by Arnold Snyder
Brent led us down a dark passageway of crumbling dirt walls in the direction of the misery. We stopped at an opening, like a cave entrance, from whence the screams were obviously emanating.
“Just go in there and look around,” Brent said. “I’ll wait here for you.”
“You’re not coming with me?”
“No, that’s okay. I already saw it.”
“Will you come with me, Brandi?”
“Once was enough for me.”
“What’s happening in there?” I said.
“Oh, people are eating shattered glass,” Brent said, “or rather, they’re being fed the glass.”
“Who’s feeding them,” I asked.
“No one’s feeding them. They’re being fed by funnels that go into their mouths,”
“Sort of like the way you feed geese to make foie gras,” Brandi said. “Except they’re being fed broken glass.”
“That sounds gross,” I said.
“No, the gross part is how the glass keeps cutting its way out of them,” Brent said. “These jagged pieces slicing through their bellies and chests, throats, cheeks …”
“Come with me, Brandi,” I said.
“No, I really can’t. Really.”
“I already told Uncle Luke we have to save a lot of those humans first,” Brent said. “But he said no way, those are the new arrivals. We’ve got to start with the old timers.”
“How many people are in there?” I asked.
“God knows—no pun intended—must be millions. You can’t actually see any end to that room. All those people in row after row hanging there from hooks. Goes on forever.”
“And they stay in there for eternity?”
“No, this is just the first stop for people when they initially enter Hell, to kind of indoctrinate them into the general festivities they can expect for the next zillion eons.”
“How long does someone stay in there?”
“I don’t know. Does time even matter in eternity? I can tell you that when the human exits that station, his face, neck, and much of his torso, especially in the belly area, and oh yes, his rectum and buttocks are all pretty well sliced and diced.”
“How do they exit?”
“On hooks on some kind of a conveyor belt. Look, there goes one now!” Brent pointed to what appeared to be a human adult male about ten feet over our heads that was being transported from the shattered glass feeding station on large hooks that held him to a moving chain overhead. The hooks were anchored into his back, one into each shoulder blade. His arms and legs were flailing and jerking.
The guy’s age was indeterminate due to the bloody state of his face and body which appeared to have been shredded, with large and small flaps of skin hanging and dripping blood. He looked very much as Brent had described, though Brent had failed to truly convey the horror of the shards and splinters of glass that were jutting out from all over, pointing every which way. We were getting spritzed with a mist of blood as he flailed around.
“Just go in, Sebastian,” Brandi said. “You’re a devil. Nothing can hurt you in there.”
I didn’t want Brandi to think I was some kind of wimp, but this was not a spectacle I wanted to see. “I don’t want to see it,” I said. “What else is on the tour?”
“Well, from here the condemned person would go to the bug house,” Brent said. “Which is right down this hallway.”
We started walking.
“What’s the bug house?” I said.
“It’s pretty fascinating to watch,” Brandi said. “Go see this one. The conveyor belt dumps the human into this garbage pile. I’m not sure what it is but it’s some kind of rotting meat and putrid entrails. The human’s so weak and so torn to shreds by the glass inside him he can’t stand up. The place is filled with big black flies and I guess they view the human as a perfect maggot farm, because they lay eggs in all those gaping wounds and pretty soon the human is crawling with maggots. Hold your nose. There’s thousands of people in there, all going through the same thing. Ants start swarming over their bodies and faces, and these huge spiders come right on top of the ants. And worms start burrowing under the skin, especially on the face and head. I left when this guy started choking on all the bugs in his mouth and nose. You gotta go see it.”
“I think I’ll pass on the bughouse too,” I said. “What else is on the tour?”
“Really, Sebastian,” Brandi said, “You don’t want to miss the bughouse. You can hardly say you’ve been to Hell if you haven’t seen the bughouse. Nobody does a haunted house like God. If there was a haunted house like this in Strait City, it would be packed every night around Halloween.”
“Will you come with me?” I asked her.
“No way,” she said.
“I think haunted houses are only fun to go into with a girl, ’cause they always scream and that’s the whole fun of it. So, if you won’t come with. What’s next on the tour?”
“From the bughouse, the next station is the tool shed,” Brent said. “But I didn’t go in there. It’s down that hallway there.” He pointed. The screams and wails echoing in the hallway were almost a type of music, so many voices layered on one another. The sounds of pain came in waves and jolts, the sounds of pounding and breaking and tearing and sawing providing percussion accompaniment.
“Why didn’t you go in?” I said.
“I didn’t feel up to it. I mean after the shattered glass feeding station and the bughouse, I just wanted to open my eyes and get the hell out of Hell.”
“Do you want to go look at it now?” I said.
“No, but you can go. I’m already starting to regret coming here again.”
“I saw it,” Brandi said. “I went with Lola.”
“My sister? Tell me about it.”
“There are these apelike creatures, who are actually other humans in Hell, that had no skin, just exposed raw red bloody muscles, and they had tools like pliers and hammers and different kinds of cutters and saws, and when the bodies come in from the bughouse, all sliced up and filled with broken glass and maggots and lots of other kinds of bugs, these skinless monkey-men gather around the body two and three at a time and work on them with their tools.”
“Work on them?”
“The ones with the hammers just pound away until they flatten everything. They usually start on the fingers and toes, just whacking away until the bones are crushed. The guys with the pliers like to squeeze things and twist things till they bleed. They mostly worked on the nipples and genitals. The ones with the hack saws—”
“That’s okay,” I said. “I get the picture. But isn’t the body destroyed pretty quickly? You only have so many fingers and toes. Just one dick, two eyes … What do you do when the whole thing’s hammered down to nothing but blood?”
“My neighbor Penny says you go from the tool shed to the boiler. You are pretty much just a bunch of blood and bloody pulp. So you get scraped into a bowl and carried to another station where you get poured into a boiling cauldron that contains the bloody pulp of millions of other humans, some of whom have been cooking in that pot for centuries. The weirdest thing about the boiler room is that it has the loudest screaming in Hell. Everyone’s just boiling blood, but they can still scream.”
“I can’t figure out why God created this place,” I said. “What purpose can this possibly serve?”
“It’s mostly about that screaming music,” Brent said. “My Dad says God likes the sounds of screaming. You can’t pass out or sleep or tune out or anything else in Hell. And you can’t die. The only thing you can do is make that music of pain that blends in harmoniously with the sounds of pain all around you. I’ll walk you over to the tool shed entrance, but I don’t want to go in.”
“Me neither,” said Brandi.
“Why don’t we just find the gucksuckers?” I said.
“You’re blowing your tour, Sebastian,” Brandi said.
“This place is totally disgusting,” I said. “I was hoping I could come here with some of the girl weredevils for a date. Would you want to come here for a date?”
“It’s not that different from some of the flicks I’ve seen with boys,” she said.
“I just hope we can find the gucksuckers,” I said. “I hope we didn’t come down here for nothing. Uncle Luke said they’re in the deepest level of Hell.”
“I know exactly where they are,” Brent said. “Follow me.”
He led us back to the door that went into the white room. We went in.
I shut the door behind me and inhaled the peaceful silence. But now the walls were even closer.
“Lie down,” Brent said, lowering himself to the cement floor, lying face up. Brandi followed suit.
Did I really want to go to a deeper level of Hell? Did he really know how to get there?
“C’mon, Sebastian, it’ll be okay,” he said. “We’re just going to the level where we found Jesus.”
I got down onto the floor and onto my back like them. “Yeah, but Uncle Luke escorted us before,” I said.
“I can get us there. Now close your eyes,” he said. “We’ll be there in a sec.”
“How will I find you when I get there? And how will I even know when I get there? I hate Hell. It confuses me. I get lost in it.”
“Sebastian, we’re in Hell right now and we’re not lost. This is the room we navigate from. Didn’t your father show you anything?”
“I guess I don’t have that kind of dad,” I said. Damn it, Dad! Couldn’t you at least have showed me how to get around in Hell?
“In this room,” Brent said, “if we lie down on the floor and close our eyes, we’ll start falling and as long as we don’t go out of our way to stop, we’ll fall all the way to the deepest level. That’s all there is to it. Just don’t stop until you hit the bottom. When that happens, you’ll know it. We’ll be looking at gucksuckers.”
“What if they try to grab us?”
“They can’t do that. We’re devils. We’re not human … not anymore. Now close your eyes. I’ll see you there in a sec.”
I closed my eyes, felt myself falling, and then I was standing beside Brent and Brandi, who still looked like a goat and the Mona Lisa.
“See,” he said.
“Do I still look like a puppet?” I said.
“Totally. But don’t look behind you.”
I spun around to see hundreds of gucksuckers lumbering towards us.
“What should we do?” I said.
“We should try to find one that speaks English,” he said, then waved to one of the gucksuckers in the lead, yelling, “Hey, do you speak English? Anybody? English?”
The gucksuckers just kept waddling towards us, making no indication of having understood or even heard Brent.
As they started passing by, Brent tried making eye contact with one after another, “Hey, do you speak English? You? You? Do you speak English?”
“It doesn’t look like we’re going to be able to interview one of them,” I said.
Brent looked disappointed. “Maybe their brains aren’t functioning,” he said. “Maybe they’re all stupid.”
“Bad assumption,” a tiny voice behind me said.
I spun around to see a gucksucker staring down Brent, who looked stunned.
“You speak English,” I said.
“No shit, Sherlock,” the gucksucker said. “What are you guys doing down here? I haven’t seen a goat or a puppet down here before. And what’s with the walking painting?”
“We’re devils,” Brent said.
“Devils? Never saw no devils down here neither.”
“We just want to get your opinion,” I said. “It’s important.”
We were surrounded on all sides by gucksuckers. Hundreds had passed us already, all going in the same direction. They were bumping into us so consistently it could not have been accidental. They rubbed against us with their infected shoulders, getting that yellow oozing pus all over our arms. The smell of rot was overwhelming.
“Where’s everybody going?” Brent said.
“A new batch of humans just arrived. It’s eatin’ time. I’ve gotta get moving.”
“Can you just answer a few questions?” Brent said.
“Make it snappy.”
“Did you know Jesus was down here?”
“Sure. Everyone knew that. He’s gone now.”
“But you knew about him being here?”
“Everybody knew. We all had a taste of him. We don’t understand how he got away though. It’s not like God to take someone away from here. Harriet said a couple humans captured him and dragged him away. She had just finished excreting him. Hard to believe that. I assume she’s lying. I assume everyone’s lying. I don’t believe for one second you three are devils. Not that it’s any of my business. Can’t imagine where Jesus ended up. This is the area of Hell where he’s supposed to be for eternity.”
“Why this level?” I said.
“Because of who he was. This is the level reserved for the clergy. Priests, ministers, rabbis, preachers, nuns, witch doctors, fortune tellers, astrologers, anyone who claims a special relationship with God when they’re on Earth. So, it made sense that when God sent Jesus to Hell, this level is where he ended up.”
“So, everyone on this level was some kind of priest?” I said. “What were you?”
“I was a Lutheran, a Presiding Bishop technically. Martin Luther’s down here if you want to visit him. I ate him last week. He was a good shit.”
“Here’s the main question,” Brent said. “Would you kill God if you had the chance?”
“In a heartbeat.”
“But what if killing God meant your own death?”
“How do you mean that?”
“Just exactly like it sounds,” Brent said.
Then Brandi jumped in to explain: “If by killing God,” she said, “you would kill yourself because you exist only in God’s imagination, would you kill him?”
“That’s a tough one. Hmmm … I’d have to say no. I don’t want to die. Hell’s no walk in the park but I’m used to it now. Have a pleasant day, folks. My hunger will wait no longer.”
And with that he turned and joined the throngs of gucksuckers that were all heading in the same direction.
“Let’s get out of here, Brent,” I said. “You got your answer.”
“And you got a pretty crappy tour,” he said. “Not my fault. Let’s book.”
Go to Chapter Nineteen . . .