To start Nightmares of Hell at the beginning, click here.
Author’s Note—What’s up, guys. First of all I just want to say it’s been awesome hearing so many kind words about Nightmares of Hell from you all. I just want you all to know that you all are just as much of this book as I am—this book is everyone, this book is me, this book is my child, and we’re all family. Family and literature have always gone together. Just because I know the nightmare doesn’t mean I don’t have a mother. I was born with one, just like you.
So the seaman was dead, down at the bottom of the ocean and rotting, water logged, salt crusted, full of regret, his 600 progeny having swum down to breathe all over him, to try to breathe life back into his hot breaths of fire. He couldn’t take them though. He was too dead. The hot breaths didn’t work. He burbled. Bubbles rose to the surface. The whole family watched them forlornly. Watched them until they went pop.
Notes for Readers—Let’s take a long pause here. Check out for a while. Forget you ever read this. Forget everything I just told you. Let the nightmare of hell pop inside your head. So that it vaporizes rather than explodes you. Don’t let the nightmare explode you. You must tolerate it. It may be a parasite but parasites don’t kill their hosts. That’s a rule of nature, and even Nightmares of Hell abides those. Rules of nature are everywhere. So let it go pop, but don’t you go pop too. Forget you ever read this. Forget everything you ever knew.
When you’re done, check back in.
There’s dead and there’s dead, I guess.
All the way down on the ocean floor. It’s a lonely place to die. Not too much light to see by. Plenty of pressure to break your eardrums. Plenty of water to fill your lungs up. Plenty of sand to get all up in things. It’s a shitty world. You know this now. You’re wet and cold and you miss your mother. You miss your father too, actually, come to think of it. The world’s full of surprises, and sometimes, there’s nowhere to run. But if you gotta go, you gotta go, and in the end, all men do.
The fifth 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.