Until then enjoy the party.”
The Turtle danced, if you could call it that, his way through the crowd of raucous revelers. Klaus and I stuck close to our friend unsure what would happen if we became separated in his deranged dreamscape. A thousand vices and temptations surrounded us at every turn. I saw the things we normally enjoyed, but also mirrors piled high with white powder, stripped and ready pain-sluts of the barely legal variety, and a hundred other deviances ranging from the laughable to the unforgiveable.
Either Turtle the Video Game Virgin knew how to party harder than anyone had suspected or he’d tapped into some primal part of our brains…but which one of us. Perhaps he’d perceived repressed kinks, vices, and other socially unacceptable behaviors present in one or even both of us. That possibility disturbed me, but little of what I saw scared the hell out of me. I did have a slight problem with the horned thing corn-holing our school mascot over the side of a sofa. And the sight of a sadistic bastard licking blood from the blade he’d used to slice spirals into the tender flesh of a pretty co-ed sickened me to the core.
Surely, none of this could be real. Even if it was a collective dream, some twisted, hedonistic manifestation of the universal unconsciousness, it was still a dream. I comforted myself with that fiction, ignorant of how wrong I was about our situation.
Turtle glanced behind him to make sure we were close on his heels and then mounted the grand staircase that dominated the entrance hallway to the mansion. A throng of partiers clustered on the winding stairs enjoying a wide array of pleasures. As I passed a diminutive woman bent over the sturdy railing, one of the two men penetrating her stopped long enough to ask me to join their public perversion.
Blushing crimson, I declined and hurried after Klaus and Turtle. As a virginal teenager, I felt overwhelmed by the sensational sins being committed all around me. My brain ached inside my skull, and my manhood throbbed in the confines of my jeans. I retreated inside myself as I tried to deal with all of the conflicting emotions in between.
Was this place hell? Or was it Turtle’s version of a wet dream? Or worse yet, one of mine or Klaus’s somnolent fantasies?
Although everything I’d seen at the party appeared deviant when compared to conventional social mores of the day, little of it seemed dangerous. Unless our creator considered anything visceral and enjoyable to be a sin. And I didn’t subscribe to that narrow-minded, puritanical view then…or now for that matter. I’d yet to see anything nefarious, much less hellish…unless one counted the pounding, repetitive electronica that had replaced legends of hard rock and heavy metal to become our new soundtrack.
The festivities on the second floor felt more like a rave than the festivities enjoyed by the Goth/Metal crowd on the ground level of the unnamed fraternity house. So in my mind, the party became annoying instead of more infernal, despite the horned humanoids twirling glow-sticks about their scaly bodies. If you’ve seen one dancing Sleestak with a glow-stick, you’ve seen them all. And raving demons were not my idea of hell; they were my idea of a bad pun.
“This has to be the lamest layer of all the hells in the multiverse,” I commented.
“Agreed,” Klaus seconded. “Hard drugs, kinky sex, and canned music doesn’t make it hell. It makes it a college party. The textbook definition of one as a matter of fact. I’ve seen scarier stuff at a Senate hearing on CSPAN.”
Klaus and I chuckled, but Turtle didn’t appear amused. Instead he looked at us as if we were stupid. But we weren’t; we were ignorant, cocky know-it-alls, like so many narcissistic nineteen-year-old nerds. In fact, without our narcissistic, nerdy traits, Klaus and I would have become enemies long before the events to come made it so.
Concern coloring his chiseled face, Turtle told us, “Dreams, like anything, exist according to certain rules. And one of those is the interconnectedness of all things, all places, all times. Dreams are the nexuses, the cruxes upon which the entire fabric of creation is built.
“After all, what are we but a collective realization of a universal dream. Somewhere, someplace, sometime, everything around us was dreamed into being by someone or something. As surely as we see this dream now, our creator pictured the dream that became our waking universe in its mind’s eye.
“And if dreams can show us a version of heaven that a sleeper can craft into reality upon awakening, a nightmare can become a living hell. That’s what I’m about to show you, the difference between dreams and nightmares, between heaven and hell.”
We turned down another corridor, and the scene around us shifted for the third time. As we entered this wing of the house, the furniture and the décor took on a style incongruent with the rest of the interior. I turned to pass my observation on to Klaus, but he’d fallen behind. In fact, he stood transfixed, his hollow eyes riveted on the lone door at the end of the long hallway.
“Are you okay?” I asked, knowing the answer already. My friend had grown as pale as a Hollywood vampire. Tears touched the corners of his eyes, a sight none of us had seen before…or since.
“But it can’t be,” Klaus muttered.
“What can’t it be?” Turtle inquired, joining us in the middle of the empty hall.
“I’ve seen this before,” Klaus replied. “All of it. I didn’t remember until I saw that door. That damn door and the horror that lurks beyond it have haunted me for years. But it can’t be. It’s just a dream.”
“Yes,” Turtle said, tapping Klaus in the center of his forehead. “It’s all here. Or we’re all there rather. Thanks to a little family tradition passed down through my mom’s side of the family. My gypsy blood produces a fair number of psychics, mediums, touch telepaths, and empaths.”
“And here I thought gypsies were alcoholics and kleptomaniacs,” Klaus joked.
“You forgot con artists,” I added, knowing in my heart what Turtle said to be true. But I wasn’t ready to accept it then. It took the unnatural shocks that came after for me to accept the paranormal as my new norm.
“I never thought I’d live long enough to admit it,” Klaus said, wiping his eyes, “but Turtle might be right. I’ve seen this house before; I’ve opened that door before. Countless times. And it never ends well.”
“What do you mean it doesn’t end well?” I asked, dreading the response.
Locking eyes with me, Klaus pleaded, “I wanna go home now. I don’t wanna live through this nightmare again. This might not be your idea of hell, but there’s a devil behind that door. A devil and a dead girl.”
“A dead girl?” I asked, bewildered by Klaus’s revelation. Glancing at my other friend, I saw that Turtle appeared calm, cool, and collected, the exact opposite of his waking demeanor.
“Well, she’s not dead yet…” Turtle said, “…not this go round anyway.”
A shrill squeal pierced the door, echoing down the hall. The cry of a damsel in distress, even a dream one, called out to my primal, protective nature. I charged the door while Klaus beat feet toward the stairs. Turtle lingered in between, unsure who to follow.
The locked door didn’t stop me long. Throwing my considerable girth against it, I overpowered the frame itself. As it separated from the wall with a sickening CRACK, I backed away and kicked outward. My big boot finished the work my sore shoulder started. The defeated door hung ajar from its ruined frame, orange light spilling into the hall from around its seams.
Shadows flitted in and out of the light in the room beyond the door. Throwing caution to an ill wind, I rushed through the doorway and into a blood-splattered bedroom. The room’s white interior had turned to crimson thanks to its two maddening occupants.
A shadowy figure perched on the center of a brass canopy bed; in its sizeable paws, the beast held the still beating heart of its victim, the nearly dead girl. The angel in alabaster lay sprawled on the mattress, wearing the remnants of a lacy summer dress. In the wan light cast by the street lights, her auburn curls took on the same shade as the gory fluids oozing from her savaged bosom. Only one perfect pale breast remained intact; its twin destroyed when the devil had ripped out her heart. The dying girl whimpered as yet unaware of her own demise. When her emerald eyes locked on her stolen heart, she wept a final tear.
*** Part 3 Coming Soon ***
This story was written by Jeremy Hicks. It is his original content and cannot be used anywhere else without his expressed written consent. However, this blog may be shared, reblogged, etc. on social media for the purposes of promoting the author, his blog, and his other creative works.
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