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At the Gates of Hell

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The phone rang. It kind of startled me, as I had been sitting on the floor next to the fire, swaddled in a furry blanket, reading the book "Angels and Demons" for the past two and a half hours. Time had gotten away from me. As the high-pitched warbling of the landline rang in my ears from across the living room, I gazed around my surroundings with glassy eyes, breathing deeply in an effort to shake off the Dan Brown-induced trance I had been lost in.

A heavy sigh later, I was on my feet and trudging lazily over to the still-shrieking phone, the blanket wrapped securely around my shoulders. A glance at the clock on the microwave told me it was eleven o'clock. I looked at the small, glowing orange display on the phone stand at the number. 666-6666. What a strange number... I didn't recognize it. I hesitantly reached for the phone and picked it up, pressing it against my ear.

"Hello...?" I said groggily. Who could be calling me at this hour?

"Hello," a voice said through the phone. I didn't recognize it. The voice seemed to be clearer than usual, and it seemed to belong to a woman, but her voice was too deep for a female. "I'm calling to inform you of something very important," she said.

"I'm sorry, who is this?" I inquired, confused, as I rubbed my eyes and sat at the kitchen table.

"You don't know me," she said, "but I know you." I could almost hear her smiling about god-knows-what through the phone.

I didn't know what to say. This had to be a joke. "W...what...? Who is this? What do you mean you know me?" I asked more sternly.

"I know everything about you. More than you know about yourself."

I sighed and face-palmed. "Whoever you are, this isn't funny," I grumbled, the irritation in my voice growing.

"Miss Murray," she said slowly, "I'm afraid this is no joke." I could hear in her voice that she was dead serious. This definitely was not some sort of cruel prank. It couldn't be.

I stood up. " you know my name?" I asked feebly.

"Like I said, Miss Murray, I know everything about you."

I don't know what possessed me to say this, but I mumbled, "Prove it."

She began to laugh quietly. A moment of silence preceded a statement that shocked me to my core.

"When you were little... You were terrified of the dark. Every night... After you were put to bed... You would pull out your old night light from infancy. Even with that, you slept with the door open and the hall light on. Most nights, you couldn't even sleep. Nobody ever knew but you..." she said whimsically, "...and me."

I slammed the phone down onto the stand. It was true. All of it. How could she possibly have known this? I never told anyone... I felt my heart hammering inside my chest. I wrapped the blanket tighter around me before turning on the kitchen light and going over to sit by the fireplace. The book was still sitting there, and I turned it over and slid it across the floor.

I didn't even want to think about demons right now. "It's a joke," I said to myself; I tend to talk to myself when I am scared or lonely.

"Or you're dreaming..."

I felt the heat of the fire gracing my arm and decided that it felt all too real to be a dream. The fear was too real. My mind raced, but I was beginning to calm down.

The phone rang again. It once again startled me. I stared at it from across the room as it screamed at me. The little orange display glared back at me, reading the numbers that I knew were on it. I let it ring a few times as the full magnitude of the situation impacted me, and I was filled with inexplicable rage. I threw the blanket from my shoulders and stormed over to the phone.

I swiped it off of the stand, and immediately, the voice said, "You didn't let me finish -"

I cut her off mid-sentence by yelling with (mostly) suppressed fury, "I don't know who you are, or what you want from me, but you'd better leave me the fuck alone, or I'm calling the cops!"

She responded in a calm voice, "And what are they going to do about it? Hm? I'm just a voice through the phone." She started to laugh. Not chuckle, but laugh.

I smashed the phone back down onto the stand once again and ran around the entire first floor, locking every door and window and flicking on every light, even the porch light. I didn't even bother with the second floor. I closed the blinds on the sliding glass patio door before sitting down once again next to the fireplace. I balled myself up and secured the blanket around myself even tighter than before. I felt on the verge of crying; I was breathing rapidly and my heart rate had skyrocketed.

It wasn't long before the phone sounded off yet again. I knew who it was, and I buried my head in the blanket and began to sob. I figured that if I kept answering, she would keep calling, and maybe if I didn't answer, she'd leave me alone. The phone rang for what seemed like a lifetime. It went to voice mail, and I heard her voice through the answering machine.

"How rude of you to keep hanging up on me... Anyway, as I had originally stated, I have something very important to tell you. Tonight is your last night alive."

At this, I looked up briefly, a look of pure shock and horror on my face, and then I buried my head back into the safety of the blanket and cried softly. Her voice kept on, however.

"Unless... You can find a way to escape your fate. There is one way, but it will not come easily... You must make sacrifices; endure both physical and mental pain. If, however, you cannot find your escape, be expecting me at around, say, four-thirty. You'd better get started."

The old grandfather clock in the front room chimed twelve, echoing eerily through the house.

"You only have a few hours. Good luck."

I was wailing now. I didn't care; nobody could hear me anyway. Except, maybe... Her. I had to get out of here, as far from this spot as possible. I stumbled to my feet, dizzy with overwhelming emotions, and ran over to the phone. I pushed the numbers 9-1-1, but the phone didn't respond.

It appeared to be dead. It was plugged in still, though, so I unplugged it, plugged it back in, and tried again. Still nothing. I frantically slapped it against my palm and pushed random buttons, but it was all futile. I collapsed into the chair at the kitchen table that I had been sitting in earlier, still clutching the phone in a death grip.

My whole world fell apart. I cradled my head between my arms, as every negative emotion in the book sped through my head. I was crying, sobbing. It took me a while to realize that my fingernails were digging into my palm and that a steady stream of warm, crimson blood was flowing down my arm.

And then the phone rang. Fabulous, just what I fucking needed. I threw it at the floor as hard as I could and watched the many pieces fly off in all directions. It gave me a sense of freedom, but that couldn't even begin to counteract all of the mental torture I was enduring. Then the realization hit me that the phone wasn't dead; she had just called me. I fell to the floor and scrambled to reassemble the telephone, as futile as I knew it was, tears warping my vision. When I popped the second battery in the back and turned it over and began punching buttons, I confirmed what I had been dreading. It didn't work.

The phone rang again. I pushed "talk" and screamed "What?!" at the girl on the other end. She said nothing, just silence. A few moments of my heavy, rage-filled breathing later, she said in a calm, almost amused voice, "You don't need to shout." I hardly let her finish before screaming at her, "YES I DO! WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME?!"

She responded in the same tone as before, "I already told you."

The kitchen light flickered slightly; then all the lights in the house surged and died out in unison. It was pitch-fucking black. I was shocked to hear her voice through the phone (which was still plugged into the wall), "Oh, would you look at that, the power's out." I was positive that she was smiling amusedly on the other end.

I said, completely overcome by fear, "What did you do?" I heard my voice quivering. She hung up. I dropped the phone on the counter limply and whirled around, faced by abysmal darkness that appeared thick as tar, waiting to swallow me up. The silence from the blackness hurt.

Her voice came through the answering machine again without even ringing. But the power was out! How the hell was she doing this?

"I know why you are so afraid of the dark," she said. I left the answering machine running as I went to find some candles.

"You can't stand the thought of the unknown. You never know what could be hiding in the shadows...."

I threw drawers open in search of a lighter.

“... Just waiting for you to let your guard down..."

I found one, along with a few candles, and began flicking the lighter frantically with quivering hands.

“... So they can take you."

The striker lit, and I held it over the wick of one candle and watched it ignite.

"You never know what could be staring at you through the"

I screamed at the phone, "SHUT UP!" and she began to laugh maniacally before hanging up.

As she laughed, an impossible gust of wind from nowhere blew through the room, blowing out the candle I was holding and the fire in the fireplace. I placed the smoking candle on the counter, and apparently too close to the edge because it fell off and shattered on my foot, cutting small gashes in it. I felt the blood running off of my feet and pooling on the floor around me.

I opened the drawer directly in front of me. I knew exactly what was in it, and I grabbed it out. It was a Bible. I ran over to the knife drawer and pulled out the largest blade I could find. I cut a deep gash across my fingers while groping for it in the darkness. I lit another candle and took both the Bible and the knife, and headed into the hallway adjacent to the kitchen. I slid down the wall and huddled against it, placing the knife on the floor next to me. I rested the Bible on my knees and opened to a verse that I had completely memorized by heart. The pages were slightly illuminated by the flickering light of the candle that I held against the pages.

I began to yell the verse, trying my best to keep my voice from quivering. "And even as I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me." That impossible breeze blew once again down the hall, causing the candle flame to flicker. I stopped reading for a second, regained myself, swallowed hard, and continued.

"Your rod and staff, they comfort me."

As I read the words, it looked as if the ink was seeping through the paper, as if the words were bleeding. They soon became illegible, and I dropped the Bible to the floor. The page soon became entirely black, and a black liquid pooled around it. The impossible breeze again blew through the hallway, and I started to recite what I knew by heart, even louder than before: "You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies! You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows with blessings!"

The wind rushed through the hallway, even stronger, and the kitchen knife lifted from the floor and flew towards me, lodging in the wall to the right of my face.

"Where's your God now?" she whispered, not through the answering machine in the kitchen, but all around me. It felt almost as if she was in my head. I scrambled to my feet and ran towards the stairs. What drove me to venture up there, I do not know, but it felt like the only place I could go. I slipped in the liquid that was a mixture of my blood and the black liquid that continued to seep from the Bible on the floor.

I bolted up the staircase, which felt like it was giving way below my feet. I looked behind me to see the steps collapsing as soon as I stepped off them, into an endless, swirling abyss of nothing into which the rest of my living room was falling as well. I only ran faster. I bolted down the hall towards my room, and was hit by the horrific realization that the walls were buckling and bending inwards. They were collapsing in on me; my own house was imploding.

I made it to my bedroom and opened the door, only to be greeted by a monstrous wall of fire. I whirled around and flew towards the stairs, and as I did, I heard loud cracking noises, like sticks being snapped. A strange pain shot through my legs, and I realized that some unseen force was breaking my legs. The pain was unbearable; tears poured from my eyes and down my face. I reached the top of the stairs.

My legs snapped. Indescribable pain, accompanied by a stomach-churning sound caused me to trip over my now-useless legs. I fell down the staircase. When I reached the bottom, I hit my head full force on the marble tiling and blacked out.

The last thing I saw before doing so, was a girl. About fifteen. She was standing in front of the abyss, swallowing my living room. She wore a red suit and had her hands in her pockets. Her hair was long and fiery orange, pinned up in a sloppy up-do. As my vision faded, I watched her mouth the words “four-thirty” as she pointed to her wrist. And then I heard her laugh. I knew that laugh. It was the girl on the phone.

I woke up. Wherever I was, it sure was quiet. I was comfortable, aside from a radiating pain from below my waist. My eyes slowly opened, and I saw my legs in front of me, both wrapped in thick, heavy casts, and propped up at an angle by cables hanging from the ceiling. There were tubes and wires everywhere; I lifted my arm and examined one of the many entering it. A nurse ran to my bedside from my right, telling me not to touch any of the tubes.

She smiled at me and said, "I'll go get Doctor Glafkides." She left the room for a minute, and I took that time to remember what had happened previous to that. Hell was the only word that came to mind.

The doctor returned a few minutes later. "Hello, Miss Murray. How are you feeling?" he asked in a voice that sounded like it had been dipped in honey. He didn't give me time to respond before be asked me, "Do you know what happened to you?"


Of course I do, you fucking moron, I thought. But words couldn't describe what I had endured.

"No..." I answered. He looked at me with a face that practically had the words "false sympathy" tattooed across his forehead.

Suddenly, my mom walks in, clutching an empty orange pill bottle. "Oh my God..." she said as she rushed to my bedside with open arms and embraced me in a hug.

"Thank God you're all right. I don't know what I would've done... What happened?" I didn't respond.

My sister walked in.

"Hey, sis, how ya doin’?" She asked.

"Fine," I said quietly.

She came to my bedside as well. "Bart and Monica found you yesterday in your house... Two broken legs, a concussion, and an empty pill bottle on the kitchen table," she said.

Dr. Glafkides chimed in, saying, "I almost couldn't save your legs. They were both completely shattered mid-calf. Did you fall down the stairs?"

"I... I think so..." I said.

"Did you take all those pills at once?" my mom asked. I hadn't taken any pills at all. I told her that.

The doctor interjected, "But we found high levels of amitriptyline in your system. You could have died."

"But I didn't take any pills," I insisted. And it was true. I hadn't. I wasn’t even on any prescriptions, let alone had any in my house.

The doctor shrugged and placed his hand on my mom's shoulder. "I'll leave the three of you alone for a while." He walked out of the brightly-lit room.

My sister spoke first.

"I tried to piece together what had happened. Are you sure you didn't take those pills?"

"I'm positive," I said, on the verge of irritation.

"Well," she said, "it's obvious that you fell down the stairs. Is that how you broke your legs?"

"Uh... I don't think so," I said, remembering vividly what had happened, just not able to explain it.

"Maybe you did take the pills, you just don't remember," my mom suggested.

"I didn't take the fucking pills!" I yelled.

My mom placed a hand on my shoulder.

"Sorry, honey... I just..." she began to cry. My sister embraced her in a comforting hug. She let go of her after a few moments and stared at the pill bottle.

"You want to know the strangest part?" she said without looking up from the bottle. "The doctor says all of this occurred around mid-day, on the day before yesterday..." She raised her head to stare emptily at me. "But I looked at your phone records to try and...piece it all together. Apparently, at around midnight two nights ago, you called the same number multiple times... The number was all sixes."

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