A Letter From Hell - Archie's reply
by Sue N.

Hello, Jack.

Surprised to hear from me? But what surprises you more -- that I have
survived and am sane, or that I can so calmly speak your name without
shrieking or falling into a fit? Tell me, Jack, how does it feel to be
rotting in hell when everyone else you have ever placed there has managed
to get out?

For I am out, you see. I am free, Jack, I am alive. I have found my
release from hell, and will not be returning.

Oh, yes, I know. For so long hell was the only world I knew, the only
world I ever thought I would inhabit. You did that to me, Jack. And God
has damned you for it. You took away every shred of pride, of dignity, of
manhood I had ever possessed and turned them into worthless dust. You
tortured my body, bent my mind and damned near wrecked my soul. I grew to
hate the light, for fear others would see what I had become, and feared
the dark, because you owned the dark. And in the dark, you came to own me.

How you hated me! And why? Was it because I came from privilege and you
did not? Was it because I made friends and you could not? Or was it merely
because you hate everyone who is not you, you hate us who are smaller than
you because we ARE smaller and therefore weaker, and you hate those who
are bigger because they ARE bigger and are therefore stronger? Or is it
merely that you hate yourself because of who and what you are, and you
hate the rest of us because we are not you and never will be?

Which is worse, Jack: the hell you are in now, or the one you made for
yourself?

I doubt anything could be worse than the hell you made for me. It damned
near consumed me. Even when I was imprisoned by the French and Spanish,
nothing they could do me -- no punishment, no beating, not even that
horrible oubliette -- could begin to equal the horrors you inflicted upon
me, the degradation, the pain, the shame. I was in prison long before they
ever captured me, and you were my jailer.

What prison of mere stone and bars could compare to the one you built for
me, using my own body, my own mind? The Spanish are ingenious at torture,
Jack, but there are lessons even they could learn from you. How could
their Inquisition be worse than yours, when, whatever its horrors, theirs
is at least intended to save oneís soul, while yours was meant only to
destroy it?

How many nights have I awakened drenched in a cold sweat and screaming
your name in mindless terror? Tell me, Jack, is your hell anything like
mine? Whose name do you shriek when the demons beset you? Is it Horatioís?
Or Captain Pellewís? Which of them has become your jailer?

My only regret about your death is that I did not see it happen, that I
did not get to watch the life draining from you as you had drained it from
me. What were your thoughts as you lay dying, Jack? Whose name did you
curse first? Was it Horatioís, because he never let you beat him down, as
the rest of us did? Or was it Captain Pellewís, because, recognizing your
evil for what it was, he finally put an end to it? I wish I could have
been there, Jack. I wish I could have seen you die. Perhaps then your hold
upon me would have been broken all the sooner.

For it is broken now, I assure you. The doors of my prison, of my hell,
have been thrown open, and I have been released. I walk in sunshine now,
Jack, I welcome its light, its warmth; I no longer turn my face from its
splendor. I do not cower in shadows, I do not flinch before anotherís
eyes, and, yes, I have even learned to bear, and at times cherish, the
touch of anotherís hand upon me. I do not choke upon my own shame, Jack,
and my days of whimpering are done. Oh, true, I am still not entirely easy
in the dark, and my sleep is not as untroubled as I should like, but I
reckon some scars must always remain when a soul has been as thoroughly
flayed as mine. And I can live with that, Jack. Not in spite of it, but
WITH it.

I can laugh again, Jack, I can smile and joke and sing, I can see beauty
and not resent or hate it. And, oh, by the by, Jack, I have stopped
cursing and blaming God, for I know the evil was yours, and not His. I am,
you see, at peace. How you must hate me for that!

Oh, yes, I know, you are saying you see Horatioís fine hand in all this.
And well you should. He found me in prison and refused to let me die, when
that was all I desired. He helped me, as he has always done.

But do you know who really is responsible for setting me free, Jack? Shall
I tell you? It was ME! I survived, you bastard, and then I began to live,
because I proved stronger than either of us had ever guessed. Yes, me,
little Archie, your ìboy,î who screamed in the night and had fits -- I
released myself from hell! Horatio unlocked the door, and even opened it,
but he could not make me walk through; only I could do that.

And I did. With small, uncertain, faltering steps at first, but more
easily, more surely, with every day that passed. I am free, Jack, I am at
peace, I am well, and I am whole. I was beaten and bent by you, but never
really broken. You failed to destroy me. And now I am here, in the light,
free and happy, while you are in hell.

Goodbye, Jack. Yes, it has been a long time, and I have no doubt you miss
me. But, as Horatio said, things have changed. You have no power over me
now. Enjoy your eternity in hell, Jack. You will be enjoying it without
me.

Never yours again,

Archie Kennedy