Waves of undulating bodies press and mold against each other in the intolerable heat of the void, pinpricks of light from high above shining down on us just enough to make our pallid, nude forms look like sickly rats climbing over each other, bubbling skin sticking to each other as we clamber over one another due to the scalding temperatures. We suffer for what feels like untold ages, our bodies slowly breaking down before building back up, forever fighting to remain above the surface of the sea of boiling flesh.
Occasionally, one of those points of light will shine down and hit one of us, and begin to pull us from the ocean of liquid hate screeching and howling. That was how it was when I was finally lifted from the masses, their bony fingers digging into me to try and lift them as well. One form, an emaciated woman with spindly fingers and glowing emerald eyes, held onto me long enough for me to hiss and slap her away, sending her plummeting back into the choking abyss, where arms grabbed her from all sides and pulled her deep beneath the tide of undulating flesh. I basked in the light as I grew closer to the point from which it was coming, my skin growing back properly for the first time in what could have been centuries. I stop at the pinpoint of light and cry out as my body begins to squeeze down to the size of a drachma to fit through the hole, my bones splintering, and flesh rupturing in a nasty cacophony of pops and bloody splats.
I’m roused when I find myself standing in a room, still nude, with four teenagers gathered around a table, their hands on a board with sigils on it. They have a small disk that they are moving around as they ask questions in a language that while I don’t know the words I know what they are asking.
“What is your name?” A burly African dressed in crimson asked, a wide smile on his face as he leaned over to another African, possibly his sister.
I swallow the dry patches of unused skin in my throat before I answer in the only tongue I know. “Tiberius Poneros Phoneuo,” I whispered hoarsely, cringing as the cool air of the room wafts over my tender muscles, still exposed from my time in the pit.
“Wow, that’s a long name,” A lanky teenager with a stocky Roman nose and curly black hair said. “Sounds Italian.”
“Were you Italian in life?” The African asks the board, which whispers to me in a succulent, ripe voice so rich I can feel a tongue slide along the back of my ear.
I think for a moment, my thoughts coming in short bursts… Italia… No, I am Greek, not some filthy Roman! I growled under my breath. “No.”
The small disc moves quickly to a corner of the board. The four teenagers all look at each other and laugh nervously. I pad silently, my feet leaving behind bloody footprints for the first few steps as I come up to examine the children who’ve somehow called me from the Abyss. Two Africans, a Roman and a Turk. The Turk wears his hair long with a thick mustache and glasses, three rings dominating his large hands. I nod slowly, my knowledge of trade with the Turks slowly trickling into the back my mind, a crack in a dam holding back my knowledge.
“How old are you?” The Turk asked, once again forcing my head to sway to look at the board. My mind reels as the information is torn from my skull and moves the small disk to two separate numbers.
“He was eighteen when he died,” The female African said, a moment of silence falling over the group. They seem unsettled by this, something that is a mystery to me. I shake my head and look at my surroundings.
A room with a long overstuffed chair with a low table, sitting across a wooden structure holding up a large flat black mirror; the four teenagers sit at a table that leads to a room of iron and tile, several pans hanging from an overhead rack. There are dozens of candles lit in the room, but after spending who knows how long in the Pit I can see just fine without their dim glow. I feel my mind being plunged into again, each successive question becoming more painful.
I whip around and feel that they’ve asked me how I died. I resist to answer but am compelled. “D-Drowned…” I gritted out through clenched teeth. I look to the mantle over a fire pit, a miniature cross set up. No figures are pinned to it so I suppose it represents the punishment that could await… something about it makes me feel uneasy. I reach out and grab it, yelping as it sizzles in my hand. I slap it face down on the mantle, knocking over a portrait of the Roman with another, younger Roman. All four heads spin and look at what’s just occurred as I rub my hand, the skin already healing over the burn.
“Did you guys see that?” The African asked, to which all three nodded slowly.
The African girl, her hair pulled back into two braids, places her fingers back on the disc. “Are you evil?”
I close my eyes and wait for the worst, knowing the last few questions were painful when asked. This one, surprisingly, makes me feel no pain. Thoughts bubble into my head, from where I can’t say.
Say no! One voice said while another cackled madly. A third, this one feminine said to say no and to ask for a place to stay, as you are lonely.
“Lonely?” I whispered, thinking of that one voice, wincing as the disc slides along the board.
“That’s not what I asked,” the African girl said slowly. “Are you evil?”
Answer no, the cool feminine voice whispered to me. I wonder who she is and merely shrug.
“No,” I hoarsely croaked.
The teenagers seem relieved at that answer, laughing amongst themselves as I watch them, the slithery feeling within my head growing colder as the feminine voice becomes clearer. You must get one of them to invite you in before the session ends, she said. Otherwise, you’re bound for the Pit once more.
That caught my attention. Thinking quickly, I walk up behind the Roman, as this is clearly his home. I lean down until my head is inches from his ear, and I can see the hairs on his neck rise from my presence.
“I want a home,” I muttered, crooning softly into the Roman’s ear. “So lonely. Please don’t send me away.”
The disc spells out my request and the teens begin arguing amongst themselves. The Africans are against letting me stay while the Turk seems to have no opinion. The Roman, whose name is Paul, seems interested in me and asks what me staying would entail.
An invitation into his home, the slippery voice hisses in my mind. I repeat the instructions, watching their varied reactions as what Paul would need to do to invite me into his home. The Africans, George, and Jennifer are against it still while the Turk, Jason, is actually for it.
“Just think,” Jason said to Paul while I was standing between them, a hand on each shoulder. “You may be able to help this soul find peace. Isn’t that a worthwhile cause?”
“I suppose…” Paul said before looking up in the air. “Tiberius, I invite you into my home.”
Suddenly I feel a whoosh of energy rush through me, several red strands poking through my skin and lancing out into Paul, piercing his body without him noticing. I hear a musical laugh behind me and turn, only to stare in open shock at what stands before me.
Tall and regal with porcelain features, a woman of remarkable beauty stands on heels of finely polished bone with an ample bosom barely held back by spider webs and rib bones. A curtain of black hair falls around her face, obscuring one eye, leaving the other violet orb to blink owlishly at me. She regards me with a calm demeanor, one hand cocked on her hip.
“W-who are you?” I asked, not knowing what to say.
She smiled at my question, whether at how naïve it must be or from some other reason I can’t say. “Let’s just say I’m your guardian angel and leave it at that, shall we?”
“Alright,” I agreed.
“I’ve been sent up here with you to aid you in haunting the living and, possibly, possessing one for your own use,” the Angel said.
“My own use?” I repeated, confused.
She leans forward, hands placed on her hips. “Do you need everything spelled out for you? You could live again!”