Hell is Other People

This is the first chapter of something I'm not sure whether to carry on or not. I know where it ends up and it's on a biblical scale. What do you think? Should I write more?


1. Hell is Other People.


She lay like a coded Christ.

The thief stood at the bedroom door reminding himself to breathe. He had always been careful to make sure the houses he’s chosen had been empty and made very few mistakes over his fifteen years in the profession: the old dear who came back after five minutes because she’d forgotten her teeth - the woman who burst into the house to throw up into the kitchen sink and phoned in sick at work -  the man who left in the morning with his wife/girlfriend only to return shortly with another guy to make naked use of the empty house. The thief had always crept away unnoticed and safe, albeit empty-handed. These handful of close calls were rare ¾ he was good at his job, very good – tidy and quick. But never had he seen anything like this as he opened the bedroom door and took in the nightmarish  image before him. For a few seconds his rogues mind quickly ticked over the options: should he leave and rekkie another house for safer pickings? After all this could be a trap. If she was dead he could easily be accused of her murder and even he knew any defence on his part would fall on deaf ears. Ignoring his instincts for a burning curiosity, the thief took his first cautious steps into the room.

The heating must have been on full blast, his shirt stuck to him like dead, clotted hands. The whole place stinks. So bad in fact  his eyes and gums begin to water with every intake of breath as he tries to control the burning constriction in his throat.

Bound tightly to the bedposts with stockings her outstretched arms greeted him in a mock embrace, wrists chaffed and raw with fingers gripping the air like rheumatoid claws.  A slim thong of leather wrapped numerous times around itself force her ankles together. Her ice-white skin was etched with intricate tattoos. The embossed, angry flesh of her belly, the colours fresh and bright boasted a recent addition. Indefinable symbols surrounded with barbed swirls, intertwining  around one another like razor-wire. Both nipples flash with skewered silver and amber jewel. Her face was a death-mask of flawless skin stretched over a landscape of perfect bones and muscle. This he knew: she is the most beautiful woman I have ever seen. He walked a little closer, closing the distance between them by a few feet.

            A black bin liner tacked to the window-frame cracks and flicks as the fingers of the morning wind tap out random rhythms. A shadow dances over her face and for a few seconds his guts convulse as he convinces himself her soul is about to make its entrance and rise in front of him. Or more likely, his game is up, he’s been nabbed.  Stumbling back he quickly looked around the room as ice thickens his veins. But he saw no one. Then he hears the frantic velvet tapping above his head. A large Moth bounces off the grimy, naked light-bulb responsible for coating everything in a sickly layer of amber. His eyes follow the moth’s maddening dance as powder wings slap the glass, thff thff thff. He wanted to ask it what had happened here, what did it see? But as he looked up he drew in a sharp breath. He’d been concentrating on the woman with such blinkered intensity for so long he hadn’t even noticed the ceiling. Hundreds, (maybe thousands) of mirror shards,  all differing shapes and sizes had been meticulously positioned and fixed into place like some child’s giant puzzle. But these were not placed flat as in some seedy playboys bedroom. They had all been viciously stabbed into the ceiling to hang down like lethal edged Stalactites. The centrepiece of this disturbing maze  is the biggest and most dangerous of the shards. A ragged crescent at least at least half a meter long and scything  across the ceiling like a giant axe. The thief  moved.


            He  noticed the bed-sheet beneath her. A dark wound of a stain has bled between her legs where her bladder has given up the ghost and travelled into the canyons of creases and folds. He traces the strong smell of vomit to a slimy mass on the threadbare carpet beside her bed. He dips a curious finger. Cold. He wiped it clean on the floor. A large bottle lay close by. Apart from a mouthful of yellowish liquid it is almost empty.  He sniffs the lipstick-smeared opening of the bottle and winces. The floor is thick with a warped tapestry of discarded clothing, magazines, bottles, cans, CD’s and tapes. One wall walls is littered with paraphernalia: scrawled TO DO lists in marker pen, photos of captured gangs of friends in pubs and clubs, concert stubs and film posters. A giant Marilyn Manson leers down at him with one pin-prick pupil and his trademark insanity grin. Another wall is more ominous. It is covered with ragged pages hastily torn from a book (or many different books) to form a wallpaper of minute text and black and white illustrations. Paragraphs had been roughly circled and random sentences were peppered with asterisks in red pen. On a table in the far corner a computer monitor has a sad face finger-drawn onto the dusty screen with the words CLEAN ME beneath. Floppy discs and CD’s are scattered around its base.

            For the first time ever he wasn’t interested in anything in the house that could be sold on. The burning desire to find out what the hell had gone on here and who this woman was became paramount in his mind. He felt starved and  desperately needed to bloat himself on knowledge — her knowledge. He wanted to know what she knows. He wanted to know her

He began filling his bag: something that seemed like a diary, videos in blank cases, books, Floppy discs and CD’s, notebooks full of scribbled hieroglyphics, a pile of photographs. He pulled out the cables from the computer tower and laid it flat in the bag. He zipped up the bloated bag. Luckily the room is so shambolic no one would ever know anything was missing or indeed that a hapless wanderer has left his tell-tale breath in the room. He throws his bag over his shoulder and makes my way to the door. But there is something he needs to do. Is she alive or dead?

 He moves close to the bed and places a finger to her cheek. Cooling or cold? Hard to tell. He looks hard at her chest to see of there is any sign of movement. He spreads his hand wide on her belly, feeling the pucker of fresh tattoos under palm.

His knees almost buckle as the room tips beneath him. A sudden feeling of sickness. His belly bloats with the gas of slimy-blue eggs cracked over flyblown meat. The room comes back into perspective as his eyes re-adjust. The bile in his throat rises and he needs to move, need to get out into the fresh air. But there is something else. Her eyes. Her eyes are Emerald. He  knows this because they are now wide and bulging and still. Fixed on him. Sudden tears are hot on his face and he’s starting to gag as the putrid mess inside him rises. Her mouth widens into a scream but nothing only the ragged wheeze of tired lungs can be heard. She tries again and the Thief can feel the mute breath in his open mouth. Then she forms the words around the barest whisper. The thief dares to put his head closer. He has to hear what she has to say. A sound, a guttural death rasp swirls inside his ears.

            ‘It never ends.’ Is all she says. And everything inside her stops and begins to cool.


He opens the front door of his flat and throws the bag on the sofa as he collapses onto a chair. Surrounded by mountains of CD and Video players heaped on top of each other; bags of wallets, cash cards, jewellery and assorted pieces of other people’s lives, the thief’s eyes slowly close and close.


The room is flooded with the amber glow of the streetlight outside as he awakens. Every muscle aches and needles of pain shoot through his throbbing brain. Surely all that must have been a dream, he reassures himself. Then he spots the bag beside him. He winces and rubs his temples hard. His bladder screams for him to take a piss.

There is a soft noise above him by the window distracting him from the pain. The moth flickers around the glass for a moment or two and his eyes follow it’s path downwards to . . .  She is standing in the shadows of the corner of the room. The moth flutters around her unflinching face, its wings tapping her skin. It hovers around her mouth until her lips part slightly and it disappears behind her teeth. The meat and eggs grow rotten again, filling his stomach. But my eyes won’t budge from the visitor. Her Emerald eyes flash at me. Her red hair is incandescent, beautiful, tumbling down her back like a bloody waterfall. She’s wearing a flowery Summer dress; her arms are bare and the thin straps show off her shoulders and slender neck. Slowly she raises the hem of the flimsy material above  naked hips. Her eyes never leave the thief. There is something different. Her skin is clean of any markings, smooth and unblemished. Perfect. The woman smiles at him, her mouth seeming impossibly stretched. Her lips peel away from her teeth as her mouth yawns to let out an endless, sickening scream. The thief has only heard a sound like that once before when they all gathered around Bethany in hospital, praying for her as she was dying of cancer. She was only Nineteen. The woman parts her legs slightly. Soft flesh twitches in between as something nudges out. The moth reappears from her and finally works itself free flying up to the window. Then another and another. It doesn’t stop until the room is swarming with epileptic wings finding their own manic path to the light, a velvet army battering his powdered face. He raises his hands to his ears to try and block out the piercing screech of the woman behind the frantic curtain of wings but it only increases in volume inside his splitting head. She won’t stop. She won’t stop. He can’t see anymore . . . everything has merged to black now and the screaming fades . . . and the screaming fades . . . and the . . . .

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