They Say Hell is a Place in Space

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Submitted: September 06, 2019

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Submitted: September 06, 2019

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I’m sure in one way or another, we all deserve to burn. Not for eternity, perhaps, but at least for some time depending on the severity. But deep down, maybe we all deserve eternity. You’ve felt it too, haven’t you? A quiet moment of arousal in the eyes of a man on his deathbed, or the urge to crush on noticing the tiny neck of a vulnerable baby. Wanting to shove a stranger in front of a speeding car or train, and an abhorrent mixture of lust, hatred and despair on seeing the look of disappointment in a loved one’s eyes. To anyone in conversation, of course, you’re going to deny. You’re going to lie to their face about your virtues and failings, and maybe even your accomplishments in some vain attempt to get into their pants.

But down in Hell, from above you in Heaven, or maybe even perched on your shoulder is a being who sees, hears, even tastes it all. Every shot of alcohol, every morning of aftertaste after a long night of drugs and fellatio, and every time you prayed harm come to your friend and neighbor. You may even be aware of your guilt, or perhaps even fate to burn.

You imagine exotic, elaborate forms of sexual, physical, perhaps even emotional forms of torment and torture; maybe being stirred in a vat of boiling oil, or tossed into a blender and waking up in one piece every day for the process to repeat, or a slow, salt-coated pair of hands slowly peeling the skin from your body with the pointy, jagged ends of their fingernails, but no, the Devil, God, and even Death have a much less active imagination.

Imagine the costs and expenses of torturing even one soul in such specific ways. The millions of gallons of oil used over billions of years, or the wages per hour of paying some crafty spirit to dismantle you with expensive tools, or the health risks which would come from so much dead, rotten skin being trapped under the yellow, fungi-infested fingernails of the great witch Baba Yaga.

Better yet, the very souls who are damned are given the opportunity to work themselves. It is upon the backs of the rapists, murderers and chronic masturbators that an empire of their judges has been built. With pickaxe in one hand and a whip in another,  an infinite line of souls urge each other onward, slowly chipping away at an asteroid of immeasurable size until it finds the shape of a city suited to the spirits’ rule.

For my position, however, I like to think that is hardly different from any old day job back on Earth,  maybe even something fun, like working at Seaworld. In my workspace with four other souls, we attend the needs of some sort of space-cows on the outer edges of the Hell asteroid by docking them into house-sized hollowed out silicone breast shaped cups and feeding them through the rubber nipples, scooping feed and barrels of milk in through the holes their tongues hungrily stick through.

“I’m starting to really warm up to that one,” I say to the man next to me, pointing at the creature with blue and yellow spots running up and down the bridge of its snout. “you got any idea what we’re feeding them for?”

“Don’t get too attached,” he responds with a mutter, “they’re probably some kind of livestock… or worse…”

I make eye contact with the runt of the herd as they crowd around the two entry ports for our feed, and it’s twisted face almost gives off a sense of melancholy, as if to say, get out of this place. But where to? Beyond a twisted wall of artificial veins, space junk, and carved rock is an empty void of space; not even a single star within sight. So where to? I continue working on menial tasks, but in spacing out make one too many mistakes, spilling a cart of food all across the floor. Most of it simply rolls around and stays in one place, but at least five or six pounds of the stuff reach the beginning of a magma incline; rolling all the way down and infecting the gods’ and spirits’ precious space-fuel. Countless rebellious and lazy souls inhabit the lava in an endless cycle of fiery rebirth and torture, but pet food? Hell, no.

This sends our guard into an infuriated frenzy with a wrath which none of the five of us have ever seen or experienced, and the once slothful demon rises from its pit, its bony eye sockets glowing with a blindingly bright orange hue which matches it luminescent, pulsating veins running up and down its choppy long horns. The strangely horned bleach-white skull almost looks like an empty mask when compared to its red, fleshy wrinkled body of muscle, cartilage, and dark orange tribal tattoos.

He stands up straight and begins running up the incline; with better composure, he would be at least ten stories tall, but even as he hunches over to pick me up with two meaty fingers, he towers over us like ants.

A single liter of lava drops from his arm and a coworker screams in agony, but it is nothing compared to what I have in store for me as it throws me into the pit with full force like a dart at a board; before I can even process what is happening I am totally encased and drowning in a bottomless pit of liquid fire. It hardly burns as much as I expected; like as if I were being wrapped in layers and layers of thick, heavy blankets, but it isn’t until I begin trying to swim upward that I realize just how deep my predicament runs. The stuff is thick as mud, and I have no idea if I am even swimming in the right direction or going even deeper than before.

Each time I wave a limb through the thickness I can feel another layer of skin peeling away and disappearing, chipping away at my body like a warm candle with a knife. My mouth, nose and eyes are probably long gone by now, and now I begin to dissolve from the inside as well until nothing is left but a bodiless consciousness rising upwards.

I first reawake in the old bookstore, where I and countless other spirits look down through an invisible ceiling, watching our past selves mill around minding their own business. I watch myself flip through the comics section for a while, but am soon distracted when I notice the naked soul of a former crush and old classmate in college, Clarisse, hunched in the corner and staring off at nothing.

“You too, huh?”

She jumps a bit when she hears me, and looks up and down my ugly lumps of stomach and breast fat before giving me a fake smile, same as always. “Yep… hangin’ out in Hell, haha. What do you think you did to get here?”

“I don’t know,” I fib while shaking my head, “probably something to do with me being gay. Sorry for being such an awkward creep back then, I just didn’t know what was up and down, and in all my searching for friends…” We both look down at our past selves as they browse the bookstore just as I take notice of her from where I stand awkwardly hunched over and scanning manga volumes. I looked around as if waiting for someone to encourage me, but no one cares to intervene, so I slowly approached her with the same unsettling posture and offsetting mannerisms.

“H-hey, Clarisse. I like your makeup. Like it’s always out there, but that just m-m-muh-makes you look.. really nice.” I forced a smile despite growing nervousness and she returned the favor. “Come on, Dick, you know I have a boyfriend.”

“I-I know but…” I stumbled through my mind in an attempt to find the courage to tell her, but nothing comes out, and she leaves the bookstore with disturbed look on her face, as if she had been sexually harassed by someone.

But that couldn’t have been me, right? I only like guys, I thought to myself at the time. I know better now, but it’s far too late.

“I- I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have approached you.. you don’t have to forgive me.”

I crawl away through the cramped space on knees and knuckles and sink upwards, into the horrible, burning lava. As my body is slowly and painfully destroyed a second time, I scream from within it until my mouth, throat and lungs are gone, and my tear ducts are melted as well; it takes only half a second for any trace of moisture in my body to disappear, but my consciousness remains for what feels like forever.

Every rebirth is the same, and is ironically far worse than flashing back to the things I’ve done, all ranging from abominable to minor, like lying about missing homework, or letting that first grader touch me when I was in kindergarten.

“The black bead represents sin, the blue bead is the water of Christ, the white bead represents cleanliness…” I remember my pre-school teacher rambling on about some ridiculous project as I watch myself at age four scream at Mom before running upstairs and slamming a door behind, shattering the black bead of the necklace hanging on its knob in the process. “I hate you, Mom!”

Another burning, another rebirth.

I watch myself in my bedroom masturbating to a transgender couple video, reborn again, searching up footage of bestiality, beheadings; suicides. Again.

 

The final flashback is my trial here in Hell, in the heart of the asteroid within a massive, intricately carved courtroom devoid of any seats, no attorney, and no jury. Only a hideous three-story-tall octopus-wolf-snake-man hybrid seated in a judge’s desk.

It  droned on in monotone for hours in a language I knew nothing of, sometimes pounding the desk or making offensive gestures for dramatic flair before screeching with a loud, clammy gargle and slamming what I assume to be a ‘teleport damned soul’ button and sending me off to do heavy labor in the form of pure energy.

I watch endless marathons of every lie, every time I thought to kill myself, every time  I checked out another man’s body, and every long, sweaty night of cartoons and porn. But the fire, the fire was always consistent. By the time I reached my final sin of death by a slicing of the wrist, my ‘brain’ was as good as fried, and the minor punishment was over, the giant demon picking me out of the lava as I am reborn a final time, dropping my burning body on the pet food-littered incline ramp.

 

“Get back to work,” the giant says in a loud, booming voice.

 

One of the others help me up, and lead me along further into the guts of Hell with the rest of the workers, where we are to be trained on butchering ‘cosmic cattle’; where I would be matched with my friend, the runt of the herd.

 

Twenty six seconds, I was later told by a coworker. I was in the lava for twenty six seconds.

 

 


© Copyright 2019 Zach Reynoldson. All rights reserved.

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