Here is the first chapter reveal for my novella. I hope you guys enjoy. This is a second rough draft.
The bubbles rose from Nigel Dawson’s lips as the ventilator pumped oxygen into his lungs. He opened his left eye feeling the after effects of a possible hangover overbearing the right side of his face. He shielded his eye from the bright haloed auburn and teal lights overhead which waved at him through the surface of the water. Panic washed through his weak heart when he realized he was being contained inside of a pod. The liquid he was resting in was like watered down syrup hindering him from making any sudden strokes with his arms. He pressed his chin against his chest seeing the white tube running into his mouth and deep into his esophagus.
“What happened?” he thought to himself. “Why am I here?”
He sporadically flailed his arms and pulled himself towards the glass as claustrophobia settled into his psyche. The walls were narrowing around him and he struggled to breathe under the water. Thoughts of drowning and suffering echoed in his head, while he tried to find the hidden strength dwindling in his subconscious.
Nigel grasped the slick white tube and wrenched it from his throat. It ripped through his esophagus and throat leaving an aftertaste of built up iron in his mouth. There was a red jelly clouding the end of the tube. He slung it to the side and watched the billowing bubbles of blood rise over his head.
An unsettling moan and croak from the bottom of the pod made him jump. He pressed his back against the wall watching the water lower around him. The air was frigid and a chill ran up his naked body. Every hair stood on end and his muscles tightened against his chattering bones. The right side of his face was burning when he felt the air touch his face. He saw a shadow appear through the transparent glass. Ripples of the liquid rolled down the glass. Nigel leaned forward and pressed his forehead against the cool glass and saw the person toil with the consoles down the hall as multiple lives flickered underneath each stroke of his fingers. He balled his fist and pounded the door with all of his strength hoping the person would hear him.
“H….” He could not speak. His throat was too sore to even say one word. He could feel his numb tongue flop around in his mouth, but he struggled to even flick the tip against his teeth.
The person turned his head slightly from his hunched position as though watching Nigel from afar. Nigel saw the smooth pale white of the person’s head, but the rest of the body was opaque through the murky glass. The man pressed his palms against the table and pushed away walking to Nigel as though annoyed by the interruption. He stared at Nigel through the hazy goo rolling down the inside of the glass. He leaned forward revealing the wicked pearl teeth and gaping eye holes of a skull. The concaved cavity of his nose made Nigel press his pack against the wall in fear. There was no flesh or muscle attached to the bony man. He was a skeleton.
“What’s wrong? Never seen a dead guy before?” the mystery man asked. “Actually, it’s kind of weird that you are conscious… So soon…” his raspy tone slithered into Nigel’s ear.
“Wh…” It felt like sandpaper scrapping the inside of his tonsils as air left his lips. He cringed and looked away.
“Don’t try to speak. There really is no point,” he chuckled. “You still have much to learn about this place, but I wouldn’t worry so much about the obvious struggles you’re experience. You should be more concerned about what’s coming through that door soon.” He nudged his head towards the door at the far end of the hall.
Nigel’s eye widened and he reached for the edges of the glass hoping to find a latch to open the pod. His nails followed every tiny crevice but there was no possible way of opening it from the inside. He gave up and stared at the man outside while slamming his fist against the surface.
“Do you remember anything, Nigel?” the hiss was sinister with an unpleasant tickle to his ears. Nigel closed his eye as a tear rolled down his cheek. “It has been a while since I’ve seen tears in this place. There is something unique about you that I find intriguing.” He scratched his temple with his slender skeletal index finger. “There may be hope for you yet.”
“Nigel?” he thought to himself.
“Forgot your own name? I’m sure your memory will eventually come to, but first you need to realize what happened yesterday.” The stranger glanced over his shoulder towards the round steel doors. “Focus your thoughts on mine. It’s the only way you’re going to escape from this place.”
Red lights flashed in the corners of the room. Nigel watched the shadowy figure glide to the opposite walls behind the pods across from him. He glanced over to the doors as a blinding white light engulfed the hallway.
“Pretend you are still unconscious. If they see that you are awake, escaping that pod will be the least of your worries,” the stranger’s voice whispered.
His hairs stood on end from the nape of his neck down to the back of his wrists. The fright was tumbling in his gut while his chest tightened against the fear of what was to come through those doors. He saw all the pods lined from the panels at the doors all the way to him and even further passed him into the abyss of darkness. Clicks from high heels echoed around him as two shadows appeared in the light. Their bodies were hauntingly curved in the shape of a woman but when they stood next to Nigel’s pod, he saw the charred patches of skin and ripples of blood in the cracks. Frizzy hairs poked from patches on their bald heads, while their eyes were glazed over by a blue haze.
“We’ve collected more of them this week than we have in the last month, Madison,” one of the women staring at all of the pods. “It seems your plan worked to bring in more souls.”
“It doesn’t work if the lost souls haven’t passed into the next life yet, Andrea. We have to wait for judgement on all of these.” Madison cocked her head back. “It could be eternity before the boss sees any of these in his realm.”
“I thought if they were sent to purgatory they were already judged by….”
“Shh… Do you want him to appear? If you say his name, we will surely be obliterated into dust. Now, c’mon, we need to retrieve Abigail, Sarah, and John.”
“What’s wrong with this one?” Andrea asked, pointing at Nigel.
“Andrea, stop getting distracted! It’s probably another defected pod. It’s not like he’ll wake up anytime soon.”
The women walked away and continued down the hall. Nigel released a long sigh and peer through the edge of the glass. He peered across the hall but the stranger was gone. He was alone.
“Where are you?” he asked through his thoughts.
“Did you hear that?” Andrea hissed, lifting her chin over her shoulder.
“You’re probably just hearing a dream. Probably some lost loved one or whatever they care about in the life they left behind.”
“Now that’s silly,” Andrea cackled a wicked laugh.
“Here they are. Go ahead and release these two,” Madison said. “Abigail and Sarah.”
Nigel pressed his forehead against the glass and peered down the hall. He saw the two pods that the women were standing in front of. Andrea knelt down and pulled a lever next to the pod and the floor opened beneath it. A golden orange glow resonated from the floor to the ceiling as both pods dropped into the floor, disappearing to the next realm. He watched as two more pods descended from the ceiling and latched to the floor. Clouds of smoke hissed from the hydraulics as the pods filled with the liquid.
“Alright, Joshua should be a few more pods down.”
Nigel saw the stranger glide through the shadows across from him. His sinister grin curled up inside the black of his hood. He watched him until he was at the control panels again fiddling away with the buttons. Tiny lights flashed at his fingertips as Nigel felt the pod rattle and quake. His body felt weightless as he shot up into the ceiling. He leaned back against the wall and watched the gray tunnel spiral on the other side of the glass door. He stopped in a different chamber. A dim light hung high above multiple floors of spiraling walls, where pods continuously flipped backwards into different tunnels.
His pod moved to the right as the one before him dropped into the tunnel he just came from. The door opened and he was set free from the prison he was locked inside. He reached for the edges of the door feeling the cool air press against his wet face. The right side of his face burned and stung as he left the vacancy of his pod.
He stepped out to the epicenter of the spinning wheel of pods. Overhead he could see more levels of pods spinning and dropping into the room he was in. He waited for the mechanism to stop before he ventured to any of the pods to see if he could find any familiar faces. He jumped over the gap between the center of the room and the platform the pods rotated on.
He gripped his fingers on one of the pods. When he looked inside, he saw a pale man with blue lips. He had a brown beard that covered most of his chin and chest. His hair was greyed above his ears and the tip of his nose was rounded like the tip of a cigar. The floor rattled beneath his feet as it opened another path to a realm. The pod descended into the tunnel and Nigel pressed his body flat against the surface of the pod holding on to whatever crevices he could find.
“It is okay to wander, but don’t get lost. One wrong turn… could….” The stranger’s thought became a distant whisper the deeper he dropped.
“What? Say that again,” Nigel said to himself, but the noise was too loud as the wind whistled passed his ears. The mouth of the tunnel opened as a light engulfed everything around him. He was blinded momentarily by a white light, but the fresh smell of trees and grass filled his nostrils.
Nigel rubbed his irritated eye as he saw the outlandish world where pods fell from the sky like massive droplets of rain. He felt his descent accelerate as the wind blew harder against his back. His face pressed against the glass and clenched his fingers tightly against the sides. He finally crashed against the ground as rocks and dirt flew in the air. Nigel was tossed from the pod and rolled across the grassy hill, where a tree stopped him from rolling over the side. A crater formed around the base of the pod as the door slid open and slimy liquid rushed to his knees.
The man inside was wearing a fancy business suit with a black tie that tucked underneath his black jacket. Between the man’s navel and sternum, there was a ten inch gaping hole raining with blood. His pants were drenched in the thick liquid and his intestines were hanging out of his lower back like thin sausage links latched together. He watched the man’s lungs inflate and deflate on each side of the hole. Nausea crossed over Nigel as he turned away from the ghastly sight and stared out into the distance at the many hills, plains, and rivers that winded in and out of each other.
“What is this place?”
He watched more pods crash into the hills surrounding him as the doors slid open and more bodies walked in the same direction. He watched his dead sidekick walk passed him as the hole healed itself in a matter of minutes. The miraculous sight left him speechless and confused.
He saw a woman with thick scars and bruises wrapping around her neck stumble in front of him from another pod. He reached to help her up but when she whipped her head back, one of her eyes bounced from the socket like a ping pong ball swinging from a rubber band.
“This can’t be right. I’m not supposed to be here,” he said, feeling sick and dizzy. “Am I….” He breathed heavier and shook uncontrollably.
He walked with the man across the glistening rapids that flowed in the river. The water was cool against his legs and his emotions were at ease as he remembered the touch of water against his skin. He saw a pod crash at the peak of the hill ahead and climbed to it. He pulled himself up with the help of underlying branches and thinned bushes. When he reached the top of the hill, he stared over his shoulder to see multiple bodies piling up at the lip of the river. The dead were unable to climb over the steep hill side. He turned to see the door to the pod slide open, but no one walked out of it.
When he peeked inside of the pod, there was a woman’s dismembered body piled on the floor. The ground was stained with her blood from the flush of thick liquid spilling out of the pod. Her arms were flattened at the base of the pile, while her torso rested on top of them. The smooth legs were chopped up and torn to bits as though a shark had ripped into her flesh. Her blond hair was stained with bright red blood and her glazed eyes were ghostly white. He watched her lips quiver as she attempted to speak.
“I… I… I,” she was speaking in his thoughts. Her words were repetitive.
He turned his head and walked away from the door, feeling helpless and unable to control whatever hell he was in. An eerie suction of blood and bones popping behind him made him return to the sight of the woman. Her body was piecing itself back together. Each part of her body attached itself back together and she was able to step out of the pod. She walked towards Nigel and halted for a moment to stare him down. The woman looked to be in her twenties and she was naked from head to toe.
“She was not ready to die. It’s a shame that some women fall victim to evil and land themselves in this place,” the stranger’s voice echoed in his head.
Nigel peered over his shoulders searching for the mystery man that had released him from his imprisonment. “Where are you? What are you talking about?”
“Still having trouble with your memory? You don’t recognize this woman at all?” he asked with a chuckle. “Think really hard about what you saw a few days ago. Maybe you’ll remember a little better if you touch her.”
The woman reached out with her hand. He swallowed hard feeling compelled to receive her. His fingers touched hers and his whole body went frozen. The blood clotted in all of his joints and turned to ice in a matter of seconds. A spiral tunnel of stars and galaxies appeared before his eyes as splotched colors surrounded him. He was pulled back into the living world, where a young girl stood at the bus stop in the middle of nowhere. Nigel looked up at the sign overhead that read: Sin City Las Vegas, Nevada Ten Miles.
“Why are we here?” Nigel yelled, but the woman did not notice him call to the black sky. He walked over to her across the street and touched her shoulder, but his hand went through her body. She moved her shoulders as though she felt a chill. “I am… dead?” The question stabbed at his tongue as he plopped backwards onto the bench. He closed his eyes to pray, but his throat ached every time he made the attempt