This is an entry for the September TCWG short story competition. This month is an open subject with a length limit between 250 to 750 words. This story has around 625 words.
The Road to Hell
The man came round slowly and found himself lying in a pool of blood on a road in a tunnel. His body felt OK and he didn’t feel that he’d been hit by a car, though he couldn’t remember what had happened exactly. He could remember leaving a nightclub and starting the two-mile walk home. However, there wasn’t a tunnel on his walk home and he really couldn’t remember anything after he’d turned into Park Street. Anyway, the amnesia didn’t seem to be massive. He could remember his name, the date, the prime minister’s name, who is the current president of the US and all the sort of questions doctors ask when one turns up at A&E with a head injury. He looked at his watch and saw that it was 4.05 and assumed it was AM Rather than PM because that would mean that only about an hour was missing from his memory. He felt the back of his head. It hurt and was wet with blood. Obviously he’d been hit by something, maybe deliberately to rob him but he still had his wallet.
He began walking down the tunnel. It was a single track road with no pavement. As he walked, the air seemed to get warmer to the point that he needed to take off clothes. The light was very dim and he couldn’t see far ahead, in part because the tunnel curved. After about half an hour he was left wondering if he’d ever reach the end of this tunnel or if he’d cook first in the heat. The heat was worse than oppressive.
There was a final sharp bend in the tunnel and then he finally saw the end, a set of black gates. He walked up to the gates and saw a card that said “Knock” in badly scrawled handwriting. He saw a knocker and went to touch it but it was scalding hot. He wrapped his hand in his shirt and then was just about able grab hold of the knocker but it was very stiff. Eventually he managed to lift it a little, so he could knock with it. He couldn’t make much sound with it because it was so stiff but when it did strike, rather than a knocking sound he heard one of those really ghastly musical chimes doorbells, made even worse than usual because it sounded as if the battery was on its last legs. The tune was not only tuneless but out of tune as well!
After a wait of what seemed like eternity, a very ugly shirtless man with loads of tattoos came to the gate. He also had jagged broken teeth and smelt like a cesspit. He said, “Name?”
The injured man said, “Joseph O’Connor.”
“Got any ID?”
“Driving Licence.” Joseph handed it through the bars of the gate and the tattooed man disappeared with it.
After what seemed like eternity again, he came back and said, “Wrong place! Turn around and go back the way you came.” He handed Joseph back his driving licence.
Joseph walked back down the tunnel and as he did so, the temperature became more and more comfortable. He passed the place where he’d awoken and continued walking for some distance. The light became brighter and it was easier for him to see where he was going and eventually he reached another set of gates. These were iridescent and very beautiful. When he knocked, the knocker had a beautiful action and made a wonderfully reassuring thud. A very beautiful woman, straight from the pages of Vogue came to answer and said, “You must be Joseph O’Connor, the Other Place phoned to let us know you were on your way.” She opened the gates and he entered paradise.
© Charles Stuart 2016