Hold Your Breath and You’ll Hear the Devil (Part 1)

For a friend who has been waiting a few years for this.

I woke up this morning and didn’t feel too great. When I looked at the mirror, I immediately located the problem: there was a goddamn tarantula sitting on top of my head. I had no idea how it got there and was absolutely stunned, to say the least. The temptation to grab the beast and smash it into the wall was strong, but I was afraid any sudden movements might unleash the wraith pulsating within the eight-legged monster.

Fortunately, the tarantula jumped off my head and straight into the toilet. I promptly flushed the thing and plopped down with a sigh after slamming the toilet cover down. Just to be safe, I checked the mirror again and brushed my head – the last thing I needed was a bunch of baby spiders hatching in my hair.

When I walked downstairs into the kitchen, my wife was standing there with her hands on her hips and an accusing stare in her beady eyes. I glared right in her smug mug and said, “What?”

She glared right back and said, “You look like shit.”

“I bet I do. You look like it too. As always.”

“You also smell like it.”

Who did this woman think she was talking to? Her husband? I smirked and said, “Yeah I get it.”

I guess she didn’t like my facial expression because she slapped me right across the cheek and marched out. A few seconds later I heard her car screech out the garage and swerve precariously around the corner. I sighed and threw my hands up. What next? Was a jet engine going to fall out of the sky and slam into my head, rendering me into a gory pancake?

Eating breakfast was out of the question. When I looked at cereal, I thought of spiders. When I looked at eggs, I thought of spiders. When I looked at peanut butter, I thought of spiders… which I didn’t quite get. I chalked it all up to trauma and decided to hold off on breakfast. Maybe I would just eat a big lunch instead.

When I got in my car, I noticed something wasn’t right. Something was watching me – I just didn’t know what. Then I looked across the street and saw my wife holding a goddamn machine gun! It was one of those big guns that you see Rambo using. As bullets rudely crashed into my life, I couldn’t help but wonder: was this all a dream?

Hello, reader. This is the author – yes, this is Barrett. It’s nice to meet you. How’s the family? Good? Great. Listen, I just wanted to apologize for even the possibility of this story turning into yet another one of those dream within a dream stories. We’ve had enough of those. Right?

I pinched myself. It hurt a lot. Well, I guess I wasn’t dreaming. But wouldn’t it be great if I was? I mean, wouldn’t it truly be tremendous to just wake up from this nightmare and return to my real life, which I concede is only marginally better than this, but still doesn’t involve me getting shot at in my own car and in my own garage?

Um, are you requesting something from the person responsible for your creation and everything having to do with it?

Maybe. Look, all I’m saying is that you’ve given me some bull to work with and we haven’t even hit a thousand words yet. Don’t you think that’s a little unfair?

No. I think it’s kind of funny. Of course, I’m the one who wrote this, so call me biased.

I can call you a lot of things worse than that.

Then I realized something. Bullets couldn’t hurt me at all! I jumped up with a confidence I hadn’t felt before, only to get ripped into shreds. I guess what I’m trying to say is this: I died.

That’s what you get. I hope you’ve learned your lesson.

Ugh! That’s so unfair. I’m dead already? What’s the point of this story then? Gosh.

I died.

But I got better.

You’ll see.

When I opened my eyes, something didn’t feel right. Then I remembered I was dead. Isn’t that great? I’m dead and now I don’t have to go to my crummy job or deal with my lame wife. I could do anything I wanted… but was I in Heaven or Hell?

I looked around and found myself in a very bland room. The walls were white, as was the floor and ceiling. Everything looked very clean. Suddenly, a booming voice addressed me. I couldn’t figure out where it was coming from; it seemed like it was surrounding me and embracing me… only in a crushing sort of way. The voice, which was vaguely similar to Benedict Cumberbatch’s, ominously rumbled, “Welcome to Hell.”

What? This was Hell? Where were all the demons? Where were all the hot girls facing the consequence of being too naughty in real life? I mean, this was a real bummer!

Benedict Cumberbatch said, “Yes, this is Hell. Contrary to popular belief, Hell is nothing. It’s just you in a room. No food. No water. Nothing is here except you and the walls around you. Enjoy your time here – you’ll be around for quite some time.”

I screamed, “No shit!”

Then, I was all by myself.


“Benedict! Where did you go!?”

There was no answer. Even though I was absolutely furious, I couldn’t help but be a little curious too. If this really was Hell, maybe it wouldn’t be so bad. Surely this was a room with adjacent rooms? I must have neighbors, right?



Yeah, sorry to burst your very temporary bubble, but your room is actually in the middle of Nothing.

Wait, wait, wait. If I’m in the middle of nothing, there must be something for something to be in, right? Because if there’s nothing, then how could something be in nothing?

So really. Where am I?

You’ll just have to figure that out yourself. Although here’s a hint: HELL!

I balled my fists up in despair and cursed the gods (or God, I guess) for giving me such a crummy writer. Where were his morals? His ethics? How could he send his main character into Hell already? What could I possibly do in this boring room all by myself? Wait a second…

Maybe I would become good friends with Benedict Cumberbatch! Yeah! We could talk about Sherlock and why so many girls inexplicably go nuts over him.

Um, hey, it’s me again. Just a quick FYI: that’s not actually Benedict Cumberbatch. I thought you should know that. It’s just a demon – or something – that has a voice resembling Benedict’s.

Whatever – don’t get so technical. And what’s with just using his first name? Are you on a first-name basis with famous actor Benedict Cumberbatch?

No, but – what the fuck! Just leave me alone so I can get on with this stupid story.

Yeah… it’s stupid for sure.

Zip it.

I got up and slowly paced around the room with my hands clasped behind my back. How was I going to spend my time here? And now I was feeling a little confused. There was no food and no water. Did that mean I never got hungry and thirsty, or did it mean I would be hungry and thirsty for eternity?

Also, I’m not going to lie – I was a little worried about the aesthetic aspect of eternal angst. Although it seemed highly unlikely I would ever see another living being again, I was concerned there would be physical changes due to malnutrition. I didn’t want to be a bag of bones and end up running into, say, Marilyn Monroe.

Hey, I’m just sayin’.

I yawned and stretched. It occurred to me that I wasn’t naked. Sure enough, when I looked down, I was wearing a comfortable shirt and sweatpants. Boy, this was going to be pretty okay! What an incredible day. Some rest sounded nice, so I took a seat on the floor and luxuriously lay on my side. Another yawn leisurely crawled out of my mouth and I blinked a couple of times slowly.

Yet… as the minutes passed (presumably), I could not fall asleep. I simply remained tired. Oh. Shit. Hell has no sleeping!?


My previously jovial take on this situation spiraled into the murky depths of negativity and imploded, never to be discovered again. That’s when the reality of the situation hit me: I was stuck in a blank room forever, all by myself with no food, water, or the ability to fall asleep. Was I going to go crazy?

Was that Hell’s ultimate goal?

Part 2 is here!

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