In life, we are plagued by the uncertainty of an afterlife, and it is often expected that when we die, everything will suddenly make sense. But when a group of strangers, similar only in their time of death, find themselves in the afterlife, they are faced with more questions than ever before. Are they in Heaven or Hell? If they’re in Heaven, why is there a Nazi wandering around? Why are there no children? If they are in Hell, what universal law did they break? Is there a way to repent and move on to a better eternity? At least one man seems to have some answers. Marcus, a Roman dead for 2,000 years, gains the group’s trust by leading them through the perils of their new reality. But soon it becomes clear that Marcus is only telling them half the story.
L. A. Barnes is public librarian in the southern US. She is a Nerdist podcast listening, South Park loving, Twin Peaks conspiracy theorizing, Stephen King reading and Joss Whedon worshiping geek. The Pit is her first novel. She plans to explore the Watchmaker’s universe through four more novels.
New Dead arrive, bringing more questions with them.
The Pit: Watchmaker’s Hell: Book One
THE KOREANS AND THE RETURN OF CC
The Pit, Hell
WITH MAX AND REGAN DOING their side missions of soldier searching and weapons gathering, Marcus and Lauren entered the now mammoth-sized sharing circle. “Excuse me,” Marcus said to a tall African woman at the edge of the gathering, “I need to talk to Nadia.”
“You will want to see this.” The woman pointed into the center. “She’s there.”
Making their way through the crowd, Marcus ran over in his mind the handful of things that might have attracted this level of attention. The most annoying scenario would involve all of them staring at…
“Oh, look it’s a body,” Lauren groaned once they’d reached the epicenter of the group.
Nadia now stood with an Asian man Marcus didn’t recognize. Two other Asians, a woman looking distraught in her cardigan and sensible shoes and a young man in a shiny purple t-shirt and jeans, stood nearby, watching over the proceedings.
“Good, you’re here,” Nadia announced. “Everyone, Marcus has been dead for centuries. He’s agreed to help us get out of the Pit. And Lauren…” Nadia gave a strained smile, “has been dead… what? 25 years?”
“You recognized me?” Lauren demanded.
“I lived in Newcastle when your boyfriend was arrested. I remember your face in the papers,” Nadia admitted.
Lauren looked murderous. “Damn, Joe. He haunts me even here.”
“Nadia,” Marcus interrupted. “Whatever this is, we don’t have time for it.”
Nadia introduced the Koreans: Yi Soo, the woman and Woo Bin, the young man. Then she motioned toward the man next to her, Do Jin. Do Jin was nearly six feet tall and wore a doctor’s white lab coat. The body on the ground at their feet was nearly six feet tall and wearing a doctor’s white lab coat, a perfect copy of Do Jin in every feature.
“Can you explain this?” Nadia asked Marcus.
“I can, but not here and not now,” Marcus answered. “I have my people preparing: gathering weapons and soldiers. We need to get into formation and leave.”
Nadia wasn’t appeased. “I want to take this with us when we go.”
He needed to talk sense into her, and apparently he would have to do it alone. “Where is Sid?”
Nadia’s expression implied she was about to offer a revelation that she knew would not go over well. “He is pulling out CC, the concentration camp body, so that we can bring that as well.”
So Sid wouldn’t be helping in the ‘talk sense into Nadia plan.’
“Come with me,” Marcus ordered. “I want to show you something.”
He dragged her to the center of the Pit. Pointing at the 10 o’clock fire, he let what was there speak for itself. 10 o’clock was now dominated by India. Even the Pakistanis couldn’t get in there. All the Indians were now in a tight group around their fire, turned inward, their backs to the rest of the Pit.
“Recognize that?” he demanded.
“Who will they attack?” Nadia asked, sounding stunned.
“South America is the next smallest group,” Marcus explained. “At the 5 o’clock fire.” The group, Alex’s tribe, gathered in the 6 o’clock area, leaving them next door to the coming battlefield.
Behind them the Chinese still held the 4 o’clock fire, where they’d destroyed every Australian and New Zealander they could find.
“This will be brutal. The Chinese were able to sweep across the Pit with no one stopping them because no one expected a full on military-style assault. The Indians don’t have that advantage and they know it. They are preparing, not just to battle South America, but also to take out any good Samaritans that stand in their way. I suggest we get out of here before they let out their war cry.”
Marcus and the newly chastised Nadia returned to the group to find their comrades mid argument.
“We’re not leaving him here,” Yi Soo screamed at Lauren. She stood guard over Do Jin’s body while the real Do Jin watched, scowling at Lauren. “He will be trampled or harmed. I can’t stand that. After what we’ve been through, we are not leaving him here.”
“Yi Soo.” Nadia approached her gently. “We may have to….”
A sound stopped everything in its tracks. Beyond the boundaries of their group, the Indians surrounding the 10 o’clock fire began to chant. The low rhythm of voices panicked the group. Nadia looked at Marcus, her eyes full of fear.
Sid emerged with CC on his back, distracted by his labor; he hadn’t heard the chanting.
From deeper in the group, Max yelled for Marcus. “We’re ready! We need to go!”
Marcus looked at Nadia. “We were always going to lose at least 20. This plan costs us 5 people per body, I promise you.”
Nadia’s shoulders drooped. She looked down at Do Jin’s body on the ground and then up at Yi Soo’s face. “I can’t leave them.”
Marcus let disgust cloud his expression—a rare moment of honesty. “Max,” He bellowed. “Get me rope.”