A Short Story by Richard Bleil
[One year ago on Halloween]
“Sponge! SPONGE! I gotta see what I’m doing!”
“How long has it been?”
“Three minutes, doctor!”
“Okay, okay…I think I have it…defibrillator…NOW!”
The voltage causes the body to jerk, but the heart monitor remains flat.
A repeat performance, still no heartbeat.
With one last thump, and a delay, a single heartbeat…then another…and another…weak at first.
The doctor watches as it gets stronger. “How long?”
“Four minutes, eight seconds. I’m sorry doctor, there may be permanent brain damage.”
The doctor looks at the patient. “Let’s stitch him up. Schedule a complete brain scan.”
“Like this, mommy?”
“That’s perfect dear. Your daddy will love his cake, and he’ll love it so much more knowing that you helped.”
“Why are we doing this, mommy? Is it daddy’s birthday?”
“Not really, sweetheart. We almost lost your daddy a year ago. We’re celebrating that he’s still with us.”
Strange, usually his family is home at this hour. The house is dark, oddly dark at that. He turns on the light switch, but to no avail. “Ugh, I’ll have to check the circuit breaker.” He slowly walks in past the doorway. He’s careful to avoid the table in the path, and makes his way in towards the kitchen, hoping that light switch isn’t out as well. He finds the doorway, and carefully feels the wall, moving his hand towards where he knows the switch is. The lights burst to life.
His friends pop out from around corners and behind the furniture. “Holy shhhh…what….”
“Surprise, sweetheart,” his wife says as she and his daughter enter from the kitchen behind him.
“Did we surprise you, daddy?” she asks as his wife kisses his check, chuckling softly as she does it.
“Yeah, yeah you sure did. What is all of this?”
“Sweetheart,” his wife says, “we almost lost you a year ago. We just wanted to say we’re still glad you’re here!”
“Fooooor he’s a jolly…” somebody in the room starts. Before long the chorus arises.
“God, you really surprised me tonight!”
“Yeah?” she says, finishing up her preparations for bed. “I thought you caught a clue. You’ve been acting strangely the last few days.”
“Nope, not a hint,” he says. “I can’t believe Tom could keep quiet. He usually can’t keep secrets to save his life.”
She laughs, getting into bed. “That’s because he DIDN’T know.”
“What?” he asks with a chuckle in his voice.
“His wife knew,” she replies. “I told her to bring him. Until Jill had to explain why they parked so far away, he had no clue.”
“Clever!” he says.
“Thank you,” she replies seductively, giving him more than just a kiss goodnight.
“Where am I?”
The gray brick is cold, wet, rough like sandpaper. There is nothing soft; the high arched supports, the cold air, the rusted steel bars, the iron maiden cages holding their occupants still for days on end, the bodies strewn along the edges, the screams of a victim being whipped while bound, the voices of those begging for food, the wooden planks with a geared tube slowly turning, blood pouring from the wrists and ankles of the poor soul being stretched mercilessly.
His hands and feet are bound as he sits on the cold floor, but feeling the heat from the fire before him. It’s a strange sensation to be cold on his back, and hot on his chest. He is being held by two large men. He looks at one. “What is going on?”
The man looks back at him, and speaks in a tongue that he cannot understand, but that sounds familiar. His attention is drawn to his feet, as the feel of a slimy brush on his soles draws his attention. “It’s french,” the jailer says. He looks up, and smiles. “Don’t worry, they don’t speak English. We can talk.”
“What is this?” he asks. “Is this…it can’t be…”
“A dream? No, not a dream. You’re in my realm; this is all very real. Confess.”
“Confess?” he asks.
The jailer laughs. “Sorry, just playing the part.”
“Who are you?”
“Oh, I go by many names. Moloch, Mephistopheles, Bala’al, Beelzebub, Lord of the Flies, Antichrist, Father of Lies, Devil, Satan. I like Lucifer.”
“This is a dream.”
“No, it’s France. France 1314 as a matter of fact.”
“What am I doing here?”
“You died,” Lucifer replies. “One year ago, on Halloween.”
“What has that got to do with anything?”
“Listen, Jacques, you died when the plane between the spirit world and the realm of man is at its weakest. You were taken from me when that infernal surgeon saved your life. Now, you owe me.”
“I owe you?”
“Of course. It’s past midnight. It’s All Hallow’s Ever once again. Your soul is mine. Every year, on All Hallow’s Eve, you’ll return for a new and different form of torture. This is just the first year. You’ll return every year from now on, Jacques.”
“Why do you keep calling me Jacques? That’s not my name.”
“Of course it is,” Lucifer replies with a grin on his face. “You are Jacques de Molay, this is France, 1314.”
He thinks hard. That name…sounds familiar…
“Don’t you recall? Jacques de Molay was the leader of the Knights Templar. The Church imprisoned him, and tortured him for his confession of hearsay. They slathered the soles of his feet with fat, and put them in the fire. The flesh burned off so badly that even one of his foot bones fell off.”
Suddenly it becomes all too apparent; he shouldn’t be able to feel anything if this were just a dream. Lucifer nods at the two men who begin inching him forward, the fire beginning to lick the bottom of his feet.
“Welcome to Hell.”