A Week in Hell

Day 1

Wake to a generally irritating pelvic rash that only itches enough to entice you to scratch it. Any attempts at scaling away irritated skin cells result in the worst burning you’ve ever felt. You breakfast on stale cereal. At the fifth bite or so, you spit out a moth. You will not be able to finish the bowl, even if you check it and find no grubs in wait for you. You shower in lukewarm water. This is the coldest water you will get in hell. Pools are warm as spit and the decks around them are always sticky.

Catch a ride on one of hell’s many buses. Their clinical, antiseptic smell is a thousand times more unnerving than the baked-on stink of humanity that buses in life had. Stare out the window and try to remember if you dreamed last night.

Day 2

Go sit with Mussolini. “Celebrities” are often assigned sitters from the faceless, like yourself, who did petty human evil but didn’t wow on your way down. Down here, Benito has been reduced to doddering old man, physically frail and prone to flatulence. He doesn’t remember. You read A Tale of Two Cities to him, and then play checkers over pierogi. Every thirty minutes, a maggot about the size and texture of a subway train tunnels its way out of his elderly hindquarters. He is lucid by the time you finish today’s chapter and spits in your face, telling you to bring him a gun so he can show this place what real fear is. You leave him howling over his latest maggot.

Once outside, you bum a smoke off Ambrose Bierce. He’s always good for them.

Day 3

Endure several hours torture at the hands of high-school philosophers, wishing the blood in your veins would turn to sandpaper as they crib from what they remember of Atlas Shrugged. Any attempts at logic will be blustered over, steamrollered by as the conversational juggernaut lumbers to its conclusion. At the first, and only, pause for breath, you politely agree to whatever and excuse yourself. They latch on to the next passerby. No matter how many times they make their point, it is never enough.

Needing cessation of your hectic schedule, you visit a discotheque. The music of hell is that of every mega-pop hit, of every decade ever. Taken alone they might be bearable, even enjoyable after a fashion. But here they blend together in a cacophony that threatens deafness but never delivers. After twenty minutes, everyone fakes bowel pain and goes for a bathroom break. Of course there is no toilet paper.

Day 4

Take a walk through the historical gardens of hell, with conquistador-trees as far as the eye can see. Unbaptized infants gurgle and flit through the fountains of blood—they alone do not realize where they are. You catch one in your hands like a ladybug, hoping it will spare you a glance. But the infant’s eyes(it is sexless) is focused on some tantalizing horizon, never reached but all the more precious for it. You let the infant go and realize the week is half over.

Day 5

You run into your molester uncle. There is a deep fear behind his eyes, but you do not care what originated it. You say hi just for the simple joy of seeing him flinch.

The libraries of hell call. Cataloging every atrocity known to man is a surprisingly repetitive task. Crucifixion goes back a long ways, and no one’s really improved on the original formula. You find yourself longing for a laser-beheading or something. Lunch is a casserole of paperback pages and canned spaghetti sauce. You pick John Grisham from your teeth and hope nobody noticed.

Day 6

Satan. Your eyes don’t melt into your skull, but he does have a voice like the whispering of flies. He asks about your judgment by St. Peter while studying the fish tank behind your shoulder. He has chosen one of hell’s many cheap Italian eateries for your meeting and can’t be bothered to make eye contact.  You say Peter was fair, God was…Goddy. Yes you had family in heaven. No, you’ve fallen out of touch. Yaweh didn’t mention him at all. When the check comes he excuses himself to the bathroom. You wonder why he even bothers sometimes.

Hands in your pockets you wander hell’s one city. There is no countryside, or seaside, or even a mountain. You’ve never questioned it, seems oddly fitting. In hell, no one makes eye contact. Perhaps that’s a bit of the reason why you are all here, not for the many bodily sins you’ve committed but for petty transcendental ignorance against your fellow man. Then you espy a Unitarian and realize it’s not that bad.

Day 7

Wake in the dark and try to remember your dream. You don’t really make new things in hell, everything has stopped. No one gets pregnant, no one gets cancer. Yet sometimes you have a nagging feeling you’ve dreamed something completely new since you’ve come to hell. Do the dead have REM? This question jabs you awake as you lie in the sweaty darkness, no body beside yours to curl into, no other mind to lose yourself in. In hell, everyone sleeps alone. You walk up to the rooftop of your high-rise apartment to gaze out over other rooftops in hell.

There are others like you. They blink owlish in the red unlight. It is never truly night here. Hell is like Alaska, you’ve decided. Hot, sweaty Alaska, with no wildlife. Hell is incomplete. You look out over the buildings still being built, for occupants yet to come, you suppose forever or until humanity dies out, to be replaced with a sinless, altogether wiser race, or perhaps a variety of atheistic cow. You cannot finish that thought. You are forever on the edge of an epiphany, but something, maybe a trickle of sweat, maybe the buzz of something in your ear, distracts you and your thought train decouples.

You stay on that roof for an indeterminate amount of time. The alarm clock only goes off once you’ve settled yourself back into bed.

Day 8

Repeat.

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