Speak No Evil
He wakes up to silence.
A scenario he never thought he would wake up to again.
Yet, he doesn’t open his eyes. Instead he starts praying. It’s his defense against everything that’s been testing him. The act is the only thing that saves him every day. And he can only wish that it can save him and… her from all this madness.
Richard never cared. Not until she came. Suddenly, he wants to scream. He wants to fight. He wants to… live. Catherine’s existence becomes his hope. He doesn’t realize exactly when it’s sealed. All he knows is that, that night when he saw her finally break down- he made a vow to do everything he can to protect her.
From what exactly, he doesn’t know. Not one of them knows.
Not one of them remembers.
Until now, their minds are like dry, barren pieces of land. Their minds exist, but they never know what for.
He doesn’t utter his vow to her lest he dies first before her. He promises her something similar to forever, no matter how twisted that version might be.
If… if… they ever make it out alive from whatever this shit they are in, he vows to never let her go.
He utters the last of his prayers, makes the sign of the cross, and opens his eyes.
The sight that greets him explains the lingering silence.
The once empty space is filled to the brim with desecrated flesh and rotting bones. Severed limbs are everywhere, the pieces reminding them that each one of them succumbed to the weakness within them in the past few nights. Blood paints the floor with death and debauchery, mocking them, taunting them as it screams the silent tune of injustice.
Richard exhales, a lingering breath that remains as the only noise.
Fear. The last few nights have been all about fear.
Fear. Fear is a parasite that silently consumes even the strongest soul.
Fear. Fear is the absence of faith.
Faith. Faith is fueled by fear.
He doesn’t understand, yet he does.
His eyes lift towards Catherine, her sleeping form seemingly peaceful despite the hell surrounding her.
His eyes soften. Nothing else matters as long as she’s all right.
He turns his head to the other side and sees the little boy looking at him with something in his eyes. He looks more composed now, with no trace of what happened to him a few nights ago. He is now clothed too, with a new robe. Richard wonders where he got it.
“Follow me, Richard,” says the boy. He stands up and starts to walk towards him. Richard finally realizes that the boy is not chained anymore.
“What?” he finally asks, his voice finally finding its courage.
The boy motions his head towards the door.
“Follow me. You need to see something,” he says before padding his way across the room, not minding the things scattered on the floor.
The child opens the door and turns towards him, silently waiting for his next action.
Richard stands up and walks towards the child, ignoring the fact that he has done so easily because his chains had vanished.
The child steps outside while Richard turns his head towards the sleeping Catherine, his eyes softening at the sight of her sleeping form.
“I will be back,” he promises. He thinks he hears a scoff of disbelief, but he might have just imagined it.
Richard steps into the hallway, closing the door behind him.
He follows the child without a question.
He doesn’t ask why they are able to make their way towards the darkness without any form of light.
The sight that welcomes him utters him speechless.
He is finally outside.
The cabin is on top of a mountain, surrounded by thick forest and a huge body of water.
But it’s different. Very different.
There is a sky, but it’s not reminiscent of the ocean. The sky is covered in crimson, as if it’s shedding tears of blood and refuses to cry.
There is a sun, but it’s not risen. The sun has descent.
There is air. He can breathe it. He can feel its coldness. But it burns his skin instead of cooling it.
This… wherever he is… this is not a place for someone like him.
A laugh disturbs his thoughts.
“Not for someone like you huh?” the boys says as he turns his head to face Richard.
Richard feels confused. “How did you-” read my mind?
“You are a peculiar child, Richard,” the little boy says, his tone amused. “Look at everything around you.”
And Richard does, taking in every little thing he can see with his eyes.
“Who are you?” he finally asks after confirming to himself that the place he’s in is not what he really expects it to be. Everything around him cannot be explained with rationality. Everything he sees doesn’t make sense.
They are the antithesis of what he believes in.
“Are you… scared, Richard?” the little boy prods. “Or do you finally come to realize that you are exactly where you are supposed to be?”
Richard clenches his fists.
“Who the fuck are you and who am I?”
The child shakes his head and turns away from him, his gaze suddenly far. He leans on the wooden rails serving as a balcony for the little cabin. Richard finds himself doing the same, his eyes staring ahead.
“Do you remember what your mother said when you were a kid, Richard?” he asks after a few moments of unnerving silence. “She often told you the difference between heaven and hell.”
Richard freezes as his mother’s voice flickers on his mind, invading his thoughts like an unwanted usurper.
“Hell is a dark hole where the darkest nightmares and fears are the air we breathe,” she used to say. “There is no light in hell, Richard, but the damned souls can see perfectly. They can see each torture, hear each anguished cry, feel each painful moan, and taste each darkest deed as they watch every soul break.”
“Heaven is a beautiful place, my son. But it is not for everyone. There are some souls that will never fit in paradise no matter how much they try to. But always aspire for heaven. Heaven deserves you.”
“But you don’t deserve that place they call heaven, don’t you, Richard?” the little boy asks, as if he is able to read the memory from his mind.
The child smiles. “Tell me, Richard. Do you hear yourself when you pray?”
Richard shakes his head, but the memory of him praying is suddenly as clear as his current vision. He can hear himself clearly, every word drilling itself onto his soul, erasing the last remnants of haze.
“Do you… do you even realize you are reciting the prayer of your God backwards?”
No. No. No.
The child’s smile widens, his teeth visible through his grin. His eyes twinkle like a star deprived of its shine for a long time and now with a comeback called revenge.
“You are in hell, Richard. This is your hell.”
The little boy sneers, his youth totally gone with the implications in his tone.
“No?” he asks, his tone mocking. “If you don’t believe me, take a look at that emblem hanging around your neck.”
Richard, with trembling hands, reaches for his necklace, removing it from his neck.
His cross. The only remaining artifact that defines his faith.
He stares at the piece of supposedly heavenly symbol at the palm of his hand.
And then he drops it, as if it suddenly heats up and burns the flesh of his palm. It falls on his feet as he stares at the glinting piece of metal that reflects the crimson shadow from the sky.
It is an inverted cross.
The child laughs, mocking him with the high-pitched sound that comes from his mouth. The laugh envelops both of them in forged serenity for a while, causing Richard’s insides to freeze like the center of the earth.
The mirth fades in no time. And when the child looks at him, his face is nothing but serious.
“Who am I, you ask,” he says, his tone as cold as Richard’s soul. “I am you, Richard.”
Richard shakes his head slowly… and then frantically.
“No, no… no.”
The walks a step closer to Richard. Richard steps back.
“I am that innocence inside you that you tainted when you decided to realize that heaven is nothing but an illusion. That it can’t save you from the horrors of this filthy existence called life.”
“Tell me, Richard,” the child drawls his name like it’s the stupidest thing he has ever spoken. “How did it feel when you tried the things our filthy father did to our mother to that little friend of yours?”
“Did she taste good?”
Richard shakes his head.
She did. Her young flesh triggered that carnal desire that burns fully within me now. Her sweetness is incomparable. She tasted of innocence and purity. Nothing… nothing tastes better than tainting what’s once pure.
Oh how he loves marring anything white! It gives him undeniable thrill to paint on a white canvas with the crimson color that it deserves.
“How about that classmate of yours in high school? Sweet Edna who wanted nothing but to be close to the silent boy who keeps to himself at the back of the class? Did she scream your name loudly and painfully, just the way you liked it, when you smashed her knees with the hammer you stole from your father’s toolbox?”
Richard shakes his head again, more frantically this time, as flashes of memories flood his consciousness. He grips at his chest at the unbidden images that knew no mercy.
“… and buried her alive when she wouldn’t shut her mouth?”
Oh yes. The filthy little whore kept following him around. He hated the sound of her feet. He hated her footsteps. He hated her smile. And he- being the man that he was, enkindled that desire to destroy all the source of his hate.
She didn’t have the chance. He went all out.
Oh how he still revels at the memory of the sound of cracking bones as he pulverized her knees until they’re no longer visible.
But no. She did not scream his name as much as he wanted her to. Because he cut her tongue and watched as she cried, almost soundless.
Her last breath was spent crying for mercy, her wounded animalistic whimpers the only sound she could make.
Richard placed a tiny kiss on her bloody lips as his last favor to her before he shoveled dirt onto her face until her scream cease.
There’s a tree now standing on the very space he buried her.
Richard stops moving away, allowing the child to reach him until he’s standing a few feet away from him.
“Do you remember your wife, Richard?”
No. But he doesn’t realize he just nodded.
Yes. He will never forget the first time he met her.
He was tired of the whores parading themselves in front of him.
But she… Catherine… she is different. The moment he met her eyes that day in university, he knew she was the purest of them all.
And Richard always fell in love with anything pure.
“Do you remember how you hurt your wife?” the little boy asks as he looks up at him. “Do you remember your reason for inflicting pain on her in front of your son?”
Yes. Oh how he took pleasure in seeing her coil herself from all the pain he’s causing.
She never screamed though. She never gave him that pleasure. Not with their son tied on the bed post a few feet away, cloth on his mouth and tears on his eyes, confused at why his dad was allowing him to watch the filthy things his dad did to his mom.
“Your wife begged you to spare your son from all the horrifying things you’re doing to her. But did you listen? No. You didn’t. You’re too… proud. Too happy. That your demon of a father succeeded in molding you into someone like him.”
Ah. His father. His father who never hurt her. The father whose secret he learned when he woke up tied to his own bed post as his father did nasty things to his mother.
His father allowed him to watch. To witness how his control managed to allow him to get what he wanted.
“With power, you can get anything, my son,” he said as if he’s teaching a valuable lesson. His father has always been twisted in the head.
But Richard listened while crying his heart out for his mother. Because he wanted to understand. He wanted to know why his father was acting this way.
“With your tiny little heart, you had wanted to believe that your father would never do those things without reason,” the little boy says. “You even wanted to doubt your mother just so there’s justification on the disturbing deeds your father was committing.”
Yes. That part of him always screamed that his mother probably deserved this kind of hell under the hands of his father.
“But no, Richard. Your father grew up in a nice home, with a loving family who wanted only the good things for him. It’s his own fault that he never wanted paradise. It’s his own fault that he always wanted hell. That craved for darkness more than light. That he enjoyed sin more than atonement.”
“Always tell yourself that you deserve everything. Even the life of those around you.”
Those were his father’s last words to him before a spark of something sinister ignited inside him.
With a finality in his father’s tone after those words were uttered, the older man killed his mother in front of him.
It forever changed Richard’s life.
“This is our own personal place in hell, Richard,” the child says, its breath as foul as the words coming from its mouth reaching him. “And we will live in this for eternity. Again. And again. And again.”
Richard never responds.
“Come with me, Richard,” the boy says. Richard watches as the boy disrobes himself and reaches a hand towards him.
Richard meets the little hand with his own and holds it without saying a word.
“Are you coming with us?” the boy asks, his voice silent but resolute.
“Of course, I will,” says a voice from behind them. Richard turns halfway to meet the owner of the voice.
He doesn’t question it anymore. How she is able to unchain herself from her pole and how she is able to make her way to him.
Catherine is ethereally beautiful. She has always been. Richard revels at the sight in front of him.
She is naked, her supple body on full display, smiling at him like he’s the brightest thing that ever grazed her beautiful eyes. She reaches out a hand and Richard takes it with his free one.
The three of them climb down the beat-up cottage and walk towards the sea of trees in front of them. They travel on their bare feet, hand-in-hand, ignoring the protruding rocks and roots on the forest floor. Until they finally reach a small clearing.
Richard lays down on the grass, his eyes on the crimson sky. He feels Catherine lay down on his shoulder while the little boy rests his head on the other one.
The three of them watch the unchanging skies.
“Hell doesn’t forgive, Richard,” the boy utters softly. “Hell is not a place for forgiveness.”
The little boy stands up and looks down on him and Catherine. For a few moments, he’s silent. Then he offers a hand to Catherine, which she takes. But before she allows herself to be pulled up, she faces Richard and leans in to kiss him on the forehead first, then on the lips.
“You need to pay,” she whispers, her breath touching his lips, before she finally stands.
They watch as arms from the ground surrounding Richard suddenly shoot up, surprising him. But before he can utter any protest, the hands wrap themselves around his arms, pinning them stretched on either side of him like wings spread for flight.
He finally screams, his feet flailing below him.
A few hands shoot up from the ground, this time taking hold of his feet. They cross them together, lifting one over the other, and holds them paralyzed.
Richard is now tied to the ground with the flesh of several hands that burn his own flesh.
It doesn’t end yet.
Wounds start to appear on the palm of his hands, holes that open at the center of his skin. They shoot pain all over his body as if it’s being licked by flames of thrilling agony.
And then they start to appear on his feet too, the skin slowly breaking open at the center of both his feet until it’s making him numb with unbearable pain.
Blood gushes out, slowly at first, and then flowing freely like a river not against its current. The crimson liquid painting the ground with its hue of bereavement.
He looks up, the face of Catherine and the little boy staring down at him, their forms upended.
It doesn’t take long for him to realize that he is a vision of Christ on His most unbearable earthly moment.
In a live symbol reminiscent of a cross- Christ’s symbol for His suffering.
Except… he is a symbol of its antithesis. An inverted cross.
The hands start to lower him down on earth, his body slowly being swallowed by the murky scent of soil and fire.
Richard screams. He wants to scream. But one of the hands holding him muffles his mouth.
He can only watch as the ground closes above him.
With him under.
He stops breathing.