Down There | Teen Ink

Down There

September 19, 2022
By Anonymous

Cornelia’s eyes opened to the sight of dull crags and pointy rocks. An open sky, but too smoky gray to be any storm. The dusty air hit her teeth, making a sensitive sting happen in her mouth. The only source of lights in the distances were fires that never seemed to grow. 

Where am I? Cornelia asked herself. Looking at her hands, she saw no wrinkles. Am I… younger? She moves her arms and legs to examine herself. I am! Wait… am I dreaming? She desperately looked around, but could find no other signs of life. She began to move towards a hill in the distance, looking left and right for anything apart from the rocky terrain and fires.

As Cornelia passed by a fire, she saw a shoe that seemed to belong to someone’s right foot. Glancing towards the fire, Cornelia managed to make out a skeleton. It seemed completely dead, yet alive with ashes covering its left foot. Cornelia couldn’t hear it, yet she could make out a plea for help. Covered in goosebumps, Cornelia moved on while shaking her head dismissively, as if she was going insane. As she reached the top of the hill, Cornelia was greeted by huge pillars of brown stone, pointing towards a sky that seemed shut with smoke. The smoke had no distinct smell and never got close to the ground, but it looked like it had the strength to shut out the sun.

In the distance, Cornelia could barely make out what seemed to be man-made crevices. Holes barely large enough to fit a single person. She began to pace her steps towards the rocks. She began to look into an opening. All that was there was a few rocks fastened to other rocks, presumably make-shift tools. “Can I help you ma’am?” a masculine voice came from behind.

Cornelia jerked around to be greeted by a larger figure. Short, white hair with a scarred face. Not much muscle definition, but no excess fat either. The man spoke, “Unless you got a really good excuse to rob a dead man, I suggest you leave.”

“Where am I?” Cornelia asked.

“Too far away from any civilization to tell.” 

“No, I mean am I in heaven right now?

“Heaven?” The man wheezed. Hardly able to retain his composure, the man said, “I see, you’re new around here. Thought you were pulling my leg for a second.”

“What do you mean? I should be in heaven! I deserve it!” Cornelia began nervously looking around for any other soul to inquire.

“That's what they all say.” The man chuckled. “ Nope, you’re down there. Down here. Until you can’t think anymore.”

“There must be some mistake!” Cornelia began to panic.  “What will the devil do to me if he finds me here!”

“Whoa, calm down there miss. Satan ain’t down here. Not yet at least. Until then I guess we should get to know each other.” The man stretched his arm out for a hand shake. “The name’s Bartholomew. Just call me Barth.”

“H-hi Barth, I’m Cornelia.” She could barely grip Barth’s hand without shaking. “Would you by chance happen to know a way out of here?”

“Not a chance.” Barth was desperately trying to hold back laughter to calm down Cornelia. He looked around to the view of distant fires and gray rock. “But if I may ask you, what way did you come from?”

“That hill over there.” Cornelia pointed to the large hill where she saw the crevices.

“Good, I’ll be making my way over there then.” Barth began to walk towards the hill.

“Wait!” Cornelia called out. Barth kept walking towards the hill. As she ran to catch up she asked, “Are you looking for something?”

“Eh, nothing much, just my wife.” Barth answered, glancing his head back. “Not sure if she is down here or not, but I got nothing better to do so I might as well check for a solid 100 years.”

“Oh,” Cornelia mumbled. Realizing that her only hope so far to get out was getting away, she began to walk at pace with Barth.

Barth told Cornelia about his wife, Alex as he two made their way across the rocky landscape. They were a couple who lived in the late 19th century, and died in the early 20th century. For hours, they both shared stories of their joys and woes in life before hell. In those hours all that could be seen were rocks lit up by the light of nearby fires. A few mounds and hills, but mostly flat terrain. They eventually reached a crater. A circle of fires around a rocky altar suggested that many people contributed to making the crater. Inside was a single robed person. Cornelia could barely make out the face, but when she did her face lit up. Seeing the expression change, Barth asked, “Hey do you recognize that person?”

“I sure do!” Cornelia exclaimed. She reached down to pick up the sharpest rock she could pick up. “Murdered my sister, and now its my turn to get him back!”

Cornelia began to run towards the robed man, letting out hysterical laughter as she approached. The man began to look around confused on where the laughter was coming from. By the time the man was able to react to Cornelia charging at him, Cornelia had stabbed him in the throat. The impact caused the man to fall over as Cornelia would continually stab his body. Blood flying from each stab created red stains on the previously gray rocks that assembled the man-made structure. Cornelia eventually stopped, her face and body splattered in blood.

“Are you done yet?” Barth asked sarcastically. “You clearly seem to be enjoying yourself.”

Cornelia looked at Barth, and then back at the mutilated body. Horrified, she jumped back, dropping the rock now crimson red. She was shivering with the thought that she just killed someone.

“Relax.” Barth said. “You’re already down in the ‘bad place,’ so there’s practically no consequences anyways. Besides, he’ll be back soon.”

“What do you mean?” Cornelia asked, glancing at the body. It seemed oddly alive just like the skeleton she saw earlier.

“You don’t really die since you’ve already died.” Barth explained. “Now come on, we have to leave before some of his friends come to check on him.” Barth began to jog up the crater.

Cornelia began to look at the man a little bit longer, then began to catch up to Barth. They began to walk a few more hours, talking to each other about their lives before they had died.  Hunger began to haunt Cornelia, but she didn’t bother asking about food as none seemed to be anywhere nearby. They made their way to a large crater, with many loose rocks around the top. In the crater was a large fire, with some skeletons inside.
“I guess this would make a good place for us to take a nap.” Barth stated, putting his hands against his hips. “Let me show you how to make a roof out of these things.”

Barth began to show Cornelia how to make a structure. Cornelia noted that Barth looked very downcast, he’s probably upset about his wife. She thought. It was probably the first time he probably talked about her in detail in a while. In the end, it looked very similar to the crevices they met at. Cornelia began to squeeze her way in, and began to shut her eyes only to be awoken by the roars of a nearby fire. Time passed by, and still Cornelia couldn’t sleep. She began to hear footsteps nearby.

“Hello?” Cornelia got out and asked. She saw a shorter, blonde woman in the distance. The woman began to approach Cornelia.
“Hi, I’m Alexis.” The woman said. “Do you know where the nearest town is?”

“I’m not really sure…” Cornelia responded. “I am pretty new around here.”

“Oh,” Alexis seemed disappointed. Her lips were crimson red and she had a red bow on her head. “Well I’m sorry to see you down here..” Looking for a way to escape conversation, Alexis spotted Barth in a crevice sound asleep. “Wait…” Alexis’ awkwardness turned to hatred as she turned to look at Cornelia. “That's why we haven’t seen each other in years. YOU’VE been getting with him!” Alexis yelled before charging at Cornelia.

Before Cornelia could react Alexis pushed her full force. Cornelia stumbled back and began to fall into the crater. As she rolled down rocks began to cut against her skin, one slashing her throat. Cornelia was finally able to stop on a flat surface holding a large fire. She could barely see from the fire juxtaposed with the dim lights of the smoky sky. As she desperately tried to crawl out, she couldn’t scream for help because of the tumble down. When she finally made her head out of the fire, half her skin had melted off. 

As she glanced up to see Barth and Alex hugging at the top of the crater, her eyes caught a loose tablet with some writing in it. On the stone she was able to make out That whoever believes in Him shall not perish. After reading, Cornelia remembered from her life a friend who shared the gospel of Jesus to her. She rejected it, laughing at the idea. Cornelia felt defeated. That was my shot, not my good acts, She thought as the realization began to sink in. All Cornelia could do was to cry for help to save her from a death that would never come.

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