This is the second installment of Khada’an’s story in Dante’s Hell.
If you’re just joining this chapter, I encourage you to start with Part I, here.
And, if you’d like to start reading my story from the start, click here.
Khada’an wanted desperately to scream, but instead, she gasped for air. The black widow spider that plagued Captain Smith’s hand now found its way onto the back of her tongue, and the thready legs tickled her throat. It climbed down her windpipe, slowly choking her. Terrified that a sharp intake of breath would push the creature further down, she instead remained motionless depriving herself from a new breath.
Tears formed in the corners of her eyes as she kept her breath completely still.
“Khada’an, darling,” the spider whispered, “you have no need to fear me. You must take a breath to live.”
Live? How would I die if I am already dead? Instead of answering the deadly insect, she held fast. Her last breath was now stagnant and heavy in her lungs and making her heart pound in her ears. Her eyes felt large and as if they held their own pulse independent of her own.
The spider climbed her throat and found its way back onto her tongue. She wanted to bite down, killing the demon instantly, but she knew it would not die. Instead, its poison would eat her from the inside and leave her trunk like Captain Smith’s hand below. She glanced down at the man, sitting on the banks of the boiling lake with his knees up to his chest, his feet submerged in the red tide.
Just as her vision began to blur and her body was to take over breathing for her, the wretched spider rounded the corner of her mouth and traveled down her neck.
She gasped and instantly coughed. Her body shook in spasms letting dust and bark fall from her body. She saw the particles from her rough skin fall in a brown rain toward Captain Smith, but he never looked back in her direction after she broke him. She could feel his hatred, and she did not blame him.
After several coughs, her breathing slowly went back to normal, and she rolled her eyes fervently around to catch sight of her attacker. “Where are you? Who are you? Why do you torture me?” Tears sprang to her eyes again, and sugared sap crystals bubbled in her tear ducts. Terrified of losing her sight, she cried harder.
“Why do you weep? It is only me. Your closest friend and companion.”
“How dare you mock me, you ingrate.”
“Ingrate? Hardly an ingrate.”
Khada’an felt the familiar tickle of the spider’s legs on her neck. Instinctively, she reached to scratch it, but her arm would not move. Instead, it reached out far from her trunk in an unnatural direction with a grotesque twist at the wrist that reminded her that it was broken. A twinge of pain shot through her. But it was nothing compared to the incessant itch that now covered her neck.
The spider’s legs then danced along her right arm toward her broken wrist as a cruel joke and reminder of her pain. But instead of pain, it was just an uncontrollable tickle that would make the hair on her arm stand on end. She took quicker breaths to try and minimize the sensation, but it was no use for the little creature now made its way back and down her trunk toward where her new leg formed.
Still itching and healing, the tickles covered her skin, and with her whole body grew tense and taut. She craved the growing pains. She wanted to scream, but she knew it would only give the creature the satisfaction of its torture.
Khada’an felt defeated. There was no relief, no stopping, no end to this phantom feeling. “Why do you torture me so?”
The spider made its way back up her body in the slowest of manner toward her neck and right net to her ear. “Torture you? This is not torture, darling. This is a mere irritant. If you want to know torture, look at the poor fools below you.”
She glanced back down toward Captain Smith. His left forearm was now completely gone, and a black puddle of oozing flesh lay beside him. What remained of his arm was a stump at the elbow with strings of flesh hanging down and the crawl of black making its way toward his shoulder.
“The poison will not stop until he cuts his own flesh. If he does not, it will take over his body.” The spider stepped delicately on what used to be her earlobe. “That is his punishment for trying to escape.”
“But I have not tried to escape, so please, go away and leave me in peace.”
“You may have not tried to escape, but you are worthy of punishment. Did you not take your own life?”
This stopped Khada’an in her tracks. “Yes.”
“And did it give you peace?”
The spider now crawled from her ear to her chin leaving a trail of unreachable tickles. She did not answer, but instead gritted her teeth barring the creature from entering her mouth. She knew it waited for her to give way, but she refused to fall for this trick.
The tickles on her leg began to subside finally, and just as she was about to sigh in relief, a blade entered her stomach forcing her mouth to open wide in a startled scream.
Blood poured from the open wound and fell toward the steaming sand below. In a flash, her memory flickered back to her hut in Ning Hsia. She was surrounded by screams and yells from bandit Mongols, but the pain in her torso persisted. Her vision turned black, but she had seen it. It was clear as day; her rough and calloused hands, holding a rusted blade. The blade dripped with her own blood and the red liquid pooled on her skirt.
Her vision blurred as she was brought back to her hell. The pain had not subsided, so she looked down and saw the most hideous creature mounted into her trunk.
It had the body of a hawk or falcon with rust red feathers, but its face was that of her mother. Embedded in her body was the talons of the winged beast. “Mother! What are you doing?” Khada’an was shocked and angry at such callous behavior toward her own daughter. But instead of a human reply, the bird merely opened its mouth and shrieked as if it had captured its prey.
The talons dug deeper into the bark making a fist. Chunks of bark and brittle dropped and blood continued to seep from her former skin. The cold blades of the bird’s feet now felt like the cool blade she had thrust into he belly those many centuries ago, and she closed her eyes. But without warning, the bird released its death grip tearing more flesh from her body before flying away over her head and into the realm unknown to her.
Khada’an gasped and heaved in pain. Nausea enveloped her as she choked back her vomit. “Do not dare.” The spider’s voice sounded like it was inside her head. The sinister whispers crept through her insides like the legs that danced on her bark.
“Where are you, cretin?”
“I am inside of you, and you cannot be rid of me now.”
She felt the tiny tingles of the spider’s legs down her esophagus and into her stomach. It seemed to burrow in her organs making a home deep in herself. She coughed desperately trying to get the insect out of her body and onto the steaming sand below, but it was no use.
“You cannot fight it. I have created a nice home here, and struggle as you might, it will only exhaust you.”
“Tsk tsk. You should not throw insults when you are at my mercy.” The spider then bit the lining in her stomach causing Khada’an to cry out again. Her screams rivaled those of Samuel’s in the boiling pitch below, but the poison now filtered through her entire body. It was a searing pain like fire blazing through her blood stream, and there was nothing she could do to stop it. From the tips of her former toes to the top of her forehead, she felt on fire.
“Why do I deserve this hell? Why is saving my own life a sin?”
Tears fell freely from her eyes as the sap began to fuse her lashes shut.
“You didn’t save yourself. You threw your body away.”
“You do not understand. The bandits would have tortured and killed me.”
“Is the torture on earth worse than the torture you must now endure worse?”
She saw no reason to answer. But she looked out into the red lake below her. Roiling bubbles and steaming blood swirled around the body of Samuel, and Khada’an spied the body of Temujin under the surface a short distance away. The melting body rotated in the whirlpool of the lake.
“You threw your body away, so why should you care what happens to it while you’re here?” With that, the spider burrowed deeper into Khada’an’s stomach lining, leaving Khada’an to roast in her internal fire.
* * * * *
Temujin heard Khada’an’s unmistakable scream. He heard it those many centuries ago when he entered her village, and he heard it now. He did not think it possible, but his searing pain increased as his exposed heart felt the molten liquid leak inside. His flesh now gone, he was nothing but organs and teeth. Just before his tongue broke free, he tasted something terrible.
It was not the same metallic taste of blood he had experienced all these years. This was something sinister and bitter. It tasted like poison.
To be continued…
Khada’an story continues next week as we understand which hell is worse: that of earth or of Hades.
To read more or start from the beginning of Dreadful Dantes, click here.
(c) Copyright 2017, Alison C. Wroblewski. All rights reserved.