The Way Home
by: Dottie Taylor
word count: 900
Sam stared down the long emptiness of the dark road. Lightning flashed across the midnight sky, the only light. It was like sensory deprivation. No insects chirped to fill his ears, no breeze ruffled the ends of his dark hair, no car engines idled to attract his attention, no light bled from occupied windows. When he lifted his nose to the nighttime air, it smelled... stale, plain. Where was the scent of garden flowers? This scent of unclean bodies?
Nothing existed here, only death waited.
Is this what the Afterlife looked like? Is this Heaven or is it Hell? Somewhere in between? How could he tell?
The old preacher told stories of the Gates to Heaven, where the Archangel Gabriel stood, heralding the worthy with a mighty blast of his horn, turning away those too infected to receive forgiveness.
What was his fate?
Sam continued his way, passing empty windows, catching a glimpse of his distorted countenance. He appeared drained, sallow, a bag of bones with flesh tightly stretched over them. Was this a lie, a deception? Or did the truth fill his eyes?
“Come, Samuel.” A whispered voice clung to ear, dripping with the tenderness of a sucking leech, but nothing stirred and no one appeared. “This way Samuel, the boat awaits.”
He felt himself pushed forward as the voice prodded him, not sure what it all meant. If this was real... how come it felt like a dream? Then, true darkness surrounded him, his consciousness fell away.
So, this is what death felt like?
When next he came back to himself... he sat in a boat, alone, on a darkened looking glass lake. The boat floated of it's own accord, no oar moved it, no wind carried it or engine propelled it. It drifted with a lazy direction, steady but sure.
“Look Samuel, look where I have brought you.” The voiced caressed him, with almost a loving touch.
Sam glanced around, but it was so black, his eyes registered little.
“Look deeper, harder, fool. Destiny awaits you.” The voice held a malicious tone, his pale flesh wanted to creep away, the crawling sensation shook his body.
He squeezed his eyes shut tight, begged for the finish of the endless night. Laughter peeled around him, and he wrapped his tired arms across his shivering body.
A house came into view, stark white against the black of night. His destination. The boat came to rest on the mossy shore, and he climbed out on unsteady legs, and it floated away without him.
How long had he sailed? He felt weak, his body depleted.
Sam watched the boat makes it's eery way back to the never-never, and a hand gripped his shoulder, first skeletal, then flesh, then skeletal again. A skull stared back at him, then fleshed out, and a beautiful woman stood before him.
“We've been waiting for you. You're late!” She exclaimed. “And for your own party!” Sudden lights glowed in the house, music filled his ears. It hadn't been that way before.
“Wel-come to the Ho-tel Cal-i-fornia....” Slowly filled the black night. “Such a lovely place. Such a lovely face.” And the woman led him onward. “They're living it up at the Ho-tel Cal-i-fornia. What a nice surprise, bring your al-i-bis!”
“What is this place?” Sam turned to the woman as she flashed back to skull, limp straggles of hair hung about her face, before she fleshed out again. He tried to release her hand, but her grip grew tighter.
“And in their master's chambers, they gathered for big feast, they stabbed it with their steely knives, but they just can't kill... the... beast!” The song continued to resonate through his body as he tugged his hand to leave.
“Please, I don't want to be here, I don't belong here.” He reassured the woman, but her cold grip drew him forward. He stood in the doorway. There were others standing within the room, all eyes faced him, and he drew a harsh breath. Not one bore evidence of a soul. All were as black as the surrounding night.
“The last thing I remember, I was running for the door. I had to find the passage back to the place I was before...” The music sang.
Sam turned, the door sealed tight. He pounded his fist against it's steely grain and screamed, “Let me out of here!” And laughter fell from the air again.
“Relax. Said the Nightman, we are... programmed... to receive... You can checkout anytime you like, but you can never leave!” The song concluded.
“Is that what this place is then?” The woman still stood at his side. Fleshed out again, but with the same deadened eyes.
“This place is what you make of it.” Her musical voice rang out, and she smiled her skullish smile, finishing with a cackle. Her lips stretched taunt over her scaly bones, then flesh filled her face again, and her smile became wondrous. With a will of their own, his lips itched to touch the cool paleness of hers. He stopped himself, moments later a skeleton grinned back at him.
Then the music started again. “Wel-come to the Ho-tel Cal-i-fornia....”
“Welcome to Hell.” It should have sung, his destiny, his new found home. “And you can never leave.” His fate fulfilled.
And the guitar played on.
Well, I always felt the Eagles needed a story to go along with their song. I think the images do the song justice!
Have a great weekend, my lovelies! And tune in Monday for another image of demented desire....muwhahahaha! (I feel kind of Vincent Price-ish today...)