Thursday, September 29, 2016

MARK LUKENS: Downloaded to Hell

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Downloaded to hell
A Short Story
by Mark Lukens
Copyright © 2016 by Mark Lukens

My name is Adam Romberg and I sent a man to Hell.
You may have heard of me—a tech geek who started a software company in his dorm room. You probably don’t know much about my software or how it works; all you probably know about me is that I was a billionaire by the age of twenty-four. Most might say I have led a charmed life. I met the woman of my dreams not too long after my company IPO’d and a year and a half later we had a baby girl together. Yes, it was a charmed life … a blessed life. And then four years after my daughter was born, six months ago now, it was all taken away from me.
I was gone from the house a lot by then, flying around the world and attending meetings. When my wife told me that she thought someone was stalking her I didn’t pay much attention to it. We had the best security system in our house that money could buy. I even joked that I could hire a bodyguard for her if it would make her feel better. She told me not to be silly.
Two months after that conversation the man who had been stalking her, a man named Darren Lee Hodges, gunned my wife and daughter down while they were shopping. Darren Hodges was never caught, never even identified by the police … a big mystery on the news. But I found him three months ago—it’s amazing what kind of information ten million dollars will buy. I instructed my three-man team to catch Darren Hodges; I didn’t want him hurt or killed. I wanted him brought to this warehouse I had rented and then buried under a paper trail of shell corporations that could never be traced back to me.
Everything was set up in the warehouse now for the procedure: the hospital bed, the restraints, the computer equipment, the surgical equipment. My men brought an unconscious Darren Lee Hodges in and transferred him to the hospital bed and strapped him down. It cost me five hundred thousand dollars for these men to abduct Darren and deliver him here, but I didn’t care what the cost was … I would’ve paid even more. The thought of revenge for what this man had done to my family consumed me: I couldn’t work, couldn’t eat, couldn’t think straight. I needed to do this; I needed to put this behind me so I could find some kind of way to move on.
An hour later Darren was awake and clearly agitated. He struggled against the leather cuffs and straps for a while but there was no hope of escape for him. I let him struggle and scream for thirty minutes and then I walked from the shadows to stand beside his bed.
When he saw my face he understood why he was here. He stared at me with hatred, a defiant expression that showed me he was going to be able to handle anything I planned to do to him.
The surgical team assembled behind me, all of them prepped and ready to go. Darren’s eyes widened with surprise when he saw them. Maybe he had expected to be tortured, but seeing the surgeons was an obvious surprise to him. I gestured to the team to wait a moment—I had a question for Darren that I wanted answered. “I want to know why you killed my wife and daughter.”
Darren stared at me as I stood next to his bed and after a moment I knew he wasn’t going to answer my question—his final infliction of pain would be to deny me the reasons for his actions.
I sighed and turned to the surgical team. I nodded at them and they went to work, pushing a gigantic computer on top of a metal cart behind him, moving it into position. 
“What are they doing?” Darren asked. He turned his head as far as he could to watch them, and then he looked at me.
I felt a sudden mean streak. I wanted to deny him information like he was denying it to me. He waited for my answer. Darren Lee Hodges was a killer, but he wasn’t a stupid man. The police hadn’t caught him for his crimes because he hadn’t left any evidence behind (well, not much anyway, but just enough for my men to find him). No, he wasn’t a stupid man and he knew he wasn’t going to get an answer to his question until I got an answer to mine.
“I hated you,” Darren finally said as the surgeons and technicians worked behind him. “I hated you and every other billionaire out there. You one percenters live in opulence while the rest of us struggle. You make more and more obscene amounts of money while more and more is taken from us.”
“I give away a lot of money.”
“Yeah, right. I know how the game works. Money is funneled through fake charities that are more like slush funds and money laundering schemes. You wash hands and scratch backs while the same is done to you, and the money and power stays at the top with the elites. But your days are numbered, I’ll tell you that. This is only the first warning to share your wealth or face the consequences.”
Darren stopped talking. He seemed smug, satisfied that his message had been delivered. I imagined that he would’ve eventually turned himself in for the murder of my wife and daughter just so he could bask in his new-found fame. 
“I wanted to hurt you,” Darren told me in a low voice. That look of satisfaction was still on his face. He looked like a man who could die in peace now.
“You did,” I told him.
“And now you’re going to hurt me, is that it?”
I shrugged. “Yes. But the operation these surgeons are going to perform will be painless. An anesthetic will be used.”
Darren didn’t say anything—just watching me.
“No one knows you’re here,” I told him. “No one knows that I found you. No one will ever know what you did to my wife and daughter. You will never be remembered.”
He tried to hide his horror but he couldn’t.
“I had new software developed,” I told him. “It’s cutting edge stuff; a brain/computer sync. There will be many uses for it in the future, but I had my developers create this particular software just for you. It’s a version of Hell thought up by the best horror writers and game designers I could hire.”
Darren didn’t seem like he understood exactly what I was saying. Maybe that was my fault; maybe I wasn’t being clear enough.
The head surgeon directed his team into place as two technicians attached the wires to the computers. These wires would be inserted into Darren’s brain soon. 
“Your consciousness,” I told him, “your mind … you, essentially … will be downloaded into this software program where you will live on and on. Once you’re in the program you will wake up in a world that is truly a hell. You will never have a moment’s peace as you run and run from horror after horror. You will be aware of everything at every moment with no possible hope of escape. And from now on, that world will be the only world you will ever know.”
A nurse placed an oxygen mask over Darren’s mouth and nose before he could scream. He was already hyperventilating, his eyes wide as he stared up at me. I would be the last thing he ever saw before he woke up in that world …
*
Darren woke up in Hell.
He stood up in a dark hallway made of stone. The ceiling arched two stories above him in the darkness. Torches lined the walls, the flickering firelight creating shadows that danced at the edges of the light. The air was cold and damp … he could feel it on his skin.
Darren looked down at his body. He wore the same clothes that he’d had on in the hospital bed. He realized that everything Adam Romberg had told him was true. He was here … he was trapped in this software now, in this hell.
“No,” he whispered. “This can’t be real. This has to be some kind of … some kind of dream.”
Something growled from the darkness down the hall … some kind of beast.
Darren turned and ran the other way down the hall until it led to another hallway, and then more halls. It seemed like this place was an old castle, but it was more like a maze. Screams drifted from down the hall to the right … so he went left. 
He ran blindly, passing rooms with open doors. He stopped in one doorway and saw a man pulling organs out of a person strapped down to a chair. The man was dressed in a blood-stained surgical gown, rubber gloves, and a cloth mask that was splattered with bright red blood. His eyes were wide and insane above the mask, and he was suddenly curious at this passerby out in the hall. He held a pair of large pliers in one hand and a scalpel in the other.
The surgeon started coming Darren’s way.
Darren ran farther down the hall, looking back over his shoulder. The surgeon was impossibly fast, catching up so quickly. Darren turned back around and collided with a huge masked man who seemed like something right out of a slasher film. The monster of a man held an ax, swinging it up high. He brought the ax down right on Darren’s shoulder, knocking him down to the stone floor. Darren screamed. He could feel the pain, his bones separating, his arm useless now. The pain was so intense … he could think of nothing else as he curled up into a ball. The last thing he saw was the man swinging the ax down towards his face …
 … and then Darren woke up strapped to a wood chair. He was alive again, awake and in pain. The masked surgeon moved into his field of vision, holding the pliers and the scalpel. Darren screamed as the surgeon cut away his clothes …
*
Four hours later the brain surgery was a success. Darren’s consciousness had been downloaded onto the software program and he had already spent an hour in his new world now—a world of torture and horror that would go on forever.
Darren’s body was still alive for the moment—machines kept his lungs and heart working—but he was essentially braindead now as he lay on the hospital bed. I had a team of men coming to dispose of his body. Another two hundred thousand dollars would make sure his remains would never be found.
I walked over to a desktop computer and sat down. I logged on and sat there for a moment just staring at the screen. I thought I heard a sound from my computer; the sound was so low I almost didn’t think it was real for a moment. But then I heard it again and I smiled … it was a scream.

GIVEAWAY
WOO HOO!!! We are starting off HALLOWEENPALOOZA IV with a bang!!! First, a great read and now the giveaway. Today’s giveaway is FIVE PRINT OR ECOPIES OF ANCIENT ENEMY!!! Yup, that’s right, and it’s your choice as to the format!!!
PLEASE NOTE: Everyone is free to enter, but we are limiting the print copies to the US and Canada!!! That means if you live outside the US and Canada, Mark will gift you your ecopy!!!
If you’re new to HALLOWEENPALOOZA, here’s how you enter: Click on back to the FB Event Page, find today’s post featuring Mark Lukens, then comment, “I WANT TO WIN!” in that post!!! Good luck!!!

https://www.amazon.com/Ancient-Enemy-Mark-Lukens-ebook/dp/B00FD4SP8M/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1474753995&sr=1-1&keywords=ancient+enemy
 ANCIENT ENEMY
Ancient Enemy - it's been asleep for centuries and now it's awake. It wants things ... and you have to give it what it wants ...
Seven hundred years ago the Anasazi people built massive cities in what is now the southwestern United States ... and then they vanished.
Stella, an archaeologist specializing in Anasazi culture, and David, a mysterious Navajo boy, are on the run from something terrifying. As they flee up into the snowy mountains of Colorado they are carjacked by criminals escaping a botched bank robbery. Caught in a blizzard, they must take refuge in what they believe is an abandoned cabin. It's at this cabin that they will face horrors beyond their imagination.
Contains: strong language, graphic violence, gore
What reviewers are saying about Ancient Enemy:
"Mark Lukens proves to be a master at escalation and evoking empathy for his characters; his settings are so realistic that one has the urge to grab a warm blanket (and then hide under it). Such a relentless tension drives his horror plot that he kept me up until the wee hours wanting to get to the bottom of the supernatural mystery." - A.M. Stickel: Editor of Black Petals Magazine (blackpetals.net)
"With Ancient Enemy, Lukens has shown the world that he can imagine and write with the best ... Mark Lukens will soon be a household name. Superb writing and my interest in Ancient Enemy never flagged for one moment." - Lee Ashford for Readers' Favorite (readersfavorite.com)
"Mesmerizing!" - James Byron Huggins, author of CAIN and HUNTER
AUTHOR BIO
Mark Lukens has been writing since the second grade when his teacher called his parents in for a conference because the ghost story he'd written had her a little concerned.

Since then he's had several stories published and four screenplays optioned by producers in Hollywood. One script is in development to be produced. He is the author of many bestselling books including:
Ancient Enemy, Descendants of Magic, The Summoning, Night Terrors, Sightings, The Exorcist's Apprentice, What Lies Below, Devil's Island, The Darwin Effect, Ghost Town: a novella, and A Dark Collection: 12 Scary Stories. He is a member of The Horror Writers Association.

He grew up in Daytona Beach, Florida. But after many travels and adventures, he settled down in Tampa, Florida with his wonderful wife and son ... and a stray cat they adopted.

He loves to hear from readers! He can be found on Facebook at Mark Lukens Books, on Twitter at @marklukensbooks, and you can follow his blog at www.marklukensbooks.wordpress.com. He can be reached by e-mail at marklukensbooks@yahoo.com.



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7 comments:

  1. Great story, Mark. Love the concept. It would make a fabulous movie!

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    Replies
    1. Wow, it would make a great movie!!! Anybody listening? Or TV series ... Yeah!!!

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  2. Fantastic! I really enjoyed your story, Mark! 5 stars!

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  3. I agree Mark, a great movie or even a book.

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