It was a night where the rain came teeming down against the earth. The pounding precipitation sounded like a child with a sugar high and toy snare drum, thumping away unrestrained. Michael sat inside the dated farmhouse kitchen, looking out the window into the bleak night. Raindrops rolled down the glass in small rivulets. The downspout overhead, clogged with dead leaves, overflowed cold rainwater in large waterfalls, cascading down the rotted eves of the house. Staring out the window, he was hypnotized by the large drops which materialized from the abyss above. He marveled at how each drop of rain individually was small and insignificant, but when viewed all together, they formed one massive fog enveloping the world. Michael, lost in this thought, snapped back to reality, and pressed his forehead against the cold pane of glass, contemplating what he must do.
Michael’s mind went back to the barn, the old ramshackle red building just across the muddy yard. He thought about the rain finding its way through the sporadic holes in the roof, the wind tearing loose cedar shakes from the siding, and the man who lay on the ground inside, bound and gagged, awaiting judgement. He sat there and thought of the pick axe on the wall, and how it called to him like a Siren, tugging at his mind, yearning for his touch, pleading for his hand to wrap itself around the cold wooden handle. He felt how it craved for him—he could feel this deep within his body, like a slaking thirst, an insatiable hunger. As he deliberated this, the warm body lay tied on the floor of the barn, still unconscious from the effects of the ether soaked rag, which smothered his face only twenty minutes before.
Michael sat and prayed, prayed for guidance, prayed for deliverance from the act, which he was afraid he must carry out. As he kneeled on the floor, begging clemency, and weeping under his breath for the man he had kidnapped, the pick axe pulled at his mind a little more, tugging at his thoughts, undermining his concentration. He felt as if this inanimate object, this worker’s tool, was slowly taking over his body, controlling over his mind, until his hands would no longer be his, and would bend to its every will.
In a shadowed corner of the room, where a leather recliner resided, came the malodorous stench of sulfur. Although never having smelled it, Michael imagined this was the scent of brimstone, foul and loathsome, insidious in nature. The stench, like a skunk’s spray, enveloped the air in the room, and clung to every surface, embedding its sickening odor into even the smallest particle unseen to the naked eye. As he kneeled on the floor, begging to be free of this duty, came a raspy, yet booming voice, from this darkened corner of the room.
“Mikhail. You have not completed your duty, you have not pleased me. Don’t you wish to please me?”
At hearing this Michael prayed harder and more vehemently, as if hoping to summon God himself to aid him in these trials and tribulations.
“Mikhail, he will not help you. There is no God. You pray to an empty vessel, you pray to nothingness, a falsity. You pray to me, and only me. I am everything, I am destruction and chaos, yet you look upon me with fear. Life is chaos. Life is death. Now Mikhail, complete your duty, or you will know what hell is. Your body will be consumed day after day by creatures unfathomable to your imagination. They will take small nibbles of your flesh as you hang from the cross you so reverently worship. A tiny bit of flesh here, a tiny bit of flesh there. Eventually, your skin gone, you will stare into the mirror I place before you, and you will see your muscles, sinew, cartilage, tendon, ligaments, all exposed. Creatures will pull one small fiber from you at a time, and with a loud slurp your muscles will be eaten like so much spaghetti, your blood the tomato gravy.”
Michael’s imagination transported him to this slow hell of sarcophagy. Every bit of muscle stripped from his body was felt. Long pieces of him, like bacon stripped from the slab, were laid out on stone tables for supping upon. He felt his body ooze fluids on the fiery floor of hell, which were sopped up and cooked down as a gravy for the feast. His skin gone, he was a jello mold of himself, a jellied Michael. He felt every gnash of teeth sink into his removed flesh, as if the nerve endings were still attached to him. The pieces digested, caused his stomach to upturn, small puddles of bile rising in his throat and dribbling down his peeled lips. He was forced to watch as gnarled demons, misshapen creatures covered in grey and red skin and patches of mangy fur, masticated on his flesh. They peeled his eyelids off, ensuring he didn’t miss a moment of this feast, pickling them in a brine saving them as treats for later.
“As this delicious process goes on day after day, your abdomen is opened up, and your intestines removed, eaten like long licorice rope, one delectable foot at a time. I can see it now, two creatures fight over a foot or two, pulling at each slippery end, their teeth gnashing into soft, large intestine, while you watch, no eyelids to avert your gaze. Oh what an appetizing prospect.”
Michael lay on the floor of his kitchen, muttering to himself soaked in sweat. He shook, listening to the torture described by the creature. He never truly saw it. Instead it remained an ominous deep voice, attached to some insidious mind that refused to reveal its form. Its words reverberated through a throat that needed clearing, rumbling deep thick and phlegmatic, yet remained constant in its speech, a baritone bass that shook through his whole body that remained quivering on that geometrically patterned linoleum floor.
“Mikhail, listen, and take heed. Your intestines will be eaten, and you will hang off your beloved cross, your abdominal cavity empty, a giant void. With painstaking precision the rest of your muscles will be removed from your body, and slurped up a delight for those who partake.”
Michael lay on the floor shaking, unable to will himself to move, with the smell of sulfur permeating his nostrils. He was living the torture so painstakingly laid out for him.
“Once your organs have been feasted upon, and your body stripped of muscle and all flesh, I will stand before you and feast on your eyes. Yes your eyes. With one plucked out, I will hold it up to your other, so you may see the soft, gelatin like squish as I bite down on your eye. As your vision is now lopsided, I will eat the other, feasting on it, your world now dark. Your brain will still function, even with no heart, because in hell there is no death. I will suck your brain out through a straw, pulling each little bit till you cease to exist. And then, Mikhail. You will awaken for a new day. The process repeating itself for eternity. You will be eaten alive, day after day, in hell, the hell you chose. Or, Mikhail, you obey my command and do what I wish of you. You complete what I have asked. Now rise, and do my bidding.”
Michael lay on the floor, exhausted from the tremors that had sent his muscles into spastic contractions. His mind floated back to him in a slow fog. Motor functions drifted to him and he regained control over his body.
The rain still pounded the dirt outside, creating large puddles like fish ponds in the dirt driveway. Sitting up, a headache raged through his skull and exhaustion gripped him. Thirst shrunk him and thinned his body. He smacked his cotton-mouthed lips, tasting blood where his teeth had bit the edge of his tongue. Standing, he grasped the edge of the double soapstone sink. He fixed his gaze out the window.
The barn light shone dim through the large droplets, as if a swarm of mosquitos and moths hovered around the light, giving only the occasional glimpse of brightness. The pick axe called to him again, and he could feel it tug at his mind, calling him to wrap his warm hand around its cold oaken shaft.
The rain chilled Michael as he crossed the dirt driveway to the barn. Clothes clung to his skin as woven fibers sopped up the rain quickly, soaking through to the epidermis that had been flayed from his body only minutes before. He could feel the cold moisture through to his bones, and as he walked slowly through the deep puddles collected in depressions along the driveway, the leather of his boots pulled the water quickly like a wick absorbing oil in a lantern. Affixed to his head, the wide brimmed, waxed hat could not repel the water anymore, and began to droop under the weight.
The barn light flickered overhead as rain deluged through its thin beam. In the strange atmosphere, he felt himself glowing, like an angel. A large hum emitted from the blue light, and for a moment drowned out the discordant drumming rain. Turning back, the rest of the yard was obscured, the world dissolved into a field of rain. It was as if a curtain had been pulled back beside a hospital bed, hiding his actions from the world’s view. Reaching for the latch on the tall wooden door, he slid it aside. Metal rollers creaking along their tracks in anguish and remonstration.
Inside, the man lay on the floor, his hands bound behind his back with stark white rope. Black cloth was wrapped around high jaw, and shoved deep into his mouth, his teeth jutting out over the material as bucktooth. His eyes shut, he looked serene and peaceful, as if sleeping. He almost looked comfortable in his contorted position.
Michael gazed across the room. A shaft of light emanated from an unknown source and cut across the oak handle. The linseed oiled surface reflected a slight glimmer in the crystalline light. It called to him, it beckoned for him to claim his prize, complete his duty, fulfill his destiny. In that moment, the odor of his flesh cooking filled him with dread. His eyes were devoured again. He knew what he must do.
He moved across the dank barn, the floorboards creaking under his feet with an ancient groan of exhaustion and decrepitude. He moved toward the pick axe. Sliding his hand around the thick oak handle, he gripped it, and in that instance, he knew it felt like home. Holding the tool over his shoulder like a coal miner walking to work, he strolled toward the man with a light step now. He skipped as he hummed a melancholy tune, a dirge of sorts, that he could not place how he knew, but bubbled up from the recesses of his mind.
Michael stood over the man, and rested the pick against his temple. The metal point scraped against his victim’s skin. His brown hair was black as a raven in the darkness.
He began to stir and pull at the restraints, as his body tried to stretch from its unnatural constriction. Eyelids fluttered, and he slowly squinted, as Michael pulled the pick up and back down in a methodical rhythm. He was like a golfer readying his swing, practicing his drive. The man panicked at the sight, pulling at his bonds, wrenching his hands against the tight rope. Michael continued his practice undeterred by his efforts or consciousness.
The man’s eyes, wide and open now, watched the horror of what was to occur in helpless anticipation. Michael raised the pick over his head, in the same arc as all the previous practice swings. Muffled sounds came from the man as he wriggled on the floor like a caterpillar trying to inch away from his impending fate.
Michael stood there with a silent ambivalence and a placid look across his face, blankly staring at the man on the floor. He looked like death to Michael. He looked like decayed rotting flesh, with maggots writhing out from eye sockets. His breath, and the muffled, inhibited sounds he made, were nothing but gases escaping his bloated decomposing corpse.
His muscles tight and poised, Michael gripped the handle with all his strength, as if he were trying to crush the oak in his hands.
“I’m sorry, but I don’t want to be eaten alive for eternity.”
The man shook his head in erratic spasms. Restricted screams escaped through the black cotton gag.
The pick came down, with a force that could split wood. The steel spike splintered his skull like a pin shattering an eggshell. Dark hair and blood and pink, spongy brain, clung to the rusted metal. His body ceased movement and turned lifeless and malleable, like corpses do.
The pick had wedged itself into the floorboard underneath, and wrenching it out of his skull, Michael paused for a second. Raising the tool high over his head, an arc of blood and brain flung in the air, like a woman exiting the ocean water, flinging her head back, her long hair throwing beads of water into the sunny warm air. Plunging the pointed piece of steel through the shattered skull a second time, his head collapsed, like an undone popover, deflated and left sagging on itself. The pick remained affixed to the floor beneath, like excalibur in anticipation of a knight worthy of its power.
Michael awaited his praise, his congratulations on a job well done, yet no voice spoke to him. The silence which engulfed him was only drowned out by the rain pelting wooden shingles on the roof. A steady stream of cold water ran down into a puddle on the ancient wooden floor, streaming through a large gap in the roof. He sniffed the air, anticipating the smell of sulfur. Nothing, only the scent of wet earth and damp, old straw.
Gripping the oak handle, he wrenched the pick out of the floor board, and put it back in its place against the wall, all the gore and hair still clinging to its rusted metal. With very quick and deliberate movements, he untied the man, his rag doll body flopping in uncooperative movements.
With a certain reverence, Michael coiled the rope, one wrap at a time around his hand. Neat and rounded and perfect, he hung the single bond on the wall, still stark white, even after he had plunged the pick through the man’s skull twice. Grabbing the corpse’s ankles, he dragged him across the old wooden planks, leaving a long trail of blood behind. The bloodied wake matched others stretching across the floor in the same direction. These old marks were faded from time, the dry, wooden floor boards, having supped up much of the wet, sticky ichor.
Stepping out into the night, the blue light overhead shone down on the man’s body as his smashed head dragged, like a large deflated balloon through the mire. The teeming rain beat down on their bodies, relentless in its fury. The wind whipped fierce. Gusts moved the branches of a immense willow next to the barn, its long leafed tendrils reaching out for them both, just out of reach. The man’s body plowed through the mud of the dirt driveway, and a long trench dug behind him like the wake from a boat. Rainwater collected in the trench, a man made canal, filling with brown and red tinged muddy water.
At the back of the barn, Michael removed a shovel hidden behind a loose board. He dug into the earth, softened by the persistent storm. Each spade full slopped onto the saturated ground. Deeper, water began to fill the hastily dug grave and Michael found himself thigh deep in water, his ankle and feet deep in the red earth.
Michael’s toes began to numb. Deeper he went. The edges washed in, collapsing earth in a futile effort, retarding his progress. As water and earth poured into the grave, his frustration grew at his slow progress. Stepping out, he rolled the corpse into the hole. The man’s arms flailed around limp and uncooperative, like a marionette left on the floor unsupported by its strings.
As the body flopped, splashing down, water rose like ice cubes dropped into an already full glass of water. Michael began to push the mud into the grave like a bulldozer, and the ooze slopped into the hole atop the lifeless body. It was a soupy puddle more so than a grave. He knew he’d have to come back and tend to this on a dry day. For now, it would do.
Leaning on the shovel, he looked like a man accomplished after a hard day’s work. He turned and looked at the three other depressions in the earth, dissatisfied with their sinking progression as the earth bowed down and water puddled atop their surface.
“I have to tidy up all of these,” he muttered to himself. His voice was barely audible in the pounding rain and fierce wind.
He placed the shovel back behind the loose board of the barn, and made his way across the yard, and closing the barn doors, found his way inside the house. Entering the kitchen, his muddy, saturated boots formed brown puddles on the linoleum floor. Bending down to untie his boots, he felt a sensation come over him, and sniffing the air, smelt sulfur.
As he lay there on the ground, his body in epileptic spasms. The grand mal seizure overpowered his body, the same seizures he’d had since childhood. The same seizures his evangelical parents refused to seek medical guidance for, citing the devil as cause for these episodes. The aura always occurred right before his fits. The smell of sulfur and putrid rotten eggs wafted through the air, a pre trigger. His parents always said that was the brimstone from hell. They chastised him and tried to strike the devil from him. These attempts were futile and calamitous.
As he lay on the floor, his teeth clenched, biting down on the side of his tongue, he saw his flesh stripped from his body. His eyes were consumed again. His mind was visited by this unnamed creature who requested death, giving him his next victims, offering him a chance for salvation. It had already claimed his two parents, his younger sister. He still had the blood of her boyfriend on his hands. Now, it called for more.