What could have happened? One minute he was unlocking the trunk he had found, and the next, well, he was here. Imagine a gigantic, dark attic, with doors that only lead to more barren, wooden rooms. Then, try to dream up a squat little beast of a man, skin brownish and smooth, like cool wax, and with eyes concealed behind folds of grinning skin. It looked like a scene from one of your worst nightmares, the kind of nightmares that seem to have no end.
Clive could not wrestle his eyes free from the hideous troll. Being sucked, or teleported, or whatever through an empty chest you found under the floor was bad enough, but then to find someone there.
"You're new," the being rasped. Clive started. His nerves were on overload. "Haven't seen you here in the Chasm."
The thing wore a long faded tunic that swayed jerkily from side to side as it hobbled over to him. The curls of flesh around the hole in the middle of its face imitated a cruel but knowing smile. It giggled, a sound not funny or amusing.
"Yes," The thing prodded his thick, muscular chest, laughing
harder now. "Yes, you're definitely new here in the Chasm. Fine too. Happy life, nice wife, three kids. Strong and fine, yes indeed."
Clive didn't much like the idea of this little troll sizing him up like a slab of meat. Nor did he like the fact that it had just basically outlined his life. Where am I?
"Who are you, where am I?" The question just blurted out. It wasn't a choice, they just exploded out. He didn't have to wait long before he got an acid answer.
"Where you are is the Chasm, and who I am is lost even to me. Doesn't matter, really. No one here has names. We just don't need them. We can see, therefore we know each other. By the way, that isn't important either."
Perplexed, but feeling a little braver, Clive pursued his interrogation. Somehow a distant memory of childhood floated in.
He was ten, maybe nine. His dad told him there was nothing to be scared of. But he knew there was. Those little scratches at the window weren't just bare tree limbs blowing in the wind. And those creaks and footsteps weren't just the house settling. Of course they were, but still, that is how it felt.
"What is this place, the Chasm?"
Looking very much like those stereotypical grandfathers you see sitting down next to their kin, and explaining the fine intricacies of life, the troll sat down on the musty floor. Clive remained tense and standing.
"Boy, you are so used to life in full. You lived comfortably as a child, never hurt. You went from one caretaker to the next. First your mother, then your wife."
The troll turned from its whimsical position and glared
directly at Clive with rodent eyes that shone through the skin of his forehead.
"Never once did you think of the cracks, did you, boy? We are the ones that lived underneath you. In our lives we were beaten and starved by people like you. We were wretched, and fell into the cracks. God wanted us, but we rejected Him because of our suffering and so were sent here."
"However, God did give us one little thing. Pretty nice guy."
"What is that?" Clive suddenly felt cold and as naked as
the rough walls around him.
"You. Like I said, we were the people that lived under you, and you held genuine scorn for us. You had a perfectly happy life, yet you still were a sinner. Remember Janet Keys? For a married fellow, you were pretty popular with the ladies."
"How do you know about me?"
"And why would you want me here?"
"You were slated for Hell anyway. We are your Hell. We are complimentary, you and us. We work out our rage on you, and you get the punishment you deserve. So everything works out fine."
Under the floor, what had I been doing under the floor? Clive wondered. In fact, whose floors had I been under?
"Clive, I know all the questions you're asking yourself. You died, Clive. Seems you slept with the wrong woman. Jealous boyfriends can get pretty nasty."
Clive fought to hold onto his butter-coated sanity, but he felt it slowly but surely slipping away. He bit his lip so hard he could taste blood, just to prevent a scream from breaking out.
"It's time for your punishment, Clive."
>From around the many twisting corners, out from the deepest shadows hobbled creatures, little trolls. There must have been dozens of angry little floor dwellers, shadow monsters.
Over the soft patter of their footsteps, the crisp unsheathing of knives could be heard.
"No, wait. What are you doing-"
Clive was silenced by the grandfatherly troll. His voice box and part of his throat lay on a gory heap on the ground.
"No, Clive, you're not going to die. It hurts, really bad, doesn't it, but you're not going to die. You never will, you're done with dying. Now, its time for us to do a little living."
Dan Hilliard currently resides in Pennsylvania with his girlfriend, LeeAnn. Ever since the age of 12, he has had a deep passion for the written word, and aspires someday to be a part-time author. To date he has two previous writing credits, including a fantasy at www.dragonsoup.com, and a horror short short in a small press zine, Goddess by the Bay.