#picturefiction #flashfiction #hell
“I’m telling you it’s the entrance to Hell,” the old man almost shouted.
Helena smiled in what she thought was a calming manner but any observer would have recognized instantly as patronizing.
She always managed to encounter such quaint and, frankly, insane superstitions whenever she visited one of these middle of nowhere burghs. Every time the oil company sent her on a survey it was guaranteed to be interesting. She had crawled through jungles, hiked up and down sand dunes and met more crazy old coots with tales of fairy kingdoms and lost civilizations under their hills than should be allowed by law.
She nodded as the old man’s continued ranting, but completely tuned out his words.
“Thank you for your help sir,” she said. “I promise to be careful out there.”
Before the old man could regale her with more tall tales of creatures from the Pit roaming the badlands outside the town she pivoted and power walked to her jeep.
If she had a nickel for every sinkhole or quake fissure that an old timer claimed was an entrance to the underworld she could retire in style.
Outside the small town, Helena turned onto the rutted dirt road that led into the badlands. The jeep rocked as she drove up and down the hills. The landscape was barren and desiccated for as far as the eye could see. If there was oil under this land at least the company wouldn’t have to fight eco-nuts claiming they were despoiling farmland.
The GPS beeped as she crested the sixth hilltop; she had arrived at the coordinates the oil company wanted her to survey.
Helena shut off the jeep, pulled on her safety gear and hiked over the hill.
The back side of the hill was bare rock sloping down to a large pit in the ground. This was probably the sinkhole the old man claimed was the entrance to Hell.
“Any devils here,” Helena shouted and then chuckled at her own wit.
A dim red glow kindled in the open pit. Helena assumed it was ground water reflecting sunlight but the sun was behind her, there was no way it could illuminate the inside of the sink hole. As she watched, the glow intensified. Black sludge vomited from the hole. Was this site spontaneously erupting oil? If so it was the richest site she had ever visited.
The black sludge poured from the hole forming quivering mounds of semi-liquid material. It took a minute to realize but after several double takes she admitted to herself that the sludge was somehow moving uphill. The goo flattened out as it moved against gravity and within it Helena saw shapes. They were snakelike at first but then she recognized vaguely human shapes. Obscenely stretched arms and legs writing around pulsating torsos all struggling uphill.
“Your imagination is getting the better of you,” she whispered in a vain attempt to quell her growing unease.
“It’s just petroleum under pressure and gas pockets.”
The black shapes wriggled higher up the hill and soon were at her feet. A head shape lifted and Helena saw it’s gaping eyes and screaming mouth.
Helena began to scream as other forms rose up around her and reached for her with dripping arms.