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.
Just avoid the Waterfall, Heinrich lives there and he is not friendly.
The Pit: Watchmaker’s Hell: Book One
HEINRICH VON HELLDORF IS ONE SCARY MOTHER FUCKER
The Waterfall, Hell
AFTER TWO WEEKS OF SITTING alone, broken and confused by The Waterfall, Heinrich was feeling more social. Why had he turned down Rolf’s offer so quickly? The camp wasn’t so bad, was it? As he thought this question, an image of a prisoner’s body dropping to the ground from a single shot fired by Heinrich popped up in his thoughts. Why had he thought about that at that moment? It didn’t have anything to do with him.
Being decorated by Himmler was good. That had been his proudest moment at Dachau: all of his guards watching as Himmler pinned the medal to his chest and shook his hand. That was in the first year, when Otto worked under him, his mother was still alive and Gerta was still nice to him. Another distinct memory occurred to him. He remembered lying in bed on their first anniversary. Snoring from the next room told him his mother was sleeping well. Quiet breathing next to him implied the same for Gerta. That night, he felt warm despite it being mid-January with a howling wind outside. Laying there with his nakedness curved around Gerta’s warm back, he thought that was the best symbol of how he felt. He felt warm—not ecstatic or blissful but warm. Back at the Waterfall, Heinrich wondered if that had been the happiest time of his life. No, it couldn’t have been. The happiest time in his life was clearly when he was a child and his family was still intact. But that first year was a close second. Heinrich reminded himself that that happy memory took place at home, not in the camp. His home made him happy at that time. He could have said that Gerta made him happy, but given the fact that she abandoned him just before he died, he refused to even think it. Could he be happy at the Camp in Hell? One component of that happy first year was here in Hell with him: Otto.
Going to the Hell Camp meant he might get to work with Otto again. Would it be worth it?
Before questioning himself, Heinrich assessed the damages he’d received in the Pit. His right arm hung on by a sliver of skin the width of a fingernail. His leg was attached with three times that. He’d barely made it to the Waterfall in the first place, limping the whole way. In fact, now that he’d opened up to the idea that not everything at Dachau was bad, he wondered if he’d said no to Rolf too quickly. Rolf knew how to restore bodies. Heinrich assumed he’d stumble across it, but so far he hadn’t—probably because he felt too fragile to move. He couldn’t explore anything in his current state. Would it be so bad to work in another camp for a little while? Just long enough to get the information. Then he could do as he pleased.
As he thought this, he heard a pair of click, clack noises in the distance: footsteps coming in his direction. Did they know he’d changed his mind? Of course not, he corrected himself. Those could be the footsteps of strangers who had nothing to do with Rolf’s offer.
As the two men in SS uniforms entered the clearing in front of the Waterfall, Heinrich suddenly felt that he should have hid. Quickly, disregarding this thought as paranoid, he gave them a curt, “Hallo.”
The taller one turned to his stout companion and said, “Oh, good. He’s injured. This should be simple.”
The stout man nodded. He seemed to be missing his right arm while the taller officer had lost a chunk of his face.
Wait, what? They weren’t talking to him. They hadn’t even bothered to greet him. Who does that?
The taller one crossed the space in a few strides, grabbed Heinrich by the shoulders, and threw him up, causing him to land on his back. As Heinrich’s back hit the ground, he registered two things at once: 1) these men would not be receptive to his change of heart, and 2) the tiny patch of skin keeping his left leg attached to his body had just broke, severing one of his three remaining limbs. Stout came to stand over him, laughing. Heinrich kicked him in the thigh. Taller picked up Heinrich, tossing him in the air again and letting him slam down. This time Heinrich lost more of the back of his head, and the center of his back caved in.
“One more and I think we’re done,” Taller laughed to Stout. This time he grabbed Heinrich’s ankle, tossing him like a toy against the rock wall backing the Waterfall. Upon impact, Heinrich felt his remaining limbs separate from his body. He crashed down into the pool. He was certain this was the end of him.
He’d barely gotten in one kick—how humiliating. For a moment, he floated, waiting for more shards to fall off him and for his existence to blink out. It wasn’t so bad down there at the bottom of the pool. His back felt nice against the bottom. His hands swirled around with the flow of the water. Even the water in his boots made toes on both feet want to curl and then stretch.
Wait, his back felt good against the bottom? A moment earlier, his back had caved in. He drew both hands in front of him. His left arm was back, healed and perfect. Looking through the opaque wavy water vision, he saw his two attackers looking down on him. Disbelief on their faces led to alarm. They could see what he’d just realized. The water regrew lost limbs.
Heinrich burst from the water like a devil in a nightmare. Stout backed up, still dumbfounded by Heinrich’s transformation. Heinrich grabbed a handful of Stout’s hair and smashed his face into the ground. The left side of his face caved in. He backed away in shock at the reversal. Taller was trying to run. Heinrich, considerably longer legged and uninjured, caught him before he’d made it out of the clearing. Stout crying loudly, tried crawling toward the water. Heinrich dragged Taller along as he headed to stop Stout’s movement. Heinrich put his big right boot on Stout’s back, stopping his progress.
“What did you two do?” Heinrich demanded. “In the SS. What did you do?”
“I am working for the Gestapo for a month and he is in the Luftwaffe,” Taller answered.
Heinrich felt disgusted with himself. Now that he looked at their faces, they couldn’t have been more than 16. How could he be nearly beaten by two children? That was ridiculous.
“Well, Gestapo. I am from Dachau. For years, I’ve killed anyone I pleased,” Heinrich whispered. Stout let out another loud cry. His back gave. Heinrich’s boot went through it and now rested on the opposite side of Stout’s stomach skin. Heinrich laughed. “I see no reason to hold back now. I am going to destroy your friend while you watch.”
“Then you send me back to Rolf?” Taller begged. “To tell him not to send more to destroy you.”
Ah, so that’s how these men ended up here. They worked for Rolf. Heinrich smirked at his captured prey. “If he sends more, then I will kill them too.” He made a mocking frown face. “Because I don’t care what Rolf knows or thinks. And this is how I teach him to stay away from me.”
With that, Heinrich slowly, systematically destroyed both men.