April 13th, 2012 12:01 am
This story is previously unpublished. The story is also available to read online at The Repository forum of Thomas Ligotti Online.
The anthology Werewolves & Shapeshifters: Encounters With The Beast Within includes Nicole’s short fiction (alongside stories by Neil Gaiman and George R.R. Martin). Her work also appears in the Cemetery Dance Richard Laymon tribute anthology In Laymon’s Terms.
Your reader this week is Jonathan Sullivan, who regularly reads for ESCAPE POD.
“It’s another cool April morning in Hell, and the hanging trees (just saplings, really) are starting to sprout fleshy, strangled buds that look like choking fetuses caught up in tiny, umbilical nooses.
Their embryonic faces haven’t yet developed features, but I know as the days get longer their lips will grow into a grimace; their eyes will ooze agony. I have already been warned that their first cries (when they can utter them) will be those of breathless suffering. Their first words, pleas for help. The curses will follow shortly thereafter.
But right now, as fetus-flowers, they only emit shrill, staccato mews. But even this meager vocalization makes me shudder. I lower my glance from the entire orchard, feeling disgust for the day ahead. I whistle a tune to distract myself from the noise of thousands of semi-sentients who exist in a state of more-or-less continuous suffocation; those to whom full-sentience will bring only misery.
I am not, after all, a monster – even if I am in the employ of Hell. Even if (as my fellow laborers predict) some of the fruit will grow up to call me “Demon”, this is an absurd epithet. I do not want to be in this position. But my cares, my wants, my sense of being an individual with free will – these are things of the past. Shams more easily harbored during a lifetime marinated in the sweet sauce of ignorance.”
Most of my reading is for Critters Writers Workshop. I try and squeak in something more substantial but not nearly enough.
One of the ways I up my fiction is by listing to podcasts. Above is the podcast I listed to today.
The story speaks of perhaps the greatest sin, one that is not among the 7 deadly sins.
We find ourselves in hell, more exactly an orchard therein, where the fruits of the tree are humans. The story’s Dante, AKA our narrator, tends the orchards. He was giving the job because in his life he failed to take action, even take pleasure in others sufferings.
Among the trees was a snake who spoke truths that sounded like sweet lies. Or was it the other way around?
The fruit that trees bare are humans; in agony they beg for release. Will he release the fruit? Does he go where it was forbidden; if so what might happen, freedom, death, or worse, and in hell there is always worse.
The story was descriptive, with touches of poetry.
The setting was great, unpleasant, and not your typical take on hell.
I like that the story seemed to be inspired by The Divine Comedy, with a Bible story that everyone knows. Only the man is driven by lust and picks from the tree. He rejects all efforts to grow, to increase his knowledge. His believes it is better to stay with demon you know, even if you don’t recognize him when you are looking right at him.
Most of us would say we are good guys. We aren’t bad, or fools, or demons. Part of who we are is how we see ourselves but it is also how others see us.