A Walk Through Hell (Continued) by Melissa Manuel

In continuation…

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In continuation…

When I reached the new shoreline I bid the ocean farewell and walked towards a monstrously large mountain. It was so tall and wide and large I couldn’t see the snowy point. Reaching the foothills of this mountain I sat down with my legs crossed in the grassy valley.

The wind blew and tousled my hair, the flowers bended in greeting. It was all so lovely and peaceful, it reminded me of her. Which is why I kept moving forward. Glancing around at all the nature I look at the foothills of the mountain overflowing with vibrancy and existence and step towards them warily. I consider unsheathing my sword, but don’t want to offend the mountain as I did the ocean.

Standing at the point where the foothills start to get steep and become the side of the mountain and tilting my head up to try and locate a polite place to speak to I end up staring at a patch of trees and saying, “Hi.”

For a moment nothing occurred and a giggling tree nymph ran out from one of the trees, winked at me then disappeared once more into the foliage. I looked down at my sneakers and tried to figure out what to do. Taking another step forward I cupped my hands around my mouth and said louder this time, “Hi!”

Again there was nothing and I sat down in the tall grass feeling lame and insignificant even though I had just walked across the ocean.

Suddenly a voice that sounded both like the echo of a lonely cave and the deep, defiant shout into the wind spoke to me. “What do you want? And no I will not move for you to impress your fiance to be.”

I looked up startled as the mountain rumbled at me and swallowed feeling suddenly very afraid of the solidity of the mountain’s presence.

“No- no I don’t want you to move.”

Chewing on my lower lip the mountain responded, “Then what do you want?”

This made me feel empty. A mountain wanted to know what I wanted. But I don’t know.

So instead I say, “I’m looking for someone.” And the earth shook with the mountain’s cruel laughter. I dug my nails into the ground around me, cool soil digging under my fingernails.

“You’re looking for her eh? She’s here. Poor girl if you’re supposed to be her hero!”

The mountain found a way to make my very emotions quake the way it made the earth. This mountain didn’t know me, but then again it had a point. I was no hero, I was a coward.

“I know. I’m a coward. But I have to.” This seemed to sober the mountain’s attitude towards me.

“So rare an honest man come to cross paths with me. Just for that you can climb up, try to save the woman I suppose.”

Then I had to blink several times and pinch my arm to assure I was not imagining things. The mountain had, in a way, extended an arm to me. Made out of rich green trees and intertwined barks of trunks all braided and twisted together in a horrifically unnatural way that as it reached for me I didn’t have time to react. A lot like watching a car come straight at you and not being able to move.

It picked me up,  trapping me in a wooden fist that still brimmed with life. I was able to stand and watched in the shadows as birds screeched in protest and flew throughout trying to escape. A phoenix flew over my head its elegant tail brushing over my hair. Tiny insects crawled everywhere, their secret society of living disturbed by the mountain’s creation of an arm.

When the fist uncurled around me I was dropped near the peak of the mountain. The cold air was merciless in its attempts to slice and stab me. In my light t-shirt and jeans I wrapped my arms around myself shivering violently.

Looking around I spotted a large cabin made of stone, smoke billowing out of the chimney. And I knew you were in there, I could hear selfish laughter and your silence was deafening. My heart tightened as I gripped the hilt of my sword and carried it ahead of me as I made my way towards one of the windows, trying to ignore the cold.

I peeked into the window and there you were. Stretched out on a table, a toy for these malicious’ men and their corrupted desires. But you looked different. They covered your face in thick layers of makeup to hide the defections you never liked, but I always said I loved. And then they let you go, cut the bonds that held you, and they watched you run for the door, hollering with their amusement, and then they snatch you again. Taking turns to hurt you.

It made me sick. I staggered back from the window, the sword heavy in my hand, fear clutching my sides. I didn’t want to go in there. I was a coward.

Oh how could I save you?

***

My best plan was to walk right in as they forced some clear liquid down your pale throat. I stood there, lanky and unimpressive, as all the beasts glowered at me in annoyance.

The biggest one of them all, a mass of meaty muscle and hair, smiled a grin so malicious it made my hand holding my sword tremble. He dropped you and I winced as you hit the cold floor, as he marched over to me the rest of the men leaned back against the walls, watching excitedly.

I held up my sword higher and said, “I’m looking for someone.”

The beast before me crossed his arms over his mountainous chest and asked, “Oh? Who ye lookin’ for?”

My eyes betrayed me as they fell on your now damaged frame.

“Ye want our lady?” And his laugh was even worse than the mountain’s.

“She… isn’t anyone’s.” There was a silence and then his fleshy fist that somehow had bone inside connected with my jaw sending me flying back to only fall on my back blinking in pain.

“Get outta here, yer embarresin yerself.”

I lay on the cold ground feeling everything and nothing all at once, but I decided it was best to take advantage that his back was turned. I lifted myself back to my feet and in one arch with every ounce of strength that a coward’s fear can provide I dug the sword into the beast’s back.

Down, down, down he fell. Roaring in disbelief. He twisted and tried to face me but it was too late. And I wasn’t strong enough to pull the sword back out so I placed my foot on his back and looked at the other men. Not threateningly. Just looked. Stared at them with the amount of emotion they deserved: nothing.

That seemed to unnerve them more than the murder I miraculously committed. So they left. One by one they left the stone cabin leaving me alone with a dead beast under my foot, and you lying on the floor. Your eyes shut lightly. I spread my arms wide and stepped down towards you. Crouching by your delicate frame, I rested a hand on your shoulder, watching for a breath.

As soon as the heat of my palm connected with you cool skin your eyes flashed open, color returning to your cheeks. You stared at me in horror and disbelief. I took out a sweater from my backpack and held it out to you.

We said nothing for too long.

You sat up and pulled the sweater over your head and shrunk away from me. Stared at the blood on my chest and pointed at the dead beast.

I nodded answering her silent question. “Yes.”

She stared at him with a repulsion and hatred so pure it made me flinch. Now she looked at me and asked, “Why are you here?”

I shrug my shoulders and waved a hand at your painted face. “Because… I’m a coward. I could have saved you from all this in the beginning. When they first came. I was right there. I heard you call my name. I knew. I let it happen.”

She nodded slowly wiping the makeup from her face with the sleeve of the sweater. “I remember.”

Taking a deep breath I stood up and held my hand out to her. “But the thing is I would walk through hell for you. I walked on the ocean and was carried by a mountain and killed a beast to save you because I’m a coward and I think I love you.”

She stared at me then at my hand then at her bare feet.

We stayed that way for too long.

Then she took my hand and I helped her to her feet. She stared at me and then pulled me close, giving me permission to hold her. I rested my head on the top of hers wrapping her up in warmth and life that had been stripped from her.

“Let’s go home.”


Hey there swonky readers,

This concludes “A Walk Through Hell,” hope you enjoyed this twisted tale. It’s inspired by the song of the same title by the band Say Anything. I’ll drop the YouTube link here if you’d like to check it out. The podcast that was promised has been recorded and edited. The plan is it should be up this very week! So there’s that to look forward to.

Don’t forget that the carrier pigeon is to arrive at your neighbor’s house on the day determined with your next assignment. (You know which neighbor)

Memento Mori,

Melissa

(The song as promised)

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