The 5 Layers of Huerta’s Hell
Huerta was walking down a lonely road on his way home from work. His arms were heavy with the day's newspapers (he was a paperboy) and his bike was busted. He let out a sigh as he thought "Just 5 more minutes and I'll be home," but no sooner had the thought entered his mind, when a black car appeared and two armed men forced him into the backseat and placed a bag over his head. He awoke and saw a man leaning against the side of a busted table nearby, his back to him. Huerta grabbed a shovel randomly laying next to him on the hard cuboidal shaped concrete bricks. He approached the figure slowly, shovel in hand, ready to knock him a good one, “Either you tell me who you are, or I make you friends with my shovel here!” He said as bravely as he could, trying his hardest to not let his voice get all squeaky with fear. The man glanced back his way “Homie, you better be joking! I save your life and you threaten me with a freakin' shovel?" He paused examining Huerta's pale face with a bored expression, "I'm Laquanda, and I’ve been trapped in the Stratum Basale for the last month or so.” “Stratum Basale? What’s that?” “It’s the first floor of this house, the Epidermis House, they call it.” "Epidermis house?" Huerta questioned "You must live in a box to not have heard of this place" Huerta did answer, but he didn't put down his shovel either. He was an economy student, he was supposed to stay in his box. "There are five floors, each more gruesome then the last. The only way out is to make it to the 5th floor" "Well why haven't you tried to get out" "Pssh, I did try, I barely made it back down here in one piece" Laquanda froze, his hand moved quickly to the inner part of the jacket he wore, he took out a small knife "Hey! What's with the knife?" Huerta yelled out panicked, Laquanda threw the knife and it hit it's target dead center. The sound of the shovel hitting the cuboidal stone echoed through out the dank basement. He got to his feet and pulled the dagger out of the columnar walls. A spider-like creature bigger then this fist plopped to ground at his feet. "What is that thing?" Huerta asked, he was as white a ghost and had almost peed his pants (but he wasn't about to admit that) "They're called Stratum Germinative, just a single bite and you join the rest of those keratinocyte ghosts that haunt this place. I" "We have to get out of here" Huerta said, his voice laced with fear. " "Since there are two of us now, I guess it's worth a go" Laquanda said pocketing his weapon as he walked up to Huerta. The short Mexican could do nothing but take in the sheer height of his ally. He was TALL. "Let's get moving then. They only open the doors to the outside world once every two weeks, and that two week mark is today" Huerta followed Laquanda to an old beaten up door on the other side of the room. "You ready? This isn't going to be easy, dude." Huerta nodded his head repeatedly at a rather quick pace, as if trying to reassure himself. Laquanda looked at him with a cocked brow. "Okay, dude. You need to calm down" He stopped to make to sure he was ready for the fight that was sure to come, he bent down and tied his shoe, you don't want to worry about tripping when you're facing those things. Huerta noticed a small cut on his leg through a tear in his pants "What happened?" Laquanda straightened himself quickly, "Just a cut, nothing big. We're going to see much worse" He pulled open the creaky door and led Huerta out of the columnar and cuboidal room and up a long staircase.
Laquanda and Huerta entered the most elegant and luxurious ballroom they had ever seen. It consisted of 8-10 layers of grand crystal windows that reached the ceiling. Oil paintings hung around the walls, intermingling with the windows, and casting off beautiful lights… Out of those lights arose shadows which slowly materialized into ghosts. They appeared friendly at first, doing nothing more than smiling and dancing, and a merry wave here and there. But as the minutes passed, they morphed, just ever so slowly. Their arms and legs duplicated, and became long and spindly, but their bodies shrunk continuously, until all that was left was a dead and shrunken skull atop 8 hairy legs. “Keratinocytes” whispered Laquanda in a hushed tone, “we need to leave, NOW!” And with that final word, Laquanda and Huerta took off across the ball room, running for their lives, with Huerta screaming at the top of his lungs. They climbed flight after flight of stairs, trying to put some distance between them and the Keratinocytes, but those hairy creatures had come together to make a gigantic spider webs, thus blocking the left exit, and their last hope.
The Keratinocytes were now closing in, their legs tapping impatiently, anxious to feed. Huerta appeared to be reciting his will and Laquanda closed his eyes and held is breath, waiting for the bite that never came.
Echoing around the ballroom walls was a Tarzan-like cry uttered by a shirtless man atop a balcony on the opposite wall. Across his chest the word “Roach” was written in bold letters. And without further ado, he cut a thread from the spider web and swung across the room. He was of course, aiming to land close enough to Huerta and Laquanda, so as to make a quick and speedy exit, but instead he ran-over, head-first, a dozen Keratinocytes.
That moments distraction was all Huerta and Laquanda needed to slip past the keratinocytes, and follow a very fast, yet slightly disoriented Roach up the staircase and out of harms way.
All was silent on this floor, a sense of calm overwhelmed Huerta and Laquanda, despite the abnormal floating candles in the dark.
They agreed to rest and catch their breath before going an further, and as they did so, Roach recounted how he himself go into the house.
“All I remember was milking goats in Lebanon, and that’s a lot harder than you think. You’ve got to treat the goats with respect; like a sheet of music, ‘cause once you hit a wrong chord--”
“Just tell us how you got here!” yelled Laquanda and Huerta.
“Alright, alright,” replied Roach “Well, like I said, I was just out milking the goats when I heard this strange noise outside. I poked my head out to see what was going on and called out to see if it was my mom or something, but there was nothing. So I went back inside to continue milking the goat. And as I sat down on the stool, I noticed that my milk pail was gone, I turned around to look for it, but the last thing I remember was that milk pail coming at my head.”
“That’s it? Someone whacked you with a flimsy pail and you were out????” asked Laquanda almost indignantly.
“Well, it was more than half-filled…”
“Roach, don’t even talk to me anymore” said Laquanda
The silence lasted only for a few minutes before a strong wind momentarily blew the candles out. When they reignited, Roach, Huerta, and Laquanda looked at the ceiling and saw row after row of dead and flattened keratinocytes covered in tonofilament spider webs lining the walls.
Large glass doors now appeared before them, and they heard black sludge ooze from the wall and floor cracks .
“Get away from the walls! That black sludge, it’s keratohyalin, it turns the tonofilament spider webs into keratinocytes!” screamed Roach.
No sooner had he said it, when dozens of keratinocytes scuttled down the walls, heading for the three. They ran for the glass doors, jumping and leaping over keratinocytes, anxious to miss those deadly stingers. Panting, Laquanda made it through the glass doors first, followed closely by Huerta, but poor Roach never did.
He was just inches away when the glass doors slide shut. Roach desperately beat his hands against the doors screaming “OPEN UP! OPEN UP!!!!!” But try as they might, Huerta and Laquanda could not get the door to budge. They watch in horrified silence as Roach is submerged by keratinocytes.
They hear an evil laugh above and manage to catch a glimpse of a figure on a balcony, and watch as the figure struggles with what appears to be a pump, now emitting a green gas. They hear a stir on the other side of the glass doors, and watch as Roach slowly gets on his feet.
“ROACH! ROOOAAACCCHHH!!!” screamed Huerta.
But by know Roach had started mumbling incoherent descriptions about llamas and Lebanon.
“Shut up! He can’t hear you!” yelled Laquanda.
“But we can’t just leave him there!” retorted Huerta.
“Look, that’s Apoptosis gas and unless you want to--”
They heard a small explosion, and Roach fall on his knees, headless.
“ROACH!!!!!!!” cried Huerta.
“Unless you want to go the way of that goat-milker, I suggest we leave now, seeing as how the Apoptosis gas could leak through the cracks any minute!”
Suddenly the keratinocytes on the wall began to secrete a new liquid (“lamellar granules” shuddered Laquanda).
The silvery lamellar granules became compacted, and rushed with force at the glass doors, breaking them. But by then Huerta and Laquanda had gone, and were well on the way to the next floor.
Laquanda and Huerta raced up the stairs panting, not far ahead Laquanda could see the door leading to next floor. "We're almost there!" he called out. They burst through the multi-colored door and shut it behind them as quickly as they possibly could. A white light filled the room, so bright they couldn't see a thing. "Where are we?" Huerta ask as he attempted to shield his eyes from the burning light, "Either the 4th or 5th level, I'm not sure. This place changes sometimes, as soon as the light dies down we'll be able to tell which floor we came out on" As he said those words the searing light began to fade away to a dull yellow light that they could both handle easily. The room was a lot smaller compared to the last few rooms they had run through. The room was filled with old grey keratinocytes, they came in the form of what seemed to be simply the outline of elderly people, they didn't seem to notice them and they moved very slowly. "Why are you so old and see through?" Huerta whispered. "The one's here are transparent, something about the Stratum Lucidum. Keratinocytes move through each floor when they get older, while new ones are being added to house on that bottom floor where you woke up at" "You mean . . ." Huerta paused as he tried to comprehend what Laquanda was saying. "You mean, we were supposed to become keratinocytes?" "That's exactly what I'm saying. As they move through each floor they make their way to the 5th level where they will be let go." "Let go?" "They get rid of them, new ones are coming in, they don't need the old keratinocytes on the verge of death. Come on, we need to keep going" As they followed the old hollowed out wall, avoiding the old geezers hobbling along a loud new voice me their ears. "Hold it right there!" They spin around and see a keratinocyte in the form of a young short girl with chinky eyes standing in front them. "Where are you two going?" She yelled out. "Out the door" Laquanda answered. "OBJECTION!" She yelled out, "You're not going anywhere . . . Unless you take some of this pan de ube with you" The keratinocyte pulled a plastic bag out from behind her back containing the said bread. The two stared at her in shock. "Who are you?" Laquanda asked. "My name's Jessyca, I lead all the passing keratinocytes to the 5th level to be shed from the Epithelium House. " "So you know the way out then?" Huerta asked quickly and without thinking, which was totally normal for him. "Oh yeah, I even know how to get out without passing by Chrystina Taylor." "What's a Chrystina Taylor?" Huerta asked Jessyca gave him a funny look, "Surely you know who she is, I mean, Chrystina has been the queen of the Epithelium House since before that little Stratum Germinative made me a keratinocyte." "Chrystina Taylor is the ruler of the keratinocytes. Her step-father ruled and left the title to Chrystina, even though he has a daughter of his own. Haleigh, the mostawesomest of all the keratinocytes, was left with nothing after he was shed, but that's not going to last much longer" That last bit Laquanda had muttered under his breath. "I'm sorry, what was that?" Jessyca asked "I missed that last thing you said" "Nothing" Laquanda said before turning his back to her, "We need to keep going." "Where are you two heading to?" "We're heading for shedding" Huerta replied. "I can show you a short cut if you would like" "Sure, that's cool" Laquanda nodded, "Let's get going"
Haleigh watched as the trio raced up the staircase from a heavily shadowed spot on the beams above them. Soon the Epidermis would be hers once and for all. Soon she would take what was hers!
King Swain lay on his death bed, his two daughters stood before him. One, his daughter from his first marriage, beautiful and strong-headed, the other, his step-daughter powerful and intimidating. "Girls" he began, his voice quivering from the strain "I would want nothing more then to let both of you rule, but I can only choose one to take on the responsibilities of running the Epidermis . . .Chrystina, you will be the next ruler of this house."
Haleigh practically shock from her rage. "I will get what is mine" she whispered.
"Come on" Jessyca said as led them through a darkened path lit by only a few lamps hanging from the ceiling. "Where are we, the throne room isn't anywhere near here" "No, I told you that I was going to take you to the exit without passing through the throne room, remember?" Tracy frowned as he followed Jessyca through the hall. Suddenly the lights were gone and the group was engulfed in darkness, they could hear the sounds of footsteps, of a small gasp, someone was struggling. Then silence. The lights flickered back on. "Where's Laquanda?!" Jessyca called out, "I think we better worry about ourselves first, look!" Huerta said pointing further down the narrow hallway where an army of spider keratinocytes were making their way towards them. "Oye! It's time to get going!" Jessyca grabbed Huerta's upper arm and turned around and began running as fast as she could. She pulled him into a darkened turnoff that Huerta hadn' t noticed when they had walked past it. "Come on!" Jessyca yelled again. She let go of his arm and assumed he would follow her when she continued to run. In the middle of the hallway coming up quickly as Jessyca raced through was a thin plastic orange fence, it was barely visible through the darkness, but she saw it and she leapt as high as she could . . . Her foot caught in the fence and she fell. Her slipper was torn, "Oh no!" She cried out as Huerta stopped to help her up, the Keratinocytes were close. Their eyes got wide as she stumbled to her feet, ripping the shoe off her foot, it was too messed up to run in. "We have to keep going" Huerta yelled, panic filled his voice. They took off again. And once again they were forced to ground. This time they ran into something moving. "Laquanda!" Jessyca yelled out. "Finally! I found you guys!" He looked up and saw the hoard of Keratinocytes rampaging towards them, "Yeah, we should get going" He dragged the two to their feet and led them down the hall he was just exited from. "This way!" He called out. They burst through extremely large double doors, shutting them behind them. They could hear the sound of the keratinocytes colliding with the door outside. "Where are we?" Huerta asked aloud as he looked around the room in awe. It was large and ornately decorated. The shimmering lights and sparkling crystal windows shone brightly "We're in the Stratum Corneum. The topmost layer" Laquanda answered. "More then that. We're in the Throne Room" Jessyca added a bit nervously, "We have to get out of here before -" The shaking ground cut Jessyca off in mid-sentence. "Before what?" Echoed a monstrous voice coming from, of all places, the ceiling. They all looked up quickly. Hanging from a thick web was a giant keratinocyte. "It's her!" Jessyca whispered, her voice overflowing with fear. "Queen Chrysitna T, also known as Queen Gohma!" "Huerta!" Laquanda demanded, "You must fight her. You are the only one who can defeat her!" "Why me?" "There are stories about you, you're the chosen one sent from the heavens to rid us of the darkness. Only you can do it!" Huerta turned to see the giant spider-keratinocyte queen hovering above him laughing hysterically. "I can do this." He repeated over and over. He shut his eyes tight and when he opened them he was ready for battle. He longer wore the beat up old clothes he wore every other day, instead he was wearing a long green tunic, with brown tights and high brown hunting boots. On his head was green cap, one you might confuse with a sleeping cap. He reached for the sheath that was suddenly at his waist and pulled out the Kokiri sword ready for battle. His trusty sling-shot also ready at his waist. The monster attack and Huerta dodged. As Queen Chrystina turned searching for Huerta with her one giant eye Huerta pulled out his sling-shot and hit her eye dead center. Kokiri sword in hand he took one good slash at the injured keratinocyte queen and took her out."
"DUDE!" Laquanda cried out. "You did it!" Panting Huerta grinned at Laquanda and Jessyca, he turned back to the body of the keratinocyte queen as a small blue fairy rose from her body. Huerta approached it, a glass bottle in hand ready to catch it. Just as he uncorked the bottle the fairy it transformed into a gorgeous woman with long blue hair adorned with gold bands and ringlets hanging from the ends. Her skin itself had a bluish tint. She was dressed in a skimpy icy blue bikini. That was when Huerta noticed her claw like nails. This woman was beautiful, but obviously a force to be reckoned to with. As her feet touched the floor Huerta took in her height . . . or lack of it, she couldn't have been taller than 5 feet. She tossed her hair out her face before her hard gaze met Huerta's. It was a look that could freeze over Hell. Huerta took a step in both shock and fear. You would think that he would have learned that short women were the ones you really have to look out for. Behind him Laquanda dropped to one knee, "I have done all that you have asked, my lady, or should I say, Queen Haleigh" Haleigh's gaze turned to Laquanda's bowed head. "Yes you did quite well. I am very pleased" Laquanda rose to his feet and stepped to Haleigh's side, "What do we do with these two useless sacks of keratin?" Laquanda asked with an evil grin. "Dispose of them, they are not of any use to me" Haleigh replied with toss of her hand. "Dispose?" Huerta questioned quickly, "Laquanda, what is she talking about what's going on?" That's when it hit him, everything suddenly made sense, "You . . . The cut on your leg. . . You're disappearing . . . You're a keratinocyte!" "A bit slow aren't we? I was never on your side, I was never trying to get you out, you were just the only one who could take out the spider" "I should have known, how you always knew which way to go, someone living In the Stratum Basale would have never known all that stuff you knew" "And yet it took you until now to realize it" "Did you get shorter?" Jessyca asked out of the blue. "What?" Laquanda replied, "You look shorter." That's when Laquanda really look in his height loss, he was almost the same size as Haleigh . . . "What's going on?" He asked looking as his body in shock, "I'm turning into an Asian kerantinocyte" "Oh, did I forget to mention that? You traveling through the levels of the Epidermis means you're getting flatter, shorter. You being short, means you're practically useless to me . . . No, let me correct that, you are useless to me." "You promised me a share of your power!" Laquanda growled. "Did I? You must have misheard me, I would never promise my power, my right to rule, to a misshapen keratinocyte like you." Laquanda fell to knees as he was just about ready to charge at the new queen. "Well it looks like it's time for you to be shed." Haleigh said mockingly as she stood above Laquanda as he lay on the ground clutching his stomach in pain. She looked up just as the other two fell to their knees as well. "It looks like it's time for all of you to go." With a snap of her delicate hand big strong keratinocytes appeared and dragged the near lifeless bodies to the shedding site. "Bye now" Haleigh said laughing as she turned her back on the trio making her way through the grand throne room to her throne where she would rule for as long as she may.
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Thursday, April 3, 2008
The 5 Layers of Huerta’s Hell