Hell found me.

After so many years, and having thought my tracks covered, I don't know how. I suppose some things just won't relent, won't release you from their grasps until they get what they want. And what it wants is me. Apropos, I'll be damned before I let it have me back.

Sadly, I'm not alone in my quest to escape the forces that have come seeking me. I've picked up a straggler on my way, a red-haired girl named Marisol. She seems nice enough, but clearly too naive to understand what's really going on here. A prodigious amount of guilt weighs on my shoulders for bringing her along and I would never be able to forgive myself if anything were to happen to her. Unfortunately, the reeking stench of that guilt is what keeps Hell on my scent, along with the other countless sins I've committed. Once the scent of sin has been detected, there is no getting away from it -- nor the hounds that chase me now.

Although it had not rained for hours, moisture speckled my windshield, making seeing in the dark that much more difficult. The only thing for certain was that the desert stretched in all directions with the highway on which I drove as the only point of reference. Signs would pass occasionally, the highway number marked clearly in large, black letters on reflective white. When static wasn't playing on every radio station, only news of a recaptured murderer sounded through the airwaves. The light from the console cast an eerie glow upon my sleeping passenger. She stirred.

"Hey, you," she said groggily. "What time is it?"

"I don't know." I didn't take my eyes from the road. She moaned tiredly.

"What time did you say it is?" I repeated my previous response, adding a head shake for effect. "I had nightmares about the story you told me. Scary stuff. Did you make it up?"

Miraculously, I was able to let out a light chuckle. "Nightmares are only the beginning, Scarlett."

She said in a humored tone, "My name isn't--"

"I don't care what your name is, Red." My tone was not so light. "Listen, I really shouldn't have picked you up back there, but it looked like you needed my help. But now you're in much bigger danger than before. If that thing, whatever it is out there, catches us, you'll wish you were back there being assaulted by bikers."

I turned to face her but was met with only a soft snore. I shook my head and wondered if she had even heard a word I just said. I muttered under my breath about my sour attitude as I brought my gaze back to the road. There, walking down the middle of the highway, was a man wearing a trench coat and fedora, his face mostly obscured by the darkness. When I slammed my foot down on the brake pedal, the car swerved to the left. I allowed the car to follow its path, not fighting the forceful turn into the other lane and eventually into the desert itself.

The car shuddered and died as soon as the tire hit dirt. The passenger that had been sleeping was no longer balled up on the seat but spread out and grasping for balance on the dash and seat. Her eyes were wide open, fear clearly evident.

"Are you okay?" I asked as I looked in the mirrors to find the man that I had nearly hit. Seeing nothing, I turned in my seat to perhaps get a clearer view. The only vision was that of my brake lights glaring in the dark.

"I guess so. Are you okay?" she returned.

"Wait here."

I opened the door to step out and look for a body when two hands grabbed at my collar and began to wrench me out of the car. Marisol screamed and grabbed at me as I was pulled out slightly. The vision of the desert disappeared and was replaced with that of something I had never forgotten, something of my nightmares which I visited more often than my stomach could handle.

It was Hell. The flaming plateaus of burning souls greeted my eyes with burning ferocity and my lungs filled with scorching sulfur. The souls of the damned quivered in heaping masses, their mournful crying stinging my ears almost to the point of bursting my ear drums. I took my hands from the arms that held me and covered my ears so that the requiem the souls sang alongside the demons would not be heard. The soft, warm sensation of tears ran down my cheeks at the sight and sound of eternal damnation.

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