Books: Volume Five
After The Bitten, Before The Forbidden
on the third and third levels of Hell ...
Her soul had
bottomed out in the viscous realm of envy. She could feel the Amanthras
ripping at her raw flesh, her eyes near blind from the pain and fetid
acid. Another part of her was disconnected, moving in a frenzied, haphazard
ghostly wail as something large and manifold chased her soul through a
barren terrain. Ghost gangs.
Nuit had promised her this end, should she ever betray him. He’d
obviously been a vampire of his word. Soul-torn, she’d been split
amongst two levels of torture, aware of both interleaving realities—hunted
one second, fed upon the next, in horrifying, unrelenting waves of sensation.
Forever. This would be her eternity.
She wept but there were no tears left to be shed from her depleted tear
ducts. She was now only bloodied, regurgitated human body slime one moment,
and mere vapor in the following instant. Madness was her only option.
Slithering laughter deafened her ears to the sound of hunks of meat being
consumed from her bones. Echoing moans of others being tortured filled
in the blank spaces within her mind, while phantom whispers promised terrifying
events yet to come. Every fear she ever owned manifested in the dry place,
while the wet swamplands of the serpents made each shriek that rent the
“Momma…” she wailed. Screams for mercy were
useless. If only, if only, if only… her mother could come. “Marlene!”
she screeched, the old bat pitch from her once-vampire existence hitting
decibels of sonar that made the angry serpents snap and hiss at her more.
The Light… where was The Light!
Boulders pummeled her from the mere thought and she lie for seconds suffocating,
being crushed by shapeless, quickly moving entities, then the serpents
found her again and dragged her through the maggoty black waters to begin
feeding once more.
The choice was clear—get away from the Amanthras. The ghost gangs
were harsh, but less torturous. Their pain was more muted. The stings
and rips into her flesh delivered by the pit snakes dulled. A hot blast
of dry air lifted her to the barren terrain and scorching heat filled
her lungs, singeing her weary organs from within. Then for a moment, everything
became still. Her aggressors had moved away. Something had temporarily
diverted their attention.
Raven tried to get her vaporous limbs to respond. Untold time spent in
agony; visceral pain summarily abated. She became a quickly floating mist,
obliquely moving upward toward the outer edges of the second level. If
she could just get to level one, there, at least, the torture would only
be insanity, and maybe not as bad as where she’d been. Time had
passed, but she had no frame of reference. She could only follow the lessening
density as potential escape gave her limited hope.
She felt for the barrier, nearly blind, using her phantom-like hands and
the fragmented senses she still owned. When she passed through it, tears
in earnest cascaded down her face. The portals… something was wrong
with the portals! The gates were opened. She had to keep moving, had to
flee before the guards found out and sealed them again.
With everything left in her, she honed in on her mother’s topside
vibration, the connection that went beyond the grave—pure love still
there and unending.
The sensation staunched the pain; love filled her and lifted her higher,
closer to topside where there was human life. A mother’s love claimed
her, still worried for her even though dead. The Light was the answer…
“Momma, take me into The Light,” she whispered in her heart,
clinging to it, finding the silent prayer Marlene had left behind, and
she suddenly found herself in a small, dark Southern house where she had
been born. It was a place that was now abandoned. Cobwebs and boards covered
the windows and sheltered her from the sun. She could feel her mother’s
pain riddle her body as though poking into her tender, demon-victimized
form. It all became so clear as she wafted disembodied throughout the
structure, remembering all of Marlene’s words, her worries; her
warnings… everything her mother had said had come true.
Raven closed her eyes as a favorite lullaby that her mother once sang
filled her with remorse and a sob escaped her lips. She drifted to the
empty bedroom wishing that she could feel safe for just a little while,
like when she was an innocent child and would curl up next to Marlene’s
warmth and feel those ancient hands petting her hair. Had she only known.
But everything was gone; the house was empty. How many years had passed?
Was Marlene even alive?
“I’ll find you and make it up to you,” she promised
in a garbled whisper, weeping and moving throughout the structure in disoriented,
ghostly panic. Raven glanced up to the ceiling, wondering if her mother
had finally crossed over. “Don’t leave me, momma. I just want
to go home.”