by Tallis Baker, Age 15, Australia
Artwork by Katie King
The fiction prompt of the month for July was “the hottest day.”
A Living Hell
The first thing that hits me is the heat. It’s like a blast from a furnace and smells like rotting meat. Red light seeps through my eyelids. Another stinking whiff of dead animals overcomes me, and I want to be sick. Then, quite suddenly, I am sick.
When I am done heaving up my last meal–don’t remember when or what it was, but it doesn’t matter–I open my eyes fully for the first time. The red light isn’t just a bulb above me as I expected. It’s all around me. Have they got a new interrogation room? I wonder. But no, I’m not in the interrogation room at the police station because I’m not lying on a hard metal bench with leather straps around my wrists and ankles. And besides, they’d never let that room smell like this because the interrogator has to stand in it.
Where am I?
Oh, that heat! I’m surely in a furnace. It’s as though I’m being roasted alive in an open fire, except that it doesn’t hurt. I look around.
It’s a desert wasteland, although surely even a desert can’t be this hot. But as far as I can see, in every direction, there is nothing except fires dancing upon the raw ground, no doubt contributing to the heat. They remind me of the fires I have set. Smoke billows up from the flames, clogging the sky above me so densely that when I look up all I can see is grey.
Suddenly there are shapes moving in the distance. Humanoid shapes. People! I make my way towards them, hoping they can tell me where I am. As soon as I am close enough to see them in more detail I call out to them.
“Hello? Can you tell me where I am?”
They don’t answer, don’t even look up to acknowledge my presence. I won’t take that. I am a feared man, and what I say goes. Except in the police station, of course. But this isn’t the police station. I yell again.
“Oi! Where am I?”
Still, nothing. I stride up to the closest one and grab him, spinning him around to face me, before shoving him away with a shriek.
He is a skeleton. Well, not quite, as he has skin, but it is stretched so tight around his face that he looked like one. But where his eyes had been are holes. Gaping, bloody holes, as though something had pecked them out.
Wait… What pecked them out?
There is a harsh cry behind me, but I refuse to turn. I’ve finally figured out where I am. My memory’s coming back. The chase, the gunshot… I’m a bad man. I’ve done bad things. But I don’t deserve this. Or maybe all bad men do.
The crows are coming closer. Soon I’ll end up like these people, because we’re all bad men here. This is where the bad men go.
I guess it’s tough being in Hell.
Tallis writes, “I’m fifteen years old and for as long as I can remember I’ve loved to write. I’m an avid reader and writer and this is such an exciting opportunity for me as I’ve never had my work published before.”