Burn Bitter

God’s name used to be honey. Thick. Sweet. A taste that settled heavenly on your tongue and pleased you to speak. You served ever grateful, just for the sip of his name as it uttered from your lips.

Now, it’s a tar. Too bitter – it puckers at your lips. The sludge of it clings and clogs in your throat, bubbles up when you try to speak. One little word, once a sweet balm within your mouth leaves acrid little ulcers along your tongue and spews out like bile to burn cracked lips.

Yet as you lay at Hell’s floor, looking up, up, towards that which you forsook, you speak it still. The agony of it burns just as the deathly aching cold of Hell burns. Will the bitter break and bring sweet succor back to you? You hope it does. You pray it, even if your prayers echo hollowly around you and there’s no one there to care, let alone to answer.

God… God…

He can’t hear you.

God… God…

And your gums melt away each time you say it.


You think, when you Fall, that Hell will be a pyre in which your damned and rotten soul will burn. You anticipate the lick of flames against your flesh, searing the skin and then sizzling the fat, scorching the meat before it chars and cracks your bones to coals. You await the embrace of the flame. You want it, need to taste the ash in your mouth and savor how it suffocates you.

For a lifetime.

For eternity.

You Fall to your Temptations, to the weight of your Sins, to the Earth and then below it deep down where wretched souls and the Fallen just like you reside. Heaven’s Light grows dimmer, dimmer, and you think it’s good riddance – it was a false Light, a farce. Hell burns ever brighter and far more freely than the Holy Lie to which you’ve devoted yourself to.

The feathers of your once-proud wings molt as they’re stripped away while you tumble Down. Plumage once thick and lustrous flits away a feather at a time, leaving nothing but a cage of bones that try to shield you from –

The cold?

It’s not heat that that burns your flesh, but a cool cold, cold, frosty, frigid cold that crystalizes icy cold and deathly blue onto your skin. It’s frozen agony and sears your lungs and pricks you and it hurts but it’s not the hellish flame that you thought it would be, not the indulgent fire of life you were promised –

Hell is barren.

It sinks in as the cold leaves you rigid on Hell’s floor, immobile on your back, cradled by your cage of wings. Breath… ragged, breath… puffs before your face as you draw the cold, dead air in. You don’t taste ash. You taste nothing. Your tongue freezes as you breathe – you keep breathing anyway as it turns dead and black in your mouth and the frostbite is almost acrid.

Above – Heaven burns. A pinprick of light. And you haven’t the strength to raise your hand and reach.


They didn’t believe me when I told them there were monsters under my bed.

When I would scream for them, pleading, tears streaming down my face, they would shake their heads, my Mother and Father. Check under the bed, was Mother’s soft suggestion to my tired Father, whose eyes, red with need for sleep, would roll when he thought I wouldn’t catch him. To his knees he would go, and I would watch frightfully the curve of my father’s broad back as he craned and looked beneath my bed.

Nothing here, he would say, but dust bunnies and my lack of patience. You’re too old for this. Go to sleep, Cara.

But I never could.

Countless times They would come. When the house was still and calm with sleep, I would lay in my bed with covers to my chin and my eyes closed tight, though no rest would come to me. It always started with the scratching – the screech, screech, screech of talons clawing merciless against the floor beneath my bed. Visions of my flesh giving way to those talons would find a place in my mind, and more often than not, my thighs would wet with a release of urine I could not control.

My Father would blame these nightly accidents on medical problems. My mother insisted perhaps I should be allowed a nightlight – a notion my father refused. She’s thirteen, she needs to grow up.

What I needed was their belief, but at night I received nothing but a closed door and darkness. From the darkness, They would creep, slinking from beneath my bed, and I could hear them slither and slink across the floor. When my bed dipped with their weight, I would tug my covers futilely over my eyes – They would always snatch them away.

Rancid was the air around them, hot and muggy. It scented of vomit and rotted meats, and the scent was stronger when thick, molten-hot tongues barbed in spines slunk out and traced their way across my flesh. It burned, singing my skin, and where their talon-sharp fingers probed and poked at my body, the tender flesh split and tore in bloody lines.

I would try to keep in the screams, hope that They would leave me alone – but They, and Their many tongues and fingers would make their way to my eyes to try and pry them open, and I would refuse to look at them. In turn, I’d scream, and the sounds would summon Mother and Father, though when they came to door, frantic, no monsters would be there.

The trails of scrapes and burns left over my face and body from Their exploring tongues and creeping appendages were explained away as self-inflicted. Sharp nails scratched into skin. Lighter burns – from a lighter they could never seem to find. Attention seeking came up. Disappointment was habitual. Mother wanted to call the doctor, and Father refused steadfast.

The monsters always returned, night after night. Their curious explorations were terrifying, and when They would urge me to look at them, I would scream – I had to feel Them, smell Them. I couldn’t bear to look at Them, too.

Resistance to Their persistence failed, one night. Tendrils had crept into my mouth, sliding sticky and tar-like between my lips. I choked on my sobs and the obstruction in my mouth. The rotted scent forced vomit to my throat, and the day’s meal sputtered from between my lips. My struggle had me flailing, screaming against the intrusion – distracted.

Talons pried open my eyes, and I screamed for my Salvation at the monstrosity in my midst.

I remember little of what followed. What I can recall is everything dripping in red. The red, I would learn, from within the walls of a padded cell, was Mother and Father, spattered over every surface of my room.

It was like they were stuffed in a blender and painted on the walls – the Doctor’s words.

I say nothing but the truth, about the monsters under my bed. About the talons and the tendrils, and the hot stink of Death. I show them my scars, the welts across my body, but my cell becomes smaller, and the ears become deafened.

They don’t believe me when I tell them there are monsters under my bed.

They are wrong.

The Beasts Within the Woods

The red moon rises, arcs, comes to rest high against the midnight darkness. A pool of blood amidst a starry sky, it’s the Devil’s mark, they say. But the Devil doesn’t show His face, not this night, and none before. We’ve never seen the Devil here, only the monsters that seek appeasement on His behalf – the Beasts within the woods.

They howl to the red moon, growl and snarl – hidden – beyond the cover of half-dead trees that shake like bones in the Autumn breeze. Their shadows threaten their presence, teasing dangerously close to the edge of the decaying tree-line, where we gather in a circle, shaking with those trees as our own bones shiver within our skins. But we know what must be done, every blood-red moon, and so we stand ‘round the crackling fire as the eldest of our brood speaks.

Sacrifice, he says, bold and sure though his jowls quake fearfully with the rest of us, is the way of survival. One will sacrifice, so that all may survive. This is the way.

We repeat his words. This is the way. The way it’s always been.

The sky gets darker, the moon glows brighter, its light pulsing, like a beating heart. Rustling from the woods intensifies, and the Elder’s voice dims with each hungry shriek and gluttonous growl of the Beasts that wait beyond.

Who, he asks, will Sacrifice themselves tonight?

Silence meets his ears, and the ground is overcome with tremors. A babe cries in its mother’s arms, and the Beasts answer with a hiss.

Who, it’s asked again, will Sacrifice themselves tonight?

Leaves shuffle along the grass as a woman steps forward, tentative, before the man beside her tugs her back, his fingers white-knuckled about her arm. All eyes fall to the pair, and then cast down to the roundness of her stomach. No one speaks, watching. We all know a choice has to be made – if not willing, then the Beasts will choose, and when the Beasts take from the unwilling, they’re ravenous in their want.

From the tree-line, glowing eyes open and watch. Yellow-orange, milky grey. The air seems to chill with their presence. A twig snaps, the sound crackling through the woods. It’s the Elder who steps back next, though the reaction is futile.

A leathery tendril, covered in thorny spines and dripping muck springs forth from the woods. It takes the Elder in its grasp, twisting around his figure. We only watch as it winds and creeps about his form, as the tendril plunges inside him through his mouth, bulging out his throat. Blood wells like a fountain from the gaping hole, and the Elder is drug into the woods, his hands clawing the earth as his tears stream down his face.

All calms, and stills. Even the babe is silent. Above us, the blood-moon glows.