In inferno, nulla est redemptio

Submitted into Contest #113 in response to: Write about two people whose dreams are somehow connected. ... view prompt


Horror Suspense Fiction

Finally home from his sixth straight 12-hour shift and Mitch was ready for bed. No partying. No going out. Not tonight.

“Twenty-six and in bed by eight,” he muttered, buttoning up his pyjama top. “What a party animal.”

He shuffled down the hall of his apartment with his phone in hand, browsing social media and heading for his bedroom, when there was a knock at the door.

Mitch paused. Who could that be?

Another knock, followed by a commanding voice, “Police. Is anyone home?”

He felt his heart skip a beat and he almost dropped his phone. The police? Why would the police be here?

He weighed up his options, should I open it or not?

Another knock.

I better open it.

Unbolting the door, he opened it revealing an officer in blue uniform.

“Sorry to bother you this evening, sir,” the officer said with a twitch of his moustache. “I was wondering if you have a moment.”

Mitch opened the door a little wider and said, “Sure. How can I help?”

The officer produced a photo of a young woman playing tennis. She was maybe a few years younger than he was with long blonde hair and green eyes. “Have you seen this person before?” the officer asked. He spoke with a flat voice.

Mitch studied the photo, “She looks familiar but not sure where...”

“Her name is Alison Mitchell, her body was found a few blocks away in an empty lot last year. You may have seen it in the news.”

“Oh, right. I remember,” Mitch said. “They found her body when they were preparing to excavate the site for that Walmart parking lot extension, right?”

The officer nodded and Mitch noticed the name tag said ‘Smith.’ “That’s right. We are canvassing the area again, see if anyone knows anything.”

“Another canvas?”

The officer shrugged, “Yep...” he paused. “Well I shouldn’t say this, but the case has gone cold so we’re redoing the canvas to see if anyone might remember something.”

“That’s a shame,” Mitch said, meaning it. “Unfortunately, I don’t know anything. I didn’t know her.”

Officer Smith’s shoulders slumped, “I figured. Well...thanks anyway. It was worth a shot.”

Mitch nodded, “You never know unless you try, right?”

He was about to say goodnight and good luck when Smith asked, “Interesting painting.” He was looking over Mitch’s shoulders and Mitch turned around. On the wall was a painting from 15th century artist Hans Memling. From the bottom of the painting was the open jaws of a giant fish with the flames of hell spouting out from them. Above it was a winged demon with a face in the stomach clawing at three naked bodies laying, writhing in the flames.

“It’s called ‘Hell’,” Mitch said simply.

“‘In inferno, nulla est redemptio’”, the policeman read the banner along the top of the painting. “What does that mean?”


“Gives me the creeps.”

Mitch said nothing. He wasn’t big on art, but this painting resonated with him when he saw it almost a year ago and he bought it. Not many liked it, especially considering it was the first thing people saw when they entered the apartment, but he didn’t care. 

Art is subjective.

“Anyway, have a good night,” the officer said, tipping his cap.

“You too,” Mitch said and closed the door behind him.

As he made his way to the bedroom, turning off the lights, he wondered if they would ever catch the person who ran her over.


Mitch rolled over and grumbled.


He grumbled again and tried to cover his ears with his pillow when he realised he didn’t have one.

“Wake up!”

“Alright,” he yawned, rubbing his eyes and sitting up in bed.

No, not bed. The...ground? He touched the area around him, it was soft, cool but he felt blades of grass between his fingers as he brushed over them.

“What the hell?” he croaked.

He looked around. It was dark with little light. He looked to be in a park surrounded by oak trees. The only source of light came from a streetlight peeking through the leaves.

“What the hell is right,” said the other voice. A voice Mitch knew.


“Yep.” In the dim light, the shadow of Damon appeared. Damon was a big guy, bald with tattoos up and down his arms. He looked like a bulldog with cheeks that shook whenever he spoke and his underbite showed whenever he smiled.

“What are you doing here? Actually, where is here?”

“No idea,” Damon said, helping Mitch to his feet. “Last thing I remember is going to bed. Then I woke up here.”

“Now that you mention it, I remember the cop at the door-”

“Cop? What cop?”

“They were canvassing the street, asking questions about that Alison Mitchell girl whose body was found last year.”


Mitch shrugged, “Last ditch effort.”

“What did you say?”


Mitch couldn’t be sure but he thought he saw Damon nodding in the darkness. “Where to?” he asked.

“Head for the light I reckon,” Damon said.

With no better idea, Mitch and Damon headed towards the light. As they walked, Mitch saw they were in a park with lush green grass and tall oak trees, their leaves casting sinister, dancing shadows as a gentle breeze blew through them. They walked in silence, both lost in thought. Mitch was wondering what was going on and why he was here with Damon, and who knows what Damon was thinking. Probably how to drown puppies.

The last thing he remembered after the police officer visiting was reading in bed. Maybe it was a dream. Though why he would dream about Damon was anyone's guess.

The mind works in strange ways.

The path they took meandered along the park and aside from the rustling of the leaves it was deathly quiet. Spotlights marked their path infrequently and trees lived on their edges but there was nothing else. No animals. No noises. No moon. No stars.

It was like a blank canvas.

Eventually the ground rose on either side of them and the path descended into a dark tunnel. Their feet splashing in puddles echoed around the concrete walls as they headed towards the other end.

After some time they emerged out onto an empty dual-lane road lit by a single yellow streetlight. The road was remote, surrounded by farmland and trees as far as the eye could see.

“Hey, I know this place,” Damon said as they walked onto the road and stood under the streetlight.

“You do?”

He nodded, “This is where it happened.”

Mitch frowned, “What happened?”

Before Damon could reply, a roar of an engine shattered the quiet night and bright headlights flooded the road. 

“Watch out!” Damon yelled, pushing Mitch off the road just as a sedan flew past and crashed into a ditch, the engine still roaring.

“What the...fuck,” Damon said, breathing heavily, “was that?”

Mitch had no idea either, “We should go check on them.”

“What? Are you crazy?”

“Someone could be hurt!”

“Fuck them,” Damon snarled. “They almost killed me.”

“I’m calling the ambulance,” he said, searching for his phone. As he did, the driver's side door squealed as metal twisted and it was torn off the hinges and tossed aside. Mitch headed over to help but skidded to a stop with his mouth open in shock.

Emerging from the car was a person...of sorts. They unfolded themselves from the car with long mantis-like limbs. It towered over him and the car but it was the appearance that had Mitch frozen to the spot. 

The body was wrapped in a bloody and torn cloak with rusted spikes poking through it and the torso. But it was the head that had Mitch gasping in horror. They wore a rusted metal helmet that encompassed the whole head, completely solid with a slit for the eyes and a gap at the mouth. There were more rusted spikes protruding out of the helmet, like a punk rocker from hell.

“What the fuck!” Mitch cried. He didn’t even notice the large tyre iron in its hand until it was swinging down on him. He dodged out of the way just as the tyre iron came down and slammed into the side of the car with a loud thunk.

“Come on!” Damon called, he was already halfway across the road and Mitch followed him into a cluster of trees while, behind them the horror followed them in a jerky manner. Like its knees didn’t bend.

“What the hell is that!” Mitch cried, pushing his way through branches and bushes.

“No fucking idea!” Damon called from behind. His breathing was heavy, and Mitch easily caught up with him. After another minute of running, they emerged from the trees into a Walmart parking lot.

“What? How are we here?” Mitch asked. He recognised this Walmart as the one in Rockford, near where he lived. It wasn’t possible they went from farmland to here in such a short time, it was in the middle of the city.

“Doesn’t matter,” Damon said, pulling on Mitch’s shirt and pointing. Behind them the metal-helmeted stalker was emerging from the trees, and they took off at a sprint towards the supermarket. They reached the front sliding doors but they didn’t open. 

“Shit!” Damon said, slamming a meaty fist on the panel of glass.

“Let’s check around the back!” 

They hurried around the side as their stalker crossed the parking lot, walking as casually as if they were on a midnight stroll. Around the side they found an unlocked emergency door and entered a long corridor, lit by dim night lights. They sprinted down it, passing turned over chairs and tables and torn papers littered the ground. The place looked abandoned, which was also impossible. They reached the other side where a green exit sign showed them the way to freedom. Damon led the way, pushing down on the bar but it didn’t move. He rattled it and shook it.


“What do we do?” Mitch said, panicking.

Behind them a door slammed shut and the stalker appeared at the far end, looking tiny but growing with each stiff legged step.

“This way,” Damon said, pulling Mitch through a side door into the main area of the store. But instead of sporting equipment and toys and entertainment the entire floor was littered with mannequins. In the dim light their blank faces were cast in eerie shadows, deep in the shallows of their eye sockets and their bodies stretched across the floor, like shadowy trees. They stood in various poses, some with their hands held up in the air, others like they were running. Some were missing arms, or legs or heads. Some were naked while others wore an assortment of clothes; golf attire, beach wear, snow gear and more. They headed for the other side of the store, planning to smash a window and get out of here. They moved through the forest of mannequins avoiding their outstretched arms that felt like they were grabbing for them.

The door behind them slammed open and the stalker appeared. Mitch and Damon ducked behind a table filled with mannequin limbs. Peering around the corner, Mitch saw the stalker push through the mannequins. Then it stopped in the sea of soulless bodies and looked around, searching. The spiked metal ball of a head rotated, and Mitch wondered how it could see, even with the eye slot. 

Everything was silent and Mitch could feel his pulse racing. He waited, watching.

Then it let out a high-pitched scream. It sounded feminine, like a woman shrieking. It was piercing and Mitch had to cover his ears. 

The shrieking continued and the stalker swung the tyre iron, knocking the head off one mannequin and then smashing down another. It swung the tyre iron back and forth, still shrieking and bashing the mannequins with such force he could hear the plastic crack.

What is it doing? Why is it so angry?

As they watched, he noticed the Mannequin next to him wearing a blue and white school blazer. It caught him by surprise because it was the same blazer he wore to school. He squinted in the darkness at the logo. It was a building behind a bright blue sky.

Was that..yes it was. He read the name underneath ‘Rockford HS - Year 12 2010’

That was his school and the same year he was in year 12. Suddenly all the mannequins around him looked familiar. Not the mannequins themselves, but the clothes. He saw his work uniform, a suit he wore to a wedding, the golf gear, the snow gear. All of them were dressed in his clothes.

“What is going on…?” he murmured.

“Let’s go,” Damon said, and he crawled towards the front of the store with Mitch following behind. When they reached the front of the store the stalker was still shrieking and smashing mannequins with the tyre iron.

Damon picked up a mannequin head and turned to Mitch, “As soon as the glass breaks we get the fuck out of here. Straight across the parking lot, got it?”

Mitch nodded and just as Damon was about to throw the head the shrieking stopped and all went silent.

Mitch chanced a look and he grabbed Damon by the arm.

“What!” he hissed.

“Look!” Mitch pointed at the stalker. They had a clear view of it, and they watched as it started twisting and turning, like it was in pain but also silently. Not making a sound. It clawed at the cloak, pulling on the spikes protruding from its body. After a minute it tore the cloak until it was in tatters, pieces fluttering around like autumn leaves and revealing its body.

“What the fuck…” Damon whispered.

Mitch was speechless and he could only stare at the tattoo etched in the burned and blistered stomach. The tattoo was Mitch’s face. Mitch felt his heart in his throat and he tried to say something but he couldn’t. The tattoo was so lifelike, the eyes so real and it looked like they were following him. Then the mouth opened in a twisted ‘O’ of horror and started screaming in pain. 

“What the fuck…” Damon repeated but Mitch didn’t hear him. He was still staring at the tattoo and noticed words were tattooed in a circle, around the head: In inferno, nulla est redemptio.

The stalker continued to twist and writhe, pulling at the spikes in the body, fresh blood pouring out of the skin around the spikes, flowing down the body and into the mouth of the tattooed Mitch who was drinking it. 

“I’m fucking outta here,” Damon said.

“Quiet!” Mitch hissed but it was too late. The stalker stopped squirming and looked up. It saw them and shrieked as did the tattooed Mitch. 

“Fuck!” Damon screamed and he stood up, turned and hurled the mannequin head. It smashed through the window, glass raining down on the floor. Damon made to run for it but he suddenly gasped. He looked at Mitch and then down at his chest where a rusted spike burst through his chest.

The stalker stood behind him, Mitch had no idea how it got there so quickly, but Damon turned, his eyes wide with surprise and the stalker raised the tyre iron and brought it down on his head.

A loud crack echoed around the store, like a gunshot and Damon fell. 

Again and again it slammed the tyre iron down on Damon, each hit sounded like it was tenderising a piece of steak.

“No!” Mitch cried but it kept going. Again and again, turning Damon into a bloody paste. 

Mitch got to his feet and stumbled towards the window, stumbled and fell over the sill. He got on wobbly feet and tried to run but he could only shuffle, every step laborious. He’d only reached the curb when the stalker stepped out in front of him. It was covered in Damon’s blood with flecks of bone and brain matter stuck to it.

“What do you want!” Mitch screamed. He felt lightheaded and he was swaying on his feet. “Who are you?”

The stalker tilted the metal ball head, the spikes gleaming in a single light, “The…truth” it rasped, the voice sounding like gravel rolling in a mixer. 

His legs gave out and Mitch fell to his knees, “The truth? About what?” he muttered, tears rolling down his eyes. 

The stalker stood there, silent, close enough that the spikes in its body were almost piercing his eyes, his head. Then it dropped the tyre iron and it clanged on the road. He watched as it reached up, grabbing two spikes, and lifted the spiked ball from its head. 

Mitch squinted in the dim light, then gasped.

Mitch woke with a start, sweat pouring down his face as the memories came back. The memories he repressed. The hit and run, the tyre iron, burying the body in the vacant lot.

The anger. The hate. The fear. The guilt.

His phone was buzzing, and he picked it up with shaky hands. A message was waiting for him: Yo, I know we haven’t spoken know but I had the craziest fucking dream. Call me. Damon.

Taking a deep breath, he dialled a number. As it rang he walked down the hallway. Remembering hitting her with his car. It was dark, a dual-lane street in the farmlands. Damon telling him to drive off, there was nothing they could do. How she moved, her screaming as Damon hit her with the tyre iron. Again and again. The threat if he told anyone. Digging the hole in the vacant lot.

He thought about the dream. The face revealed behind the helmet.

His face. It was him.

He stopped before Memling’s painting, reading the banner when someone answered.

“I’d like to talk to someone about Alison Mitchell.”

In inferno, nulla est redemptio.

There is no redemption in Hell.

September 28, 2021 14:07

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.


Danny G
04:18 Sep 29, 2021

Thought I'd make a mention on this story about my intentions and trying (keyword) to add some symbolism in the story. Unfortunately the word limit restricted me a lot but what I was hoping to achieve here was that the stalker was a representation of Mitch's guilt for what he and Damon had done. Each action the stalker took was meant to represent a certain emotion Mitch was feeling/repressing. Hatred: (for himself) the stalker destroying the mannequins dressed like him in the store Fear (of being caught): The painting, the tattoo of himsel...


Show 0 replies
Annalisa D.
03:18 Sep 29, 2021

That was a very well written and creepy story. I like how well the painting tied into the story and the use of the dream to bring back the memories. Now that I know what happened, I can appreciate clever hints leading up to it. Nice job!


Danny G
04:11 Sep 29, 2021

Thank you :-)


Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply