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 Byakhee 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.”
Peter, now reminded of his name, looked at the old man for a brief few seconds, waiting for an explanation. “And why should 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 once again 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. Should you fail then you’ll be going right back in.” The man said with a sigh. “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 no cold, and 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 dwelled 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 along 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 eves 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.
There were three girls, all teenagers or your adults, swathed in sweaters and thick woolen pants with furry boots. In between them all was an Ouija board, one that looked older than most of the trees in the woods outside. One girl wore red-rimmed glasses with auburn locks trailing down her face and tumbling down her back. Another was pale as the snow outside with shiny black hair, an air of authority hanging around her. She was pretty enough, Peter mused but was nothing compared to the third.
Glowing golden aura, this girl had short hair that was dyed green, a piercing in her eyebrow marking her as a rebel; she was smiling as the girls hands were joined on the planchette, the small arrow used to point out letters on the spirit board. Peter found himself drifting until he was hanging over the punk rocker girl, his tendrils caressing the golden aura, which was delightfully warm.
“Spirits! Respond to my call!” The black-haired girl called out, sounding annoyed.
“Chill Stephanie, I don’t think the board is going to pull a ghost from these woods, haunted or not,” the punk rocker girl smiled. The redhead snickered before being silenced by Stephanie’s withering glare.
“We came up here to contact your grandfather Allie,” Stephanie said, looking at the punk rocker girl, who frowned for a moment. Stephanie turned on the redhead. “And we would be able to do that if we all remained focused Aubrey!”
“I’m sorry,” Aubrey said sounding anything but. Her fingers moved back to the planchette which, now that all the girls were holding onto it, began to glow before Peter’s eyes. Without even thinking about it, one of his octopus-like tentacles curled around Allie and landed on the planchette, moving it slowly to the three girls gasps.
“H…E…L…L…O…” Stephanie read out, a smile spreading across her perfect features. “We found one! We got a spirit!”
“Are sure Allie wasn’t moving it?” Aubrey asked, looking over the table at Allie, who stuck her tongue out at the other girl.
“I wasn’t moving it,” Allie countered. Peter’s tentacle moved the planchette again, moving slow enough to allow Stephanie to read it out.
“Why did you call me?” She sounded excited. “Well, we called you because Allie wants to speak to her grandfather! He died a few months ago and she misses him. Can you contact Tom Whitman for us?”
Peter could feel a sense of revulsion boil up within himself at the idea of contacting another spirit. He felt warmth growing in his lower region and looked down; several of his tentacles were buried in Allie’s back, the golden aura feeding the frozen spirit warmth he didn’t even realize he wanted.
The tentacle moved the planchette to the “No” answer. “Why can’t you connect us to him Spirit?” Stephanie asked, looking up.
The planchette slid along the board. “Because I want to play a game,” the tentacle spelled out, several more tendrils digging into Allie as Peter’s lower body communicated through the medium.
“We heed your call and will play your game!” Stephanie said before being elbowed by Aubrey. “What?”
“You know the stories of this place. Are you sure we should be doing this?” Aubrey asked. Allie was quiet on the matter, probably because her soul was now wrestling within her tiny frame with Peter’s tentacles, allowing more of him to sink into her frame.
“We waited to do this all semester Aubrey! There’s no backing out now,” Stephanie said before returning her gaze towards the ceiling. “What do you want us to do?”
Peter smiled as the tentacle whizzed the planchette around the board, spelling out the word “Scream”, just as the candles around the house snuffed out, leaving only the light of the fireplace for the three girls. Peter fully submerged into Allie, his head dipping between her shoulder blades to come face-to-face with her.
She was screaming internally, the tentacles pulling her and wrapping her up. Peter found himself feeling a heartbeat, warmth from being bundled up near a fire. He curled Allie’s hand experimentally. He smirked as the body responded.
“Now we’re in business,” he said. “What I’m supposed to do, I don’t know.”
It was then he realized the two other girls were screaming. “Well, no need to join them,” Peter thought, a feeling welling up in him urging him to cause them harm. That was a familiar feeling he’d felt in life.
He rose from the ground bonelessly, Allie’s body shifting and popping as her soul fought for control. Both girls looked at Allie in confusion, allowing Peter to indulge in their fear, which just whetted his appetite.
“You wanted a spirit girls,” he said, Allie’s voice issuing forth from her mouth now deeper, raspier. He twitched his head to the side as his vision grew fuzzy. “Well, here I am!”
Both girls screamed once more as Peter lunged forward, bringing his hands to scratch at Stephanie’s face. The inner demon within Peter roared it’s approval, whispering throughout the mindscape. Rend… tear… cut…bleed…
Accessing Allie’s memories was like tearing a sheet of paper from a notebook; he flipped through them, looking for something about Stephanie. He smiled when he came across pay dirt.
“You’ve been a naughty girl Stephanie, sleeping with Professor Ayers for a better Biology degree! Tell me, what did the old man whisper into your ear while you allowed him to have his way with your nubile body?” Peter whispered hoarsely, one hand fish hooking her mouth. Aubrey grabbed Allie by the shoulders and tried to pull her body off of Stephanie; Peter laughed! The strength he possessed while in the girl was enormous, and nothing these children could do would slow him down!
He leaned close to Stephanie, putting his mouth right up to her ear. “Do you think contacting a spirit is so easy that it wouldn’t attract something like me? Did you think I wouldn’t be able to see your penny-and-nickel sins, pick them apart one by one? What did you expect from this?”
Stephanie just gasped as she struggled against Peter’s stolen arms, his wrapping around her throat.
“No!” Allie screamed within her head at Peter. “Don’t hurt her!”
“You have no say in this whelp,” the demon part of Peter hissed, tightening its grip on her soul. “The bitch dies and will go to Hell for her actions, where her soul will rot for all eternity!”
“You can’t do this!” Allie shrieked within her own head though Peter smiled as he tightened his grip around Stephanie’s neck, her eyes bulging in their sockets.
Peter fell to the side, a feeling of warmth spilling from the back of the borrowed bodies head. He could feel it was unconscious and retreated deeper into her mind. Aubrey must have hit me, he mused before turning to regard Allie’s bound soul. “Now what to do with you, little girl?”
“My friends will save me,” she hissed before being squeezed by the demonic tentacles, her soul reeling in agony.
“No one will save you, child, I’ll make certain of it. The longer I’m here, the longer I’m away from the Pit,” Peter said, trying to sound apologetic. It fell flat due to the smile on his face, the mindscape a bleak darkness.
“Yes,” the tentacles hissed as they squeezed the girl’s soul. “When you’re done here, dear Peter, I’ll be returning to Hell with a soul laden with new sin.”
“Silence! I’ll stay in this body as long as I can!” Peter growled. Before realizing his body was waking up. He peered out his eyes at a stark white room before trying to move his arm. It was bound to the bed Allie’s body lay upon. Turning her head, Peter narrowed his eyes as he caught sight of Aubrey and Stephanie, along with an elderly doctor and two men in black robes with heavy crosses hanging around their necks. He hissed within her head at the crosses, but made certain Allie didn’t even flinch at such a reaction could occur.
“Why am I here?” He asked, using Allie’s voice.
“You’ve proven resilient against medical treatment,” the Doctor said without introduction. He looked at his clipboard and pulled a pen from his pocket to begin jotting down notes. “You’re friends described activity that is… troubling. You’re currently in a Catholic hospital.”
“Why are you keeping me here? I’m healthy, aren’t I?” Peter asked, trying to force a smile.
One of the Priests, a man with graying sideburns and a thinning hairline, answered her. “You’ve shown signs of Possession Allie. Your body rejects holy water, acts as if being burned when touched by a cross, and has shown remarkable strength. We’ve kept you medicated to where you couldn’t operate with higher brain function, just triggered bodily responses.”
The other Priest, a shorter fat man, stepped forward. “Now we know that this is upsetting, but we‘re certain this is all for the best.” The Priest looked over at the doctor and nodded.
“Relax,” the demon whispered in his ear while Allie’s soul whimpered. “Nothing can shake us loose unless you allow it to happen.”
“Good,” Peter replied, thinking back on his time in Hell. He had no plans to return anytime soon.