One Soul, Part One
They crawled over each other, a naked mass of writhing, boiling flesh that undulated with the waves of molten iron and rock that churned in the pit. Screams of torment were hollowed out as the bodies burned, only to begin once again as they clambered up atop large chunks of red-hot iron, where they’d shove other Sinner’s off into the boiling ocean. High above creatures of shadow and darkness watched from cliffs, occasionally taking flight upon leathery wing to grab a tortured soul from the fiery abyss and bring them up from the Pit.
That was how he began to remember. Remember his life, his love. The drugs. The killing. Oh God, the killing! Hanging naked from the claws of one of the misshapen winged creatures, he brought his seared hands to his face where cooling tears bubbled down his muscles, boiling fat drooling from his cheeks as skin slowly grew back in patches over his naked form. Looking down he could see the endless ocean of brilliant flames and slabs of red-hot metal that souls fought each other to stand upon, just for a chance to stay out of the churning blaze for a moment’s respite. Looking off in the distance, through the thick haze, he could see a pillar of flesh rising from the ocean, towering over the waves. Great chains wrapped around the frame of the titan trapped in the boiling sea, with several leading away from its rigid form, hammered into the cliff faces with great rusted rivets.
He didn’t have time to think over this any as the foul winged creature dropped him atop a cliff overlooking the glowing ocean, a ledge leading to a darkened cavern. A lone figure stood near him, swathed in threadbare robes of old, with a long white beard and bald, cracked head. In his gnarled hands he held a book, one the likes of which he’d never seen. Bound in a pale leather, it had eyes blinking from its cover, and was the size of a turkey platter. The rail-thin man held it underneath his arm as he stared down at the ocean.
“So you would be the soul the Baksheesh have selected for this task?” The man wheezed, his voice as old as the sands of ancient deserts. “I hope you are up for this task, for your sake.”
“Um, what task?” He asked, slightly ashamed of his nudity now that his genitalia was regenerating. He moved one skinless hand over his groin, but the man’s eyes never left the Pit.
He pulled the book from beneath his arm and opened it, the pages flipping of their own accord until landing on one in particular. The man’s white eyes finally tore themselves away from the Pit long enough to glance at the page.
“Peter, eh?” He said, a wry smile quirking his cracked gray lips. “Well you’ve been selected as a spirit to return to Earth to haunt, and eventually possess a human. Your goal is to possess her long enough for her to be dragged down to Hell”
Peter, now reminded of his name, looked at the old man, waiting for an explanation. “And how do I do this?”
The old man snapped the book closed before pulling it under his arm once more. “You’ll figure it out. If you fail to do what is needed of you, then back to the Pit you go.”
The screams belching forth from the Pit seemed to swallow most noise coming from around the darkened cavern, the only source of light emanating from the Pit itself. Peter looked around, his flesh finally whole. He jumped when he saw peering at him from the darkness, two parallel lines of eyes running along a reptilian head which ended in tentacles that squirmed. The creature had long translucent arms and a barrel chest, and a large jaw filled with sharp teeth, cracked and splintered from what had to be regular use. It reached out with a clawed limb to Peter.
“Take his hand,” the man said with little emotion. “He’ll take you to where you’re being summoned.”
“Oh… I guess,” Peter said, holding his hand out to the slimy clawed paw. “Thank you for rescuing me from the Pit.”
“Just enjoy the respite. And remember, a soul is just as good as any soul.” The man said with a sigh. “You can rough up whoever you possess, but don’t let the demon consume them. Just… Just good luck, alright?”
And with that the demon grabbed Peter’s hand, causing Peter’s vision to swirl in a spectrum of blinding colors. What felt like hours passed before he found himself in a forest, spruce tree’s surrounding him as snow fell in light flurries. He felt... nothing! Upon looking at his own hands, he appeared to be a spirit.
He took a hesitant step forward, only to glide several feet. Looking down, Peter recoiled in horror at what he saw. Instead of legs, he was now a creature like the ones that lurked in the Abyss. His lower body was a writhing mass of translucent tendrils, squirming of their own accord. He still had his own hands, but when he felt his face he could feel the differences; harsh skin, with tusks jutting from his lower lips.
That was when he felt it; a slight pull coming from a random direction. Turning, he began to drift slowly towards the pull. A distant voice, one that sounded as if it were underwater, called to him to the whipping winds.
“Spirits, we call out to you… come forward so that we may speak to you! There’s nothing to fear spirits! We mean you no harm!” A young voice, that of a girl, called out in a pleading tone. Peter found himself drifting faster, passing through Spruce trees as he sped off towards the speaker. The woods, full of snow and dark from lack of sunlight, should have chilled him, but Peter felt nothing, a disturbing feeling to be certain. The voice brought pangs of desire from within his chest, something that he didn’t understand.
So he followed the calls and pleas until he came upon a cabin in a clearing. A soft dusting of snow covered the sloped roof with a porch covered by eaves to prevent foul weather from burying the home in the snow. A shovel leaned against next to the door, against a pile of logs cut short for use in a fire, the dried timber obviously fresh to Peter’s haunted eyes. He could feel the life from the severed branches bleeding away… how he couldn’t say. He didn’t think of it any further as another call echoed from within the cabin. He raced through the cabin’s walls, emerging through the thick wood into a dimly lit room.
Several dozen candles shed a low light over a living room that in life Peter would have called quaint. A low table between two rocking chairs sat in front of a roaring fireplace. Photos of smiling men and children lined the walls; a distinct hint of vanilla filled the air. Looking down at the low table, Peter’s throat constricted.