by Arnold Snyder
I called Brandi.
“Okay, let’s meet in Hell,” I said. “Brent’s going to meet us there too. We’re going to try and talk to some of the gucksuckers. Brent knows his way around pretty good and he says he can find us.”
“Why do you want to talk with gucksuckers?”
“We need to get their opinion on killing God.”
“That makes sense. Can I have some of whatever you’re vaping?”
“Brent thinks it’s important. Look, you don’t have to go. I’m going because he’s going to give me a tour. I need to learn my way around.”
“I want to come,” she said. “When are you going?”
“Right now. Like five minutes.”
“Okay. I’ve got to go and brush my teeth. I’ll see you there.”
I went to the bathroom and took a leak, then returned to my room and undressed quickly, lay down in my bed and closed my eyes. That familiar falling sensation came over me almost immediately. I tried to relax into it, let it happen. The air was so thick I was falling in slow motion, which I found comforting. I wasn’t so afraid of landing.
I was excited by the prospect of getting a tour of Hell, of finally being able to travel through Hell at my whim without worry or fear. Then I could start going to Hell with the girl snakes …
I could see that I was lazily falling toward a huge mass of some kind. As I got closer, I could see it would not be a friendly surface, but spikes of some kind, lances, like huge ice picks, sticking straight up, all about a foot apart. They were tall as skyscrapers. Now this slow-motion fall was no longer a comfort.
As I attempted to gauge how tall the needles were that I was approaching by trying to see the ground beneath them, I could see the ground was alive. It was squirming. It was naked human bodies that were impaled on these ice picks. Bodies that had fallen onto them, as I was about to. They were skewered every which way, each person pierced multiple times, through torsos, arms, legs, heads, yet all of them alive and writhing in agony.
Just as I was about to be impaled, I closed my eyes tightly, felt the needles as they punctured me, burning my insides as I slid down the spikes to crash hard onto the pile of humans beneath me. The bodies I crashed onto all let out cries of pain, as I reopened my eyes quickly to find myself at home in my own bed.
I was a snake.
I felt immediate relief, but also disappointment in myself. Brent was in Hell waiting for me. I was supposed to stay there, impaled on top of that pile of likewise impaled bodies in agony, waiting for Brent. But I couldn’t do it. I was simply not cut out for Hell. I had to open my eyes.
I looked at my snake face in the mirror above my dresser. It made me smile to see myself.
What I really wanted was some fruit and maybe just a little time to enjoy my snakehood, that slithering that always puts my skin into a state of rapture. But I had no time to enjoy this transformation. I had to return to Hell so that Brent would find me. And Brandi was going to be there too.
I had to give it one more try. I said a little prayer: Please, please, God, no ice picks this time.
Not that prayer ever did me any good.
Again, I closed my eyes.
Immediately I was in Hell. No falling sensation, nothing but Hell.
It was empty and dark.
I’d never seen it like this before. Such vast nothingness.
I had no sense of my body other than the fact that I was huge. Not huge in a human sense, but in a galactic sense, like I was stretched in every direction for unmeasurable distances.
I felt some kind of vibrating disturbance way out on one end of my body. Then another, and another, but coming from different areas on the far reaches of my circumference. They were irritations, like itches I wanted to scratch and be done with.
One of the tingling disturbances suddenly shot what felt like a bolt of electricity that traveled straight to the center of me. Then another and another. My heart? My brain? I had no sense of my human body or my snake body. I was just a humungous shapeless blob of consciousness filling the universe, and now being shocked over and over again to my core. The pain was excruciating.
Where was Brent?
I knew as soon as I could find my eyes I would open them and be done with this trip to Hell. Fuck Brent and his tour. I’ll go with Brandi another time. Or Tiffany. We’ll go together so we can go through the white waiting room and forget all this pain and torture.
Where were my eyes? Where were my goddamn eyes?
And then the lights came on. I found myself squinting in a brightly-lit room. I was in human form but I wasn’t back in my room at home. I recognized the room. It was the barren white room where I’d been with Brandi and Tiffany when I went to Hell with them. The room with the door and no windows.
I scanned the room to see if I was alone. I wasn’t.
The Mona Lisa, the da Vinci painting, was standing about ten feet from me. Naked. With a smile. “I thought you’d never come,” she said.
It was Brandi. Somehow she looked like the naked Mona Lisa, but it was her without a doubt.
Before I could answer, the door opened, allowing in the sounds of horrific screams and wailing, choking gurgling screams unlike any I’d ever heard, uncountable wailing voices in agony, as a large goat, walking upright on its hind legs, entered, closed the door, mercifully shutting out the screams, and said, “What took you?”
“Brent?” I said.
He was a goat, but he looked like Brent as a goat.
“I was expecting you ten minutes ago,” he said.
“I took the long way,” I said. “You’re a goat, Brent. You look so … mature.”
“It’s just the way I look to you,” he said. “I don’t feel like a goat.” He thrust his chin forward and let out a loud bleat. “Excuse me,” he said, as if he’d just burped.
“How do I look to you?” I said.
“It’s hard to describe,” he said. “You look fetching, Brandi, like a walking oil painting.”
“What do you mean I’m hard to describe?” I said. “You look like a goat, and Brandi looks like the Mona Lisa. What do I look like?”
“You look like yourself,” he said. “I’d know you in an instant—except you look like a puppet.”
“What kind of puppet?”
“Like one of those marionettes. Like you were carved out of wood and painted and hinged together. But you still look like you.”
“That sounds gross,” I said, looking down at myself to see my normal human appearance. It struck me that the walls of the room were closing in on us, not dramatically, but slowly and surely. “What’s happening with the walls?” I said.
“Oh, they start closing in after a few minutes. Basically, we’ve got to get the hell out of here. I have no idea what happens if we stay. I’ll have to ask Uncle Luke. C’mon, I’ll take you for a tour and then we’ll find the gucksuckers.”
He turned and opened the door. Immediately that horren-dous screaming/gurgling/choking resumed. Brandi and I fol-lowed him out and looked around. So, this was Hell.
“Does that screaming ever stop?” I said, talking loudly so he could hear me over the racket.
“No,” he said. “It’s coming from the shattered glass feeding station. Follow me.”
Go to Chapter Eighteen . . .