Excerpt twelve

Excerpt twelve

A Story by Mike Lamb

from Jack's Inferno, chapter 11


I dreamt of riding on a train, deeper into the heart of Hell. Do the dead dream? Maybe that's all it is...a death dream...consciousness unraveling into a spiraling black delirium while Perception throws on an in-flight movie. One last epic illusion before you're recycled back into the Cosmic Hive Mind...

Shut up, Jack. Your death dream is on drugs. Stop trying to be profound. You're f*****g dead.

My vision is hazy and blurred. Everything that moves still echoes with ghost-image trails. When I close my eyes I see outside myself.

The locomotive is a raging iron serpent. The dead trail in its wake as it rips through over the long-buried tracks. The ground spreads open into a slit passageway, pouring out ethereal light. The phallic serpent-train penetrates the waiting tunnel like a textbook Freudian nightmare. Ah, the tawdry, predictable symbolism.

Then everything turns to blinding light. I'm inside a womb, a pit, a tomb of flesh. The Tree of Life stretches upward before me for miles, rising out of a glowing primordial swamp. Every branch an arm bearing fetal fruit, radiant like a dying star. The tree shifts its shape into a woman with three faces. Hecate--the triple goddess of Heaven, Earth, and Hell. Mostly Hell.

The swamp turns to blood. Seven glowing cherubs encircle me. They gaze upon me. First serene, then curious...then sinister. And then hideous in flashes as the lights flicker in and out, alternating between angelic halos and abysmal shadows. Their tiny hands reach out for me...


I wake up in a crowded train station that reeks of cheap wine, cheaper perfume and an assortment of stagnant fluids. I'm lying face-up on the polished stone floor staring up into a flickering light bulb suspended from the ceiling.

My skull feels shattered. My eyes are stinging and thick with mucous. My spine is trying to crawl out of my body. My insides burn.

I'm surrounded by seven dwarves, and they're rifling through my pockets. Another goddamn blackout.

They scatter as I awake. One has a handful of money. My money. Yeah, I know I stole it. That's not the issue.

Beside me is a discarded wine bottle in a brown paper bag. It's still half-full and has a good weight to it. This should suit my purposes nicely. I launch it at the thief. It's a direct hit. Stumpy midget legs falter as the pickpocket is struck on the skull by the projectile. Blood and cherry wine run down his neck in dark red streams.

I walk over to him and snatch the money from his hand, returning it to my pocket. And no, I don't think I was overreacting. You try waking up in a strange place coming off a heavy mushroom trip and getting mugged by a gang of greedy midgets. See how you like it.

A few people are staring, but most take no notice or just shrug it off and go about their business. I use the term people loosely. Demons dressed like prostitutes loiter in the halls of the station, along with strange and colorful monsters in trench-coats. Otherwise it's the usual assortment of pimps, hookers, thieves, rapists, dealers, junkies, vagrants, hustlers and various criminal-types you'd expect to find.

Footsteps resonate in a rhythm-less symphony of echoing clicks and clacks. You can tell the local denizens apart from the new arrivals just by their pace. The newly-dead walk at a brisk stroll, ready to break into a sprint at a moment's notice. Acting as if they had somewhere important to be. Trying to send out the signal that they're much to busy to be accosted. Head down, hands in pockets, legs stiff and footsteps heavy. It's transparent to the sharks. Can't blame 'em for trying to put up a front, though.

The locals, by contrast, are the ones holding up the walls and strutting casually. Relaxed and unhurried. Waiting to cash in on some new face, fresh off the train and full of fear. Shivering strays taken under the wings of the birds of prey. Drawn in by flashy smiles and silver tongues. A sucker's born every minute and, judging by the turnout here, they die even faster.

The station itself is huge. The ceiling is as high as a cathedral, and the main hallway is half as wide. Various corridors and stairwells cut into the walls at regular intervals. The lights are bright, but few and far between. Just enough illumination to deepen the shadows. Lurkers stir just beneath the veil of darkness.

A toothless man limps over to me and breaks straight into the classic wino's lament. "Hey man, how you doin' tonight? Alright...that's good, that's good. Hey, uh, listen man...I was wonderin' if maybe you could help me out. You got an honest face, I can tell you got a good heart. I--"

"Hey man, lemme get twenty bucks!" I interrupt with my own fast-talk panhandling. "My old lady just walked out on me! I'm trying to get some crack and a hooker! Can ya help me out?"

He gives me a puzzled look, as if he's not quite sure whether or not he's being insulted. "Uh...nah, man...I...I ain't got twenty bucks. I was hopin' you had twenty bucks. I'm tryin' to get some crack an' a hooker, too."

"Well let me know if you find anything. We'll split it 50/50."

Still confused, the bum walks away.

© 2012 Mike Lamb

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Sayin' this is an excerpt is like sayin' the Iliad is a post-it note.
I hate cherubs almost as much as I hate clowns. Chubby little bast-
As a musician, when I did gigs downtown, there was always the gauntlet of panhandlers to run between the parking garage and the hotels. One night this enterprising guy tries to get me to buy a Michael Jordan commemorative album made from actual newspaper clippings. For four blocks he follows me and keep pitching this cut and paste homage. I'm in my tux, carrying my axe case and trying to make the gig before the down beat. finally just before entering the hotel the guy pulls out all the stops and says "Man, could ya help me out buying this, I haven't eaten in three days." All I do is look down at his gut -which is twice the size of mine-and pat it with my free hand. Then I say, "Man, it looks like you eat WAY better than me." This physical contact and obvious reality stops him dead in his sales pitch and he starts laughing. I said, "if I get paid tonight I'll toss ya a fin." I didn't get paid and he didn't wait around. I was down $25 for the parking fee.

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Added on September 15, 2010
Last Updated on March 15, 2012


Mike Lamb
Mike Lamb

greenville, NC

Artist, writer, and a drunken lunatic prophet. I am the author of Jack's Inferno, a dark comedy bizarro/horror novel about Hell, previously published through Wordplague (now defunct). I am also a pro.. more..

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