Henry fell faster and faster into a dark and encompassing abyss. His screaming had exhausted him, but his fear kept him awake and trembling. Where am I? Where is my beloved Jane? Thoughts swirled in his mind like his body as he floated downward in a slow and meandering spiral.
The smell of the air was toxic. Henry desperately tried to calm himself to limit the sharp intakes of breath. It was the only thing that stopped him from retching after already filling his lungs with the heavy and thick stench. It clung to him like a sickness and did not let go. It was on his clothes, arms, in his hair and nostrils. There was no escaping this foul smell as he looked desperately high above and far below him for any relief. But there was none.
His breathing remained shallow but steady for only a few moments when he slowly realized he could now not catch his breath. He felt as though his lips were pursed, sucking in air through a tiny opening, rather than his gaping open mouth wide enough to let out a terrified yell. Just moments ago he saw his lovely wife and queen, Jane, and now he was fighting to breathe. The noxious air surrounded him, but even the luxury of taking it in eluded him.
As his breathing became more and more shallow, Henry felt a lump growing in his neck cutting off more of his air. He tried to reach his throat to massage the blockage as his eyes began to bulge, but his arms had grown back to their obese size limiting all quick and lithe movements.
Fearful for another agonizing death, Henry yanked his arm as hard as he could to reach behind his head, ripping the seam of his blouse to shreds. He hit the back of his neck hard, but a feather would have been more effective. His neck had almost doubled in size from his thirty year old body he just knew before his black decent. How is this possible?
His breathing became more labored and infrequent. He was drowning in black toxic air.
As his lungs got smaller and smaller, his legs had gotten heavier steadying his body in an upright position. He was no longer swirling but falling directly down, feet first. He seemed to only fall faster this way causing him to panic and reach for the air just out of reach.
His eyes bulged as he fought the invisible force tightening around his neck. His blouse was so tight against his inflated flesh that he could not even fit a finger under the collar to break the cloth away from his skin.
How long can a person go without air before they faint, or die? Surely, the end was near, but the feeling of drowning set his lungs on fire and kept Henry in a perpetual panicked state using up every ounce of energy and hope. Defeated, as no air entered through his gaping mouth, Henry let his arms drop to his sides and embrace the feeling of death.
But as soon as his arms dropped, his blouse gave way and he heaved a deep inhale filling his now obese and gangrened body with poisonous air. He coughed and retched as a chicken bone loosened and he vomited it into the black open air.
Now gasping but ever-grateful, Henry thanked his God and took stock of his surroundings. His belly had grown in size so much he could no longer see his feet or legs. He looked side to side at his arms and saw them grow to inhuman proportions, and his lithe fingers were the size of sausages. His rings had once again turned the tips a sickening purple and black. He feared they would be cut off completely if his skin continued to stretch.
His neck, now constricted with thick and hard skin, did not allow him much movement, but he tried to look down to see where he could possibly be falling. All he could make out was a faint red light in a far away distance. He squinted his eyes, but to no avail. Heat was all he could feel as it crept from the depths. The bottoms of his feet prickled and the ulcers in his legs pulsed.
What is this hell and when will I find relief?
A single word, planted firmly, crossed his mind: never.
The red light then filled the tunnel of death like a rising tide, and within an instant, black replaced the hot red as his body came to a loud, hard, and devastating thud in a vat of something awful. The shock of the impact and the searing heat that now radiated over half of his encased body caused Henry to lose consciousness.
* * * * *
Henry woke with a start. Someone or something had just put a vial of smelling salts under his nose…or so he wished. Instinctively, he tried to lift his arm to wave it away in disgust, but his arm was stuck in muck. He took in a large breath and immediately regretted it as he retched from the stench that enveloped him. Vomit poured from his mouth and fell on his blouse and stomach. Disgusted that he now fouled his clothes, he tried to look around him and get help, but all he saw was black.
Impossible. He could feel his eyelids open and close and the subtle but distinct sensation of his eyelashes brushing against themselves, but all he saw was a shade darker than black.
“Hello?” Henry’s once powerful and booming voice was reduced to a quivering mess as his desperation changed to dread. “Hello? Anyone?” He opened and closed his eyes several times, hoping against all hope to regain his sight–
Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.
–but nothing came. He tried, instead, to fix his ears on any sound that may give away his location, but every sound was a dull and muffled echo like being submerged in water. He could not tell if what he heard were devastating screams or the siren song of a gorgeous woman. Was he to be seduced or threatened? Was he being rescued or left for dead?
Again, he tried to lift his obese arm out of the sticky muck. He turned his head toward it, thinking he would see what weighed him down, but instead, his nose told him exactly what surrounded his massive body, and the mere thought of swimming in excrement sent his stomach roiling.
Henry never knew of such filth as he always exercised extreme cleanliness and order in his palaces. A memory flashed through his mind of a time when his last groom and confidante, Stanhope, tipped his chamber pot and dirtied the floor and his own clothing. Furious, Henry slapped Stanhope to the ground and forced him to clean the mess with his bare hands. The mistake never happened again, but now Henry knew what it must have been like to touch his own shit. He retched again.
“Please! Help me!” His voice was still nothing more than a whisper. But not a moment after his voice escaped his lips, the hairs on the back of his neck stood straight up. Someone was behind him.
He tried to turn his massive neck in the direction of this foreign body, but to no avail. He was stuck. Stuck in a mess of his own making. “Can you help me? I’m stuck, and I’m filthy. Please assist me.” The King of England had now been reduced to a sniffling and weak man. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.
Henry waited and held his breath as he felt the presence advance behind him. It came closer until he could feel the weight of it push piles of muck around his body like sand in low tide.
It stood over him, towering over his half-buried body. Henry began to shake violently in fear. “Please.” A tear formed in the corner of his blind eye as three separate snarls so evil and dark roared.
To be continued…
To read more of Dreadful Dantes including about Marie Antoinette and Greg Abbott, click here.
(c) Copyright 2016, Alison C. Wroblewski. All rights reserved.