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.
THE MINUTE THE GUARDS CAME streaming into the Pit, Nadia’s aggression returned, ready to be used for its most noble purpose. Grabbing Sid, she sneaked over behind a group of Newly Dead gathered near 7 o’clock. Sid pulled back on her arm, pointing to 1 o’clock. Nadia shook her head and pointed to Marcus. She freed her right hand to receive her fist as she pounded it down. She could see the message received across Sid’s face. After all, it was one of the oldest messages among humanity: he hurts us, we destroy him.
Sneaking behind other Newly Dead, they rounded on the short dictator with the child’s face. Nadia tackled him in one swift move, and then she floundered. What was she meant to do with him now she had him on the ground? Marcus smiled up at her and punched her in the side of the head. That answered her question. She pinned his flailing arms to the ground. It took both hands. Now she relied on Sid to figure out how to incapacitate Marcus.
Behind her, Sid kicked Marcus’ hip. Sid expected a crack to echo off the Pit walls, and many were, but from the battle at 1 o’clock. Sid’s kick made no sound. He’d assumed destroying shell bodies was easy. He didn’t understand the amount of malice he needed to put behind the movement in order to do real damage.
As they struggled, a war cry echoed across the Pit. Marcus searched for the source and found it near 11 o’clock. A group of 50 ran from the 11 o’clock area, jumping over bodies surprisingly well. They’d seen Do Jin and Woo Bin falling over bodies, and as a result, they ran along the wall of the Pit, where no bodies lay. They were unmistakable running to defend Alex’s Tribe.
“Who are those people?” Marcus demanded. He had Alex’s Tribe where he wanted them. Half of them were already headless and legless at the base of the 1 o’clock stairs. He didn’t have time or manpower for interference from outsiders.
“Those are our new Japanese friends,” Nadia seethed down at him.
Marcus groaned and rolled his eyes. Tossing his body to one side, he shifted Nadia’s balance enough to throw her off him. Then he kicked a stunned Sid in the face. Finally, he let out a whistle that reached his guards, who were currently under attack from random ass Japanese people that Sid and Nadia must’ve befriended from out of fucking nowhere.
The retreat whistle prompted the guards to free themselves from their prey and run to Marcus, missing the Japanese by inches. In the middle of the Pit, they regrouped. They backed further away from the Japanese, who reached their broken comrades at 1 o’clock.
“We’re going,” Marcus told them with one hand up. “Let us leave and no one else gets hurt.”
“Oh, the hell you are,” Nadia screamed. Meaning to storm over there, she took one step over a body, underestimated its size and tripped over it.
Marcus laughed and pointed at Nadia’s struggling body. “Your leaders are incapacitated. You need to take your wounded to the river. Just let us….” Before he could finish, he saw something on the 12 o’clock stairs that stopped his voice.
Behind the Japanese, descending the 12 o’clock stairs, was a pair of tall black boots. The black boots gradually revealed a leg clad in black pants that were cut for the cavalry in a horse drawn war. And naturally the legs brought down the black coat, complete with eagle pin and red swastika-laden armband.
Heinrich ‘mother fucking’ von Helldorf just stepped back into the Pit.