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H-E-Double Hockey Sticks

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I open my eyes but see nothing. Completely engulfed in darkness, I move my hands around and feel nothing. Suddenly, a vision appears. I can tell that it’s not a real person, more like a mirage or a hologram. I realize that it’s a man, a man with no distinct features or out of the ordinary looks. A face I have just seen in passing, embedded in my subconscious and projecting itself like a dream. The harder I try to make out the details of his face, the more grainy and pixilated the image becomes. Without moving his lips, I hear his voice. “I am Name. Come with me.”

Without my mind’s consent, I feel my body impulsively moving with him, almost floating along. I try to speak out, scream out, “What’s going on?” but I can’t hear the sound of my voice. Somehow, Name answers me. “We’re going on a journey. Just watch.” A calming feeling washes over me, amidst my confusion. Name has an authoritative air about him, so I know I’ll be safe.
I didn't know what to expect.
After what seems like hours, or maybe just seconds, we come to what feels like a wall. Four rapid knocks and we’re inside. Abruptly I am able to hear, see, smell, and feel everything. It’s a shock to my system, a sensory overload. There’s a hectic whirlwind of people drinking, dancing, and laughing. They are dressed in the most fantastical gowns and jewels I have ever seen. Jarring trumpets blare swinging twenties music loudly, almost too loudly. We’re obviously at the party of the century, so I am caught off guard when Name nonchalantly throws over his shoulder, “Welcome to Hell.” “Hell?” I crack, realizing it must have been a long time since I have actually spoken, “this does not look like hell to me.” The people dance and swirl around us even faster. Name replies, “Then you’re not really looking.”
I focus in on the people and it hits me. They are drinking so much and so quickly that they’re choking, alcohol stinging as it dribbles down their mouths. The tempo of their dancing keeps increasing. One two three, one two three, one two three. Faster, faster, faster. They dance so fast and cannot stop; their feet start smoking and catch fire. The laughter becomes a cacophony of maniacal shouts and screams, distorted. The gowns and jewels appear to grow heavier, dragging down the women, suffocating them, and making them collapse onto the floor. The people just dance over them, the sound of shattering bones adding to the music. Smiles plastered on their lips, I look into their eyes: wide with pain, twitching, bloodshot. I have to look away. Before I can even ask, Name explains. “These souls spent their whole lives perversely obsessed with material things. They squandered their success and potential on the trivial, never spending enough time to form anything but flimsy relationships. They thought life was a party that never ended, flouncing through life without a care for themselves or anyone else. They were right. This party never ends.” And in the blink of an eye, it was all gone. Blackness again. “Where did they go?” I manage to squeak. “They didn't go, we did. We have more to see.” I automatically follow.
In the distance I see a sliver of light. I’m hopeful that this circle will not be as bad. As we come upon it, I see that it’s actually a keyhole. Name simultaneously pulls out a large white skeleton key and hands me a pair of bug eye sunglasses. “You’ll need them.” he states, again already answering my question before I even think it. The door soundlessly swings open and I understand. We are in the presence of pure, blinding white. The absence of color stretched endlessly. I turn and the door has disappeared. I don’t see Name anymore. “Name?” I call out to him, scared. What kind of a name is Name anyway? Next I look down and can’t even see my body. There is absolutely nothing. Then ever so quietly, so quiet I almost don’t even hear it: a whisper. “Hate”. The whispers increase. “Hate, hate, hate.” Soon, other words are added to the mix. “Bad, idiot, worthless.” All whispers, like a dying man’s last words. Then, horrible insults are softly flung. Racial slurs, homophobic slurs, sexist slurs, every taunt and jab in the book. They overlap yet stay quiet, tickling the back of my neck. I try to swat them away like flies. I plug my ears. I try to shake them out of my head. Nothing. My brain starts to short circuit and I feel bile rising up in my throat. I want to scream or hit something or just get out but it’s too overwhelming. Just when I think I’m about to snap, I am back in the dark with Name, and I sense him looking at me quizzically. He doesn't say anything for awhile and I get the feeling he wants me to explain. I take a shot in the dark. “Was that… hate?” I guess. Name takes even longer. Then he inhales deeply and answers, “Well… yes. Souls who lived their earthly lives spewing hate spend their afterlife in the total absence of love. That’s why there was nothing. No color, no darkness, no body. There is nothing without love. The souls are tortured by their own voices, the same words they used for many others. They are immersed in nothing but hate.” I don’t speak for a few seconds, still hearing the whispers in my head. My voice cuts through them when I loudly state “I want to go home”. Name shakes his head, “One more.”
My footsteps echo loudly as we bound down a long hallway, lined with hardwood floors. The walls are simply decorated with generic paintings and familiar photographs. It feels like home, and I almost let myself believe that Name forgot the last circle and was taking me somewhere normal. The hallway gradually becomes narrower and narrower. At the end, I see my family, friends, and everyone I have ever loved. I breathe a sigh of relief and tell myself that there is no way this could be hell anymore. I keep walking and walking, but my loved ones don’t get any closer. Confused, I start running. The faces of the people at the end of the hallway look hurt and confused. Why can’t I get to them? Don’t they know I love them? That I’m trying to meet them? They all start crying, and I cry in response. Soon they all turn away, one by one. I am running faster than I've ever ran before, out of breath and wheezing. They’re still too far. They think I have given up. It kills me. I don’t stop running for ages, I feel the skin on my feet wear and tear away. I feel my muscles sinew and my bones pop. I’m not even close. Name tries to stop me but I kick out of his grip, screaming. He slows me down and I give up the fight. After awhile, my sobs subside and Name hums me into a deep sleep.
I wake up in my own bed, half relieved and half angry. I never learned the meaning of the last circle! I begin to doubt that the journey even happened at all. It was just a silly dream, a nightmare. I've been reading too much Dante. Then it pops into my head, like Name left a sticky note on my brain. I know what the last circle is. It seems so simple and it seems like such a given. Worse than one who doesn't invest in true relationships and worse one who lives a life of hate is a soul who loves and doesn't let their loved ones know. Hell is letting someone go without telling them how much they mean to you. Hell is not being generous with your love. Hell is being detached from emotion, hell is shutting off your feelings to save face or keep your heart guarded. To live the fullest life, you have to love fully and let others love you. Let them know before it’s too late. Show love to others, and show love to yourself.



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aminaht11 said...
today at 12:58 am:
Wow that's deep. I love it... makes me wanna write poetry. 
 
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