He’s watching me. He beats me when I cross his path. I’m so damned depressed.
I hate this guy already. Hate this place, too. How in the name of…whatever…did I wind up down here? It doesn’t make any sense. I always thought I was a decent enough soul…or, you know. Person.
Oh, it’s a nightmare. I tell you, this place sucks! It’s dark and dreary, except for the glow of the fire way off in the distance. Glad I’m not there. Yet, at least.
When I got here two days ago—I guess it was about two. Hell, who can say? There’s no sun to rise or set. No stars. No clocks. Nothing. Just miles and miles and miles of the same dreary, gray, narrow, crowded neighborhoods, with tons of ratty-looking people wandering around. Like me. In a daze, asking the same stupid questions. “What the hell is going on? Why me?” Well, how should I know? Anyway, when I got here one of them—that ugly stinking demon—met me. Yes, he had a pitchfork, and yes, he stuck me with it. No, he doesn’t have horns, but he has a tail. He met me, and after he punched me and then stuck me in the butt with that trident-looking thing, told me I was in for a “real good time.” For the rest of eternity.
Eternity? Somebody’s joking! Jesus...Ooof! That one hurt. Damn, I can’t get stuck here for that long. There’s been some mistake. I’m going to find out what it was before they decide to move me on down toward that fire a million miles away. I’ll figure it out if it’s the last thing I do, and I’m getting out of here. And before I leave, I’m going to kick that sonofabitch right between his disgusting legs. Then stab him with that pitchfork!
A thought…I don’t know for sure who runs this place—Lucifer, I guess—but I’m going to find him. They wouldn’t tell me up there why I was being sent down here. Just said, “Take a hike, Terence.” Okay, I don’t want to go back there since they seem to hate me, but I’m sure not staying here. Must be someplace else between the two where I can spend eternity. I’ll find this Lucifer guy and demand an answer. That’s what I’m going to do. I’m giving myself twenty-nine more days to get it done.
I wonder how long that is?
Guess that’s all for tonight. Or today. Or whenever this is.
Goodnight dear Diary.
Dear Diary. What a joke!
Next entry (because I have NO idea what day it is).
Yes, I like that better.
Maybe the worst thing about this place—besides the constant hot drizzle, the bleak sky, the madmen wandering around talking to their hands or a stain on the corner of one of these hovels we’ve been pushed into, the things that look like bats that swoop in and dig at your head when you’re least expecting it, the droves of bad-tempered guards, the complete absence of toilets or sinks or mirrors, the fire pits inside our quarters (in the name of all that’s holy—Ouch! All that’s unholy, what would anyone in their right mind need heat down here for?), the feeling of dread in the air that’s like breathing used motor oil. Besides those things, and that’s only the tip of the iceberg, figuratively speaking, the worst thing is there are no stores! Funny that should strike me as something I’d miss. But I want a bed! Or a mattress at least. Not necessarily a Sleep Number, just a mattress and maybe a sheet. But then, if I could find a store, how would I buy anything? There’s no such animal as money here. Not that I know of, anyway. Barter? That’s a spooky thought. God Almigh… WHOOOA!
He missed me. Gotta’ run, damned Diary…be back later. I hope.
Okay. Lost him. Where was I? Oh yes, a bed.
This thing they call a bed. I guess it’s standard issue; not sure. I’ll have to do some “visiting” to find out. The bed is already getting to me. It’s hard as a rock. Which makes sense because that’s exactly what it is. A slab of rock.
Dorothy, you ain’t in Kansas anymore.
But, if there was a store here, even a Salvation…Ouch! Army, I could probably find a mattress. I’d steal it. My aching back.
I’m going to take a walk tomorrow. I’d like to check out some of my neighbors; see if any of them aren’t raving maniacs. See if any of them have mattresses, or bake cookies. Find out where the road is that’ll take me to old Lucifer.
Good…Ow! Lay off!
I need a point of reference, so this is officially the end of March 3rd for me, although for all I know it could be New Year’s Day. I’m getting organized; in the groove. The more I get it together and stay busy, the less the despair seems to fester inside me. Today was a good case in point.
I got up “this morning” (my back was killing me). I skipped my shower—because there isn’t one here—skipped the breakfast that creep had brought in and tossed onto the rock table across the room by the fire pit. It looked like a piece of barbecued shit anyway, and smelled worse. Went outside to scout out the quaint little village I live in, and there they were. About two hundred zombies, like the dead people in a John Carpenter movie. I didn’t think they’d hurt me, although I was a little tentative in approaching them at first, but soon enough that fear was driven off. They were simply stumbling around with absolutely blank eyes. I could have been Saint…whoops! Careful, careful. The guy from up there who keeps the books, come down to spring us all from jail, and none of them would have noticed, I’m certain.
So…I started off on my little reconnaissance trip while they went on babbling to themselves and running into one another. Soon enough I came across a woman about my age. I mean, I think she is. She has blond hair, and a body that isn’t all blackened and bruised yet. There she was, standing alone outside a doorway, trembling, her arms covering her breasts—though I don’t know why. None of these idiots seems to be interested in sex; only rambling on in their own private, neurotic worlds. Not so with the jail keepers, though. A couple of them were scratching and pawing at her, and I could see that she was scared out of her wits. I ran up to her and kicked the one that was on his hands and knees in front of her, right in his scrawny butt. It surprised the hell out of me when both of them got this shocked look on their faces, and then hightailed it down the street, screeching and cursing!
She went back into the house immediately, and I followed her. I felt sure she wasn’t nuts like the rest of them, but if she remained here for too much longer she would be.
I found her all curled up in the corner beside her, yes, bed. One just like mine. I took the advantage.
“It’s okay. I don’t want to hurt you. You can get up,” I said. I put my hand out.
Well, that’s how it all started. She’s a new arrival, too, and after she calmed down much later, after our nervous introductions, we decided to go back out and look for a mattress store together.
Outside, I confided to Teresa that once I got a decent night’s sleep or two, I was headed downhill toward the center of hell, to find Lucifer and demand I be allowed to leave. She has a very pretty face for a damned girl—or I should say a girl who is damned—and she smiled at the idea; asked if she could tag along. Staying here all by herself was a frightening proposition, she admitted.
Sure, why not? The company would be nice.
We never did find a mattress store, but I don’t think I’ll mind so much tonight.
Dear damned Diary,
Teresa and I left shortly after daybreak this morning. Okay, when I woke her. She was crazy to find a rag or a big leaf—anything to cover herself with. I looked down at myself, then back at her and smiled. “Who gives a good damn?” I laughed at her modesty. “We’re all in the same boat, besides, the only people who seem to be interested in you are the goons. I’ll see if I can’t find a club or something to protect you with. Just stick close to me,” I told her.
“But who’s to say that down there the damned are the same as they are here?” she asked.
“I guess I’ll find out…you can stay here if you like.”
She came right along.
Her personal demon and mine have shadowed us. Twenty paces or thereabouts behind us, but they’re here. I have no idea if they’ll try to stop us somewhere up ahead, or just let us go deeper, laughing those guttural laughs at our stupidity for leaving the relative paradise of our old homes for whatever horrors await us down there.
The landscape is beginning to change. There’s a river ahead of us, dark and foreboding. A wide, angry snake of steaming black that coils in from our left around a rise in the rocky hills. It widens directly in front of us, one or two hundred yards away, onto a plain. If I didn’t know better I’d say there is grass on the far side.
We’re camped close to a jagged boulder. I started a fire and Teresa is snug in my arms, asleep, now. It’s quiet.
Oh holy-shit damned Diary,
Jumping Jehosophat and Leapin’ Lizards!
It wasn’t the devils who I should have been worried about. Not those damned bats or brain-dead morons back in the town, either.
It was rain!
I’d just dozed off alongside Teresa. Couldn’t help it, I was so tired. I fought it and fought it, but sheer exhaustion finally won out at last—the hike yesterday was grueling. I don’t know how long I was in Nightmareland, but the rumbling brought me to. Far away at first, like a hailstorm back on Earth bearing down on a city. It grew louder. I woke and looked beyond the rock, watching it as it approached from the far horizon. Our bodyguards saw it, too, and took off lickety-split. Adios, creeps, I thought.
The dark sky went totally black in the strange storm’s grasp, except for a fusillade of red, meteor-like streaks racing downward from the center of it. The rain. Only it wasn’t rain like I ever saw. When the droplets struck the ground they burst, like miniature artillery shells. Fire!
I turned back to Teresa, yanked her to her feet, and dragged her toward the river. She was beside herself with fear and shot a flurry of questions at me as she stumbled along, half-asleep, still. All that I could say was, “Don’t let go of my hand, and DON’T stop to look back!”
We dove into the greasy, black water, thinking it would be our salvation. It wasn’t. I said greasy water, and that’s about what it was. Oily black water to be more precise. The minute I tasted it I knew we were sunk. When the rain arrived at the river, the whole thing would go up like a barrel of gasoline.
“Swim!” I yelled.
And so we did, but it was no use. Have you ever tried to swim in an ocean of syrupy goo? I knew it wouldn’t be long before we were part of our first barbecue here. I turned my head to her as she floundered about and I said, “Take a deep breath when the rain gets to the water.” Glub. “Then dive under with me and stay down as long as you can!”
The fiery rain arrived at the water. The water caught, and under we went. I don’t know for how long. A minute? Two? Three? Teresa started up first, and I had no choice but to go along. My lungs were bursting. I wanted to pray, but I knew that was stupid. Yet what do they say? There are no atheists in foxholes?
Lo and behold. An answer!
We came up right beside a tinny-looking boat, covered over with a huge roof of pocked and sagging metal that blocked the worst of the firestorm. The little waif of a man who manned it grabbed Teresa’s hand first and tugged her aboard. I was getting a pelting and a good back-scorching from the blazing river water, but I struggled in right after her. Teresa was screaming, pounding on her singed hair there in the center of the boat, while I was forced to lay on my stomach so that the captain could extricate the blazing buckshot from my behind. The fires were extinguished, finally, and a period of relative calm (tinctured with buttock distress) followed.
Now we endeavor to rest—me on my stomach. Safe again, I hope.
This we discovered about the crusty old man as we waited out the horrible storm yesterday.
His name is Nathaniel Watt, and he lived in England in the nineteenth century. Nathaniel’s profession there was steamship builder. Which makes a certain odd sense, given what he does here. He claimed that unlike some of the characters found in novels like Great Expectations, or A Christmas Carol, he was an employer of high moral sensibilities, with a truly altruistic spirit. His partner of many years, a certain Joshua Skuttlebee, had begun to force him out of the prospering business through various deceits, and in the end, Nathaniel murdered him when the plot came to light. He was tried, found guilty, and then hanged.
“What else could Saint Peter do but send me here?” he lamented as the vicious downpour passed slowly overhead.
“Saint Peter?” Teresa exclaimed. “What does he have to do with it?”
Yes, what does he have to do with it? A lot, I guess, as he’s the one who sentenced Teresa and me only a few days ago. Some job. The more I hear about Heaven, the less I like it. Maybe the weather’s better there, but it’s my guess the same management runs it, and it’s tended by the same cruel, pissy overlords.
We told him of our plan to find Lucifer, which he thought was high-minded, laughable, and foolish, but he wished us luck anyway, and pointed out a possible route across the endless field ahead of us. The storm was miles and miles away by then, moving to encircle the fire at the center of Hell.
“Take care not to…” he called out after we had gone some distance, but neither of us could make out the last of what he said.
The hours passed uneventfully as we made our way across the plain. It seems this part of Hell is absolutely uninhabited—perhaps the landscape is too pleasant for these monsters.
We’ve set down for the evening beneath a large tree resembling a Banyon. Teresa has snuggled, again, inside my arms.
I neither see nor sense any watchers. I am almost happy.
Good…yes, good evening.
Nothing much today. Tall grass, gray skies. Endless miles of walking. No rain, thank…God. Something very strange, however…instead of getting closer, the center of this place seems to be receding with every step. I wonder why?
Teresa has begun to chatter incessantly. I’m getting to know all about her. ALL about her. From her first squeal outside her mother’s womb, clear through every day till the dreary end of her life back on good old Earth where she did her abusive husband in, and then herself. So that was her unforgiveable “sin”? Thou shalt not kill. Bullshit in her case. Are those “commandments” immutable? Chiseled in stone? The thought makes me ill. I still have no idea what I might have done to receive this sentence. I told her that. She drew closer to me and kissed my cheek.
I wish we just weren’t here in this prison…maybe we could actually…well…maybe not.
More of the same today, except we both saw what looks like a town or a city of some sort up ahead. I’m not certain whether to enter it or try to skirt around it. Who knows what “lives” there? We can’t afford to be sidetracked, or worse, but we are hungry.
Teresa continues to chatter. I must admit, I kind of like that. She’s not particularly brilliant, but she is full of opinions on the weird flowers, the weird rain, the weird water; yes, the trees, and even the “why” of the height of the grass. Everything. Including Lucifer.
She doesn’t want to go into the city. I think I do.
We’ll rest outside its walls and decide whether or not to go in tomorrow. I wonder whatever became of our bad-tempered guardians? Of any of the nasty bastards who oversee this place?
Oh. Teresa wants to add her thoughts to you, damned, dear, dumb Diary. I say no. Emphatically!
The drawbridge lowered “this morning”, and so I fretted and fumed and urged Teresa to suck it up and accompany me into the city. We entered, and to my surprise…my unending shock...
it WAS a real city, with cobblestoned streets, what seemed to be very well-maintained multi-story row houses, trees in abundance—though they are of a different sort than any I’ve ever seen—and a grand park far in the distance.
People, too. Naked, yes, like us (which comforted Teresa), but they didn’t appear to be filled with dread, nor were they babbling like those idiots back in the dump we left several days ago. We approached the first, a middle-aged woman with ebony hair and a pleasing enough face, and inquired about this city, so out-of-sorts, lying here in Hell—and many other things regarding where we were.
From the woman we learned:
We are free to come and go as we wish, within the boundaries of Hell, of course.
There is free enterprise here. Wonderful, impromptu festivities as well, she said. Manufacturing, arts, entertainment, and best of all—a host of mattress stores!
There are doctors and lawyers, bishops, and writers…there are debates and social intercourse. It is so like any wonderful city back on Earth!
But, where is Lucifer Teresa and I asked? He is the epitome of evil. How can this seemingly wondrous metropolis even exist in his presence?
“Why, he is everywhere! You shall meet him if you stay long enough. You will adore him!”
Both of us were confounded. In reality, awestruck.
We wandered about after she left, enthralled by the place. The diversity; the cleanliness and beauty. Much later in the day we entered a building that stretched far into the smoky sky. An apartment complex, we hoped. We inquired of the man behind the desk about a room, and how much it would cost to rent or lease—a problem given the dismal fact that neither of us has any money.
“How many rooms?” he asked.
“How many?” I replied. “I don’t know. What are the choices?”
He looked at me as though I’d just asked him some deep theological question.
“Take your pick. A single room for an evening. One with a chair and a desk for more comfortable…” On and on, up to a thirty-room penthouse suite overlooking the entire city on a “clear” day.
“But, how could we pay for such a place? Or any of them?” Teresa asked.
The man eyed her, which I found discomforting, and finally replied.
“Don’t worry about that. We can settle up later. Which room do you want?”
We are very comfortably situated midway up the building in a modest ten-room suite.
We have a real bedroom, with a real bed, with real sheets and two pillows. I am not altogether comfortable, however. Something smells fishy. Teresa is delighted.
What became of the demons?
We truly rested today.
Both of us were famished. Found a restaurant on the ground floor (surprise) and ate until we thought we’d burst. Real food! Yet…there was something odd about the taste of some of it. And something else. A very elegant-looking man seated himself a few tables away and watched us the entire time. He did not smile. He did not frown. His face was simply expressionless.
We ate and talked…and rested.
Diary, my friend,
Again, we stayed in our room. Teresa’s chattering has all but vanished. She has gotten very quiet, wanting only for me to join her beneath the sheets. I suppose it’s the relative peacefulness of our new home. The absence of looming terror, perhaps.
Her body is soft. She is lovely. We are content.
Dear Diary, confidante,
I am a little worried. The people here are exactly that. People. They are too friendly, though, and that bothers me. This is still Hell. Something is wrong.
I’ve seen no devils. No pitchforks or splayed tails. Only normalcy…of a sort, albeit punctuated by sometimes wacky speculations and out-of-the-blue comments by these citizens of...where are we, really? Los Angeles in the third millennium?
Teresa suddenly does not wish to leave the room. The bedroom, at least, except to go downstairs for meals, which she finds delicious. I must agree with her there. They are delightful. The food has done wonders for her once-pallid complexion. The odd serenity here, maybe. She described this city as “home” today. When I mentioned why we had travelled here, and that we must eventually leave to find Lucifer and demand our release—our release—she scoffed.
The elegant-looking man sat near us again at lunch. He rose to leave before we had finished eating, walking past our table. He smiled and tipped his head as he went by, brushing an arm on Teresa’s bare shoulder. It startled her.
“Why would you want to leave?” That’s the question the elegant man put to me today. Teresa smiled when he asked it and put her hand atop mine at the table. Her reaction confused me.
“Because we’re in Hell. We don’t want to be here.”
“Hell?” he replied. “That’s simply a state of mind.”
“I think he’s right,” Teresa added. Again, the small but now-distant smile as she brought the bread she has become so fond of to her mouth. I find it bitter.
I remember looking at her in astonishment, and asking, “Were those demons, the mindless inmates, that firestorm and river of oil states of mind?”
Her answer was to bring her gaze to the man’s eyes, as though she hadn’t heard my question. Or perhaps she expected him to answer for her.
“We came to find Lucifer. We want to leave,” I put to him. “Do you know where he is; where we can find him?”
The man’s answer. “You can leave whenever you like.” A clever sidestep I thought.
“Then I will. Come on, Teresa, you heard the man. Let’s get out of here,” I said. Teresa did not look up at me, only at him.
“But where will you go?” he asked softly. He addressed her, not me. She remained mute; transfixed in his gaze. At last he turned and spoke to me. What he said was not good.
She has changed. I AM frightened. Oh Diary, I have begun to love her. And I can use that word in this city. Any word I like, in fact, and no one seems to care. Perhaps this grand city is just an illusion. I feel an undercurrent of deceit and REAL horror just beneath the surface, though, whatever it is. What lies ahead? Why has Teresa suddenly forgotten the reason we came here? Who is that man? She seems enamored by him.
I’m weary, good Diary. I need to sleep for a thousand years. I don’t believe a word he said.
Teresa did not return from dinner with me last night, saying she would follow later; that she wished to speak to the man at our table for a while. There I left her, mesmerized by him, and now I curse myself. But I am not her husband or her keeper. What other choice did I have? Oh, but I curse myself.
I awoke this morning, this time period, to a great commotion outside our door, which is as thin as paper. When I eased it open and peeked out I saw dozens of people screaming and brawling. Fists and legs flying, cursing, shouts for mercy from those taking the worst of the beatings. It was as though the entire floor had emptied itself into the hall, intent for whatever reason on killing each other. I slammed the door closed again and ran to find Teresa. She was nowhere in the flat.
I called for her until my lungs hurt, and then returned to the door and threw it open, expecting in my worst fears to find her…I wonder. I wonder…what is the worst evil that could befall a person who is already dead? More dead?
The windows overlooking the streets below. I rushed to them and looked out to a scene a million times as ferocious as the war in the hallway. Are there a million souls in this city? Two million? A hundred million? I have no idea, but however many there are, the terrible thought occurred to me that I was the only one locked safely (a pipedream) in his room. The street below had disappeared. All that was visible was a sea of writhing bodies; arms flailing; stacked like so many fish caught in an endless net. Two—three--five? stories of them. I threw open the window and screamed out Teresa’s name, but it was lost in a seething roar of voices.
I had found the center of Hell it seemed. How long will this carnage last? Where in it is Teresa?
The din outside my door reached more savage heights, and so I pushed a heavy bureau in front of it, praying…praying? Yes, praying it would prevent the flimsy panel from collapsing in, allowing them to tumble over the top of it and set upon me. I spent the remainder of the day cowering in our bed. Praying. Bleating her name, over and over. I must somehow summon the courage to enter the fray and pull her from it, but I am paralyzed with fear.
It is late. I am dreadfully tired and afraid. Where is she?
I sign off. Sign out. The noise is horrible.
The war rages on as though they have an endless capacity for destruction. Do they die a second death? I wonder...
Available at Amazonbooks.
Texte: (c) Patrick Sean Lee, 2011
Tag der Veröffentlichung: 12.03.2011
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To Terence and Teresa. God rest their souls.