Scourge of Sheol: a Novella, by Erin M. McDermott

This story started as a simple scenario the author created to explain to questioning agnostic/atheist friends how God can allow terrible things to happen and still love us without there being a contradiction. It then turned into a full-fledged novella, and it is the author's highest hope that it can be used one day as a tool for understanding.

Scourge of Sheol is available NOW to pre-order for $0.99 for a limited time, and is released everywhere to read in full February 27, 2017 --
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In the near future, an incurable plague has infiltrated every city in the world and the mind of every victim it meets . . . every mind, aside from that of Mr. Abram, a wealthy business magnate in Manhattan.
Mr. Abram witnessed the scourge first hand when his beloved wife fell ill before him. First, sight is turned black, then hallucinations, then with every misstep the patient takes in the dark of her mind, comes a new form of blood-letting, bone-dissolving torture. Finally, if the disease is not put on hold through induced coma, comes death.

In spite of his apparent immunity and the mountains of wealth he heaped into research for a cure, no patient on earth has yet been led to survival.

It’s not until Mr. Abram’s son also falls victim to the disease that he learns just how far his research endowments have gone. A virtual reality environment, Sheol, was created to aid and guide the patient interacting with the disease – a disease which can itself think. There is a possibility to save his boy, but the method will test the limits of a son’s faith through fear, and a father’s love through sacrifice.

What are the bounds of the love of a father for his son, and will it be enough to save him? Will it be enough to save the world in this Christian allegory?



Adam kicked his legs toward the sun as his father launched him on the swing, over his head, into the blue. The boy squealed with laughter behind a surgical mask as he soared. Mr. Abram ran under Adam’s legs as the swing reached its apex, and turned to face the boy. They were both laughing now.

It had been so long since he’d seen Adam laugh. Mr. Abram tried to think back to the last time. It was before the boy was sent away. It was before Adam’s mother lie on the floor with darkening sight and blood springing through invisible perforations in her skin. Her skeleton, it had begun to melt away. Those sharp features beneath delicate porcelain - her cheeks, the tip of her nose, her fine jawline and chin, dissolving. Then every sinew, every tendon snapped loudly as her shoulders, knees, hips ripped asunder beneath unbroken skin. Her shrieks were at first loud enough, shrill enough to puncture Mr. Abram’s chest, his very heart, until they too dissolved . . .

As Adam picked up speed again on the descent, he let out another gleeful “Woooo!” His dark hair flew forward above a rosy, flushed forehead. It was like a warm, spring day, even though it was the first day of winter. The previous week was unusually frigid, even for New York City, and today marked a welcome reprieve. People walked through Central Park happily taking in the sunshine. What’s more—infections were at an all-time low since the onset of the epidemic. Strangers in white and blue masks waved at one another. One would have thought from the vibrancy in the air that today marked the end of a war, or at least the end of winter, but of course, the worst was yet to come. On a paved pathway nearby, an old man pushed an aluminum cart, ringing a bell.

Mr. Abram knew from the color of his boy’s cheeks that it was about time for a break. “Hey, kiddo, I’m gonna get us some ice cream! Can you believe ice cream in December? Stay here with Miss Nancy. Nance, I’ll be right back. You want some?”

“No, thank you, I’m fine Mr. Abram,” said Miss Nancy, her typically clear voice muffled by a mask which matched Adam’s. Then she rose from a bench to take closer watch over the boy.

Mr. Abram gave Adam a playfully rough rub on the top of his head as the boy swung past and then he jogged off. He cut through the brown grass and down to the old, masked man with the aluminum cart. It might be spoiling the boy a little, but Mr. Abram didn’t care. His schedule was cleared and he would not dwell on thoughts of his late wife around Adam. He was determined to make today a happy day for his son. Two pre-packaged ice cream bars were bought and he unwrapped them as he quickly walked back to the swings.

“I hope chocolate is OK,” called out Mr. Abram, as he reached the top of the hill again, advancing toward his son.

Adam’s mask was slipped down around his neck and he drank from a water fountain as his father yelled over to him. The boy turned, water dripping from his chin, and shouted, “Yeah!”

Still grinning widely, he brought a sleeve toward his face to mop up the liquid. Before his hand made it, the boy froze. His smile disappeared. His eyes lost focus and stared ahead.

“Dad. Dad! I can’t see! I can’t see, Dad! It’s going dark! Dad?” The boy whimpered and his hands groped wildly at the air in front of him.

“Put him out! Put him out, Nance. Nancy!” commanded Mr. Abram.

Nancy was already breaking out an automatic syringe when Mr. Abram called to her. She stepped to Adam’s side and with one hand she pressed the syringe into his neck and released the spring-loaded plunger. With her other hand, she caught the boy as he collapsed, and she lowered him gently to the ground. Nancy immediately began checking his eyes, then ripped open his coat and shoved sleeves and pant legs out of the way to check his skin.

Mr. Abram had dropped the ice cream in the dirt and sprinted to his son’s side. He fell to his knees and inspected all the patches of skin Miss Nancy exposed, darting his hands from one site to the next, examining. “No, no, no, no,” he frantically whispered.

Then, Mr. Abram laid his hands on his son’s face, gently pressing into his cheekbones, his brow bones, and the tip of his chin. Tears tumbled out of the father’s wide open eyes, but he did not sob. His massive hands trembled but he grabbed Miss Nancy firmly on one shoulder and said, “I think we got him in time. Thank you, Nancy.” Mr. Abram nodded at Miss Nancy, taking a second for a breath. “That was well done. Now let’s get him to the hospital—quickly.”


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