A Half-Hour of Hell

📅 Published on December 23, 2020

“A Half-Hour of Hell”

Written by Ryan Harville
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on CreepypastaStories.com are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

ESTIMATED READING TIME — 12 minutes

Rating: 10.00/10. From 4 votes.
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Cal’s phone slipped from his hand, landing in his lap and startling him awake. He looked around the room, orienting himself. He was still in the recliner, its familiar comfort grounding him and bringing him back to the present.

He’d dozed off while staring at his phone, which had become his habit lately. Turn on the TV, watch until bored, stare at the phone until passing out. Cal pressed his legs down until the footrest on the recliner retracted, then stood and stretched, listening to the small pops from his spine.

From his spot on the couch, George raised his head. The golden retriever watched him as he stood, one eyebrow up as if he’d just been asked a question.

“Always vigilant,” Cal said to the dog. “Aren’t you supposed to be watching the place while I sleep?”

George’s only response was to lower the one brow and raise the other.

Cal patted his thigh. “Come on,” he said. “I guess we both need to eat something.”

He led George into the kitchen. The dog sat patiently as Cal brought out the dry food and filled his bowl. George immediately went to work on it.

“I’m glad one of us has an appetite,” Cal said. He was rarely hungry, and mostly fed himself out of self-preservation. He knew he needed food but didn’t care much if he ate at all. One of the many gifts of that depression had generously bestowed upon him.

Cal sighed and went to the refrigerator, then peered inside at the meager groceries of a man not too far removed from his divorce.

“I’m thinking scrambled eggs,” he said, looking back at George. The dog ignored him, preferring to continue crunching away. “Yeah, you’re right. Probably should have some toast too.”

Scrambled eggs and toast. Cheap, quick, and barely any clean up afterwards. Plus, cooking and cleaning made him feel like he’d accomplished something during the day. Sometimes it was the small victories that made the difference, or at least that’s what his therapist had said.

He gently placed the egg container down on the countertop, then opened the bread. He put two slices into the toaster and pushed the handle down. The slots began to glow with a faint orange light as the heating filaments warmed up.

Cal reached into the cabinet and grabbed a bowl. George sat and stared at him, the dog’s eyes dark and focused. His food was already gone.

“You’re never satisfied,” Cal said. “Well, you’re gonna have to wait to see if there are leftovers because I’m not cooking just for you.”

Cal cracked an egg on the rim of the bowl in one practiced motion, letting the golden yolk free without spilling a drop on the countertop.

“Okay, I might make an extra for you,” he said, discarding the empty shell and grabbing another egg. “You’ve been pretty good today, even if you did fall asleep on the job–”

There was a metallic pop from the toaster and George jumped back. The sound coupled with George’s reaction made Cal jump as well. He felt his breath catch painfully in his lungs, and the egg he was holding slipped from his fingers.

Everything slowed. Cal’s perception tightened into a single point of focus. The egg was falling through the air, and he could see that its texture was much rougher than his sense of touch had led him to believe. Its ovoid shape spun end over end, its descent to the floor as inevitable as death. Its whirling shadow grew larger and larger on the tiled floor.

The egg hit the floor, and he watched as cracks grew from the point of impact, as the yolk was driven between the shards, as something useful became nothing more than a mess.

Cal’s pulse hammered in the sides of his neck.

“You’re okay,” he told himself.

Small beads of sweat began to form on his forehead.

“Everything is fine. Just relax.”

The fingers of his left hand began to tingle.

“Clean this up, and then just…go sit…down.”

His knees became weak, the muscles around each joint failing to keep him upright.

“God…goddammit,” he said and sat down hard.

George was there in an instant, his paws in Cal’s lap and his head beneath Cal’s chin. Cal raised a weak hand up to the dog’s head and stroked the soft fur behind his ears. He let his weight rest on George, who supported him, keeping him from slumping over.

“Hey, George,” he whispered. “Hey, buddy. I’m okay. I just need to make it to my chair. My medicine is right there on the table. Get the meds, calm down, go to sleep. Come on, let’s go.”

Cal placed his hands on the floor and began to crawl, not trusting himself to stand. George kept his pace, never moving more than a few inches from his side. After an eternity of pulling himself across the carpet, he reached his chair.

It was a brown suede mountain, its summit so far away that Cal wanted to weep. He readied himself, reaching an arm up that insurmountable cliffside and gripping it tightly.

“Gotta get up,” he said.

But what if that’s it? a voice answered. The last bit of exertion that pushes you over the edge.

Cal shook his head. “I’m fine. There is nothing physically wrong with me.”

Are you willing to bet your life on it?

He took a shallow breath and lifted himself from the floor, then half-sat, half-fell into the recliner.

George whined.

“I’m fine, buddy,” he said. “We made it. Just gotta relax.”

Cal forced himself to take a deep breath through his nose, expanding his diaphragm instead of his chest. Belly breaths, his therapist called them. He held it, counted, then slowly released it from his mouth.

Without warning his heart rate increased, pounding in his chest as if he’d run to the chair instead of crawled.

Cal’s breathing quickened. His chest rose and fell rapidly with each sharp breath.

See? This is it. It’s over. Your heart is going to rupture. I always knew there was something wrong with it, some defect that none of the doctors could ever find.

“I… don’t want…to die,” he managed.

Well, then we’ll need to call an ambulance.

“No. We’re not doing that again.”

Then you’re going to die.

Cal wanted to argue, wanted to shake his head. But moving was hard. His arms were leaden. He looked down at his chest and watched the force of his heartbeat shake the muscles there.

“This will be over soon,” he said. “Thirty minutes. Maybe an hour.”

Or, the voice whispered. This could be one of the bad ones. You may be glued to that chair for hours.

George whined and placed his head on top of Cal’s hand. Cal tried to reach up to pet him but only managed to make his fingers twitch.

What’s poor George going to do when you’re gone, huh? Who will take care of him? You have no friends to check on him. You saw to that. Pushed them away one at a time.

“Not my fault,” Cal breathed. “I never meant for that to happen.”

Yes, you did, the voice said. They only wanted to help, and you selfishly–

“They…were better off without me,” Cal said.

You’re probably right about that, the voice tittered.

Cal looked to the ceiling and stared at the yellowing paint. “Please God, stop this.”

The voice fired back, enraged. There is no God! You know that, but you’ll sit there and cry to him like it’s going to help. God died on the dirt road like the rest of them!

The ceiling changed, glowing faintly like a projection screen. Cal closed his eyes tightly.

“No. Not tonight, please,” he said.

He opened his eyes and the ceiling was back to normal. Cal breathed a heavy sigh of relief.

George nudged his hand, and Cal found the strength to pet him. It was a slow process, but better than nothing. He moved to stroke underneath the dog’s chin and felt his phone there between George’s head and the chair.

Good, now we can call an ambulance, the voice said.

Cal wrapped his fingers around the phone and shook his head. “I’m going to be fine. I don’t need an ambulance.”

His heart leapt painfully in his chest.

Call them, the voice pleaded. Before your heart locks up like a clenched fist.

“It’s not my heart,” Cal said with a wince. “It’s the muscles in my chest tightening. My heart is fine, I had it tested last time.”

A blood clot then. Formed in your legs after hours of sitting in this chair feeling sorry for yourself. It’s finally made its way all the way up to your heart. You should be thankful, really. If it had hit your brain you may have survived. An invalid, a bigger burden than you already are.

Cal knew it was possible. He had been sedentary for too long. Hadn’t he felt a pain in his calf yesterday? Or was he imagining it? No, it was pain. A warm, throbbing pain of warning. But there was no pain, he was sure of it. Wasn’t he?

“There is no clot,” he said.

But there is. It’s traveling, searching for a place to lodge itself and end you.

He looked at his phone. Every part of him wanted to unlock it and press those three little numbers that would make everything okay. Within minutes he’d hear the sirens approaching and the medics would save him.

Call them before it’s too late.

“No,” Cal said. “Not again. I’m not going to go through that ever again. The doctors looked at me like I was crazy. The medics thought I was on drugs! And after all of that I still owe nine-hundred dollars for the ambulance ride.”

Well, it’s your funeral.

The left side of his chest seized, tightening and sending off little currents of sharp pains that traveled to his shoulder.

“No, no, no,” he said breathlessly. He swiped his thumb over the phone’s screen, unlocking it and bringing up the contact list.

Cal dialed the number and pressed the speakerphone icon.

Finally listening to reason, eh? Good…wait, you’re not calling…God, you’re pathetic.

The phone rang once, twice.

She’s not going to answer! You know that!

But on the third ring, she did.

“Hello?”

“Hey, Jen,” Cal said.

“Cal? Hey, it’s good to hear from you but now isn’t a good time–”

Cal took a deep breath. “Yeah, I’m sorry, I just–”

“You’re having a panic attack,” she said. “I can hear it in your voice. Jesus, Cal.”

“Yes,” he said, trying not to cry from the relief of hearing her voice. “I can’t catch my breath and I can barely move.”

“Is George with you?”

“He’s right here.”

“Okay, good,” she said. “Keep him close, try to relax, and I’m sure it’ll all be over soon.”

“I’m trying, Jen. But I’ve got chest pains, and maybe a blood clot or something. I stopped myself from calling 911 but I don’t know if I should’ve just done it,” his words came faster and faster, outrunning his breath. “Maybe this is it, you know? I know that it could just be my usual symptoms but what if it’s not this time and I don’t do anything about it and –”

“Stop it!” Jen hissed. “Just stop it, Cal! There is nothing physically wrong with you, there never is. All of the doctor visits and tests and emergencies and nothing was wrong.”

“I-I know,” Cal stuttered. “I just needed–”

“That’s just it, Cal,” she said. “You always needed something. That’s why I left, because I can’t be what you need. Nothing I said ever helped, nothing I did worked. I’m sorry, Cal, truly, but it’s been two years since the divorce, and I can’t be your crutch. Not anymore, and definitely not today.”

Cal could feel his pulse in his ears, like the tide slamming into the shore. “Why not today?”

Jen sighed. “I’m at my engagement party. Chris asked me to marry him, and I said yes. I had to step out just to take this call.”

Cal let out a shaky breath. “I… I didn’t know. I’m sorry.”

Why are you sorry?! the voice said. She fucked him in your house! In your bed! You saw the emails, the messages, the pictures. Have some self-respect.

“No, I’m sorry,” she said. “I should’ve told you sooner. I just didn’t want to hurt you.”

“More,” Cal said, surprised by the cold knife-edge in his tone.

“What?”

“You didn’t want to hurt me more.

Jen was silent.

“How long will it be, Jen?” Cal said, his heart absolutely thudding against his breastbone. “How long before you grow bored of him? Or you decide he’s inconvenient and you find someone else to fuck?!”

“I am not doing this right now,” she said, her voice cracking into a sob. “Thanks for ruining this day.”

The line went dead, and she was gone.

Cal bit back a scream. George rushed in front of him, placing his paws on Cal’s knees. His bark sounded like a question.

“It’s fine, buddy,” Cal said. “I’m okay–”

But he wasn’t. That soft glow came again, not just from the ceiling this time but from everywhere. The world became ethereal.

He was back in the Hindu Kush mountains, headed toward Kabul, and hopefully a nap. He sat in the rear of the Humvee, holding his M4 to his chest. They were last in the convoy, a bookend to the lead vehicle, three up-armored SUVs between them. The SUVs were driven by soldiers but filled with civilians, contractors of all types. A few IT guys, a helo pilot, and at least one interpreter, all being transported to their new job sites.

Ahead, the convoy leader came to an abrupt stop as a man led a line of goats across the road, his Kandhari cap bright white in the winter morning sunlight. Children walked along the side of the road, some pulling along small carts with their younger siblings in tow. Cal remembers this moment: the snow from the night before hiding from the morning light in whatever shadows it could find, its gleaming white a stark contrast to the red-brown mud.

There was a thump, small for an instant, like hitting a speed bump. Then they were slapped by the Hand of God as an explosion rocked the convoy.

The Humvee flipped, and Cal’s world spun with it. Then it was still, and he hung upside down in his seat, the belt saving him from being tumbled like laundry in a dryer.

Corporal Laramie’s voice cut through Cal’s dizziness.

“Fire!” Laramie screamed. “Egress! Egress!”

Cal pulled his seatbelt cutter from the front of his IOTV and hooked it over the belt, then severed it with a quick tug. He fell to the roof but managed to brace himself with his elbow. In the front seat, Staff Sergeant Greene’s body hung from his seatbelt, unmoving. A shard of metal had nearly taken his head off. What was left of his neck released a thick stream of blood in time with his slowing heartbeat.

And there was nothing Cal could do.

There was screaming as he crawled from the Humvee. From the shadows of alleys came armed men, all crying glory to God. Cal pulled himself up to a kneeling position and leveled his M4, flipping the selector switch to Fire. The men began firing first. Small spurts of dust rose from the ground where bullets struck, and all around him was the ping and high whine of lead on steel, bullets against vehicles.

Cal opened fire. His first two shots went wide but the third was true, and the fourth. The man closest to him spun and fell in the dirt. He did not rise.

That left four, but Cal didn’t even have time to take aim before the staccato rhythm of a machine gun filled the morning. He quickly glanced to his left, and there was PFC Dawson, sitting in the gunner’s seat of the lead Humvee. He strafed the gun left to right, creating a cloud of sand and a hail of rocks.

Another snapshot in Cal’s mind: the four men silhouetted in the dust with the sun at their backs as bullets chewed them. They never even cried out, just shook as if dancing, each jerk of their bodies punctuated by bursts of pink mist as the sunlight filtered through their blood.

And then it was so quiet.

Cal, Laramie, and Dawson stumbled from vehicle to vehicle looking for survivors but found none. The IED had detonated directly in the middle of the convoy, and the few people who had managed to crawl away from the wreckage had met their end in a hail of bullets.

“Enough,” Cal said, and for a moment the mountain town faded. “I don’t want to see anymore.”

But we haven’t gotten to the best part! The voice said, his voice said.

“No, please, no,” Cal pleaded but he was turning his head, because this had already happened, the tracks had been laid years ago and he had no choice but to ride along.

He looked to the edge of the road, to the children, to what was left of them lying in the shadows and snow.

“I don’t want this in my head anymore,” Cal sobbed.

In the red snow–

“Please, stop.”

–in the black shadows.

“Stop!” he screamed, and the town was gone.

He slumped back into his recliner, covered in sweat and hyperventilating.

If you want it out of your head, the voice said. You know how to do it. Simply make a hole and let it all fall out.

Cal stood, his legs shaky.

The TV powered on, and he was facing an image of himself on the screen.

“It’s too much, isn’t it?” the other him said. “How much more do you have to take? You’ve suffered enough. We have suffered enough.”

Cal nodded his head, fresh tears falling to the carpet.

“Then end it,” the other said. “No more heart-hammering panic, no more intrusive thoughts of Jen and Chris in your bed, and no more dead children, Cal. You won’t ever have to see them again. Just take the few steps to the bedroom, get your pistol from the safe, and then…rest.”

Cal stepped toward the bedroom.

“Yes, Cal,” the other cooed. “It’s time to rest.”

Something brushed past his hand and he stopped. There was George, dropping the orange bottle of Cal’s pills to the carpet. He nuzzled against Cal’s hand and whined.

“Leave him, Cal,” the other him said. “He’s better off without you. He can have a home with someone better, someone whole.”

Cal looked into George’s brown eyes and smiled.

“No,” Cal said. “As shitty as it is, he wants to stay here, with me.”

He stroked the fur beneath George’s chin, then knelt and grabbed the bottle.

“No!” the other cried. “Don’t you dare!

He opened the bottle and shook out two pills.

The other’s voice rose into a cry. “You want to keep doing this?! Why?! You fucking coward. You useless cuckold. Oblivion is better than being broken and you know it. Don’t–”

Cal tossed the pills into his mouth and chewed, staring his other self down as he swallowed the bitter medicine.

The TV snapped off.

This isn’t over, the voice said from far away. One day it’ll be the barrel in your mouth instead of the pills.

Cal’s thoughts began to soften, and he laid down on the carpet.

“Maybe,” he whispered as the meds started to work and he began to drift. “But not today, asshole.”

Finally, he slept, his arm around George, the dog’s body warm against his side.

* * * * * *

Cal woke to sunlight piercing through the cracks between the blinds. George lifted his head and stared at him.

“Hey, boy,” Cal said. “You ready to go outside?”

George wagged his tail and bolted towards the back door. Cal followed.

“Maybe when you come back in, we can have those eggs, huh?” he said, opening the door. George shot out like a bolt of golden light, making wide circles in the dewy grass.

Cal walked back to the kitchen. The broken egg was still there from last night.

He grabbed a handful of paper towels and began to pick up the pieces.

Rating: 10.00/10. From 4 votes.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available


Written by Ryan Harville
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

🔔 More stories from author: Ryan Harville


Publisher's Notes: N/A

Author's Notes: N/A

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Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on CreepypastaStories.com are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

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