This short story is inspired by Dante’s Inferno, a true masterpiece, a true work of art.
I’ve always wondered what my afterlife was going to be like. Was I going to hang around for some unfinished business? Do we really get sent to hell for all of our sins? Are we really forgiven? When you are dead, do you automatically know you’re dead? I do not see death as a bad thing unless you know you are going to hell. When entering my own hell, I was not ready for the rude awakening I had in-store for me…
I woke up in a little rowboat with a minor headache and in a daze. I had no idea how I got wherever I was. The last thing I remember was popping a bottle of champagne, laughing, jumping, enjoying life celebrating my twenty-seventh birthday. My party was on May seventh so I can ring in my new year of birth at the stroke of midnight. Everyone I knew was there at my party, even people I did not know. Spring had just sprung. The Easter bunny was running around everywhere like the white rabbit from ‘Alice in Wonderland.’ The weather was great. Everything was so right it seemed unreal. And now, I was in no man’s land. This place I was at looked like a hurricane was occurring, or had just hit, but my boat, the small rowboat I was on was rocking steadily. No filthy water splashed on me. It was like there was an invisible bubble that protected me. Everything looked so gruesome, but yet, I felt so warm and pleasant. It was all so weird. I pinched myself to see if I was awake or alive, but I felt nothing.
I always told myself I did not want to join ‘Club 27’ like all the other rock stars who died at age twenty seven for living the type of life style they did, but there I was just turning twenty seven and already admitted. I guess I am dead, I thought to myself. Irony, it was all complete irony, everything around me. Nothing seemed like what it was, nothing made sense. I did not know what was real. It was like an opposite version of ‘Alice in Wonderland.’ I saw black rabbits running around on the land and swimming in the water, or what looked like water. The place I was approaching to on my little row boat looked like Miami. The water under my row boat was nasty, dark, murky, it looked like it smelled really bad. It looked horrible, but I smelt nothing and the weird thing was that there were civilians swimming in it. The civilians, I do not know if I should call them humans, were in bathing suits. People were drinking on their beach beds. The air felt cold but there was people swimming away in the swampy looking ocean and the life guard looked so familiar, like someone I knew. It looked like Lindsay Lohan. She looked like a life guard, but she was dressed in a skimpy nun’s outfit. What the hell!? I thought. And walking towards her was none other than Charlie Sheen dressed in a priest’s outfit, fully clothed, with two drinks in his hands that each had a little umbrella in them. There was an oversized rabbit running away from this beach headed for the mountains. The sky was orange. People’s sun absorbent screen was an ultra violet color. The civilians were jumping and splashing in this “ocean” like it was the most relaxing thing they had ever done before. It seems like they were having the time of their un-life, or after life. Have I died and gone to hell? I thought.
I got off the boat. The “sand” was crushed coals and broken glass, but it did not hurt. It caused a sour taste in my mouth every now and then, but it was bearable. I headed away from this beach. I saw a friend, Hazel, I had not seen in a while working at the shack shop. Hazel died after she graduated from high school; I was one year behind her. I did not want to go near her. I was scared. I then saw Sabrina, a person I thought was destined to be the “love of my life.” She was another life guard. She was more like a life taker than a life saver. I wondered how she got there. However she did she probably deserved it. Away from the beach, it looked like a country side. Everyone, everyone had eye covers over them to protect their eyes from the multiple balls of fire that gave off all the heat and cool air in the sky.
There was a band performing Christian music sung by the members of the rock band, Metallica. It was like a beach concert. They were like the anti-Christ yet they were singing church-like music in what seemed to be hell, my hell. Again I ask myself, was I in hell? What did I do to get here and did I die on my twenty seventh birthday? I always thought it would be weird to die on the day you were born, what a way to close the circle. The time was 7:21 m.a.. Had the day just ended? Or in this case just begun? I knew nothing of the false and everything of the truth. I saw a group of civilians headed towards the mountains and I decided to un-follow them to see where they weren’t going. I was not feeling safe, I wanted out. I began to have a little panic attack. I was startled by a girl that walked by acting like she was in a un-rush to get wherever she did not need to be. I wanted to un-follow her, too, but I could not let that group getaway either. I thought it would be easier to un-follow one person instead of a group so I un-followed the group. I just wanted to get back to my party.
It took two hours and twenty seven minutes to get up that hill with no dehydration break. I wanted out of wherever I was and I was going to do whatever I had to do to make it happen. From a far I thought this group was my family, but the closer I got to them the more foreign they appeared to me. The closer I got to the top of the hill, the lighting began to change and it seemed like I was entering another dimension. I got to the top of the hill and saw two different worlds going on. It was crazy and while at the top of this mountain I heard a screeching noise and then a buzzing sound. My ears hurt. “No one is allowed to stand at the mountain top and if they do they will get attacked by wasps and yellow jackets,” I heard a voice say, and I saw them coming towards me with their tails out first ready to sting me. They were coming very fast. All of a sudden I was getting guidance from some random person. From a far he looked familiar, but again, the closer he got towards me, the more unfamiliar he looked. I have never seen such a person. He was the only one that spoke to me. He shouted ‘duck’ as he ran up the hill. When I went to duck, I tripped and the swarm of wasps and yellow jackets flew in all sorts of directions. It’s like they bounced completely off of me. I hit the floor hard, so hard it tickled. I wanted to just lay there. I ended up on the other side on the hill I was previously on. The civilian crawled over to see if I was not OK.
He introduced himself as my childhood best friend, Joshua Chris, but I have never met such a person. He then explained why I was not here. I did not understand anything he said. Everything did not make sense and then all of a sudden once he stopped talking I got everything he said. It was like it was all inputted into my head after a few seconds. Everything now seemed to have an un-meaning. We parted at a very young age and never saw each other again. It had been such a short time since we last saw each other. We were now both twenty seven, but what was he doing here? I looked at the time and it was 11:57 m.a., the day was still beginning. He told me as he lifted his arm out to this next dimension, “Let’s face the unknown.” We rolled down the hill and caught up with each other. As we approached the bottom of the hill, we were now at what seemed like Somalia, one of the worst places on planet Earth.
The air was cold, more burning coals and broken glass on the ground, but I still felt nothing. Joshua’s feet were sizzling. I asked him if it hurt and he laughed and said it was more of a tingling feeling. There were still multiple balls of heat in the sky. I began to sweat a lot, cold sweats, and a little creature runs up to me to offer me hot tea. I shouted, “Why would I want this!?” and kicked the creature. I felt bad because it started crying. It had blood as tears and it had three big droopy eyes gazing back at me. It bit my finger, threw the hot tea on me and ran away. Joshua was now rowing my rowboat in the sand. We came to a halt. He gave me a serious look and said, “We shall go move farther into the unknown.” I looked at him confused and he translated, “Hurry the hell up! No pun intended.” I started walking again. I was cut and bruised from rolling down the hill, but nothing hurt. I saw more rabbits running in the background. I also saw the group that looked like my family and they were far away, very far away. And then the girl I had been looking for was in the picture again and this time she now had a scarf over her head like a Muslim and was running toward what looked like a field goal. It was like that was the portal.
Through the field goal, I could see a town, but I could not see it from the sides of the field goal only through the middle. In the sky of Somalia I could see bombs exploding in the air, buildings blowing up, tanks rolling around; it looked like a total land of warfare and there was no safety around anywhere. Everyone was running towards that field goal. Joshua told me that it was not going to be so easy getting to that field goal. He said I needed to come clean and to terms with myself and that I had to reconcile with a lot of people who have crossed my path. I was puzzled. And then it was like they were all zombies walking towards me yearning for me. I thought they wanted to eat me but they didn’t. I hopped in the rowboat and told Joshua to start paddling; otherwise, he needed to get the hell off. He listened to me and he paddled away in the broken glass and coal. When I realized that I was on somewhat of what was a football field, I could not help but notice I was on the seventy yard line. I looked at the time and it was now 7:47 m.p. Where was time not going? What seemed like a few minutes turned into a few hours. I felt so tired, like i had not slept in days. I was dying for ice water. I guess the saying is true, people in hell want ice water.
All of a sudden these random civilians were coming up to me asking for them to forgive me for wronging them; they were all asking for my forgiveness because I had wronged them. None of them looked familiar. And all of these civilians were naked. They had very little clothing, only their face was clothed, but like any other civilian I crossed in my Inferno they only looked noticeable from far away. Their voices were recognizable, but even then it was altered a little and these random people look like they had been tortured severely and they came seven at a time. They blamed me for everything, they said they were here because of me, but I do not know how that was possible because I had never seen any of these people in my life! I felt attacked. It’s like everything was coming up and crashing on me. I had no shield. Joshua was not much of a help. All he did was paddle away. I crossed so many people I did not remember: people I out beat in academic contests, political people, family members who envied me for all of my accomplishments, friends who I had wronged and vice versa. It was weird. A few people wanted to start getting physical, some wanted to bite me and were pulling on my clothing. Then, out of nowhere, we stopped at yard line thirty seven. Joshua said he could not row anymore. It’s like for a moment, he was being my guardian devil. I was getting hotter and the air was getting cooler. I saw more groups of civilians walking towards me. I had to get out of there. I did not know what to do. They were helpless tortured souls and I am assuming I was to blame for their agony. More explosions and screeched occurred. My ears rang a little.
I felt a sudden change. An entire day has now passed in this inferno and I was stuck in the middle of Somalia. Under Joshua’s t-shirt i could see he had a tattoo. I asked him what it meant; he said it was Hebrew for the number seven. I inquired on why such a tattoo and he did not answer. I asked him what we were doing in the middle of Somalia. He said it was time for a cleansing. I asked if i was going to be sacrificed. He answered ‘No.’ Now was the time that I had to ask for forgiveness. I told him this was not church. He said we cannot move forward until I do and then a pond appeared under our rowboat. Joshua tried to push me off. The pond had crystal clear water. It was the only pure and normal thing I saw so far. He urged me to act fast. I notice that as time went on, the water got darker. I had no choice but to be baptized in this Inferno of mine. I felt like I was betraying God, my savior. Joshua said it was God who sent me here. He even said he once roamed this land himself. I did not believe him. I told Joshua I did not want to abandon God. He went on and on and as he babbled on with the truth I took a glance at the water and it was darker. I began to see worms floating in it. I looked at him, I looked around, I looked at the goal post, I saw more bombs in their air. I knew that I must conquer on my own. Joshua was not going to be there to guide me forever. Then, all of a sudden, he just pushed me over board. I fell into the small pond under the row boat. I felt so much occur while I was submerged in this filth. I thought I was going to drown but I needed no breath of air. I felt so many emotions. Then I felt this force beginning to pull me. I became air borne and was launched over the goal post. I fell hard on my back. I opened my eyes and saw the girl I was also un-following running towards the city.
I was now in my third dimension: London. I felt like I had aged a good seven years. I looked at the time. It was 4:07 m.p.. As I walked in the city of London, a civilian who looked like Ryan Seacrest approached me yelling at me stating I out beat him for the KIIS radio host gig, but I told him he was already awarded as the host. He said he would never forgive me. As I began to run from him, he shouted at me some more. I turned around to go off on him and he was gone. I turned back around and I felt a sense of relief when I saw my place of employment which happened to be in my favorite building in the entire world, The Gherkin. If there was one place where sin and scandal went on it was there. It was the one place where hell was on Earth: deception, lying, cheating, betrayal, embezzlement, fraud, hooking up with co-workers, scheming — name it it took place there and to think that was my place of employment! My home away from home; no one was safe there. The ironic thing was that it was on ‘St. Mary’s Street.’ From all the behavior that took place there one would think there was no saint around for miles. The address: 27 St. Mary’s Axe. I worked on the seventeenth floor. The owner, who I thought was the devil, was at the top of the building. I had been summoned to his chambers on numerous occasions. People had coffee towards the end of the day rather than the beginning; the older employees were extremely more immature than the younger employees. That place sucked the life out of you. Everyone aged there. There was poison in the air. Once you signed your [offer] letter of employment, it was like signing your life away to them, them being the Board of Directors, Hell’s Angels, the most idiotic people there is known to man: Kanye West, Kim Kardashian, Sara Palin, Most reality TV stars, Eddie Murphy, the administration of my previous employer.
I arrived in the building. I noticed that some of my old “friends” were added to the payroll. Their pictures hung in the lobby, there were rows of pictures. It consisted of people I was not too fond of seeing, not even in the afterworld. Clearly someone succumbed to the dark side. They even managed to get under my skin in hell. When I saw the rows of pictures of new employees, I thought, no running, no hiding. I noticed that there was a new sign that was posted in the elevator, Best Place to Work! Misery in the work place: lovely! It was the most hostile environment to work in yet some of these people found complete happiness there. Some wanted to retire from there. They even were going as far as having the local paper name it as one of the best places to work. I tried to do things to get fired, but the more I tried, the more I got recognized and was pushed more towards a demotion and soon I would be like all the idiots on the Board of Directors and be stuck there forever. There were so many people on the Board of Directors. There was more ‘directors’ than there were employees. The only benefit about working on the ‘board’ was that you stayed youthful forever. In order to get hired, you had to know how to con people. The coffee was not coffee, it was blended manure, but those scavengers did not know the difference. Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison once served as clerks in the mail room and got fired for not catching on to the job. The company mandated the people with the most family members to work on the holidays and the people who had no families always got their days off approved. When it was hot, we were mandated to dress in winter clothing and when it was cold, we were forbidden to wear jackets and then all of a sudden the air conditioner would work and it was blasting.
I saw that girl I had been seeing from time to time in my Inferno walk down the hallway. I tried to catch up to her but the closer I got the faster she walked and the more unfamiliar she began to look and I wanted to just stop. I got close enough to grab her shoulder, but when I went to turn her around her face did not show. It was scary. I stepped back to see if I could recognize her. She looked just like my first girlfriend, Kellie Flores: light skin, blue eyes, short dirty blond hair. She was holding a stack of papers that looked like they belonged to the chairman. She quickly ran away once she felt the chemistry. No one was allowed to feel happiness or love there. I then heard an overhead page that summoned me to the CEO’s office on the top floor. That was the first time I was going to see the CEO, the devil himself. Judgment day has approached. All I hoped for was that it was for a promotion and not a demotion. I was on my way to the top and Steve Jobs, the cleaning guy, caught up to me and handed me a big manila envelope and said I needed it for when I got to the bottom. It was sealed tight. I knew what was in it, my offer letter to join the Board of Directors. I learned Robert Downey Jr., my idol, was now on the board, but I did not want to be like him once I saw his name plaque. I was let down, but my body felt happy. I was becoming extremely bitter I found any little excuse not to get there but every employee I crossed paths with pushed me in that direction. Joshua was long gone. I get to the CEO’s office and I see his three assistances’ desk there. I saw Kellie’s name on a plaque. I could not believe it. This whole time during this wild goose chase she lead me to the one place I did not want to be at –ever! It was all a set up. This was hell; I was never going to get out. I have officially crossed over. All faith is lost. I have no choice but to give up and give in, I was ready to wake up, but I could not. This was the real thing. I’d slap myself hard and it would tickle and if i tickled myself, I was in excruciating pain. I tickled myself but I was still there. There was no winning. I could not kill myself because I was already in hell. All I wanted was to be out. I just wanted to be back at my party having my champagne ready to have my cake and look at all the presents I was going to return. I started to cough and choke and then started gagging. I could feel throw up coming up my neck. The CEO’s office door opened with a squeak, steam came out. I stood there and heard a voice saying “Enter.” I just stood there. I ripped open the manila envelope and saw the offer letter. It was written in blood. This was it, I knew this was it. I walked in and saw nothing but white. I stepped in and passed out. I felt my body hit the floor and it hurt. It actually hurt.
I woke up and Joshua, my actual brother, was smacking me around and it began to hurt. I heard him telling me in my sleep, “Get up! Get up you idiot! What the hell is wrong with you!?” I wondered if he thought I overdosed at my own party. He said I needed to wake up and get the champagne before it is all gone. I was in the bathroom on the floor at my party. He said it was time to open my presents and that everyone was waiting for me. I sat there in complete awe. I was speechless. I felt completely rejuvenated. He said Kellie showed up out of nowhere and so did a few of my co-workers. I could her Kanye West playing in the background and the first thing I said was, “Change the music.” I asked how she got here because we hadn’t spoken in about seven years. He said she said I invited her. I tried to think to myself in complete confusion. I knew it was my time to shine and make a difference, make something of myself and never return to “hell” again. I looked my watch and it said 12:07 a.m.