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- *The Road to Hell
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- Deadly Visions (Nightmare Hall, #20) by Diane Hoh
Now, I think maybe you were telling the truth. As the three moved away to study other artworks, Rachel stayed where she was. Her eyes never left the large, unframed canvas. Alive with vivid blues and brilliant greens, it hung on an end wall of the spacious lobby, and it seemed to Rachel that most of the spectators were passing it by, spending far more time on the surrounding paintings.
She didn't see why. The seascape was beautiful, so rich with color, alive with the tumult of storm-tossed waters. The sky in the painting was an ominous slate-gray, contrasting sharply with the vivid colors. He lingered for a moment, a large, round tray full of glasses in his hands. It's always the same color as the sky, a heavy, dark gray, topped off by whitecaps.
The artist doesn't know what he's doing. The waiter laughed rudely. The expression on his face as he shrugged and moved away into the crowd said yeah, right. Interesting that his name should be Rudy, as in Rude-y. Atrocious manners. You leave Rudy the Rude to me. Rachel sighed. Bibi had no more interest in art than she did in astronomy. Rachel had talked her into attending this exhibit by reminding Bibi that there would be males present. Bibi had recently broken up with her boyfriend, Paul, nicknamed Apollo because he looked like a Greek god.
In Rachel's opinion, he also had the brains of a thimble. She had hoped that this time Bibi would find a guy who knew what an intelligent thought was and could articulate it, but here she was setting her sights on Rudy. Bibi was tall, blonde, and gorgeous, and probably could have dated any guy on campus. Leave it to her to zero in on the most unpleasant person in the entire lobby.
Bibi was a great roommate, but she had far better taste in clothes than she did in men.
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Rachel studied the painting again. She was absolutely convinced that amid the turquoise and kelly green and azure blue she saw a figure struggling in the storm-tossed waves. She could understand why no one else saw it. The arms were no more than blobs, flailing wildly above the water, the head an elongated dab of pinkish-colored paint, the eyes dark daubs, the mouth a slash of red. But the eyes were wild with fear, the mouth, if that was what it was, open in a scream of terror.
Aidan and Joseph were both art majors. If there was a figure valiantly struggling against the waves in the painting, wouldn't they see it? Rachel moved forward and peered more intently at the painting. Viewed that closely, all of the colors blended together in a green and blue haze. She stepped back again, frowning and running a hand through her short, dark, curly hair, something she did constantly when she was frustrated or confused.
Leaning forward, he spoke into her ear. That's all it is. The question is," he added, moving around to stand beside her, "why would you want to think you see someone drowning in that painting? Are you always that morbid? Looking up at him, ready to respond as heatedly as she had to the waiter, Rachel thought again how nice-looking Aidan McKay was. Not gorgeous like Apollo-the-dimwit or Rudy-the-rude, but nice looking, with a lean, angled face and sharp blue eyes.
Her eyes were blue, too, but hers were a quiet blue, like the sky in midwinter, while his were the brilliant blue of a blazing July sky. His hair was brown with a hint of red. It was as wavy as hers, and he wore it long. She had to clench her fists to keep from reaching out and touching it. Chill, Rachel, she warned herself. You just met him the day before yesterday, and you hardly know him. I can't help that, can I? Aidan looked at the painting again.
He shrugged broad shoulders in a white T-shirt. But you have some imagination, kiddo. She wasn't terribly happy with the "kiddo," and she felt a pang of resentment at being told that her imagination was leading her astray. But the fact was, she really didn't know anything about art, and he did, so until she could find out who the seascape artist was and maybe confirm what she was seeing, it seemed silly to keep arguing about it.
Still, she couldn't help it if her heart went out to the agonized figure drowning in the stormy sea. The truth is, we were all so busy getting ready for this exhibit that we didn't pay much attention to what anyone else was working on. I don't remember seeing any seascapes, though. Joseph didn't. He and Bibi were talking to a tall, thin girl with frizzy dark hair that fell to her waist.
She had on a huge, floppy straw hat with fat red roses wound around the brim. More roses were clustered at the neckline of her long, black chiffon dress, which Rachel suspected had come from an antique shop. The girl had a strong, square face and huge, dark eyes, heavily made-up with jet-black eyeliner. Why doesn't she just hang a sign around her neck that reads Aspiring Artist, Rachel thought, amused. Talk about dressing the part. Her real name is Jane, but she says no one would buy jewelry from someone named Jane, so she changed it.
Paloma Picasso? Of course, I intend to be twice as successful as she is. The subject of his joke gave him a barely tolerant smile. It's getting a lot of attention. No surprise there. People never expect to see anything but paintings at these exhibits. They're always thrilled to see something different. Especially when it's good. Rachel found Paloma's lack of humility startling, but refreshing. It was more than self-confidence, and yet didn't seem arrogant.
Paloma simply knew that she was good at what she did. Rachel wondered if the artist who had painted the seascape had the same easy pride in his or her work. As Paloma led her away, Rachel glanced over her shoulder toward the seascape, thinking the artist might be lingering near it somewhere, anxious to see what kind of reception it got. But there was no one at all near the painting. People were passing it by without much more than a casual glance. So maybe it was a good thing the artist wasn't there, she thought.
Weren't most artists terribly sensitive about their work being ignored? Except, of course, someone like Paloma. Ignoring Paloma Lang, who talked loudly and gestured theatrically with her jeweled fingers, would be almost impossible. And that probably went for her work, too. Which was, Rachel realized when she saw the pieces neatly displayed in a glass case, very good.
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The surprisingly delicate and amazingly intricate necklaces, bracelets, and earrings were truly beautiful. I made a necklace out of a vine and some acorns at summer camp. When the other girls saw me wearing it, they all wanted one. So I made more and sold them. Besides, nightmares have completely worn me out. You'll see. Yellowed, dried-up vegetation added to the desolation I had no idea where I was or what was I to do. For a moment I even lost sight of my guide and feared that I was lost, utterly alone. Father Rua, Father Francesia, nowhere to be seen.
When I finally saw my friend coming toward me, I sighed in relief. I'll go with you. Suddenly I saw a road ahead. We took the road. It was beautiful, wide, and neatly paved. Both sides were lined with magnificent verdant hedges dotted with gorgeous flowers. Roses, especially, peeped everywhere through the leaves.
At first glance, the road was level and comfortable, and so I ventured upon it without the least suspicion, but soon I noticed that it insensibly kept sloping downward. Though it did not look steep at all, I found myself moving so swiftly that I felt I was effortlessly gliding through the air.
Really, I was gliding and hardly using my feet. Then the thought struck me that the return trip would be very long and arduous. He who leads you on will also know how to lead you back. As we were continuing on our way, flanked by banks of roses and other flowers, I became aware that the Oratory boys and very many others whom I did not know were following me. Somehow I found myself in their midst. As I was looking at them, I noticed now one, now another fall to the ground and instantly be dragged by an unseen force toward a frightful drop, distantly visible, which sloped into a furnace.
And they have stretched out cords for a snare: they have laid for me a stumbling-block by the wayside. I did. Traps were everywhere, some close to the ground, others at eye level, but all well concealed. Unaware of their danger, many boys got caught, and they tripped, they would sprawl to the ground, legs in the air. Then, when they managed to get back on their feet, they would run headlong down the road toward the abyss.
Some got trapped by the head, others by the neck, hand, arms, legs, or sides, and were pulled down instantly. The ground traps, fine as spiders' webs and hardly visible, seemed very flimsy and harmless; yet, to my surprise, every boy they snared fell to the ground. Noticing my astonishment, the guide remarked, "Do you know what this is? I asked, "Why do so many get caught? Who pulls them down? I followed his advice but saw nothing peculiar.
I picked up one of the traps and tugged. I immediately felt some resistance. I pulled harder, only to feel that, instead of drawing the thread closer, I was being pulled down myself. I did not resist and soon found myself at the mouth of a frightful cave. I halted, unwilling to venture into that deep cavern, and again started pulling the thread toward me.
It gave a little, but only through great effort on my part. I kept tugging, and after a long while a huge, hideous monster emerged, clutching a rope to which all those traps were tied together. He was the one who instantly dragged down anyone who got caught in them. It won't do to match my strength with his, I said to myself. I'll certainly lose. I'd better fight him with the Sign of the Cross and with short invocations. Then I went back to my guide. It is the devil himself! Stepping back a bit to see which ones trapped the greater number of boys, I discovered that the most dangerous were those of impurity, disobedience, and pride.
In fact, these three were linked to together. Many other traps also did great harm, but not as much as the first two. Still watching, I noticed many boys running faster than others. A providential hand had put them there for cutting oneself free. The bigger ones, symbolizing meditation, were for use against the trap of pride; others, not quite as big, symbolized spiritual reading well made. There were also two swords representing devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, especially through frequent Holy Communion, and to the Blessed Virgin. There was also a hammer symbolizing confession, and other knives signifying devotion to Saint Joseph, to Saint Aloysius, and to other Saints.
By these means quite a few boys were able to free themselves or evade capture. Indeed I saw some lads walking safely through all those traps, either by good timing before the trap sprung on them or by making it slip off them if they got caught. When my guide was satisfied that I had observed everything, he made me continue along that rose-hedged road, but the farther we went the scarcer the roses became.
Long thorns began to show up, and soon the roses were no more. The hedges became sun-scorched, leafless, and thorn-studded. Withered branches torn from the bushes lay criss-crossed along the roadbed, littering it with thorns and making it impassable. We had come now to a gulch whose steep sides hid what lay beyond.
The road, still sloping downward, was becoming ever more horrid, rutted, guttered, and bristling with rocks and boulders. I lost track of all my boys, most of whom had left this treacherous road for other paths. I kept going, but the farther I advanced, the more arduous and steep became the descent, so that I tumbled and fell several times, lying prostrate until I could catch my breath. Now and then my guide supported me or helped me to rise. At every step my joints seemed to give way, and I thought my shinbones would snap.
Panting, I said to my guide, "My good fellow, my legs won't carry me another step. I just can't go any farther. Taking heart, I followed until, seeing me soaked in perspiration and thoroughly exhausted, he led me to a little clearing alongside the road.get link
*The Road to Hell
I sat down, took a deep breath, and felt a little better. From my resting place, the road I had already traveled looked very steep, jagged, and strewn with loose stones, but what lay ahead seemed so much worse that I closed my eyes in horror. I will never make it up this slope.
At this threat, I wailed, "How can I survive without your help? And then, at the bottom of this precipice, at the entrance of a dark valley, an enormous building loomed into sight, its towering portal, tightly locked, facing our road. When I finally got to the bottom, I became smothered by a suffocating heat, while a greasy, green-tinted smoke lit by flashes of scarlet flames rose from behind those enormous walls which loomed higher than mountains.
What is this? The guide led me all around this horrible place.
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At regular distance bronze portals like the first overlooked precipitous descents; on each was an inscription, such as: "Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, which was prepared for the devil and his angels. You have them all in Holy Scripture. You even have some of them inscribed in your porticoes. As a matter of fact, I did start back, but my guide ignored my attempt.
After trudging through a steep, never-ending ravine, we again came to the foot of the precipice facing the first portal. Suddenly the guide turned to me. Upset and startled, he motioned to me to step aside. I looked up in terror and saw in the distance someone racing down the path at an uncontrollable speed.
I kept my eyes on him, trying to identify him, and as he got closer, I recognized him as one of my boys. His disheveled hair was partly standing upright on his head and partly tossed back by the wind. His arms were outstretched as though he were thrashing the water in an attempt to stay afloat. He wanted to stop, but could not. Tripping on the protruding stones, he kept falling even faster. Do you think you can restrain one who is fleeing from His just wrath? The next moment he fell tumbling to the bottom of the ravine and crashed against the bronze portal as though he could find no better refuge in his flight.
Deadly Visions (Nightmare Hall, #20) by Diane Hoh
As these bronze doors -- one behind the other, though at a considerable distance from each other -- remained momentarily open, I saw far into the distance something like furnace jaws sprouting fiery balls the moment the youth hurtled into it. As swiftly as they had opened, the portals then clanged shut again. For a third time I tried to jot down the name of that unfortunate lad, but the guide again restrained me. In that split second, it sprang open and so did the other thousand.
The three lads were sucked into that endless corridor amid a long-drawn, fading, infernal echo, and then the portals clanged shut again. At intervals, many other lads came tumbling down after them. I saw one unlucky boy being pushed down the slope by an evil companion. Others fell singly or with others, arm in arm or side by side. Each of them bore the name of his sin on his forehead. I kept calling to them as they hurtled down, but they did not hear me. Again the portals would open thunderously and slam shut with a rumble. Then, dead silence!
Seeing so many going to perdition, I cried out disconsolately, "If so many of our boys end up this way, we are working in vain. How can we prevent such tragedies? Then and there your warning might impress them, but soon they will forget it, saying, 'It was just a dream,' and they will do worse than before.
Others, realizing they have been unmasked, receive the sacraments, but this will be neither spontaneous nor meritorious; others will go to confession because of a momentary fear of Hell but will still be attached to sin. Please, tell me what I can do for them. They have rules; let them observe them. They have the sacraments; let them receive them.
I pulled back in horror. I could not wait to rush back to the Oratory to warn the boys lest others might be lost as well. But first tell me: Do you wish to go alone or with me? Before one is condemned to Hell, I said to myself, he must be judged. And I haven't been judged yet! We entered that narrow, horrible corridor and whizzed through it with lightning speed.
Threatening inscriptions shone eerily over all the inner gateways. The last one opened into a vast, grim courtyard with a large, unbelievably forbidding entrance at the far end. Above it stood this inscription: "These shall go into everlasting punishment. I asked my guide if I could read them, and he consented.
These were the inscriptions: "He will give fire, and worms into their flesh, and they may burn and may feel forever. All this is gone forever. Do you just want to see or would you rather experience these things yourself? As soon as I crossed its threshold, I felt an indescribable terror and dared not take another step. Ahead of me I could see something like an immense cave which gradually disappeared into recesses sunk far into the bowels of the mountains.
They were all ablaze, but theirs was not an earthly fire with leaping tongues of flames. The entire cave --walls, ceiling, floor, iron, stones, wood, and coal -- everything was a glowing white at temperatures of thousands of degrees. Yet the fire did not incinerate, did not consume. I simply can't find words to describe the cavern's horror. Seemingly unaware of anything else, he emitted a most shrilling scream, like one who is about to fall into a cauldron of liquid bronze, and plummeted into the center of the cave.
Instantly he too became incandescent and perfectly motionless, while the echo of his dying wail lingered for an instant more. Terribly frightened, I stared briefly at him for a while.