Into Oblivion

This selection is part of NonBinary Review Issue #7: The Woman in White. Get NonBinary Review #7 from the Zoetic Press website. 

It had been ten years since Lyle had sold his first painting. During that ten years many things had changed but one thing had always remained the same; his poverty. He’d worked every manor of menial job from construction worker to fast food guy, and back, dozens of times over. It certainly felt that way. For ten long years he’d done it all and enjoyed none of it while all the time struggling to pursue his true dream to be a painter.

In the beginning, Lyle had harbored aspirations of making millions from his paintings, certainly enough to support himself generously by his thirties. Only, Lyle was now well into his thirties and still lived in the same room he rented, at the same boarding house where he’d been living in misery, for the last ten years. That first painting of his that had sold had been purchased, of all places, by the community college he had been attending at the time. The college had paid three hundred dollars for a painting Lyle had simply thrown together for a school project. It was stupendous really, for someone like Lyle, a no one who came from nowhere to actually make hundreds of dollars from something he’d created. Lyle had been so awed by it in fact that he’d used the money to move out of his mother’s basement.

Back then the dusty, ant infested room he rented at the old grimy boarding house that had been around longer than anyone could remember wasn’t so bad. In fact, it had been emphatically good. The cracks in the walls, the sagging in the floor, the fact that the widows were extra drafty and didn’t lock—all of it was simply part of the glorious new freedom Lyle had embarked upon. Back then, he hardly even noticed the filth that seemed to be a constant fixture of the boarding house’s only bathroom; an unfortunate byproduct of having to share the bathroom with five other renters who apparently didn’t mind the dirty toilet paper lining the floor, the disgusting grime buildup lining the tub, the putrid stench that hung in the air like fog. None of it had mattered, then. Lyle was becoming a man in his own rite, a man who could afford to have his own place, even if it were just a room really. A career he hadn’t realized was possible was opening up to him in grand fashion; at three hundred dollars a painting, he would only have to sell a single one a month to pay his rent and get a few groceries. Everything was new, fresh, promising. None of those little nuances had mattered back then.

They mattered a whole helluva now. A helluva lot indeed. Now the cracks in the wall were wide enough to see the badly deteriorating insulation through, the ant infestation had long given way to a roach infestation that wouldn’t quit, and the bathroom was perpetually unbearable. For Lyle there had not been the subsequent sells of his paintings that he’d expected. His next sell didn’t come for another four years, and it was for only twenty dollars. And only because some guy happened upon one of Lyle’s paintings and thought it might look nice in his bathroom. In his bathroom! Lyle had sold paintings—a painting, anyway—to serious institutions like colleges—one community college, anyway—and he’d have to watch one of his incredibly hard worked paintings leave, destined for some guy’s bathroom!

The two or three other sales that came later, with nearly as many years separating them, were for equally paltry sums. Lyle didn’t even count them as legitimate sales. Every day, he reported to whatever job he was able to secure, miserable, and returned home every evening, miserable. He had few friends and fewer motivations aside from survival and the joy of painting. It was the only time he felt any kind of control over his life, when he was painting. It was just him and the canvas, him and his brush with its small palate of colors. But as the years passed and the millions, not even the hundreds, never materialized he found that even painting was beginning to lose its color for him. He still loved doing it but he began to take his apparent failure to make a profitable career of it personally. After all, if he couldn’t make a job of it then it was really only a hobby, right? And, living amongst the roaches, and filth, not to mention asshole bosses and coworkers, Lyle needed money much more than fruitless hobbies. He had no idea how he had survived so long beneath the incredible weight of such stagnate circumstances but after ten years of it, his strength was finally failing him.

When suicide had first entered his mind he had counted it off as simply the delirium of exhaustion but around that same time a coworker at a construction job mentioned to him an old rumor that there was a place where a person could leap to their death, but not die. Instead, if a person leapt from this special place atop the tallest building in the city they would fall not to the ground, but somehow past it, into a very special place where all the colors were as bright and crisp as the sun. According to this coworker, this place was a place of mystery, of power, but most of all a place of incredible sights. Thoughts of suicide were only now occurring to Lyle and he hadn’t mentioned them to anyone, least of all a coworker at a dirty job site. So, why would this person mention something like this at just this time? Lyle didn’t think much on it; a lot of strange things were said at construction sites. But still, wasn’t the point of suicide to end it all? Wouldn’t it defeat the purpose to leap to your death only to find yourself in yet another city where things were too bright, too harsh, too mysterious and confusing to comprehend? The idea did hold a certain appeal though. Lyle saw life through the colors of the rainbow, the colors he tried to imitate upon the little color palate back at his single room apartment with its disgusting communal bathroom.

By now it had become clear to Lyle that it was precisely because he saw life differently from those around him that his life was so difficult. He might’ve been able to keep a job for more than a matter of months if he were more social, but he cared little for sporting events, or lewd jokes, or hitting the club—the types of things that usually dominated male conversation during work hours. When asked what he did for fun, Lyle could only answer the truth; he painted. Of course, the other guys always mistook his artistic leanings for weakness, for weirdness, and that’s always when his position began to slide into jeopardy. The crowds at the only jobs he knew how to work simply did not like working with a guy they didn’t understand. Then, if he didn’t spend so much money on canvases, watercolors, brushes, easels, he might be able to make his rent every month without such a constant hassle. Maybe. But if he stopped investing in his dream how could he ever expect for it to come true? Only he had been investing in it, through hell and high water in fact, and it had not come true. It had started with a bang and ended with a whimper. Lyle had maintained focus through the hell and high water, through the countless disappointments, but the time came when those suicidal thoughts became more than he could count off.

It seemed the only way. The person he was on the inside wasn’t relevant to his life and the person he was forced to be on the outside was killing him. Life had always been a struggle but this was brutality. With few friends, no children, and no one to call his own, Lyle began to see less and less reason to continue drawing breath. There was never any peace for him, not even upon his lonely bed in the middle of the night. He had come to the end of his rope. He figured it was time for his landlord to find him hanging in his room, between heaven and earth, literally at the end of his rope. But as suicide became more and more the only offer of peace for Lyle, he found that he couldn’t shake the allure of the old rumor he’d heard. He was so very tired of life as he knew it. Oblivion, nothingness, anything, was better than the reality he was forced to wake up to everyday. But better than that still, would be the opportunity to trade his grating existence for one such as his coworker had described. It was impossible of course but were it not, it would’ve been ideal. A world of vibrant color that never faded? Lyle could paint to his heart’s content, right into the annuls of eternity. There would be no miserable jobs, no disgusting single bedroom apartments, no lonely nights upon a filthy bed. Only canvases as large as the horizon, colors as bright as the twinkling stars, and endless inspiration.

Lyle searched until he found this place, this purported portal to another realm, and found it disappointing. He’d expected something grand—if there was anything there at all—but found only a series of boxes etched in white chalk upon the flat roof of the high rise apartment building (the only one of its kind in the city). Lyle hadn’t seen the design in years but it was clear at first glance that someone had etched out a simple school yard design of hopscotch. Only, this hopscotch game ended at the edge of the building—in order to finish the game the player would have to jump off the side. Lyle stared at the simple chalked boxes for a long time before he finally lumbered away in defeat. He did notice before he left, though, that the boxes were unusually straight, the lines unusually contained. They had not been drawn by a child’s hand, nor with chalk. Lyle couldn’t see where it made a difference. No matter how strange, how perfect, this apparent hopscotch game, it was still absurd to think that if he played it to its end and leapt over the side of the building, what the coworker claimed would happen, would actually happen. It was insanity, but then again, Lyle felt like the life he was forced to live everyday was equally insane. Probably more so.

On his way home, Lyle thought about those perfect hopscotch squares. The more he thought about them the more they reminded him of his life; they were a promise of a delivery that would never come. After all he’d been through, was it really that difficult to believe that if he played the game just right he’d be ushered into a world of fantasy? He’d certainly believed that about his paintings and he’d worked his ass off for many years for that. There was a real part of him that knew that this was all fairytale, that if he jumped from the last square upon the top of that building he’d certainly fall to his demise, but life had been a freefall for some time now. He was ready for the sudden stop. By the time he reached his home and was yet again reminded of where he lived, of how he lived, he decided that a little game of hopscotch—either way, it would be his last—was just the thing he needed. He didn’t care where the sudden stop came from, as long as it came.

*   *   *

When morning came Lyle was already up, already dressed. He was usually up and dressed, for work, but Lyle didn’t plan on showing up for work today. Nor any day hence. He sat upon his bed, with a small desk that he occasionally used as a writing table in front of him. He’d already written what he planned to be his final communications this merciless world and the small piece of paper sat quietly upon the writing table now. Lyle looked at the suicide note but did not re-read it. He hadn’t had much to say and he didn’t feel as if it mattered anyway. Just a formality really. Quietly, calmly, he left the room and then the house. He was headed for the only high-rise apartment building in the city. It wasn’t even a sad occasion. Somber, but not sad. He didn’t struggle to fight back tears, didn’t procrastinate, didn’t wonder once if he were making the right decision. He’d already cried an ocean of tears over the last ten years; the time for tears was over. Life had been thorough in its eradication of all he held dear. Disappointment after disappointment, burden after burden, unanswered prayer after unanswered prayer, for what felt like an entire lifetime, had beaten all that was alive out of him. He walked briskly to what he was certain would be his death, not smiling, but not sorrowing either.

When he reached the top of the building he stood before the first block of hopscotch and prepared himself. Before he took that first step he began to laugh. How ridiculous was it that he was about to hop, skip, and jump, as a part of some child’s game, to his certain death! But it was not the absurdity that caused him to laugh it was the irony. He had wasted his life believing in fantasy, believing that a dream and hard work were enough. How fitting that he should die believing in a rumor and a few hopscotch boxes. After a good laugh, Lyle took a deep breath and then jumped upon one foot into the first single box. Then upon both feet into the two boxes that followed. Then back to one foot into the next box… When he finally came to the last set of boxes he leapt over the side onto the last box that wasn’t there and immediately began to plummet.

Lyle’s life didn’t flash before his eyes as gravity pulled him irresistibly to the sudden stop that waited upon the pavement for him down below. He saw no tunnel, no bright light at the end of it. He felt and saw only the confusion of the fall and the wind rushing all around him. And contentment. Even in the rush of overwhelming sensations Lyle was content to know that all would be over soon. Not just the fall but all that preceded it. He closed his eyes and waited for his release from life. He would’ve kept them closed but eventually the rush of wind caught him at just the right angle and forced them open. He saw the pale pavement rushing toward him. He felt no fear of it. In a second the pavement filled his entire vision. And then it was gone and everything was blackness.

But Lyle hadn’t stopped free falling. Everything was as black as the Void but he could still feel air rushing past him, air that had somehow grown noticeably warmer. He fell and fell, and then he continued failing. He fell so long that, eventually, he was able to control his fall. Spreading his arms and legs—and enduring the assault of increasingly hot air that buffeted them—was the only way to slow his fall, if only a very little, but by pressing his arms at his sides, by pivoting this way or that, he found he could control his direction. A little. It was only then, once he’d learned to keep himself facing the same direction instead of tumbling wildly, that he noticed light below him. It looked as if it were dozens of miles away still but even at such a great distance Lyle could appreciate the yellow-white brightness of it. It sparkled and twinkled like fire but it stretched out in every direction as far as he could see. If it were fire then it was an ocean of fire, an entire world of oceans of fire down there. The temperature of the air all around agreed.

Even plummeting at unrealistic speeds as he was, Lyle wished for his canvas, his easel, his palate of colors. The white yellow conflagration below was more beautiful than any flame Lyle had ever seen with its twinkles like stars scattered throughout it. He could spend days, weeks, painting it and never perfectly duplicate its intensity upon a canvas. He would have the time of his life trying though. The time of his life? Was he even still alive? He had no idea, nor did he care at the moment so beautiful was the world of sparkling fire below. He stared fixedly at it even as gravity drew him continuously toward it. It was becoming blinding, the sheer brightness of it, but one place in its amazing span shone brighter still. At first it was a twinkle, like the seemingly millions of other, only this twinkle did disappear and reappear as the others did. This twinkle remained, grew larger, like the spark of the sun upon a car’s windshield, frozen in time.

The dozens of miles separating Lyle from the single growing spark were dwindling fast and as the miles disappeared so the spark became a large glare. Only now could Lyle tell that there were other colors in the spark—many, many other colors. It was like a million rainbows had been trapped in the glare and were fighting fiercely for escape. Soon the glare became something else, a large, no, huge, profusion of colors, only some of them distinct. Lyle was closing in fast. It only took another few moments for the confusing glare to become an entire city. As far as Lyle could tell it was larger than any city on earth and by the looks of it it was made completely of various colored glass. The buildings as well, every one of them, the sidewalks, the streets, the bare ground; everything was made of every color of glass that Lyle could imagine and more. It was a conflicting sight, so many vibrant colors saturated into one massive mosaic but it was beautiful beyond words.

The city was becoming exponentially larger by the moment and it only grew more astonishing the closer Lyle plummeted toward it. He was still gazing in awe when he hit. The sudden stop had come at last and it was absolutely sudden. Bone shattering, of course, but even further than that the impact of Lyle’s body against whatever glass this city was made of was epic. The pain was also epic, far greater than any Lyle had ever experienced. Far greater than any pain he should’ve been able to experience. A torrent of lightening danced before his eyes and raged in his body. That’s what it felt like, the unfathomable agony, like thick bolts of enraged energy surging and shooting everywhere within him. He should’ve have been able to feel anything, he should’ve been killed instantly. His entire frame quivering awfully from the sheer shock as he lay, still floored, upon red glass, he wished he was dead. Hell itself couldn’t have offered more torment than that that raged inside him now.

He had no idea how much time had passed before he was able to think coherently again but when he could he noticed the red glass beneath him. Lumbering to his feet he mistook it for bloodshed. When he slowly realized that it was not he wondered at it. After an impact like that, he shouldn’t have any blood in his body. As well, no bone in his body should’ve been intact enough for him to stand, even wobbling as he was. He shouldn’t have been alive. He touched himself gingerly and felt movement everywhere there should not have been. He looked down at himself and gaped in surprise. His bones were shattered, many of them of jutting through, in his arms, his legs, his stomach and chest. They pressed out against his clothes and made him look grotesque. Stranger still, though, was that they were returning back to normal, mending themselves, also right before his eyes. The pain never subsided but soon his broken and pulverized flesh had also mended over his mended bones until it was impossible to tell that he had suffered such a disastrous fall.

But though his body seemed to have assumed some kind of astounding regenerative ability it still hurt like hell. It felt like his senses had actually been heightened. Maybe that would’ve been a good thing in another place, in another time, but right here, right now, it was emphatically bad. For, even as the literally crushing agony of his fall dissipated slowly—oh, so very slowly—from his body, so it was instantly replaced by a different type of discomfort. It was the heat. It was astounding, fantastically hot. There was nothing Lyle knew that he could compare it to, it was like being in a sauna on full blast, beneath a dozen layers of clothes, somewhere upon the surface of the sun. It hurt everywhere, like burning tar was being bathed upon every square inch of his frame. It was suddenly difficult to breathe and everywhere Lyle tried to touch himself only made it worse. It was overwhelming.

Feeling as if he could gladly pass out at any moment, but never actually losing consciousness, Lyle began to look around. Everywhere it was blindingly bright. Violent eruptions of colors stabbed at his eyes, seemingly into his brain, as he took in the landscape. It was like nothing he’d ever seen before. Eventually, as his overwhelmed senses began to adjust he began to see more clearly. He saw that the city surrounding him was made not of glass but of every precious gem, all flawless to the point of transparency. Huge buildings, built of solid diamond, streets of gold, sidewalks of pearl, lawns of emerald, all of such unbelievably fine quality that they were as easy to see through as some of the world’s clearest indigo waters. Clear enough for Lyle to see that the entire city was floating atop the ocean of fire he’d already beheld. Liquid fire, ebbing and flowing, crashing and splashing, as far as the eye could see, illumined the entire city with its many colors in truly spectacular fashion. It was enough to burn the irises from any normal set of eyes.

Lyle must’ve no longer had a normal set of eyes because he could still see even if it was ridiculously painful to look upon. His flesh too was now a nasty ashen hue from the ubiquitous searing heat but though it felt like it should melt cleanly off his bones it did not. Where in the world—or, apparently, beyond the world—had he landed, Lyle thought to himself as he began to walk toward the edge of the city nearby. There were no other people around, no other beings of any kind as far as he could tell. Nothing stirred, nothing made a sound. There was only the impossible city and the roar of enough conflagration to incinerate entire planets, flowing majestically beneath it. But as Lyle neared the edge of the city he passed buildings and saw that beyond the clear diamond walls there were people inside. Or, at least, what appeared to be people.

The first person Lyle saw was an older man, with eyes wide with what appeared to be mortal terror. The man looked odd, compressed somehow, completely unmoving. He looked as if he were frozen in time, his hand near to his face, his fingers painfully outstretched, as if he were forever caught in the act of trying to claw at his face in agony. Agony that was clear in his wide eyes. His lips too were widely parted in a soundless but eternal scream. The man looked as if he were trapped in true torment. Reluctantly, Lyle peered more closely and found that it was one of the building’s clear diamond walls the man was trapped inside of. Lyle shuddered; however that poor man had gotten into the wall, he would never escape. When Lyle continued on toward the edge of the city he noticed others, people trapped into other walls of other buildings, in the foundations, in the floors, in the ceilings. They were everywhere, a young woman here, doubled over the wrong way, her fist clenched tightly and her lips pulled back in a tortured grimace that reveled teeth caught forever in the act of grinding out her suffering. Another man, younger than the first, his skull crushed into narrowness, as he lay face down completely encased into a building’s diamond foundation.

Only now could Lyle see that every building, short or tall, large or small, was the same. Every one of them contained a person forever stuck in gruesome torment somewhere within its structure. Most buildings contained only one person but there were some that had two or three. Lyle could only imagine but he had a striking suspicion that somewhere in this strange crystal city there were buildings that had dozens, perhaps even hundreds, of people trapped within their confines. Lyle continued on toward the city’s edge, careful now to keep his eyes steady in front of him. Even so, he couldn’t excise the images—especially that poor woman bent backward, her bones jutting through the broken flesh of her shattered hips and stomach like jaggedly broken knives. Knives filled with disgusting crimson filling. By the time he reached the edge of the city he was sure he could not take another step without vomiting.

He reached the edge just as his knees buckled beneath him and brought him crashing down. He leaned over the edge, his mouth opened, his stomach already convulsing, but instantly vomiting was the furthest thing from his mind. The rush of heat from the fires below instantly incinerated Lyle’s face all the way to the bone. They would’ve finished his skull as well, except that the force of the rising inferno knocked him clean onto his back. The pain was as intense as his fall had been. His entire world, his universe, was agony beyond words. But just as before, his flesh grew back immediately. He remained there on the ground, writhing horribly, without the presence of mind—or lips—to even scream, until it did. When he was finally able to stand again, he did not attempt to peer over the edge a second time.

He touched his regrown face and found it exactly as it had been. He could see again, he could hear. All was again as it had been. He did let out a wail this time, one that filled the expanse above and died out into the blackness like a whimper in the night. It had finally registered to him that, somehow, he was immortal now. He had jumped from the roof of a building, trying to escape a world of pain, and had somehow landed in another world that offered only a greater degree of pain. The only difference was that now, there was no chance of relief, not even in suicide! The tears flowed freely from Lyle’s eye, or at least they would’ve except that the heat vaporized them nearly as soon as they were produced. He released another wail of sorrow that died out in the blackness without so much as a soft echo, but this time another sound did follow. It was the sound of a voice like the angry clanging of cymbals.

“We see that you have discovered the truth.” The voice said.

“Despair and deep anguish is all that is offered here.” Another voice said, like the furious beating of chimes.

Lyle looked up and saw three exceptionally tall figures—each of them had to be at least nine feet tall, if anything—towering over him. They were women, exceptionally beautiful women, women who, like the city, were made completely of translucent precious gems. One stood in the front, but it was two behind her, on either side, that spoke. Each of them had long flowing grey hair made of smoky quartz so thinly stranded that it actually wafted lightly in the superheated breeze that passed through the city. Their full lips were made of ruby, as red as fresh blood. The rest of them was made of clear diamond, sparkling in the fierce fire that raged below like stars made into female form. In the midst of their chests there was a small gem blacker than the expanse above the city. These black gems were where these women’s hearts would’ve been had they had been real flesh and blood women. Their movements certainly looked those of real women as their lips moved in speech, their hips pivoting so they could peer down at Lyle. The woman in the front looked the same except that her entire body, not just the gem that sat where her heart would’ve, was made of pure glistening carbonado—black diamond. Her lips were as black as her crystal flesh but her eyes were as red as the other’s lips and they shined with a foreboding, shaded light. Their stark contrast with her black face was surprisingly unsettling. She stood stoically in the front and the other two behind, as if it were forbidden to stand too close.

“We have been expecting you,” One of the other two said “though we thought you would’ve arrived earlier.”

“Yes, indeed.” The other added “We shall have your home finished shortly…it has been a busy time for us of late.”

Lyle had no idea what either women was talking about but didn’t dare ask questions, not yet, not with those ghastly glowing ruby eyes upon him as if they were weighing him in some sort of balance. The black one weighed him but she gave no indication of how he fared. Lyle stood to his feet and the black one turned and began to walk away. The others did not follow. She did not move as a flesh and blood woman might move but her steps were graceful, her stride relaxed. It was strange, watching a woman made of precious gems move so fluidly but then again, everything about this place was strange. Only once she had walked on far down the street and out of sight did the other two follow. They led Lyle through streets, through alleys, along sidewalks, everywhere except inside any of the buildings. Lyle noticed that there weren’t any lights, pole lights, street lights, or residential lights, anywhere. No wonder, the city didn’t need them. The ocean of fire below, shining through so much translucent stone provided more light than any city would ever need. Lyle also notice that his assumption from earlier was correct, there were larger buildings within the city, some of them with three or four, a few with half a dozen or even a full dozen, crushed and mangled, disfigured and broken, people, trapped forever in their walls, ceilings, and floors.

It was heart wrenching and stomach turnings. Hands were crushed backward, arms broken at the elbows, legs broken at the knees. Lyle saw an incredibly old woman with her entire shoulder blades rotated completely around. In the wrong direction. All of them with their eyes opened, deep despair etched in perpetuity upon their faces. Lyle knew that this place was worse than death, precisely because the release of death was not possible here; everyone one of those people, though trapped and motionless, were still feeling the horrible positions they were stuck in. No doubt their immortal, ashen bodies were still alert and struggling desperately to reform—just as Lyle’s own flesh and bone had—except their diamond prisons would never allow it for as long as time existed. This must be hell!

“Not hell, the future.” One of the women answered.

“The future!” Lyle gasped. “What future is this?”

“This shall be the New Earth, not lowered down from heaven, but risen up from the bowels of the inferno.” The other woman answered.

“If this isn’t hell then what is!”

“You have but to look closely…” It was a cryptic answer but there was no where to look, nothing to see, besides the city and…

Lyle peered down beyond the gold street as clear as colored glass into the raging ocean below. He hadn’t noticed before but there were tiny images everywhere within the ocean of fire, pockets of moving darkness that writhed and squirmed awfully. He dropped to his knees and pressed his face against the golden street to see more clearly. Those ‘pockets of darkness’ were severely burned people! Their blackened flesh grew back as quickly as it was burned away. They would burn forever and the agony would always be fresh because their flesh would always be fresh! Lyle could stand to look no more. He raised quickly to his feet but as he did he glanced out amongst the torturous ocean and saw that these pockets of darkness were everywhere, like black stars completely littering a universe of flame. He looked on at the woman, numbly. He couldn’t speak, he couldn’t think. He could only stand there, dumbfounded.

“The Lake of Fire shall continue to grow as long as there are fresh souls to fill its flame.” One of the woman said.

“Lake…lake…” Lyle sputtered “that’s an ocean down there!”

“Not yet.” The other woman answered somberly “But it shall be one day, when the lake is full, when all the precious humans have died and filled its depths it shall rise to the surface and then it shall be an ocean.” Both women smiled, sinister smiles, but gorgeous, ironically, with those ruby red lips.

“Let us move on.” One of the women said and both waited for Lyle before they began to walk away. As the three of them walked Lyle tried hard not to glance below him, where he would certainly see more tormented souls. He thought that he could hear their anguished wails even through the thick crystal bottom of the city.

Soon, a thought occurred to him. “Is this place, this city…purgatory?” he asked.

“It is one name for it.” One of the women answered.

“Another is the New Earth.” The other reminded him.

“How did I get here?”

“Suicide takes you straight below” one of the women answered, pointing a long diamond finger toward the flames below “but there are special places upon the earth, holes in the design, through which you may fall into our city and help build what is to be.” Lyle thought of the hopscotch board. So it was true after all, the rumors.

“Help build…?” Lyle began but then, immediately, he knew the awful truth. The people trapped in the walls, in the floor, where being used for more than objects of torment.

As if to drive the point home the other woman answered, or rather intoned, as if she were reciting script, “In my mother’s house are many mansions. I shall prepare a place for you.” So, for every person unlucky enough to believe the rumor and fall into this place, a ‘home’ was made for them. With so many people upon the earth ready to end it all and many of them willing to follow legend to do it, just as Lyle had, he could easily envision this place growing until it was indeed a New Earth. And with so many others filling the flame, causing it to rise a little more with every doomed soul, it would indeed eventually rise until the present earth were consumed in its wake. Probably sooner than later. It was a truly morbid reality to entertain, more so because it would soon enough be reality. More morbid still because a ‘home’ was being prepared for Lyle at that very moment. A fleeting thought of escape crossed his mind, but where would he go? The Lake of Fire below, impenetrable rock and women made of that rock that were beyond defeat, above!

These woman; they were so unfeeling, so matter of fact about all this. Had they no feeling at all! Of course not. How could they? Then Lyle realized what the black rocks were within their chests; hearts that perhaps had once been flesh, now compressed over perhaps uncountable eons into literal stone, blacker than the darkest night. And the black one that had left to prepare Lyle’s new ‘home’? She was what awaited these crystal woman once their black hearts spread completely. Lyle continued to follow the women as they passed more homes, larger and larger, until he did pass the huge place he’d envisioned, its walls filled with hundreds of mutilated souls. He passed more buildings still, until he finally came to the one he dreaded. The black woman stood nearby, silently. It was a small building, smaller at least then some of the others he’d passed. It was completed, except for a open square in one of the sides just large enough for Lyle to fit through. The black woman stood near the square with a hand outstretched toward it. “Your new home is complete…” the woman said. Her voice was not the clanging of chimes but the harsh shattering of glass “it is missing but one thing…”

NBR7SpellmansmallSteven Spellman is 34 year old career writer who lives in North Carolina with his beautiful wife and two gorgeous daughters, one of whom only recently arrived into his clan. After a nearly fatal accident, Steven was paralyzed for quite some time. Unfortunately, he will never fully recover, but he is now an ardent advocate for the disabled. Having been forced to sit down, Steven took the opportunity to revive his affinity for writing and has since written more than ten fiction novels.The only thing that comes close to being as important to him as his family is his passion for writing.