Here is the beginning of a draft for a novel that I toyed around with about a decade ago. I know I had written more, but the rest could be buried in a box somewhere. I really enjoyed working on it. I had the support of a really good friend and an amazing artist. It was also one of the first times I had tried to advertise my writing online and the most negative/critical comment I received was that they basically agreed it was a rough draft. I will never forget one woman that left a comment on it. She was complaining that she was late for work because she could not put it down and finish the rest later. That was a pretty wonderful feeling.
I opened my eyes and sighed. That exhale of despair was that same sound that welcomed me every morning. I was so tired of putting up with life. I just wanted to be happy. For one lousy day, I wanted to be able to breathe again. Every time I thought things were starting to look up, the powers that be would send me spiraling down a new hell. I got out of bed and went along with the same mind-numbing routine I always did. I hated my job. The money was decent but I worked ninety-hour weeks. I could never catch up on sleep, and I was losing touch with the few people that I thought might actually give a damn about me. On the way to work, I drove passed the house I grew up in. It was sort of masochistic for me to go out of my way to see something that reminded me of feelings that I will never experience again. I can not recall much but there were simple times where I would run around the neighborhood with boys my age and beg my parents for the latest action figure. My childhood was cut short though. I was not even out of elementary school when my life started falling apart, and no amount of antidepressants or therapy was going to change that either. That is probably where the top of this downward slope to damnation began. I must have been too caught up in my thoughts or at glancing across the parkway at my old house. I never saw the oncoming truck swerving in out of lanes. It clipped a van changing lanes, trying to get out of the way, and was thrown across the median. It hit me head on. I remember yelling but not the sound of it or my throat straining. Nor do I remember the collision, but I suddenly jerked and stopped yelling. My face felt warm and wet. That warmth felt so good, so right. I was, finally, free from enduring this life. I had a way out without having to feel guilty about it. I glanced around briefly and found myself staring at a little girl through the cracked windshield. She was just standing there in front of the car seemingly unshaken. I remember thinking that she had my eyes, which made me feel, suddenly, ill at ease. There was nothing after that. No pearly gates. Not even darkness, just nothing. Nothing, except Willie. There was no grand entrance, he was just suddenly present. He was a hideous man; like some kind of gnarled, backwater product of incest. He seemed to tower over me but I could make out that he was a short, stocky man. The nothingness had receded, but I could not grasp the scenery. It was as if my eyes could not focus on anything around me, particularly whatever he was sitting on. “You took your bloody damn time gettin’ here. I’ve been waitin’ long enough.” There was a quality about his voice that made him all the more revolting to me. It was not the Irish accent, but almost like it affected the other senses; it smelled foul, it was like oil sliding across my skin. I rubbed my arms as if I could get his voice off of me. “Please, tell me you’re not god. I can’t kill myself a second time.” He roared in laughter, almost falling back off of his perch. His movement brought the sound of metallic rustling. I had not noticed the chain around his neck until then. “You’re sicker than I if you think me to be your almighty, boyo.” I scowled at him and looked around, squinting but not making out a simple route away from him. This seemed to make him uneasy. “Oi, settle down, eh? I’m in your debt, boyo, so I’ll be making this a bit easier fer ya.” I redirected my attention, crossing my arms and waiting for what he had to say. He seemed to get more restless as I got agitated with him. “You can run around in circles for all eternity, I got what I want.” I took this as a poor attempt to make me think he was indifferent towards me. He straightened up, getting a bit more stoic and serious. “Though, you won’t be gettin’ anywhere. I might be the one with a visible chain but you’re more bound than I.” “How do you figure? Better yet, how the hell are you in debt to me?” “Hell indeed.” With that, his “perch” came into view. He was resting on a pile of human heads; some freshly cut, some had been decaying for a time. They were all people who had scorned me, be they family, former lovers, friends, even people I had not thought of for years. I instantly felt sick, more so because I was glad to see some of them dead. “Ah, maybe you’re the one in debt, boyo?” I gestured to his seat, “What is this?” “Baggage. The people that haunt your mind will be your way around. It’s unusual for a soul to bring so many keys. You might be the first in a long time to be able to open so many doors.” “So what? I get pissed on more in life so I get a bigger afterlife to roam?” “Something like that. There’s always a balance to these things. You’ll learn that soon enough, boyo.” He used his heel to kick a head out of the pile. It bounced and rolled until it came to rest in front of me. My fists clenched. The wounds caused by her were still fresh. I was all but ready to grab the damn thing by its hair and cast it away, when Melanie looked up at me. “I love you, Diego. I’ll always love you. I’d never do anything to hurt you. I could never do that to you, Diego.” She whispered so sweetly with that coy little smile of hers. Her dead eyes still glistened the way they did when she spoke of such sentimental things. “Shut up. You filthy, fucking slut, shut the fuck up!” I was shaking and my tears stung like hot embers. She did not seem to hear me. She went on like a broken record. “I love you.” “You never loved me.” “I’ll always love you.” “Shut the fuck up!” “I’d never do anything to hurt you.” I went still and spoke low. “Stop it.” Willie rose with keen interest. “I could never do that to you, Diego.” The area started quivering with instability. Willie was looking around with sincere concern. “Boyo, she’s a memory. Calm yerself.” I glared at this man so intensely the hate felt tangible. The air felt like it was vibrating. My voice ruptured from me with such caliber that it visibly startled him. “I was supposed to be free from this, and here you are shoving it in my face again!” “You don’ understand. There’s good reason…” I still could not make out anything around me, but I could hear things shatter and break as the area shook harder. Willie slid off of his throne, picking up a pair of heads on his way down. He muttered incomprehensibly and swung the heads at me, spraying blood. The crimson shower hit me like a cement brick. I was not knocked down as I expected from the blow, but was pinned back as if against a wall. I raged and moved at him only to find myself held in place by assorted rusted chains, barbed wire, and what looked like rotted fencing. “Everyone has to carry a burden to get anywhere, boyo.” The timbre of my voice dropped again. It rippled thru the air like an echo from the abyss. “That’s life. I left that behind. There’s no more holding me back or forcing me to suffer.” Melanie’s voice chimed in, “But I don’t want to be with you…” “…I want to play the field…” “…It’s just sex.” Willie looked pale. “Oh, bollocks…” I screamed and the blurred reality around me blew apart. I felt my back expand and something like two large black hands swept away my bindings like dust. Willie seemingly reached through the nothingness around us and pulled Melanie’s head away from me before I could take out my blind anger on it. That did not stop me from trying though. I kicked off the ground, throwing myself at him. Willie somehow called up the blood out of the pile of heads with sheer force of will and gesture. It rose in my path and swept over me like a wave. I rolled and flailed in a swirling mass of blood. My hatred thickened as I was continuously obstructed. If souls are songs, mine roared to existence then; bellowing with all the fury of a thunderclap. The heads cried out in agony as my cage was flung apart. Willie shuffled away from me. “This shouldn’t be happenin’. You need to do somethin’ right now.” I felt the appendages on my back flair out like I was going to throw my own cascade in return. I probably would have bashed his ugly face in if she had not come. Her presence halted me immediately. The rage was suddenly gone. That endless void that coursed through me was filled and I was rendered dumbfounded. She was not just a visage; she was a siren’s melody, a perfume, loving hands caressing my face. Her sweeping raven hair hid half of her as if she would be too much to look at if you were to take a glimpse of her fully. I was lost in her, this goddess. She approached and my wings folded back. I reached out to touch her like a scared child to his mother. An arm reached from beneath her hair and then everything became sickly wrong. Her arm looked gnawed and rotten. She touched my face and I jumped back, startled. My leg snapped and broke off midway thru the movement and I hit the ground. My legs looked gangrenous and were decaying right before my eyes. I futilely tried to put my leg back together, too shocked to comprehend the situation. Then my left eye fell out of its socket. I cried and attempted to force it back in but my hands were crumbling away. I felt things writhing inside of me and my bones began to splinter, piercing my skin. I vomited a mixture of puss and maggots then screamed, but blood poured from me more than audible words did. I shook, my mind was gone. Thankfully, I lost consciousness. I dreamed of the little girl I had seen before I died. We were standing in what was my bedroom when I was her age. Looking at her filled me with a dread that not even what the goddess had done to me could compare to. She spoke softly with a voice too demonic to be hers, “I thank God for the suffering.” I woke face down, in the dirt. I raised myself just enough to get my face off of the soggy ground and found that I could see it now. The ground looked like blue marble and it bled where my weight was distributed. It was like pushing water out of a sponge. I sat up and looked around at an alien landscape. I was in what appeared to be an orchard, but the trees were not of wood; they were like shoots of intertwining veins and arteries and the foliage consisted of decapitated bodies held up to bake in the sun. I expected to smell death but the fragrance in the air was sweet and metallic. I stripped off my blood-soaked sweatshirt and tossed it aside before moving. I did not walk far before I came to a pair of craters. The ground looked like cracked glass and several “trees” were splintered and uprooted. Sitting in the center of the mess was a head. Things started coming back to me then. I frantically examined my body and reached at my back but I felt normal. What was stranger than knowing I had had wings was that it felt natural to have them. I actually missed them, as if I knew what it was like to soar thru the sky instead of being restricted to the ground below. More importantly, there was that woman, that half-rotten angel. What the hell was that about? I shook myself to clear my head. There is no point in trying to make sense of a nightmare; all you can do is journey further down the rabbit hole. I approached the head, figuring that I would need it based on what Willie had said. I was furious at the thought of having to deal with Melanie again, but I noticed the hair was too dark and too long. I walked around to see the face and found that it was not Melanie. It was Stacie. There was not any rage this time, just melancholy. I waited for words, but they never came. Perhaps her angry face said everything. We dated off and on with no real seriousness until one night she was drugged and raped. After she told me, I could not touch her anymore. I did not know what to do or say, I just knew that she felt tainted. I am sure that the last thing she needed was to be shunned by the man she was infatuated with. It happened so long ago that I could not recall any real details; especially why we ended up hating each other so much. I picked her up by her hair and walked. Normally, I would be questioning every aspect of my situation, plaguing myself with what could be going on, but this place did not give me a chance to think. I noticed that the bodies all had messages carved into them; “Willie was here”, “and here”, “here too”, “Willie got him”, “and her”, “this belongs to Willie”, “guess who?” All insane little notes everywhere like someone’s graffiti. The air became more heavily scented as I walked. When it became strong enough that I was going to complain, I saw the little girl from my dream. I was instantly filled with dread. Seeing her did not necessarily scare me, it was more like a intense feeling of wrongness. As if looking at something that could not possibly exist but does. I starred at her as if I was driving by a wreck on the side of the road; you know it could be gruesome but you slow down and look anyway. There was nothing hideous about her though, she was pretty little thing. She skipped away between the trees and I forced myself to follow, even though every fiber of my being was screaming for me not to. I lost sight of her quickly. She turned a corner around a tree at the edge of the orchard and dropped out of sight. As I stepped out of the orchard, Stacie’s head bled from the eyes and whispered, “His suffering grants entry.” What looked like a medieval cathedral seemed to spring forth before me as if it was always there but I could not see it until I took that last step. It was all brown stone with roman-style ornamenting. The marble ground darkened as I drew closer to the cathedral, as did the sky. Despite the foreboding changes, I proceeded. The entrance consisted of great oak doors, which parted as I neared. The insides were of a grand church, though instead of the usual rows of wooden benches, stood flawless women. All as beautiful as the mesmerizing song they began to sing. No words, just pristine voices which caressed the ears. Disgusting tubing that looked more organic than mechanical ran from their chests and along the floor and gathered at a machine that resembled a church’s organ. In front of the large machine stood what I thought was an onyx statue which towered several stories above me. Its head was lowered so I could not see its face, and its body was shrouded in a massive cloak which ran all the way to the ground far below. The only distinguishing features were massive bull horns which nearly grazed the ceiling. I walked slowly passed the first few rows of sirens but halted when the singing suddenly stopped. That is when I saw the giant’s head rise. Its milky white eyes glared at me, striking out of the massive silhouette. Its focus was suddenly diverted to the little girl I had been trying to follow. She slipped out from behind me and treaded towards the angry monolith. I tried to call out to her to make her stop, but I found myself shaking. I could not speak. All I could do is watch her destroy everything. I still do not know how to accurately describe what happened. It was so fast. It looked like the girl was turned inside out and started growing exponentially. Shards of bone came up out of the whirling mass of human flesh like a great mouth and struck the dark giant under its cloak. The sirens screamed and the giant drew up his great arms and beat at the monstrosity assaulting him. The inhuman beast spewed forth tendrils of flesh which were quickly engulfing the insides of the cathedral and the giant like rapidly growing vines. The giant pounded relentlessly but only seemed to be getting tangled as he did. The mouth of the monster began striking and flaying the giant as it overcame him. As it became evident that the giant’s strength meant nothing, the monster turned on the sirens. A large gelatinous hand slid out from the organic mass and took hold of the tubing which all the women were connected to and tore them free of the cathedral’s great organ. Free of the machine, it retracted into itself, dragging the women inside. The sirens screamed and frantically clawed at the ground and each other, but it was of no use. Large tooth-filled sockets formed in the mass to devour the women as they were dragged within reach. As one of them slide by, she grabbed a hold of my pant leg. She cried and ranted unintelligently at me for help. I tried to pull her at first, but found that she was only going to get me killed as well at this rate. No matter how much I attempted to break free from her, she would not let go of me. The monster ravaged the giant, tearing him apart. Somewhere between having a large piece of the giant’s intestine slap onto the ground beside me and watching the sirens being eaten, I finally panicked. I felt myself go hollow inside and wings sprout from my back. I tore free from the woman’s grip and slashed at her tubing with my wing, severing it. I picked her up in my arms and took off into the air. The woman started screaming and slapping at me, her eyes were as wild as they were when she was being dragged to her death. The monster’s tendrils rippled, doubling over with thorns of bone before lashing out at me. I weaved back and forth, trying to dodge the fleshy rose vines, but a thorn caught the woman, knocking her unconscious. The gash was large, starting at the bridge if her nose and running across the crown of her head. I was running out of room to maneuver as the beast began to fill the cathedral. I made a last ditch effort and threw myself towards a stain-glass window. The beast’s mouth grew wide and shot forth a tongue which splintered into countless arms, all reaching out to grab me. I barrel-rolled, slapping away most of them, but my legs were taken a hold of just before I came to the window. Everything slowed down then. In the split-second it would have taken for me to start falling, one of the arms drew up in front of me holding Stacie’s head. I had not realized I had dropped it. Stacie’s eyes bled and she whispered to me, “Her suffering is greater. You are banished.” My vision blurred and I felt my body being flung by a great force. I expected to hit the cathedral walls but I went spiraling on forever, yelling and gripping the siren tightly. When I started to regain my composure as I plummeted through the air, I hit the ground. I coughed up blood and yelled as I flexed a broken wing. I fumbled around, trying to get myself to stand. I found my balance as my eyes began to focus on my surroundings and managed to at least get on my knees. I was back in the orchard. I got to my feet and picked up the woman, moving us the shade of one of these gruesome trees. Before I could tend to her, I heard a voice above me. “Came back to admire the art, boyo? And you even brought your new girl wit ya. How sweet.” Willie was high in the tree holding up a freshly cut body as the tree’s limbs pierced it and took it out of his hands. I threw myself into a defensive stance, and winced. I did not feel up to tangling with him again. Willie shook a finger at me and chuckled dryly. “You got the jump on me once, so shame on me, but this time, I planned ahead, boyo.” The ground quaked and rippled before three large crystals burst up from the ground in front of me. They shimmered briefly, and then the portions facing me became reflective so that I could see a perfect mirror image of myself. The first thing I noticed was that my wings did not show in my doubles. I did look unnatural to myself though. I was still my tall, lean self, but my muscles were more defined and I seemed a bit too sharp and chiseled. My pale bronze skin was speckled with blood and my hair was falling out of its ponytail, but I looked beautiful. I felt as if I was looked at a picture of myself that someone had doctored to look better. The mirrors took on different hues; one white, one gray, and one black. I cried out in agony and gripped my head. It felt like someone was playing tug-o-war with my brain. I dropped to my knees and watched my reflections change. The mirror with a white hue held an image of me when I was ten years old and crying. The gray mirror seemed to remain the same, except I looked hollowed out. I was staring into nothingness without blinking and looked completely emotionless in that mirror. The black hued mirror did not look like me at all. The man in that mirror was covered in archaic tattoos. The whites of his eyes were black, his irises dark blue, and his pupils were crimson. His hair was so dark that it looked like a long, billowing shadow behind his head. His black nails were grown long and sharpened. He drew his hands up in front of his chest, touching fingertips. His body flexed and three pairs of black wings unfolded from behind him. A circle of light shone above his head then set ablaze in a flame of black which curled up at opposing sides like horns. I stared at this stranger. I swore I knew him despite this being the first time I saw anything like him. Willie walked around from behind the mirrors and studied the separate images. “This is you split into several aspects, boyo. Deep inside, you’re just a little boy who cries because no one loves him, a mindless zombie who moves through the same routine every day, and a monster.” I snarled and tried to get up to confront him for speaking down to me, but the mind-splitting pain would not let me move the way I wanted to. “You’re goin’ to stay right there until I put you back together. This time, you’re fuckin’ listening to what I got to say.” The black mirror grew darker as the man in it became visibly angry. “You have to endure this last trial if you ever want to find peace in life after death, boyo. Take each journey with each different burden and grow from it. After shedding off your weights, then you’ll have nothing to hold you back. You’ll really soar then, boyo.” Willie sighed and ran a hand through what ratty blonde hair was still on his balding head. “You just got back from Maskim Xul’s Cathedral. What the hell wen’ on there that you were cast back ‘ere like that? And why in the blazes did you take a girl from his choir? He’s got to be throwin’ one hell of a unholy bitchfit in there.” I slowly explained in detail, between bolts of throbbing pain, the events that followed after seeking out the girl I saw in the orchard. I never said anything about my dream or seeing the girl before I died though. “The head said that? Word for word? Her suffering was greater and you got banished?” Willie was pacing back and forth, scratching his head. “Yeah, but you got to give me more than this. Why did Stacie’s head take me there? What the fuck was all that, especially the girl?” “I’m not supposed to be too givin’, boyo. But there’s plenty goin’ on that shouldn’ be, so I’ll make a exception. Your burdens will put you in situations based off why they’re burdens in the first place. Like this Stacie girl. You have to live with the shame of forsaking her. Whatever was supposed to happen there was going to make you come to terms with that. But that girl interfered and you acquired some more baggage.” He jerked a thumb to the unconscious siren. “What am I supposed to do now then?” “Cry over another head, get tossed to some other corner of nowhere, and hope little girls don’t try to eat you. I’ll stitch your bitch, but I’m not babysittin’ the noisy bird. You saved her; you can do whatever with her.” I scowled at him. “What about Stacie and the whole ordeal?” “It’ll be dealt with.” Willie broke off a limb from a tree and started smashing the mirrors. I writhed on the ground in worse pain, my head felt like it was imploding on itself. When I tried to plead for release from this, Willie struck me over the brow. I did not black out all the way. My eyes rolled and I swayed; teetering on staying awake. I remember Willie walking away and then returning soon after holding a new head. The hair was short and dark, but it was faced away from me so I could not identify it. There was an exchange of words and then I was not in the orchard anymore. I was lying on a much harder ground and I was in the midst of such a dense fog that I could not see what was around me. I shivered, the ground and the breeze was a cutting cold. I could hear yelling and the clanging of metal in the distance. I groaned, “If I ever meet up with that idiot trucker here, I’m going to fucking gut him like a fish.”