The room looked to be about twenty feet across, the same in width, and another twenty high. An odd feature of the room’s height was that half of it was above a glass ceiling. The glass was divided into four sections, each supported by steel beams spanning the entire width of the room. In the centre of the room, below the glass ceiling, stood a cream leather recliner chair.
“I know, weird as fuck. The old bastard used to lie back in that chair and enjoy the sights going on above.”
“He paid people to party up there, to fuck each other’s brains out while he sat back and watched from down here.”
“A bit on the weird side, but I suppose it takes all sorts.”
“Not when one of the sorts is your wife. She used to disappear for hours. So one night I followed her.”
“And she came here?”
“Yeah, the bitch came here. I stood in that corridor—in the fucking shadows. The old fuck didn’t see me—he was too busy watching my wife getting spit-roasted by the men above. One of them even looked down and saw me, saw me watching him like a pathetic rat in the shadows, his cock in my wife’s ass. Don’t mind if I bugger your missus, do you? That’s what that bastard was thinking while he looked down at me with a big fucking grin on his face. All the while the old git sat there, sipping wine… watching, like the parasite he was. That’s when I decided to end him. Cool set-up, though, don’t you think?”
“Is this what you wanted to show me?”
“No. Well, not quite. We need to go up there. Then you’ll see it.” Xavier sniggered. “It’ll become clear as glass from up there.”
Jason walked into the room and towards the leather chair. He looked around, apprehension causing him to contemplate every footstep. The room below the glass ceiling was a wooden box, with no visible way out other than the corridor. There were no windows, either, just floor to ceiling wood panelling. The room above the glass floor looked the same, apart from a large skylight allowing for a view of the unchanging grey sky above the castle. He looked for a means to get to the upper level but saw none. “How do we get up there?”
Xavier stood across the room from Jason. He turned to face the wall and, with a theatrical wave of his hands, said, “Open sesame.” Then he thumped his palms on a wooden panel, which opened out from the wall with a loud click. “There are loads of these all around the castle.” He walked through the new doorway. “Few obvious doors in this place. The old bastard liked his secrets.”
Jason paused for a moment and allowed himself a smile at the room’s potential for perversion, as Xavier walked through the door and climbed a narrow staircase. Jason followed, being careful to keep his distance from him. At the top of the stairs, Xavier opened another panel door and walked out onto the glass.
A moment later, Jason also stepped out onto the glass. He looked down at the recliner chair below, and then across the transparent floor at Xavier. “So, what is it? Can you help me or not? No offence, but I’m getting a little creeped out by all this.”
Without looking away from Jason, Xavier slapped the palm of his right hand against the wall behind him. A click, and yet another door opened out from the wall. “It’s through here.”
Jason walked as if crossing a frozen lake, expecting the ice to crack at any moment. The glass felt firm beneath his feet. It didn’t crack, didn’t even bow under his weight. He’d reached the second section of the glass floor when Xavier spoke.
“Do you think I’m dumb, Jason?”
“What? No. Of course I don’t. No more than I am, anyway. Although that’s not much of a compliment.”
“Okay then. Do you want to hear the secret first, or do you want to see what I have to show you?”
“I’m not in the mood for games, Xavier. Just tell me what this simple secret is that’ll help me on my way.”
“You point your body towards that huge rock in the distance and put one foot in front of the other. Keep putting one foot in front of the other until you reach it. Your bottle was half-empty, Jason.”
“You already knew not to drink the water, didn’t you? I saw you smile. You stupid fuck. If I’d laughed when you drank the water and burned your mouth you wouldn’t have trusted me. But if I say oh no, don’t do that, you’d think I was all right. Then you’d follow me into a castle. A castle in the middle of a fucking desert in hell.” Xavier laughed. “You’re one dumb shit, Jason.”
Jason looked at him with narrowed eyes. Then he glanced down at the glass floor and his eyes widened again as he realised his precarious position. “Yes, I am,” he said in a dejected whisper.
“Don’t feel bad, though. You were number sixty-two to sniff the whisky and Cuban slut’s dildo. They were all dumb shits, too. You’ll see them all soon. What’s left of them, anyway.”
Jason reached into his rucksack and removed the hammer and kitchen knife, letting the bag fall to the glass floor once he had a firm grip.
Xavier clapped his hands together and exploded with laughter. “Oh, fantastic. Just fucking beautiful. You’ve got a knife and a… hammer? What are you going to do with that? A spot of DIY? You’re cracking me up, Jason.”
Jason backed away. Keeping his tone as calm as possible, he said, “I’m going now. Thanks for the tour. You stay right there and don’t move, and we’ll part on good terms. Okay?”
Xavier took a provocative step forward. “I’ll tell you what, if you can get out of this castle, I’ll let you go. I can’t give you a better deal than that.”
“Take another step and I’ll knock your teeth through the back of your head.” A long moment passed and then Jason spun around and ran towards the stairs.
Without warning, the floor opened and Jason fell through.
His left knee shattered and his right ankle broke as he impacted with the wooden floor below. Cold, sickening pain shot through his legs. He let out a yell and his breathing became short, sharp bursts as he tried to pant away the pain. He looked up. A section of the glass floor above hung down and swung back and forth in a gentle motion: a glass trap door. He could see Xavier working a crank mechanism behind another panel in the wall.
“Do you like my addition to the perv’s castle? A bastard to set up with no power tools, but well worth the effort, don’t you think?”
Jason watched as Xavier winched the glass back into place. He looked about for his hammer and kitchen knife and soon located them, but both were out of reach. The bag and penknife were also beyond his grasp. Every attempt to move towards them ignited the pain in his legs and sapped his strength.
Xavier closed the panel in the wall that housed the crank mechanism for the trap door and swaggered down to where Jason now lay crumpled on the floor.
“My legs,” Jason whimpered.
“Don’t fuss. I’ll deal with your legs in a minute. Damn! I didn’t think the fall was high enough to break so many legs. You know, just ten people have survived that fall without breaking anything. Oh well, you learn something new every day.” He moved over to the far wall and opened another panel.
Jason couldn’t see what he was doing. “What’s that? You sick bastard. What are you going to do?”
“Need to sort you out and then you can meet the others.”
Jason bit back on the pain coming from his twisted and broken legs. “Look, just let me go, all right? So I can get out of this place. My daughter, please…”
“Don’t whine, Jason. Be a man, for fuck’s sake. I’d like to say that this will all be over soon, but it won’t. That’s one of the curious things about hell. No matter what I do to you, you won’t pass out and you won’t die either. You’ll get to feel pain in all its intricate complexities. Don’t believe me?”
“Yes! I believe you. Just let me out of here, you fucking freak.”
Xavier picked up the hammer and walked over to Jason. “Look, I’ll show you what I mean.”
“No! That’s okay, I believe you.”
Xavier crouched down and looked at Jason’s broken and shaking legs for a moment.
Jason yelled, “I believe you! I fucking believe you. My daughter, I need to save my daughter. I have a photo, look, hang on, it’s in my pocket. Wait!”
A ferocious and determined look took hold of Xavier’s face as he lifted the hammer. His lips peeled back to reveal gritted teeth, and he swung the hammer down with a heavy blow, smashing it into Jason’s right knee. He raised and smashed the hammer down again, and again, and again, each blow producing a dull thud, a muffled cracking sound and searing pain.
Jason screamed. He flung out his arms and hands, trying to block the attack, but the hammer came crashing through his defence, breaking his right wrist and various fingers on its unstoppable journey to his legs.
Xavier gripped the hammer with both hands, raised it high above his head, and brought it down onto Jason’s shattered legs one final time. A shard of bone shot out from a tear in Jason’s jeans. Xavier flinched as the bone projectile flew past his head.
“See. You should have passed out by now. And if that didn’t do it, this should.” He threw the hammer across to the other side of the room, stood, grabbed Jason’s right foot and yanked at it, as if pulling on a stubborn tree stump.
As he pulled, Jason slid across the floor towards him. “Stay the fuck there,” he said, as he forced his right foot against Jason’s groin for leverage. He resumed his pulling, wrenching and twisting. The broken leg wouldn’t be torn away from the rest of Jason’s body.
Xavier stopped and looked down at him. “I’ll cut it off later. You know, it amazes me every time. That must have been painful, but see, you’re still with me. And no blood either. I’d have preferred a bit of blood, but beggars can’t be choosers, I suppose. You won’t even go into shock. There’s no escape from the pain. Fucking awesome shit, don’t you think?”
Jason tried to steady his trembling lips as he said, “Just kill me… Just…”
“Haven’t you been listening, Jason. You can’t die anymore, you’re fucking immortal, friend. I bet immortality isn’t quite what you imagined it would be, though, is it?”
“The… hammer. My head. Use the… hammer… on my head…”
“Oh, I see. No, that would just turn you into a screamer. Well, I call them screamers, but they don’t actually scream, or make any sounds for that matter; they just gawp at you like dumb goldfish.” Xavier laughed. “Nope, not turning you into one of them. Speaking of which, I’m going to have to do something about those bloody whimpering sounds you keep making. Can’t abide that noise. The only downside to breaking bones—the bloody noise people make. Rabbits! You ever heard a rabbit in distress? I must have squished hundreds of the little bastards under the wheels of my old Land Rover, and if you don’t finish them off in one, they scream like fucking banshees. Miss that old Land Rover.” He snorted a laugh then sniffed. “Anyway, you sound like one of those bloody rabbits. But there’s something I can do about that.”
Xavier moved to a position behind Jason’s head. He leaned down, hooked his arms under Jason’s armpits and lifted. A moment later he hauled him up and onto the recliner chair. Jason’s protests were weak from pain and no obstacle to Xavier’s intentions. In less than a minute, he’d strapped Jason to the chair—one strap was pulled tight across his neck, another over his chest; one strap held both arms down by running over Jason’s left arm, under his back, and then over his right arm. Yet another ran over his midsection. Xavier used two more straps to hold Jason’s legs in place: one over his knees, the other over the ankles. He pulled hard on the straps and snapped them tight.
“Just your head, and then we can get started.”
Xavier disappeared from view. A moment later he returned with a large metal vice. Jason shook his head in a frantic motion, but once the vice slid into position beneath his head and Xavier turned the screw a few times, Jason’s head moved no more.
“Stop! Please, you don’t need to do this. Stop. I can help you catch other people. You can do this to them. Not… me. I’ll help you.”
“Do I look as though I need any help? I think I’m doing okay on my own. But thanks for the offer. Now, where did I leave it?”
He’s not going to listen to your pleadings, Jason thought, you’re weak to him. He’s getting off on domination. You messed up before you even got started, you bloody fool. He’s going to torture you for shits and kicks. You should’ve known better. You spent the last four years surrounded by twisted fucks and you let this inbred freak sucker you in. “Okay, you dumb shit, get on with it or let me up. You spineless shit. Come on, untie me and we’ll go at it. What’s the matter, you fucking coward? You. Me. What’re you afraid of?”
“If you could’ve, Jason, you would’ve. I like a good session, but you’re not in any fit state to put up much of a fight anymore.” He laughed. “Mind you, you were pretty weak to start with.”
“I can see why your wife went off with another man. Why waste time with a pathetic loser like you when she could enjoy herself with someone else… Multiple men, wasn’t it?” Jason tried to force a mocking laugh. “And one of them was a decrepit old bastard. You fucking loser.” He saw Zoe’s bloodied face looking down at him. She was laughing while blood dripped from her lips and onto his face. But he didn’t feel her blood. Instead he felt a nauseating sensation as his nose broke beneath a blow from the hammer.
“You fuck! You… You… motherfucking fuck.” Xavier smashed the hammer into Jason’s chest and let it fall from his hand to the ground.
“Come on,” Jason screamed. “Come on, you dickless inbred, is that all you’ve got. Your wife is laughing her ass off at you, and so am I.”
Jason tried to move his head, but to no avail—the vice held him firm. In his restricted field of view, he could no longer see Xavier. His gaze was fixed on the glass floor above and through to the skylight beyond. He heard a strange sound: a sucking, intermittent choking sound. Xavier… crying like a child?
“She was beautiful,” Xavier said between sobs. “Beautiful, and she knew that everyone noticed her. She wanted those disgusting men to use her.”
“Zoe was the same. They’re all the same. You try doing your best for them, but…”
“Yes,” Xavier agreed.
“Those people took advantage of you. Your wife and those men. All took you for a fool.”
“It was the same for me. But, you help me and I’ll help you. We’ll put things right. You’re right, hell is an incredible place. Do whatever we want, with no repercussions. I see now how it could be fun. We can work together.”
Xavier’s face loomed into view. Jason smiled, but the pain from his nose and legs washed the smile away as soon as it formed.
Xavier was no longer crying. “Still a dumb motherfucker, ain’t we, Jase. I have more to show you, but you’ll want to scream when I do, so I need to do this first. Sorry if it stings, but needlework isn’t my thing.”
Jason watched in horror as Xavier threaded a thick needle with black thread.
“Oh Christ, Xavier, you don’t need to do this. I won’t scream. Lilith made me watch my daughter die. I didn’t scream then, I won’t scream now.”
“I doubt that. I bet you screamed like a girl losing her cherry to a twelve-incher. Anyway, some of what I’m about to show you is what I’ll be doing to you soon too. So yes, you’ll want to scream.”
“You said you have a secret,” Jason blurted out as he watched the needle coming towards his lips. “This secret of yours, what is it? You said you’d tell me.”
“Oh, that. Thought you would’ve worked it out by now.”
“No. No, I don’t know. What is it?”
Xavier pinched Jason’s top lip, stretched it out, and then plunged the needle into the soft flesh. With indifference to the screams, he stitched his lips together. “If you want to get to the mountain, Jason, trust no one. That’s the secret. No matter what, trust no one. Told you it was simple. But it doesn’t matter now because the mountain is no longer where you’re going.”