The Grasp of Hell

The Grasp of Hell

A Story by Dan James

Jake has to see his brother over and over again. It always ends up being the same emotions. Happiness, then anger, then fear for his life, then fear for his soul.

The clouded skies had always affected Jake. He never knew why, but they just had. The clouds were a dark gray and seemed dense. They swirled ever so slightly like they were trying to hypnotize anyone who casted their gaze upon them. 

It reminded him of something... or of someone. He could never remember. Memory was never his forte. Swaying in the only rocking chair in a hundred mile radius of his location, Jake casted his eyes over the desert horizon. The wasteland where he lived was always so serene and peaceful on the brew of a storm. The emptiness of the bleak location contributed to the effect of peacefulness for him, which entailed no life anywhere. No cacti, shrubs, nor sand dunes. Jake looked around and realized there wasn't actual sand. Just mud cracks as far as the eye can see. Jake didn't mind though; as long as everything was peaceful, he was okay. It was perfect.

Jake glanced back up at the clouds as the gray puffs swirled and flashes of light and terror appeared throughout the clouds. The sun was nowhere to be seen. He felt a drop of water on his nose, and he wrinkled it in response. Jake didn't mind the rain either; it was calming to him. Showers, he didn't like that much, but light sprinkles are just... perfect. His mother has always said that rain would get him sick, and that he should stay out of the rain.

It's a good thing mother isn't here now.

Jake sat back and smiled at that thought. It was bliss for him.

"Hey Jake." A voice carried through the air. Jake looked over, and smiled like a goof.

"George!" Jake exclaimed, getting up from his chair and greeting his brother with a hug. Jake gestured to a chair next to his and they both sat down. Looking out towards the sunset on a cloudless sky, the brothers reminisced being in each other's presences. Jake hasn't felt like this in forever... yet it oddly felt like he saw his brother recently. Jake shook off the feeling of déjà vu, and turned towards the scenery around him. It was bright and cheerful just like his mood at the moment.

"How are mom and dad doing?" George curiously asked.

"Great! You should see them George, they're so happy. Once you left, they got a little sa-" A clap of lightning flashed in front of Jake's eyes in that instant. During the interval of the sudden, blinding light of lightning, George's face was mutilated beyond recognition. Blood poured from the deep cuts on one of his cheeks, his left eye was swollen shut with a quiver, his hair was all out of whack like it was tugged in various places, and his open eye was filled with fear. It was as though actual fear itself was right there in front of George, and he couldn't do anything about it. Then the image was gone.

"You doing okay J?" George asked, waving his hand in front of Jake's face. Jake swatted his brother's hand away, and smiled. He didn't know why he was smiling, he just saw George's face distorted.

"Of course I'm okay! Got dazed for a second for some reason." Jake vividly remembered the face, but the words came out of his mouth like he wasn’t troubled by anything.

"Must've been some of mom's peach tea, you know that stuff just comes out of the sink," George joked. The two boys laughed, but Jake's wasn't genuine. The sound of the laugh was, but Jake's eyes said something else. The haunting image of his brother shocked him, and he wanted to tell George, but couldn't. The words wouldn't come out. There was a pressure in his chest that forced Jake not to talk about that subject.

The grass in the distance rustled in the wind. It was one of the things Jake used to love when he was little. He would go out to the grass, and lie down as the wind passed over him and the green blades tickled his vulnerable skin. An awkward tension hung over the brothers as they both stared at the grass, thinking about their memories together.

"Hey Jake, sorry for leaving," George said. Jake looked over to see George's face mutilated again, yet it was worse. There was pus pulsing out of his swollen eye, accompanied by a deep purple area on his forehead. Jake blinked, and George's face was back to normal. Inside, Jake was convinced something was going to happen, but he couldn't do anything to warn his brother of the impending danger. The words coming out of his mouth weren't his. The playful smile he wore and the message in his eyes weren't the ones he intended.

"It's okay man, really," Jake said. A single drop of water fell on Jake's nose again, causing him to look up out of instinct. 
There wasn’t a cloud in sight. Instead of the dark gloom of a storm, there was the hazy picture of a sunset. A mixture of vibrant colors mixed together with a solid orange circle in the middle of everything. Why the sunset was taking place in the middle of the sky, Jake didn’t know. Nor did he bother to think about it.

Jake squinted as he thought he saw something right next to the orange sphere of fire. Streaks of red were emitting from the sun, but it seemed like someone was in the stripes of colors. Squinting some more, Jake saw a dark red figure of a man in the orange strip. Oddly enough, staring at the sun didn't burn Jake’s eyes like it normally would.
The body was skinny, but not anorexic skinny. The legs and arms were of the same caliber, but they seemed longer proportionally compared to his body. Something was waving behind the figure, darting to the left and right quickly like a snake. The figure’s head seemed like it kept changing. The only part on his head that stayed the same were his eyes. Jake could see them from where he was sitting, and they were red. A red that stood out from the sunset colors of the sky. They stared at Jake. A sudden pressure built up in his chest.

The memory of George's face returned, but Jake's head stayed facing up to the sky. Staring at the figure in the sunset, who was now smiling with visible white teeth.

He wanted to tell George right then and there that something bad was going to happen, but he felt something compelling him not to. He sensed a presence that told him not to tell George. This presence pulsed guilt, fear, cowardice, and anger into Jake's system. It was slow at first, but the emotions came rushing in faster and faster. It was like the floodgates were slowly letting all of these negative emotions run through to Jake’s brain.

"Really, I am. I just want you to know..." George dropped the sentence there. He was hesitant to say what he was about to in the upcoming moments. They hadn’t said it in months, especially after what happened.

After a few moments of silence, George finished his sentence.

"That I love you." George said. This statement triggered something in Jake. The floodgates were wide open.

Still looking up, Jake saw the red and pink swirls of a sunset horizon blacken into smokey and heartless clouds. The figure winked at Jake, and blended in with the ash filling the sky.

Jake looked over to see George gone from his side. He stared at that spot for a second, then shifted his view to the front. A shadow was in the distance cowering low to the ground. Jake looked to the left slightly and saw another shadow. This one was bigger and burlier, and it was making its way to the cowering shadow. The person on the ground was shaking, shivering, and shrieking from pain as the tall burly man stood over it. The man raised one hand, made a fist shape, and brought it down hard on the boy pummeling him to the ground. The sound of the impact resonated in Jake's ears.

"I never meant any of this," Someone said next to Jake. It was a feminine voice. A voice that Jake has heard all of his life, and he had learned to affiliate this voice with safety. But recently, nothing was safe. He looked over, and saw his mother standing there, tears in her eyes.

"It's my fault," Jake found himself saying. The mother wrapped an arm around her son, and brought him close.

"No, it was never your fault. Always mine. I didn't protect you guys like I should've. I didn't... Stand up against him..." The mother's voice was breaking. Her tone was filled with sadness and sorrow.

"You guys were so happy though," Jake remarked. There was a slight pang of anger, but it wasn't enough for it to be noticeable. Jake learned from his parents that he should always reserve his anger. Keep it in him, and swallow it down. To let it leak out slowly with passive aggressiveness and snide comments. It makes the pain on yourself easier, they said. He never knew the anger he kept in him would boil up and explode like it did.

"We were never happy honey. Never. We played it off when you guys were around, but he just... snapped. He quit his job, and became an alcoholic... Oh God, I'm so sorry," The mother said to Jake. He held her tight to comfort her. Jake closed his eyes while his head rested comfortably on her chest. He felt safe.

Suddenly, her body language turned. She moved away from Jake, causing him to look at her in reaction. Her eyes were hollow and hard.

"Yet, you didn't warn him."

Jake felt the presence again, but this time all it felt like was guilt. Gripping, grieving guilt.

"I was afraid." Jake said. He slowly pointed a finger towards the man. As if Jake was somehow controlling the muscular man, as soon as he put down his arm, the man struck the cowering figure below him once more. A shriek pierced through the air like a knife.

"Just because I didn't teach you how to stand up for yourself, doesn't give you any excuse to not do something! ANYTHING!" The mother yelled. Jake's guilt was overpowering, and the presence inside him felt satisfied. Once again, the mother's tone changed, and so did the feeling in Jake. All he felt now was anger. Uncontrollable, unquenchable, unstoppable anger. "Jake, I'm so sorry. It is all my fault!”

"You're right. It is your fault." He said without sentiment. Jake stared at the man, endlessly beating on the cowering figure over and over again. The anger was building to a climax that the Devil himself would be pleased of. And It was.

Through the air, Jake heard, "Dad... Please..." That didn't do anything as the cowering figure's father brought down his hand again, hitting one of the boy's eyes. Seeing that, something clicked in Jake. He finally realized that George was in trouble and that he was the only person who wanted to help him. He was the only one who could help. 

Despite that epiphany, he and the presence both knew it was too late to do anything. Jake felt so useless, that he didn’t do anything. That’s what It wanted. The feeling of being powerless. The feeling of being vulnerable, impotent, weak, paralyzed, defenseless, susceptible, worthless, feeble.

Thunder clapped, rumbling the dirt. Lightning flashed, illuminating George on the ground and the father over him. Darkness filled Jake's eyesight, allowing him to only see a few hundred feet in front of him.

Anger filled Jake's heart. Whatever passion Jake may have had was replaced with a white hot pain in his body. There was no room for sympathy. No room for empathy. No room for concern, condolence, comfort, or compassion. What was left was the feeling of the world being against him. Unimaginable levels of rage flowed through Jake’s blood. Heart beat pulsing in his ears. Negative thoughts ran rampant in his head like children on sugar rushes. One word formed in his head. Revenge.

Jake got up from his chair, and started storming towards his father. The mother ran forward and stopped Jake from going another step.

"Get away," Jake said, his voice resonating through the air as if it was amplified by a hundred. The mother had a shocked look to her. She nodded with a look of "I love you" and backed away. Jake stood there, emotionless, as he stared at his mother turning to a pile of crystal white salt, scattering with the wind. Her empathetic smile, as she disappeared, soon cleared from his mind. The images of George from earlier entered, replacing his mother, and his motive became clear. He turned to the two in the distance, and the presence in him was egging him on.

Ot tnaw uoy wonk uoy. Mih turh.

Jake couldn’t help but agreeing.

Every heavy step Jake took towards him, lightning flashed and the ground trembled. But it didn't matter, because Jake’s sight were red. They were locked on with the father and George in the distance.

As Jake got closer to George and his father, something appeared right next to him. He whipped his head around to see George next to him. He wasn't beat up or scared. He was calm, but did look nervous from what he just said.

"Well I don't." Jake said flatly. He didn't see George's face, but he could tell that he was surprised.

"What?" George said, confused by his brother's response.

"I don't love you. You left us when we needed you the most, and here you are now. Thinking it's all okay," Jake half-yelled.

"You were the one who came up to me and hugged me!" George exclaimed.

"Because you're my brother, and I missed you; but I realize now that I shouldn’t have. You left us when we needed you the most. When mom and I needed you the most. Why would I ever think of welcoming you back. The only reason why I did that, was out of instinct. But I can see now my instinct was wrong. You came back expecting a warm welcome,” Jake took a breather from his rant. He was heaving with a pressure building up in his chest. George’s eyes were watered with tears and misery. Jake looked at George straight in the eyes.

“Well, you’re not getting one."

Instead of fighting back, George just lowered his head in shame.

"I had too. I was doing it to-"

"To what?" Jake intervened, "To leave mom and I when dad lost his job? Was that it? He was getting better! He promised he'll stop drinking, and to be a _good_ person." George didn't move an inch. Suddenly, Jake was himself again. The presence left, and Jake was free to express whatever he really wanted to say. He looked at his brother in horror. Jake knew what was going to happen to George if father knew he was home. He knew the suffering his brother would take.

Somewhere in the 139th song lyric, it states that sometimes help is needed to overcome the secrets in one’s heart. The mind is conscious. Conscious is a computer. The heart is subconscious. Subconscious is a program that is installed into the computer. If someone types something into the program, it can show up on the computer. But just as easily, the delete button can appear, erasing the text off the screen; but not before it was seen.

Where Jake was, help was extinct.

Jake’s heart told him to say it.

He saw it in his brain.

“You’re going to die,” Jake would’ve said. What followed was silence.

"I'M GOING TO KILL YOU!" A voice bellowed through the air. Jake barely heard it over the loud air currents and lightning flashing every other second. The George next to him was gone, and the George on the ground was still there. The presence was gone from Jake, but he still felt it close by.

Jake returned to the task of taking on his father, but it seemed huge now. Everything that Jake felt was fear. As if moving to his grave, Jake trudged towards them. He saw George's face when he got close enough. It was bloody and swollen beyond recognition. Jake saw George's eye, and in his eye, Jake saw fear. It was as though actual fear itself was right there in front of George, and he couldn't do anything about it.

The man raised his hand to make a fist. In that moment everything froze. The air currents stopped, and the lightning flash in the distance stood at a standstill. George looked from the man to Jake with pleading eyes.

“Why didn’t you warn me?” George asked. Jake stood there, frozen along with time.

“I returned home from fighting for this country, and all I got was negativity in return. Why? I don’t understand why I came home to such hostility.” Jake stared at George with a scared look. He realized his mistake now. But like anything in his life, it was too late. “You could’ve warned me about dad. How bad he got. Instead, you looked me straight in the eye and told me, ‘He was getting better’. ‘He promised to stop drinking.’ Those were lies J. You knew it, yet you decided to tell me.” Jake finally had the courage to say something.

“I thought about warning you.”
“But you didn’t.”

Time returned to normal.

The lightning in the distance flashed, sounding like a crisp bell.

The father brought his hand down with all of his weight.

Jake yelled.

The fist made contact.

George crumpled on the ground, lifeless.

The man was heaving in and out, and Jake couldn't help but yell. The man turned his head, and his face was hidden in shadows. Only his eyes were visible, and they burned bright with red. They emitted waves of fear and rage and sin.

Jake yelled out of anger.

He yelled because he didn't know what to do. He yelled in hope that it would accomplish something that nothing else did. He yelled until his vocal cords ripped and his throat was bleeding. He kept yelling and yelling and yelling, and the whole time, the thing was staring at him. Then It started laughing. The thing in front of Jake wasn't his father anymore.

The man bellowed a laugh that trumped the thunderous rumbles vibrating through Jake's ears. It was louder than the lightning that made contact with the ground every single second. The man's eyes burned brighter than the fires of Hell themselves.

Jake felt anger like never before. His whole body was shaking. 

His breaths were short and quick, his hands half-curled into a fist and then back, his eyes felt pressure from the shaking in his head. He felt so much anger; it was overwhelming. He didn't know what to do. He wanted to yell some more, he wanted to destroy everything he got his hands on, he wanted to stomp and throw a tantrum. He wanted to do so much, yet there was too much to accomplish and decide decide. Suddenly, a single thought became clear. The raw instinct of every human took place.

Jake swung hard at the mocking face in front of him. As soon as the fist made contact, everything flashed white. Jake shut his eyes quickly from the sudden light of white surrounding him.

A ringing appeared in Jake’s ears, making him cover them in an attempt to make the noise stop. That did nothing. The ringing was still present, as if it was coming from inside his head.

Jake opened his eyes painfully, squinting against the blinding white in front of him. A gavel resonated in the distance like a death sentence. The echo of the gavel was low, but increasingly got louder in Jake’s ears. Eventually overcoming the ringing, Jake yelled at all of the noise around him. The echo of the gavel, accompanied by the ringing in his ears made his stomach twirl and flip. He had the feeling to throw up his guts, yet it stayed grumbling in his stomach.

A deep voice yelled through the air sending shivers down Jake’s spine. It was incoherent to the ear, yet Jake _knew_ what was being said. All that he felt now was humiliation and overpowering wrongdoing. He saw everything he did wrong in his life flash in his eyes. But at the same time, he saw everything he did right. It was a shame one trumped the other.

After his life was done flashing before his eyes, the white around him slowly turned to a gray. Jake felt the floor underneath him give away. As he fell, the light gray turned to a black that was incomprehensible.

By the time it was so black that even light could not be shone, Jake hit the ground. Nothing broke or bruised as Jake landed with a _fa-thud_. He lied there for a bit, panting from the sudden rush of everything. The ringing and echo in his ears were still there, but they were distant. Jake looked up from his position and saw a pair of red eyes floating in the sky. The eyes were all that Jake could see. Everywhere else was pure darkness. Jake stood up to take a few steps closer. He stopped when the floating eyes were just a few feet away.

The eyes stared at him, mocking him, inviting him to come closer. To take just one more step. Jake was going to turn away when he saw something in the eyes. It was his brother. George was on the left side with a girl on his hips. They looked happy and carefree. Jake looked in the other eye, and saw his mom and dad on the couch with a spot in the middle for him. The mom smiled with love, and the dad’s face gleamed with affection. They waved for Jake to come over. The couch was red and inviting; it looked comfy and Jake's body naturally responded to it by craving pleasure and laziness.

Jake turned around, and all he saw were solid white stairs. They seemed to illuminate a kind of light that glowed. Jake's face seemed pure and white from the radiation of the stairs. The flight of steps led up to a door that was covered by light. The door was a sky blue color, and it showed, just by looking at it, everything that can happen to him if he chooses to put his trust in something that can't be explained by normal means.

Something spiritual.

Something that can bring hope.

Something that can produce no hatred, but extreme love instead.

It showed hardship as well. Time and dedication would have to be committed to completing the ultimate task. The one, single goal. But it was all worth it. The promises of happiness and peace forever. It was all there.

Then the doubt began to rise.

Laer s'eH wonk uoy od woh?

MiH nees reve uoy evah?

Ton s'eH uoy llet nac I.

Jake turned around, and stared into glowing eyes intently. The red light illuminated his face, causing an eerie look upon him. His facial features showed all the evil he may have ever felt. A sensation ran through him, more powerful than anything he's encountered. Yet it was subtle. It was calming him, making his eyes close and open slowly. The urge to yawn was present, along with his heavy limbs. He felt tired.

Yrt neve t'nod.

Sselesu s'ti.

Jake nodded his head in an almost dazed-like manner. With his back to the stairs, he never noticed them disappearing. Opportunity was being erased right behind him, but he was oblivious to it. Like he never had the choice at this point. Where he was, choice was just an illusion.

Sivo ouy.

The voice vanished, and a bed materialized in front of James. It was a king size bed, and it looked like the bed gods perfectly designed it for Jake. He felt like a sloth in the wild, his limbs and eyes growing heavier and heavier.

Hesitation clouded over Jake as he thought about it. The eyes were so tempting. The bed inviting him to come sleep, seemed so perfect at that moment. The stairs were just going to drain him of all of his energy. Jake slowly took a single step towards the eyes, and everything changed.

What replaced the environment was different from the intense black that previously surrounded him. Jake saw horrors beyond horrors. He saw the fires of Hell, and in them, arms and heads showing unimaginable levels of pain. People were screaming in anguish; the voices sounded ancient, yet it also sounded like children's screams of terror. The faces of the damned were unrecognizable. Their skin was almost burnt off, leaving strips of the discarded carcass hanging off to boil in the fire's heat. Never ending screaming and torturing. Never ending distress. Never ending suffering. Never ending despair.

Jake noticed he was standing on a cliff, overlooking the lake of fire that the people seemed to be stuck in. The ground below him boiled slightly. He looked down to find the dirt a deep red. Something caught his eye in the fire as he looked at the ledge on which he stood. He leaned over slightly to see clearly what was in the lake.

Just then, a fist appeared from the lake, grabbed his shirt, and pulled him into the fire. The plunge into the lake burned Jake's flesh at the touch. Hands and arms came out of nowhere to grab and tug at Jake as he was tussled in the red and orange boiling water. Jake opened his eyes, searing them to a crisp. Yet, he could see a face at the bottom of the lake. It was grinning wildly, and It opened It’s mouth to speak. The voice was rugged and distorted, but at the same time he heard every word perfectly.

Did reven uoy tahw rof lleH siht ni evres lliw uoy.

Niaga revo dna revo deneppah tahw fo stneve cifirroh eht yalper lliw uoy.

Niaga dna, niaga dna, niaga dna, niaga revo lla ti ees nac I os tsuj, deneppah sah taht gnihtyreve tegrof lliw uoy.

Niap dna erutrot gnidne reven ot emoclew.

Yojne esaelp.

It flashed a grin, and Jake's body was ripped open. The fire burned his muscle and seared his beating heart. By then, Jake has experienced so much pain, he was numb to anything else. The fire tickled his exposed organs while melting them at the same time.

It reached It’s hand to Jake to bring him closer. The living burnt reminisce of a body drew closer to It. Jake's eyes were so damaged by the fire around him, he could barely see one foot in front of him.

The other hand from the prince of darkness reached into Jake. He could feel the long fingernails and scaly skin of It trying to grasp something. All this time, Jake was trying to avoid looking at It, but he couldn't resist anymore. With whatever eyesight he had left, the pupils focused in on It.

Jake saw It’s eyes, and could see no longer. The hand in his body grabbed something, and he arched his back. It didn't grab anything physical, but It did clench his identity. The force that drove him to be alive. Jake's very own soul.

Its hand pinched it, and drew a piece out from his body. A long, gray strand of pure light came out of Jake. It was like the Devil was unraveling a cheese stick. It smiled at its trophy.

Morf emac taht erehw erom evah uoy, yrrow t'nod.

Yrd pu uoy tea ot gniog m'i.

Lightning rumbled in the distance, and Jake looked up. His memory was gone. The one drop of rain he felt earlier was still on his nose, dangling ever so slightly. A few more raindrops fell, but it was never more than that.

Jake looked down to see himself sitting in his rocking chair. He felt odd sitting there. He felt like he was lying down instead of being upright in the chair.

He forgot he even had that thought and looked towards the horizon again.

It was only a few moments until he started hearing the voices:

"Look, he's pulling through!"

"Miss, your son is going to make it."

"This is a miracle!"

Jake covered his ears in distress. He didn't know where they were coming from. It could either be from inside his head, but it also sounded like it came from all around him. It never mattered, as he always forgot them in two seconds anyway. But there was one voice he always felt the most disturbed by. It made him uncomfortable and made his hairs stand on end.

"Time of death: 7:06 A.M."

Shudders ran through Jake every time he heard it. He didn't like death, but like everything else, he forgot he heard it.

Jake looked up and noticed the clouded skies.

The clouded skies had always affected Jake. He never knew why, but they just had...

© 2017 Dan James

Author's Note

Dan James

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Featured Review

So many stories about hell fail because they try to be scary from the idea of physical torture alone. Stories like this that explore psychological torture are the ones that end up being great. The premise of this story by itself is a winner but the execution really brings it home.

Posted 2 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Dan James

2 Years Ago

Thank you so much! I completely agree with you, psychological torture is much more... interesting an.. read more

2 Years Ago

Right, you can cut and burn a character as much as you want but it can't compare to mental torture i.. read more


So many stories about hell fail because they try to be scary from the idea of physical torture alone. Stories like this that explore psychological torture are the ones that end up being great. The premise of this story by itself is a winner but the execution really brings it home.

Posted 2 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Dan James

2 Years Ago

Thank you so much! I completely agree with you, psychological torture is much more... interesting an.. read more

2 Years Ago

Right, you can cut and burn a character as much as you want but it can't compare to mental torture i.. read more

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1 Review
Added on September 2, 2017
Last Updated on September 2, 2017
Tags: Hell, Devil, Infinite, Repeat, Judgement


Dan James
Dan James

Huntsville, TX

I'm a writer who loves to write about the unexpected things in life. Things is a broad term, but so is life, so that's okay. more..

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