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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Dust and Sand – Chapter 9 – By Sean P. Wallace

Chapter 9

Penelope Chalmers stood at the centre of her prison and roared “Let me out! Please! Let me out!”

No-one answered. Either they weren’t there or they silently enjoying her desperation.

She sighed. She was being held somewhere damp and vile, somewhere the sun had never seen. The darkness surrounding her was like honey, thick enough to mask her hand when it was an inch from her face. And the walls were always moist to the touch, probably due to the strange, foul-smelling liquid trickling down the corners of the room.

Most of the time, it was like she was in an abyss; there was no sight, no sound. She’d even become accustomed to the smell after… well, some amount of time, so even that no longer distracted her from the void.

With the pervading darkness, Penelope had no way of measuring the time. At least a day must have passed. She didn’t want to entertain the thought it had been any shorter…

The worst of her captivity, though, was the cold; the deep chill of a hate-withered heart. Penelope had been told that Hell was a warm place; somewhere filled with fire and light; an unending assault on the senses and the soul. Pastors and tutors had been very clear on this, warning her of an eternity in the inferno, and her chaplain’s paintings, glass windows and Bible all endorsed this view. Even uneducated folk would say a Texan summer was hotter than Hell, so she wasn’t alone in her belief. But a day in the ice-chill captivity of the man in the dark mask had changed her mind.

The cold assailed her again, brought about shivers she couldn’t stop. Truly, she was in the icy clutches of Hell.

She began to pace to ward it off. But this bleak frigidity tormented her constantly. It seeped into her bones, twisted her muscles and dried out her eyes and tongue. The walls and smooth seemed to be its source as they absorbed all heat; touching them made her body numb as it was eked of its heat by the Stygian stone. She stood as much as possible to avoid touching them but that drained her too, left her to endure that vampiric embrace when she was at her weakest and the freeze could worm into her all the better.

Penelope liked to think herself resolute, someone with the breeding and sophistication to enjoy the fine things in life but who wasn’t above discomfort when the occasion called for it but that had been when riding without a cushion or sharing a hotel room had been her only discomfort. The cold, the smell, the dark and the damp had cut right through her opinion of herself and left her small, frightened and cowardly.

Twice, cold food had been slid into the room. Both times, she’d been terrified, fearing that something awful had been sent to warp her. It had taken minutes to work up enough courage to see what had been delivered. But both times, only meat and bread had been delivered. Penelope considered having some as fuel to stop her shivers but it would rest like an ice block in her stomach so she decided against it for now.

The food proved that her captors weren’t willing to let the cold sap her slowly. So did the trials they sent her; three times demons had whispered to her, taunted her with her hidden fears when she was at a low ebb. And then, maybe three hours ago, there had been these… other noises. Horrible and vile and terrifyingly enticing noises, the sounds of a queer revelry that she found herself longing to join.

She feared her resolve would not last long against those temptations.

Penelope shook her head as she paced around her prison, in a rough circle. From the smooth, cave-like walls and the revelry above her, she assumed she was underground. The cavity wasn’t man-made; she’d explored the room fully and it had no supports, no straight surfaces save the fourth wall which led out into the corridor. A door was set into that wall, metallic, tightly-barred and locked in three places. She was likely in an abandoned mine or some Indian caves, somewhere people would never think to look.

Not until it was too late…

She’d had her eyes closed for hours to ward off the cold so unseen tears formed against her lids, residue of an emotion she hadn’t summoned. Fearing they might freeze on her cheek, she wiped them on the sleeve of her dress.

Despair had not been too far away recently. Not after what had happened…

As a lady was wont to do, Penelope flipped from despair to anger. Anger at Senator Martins; after all, this was his damn fault! Senator Martins never threw parties. He was not a socialite, not someone on the map. But out of the blue he’d thrown one two nights ago and that was when everything went wrong.

Sean is an editor, writer, and podcast host at Geek Pride, as well as a novelist. His self-published works can be found at all good eBook stores.

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