My large, shirtless body fell to the snowy ground in a heap of blood, guts, and agony. I imagined I looked like the trash bin in the back of a pizza restaurant after closing; a mass of pudgy flesh mixed with red liquid and whatever else was on the menu. Opening my weak, pain-stricken eyes I could see my long, matted hair, falling over my field of vision. I could taste years of overgrown facial hair sweating into my mouth. Except this wasn’t sweat, this was water.
I parted my lips desperate for a taste. Was it tears? To my surprise, it was ice water, melted snow. The refreshing sensation felt absolutely heavenly. I swallowed slow, savoring the cold, but the question remained, ‘Where am I?’
For what seemed like an eternity, I had been trapped in a dark, torture dimension; think Fifty shades of Grey, meets Texas Chainsaw Massacre, with a dash of Mean Girls, all without any of the love or friendship. I could still feel everything; the whips, the blades, the chains, all of Susie’s favorite playthings. So, really, anyplace would be better.
In the distance, I could hear someone calling my name. “Jeff? Jeff is that you?” The voice was female; cheerful and sweet. Was it my mother? After forty years of life and sixty years of Hell was I finally going to be permitted to die?
“Jeff, it’s me, Claudette!”
I couldn’t say I was disappointed, nor was I pleased. I was still residing in Hell just at a different level. This particular teammate was a college student half my age, who specialized in pain relief. How and why someone like her could end up in Hell, I’ll never know. Claudette Morel was a true angel in this world of darkness.
“Jeff!” she cried. Her voice calling out over the rush of the wind. Claudette was a small, slender woman in her early twenties. She was a beautiful mix of afro-French-Canadian, wearing her shoulder-length hair in adorable dreadlocks, pulled back in a low ponytail. “Jeff, is that really you?” The moonlight glimmered off her wireframe glasses. She was an exotic beauty (with a hint of scientist chic.) More than anything, Claudette looked so innocent, and kind, the polar opposite of what I had just endured.
“Claudette?” I spoke in a pain-stricken whisper. It had been so long since I’d heard my own voice. Susie had preferred to keep me silent during our playtime. (Sometimes she’d use a ball gag, other times a knife.) ‘Susie,’ the very thought of her name made me want to cower in fear. Looking at my chest I could see I was covered in bruises and dried blood (my blood). I was surprised that my skin was still intact. Perhaps my body pulled itself back together upon arriving in this new area.
“Where have you been, Jeff?” she asked in her usual sweet, cordial tone. “I kind of hoped you had escaped.”
“Escaped?” I couldn’t help but chuckle. I didn’t escape, I was thrown out with the trash.
“Yeah, I mean, you were gone for a while. Where were you?” she asked as she calmly treated my physical and emotional pain with the use of her spiritual touch.
“I was someplace,” I said, blinking tears from my eyes. Someplace where I had been tortured within an inch of my life. The last thing I remembered was being secured to a bed frame, while Susie, the masked sexual sadist engaged in a lifetime of aggression and fantasy. She made sure to break my wrists, before tightening the restraints. I assumed this was an effort to strip me of any and all hope; even if I willingly broke my body, my fate would always be in her hands. Only after she had her fun, she pulled a lever, dumping my broken body down a dark shaft. “I just remember I awoke here, back in this Hell with the ones I love.”
“Funny.” Claudette held my hand, drawing my attention to her eyes. “You’re so sweet.” She moved my fingers to her face letting me touch her soft skin. She was real. “I really missed you. I made a new set of pencils out of tree branches and ash. Maybe when we get back to camp, we can draw together.” She started to trace a flower design on my shoulder, down my arm. “I forgot how beautiful your tattoos were.”
My tattoos were nothing to write home about, just solid black tribal-style imagery, like something out of the late nineties. Claudette’s kindness was intense, overpowering. I could feel my chest tighten as I choked back tears. Then I had a realization: I had landed in the snow. “Are we in a trial?” If this was another test, there was were three other participants and one main killer, prowling the arena.
“Well, we’re not in the hub world,” the former medical student said with a sigh. “Let me see your chest, I think you might have some broken bones.” She already had her healing kit out. As usual, Claudette carried the cheapest, default kit commonly used for campers, bandages, ointment, antibiotics, etc. The kit would be empty after only a few uses, but she was so gifted at healing, that with just the pressure of her hands she could ease any discomfort in record time. “Lay back I’m just going to examine your ribs.”
I flinched when she touched my chest. She didn’t look like Susie, nor did she sound like her. (Susie’s voice was squeaky, yet guttural, and broken.) Still, the feeling was too familiar; they were both small females with delicate hands.
Claudette walked her fingers down my skin, gently pulling away while still applying the medicinal magic. “What did she do to you?”
“She?” I asked with a tone of fear. How did Claudette know that I had been with a female assailant? I knew she hadn’t been there. Was this all part of my torture? Was I still in the room, nailed to the bed with a red-hot poker drilling into my chest?
“I heard you left with Susie,” she said, checking over her shoulder. “I think we’re still safe. I can actually see the exit from here.”
“I actually did leave with Susie; I’m ashamed to admit, I walked straight into her trap.”
Claudette stayed focused on her work, speaking casually as if we were just two friends catching up. “Well, you’re here now, that’s all that matters.”
I nodded, thankful for her efforts. “I don’t know if I can walk.”
Claudette held my hand, patting my fingers with a warm, soft, comforting touch.
“We still have time. You can just lean on me.” She giggled, knowing how odd that would look. Claudette was a good ten inches shorter than me and with her slender frame there was (logically) no way she should be able to lift my dead ass. Still, I knew better than to doubt her. She was strong. it was as if, in this strange place, the power of her soul granted her actual superpowers. When the time came, she helped me to my feet. “Come on, Jeff, you should have enough strength to stand.”
She was right, Claudette was always right, but to put weight on my legs felt strange, emotional. I didn’t deserve to walk, to escape. The only reason I was able to move forward was (even with how shitty I felt) I didn’t want to slow her down. Claudette didn’t deserve that: she didn’t deserve any of this. I would have given my very soul to send her back to the land of the living, to reunite her with her real family, but all I could do was run.
From behind us, I could hear laughter. I didn’t want to turn my head. There was no reason to. All I had to do was keep up with Claudette. She seemed to be determined to not leave me behind, but something made me look.
“Such a loser!” shouted the distinct sound of a female voice. “Look at the forty-year-old virgin fuck toy, and the stupid little science nerd: you two deserve each other!”
My head turned ever so slightly, just enough to see four figures wearing dark clothing and bright white masks. There were two smiles, one painted skull, and then there was her. The pink-haired demon with the featureless mask raised two fingers. “I’ll never forget you, my love.”
Claudette gripped my hand. “Come on, we need to stay focused.” We made it to the exit, and across the field of fog, back to the hub world.
The campfire site was crowded as usual, with a few new faces. Claudette was met with open arms. Her group of friends; from the athletic Meg to the gamer-girl Feng, even the posh former rich-kid Jake, were all overjoyed to see her.
I knew I would only get in the way. I was not a soldier, an athlete, a strategist, or a hero. With what little strength I had, I limped to the woods, taking a seat in the shadow of an abnormally wide tree. Looking out at the night sky, all I could see were trees for miles. ‘Why was I still alive? What was the pint of all this torment?’
I could practically hear Susie laughing from wherever she was. In that darkened bedroom, we would have sex, with her riding me, using me while helping herself to my flesh. On more than one occasion she told me her goal was to associate sex with pain, hatred, and loss. ‘Sex is a sin,’ she loved to whisper while cutting into my ear, peeling back skin, ‘And we’re all just here to burn.’
I didn’t want to think about it. Instead, I closed my eyes, leaning my back against the cold wet bark of the tree. ‘How did these plants grow without water?’ I laughed at my own stupidity. ‘Because they’re not real trees, you idiot.’
In my dreams I prayed for water; a cold spring, a place to take a bath (or maybe drown.) With my muscles relaxed, I opened my jeans, exposing my cock to the cold evening air. At least my body was still intact. Of course, that was all thanks to Claudette. All I could do was think of her; my hero, my savior, my only friend. ‘Why was my dick in my hand?’ The act felt shameful; so wrong, but so right. Claudette was young, innocent, I wanted her so badly. I wanted her creamy soft skin, her perky tits, just begging to be touched, licked, kissed. ‘Oh, the things I would do to her.’
My throbbing cock was so hard. I found my hand moving all on its own. “Oh, fuck yes.” Before I knew it, I was pumping my shaft, using my precum for lube. “Oh, God, Claudette.”
‘What would you do to me, Jeff?’ her voice was an echo; Claudette’s sensual French-Canadian accent floating on the wind.
“What would I do? What wouldn’t I do?” I would lay her on her back, taking in her beauty; her raw sexual, untouched beauty. In my mind, she was a virgin, the kind of girl who’d save herself for marriage.
‘What if I was?’ The wind caressed my neck, flowing down my chest. ‘What if I was a little nerd girl who’d been waiting all her life for the right man; a big hairy hippy, with a big thick cock.’
Not quite accurate, but (at the very least) I’d like to think I was a fellow Canadian who could see through to her soul. With her panties nice and wet, I slide them down her thighs, to her knees. Then I’d I want them in my mouth, holding them in my teeth before flinging them into the darkness.
I’d spread her legs, legging the cold air caress her lips. Maybe she’d touch herself. Yeah, she’d rub her clit, thinking about what I was going to do to her.
‘Would you make me beg, Jeff?’
I’d enter her pussy nice and slow; give her a chance to savor every inch, every moment. I bet she’d feel so tight. I felt a shiver down my spine. Her hand touched my cock, up my stomach.
‘I want you to take your clothes off.’ She guided my shirt off with one hand while gripping my throbbing manhood with the other. “And what would I do next, Jeff?”
I closed my eyes as I felt a physical force lower herself onto my cock. She was grinding on me, riding me. I could feel her juices as she put her leg around me pinning me to the tree.
I felt an orgasm building; a burning tightness in my stomach, up to my chest. I was going to blow my load inside her. Through it all, my eyes remained firmly shut. “Claudette, yeah baby this is all for you.” I felt myself shooting ropes of cum; thick white fluid covering my hand. “Let me have you, let me love you.” That’s all I ever wanted; to feel love, to be loved.
My eyes opened slowly. I was alone with just my hand. My shirt was lifted, causing my back to get scratched up by the bark of the tree. I felt pathetic, ashamed. Just when I thought I could not feel any worse, I looked up.
Standing directly in my line of sight, just over twenty feet away, was Claudette. She was looking at me, fully clothed. I frantically struggled to cover myself. Part of me wanted to apologize while another part of me wanted to cry. Even still, no words were coming. ‘Say something, anything.’ This was truly my personalized Hell.
Claudette took a step closer. Under the light of the moon, I could clearly see her face. She bit her lip, pressing her tongue against the inside of her cheek. She opened her mouth to speak when suddenly a small, pale, female hand gripped her arm. For a moment I thought I was still dreaming. I struggled to my feet. If Susie had somehow made it into the hub world, I would rather die than let her hurt Claudette.
This was followed by laughter. It wasn’t Susie. It was the very human, very amused Meg. “Oh, my God.” The red-haired girl cupped her hand over her mouth as she turned away. “This is too funny.” As she walked back towards the campfire, she shouted, “Welcome back Jeff!”
My face felt hot, but not out of anger. I wanted so badly to stand up, pull my pants back on, and walk away. Of course, I knew that would be pointless since the hub world was a massive loop reconnecting to the campfire gathering space. The best I could do was to stay where I was and just wait for the next trial. maybe I’d die again. Maybe I could walk off into the darkness and live my pathetic existence in the void.
“Jeff?” Claudette was now standing behind me. She wasn’t disgusted or ashamed. Instead, my friend touched her finger to my cheek, stroking a strand of hair from my eye. “Talk to me about your scar.”
“Nothing much to say.”
She sat by my side, continuing to stroke my face. “Are you crying?” Claudette asked. Her sweetness was almost too much to bear. “Hey,” she said in a whisper, as she turned my face looking into my eyes. “If Meg starts any rumors, I’ll just say you had a seizure. People tend to believe me more than Meg, anyway.” She placed her hand on mine, giving my fingers a tender squeeze. “Do you have a history of seizures?”
I shook my head, unsure of what she meant by that. After thinking for a moment, I reconsidered. “When I was a boy, I remember a time when I got really sick. I went on a picnic with my parents, just a nice summer day. I went off to play, somehow, I fell off a small ledge. My ma was worried, so my papa drove me into the city to the big hospital. I had broken bones in my chest, with a massive cut on my leg. Long story short; I got a real bad infection, by midnight I had a fever. I don’t know if I had a seizure that night. I just remember my parents arguing for hours.” My heart ached thinking about that night. “Mama accused him of taking me to the wrong hospital, that our local emergency clinic could have gotten me helped faster. She said if I died, it would be all my daddy’s fault. My father stomped off, and I just remember feeling so ashamed; I was the reason they fought, I was the reason they’d get a divorce. For a long time, I thought about ending it all. I could use my bedsheets, make a loop and jump out the window. It’d make things easier for everyone.”
“Jeff, you listen to me,” Claudette said with the confidence of a mother. “There’s nothing to be ashamed of.” I could feel her lips on my ear, the warmth of her breath sent a shiver down my spine.
“It’s okay to want to be touched, to be held,” Claudette spoke softly as she took a seat by my side, placing her leg over my exposed thigh.
“Can I touch you?” I asked, with the shy awkwardness of a guy who’d just jerked off over mental images of his crush.
“Of course.” She took my hand guiding my trembling fingers to her slender hips.
My hand was frozen in place. I didn’t deserve her compassion. “It’s really not.”
“It’s not okay, nothing about this is okay. I’m old enough to be your father.” I didn’t even know if that was true, but that was how I felt. I was a middle-aged loner, someone who’d long outlived the value of his soul.
She lowered her glasses, looking me in the eyes. “I know what it’s like to feel broken. I guess that’s why I have such a passion for healing.” She batted her eyelashes, looking like something out of a fairytale. “And plus, we Canadians have to stick together.” She pressed her forehead to mine, the way a best friend would. Her lips were just inches from my mouth. “Can I kiss you?”
“Yeah.” My heart was racing, I wanted to cry, pinch myself to make sure this wasn’t just a cruel dream. “I’d like that.”