This is a continuation of Captain John Smith’s story in Dante’s Hell.
If you are just joining the story, I encourage you to start from the beginning of the installment.
If you’re continuing along, please enjoy Captain Smith’s story.
John heard Samuel’s spine snap and a small splash as the man’s torso bobbed in the boiling pitch. John turned to see, but his question would have to wait until morning. Samuel’s body washed away with the tide. But now, with his feet free from pain, he could concentrate on the new find behind him.
Gently, he twisted his body to see the rope still dangling, moving back and forth in an invisible breeze. If he extended his body as far as it could go, he could just reach it. He tried to lean back, but his firmly planted rear would not budge from the coarse sand. He looked down at his bent legs, forever in a petrified state and completely immovable.
He turned back to the rope and spotted a small spider working diligently on a web between the fibers. Fine threaded webs covered the rough rope making John realize it’s been there for quite some time. How had he never noticed this? Could this be his salvation; his release?
Once again, he turned his body and continued to push past his limits, and then, he felt a small tear on his side and yelped. A gash of red seeped from the wound and dripped onto the ground. Determined now more than before, he forcibly turned back and further. The cut in his side ripped exposing muscle and bone to the elements, but he just about could move for the first time in over a century.
The momentum of his twist loosened the bones of his waist and he felt some movement in his skin. If he threw his body backward with all his might, he may just be able to grab the rope.
“Come on, John. What else do you have to lose?”
With that, he turned back to face the hellish lake before him and tensed his body completely. “One, two, …three!” John turned quickly and with such force, the skin on his waist completely broke, pouring blood onto the sand, and the bones of his lower spine let go of their hold sending his back flat on the ground.
His lone scream echoed in the depths of hell. He hoped against all hope that he hadn’t alerted anyone since silence had enveloped the domain.
The pain throbbed as blood continued to gush from his veins. His vision blurred, and he felt weak, but he squinted and focused on the shaking willow above him. “You are crying. My god.”
That was when he finally noticed his grip. His left hand held firmly onto the rope much to his surprise. John had managed to grab it and not let go through his maneuver. He gripped the rope even tighter and tried to reach his right hand for a more steady hold on this incredible find. The small spider John had noticed earlier crawled down the rope and navigated to his hand. But as soon as it touched his flesh, it grew from a small, barely imperceptible insect to a much larger black widow with its prominent red hourglass marking.
John’s breathing grew shallower in fear. The widow was meant to scare him, but if he remained perfectly still, maybe it would leave him be. Sweat dripped from his brow as his body continued to bleed. The spider continued its hesitant dance stepping lightly from his thumb to his white knuckles. But after a few moments, John’s eyes fluttered. It must be from blood loss. It was all he could do to keep alert and awake.
He glanced down at the pool of blood collected around him and saw a small river flow into the boiling lake. Come morning, he would suffer in his own blood and not just of the men he had slain.
Finally, the spider turned back toward the rope and started to leave John’s hand. The first leg had just touched the rough fiber when it instantly shrunk to that of the cobweb-maker John had seen initially. Relief washed over him and he breathed a sigh of relief, but the spider halted at the movement and returned his long leg.
John gasped as the spider clenched down on the fleshy part of his thumb. The poison filtered through his skin quickly as John let the rope go and he brushed the hideous bug away. The spider jumped onto the rope and quickly ascended to his intricate home.
Now flat on his back, John’s breathing came shallow and quick. His blood surrounded his pale body with his legs still grotesquely bent, and the bite on his thumb quickly swelled to the size of a mushroom. It threatened to break the skin, but before John could treat it, he passed out from pain, blood loss, and venom.
* * * * *
Temujin slept, completely submerged in scorching lava. There was no use for screaming, no use for writhing, and no use for weeping. In a world of his own making, he suffered in silence, and he certainly suffered. On the rare occasion he would glance upward through the thick layer of red muck that just barely covered the top of his head. But the disappointment of being immobile and unable to reach the surface made the pain of his sizzling flesh and tar-like blistering all the more unbearable.
But this night was different. Instead of just tasting the blood of the millions of citizens he killed upon his orders, he tasted something else, something rotten. Slowly, but still under the surface, he turned and looked upward again through the layer of translucent blood.
The same scene lay above him. The same rock cliff stood tall and imposing full of black and jagged rock. The top of this cliff was barely visible through the black abyss of the underworld. But the rope that dangled from the lonely tree fused to the side of the cliff shook.
It was not a gentle shake like being caught in the breeze but rather a quaking and unsteady movement. He looked at the tree with its dead branches and lifeless form and saw that it was crying. A tree crying? How can that be? But the great Genghis Khan was not mistaken. The tree was indeed crying, and with no power to free himself from the thick muck, he could only stare on.
Just as he was about to close his eyes once more, shutting out the atrocities of his eternal life, the same loud scream resonated through the underworld and a body of a man dropped into the lake a mere ald from his head. He sighed as his scalp threatened to break free once again from his skull, and again, the blistering pain of his sins would recycle as it had every single day since his death.
* * * * *
Samuel’s body cascaded down through the blazing hot underworld in a tumbling tunnel of black. The start of every day began just like this. He was birthed through a filthy tunnel and dropped into the sizzling lake of blood completely unceremoniously. And despite knowing just how painful the boiling lake would be, his scream was involuntary no matter how hard he braced himself.
John tried to help him calm his voice and deaden his nerve-endings, but being submerged to his waist was vastly different than just having feet burned. What did he know about deadening nerve-endings? It was only minutes before Samuel could feel the first blister burst on his raw and tender skin. The open wound allowed the thick blood of his victims invade his body.
It was as if Samuel could feel each cut and stab he inflicted on the women he tortured in the dark alleys of London. He asked himself constantly if he regretted his sins and if he felt remorse for the lives he had taken. But each time he got close to an answer in his mind, another piece of his skin would burst, and his mind would immediately go to the new shock of pain. His body didn’t want him to justify or reason with what he had done.
The initial moments of agony had passed, and Samuel clenched his teeth to concentrate on the pain. He opened his eyes because he remembered the rope from the day before. He couldn’t believe John had never seen a shaking rope, but if John could reach it and pull himself away from the banks of the red ocean, then maybe, John could drag him out, too.
His eyes searched the cliff side wall, and he spotted the shaking, fibrous rope swaying gently in a non-existent breeze. He saw John sitting in his same spot, clutching his wrist. It also looked like he was crying. Just as Samuel was going to call out to the famed captain, he felt something like hair brush up against his thigh. Terrified to look down, he tried to ignore the sensation, but as it wrapped itself in the congealing skin that sloughed off his body, he was forced to move it away so it would not adhere to himself.
Glancing down, he saw it was the scalp of a balding man with hair that could grace a set of shoulders. Mortified, Samuel’s breathing grew more panicked. His concentration broke, and the pain of his body escalated. He let out a hoarse scream, completely uncontrolled and inhuman; the swaying rope gone from his mind.
To be continued…
No man is an island. Three men in different levels of the same hell are intrinsically connected. Find out next week how these men band together to help one of them out of Dante’s Hell
To read more or start from the beginning of Dreadful Dantes, click here.
(c) Copyright 2016, Alison C. Wroblewski. All rights reserved.