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A man suspected dead returns to turn three peoples lives upside down.

Nine Circles

Chapter 1


There is an ear splitting crash. Nina stood with her hand over her mouth and her eyes fixated on the television. She stumbles forwards kicking the broken glass out of the way. Her hand shoots out in front of her to steady herself against the side of the couch.

“It can’t be,” she hisses to herself and sits down like a balloon deflating. “It just can’t be!”

“Everything okay in there honey?” Harry pops his head around the side of the door. Seeing the broken glass he rushes forwards and kneels down next to her. “You alright?”

“I’m fine,” she says with a wave of her hand. “Just a little light headed that’s all.”

“You sure?” he stands and leaves the room heading for the kitchen. "I'll clean this up for you."

Once alone Nina scans the room for the remote and finally locates it under a cushion. She turns the volume right up, just to
make sure she isn’t dreaming. She sits with her elbows on her knees. She cant take her eyes off of the television. She doesn't know whether to take what she is seeing as the truth or some sick, twisted joke.

They have to be mistaken! It just can't be.

Harry returns with the dustpan and starts to sweep. He stops midway through and stares up at his wife. "You look like you've seen a ghost.”

Nina doesn't answer. Her mouth feels filled with sand. Her skin feels like someone is stabbing her with jolts of white hot electricity.

She snaps her head to left with surprise. Harry is sat next to her with a hand on her shoulder. “What’s wrong honey?”

“I said I’m fine!” she growls and leaves the room heading upstairs. Her legs feel a little weak as she ascends the stairs. She lets out a sigh of relief as she reaches the top and stumbles down the hall into the spare bedroom. She stops for a minute, listening to see if Harry had followed. Satisfied he hadn’t she closes the door behind her and heads across the room to the bed. It moves to the right with ease as she makes for the grate in the corner of the room.

She prises the metal off of the wall with the tips of her nails. It pops and drops onto the carpet with a light thud. Inside is an old, cheap phone that looks battered and broken. The screen has a thick, jagged crack down the middle.

Despite its age the phone comes to life within seconds. She flicks through the menu’s searching for a number when it starts to buzz in her hands.

Without thinking she answers and places the phone to her ear. “Jacob?”

“Yea it’s me, we need to talk!”

“Have you heard from Michael?” She asks.

“Who knows where that crackpot is? He could be dead for all we know.”

“Find him Jacob. He needs to know!”

“I’ll do my best.”

Chapter 2


“You are a dirty drunk!” Sheila shouts. She clenches her fists then in a flash whips something metal across the room. It slams against the wall with a crack inches away from Michael's face.

He smiles back at her, grabs a clear bottle from the bedside table and takes a drowning gulp. “Yea I am sugar! There ain’t nothing on this earth going to change that.”

“Go to hell!” she screams. The walls shake as the door slams on her way out.

“You forgot your bra,” Michael cackles after her.

He clambers out of bed and pulls on a pair scuffed jeans. He runs a hand through greasy black hair and stumbles over to the sink to hurl up most of dinner. It bursts out of his mouth in thick chunks.

The door to his room creaks open.

“How did you find me?” Michael gasps between mouthfuls of puke.

“It wasn’t hard. You never were good at laying low,” Jacob glowers at him. His shadow fills the doorway like a huge hunk of brick.

“What do you want? Back to get me on the straight and narrow again are we?” Michael laughs and stands up straight, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand.

“I don’t think you’ve ever been on the straight and narrow. Not since the day you were born,” Jacob steps into the room glares around at the mess. “You’ve sunk low brother. Lower than usual.”

“My brother’s dead Jacob,” Michael growls. Fire burns in his eyes as he whips around with a gleaming knife clenched in a sweaty fist. “Now tell me what you’re doing here before me and this here knife get a little crazy on your face!”

Jacob shakes his head with a sigh then perches himself on the edge of the bed. “You and I both know, that isn’t going to happen!”

“Don’t test me boy. I’ve had a lot to drink, and sometimes things get a little fuzzy!”

"I don't doubt that. Do you think this is what Zeek would have wanted? You drowning your shit at the bottom of a bottle, fucking up your life!"

"Don't tell me what our brother would have wanted. He's dead Jacob. Locked away in that hell of his like a child in a fire!"

"Put down the knife Michael, your drunk!"

A moment of silence passes. They stare at each other with an intense hatred, like a furnace forever burning. Michael shuts his eyes for a second, then places the knife down on the work-top.

"What do you want?"

Jacob stands up and flicks on the television. The screen hums for a second before lighting up.

Michael stares at it for a long time, not saying a word. A small glimmer of hope bursts up from his stomach into his mouth then explodes. More vomit sloshes all over the floor at his feet. He drops to one knee to steady himself as the room starts to spin around and around his head. The world becomes blurred for a few seconds before the hope he felt burns away into anger.
He stands back up and lunges towards the television. His foot cracks as it hits the screen with a crunch. Blood bursts in all directions as he collapses onto the floor, shivering.

“Lies!” he grunts.

Chapter 3


“Come on get up, don’t pass out on me now!” Jacob struggles to hold his brother up as he makes his way out the front door to the car. He heaves Michael against the hood and rummages for his keys.

“Lies!” Michael whimpers as tears start streaming down the side of his face. “Why are you doing this to me?”

“I’m not doing anything to you brother. You did this to yourself!” He finally pulls his keys out of his pocket and clicks the button on its side. “Jesus you’ve gained weight.”

It takes a few minutes to get him Michael manoeuvred around the side of the car and onto the back seat. He breathes a sigh of relief as he slides into the driver’s side and flicks the engine on. It rumbles to life with a purr. He pulls away from Michael's hole and is soon cruising down the motorway at a decent speed.

“You throw up back there and I’ll kill you myself!” But Michael is already asleep, snoring.

Jacob reaches into his pocket and pulls out his phone. “Nina?”

“It’s me, have you found him?” Her voice crackles at him.

“Yea I got him. He’s not in good shape.”

“I was afraid you were going to say that. What can I do?” She sounds upset.

“Not much. Buy a few bottles of water and some rope.”


“Yea, he needs to go cold turkey. No other way around it!”

“We can’t do that to him. Can we?”

Jacob shakes his head. “You still like to play nice don’t you?”

A moment of silence, then, “Okay. I’ll get what we need, just tell me where to meet.”

“You already know where I’m headed.”

“Is it safe? After last time?”

“It should be. Zeek stopped all that remember?” He clicks the phone off and puts it on the passenger seat without waiting for her response.

The next couple of hours pass like a slug doing a marathon. Michael is still snoring on the back seat. Jacob finally pulls into a rundown looking parking lot and switches off the engine. He sits in the car for a long while scanning the area in front of him with the intensity of a madman.

The graveyard looks deadly silent at night. Headstones poke out of the ground like jagged teeth reaching for the sky. The thick iron gates to his right have rusted and fallen half off of their hinges. Not a single light shines in the area. Even the moon hasn’t come out to play, instead the starless sky clings to a blanket of mist.

Deciding it is safe he steps out into the cold night air. His breathing comes in steady clouds of steam as he opens the back door. Michael is still slumped in the same position, breathing through his nose. His eyes are tightly shut.

He slaps a hand on the side of Michaels face startling him awake.

“What the hell?” He grunts and pushes Jacob away.

“Wake up! We’re here.”

Chapter 4


Nina can’t believe she is standing in this place again, after all this time. She thought this part of her life was over. She had moved on to something that resembled normal. She is normal, at least now she is anyway.

Nina runs a finger along the circular table in the middle of the room. Dust cakes her finger. Glass and bits of concrete litters every inch of the floor. There is a hole in the wall on the opposite side to the entrance that is covered in spider webs. The drapes that used hang all around were on the floor, rotted and filled with dirt.

She shakes her head with a sense of dread. If she was back here that could mean only one thing.

The door slams above her and Nina whips out a knife from her back pocket.

“Relax,” Jacob stumbles down the stone steps with Michael hanging on his right shoulder. “It’s just us.”

Nina lets out a sigh of relief. She shoves the knife back into her pocket then rushes across the room to grab Michael’s other shoulder. They both drag him across the floor leaving a trail in the dust behind them. The table groans as he is slung on top of it with a thud.

“Nostalgia,” Jacob grunts and stares around at the room. “It’s hard to believe we all used to live here huh?”
“I can’t believe it either,” Nina smiles and wraps her arms around Jacob. “It’s so good to see you after all this time,” her soft voice warms his heart.

“Have you gone soft on me?”

“I always was the soft one remember?” Nina let go and took a step back.

“Yea but you did what you needed to when it counted. That’s all we needed from you.”

Nina nods and points to Michael. “What are we going to do with him?”

“We are going to sober him up,” Jacob's face spreads into a wicked grin. “And it's more than likely going to hurt. You bring what I asked?”

Nina turns and produces a black holdall from behind a chunk of concrete and passes it to him. He opens it up and pulls out the long snakelike pile of rope. They both start tying Michael to the table. After checking he is secure Jacob gives him another slap on the side of the face. Michael groans, yawns, then opens his eyes.

“What the hell is going on?” He shouts and pushes against his bonds.

“We are only doing this because we care Michael!” Nina whispers close to his ear.

“Like shit you are,” he looks around at the pair of them. “Hello Nina, long time no see!”

“Hi,” she gives him a nervous wave.

“Now let me the hell out of here!” his eyes burn with an anger neither of them had seen for a long time. “I swear to god if you leave me down here I will hunt the pair of you down and murder you in your sleep!”

“Do you have to be so melodramatic?” Jacob laughs and pulls a bottle of water out of the bag. “This stuff," he points at the clear bottle in his hand. "Is what's called water Michael. You had better get used to it, because that is all your drinking from now on.”
The ropes creak as Michael starts to pull on his bonds. He is strong, even for a drunk. He tosses and turns in a vicious attempt to break free but the knots hold. “I’m warning you two…”

“Oh shut up and drink!” Nina snaps causing both men to stop and stare at her in bewilderment. “Zeek needs you to be sober!”
Michael lets out a sudden ear splitting roar that reverberates off of every wall in the room. Nina covers her ears and stumbles backwards a few steps.

“My brother is dead!” Michael roars. “And it should have been me! I should be the one rotting in hell, not him!” Tears start to stream down his face as he shuts his eyes. He struggles against the ropes on last time before falling silent.

Nina uncovers her ears. She places a warm hand on his forehead. “It’s okay Michael. We are here for you!”
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