This is the last installment of Captain John Smith and Samuel’s first chapter 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.
John’s breathing had slowed as the night wore on. Fatigue enveloped him, but he fought the urge to sleep. Would his body heal and be put back together by morning to start his pain anew? Or would his body remain in parts, decaying and dissolving into the sandy beach of his lonely, hellish island?
Only a few hours had passed from when he learned of the woman in the tree. She had told him of a monster in the lake that was the reason for her demise. All this time, was he not alone on his island? How could he not know of a soul beneath the surface, and what has that soul done to deserve to be completely submerged in the boiling lake?
These questions filtered in and out of his mind as his eyes fluttered closed. His fatigue felt like a heavy weight he could no longer support, and finally, he let go.
* * * * *
Captain Smith woke in the depths of a dense forest. The smell of the earth filled his senses as he tried to make sense of his surroundings. He had been here before. Crouched down to stay out of sight, he looked around. Before him was a long river bubbling along slick rocks, and behind him, he could see traces of smoke and he could hear faint voices. But he was utterly alone.
He looked down and saw his legs bent in support of his body, and he was clothed. In his right hand, he held a rifle. The weight of it felt so foreign as he had no held a weapon in many, many years. It felt unsteady in his palm, and as he reached to steady it with his left hand, he saw it was not there. What was left was a stump, sewn but inflamed. The stitching looked sloppy; like he had done it himself. He gently touched the wound and pulled his hand back like it was on fire.
Pain radiated through his body as the tenderness of the skin reacted to the intense heat of his hand. He clenched his jaw to keep him from screaming out and alarming the voices in the forest. He gripped his weapon and took a tentative step toward the voices. He looked all around him to make sure he remained unnoticed, but with each twig snap or crackle of a dead leaf, his panic rose and he feared of being caught.
Caught by whom? What was he scared of? What was waiting for him?
He took another few steps and quickened his pace toward the village. He lost sight of the river and was now completely surrounded by damp trees with voices being carried in the wind. He could smell meat roasting, and he could hear the familiar language of the natives of America. Their voices were clear enough that he could just barely make out what they were saying, but it was still too faint to understand.
John crept closer and leaned against a massive boulder that hid him from sight. He peered over the edge and saw a village of natives going about their day. Smoke rose from a fire in the center of the colony, men were hacking away at something on the ground with machetes, and women wove blankets with what looked like yellow wool. The scene looked peaceful, yet something was not right. Something was off.
After a few moments of calm, John stood and walked tall toward the village. He held the gun out to his side as a show of no harm and hoped the natives would not see this as an act of aggression. Each step he took was deliberate and careful not to alarm, and as soon as he reached the edge of the village, a lone woman holding a child in her arms looked right at him. John froze.
Her face did not reveal fear nor welcome as she stared on. The child also remained expressionless, which made John think he was not seen. And after a few moments of tense silence, the woman turned and continued to walk deeper into the village. John stared on until the woman turned to beckon him into the village.
John’s grip on his rifle tightened. He didn’t know how he would fire it with only one hand, but the cool metal gave him a strange comfort. Now every single villager, over one hundred of them, stood in the thoroughfare and stared at John with blank expressions. The woman continued to walk with her son on her hip. The boy never broke his gaze on John’s rifle as he bounced with each step the mother took.
She led him through the camp and made a slight right turn to the center of the village where the billowing fire roared. Around this corner, John saw several dozen natives crowded around the fire, not moving but rather staring at him as though they could see his soul. The woman came to a stop next to the fire and spit into the flames making it crackle and pop. Then she looked right at him with the rest of the village.
Hovering over the fire was a log held up by two other pillars much like a roasting spit, and on the spit was a hunk of meat roasting away; its features barely discernible through the char. But there was something not right about the beast. It resembled that of a man. John tentatively approached the fire to get a better look. Before he got too close, he stopped dead in his tracks. A right arm was tied to the log with rope, but the left was not there.
He raised his stump of a left hand to touch his head, but it was tender to the touch, and when he brought his arm back down, it was dotted with blood. The yellow wool he saw being woven into blankets was his own hair. The body on the spit was his own mangled flesh.
Suddenly, he whole being felt the fire that was before him. He screamed out in pain and fell to his knees. He saw his charred body but he felt it on his tender skin. “How is this happening?”
The young boy approached him slowly with a hateful stare. John shook from the pain that radiated through his skin, and when he looked down, he saw his flesh turning to a blistering, pink, and raw shade of red. Open sores radiated through his arms, and he could feel them forming on his back. The face on the dead body hanging on the spit cracked and wilted into the fire. Instantly, John felt his jaw break and become dislodged. His screams were now pained groans.
As the boy got closer, John reached for his rifle and swung it tight on his side. He propped his stump of a hand underneath so he could finger the trigger with his right hand. He yelled at the boy to not move, but it only came out as strained gibberish, and the boy kept moving forward. John stood on his feet and shook the weapon toward the boy, but he did not stop.
A blister formed on the tender skin under John’s left knee and popped crippling John’s frame. As he threw his head back and roared in pain, the gun fired and shot the young boy. The boy crumpled to the ground like a falling leaf and blood pooled around his back. The woman did not move from her spot but stared at John. A single tear formed in her eye.
John dropped the gun and gripped his knee to dull the pain, but it was impossible. Then, without warning, a man came behind him and pulled his neck back, arching his body unnaturally so John could see his face. His jaw slackened even more as it hung on by a thin layer of cheek skin.
The man who held him was Samuel. And before John could make another sound, a blade cut his throat and his body as shoved forward. His face fell next to the young boy whose eyes now clouded over with death.
John’s entire body felt on fire as his skin dried and cracked in the heat. He saw the looks from every person in the village and finally closed his eyes.
* * * * *
A demonic scream woke John with a start. His eyes felt like saucers as he glanced around trying to get his bearing. Where was he? What happened? But as he looked around, he saw the familiar surroundings of the red, bubbling lake, the steam rising from the coarse sand at his sides, and the black rock cliff at his back with the same weeping willow tree far above his head.
He looked at his left hand and saw it was still missing, but now he saw black spots forming on the remaining skin of his forearm. Pain radiated up and down his arm, but there was nothing he could do. His feet were, once again, submerged in the thick blood, and the demonic scream came from Samuel, who’s pain radiated through the depths of the underworld.
Nothing had changed. John still sat fused to the ground, utterly alone on his little island with a murdering monster standing before him screaming out in his own hellish pain.
The images in his mind of the young boy who approached him in the native village were raw. He could still feel the cold stare in his heart, and he could still feel the panic of being surrounded by his own murderers watching his own body burn on a spit.
John looked on to Samuel who cried with despair at the fruitlessness of his screams, and then he looked at his own feet. Now that he saw them bubbling and blistering under the intense heat of the thick pitch, he could feel his nerve-endings singe. He clenched his jaw and balled his remaining fist into the rough sand before focusing on his right middle toe. Today, he would not break his stare and concentrate on his toe. It was only a few more moments until it would melt away completely and ooze into the poison below.
* * * * *
Temujin’s eyeballs oozed out from under his clenched eyelids. The pain was insurmountable, but he remained in a tight fetal ball to deaden the pain radiating up and down his limbs. His scalp hung loosely to his skull, threatening with the next gentle wave to come off and float away. A blister popped on his pinky and the rest of the skin on his hand billowed and let the blood of his victims flow in his veins. He cried for his victims, he cried for his fate, but he also cried for the woman who sat perched high over his head having to watch him suffer each day over and over again.
This concludes the first chapter for Captain John Smith, Samuel, and Genghis Khan, but their stories are not yet complete. Stay tuned in the coming months for an update on our villains.
Next week, we follow the woman in the willow as we learn just what caused her to commit the sin of suicide in Dante’s Hell. Thanks for reading.
To read more or start from the beginning of Dreadful Dantes, click here.
(c) Copyright 2017, Alison C. Wroblewski. All rights reserved.