After Life. Short Story.

Sentenced to Hell, it just didn’t make sense. Sure, he wasn’t perfect, but he didn’t deserve hell. No, there had to be a mistake, of course, that was it. Frank raised himself slightly on his toes to peer above the head of the man in front of him, a long line of people stretched into the distance. Turning, he smiled briefly at the woman behind him and looked above her head, the line continued on that way too. Pain, sudden and all encompassing. Frank collapsed to the ground, writhing, hands clutching his head. “Eyes forward.” The man who hit him, for it was a man and not a demon, continued walking along the edge of the line, patrolling it. After a few minutes the pain began to die down and Frank shakily got to his feet. Gingerly he prodded at the back of his head, before it was soft and extremely painful to touch, now it was just slightly tender. The man in front of him shuffled forward, Frank did the same.

“It’s not at all what I expected. What about you?”
Frank jumped, he started to turn around, then stopped himself. “No, nothing like I thought. I didn’t even think it existed.”
“Ah. Atheist?”

“I thought there’d be more fire and certainly more brimstone.”
“I never really knew what brimstone was.”
There was a low chuckle from behind him, “Me neither, but I thought there’d be plenty of it. It’s actually kind of pleasant if you ignore the constant standing in line and occasional beatings.”

Frank looked to either side of himself carefully, long, low hills stretched out from either side, the sky was the sickly yellow of a healing bruise. The hills were deep blue and made of some kind of sandy material. In the distance he could see large lumps, possibly mountains.

“I thought there would be more red.”
“Yeah, that-”

A guard walked passed them, “Yeah, that too. So what are you here for?”
Frank felt his back stiffen slightly. He had almost forgotten where he was, something he’d have thought impossible. But he was in Hell, he was obviously here by mistake, but what if she wasn’t? What had she done? Should he even be talking to her? That broke the rules and what if breaking those rules would condemn him. He didn’t answer for a moment, then finally “I’m not sure. I mean, I’m not a bad guy. I never hurt anyone, at least not intentionally, and I always tried to be helpful and kind, I never did anything horribly wrong. At least, not that I know of. What about you?”
“I murdered my husband.”
“I’d like to say there were mitigating circumstances. That he beat me or something, but it was just a good old fashioned jealous rage. Bastard was cheating on me. Didn’t even have the good grace to hide it well. I kind of ignored it I guess. I figured I wouldn’t rock the boat, he’d come to his senses. Then I found her underwear in our bedroom. Our fucking bedroom. He was fucking her on our bed. In our house. Idiot. I confronted him and he had the gall to deny it. We argued a little bit and things got out of hand. I mean, whose slutty enough to leave their underwear behind? How do you forget something like that? The least he could have done was cheated on me with someone classier.”

Frank shrugged, “It seems like they’d be important.”
“Anyway. We struggled, he died, I died. He died first though, so I don’t know if that counted against him, or if it’s a whole just reward for starting it type of thing. I certainly haven’t seen him standing around down here.”

Frank took a breath of the mostly clean air, he could smell the man in front of him, but Frank was sure he didn’t smell to great himself. At least he knew now that someone in the line deserved to be here, so maybe there truly was a mistake made with him. So far the line had moved very, very slowly, but Frank hoped that it was the entrance line, some kind of sorting station would be ahead and he could explain things, or they’d realise their mistake and send him off somewhere else. If he didn’t deserve Heaven then maybe Purgatory. Wait, was Purgatory still a thing? He had heard something about that. Something hard jammed into his back, startling him from his thoughts.

“Keep moving.”

Frank shuffled forward to fill the six inch gap in front of him. He watched as the guard walked on. They weren’t especially big guys, they were thin, kinda reedy and had a bit of a weasily look about them. Pointed noises, small, beady eyes. Still, despite their height and slimness he could see they had lots of thin, sinuous muscle. Each one held a thick club in their hands, holding it casually, loosely. He could probably grab one if he tried, but the others would soon take him down. He glanced around again, wondering why everyone in the line didn’t just surge forward, there were guards, but not enough for everyone in the queue. They could all overpower them and- Pain, searing all encompassing pain. His vision went white and he collapsed to the ground, writhing. He didn’t know how long it lasted, he lay on the ground panting, mouth dry and sweat pouring from him. A passing guard kicked him in the crotch, hard, the breath was driven from his body and he threw up. Over his gasping he heard the guard speaking, but the words weren’t making sense. The guard kicked him again, aiming for his crotch but kicking his hands which were covering it. The pain redoubled, as his groin throbbed and burned, his fingers cracked lightly and he screamed again. The pain dulled for a brief, glorious second, “Keep moving.”
The guard moved on as Frank dragged himself forward, covering the small free space. So that was why they didn’t try to break out of line. After a while he was able to stand again, he stood, hunched over slightly, hands still covering his crotch, waiting for the dull ache in his testicles to finally stop.
“Boy, they really don’t like you.”
Frank let out a breathless little chuckle.

“No. It seems not.”

The man in front shuffled back slightly, Frank did the same to avoid bumping into him. Frank sighed, this was going to take forever.


About Alan James Keogh

I am a 26 year old writer who somehow tricked U.C.D. into giving me not only a degree in English and Classical studies, but an Hons Masters in Creative Writing too. Visit my blog where I post short stories twice a week (Monday and Wednesday) and an installment of a serialised novel on Fridays. I did consider writing this in the third person, as though it was written by someone else, but Alan is not comfortable writing in the third person as it seems kinda creepy and unbalanced so Alan decided it was probably best to write in the first person. He hopes it went well for him.
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