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When God looks away
He was looking up at the stone ceiling, vison stunted from the unbearable heat. The heat, good god the heat. It is an intense burning unlike anything that could be communicated in human language. The dread he felt in the pit of his stomach had broken him. He could no longer think, or act, he was lifeless. Where was he? That question is not an easy one to answer. It’s not really a place. Many confident religions have attempted to explain the place from where he now sat in unimaginable torment. He had tried tearing out his eyes, then he wouldn't have to see the incomprehensible terror. He had screamed so much his vocal chords were destroyed. He had ripped all the hair from his head. There was no mirrors here here; however, he could only begin to imagine what he looked like. He was unsure what came prior his arrival, or much less, what his transgressions were to allow himself in such a realm of torture. There is much to say about this place however very little can described in a way that is understandable to the human mind at least. His eyes were glazed over staring blankly into the acrid, thick air around him. He wasn't particularly sure of when he arrived. In his first few weeks he remembers trying to keep count of the time. He assumed first it was nightmare. No. It was far too real for that. Perhaps there was an escape some way to free himself. No, he has tried that as well. And for the feeble attempt to escape he suffered greatly. This place was not physical but he still felt hungry, so very hungry, but food never arrived. Now of course he couldn't die but he grew even hungrier and thirstier. He felt his bones through his skin but he could not die of course. For the first 30,000 years he was alone sitting in his own feces and filth, as he felt himself rot. Now he stumbled around blankly occasionally touching what was left of his hair, or his genitals. He was almost braindead. He was empty, broken, alone. He was stripped of human identity. Now one would think that overtime the smell would dull to the nose, but again, such assumption would be wrong. It was, of course, unlike anything that he could describe, so putrid, so horrible. He would throw up if there were any contents left in his stomach.
One day was different however, he, aside from the screams of agony he heard footsteps coming close to his cell. What was it? He, for the first time in centuries was alert, he felt is eyes move to attend to what was happening. He saw a man walk over to the door of his cell. He was in so much shock of course he could not find words to speak. It has been more than a lifetime since he has formed speech. The man was tall, huge, his face looked deformed, as if he was attacked by a vicious animal. The man stepped over to him and before he managed to speak he was smashed over the head and blackness followed immediately after. He woke up briefly and he was being dragged across a floor of jagged rocks and to his sides he saw horribly decrepit faces reaching out of the cells, pleading to be freed from the agony. That wasn't going happen. He thought to himself that they must be new here. Begging will get you nothing. He blacked out again and he remembered waking up tied down to a slanted table. Looking at him he saw a man. Not a deformed man like the rest of the souls here but a man in a butchers uniform.
“Glad to see your awake Jonathan” His words cut through the air. It was a sound he had not heard in as long as he could remember.
“Jonathan” he thought to himself, that was not a name he had someone refer to him as since he was, well not here.
“How do you know me?” John spoke simply, shocked he was able to form even that.
“Well John I know a lot about you, I know that you’ve been a bad bad man. That's why you get a treat, you get to bunk with me.”
John wasn’t sure of who this man was. He could only guess, but he knew for sure that that same sense of dread had now amplified tenfold. He now since the beginning of his captivity was afraid again. He felt fear. He felt a tear leave his eye.
“Oh chin up John, not many people get this privilege.” He said as if he knew Johns terror.
“What are you doing” John said now in a shaky voice.
“Well now” He said walking over to a tray with sharp instruments, unlike anything he had ever seen, picking a few up and shining them. “This place is filled to the brim with bad people but sometimes we get a special one. One that the man himself has sentenced to a cage with me. You my friend, are a lucky winner”
“You know” the man continued “doing my job isn't supposed to be fun” But this, my friend, puts a smile on my face”
“Please, what did I do for this” What have I done to deserve such punishment” He said now in tears, pleading desperately”
“Now you probably won’t be able to speak.” He said ignoring cries for help. “But you screams will help me gauge how I’m doing, from what I understand I am quite good.”
The man first cut across his chest and to say it was excruciating would be more than an understatement. It wasn't just physical pain, no that would be a treat in comparison. In his eyes he felt the death of all life, he felt emptiness, sadness, anger, regret, unbearable suffer. He felt the universe die in one moment, he felt the weight of all human suffering all at once. He felt himself break right then and there. He screamed through his previously destroyed vocal cords. You see, it was not just pain, not just touture but it was as if he felt every kind of anguish at once. Every mother who lost a child, every bum dying with no one to care. Every dream cut short, every failed pregnancy, every human regret, as if he bore the weight of man’s sin on his shoulders. He saw it all. The entirety of humans failure all attaching to his heart.
“Wow” said the man, slightly amused. “I haven't heard that much noise in a long long time, and trust me I’ve down here longer than you could know.”
After what felt to him to be an eternity of this dehumanizing, soul crushing pain, it ceased. It stopped and he gasped for air as if he has never breathed before. Sweat pouring down his blood stained face. Vision finally opening up he looked around and noticed the man was no longer there. The silenced that had prolouged his arrival to this chamber was at once again present . The table he was chained to released its binds automatically and he fell to the jagged stone floor. He was incapable of moving at first. His body shook and contrary to the unbearable heat he felt cold. Not a feeling he was familiar with but nonetheless uncomfortable. Gazing at his surroundings he noticed this chamber was bigger than the other one before it and there was something new here, a mirror. He managed to get himself to his feet and stumble over to it. What he saw looking back at him he thought must be a trick another mind game to further break his psyche, but no this was real. It was a shell of what used to be a man. He saw into his eyes and saw failure. Though he could not remember who he was or what judgment befell on him to land him here but he knew he must be a failure. What else could he have been, his own creator turned away from him. Left him to be damned. He shook his fist and yelled once more in anger, resentment and tear filled hate. Then fell again at once to his knees, and at once, wept. The man he saw was no longer a man at all. Worse than malnutrition, worse than starvation. His scars were worse than wounds. The hair that was left on his head was covered in blood sweat and and dirt. After sobbing for what seemed to be a lifetime he heard footsteps again. He saw the man from before open the cage and he scrambled back into the corner, cowering in fear once more.
“I don't think I have introduced myself yet.” He said squatting down beside Jonathan “My name is formally Lucifer.”
“You know I understand that this is painful but it is a necessary evil, I am a necessary evil.” He said abruptly addressing Jonathan's evident fear. “There must be a place where the bad people go. You see, I was punished long ago for despising my fathers most prized creation, the humans.”
Before John could speak Lucifer continued. “But you know what John I was right. There is evil in that world, and it isn't me. I did what was best for our people.” His voice now turning to anger. “You see the humans were doomed to fail, Jonathan. I knew it would take just one push. And as I predicted they did just as I asked because they were naturally selfish. He cast me out because I did not look at the beauty in his creation but when he see people like you he turns his head away in shame. And now I am damned to sit here and punish the likes of you. They are so blind, the humans. They don't see that for every action of good, or kindness is more than equally matched with an action of aggression and hate. Actions of cruelty or pure malice for no other reason than to watch fellow man suffer. I do my job Jonathan, Humans they rape, maim, kill for fun, because it puts a smile on their face. They're savages and God would not admit it.”
He finished and Lucifer was now turned away staring off into nothing. He could feel the anger in him.
“But what have I done” John said quivering.
“Well now I can’t tell you that. That is part of the rules.” He explained. “Anyway, I am sorry to keep you waiting.”
He walked over to John and picked him up. Of course He tried to struggle but that was going to be to no avail.
“Please God, Why.” John cried out. “Please I’m so sorry for whatever I have done just please release me.”
Lucifer smiled, slightly amused. “No sense in asking him, you certainly won't find him here. After all he's the one who sentenced you here.” He moved in close to Johns face as he was binding him to the table. “Sometimes even God shuts his eyes and looks away.”
The torture continued like this for weeks, months, years and then some more. He had learned very quickly to keep his mouth shut. It never became more bearable, any less intense than that first time. One day however he felt nothing. It had ceased to be agonizing. The pain had flooded his body and what followed was a wave of nothing at all. He thought it would be welcome but it was almost worse to realize he would feel nothing for eternity. As the time persited Lucifer noticed this change in him.
“It is always difficult to torture someone who has nothing left to take away.” He said. “This is of course to be expected as we do have an eternity to spend together.”
One day John collapsed as normal off the table and Lucifer had left the cage. He was so beaten that this time when he huddled into his corner he looked up at the ceiling and with tears in his eyes he asked for forgiveness for misdeeds.
“God, if you can even hear me. Whatever I have done I am so sorry. I cannot take anymore of this.” I will forever be indebted to you.”
He pleaded for countless hours begging to be released from his suffering, for one more chance to reconcile his sins. He closed his eyes one more time and prayed attempting to reach someone who he was unsure could even hear.
Beep Beep he opened his eyes to a bright light shining down on him.
“Oh my God he’s awake.” Said a man he assumed would be a doctor.
He was still groggy and his eyes were still slightly unfocused and blinded by the pale light of what he imagined was a hospital, it sure smelled like one. The smell, he, for the first time had noticed that the putrid smell has left his nose and was replaced by the smell of what remembered to be a hospital. He was not at first sure how he still remembered that smell, it had been many lifetimes since he was in this world.
He had tried to sit up but was abruptly pushed down by a nurse. He was at first very confused but them shocked by the realization that perhaps he had made his way out of hell. Or maybe it was a dream. No it couldn't have been that. It was far too real. He layed in the bed feeling comfort and rest and he couldn't even remember what that felt like.
The door to his room flew open at once and there stood the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. She had ran to him.
“Jonathan, baby, we thought you never were gonna wake up.” She exclaimed with tears rushing down her face. “We thought, we just thought maybe that.”
She was unable to finish her sentence.
The memories from his ast are flooding into his mind. He remembered so clearly now. That was his wife, Vanessa. He remembered where he was before he “died.” He remembered a car accident and the flashing lights of cop cars and ambulances. He remembers vividly lying in a hospital bed, similar to the one he was in. However the one thing absent was his grave sin that Lucifer often spoke about. He still did not have any recollection of any mortal crime that would have had him suffer so greatly. This is about the time he noticed he no longer looked frail or broken. He did not appear to be malnourished and his scars were gone and all the hair had returned to him. He saw his kids rush in soon after. This he remembered. He had a daughter Jenna and a son Harrison. When he saw them he was no longer able to keep himself together. He picked them up and placed them on the side of the bed next to him. He kissed each of them and told them how much he loved them.
He was admitted out of the hospital not too long after waking up. The doctors ran tests to determine his stability and all were shocked to see his vitals were normal and he seemingly had suffered no damage. John learned he was in a coma for the last three months.
Three months he thought to himself. That could not be possible. He was gone for more than a lifetime. In fact he was gone for hundreds of them. When he returned home he found himself in tears. Not this time for sadness or despair but joy that he was free from suffer. For the first time in forever, that night he slept.
“Gooood Morning John!” He shot awake to a jolt and looked to the base of his bed and saw the man he so despised staring back at him. “Thought you could get rid of me so easy.”
“How the hell are you still here” John retorted back to him. “I thought I was free.”
“You may have made it out of hell, but no one spends that much time with me and makes it out ‘okay.’” He stands up and sits next to John as his wife is still asleep. “John, you will never get rid of me, that soul of yours has suffered too much damage, no one has ever come back from that.
“Go to hell you monster!” John yelled, waking up his wife with a jolt. “You can't be real.”
His wife grabbed him from behind. “Honey what the hell are you screaming at.” She said in scared confusion. “There's nothing there come sit down.”
John of course was mortified. Lucifer followed him home, even when he took his freedom, he still came home to torment him. The next day after a sleepless night, John was eating breakfast at the table with the radio on. It had been so long since he had even remembered food. The radio was playing the news.
“Family murdered today in town of Stillwater, Oklahoma.” The reporter said giving slightly graphic details of the scene.
“See this is what I meant John.” He heard his voice again, this time sitting to his right. “You humans are violent, selfish creatures whether you like that or not. This whole damn world is running rampant with monsters and there needs to be a mortal consequence.”
Before John could get a word in edgewise he noticed Lucifer was gone again. This act persisted at his work in the car he was everywhere. Every time John looked around he would see him. He would catch him in his peripherals and once he looked he would be gone.
The worst time came at sleep however. He was going on his first week with only a few hours of sleep. The devil would not let him sleep. Every night he would wake up to bells tolling or firecrackers. Whatever Lucifer felt amusing.
“You are so funny John. I wonder how long you’re gonna last. I am willing to bet it isn't long, most people don't.”
After week three of this his wife, Vanessa was scared for his health. They sought out doctors who had prescribed him a wealth of medications for sleep insomnia, and schizoaffective behavior. However, John knew that he was not crazy. Lucifer must be real. He was always so real. He was tall and clean cut. Good looking but alway struck fear and dread every time John would catch a glimpse of him.
“He isn't real John, whatever you're seeing isn't real, so please just take your medication.” Vanessa said to him, pleading for him to comply with the doctors.
His kids also grew worried and confused. John was losing more of himself as the days progressed and it became more and more difficult for him to live his life.
One morning something occurred to him. Lucifer couldn't be real. No he had escaped, he was given a second chance and he could not let this monster break him again. He had tried ignoring it but that was too difficult. He just has to fight it. He had to break free from him.
“John do you really think I am a fake.” I am many things, a liar is not one, a deciever perhaps, but not a liar. The devil kept tormenting him for weeks and it showed no signs of ceasing anytime soon. Whatever this apparition was he knew it was fake. It must be his mind recovering from the torment he had faced.
One night he woke with a shock. “John wake up I’m bored.” He saw him as predicted sitting across the room in a chair. “You really look awful, haven't been sleeping much?”
John stood up and faced him. He was no longer afraid of him.
“After all this time I am free” John spoke with power “You aren't real you will not break me again. I have survived your cage and I will never go back there.”
John heard bells toll again loudly ringing through his ears. He covered his ears and began to scream.
“Get out! Get out!” He screamed from his diaphragm.
Then silence followed. He opened his eyes and noticed that there was nothing. He was gone. Had he won? Did he free himself once more. That night he slept for the first time free of interruption.
Weeks passed from that point and he was happy. For the first time he was truly free. He hadn't seen the man. The thought was one he quickly repressed. He spent time with his wife and kids grateful he given a second chance. The one thing he still did not recall however was his great transgression. He still had no recollection of anything that he did wrong.
One night he is eating dinner with his family sharing laughs and love. Basking in the happiness that had not dulled since he had won his freedom. The radio is playing one of his favorite stations and all is well as it should be in his mind.
Then something odd happens, the radio goes silent and in place of his song he hears a man's voice. Lucifer's voice. His heart stops.
“John you said you wanted to know what got you with me. I’ll show you.” The radio said.
His family all turned their heads at him and there were wounds all over their body and especially on their neck.
“Why Daddy” Jenna spoke.
They all began bleeding onto the table and started to cry.
“Why why why” they all chanted in unison.
The their voices changed and they all sounded like the one on the radio.
The memories came flooding back to him. His family, he killed them. The kitchen faded away and he was in his daughters blood stained room. He remembers the anger and mindless state he was in. The room fades away again and now he's strapped to a chair. He sees that familiar hospital light. But he isn't in a hospital.
He is strapped down to a chair and all his memory is complete. He remembers the monster he was. How far off the end he went. And how it all lead up to his arrival in the cage. He then noticed all the people in the room were the same, they were all Lucifer. The one dressed as a doctor walked over to him.
“I told you, mindless, evil, and selfish.” He said in a somber tone almost disappointed.
He closed his eyes and felt himself cry and when he opened them he was on that table again that he thought would never torment him again.
“I am sorry I had to trick you that way” he said now somber. “You were an evil man in that life John.”
“You monster!” John screamed tears of rage filling his eyes, blinding him.
“Am I?” He responded. “You put yourself here. You earned your place right on that table. But the table was losing its affect on you. I needed something else. Like I said it's difficult to torture someone when they have nothing left to take away.”