She woke up in her mansion in Heaven. Dreams of life in the world below drifted through her waking mind before dissolving. She was wearing a pink dress, and her hair was tied in pigtails. Her mother waved goodbye as she proudly walked to the school bus stop all by herself. God wanted her to be a worthy angel, but she couldn't abandon all of her sins. That included savoring dreams of life in the realm of mortals.
An all too familiar feeling of overwhelming dread and anxiety overcame her. Every morning was a disappointment, and her chest felt like lead. She wished she could end her pain and sleep forever. It was as if her sins filled her chest with lead. Why did she cling to the delusion that she had once been alive? What was wrong with her? How could anything be better than Heaven itself?
She searched for those things that brought her solace. The constant rushing wind of the Holy Spirit usually comforted her. It always flowed from the ceiling vents, steady and unchanging. She felt the cold polished steel walls of her mansion. They reflected God's glory so brightly that it hurt her to look at them. God's brightness never ceased. None of this lifted the weight off her shoulders. Wanting oblivion was a sin, but how she longed for the peace of nothingness.
Unseen hands opened a slot in the door. They slipped in a tray with a white Styrofoam bowl of God's manna, white plastic spoon, and a white paper napkin. Like everything else in Heaven, her food was white and bright. Even the toilet and sink in her mansion shined in the light from the ceiling.
Should she eat? She didn't want to eat. Eventually, the fear of divine wrath got her to move. She managed to get a few spoonfuls of manna down. It seemed like too much trouble to eat, and food made her stomach hurt.
The unseen Almighty spoke to her. "Worthless slave, why do you not finish your manna? Don't you know it is a sin to waste food?"
She looked at it, trying to come up with a good reason, but struggled in vain to find one. "Lord God and Master, pity this poor creature and purify me."
"Useless one, put your bowl and spoon on the tray."
She stood with the bowl and spoon. "Holy art Thou, O Father without beginning, overlook my transgressions. All-Powerful God, take away from me your scorn and contempt." God knew her heart and her thoughts. She was worthless and useless, a continual disappointment to everything and everyone. Why did he not toss her to the oblivion she so craved?
After she put her bowl in the tray, she squirmed and rocked herself, sobbing as she felt so hopeless and horrible. God made her manna, and she wouldn't eat it. All the voices of Heaven cried that she had failed God and accused her of all her evils. Complete wastes like her deserved only eternal punishment.
"Why are you not singing with Joy to the Lord," He said unto her. "You will never join the Angel Chorus if you don't sing."
She plastered a smile on her face as she bowed her head in contrition. "Please forgive my transgressions. May I find thy way through repentance." She started with five repetitions of Our Father.
"Our Father, Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us. Blessed are you whose way is blameless. Cleanse me of my sins. I am an unworthy and slothful servant who is not yet worthy of paradise. I give humble thanks for your tender mercies to me. With my whole heart, I seek you. My soul longs for your will. Let me not wander from your commandments! I have laid up your words in my heart, that I might no longer sin against you. O forsake me not utterly! Put me not to shame for my many transgressions, Amen."
She used to love to pray and sing. Over the centuries, the Lord had been pleased with her and lengthened her prayer list. Each time a new sacred prayer scroll would accompany her meal, she would rejoice. Now, she struggled to remember the words. Her joy at serving God was so distant. Nothing seemed loving or lovable.
As she mouthed her prayers, she longed to sleep and never wake up. Trembling and nausea grew within her as her mouth became dry. She dreaded what she knew would come next. When it finally happened, she cringed. God's voice announced that it was time to join with her for the Highest Order of Prayer. Anger flashed through her wicked mind. Bringing joy to her Lord was her sacred duty, but she hated doing it. God's touch on her body made her cringe. Even in her fallen state, she feared God's wrath. She got onto her hands and knees and pulled her robe up around her waist. Then she silently prayed for forgiveness.
Her muscles locked painfully as the divine scepter entered her. She hoped that the water of life would flow quickly. Uncounted times, she would hear the steel door close even before she finished her hymns. God knew her thoughts and the sins within her heart. That was why God kept her hidden far away from the other angels.
God always left her mansion before she had finished singing the Hallelujah Chorus. This time was different. Instead of experiencing the Rapture, God coughed and groaned. "I'm going to be sick, my chest. Help. I can't breathe." Before she could figure out what to do, the scepter abruptly withdrew. Then she heard a thud. Had God collapsed? That couldn't be. God was eternal.
When she couldn't sing anymore, she decided that God must have left without using the door. She turned and saw that the door to her mansion was open. Something was lying there. It was big, much bigger than she was, and its clothes were many different colors. So many different colors! She didn't have words for them all! Heaven was white and bright, but it sinfully covered its loins in blue pants. Compared to her pure white skin, this thing was brown. The dark hair on its head was short, but it had long hair on its face. She felt her smooth face. Its hideousness was proof that it was a demon. She kicked it. The thing didn't move.
Something in the face of this thing on the floor made her head explode in fear and fury. She remembered walking to the bus stop. He asked her to help find his lost puppy, then dragged her into a car and drove away. Her chest pounded in fear.
She stood and faced the doorway to pray as she always had. "Lord God and Master, there is a devil in your lowly handmaiden's mansion. I don't know what to do with it. Please help this worthless slave. It's left my door open. I don't like my door open."
Nothing changed. God would clean it up in His own time, she finally decided. Still, it distracted her so much that she couldn't complete her prayers.
In time, her body told her that she needed to eat. She prayed for food as she had thousands of times, sure that God would close her door and put her meal through the slot. Nothing happened.
Was this God's sign that she was now fit to join the other angels? It was a bold thought, but that hope and hunger drew her out of her mansion. The corridor outside seemed dark and strange. The walls did not glow with the same Heavenly brilliance.
Near the outside of her door, a small box hung from the wall. An image on it showed the insides of her mansion. She saw that the demon was in the picture and she wasn't. That puzzled her. She belonged there, not him.
She moved the demon's arm and then checked the box. The little picture had changed! A strange memory flooded into her head, a funny creature named Big Bird. It was on a screen like this, but bigger and it talked. Forbidden thoughts overtook her. She retreated to her mansion in fear of God's wrath. The pain caused by her delusion that she had once lived on Earth made her burst into tears.
When she had the strength to come out of her mansion again, she avoided the screen. Instead, she went down a hallway. At the far end was a door. Hunger convinced her to try its handle, but it didn't budge. A toy soldier walked through the wall and blew a trumpet. "The keys of the kingdom. You are in God's kingdom, so there must be keys." The soldier was right. But what would heavenly keys look like, and where could they be?
She searched the body of the creature in her mansion and found keys. Some had strange words like Hyundai and Schlage on them. They didn't help her. All the door had was the handle and a big knob with little numbers and the words "Sargent & Greenleaf" written on it. There was no keyhole.
"You're not worthy," said a voice that jolted her with pain. She held her arms over her face to protect herself from the punishments to come. Her muscles became stiff as her body and head collapsed in on themselves. Total despair overcame her as she choked, gasping for air. The heat of Hell's fire flashed over her. Waves of trembling dread vibrated throughout her entire body. She felt every hair on her body stand on end. Every pore opened and flooded water on her skin, drenching her in sweat. Even this couldn't protect her from the infernal pits. Her heart raced so hard she thought her chest would explode. A massive riptide of Hell's molten lava slammed the pit of her stomach, but all her heaving was in vain. Nothing she could do would make God's righteous anger stop. She felt tiny and was sure that God's patience had finally run out and that she would be cast in the pits of Hell forever. All she could do was retreat to her cot and cry until she finally passed out.
When she finally managed to stir, a giant rat greeted her. It perched on the demon in her mansion. "Partake, and eat," it said. She didn't want to, but her hunger drove her to desperation. She bit into the creature in her mansion. The demon's flesh had become so hard that it seemed hopeless. "Partake of the fruit of knowledge," the rat said, so she smashed its head against the floor until it opened.
She couldn't stop smashing that face. It felt so good. Centuries of anger and fear seemed to slip away. When the demon's head was no more, she did partake. Destroying that demon's head gave her more joy than she could ever remember. Was it a sin? Surely it couldn't be a sin to crush the very image of evil.
"Use the devil's keys," said the rat. The one marked Schlage made a decent knife. The idea of eating a demon was disgusting. It tasted foul, and she never ate anything that wasn't Heavenly white before. God had always told her that it was a sin to waste the food, so he gave her prayers of thanksgiving and ate.
Her existence was quiet and peaceful. She slept, she prayed, but mostly she did nothing at all. Sometimes she had visitors, like the zebra that came from the Garden of Eden. She always looked forward to her visitors. She had no idea how long she stayed like this. She looked at her long hair. It was turning into silver as bright as the walls of her mansion. That had to mean that she was becoming more worthy.
The demon began to smell and look strange, but that didn't stop her from eating from it when she was hungry. Then she noticed it became more and more difficult to scrape a meal off the demon's corpse. The day came when she couldn't find another bit of meat on the pile of bones. She prayed and prayed for food, but none came.
She felt weak, spending far more time on her cot and the toilet than usual. Her breath turned foul, and it became harder and harder to think or to pray.
Her insides twisted in pain. She dreamed of bowls of manna as she prayed. Her breasts and thighs shriveled. She drank water to try to fill herself with something. It helped a little, but there was only so much she could drink.
She watched her body eat itself, down to the fat in the pads on her fingers and toes. Shivering, she wrapped herself in the demon's clothes for a bit of warmth. When she was sure that things could get no worse, her mansion suddenly became dark. She was cut her off from the rushing winds of the Holy Ghost that had always been her comforter. A few tiny lights stayed on so she could find her way around, but she was frightened. The water for the toilet and sink stopped as well. What had been a mansion now smelled foul. "You are in Hell," said the bones of the demon, now glowing in an unnatural red. "You have sinned beyond redemption."
"Please, no," she gasped as God's anger choked the very breath of life out of her. Her heart pounded, and she felt numb. Her whole body shook as sweat soaked her filthy robe.
"You have eaten all my sins. They dwell within you, and there will be no forgiveness. Torments such as you have never known shall befall you."
Despite all her prayers to be returned to Heaven, nothing happened. The demon spoke the truth. Devils tore at every muscle in her body, making her writhe in pain. She became so weak that she couldn't move. Even her hair began to fall out. As she lay on her cot in agony, the world dulled, unable to see or even smell anything. Dizziness overcame her, and she broke out into a cold sweat. Finally, Satan himself came for her. She knew him by his eyes. They were the ones that had once asked her help to find a lost puppy. He sat on her, crushing her chest and stomach. Then he plunged his talons down her throat, choking her while he grabbed and plucked out her heart. He examined it, then swallowed it in one gulp. "Worthless slave, your soul is mine. You shall serve me forever."
Okay, looking through the length of the story I noticed the capitalized sentence. Please don't do that. Punctuation marks are awesome at accentuating things. You also have text formatting so you could use the boldened font.
My biggest issue with this is how it kind of loses the feeling of Heaven and Hell and turns into a potential torture mansion but not quite. I'm not sure if it was the aim to give this a sense of ambiguity but it kind of feels not supernatural enough, nor really snuff-themed enough. The question is, is she losing her mind as a result of continuous torture or is this really Afterlife? I got confused here. If that was the intention, you did great.
I got confused because you made her look exactly like a captured human with the food and all the physical aspects of everything and yet you mentioned her being in Heaven for centuries. It's kind of odd that no transformation has occurred over her centuries-long journey that would make her somewhat less than human, or more than human.
Having God be a cheesy villain is unlike you, if anything, I'd expect you to make God terrifyingly cold and almost robotic if you were to make him an antagonist. Not some foul-mouthed rape happy old man with heart problems. I do appreciate him being at least somehow anthropomorphized.
Heaven feels awful, which is good. Hell feels like of underdeveloped, considering all the whacky stuff the scriptures provide, for example; boiling stool from the Talmud.
Clear up the confusion, I'd say, more mental torment and less rapey stuff. Her killing a person should be a done in a way more suitable to the setting of the plot, maybe have her believe she's an angel and is dealing with the sinner only for her to kill that person violently and consume their brains.
It's as you've told me, it's got something, but it needs some shaping.
Thank you for the review. I really appreciate the help.
There's an inner back story to all stories. Let me first summarize what I had in my head.
Jessica was a normal girl in Los Angeles with a normal life and job who was picked up by a psycho Uber driver. The driver locked her in a "White Torture" dungeon under a mushroom farm in Riverside. Everything is polished metal and brilliantly lit and the only sound is the white noise from the air conditioning. Her torturer makes her act as if he were God. I never decided whether or not he also fed her magic mushrooms.
Over some years, she completely cracks and buys into what the voice on the loud speaker says. She is dead. This really is Heaven and she is in her mansion in Heaven. Her purpose is to provide sex for God. She is delusional from sensory deprivation, crippled by depress, subject to frequent panic attacks, and is completely mentally unhinged. If the booming voice tells her that she has been there for a thousand years, she believes it.
Eventually, this "God" dies of a heart attack during sex. No more food. She eventually eats "God" and then a fellow kidnapping victim that she had interpreted to be a demon.
When the power is finally cut off because our dead kidnapper isn't paying the electric bill, her delusions and natural guilt over cannibalism tell her that she is now in Hell. This Hell is reinforced by her cell roasting in the Summer heat. Eventually, she dies.
Now that you know where I thought she was going, perhaps you can help me get there. In one of our chats, I asked whether I'd do better to introduce her during her normal life and show her kidnapping or just jump into the kidnapped state. You advised jumping into the already kidnapped state. I've still got that intro. It's around 500 words. Should I bring part of it back? I had consider resolving the whole "is it real or not" thing by having the new purchaser of the mushroom farm find the torture complex in an unused barn. Is that too much? Would it help?
I have often wondered what Heaven really is like. I know if it consisted of doing nothing but standing on a cloud and singing praises to God, I would very quickly go insane. There has to be something more. Should I ditch this abused mortal and rewrite it into Jessica having died and gone to Heaven and been told to dress in white, stand on a cloud and sing - until she goes insane. Heaven actually is the more horrible torture, worse than hanging with other people and having varied experiences in Hell. Or should I keep that for another story?
The one thing in your review that confuses me was when you said that there were sentences in all caps. I had "DO NOT DUPLICATE" as a phrase on a key. Is that what you are referring to? It's common on keys issued to you.
I guess you could add that part where it is obvious that this is not actually heaven, through hints, I assume is what you have in mind.
Then again, you could throw in moments where the view lapses and cuts into the outside world and somehow tie it in with the plot making it clearer as the reader progresses through the plot that she is just insane. You definitely are talented enough to make this work, considering the fact that you've portrayed her delusion very vividely and convincingly.
Up to you really.
Oh Heaven is a torture, it's probably for sure if you want it in a horror or dark fantasy themed story. Usually plots make the "monotone" existance work by having characters complete integrated into the system or have them in a personalized heaven which is not unlike the mortal life on a happy-loop.
There is a story somewhere online where this guy details his continued existance in Heaven, he is granted audience with some higher being (either some important angel or God himself, I don't remember) and realizes that Heaven is basically a storage for souls so he resides himself to being a living statue.
I do have an idea, what if you go the route you took here and somewhere along the way have Jessica experience memories of her pre-kidnapping life concluding in what appears to be her "death", the kidnapping, in a flashy-picture jumping style I guess, close to her actual death as a result of deterioration. By picture jumping I mean one sentence paragraphs which indicate a quick pace of events that is just thrown out there. You can integrate it as part of her percieved hellish torment, with her believing these memories are a part of a mental torture.
You could also do the Heaven is an incredibly torterous existance, but I think you should do it in another story. After this one, this draft has something and shouldn't be thrown away.
I agree with the above, I think the idea of being driven to delusion by a captor playing "God" and the idea of a hellish afterlife are very different (though both good) ideas. I personally found the killing at the end to be an abrupt shift of pace for this story; the euphemistic way you detail her torture is compelling and disturbing enough on its own.
I would almost end the story with "God" dying, and her remaining in her cell to starve believing that she must repent her sins. The idea of someone being so completely broken from their torture that they won't even walk out an open door past their dead rapist is pretty disturbing, which is what writing horror is all about isn't it?
When it comes to the flashbacks I had in mind a few, spread throughout the story; but I guess it's not exactly your thing. The way you've used the one at the beginning and the one towards the end works alright, however, the one she experiences when she sees her god's fake - it is kind of lacking in the traumatic department. I say give it more detail. As you should do with the heart attack of said god. (His movements slowed down, his calls seemed panicked, she heard weak wheezes etc etc).
I suggest using less common brands (no idea about the lock brand, but never seen it here.) for the objects; like super European or Asian brands that aren't common in California.
Oh and, maybe add a sentence or two regarding the timeframe she had been in hell before she died, I think it would make her situation a tad more tragic if we knew she stayed in the failing terror-manor for a few more months, or years... who knows.
I'm afraid this story just isn't clear enough to keep the reader invested. I saw an earlier comment where you explain the context, but a story really shouldn't require explanation for the reader to enjoy it. What keeps it from being readable is that there is no "other side" to what we're experiencing. We're only seeing the point of view of the damaged mind, with nothing else to give us a hint to what's really going on. Something that might help with this is a conversation between the protagonist and a "normal" person. That would ground at least part of the story in our reality and help us to see what's gone wrong and how. Without this, however, the reader has no way to tell where this is all going, or if it's even going anywhere and that always leads to disappointment.
Clearer visuals would also help. The minimal description you've given really makes it difficult to envision the story, especially where so much of it is so far outside the scope of normal thinking and experience. We need very clear and tangible locations. We need to clearly see what that body looks like with no room for uncertainty, and so forth.
The emotional shifts are very abrupt in your story. It seems to begin in such a positive, hopeful way, which made it very surprising and jarring when she suddenly started sobbing after not being able to eat. This isn't the only jarring shift in your story. Take us along for the emotional ride more.
There's also far too much repetition of "worthless slave," especially where it doesn't really come back or amount to anything significant in the end. You could do without about half as many repetitions and it would still have the effect you want. I would recommend one "worthless slave" per paragraph.
Finally, and perhaps more importantly than anything else, it's really just not scary. This could be because it's not clear enough or rooted in reality enough to really reach out and affect the reader, but there's really nothing here to fear without the backstory. And since we're not getting the backstory, and it's pretty clear from the getgo that things are not as they normally are, there's just nothing at stake for the reader and they have no reason to be afraid.
I really want to see what draft 2 looks like, so I hope you'll take this back and work on it. Thanks for sharing.
I'm afraid this story simply will not work the way you want to tell it. Telling it from the prisoner's point of view without anything to ground it in normal consciousness puts it too far off the beaten path to be accessible. One of the only ways I could see this working is as an interview or conversation with an eventual rescuer. I know that alters the ending you're going for, but you simply can't get your points across without a normal mind thrown into the mix.
The "old man" has always confused me. Is there a reason why he's an old man? Wouldn't it make more sense if the other captive is also a woman? Maybe she's older, having been there for longer. Maybe she's younger and newer. Making it an old man just adds and extra layer of confusion that this story really can't afford.
The emotional moments are still coming on too abruptly. For example, after the incident with the bowl of food, we have no indication of what emotion she's feeling. All of a sudden she's rocking and sobbing. It's jarring and confusing and the reader feels like they've missed something. If you want us to pick up on certain emotions, you have to give us the chance by making them clear enough.
Finally, many of your paragraphs contain too many topics. For instance, your second paragraph makes three different barely connected points: she didn't know what was wrong with her, she sought comfort in the Holy Spirit, and her mansion looks and feels a certain way. Ideally, at least the last of these points should have its own separate paragraph. There are more examples of this in the story.
Bottom line: the situation you've created is sick, twisted, and horrifying, but in order to show it off most effectively, the framing of the story really needs to change.
Thank you. I'm glad to know that have reached sick, twisted and horrifying. This is definite improvement over the last draft. Now all I have to do is reach insane and to make sure that I am sufficiently well expressing the physical and mental medical conditions that people know who is going through what. If it takes a while to get there, so be it. I'm not working on a deadline.
I'll have to spend more time showing her mental condition before her initial feeding time. At what other points is clarity about her mental condition and emotions especially lacking? May as well hit the worst parts first.
I assume you meant the old man on the corpse of her captor? That was another hallucination, like the zebra and the toy soldier. She is 100% alone. That's the classic sort of delusion produced by sensory deprivation or white torture like this. I'll have to change that one into something more clearly a delusion. (Note to self) Maybe a giant rat?
"Holy Spirit" = the ventilation system in the cell and the white noise that is part of sensory deprivation torture. Hmm, going to have to change that.
Thanks again for your feedback. I really appreciate it!
Right now, it doesn't matter what the old man and the "Holy Spirit" actually are because there's no way we would ever be able to pick that up. The obscurity of the story reduces both, and everything else, to random details. If we're 100% inside the delusion with her 100% of the time, all of the creepy hallucinations lose their meaning and impact. This is why I keep suggesting the interview format. Maybe she's talking to a psychologist and thinks he or she is someone or something else, something part of the delusion. Then, at the end, the POV could shift to that of the psychologist, filing his official report with all the answers the reader needs.
I do want to add some positives to my review. The plotting felt extremely smooth and internally logical this time around, particularly the sections following the death of the captor. I like the way you took us a long for the decision making there. Your descriptions are also really vivid and clear this time around, so really nice job with that.
I liked the addition's you've made to the story overtime, Doctor.
The actually detailed prayer sounded real, even though I'm sure no one prays like this; it reminded me of Behemoth songs which ocassionally are made to come off as Satanic prayers with metal music in the background (they use a lot of theology and religious concepts in their music).
Also the description of her sickness as a result of consuming rotten flesh and eventually hunger is gripping and terrible. You might want to add something I've seen a Holocaust survivor mention about the hunger in the ghettos. At some point the body becomes so weak people just fall down unable to get back up again, and everyone around them had to try their best to ignore the fallen ones for fear of suffering the same fate. So you could incorporate that into her final moments, where she just falls and is stuck as her world twists and turns into a diabolical version of her torture chamber.
The second prisoners mannerisms make me view him as a kind of Charles Manson during a manic fit kind of creatures - untidy, wide eyed, smiling inappropriately, moving around oddly and speaking in an incoherent and random manner. So that one was good from the get-go.
I do have to note that once the Hyundai keys and the memories are mentioned, it's pretty clear that she has lost her marbles, as further indicated by the depiction of the toy soldier marching across and talking to her. Whether it was an actual toy or a figment of imagination, it highlights her madness in a really morbidly beautiful way.
Not everything has to be clear to work, and this pretty much does.
I hope you come up with a cheeky title for this story too, it would fit the mood.