Hell Fire

By Gordan Talon

Angelo cannot scream.

He tries with every breath, his lips swollen and parted in fear. He still can't. No matter how hard he fights, how desperately he needs it — the book will not let him.

He should have been careful. He should always be more careful, he slowly reminds himself, somewhere from the haze of his pain. He should have worked at reasonable hours, after reasonable meals, but no — he had to stretch it to the impossible, as he always does.

He lets himself slip so easily, just too engrossed in his work to keep his distance. That is exactly when it happens.

The sequence of events is the same every time.

He ignores the growing pulse of the runes — it is not a certainty, and not new enough. He is tricked into believing it can be due to the late hour, as it usually is. It doesn't really have to be one of the first signs.

He brushes it off, wishing for the best. He only has a few more seconds to stare at the tomes, eyes unfocused and worn.

Then, everything around him slows down.

It is terrible, the power of that magic. It is all blood, harsh taste, fire that crawls under every inch of his skin. He can feel the hands of evil on him — playing around with his sanity, drawing patterns of fire all over his throat. The immensity of its power fills his whole body, not enough, never enough to host it all. Its strength is such that, from inside, he feels it pressed against his whole being.

Yet, of course, Angelo cannot scream.

It is all part of the torture. There is no way he can let it out — it would be too easy. All he can do is throw back his neck, stare at the ceiling, speak out the immense suffering in the silence of his breath.

This is the price to pay. His face speaks by itself, in the gleam of the fireplace. This is his role in a demonic game; he has no choice but to be alone. Alone, as usual, he must work and suffer. His dark skin, his sweat, his glassy gaze — they are the only signs he can show.

He needs help. But this is a curse; there is no way back, and no one is allowed to see in what way he is falling apart.

The few usual words, words from a friendly voice, meet his ears. It scares him, how distant and weak they sound.

"It's all right, Mari" he breathes, his answer made mechanical by habit. "I am fine."

Angelo never turns to look at his friend's worried glance. He forces his head down, and keeps reading.