To start Nightmares of Hell at the beginning, click here.
Author’s Note—What’s up, guys. First of all I just want to thank you all for all the love you gave me for the first chapter of my book. I know that Nightmares of Hell is my love-project and to hear about anything less than love from you, well, it wouldn’t be right. I didn’t do this for that; I didn’t live the Nightmare for nothing. You didn’t live anything either and that’s why you’ve got to read it from me. As long as we both know that.
In the beginning, I’d come inside to discover a few things—a bald man who looked like a small child, an old dog who hadn’t looked all that old until a second ago, a fire that once, presumably, had been roaring, but now had been reduced to embers, bright red ones. I batted the night with my hands. I waved my hands through the darkness. I pet the dog and her tongue lolled like a dead man.
I stood before the fire and held my hands over it to gather warmth. I held it in my hands, a fistful of fire. I heard the bald child shift in his sleep on the couch. One other thing: over the couch, there was a window that looked over the pitch black sea. I’d been in that sea before, as a child. But not for a while.
Swimming in blackness. All wet with the darkness. Frigid with hell. I tread, I paddle, I stroke and I splash. Currents, tides, and foamy mash. I swam with the sharks, I swam with the eels, I swam and I swam until I got too far out there and couldn’t turn back. I drowned and I died, I cried and I cried, the ocean is tears, blackness is darkness, nightmares of hell.
On that sea was a fishing boat with bright lights. One could say it interrupted the vista. The dog lolled its tongue behind me. The embers glowed red. The bald child slept. The lights spoke to me.
“A long time ago,” the seaman began, “the Pacific was mightier.”
Notes for Readers—What’s up, guys. Obviously by now you’ve noticed the theme of age at play here in my novel, Nightmares of Hell. We have an old dog that didn’t look old until now. We have an old man who looked like a bald baby and who slept on the couch before a smoldering, has-been of a fire. But also, we have an old seaman. Which is all to say… Why do people age? Why does time ravage all men? What would you do in this situation, with a fistful of fire and a bald baby and a salty wayfarer rocking on the Pacific down the steep cliff below? Put yourself in my shoes.
The third chapter of Nightmares of Hell is available here.
Tom Dibblee is Trop’s editor. His fiction has appeared in Glimmer Train and his nonfiction has appeared in Pacific Standard, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and the Point. He lives in Los Angeles.