prose and conscience


It’s said the true definition of hell is, “on the last day of your life, the person you are meets the person you could’ve been.” They say its torture in its purest form, that you are plagued for eternity to think about the choices you made and what you could’ve done to correct your trespasses.

This isn’t the case for everyone.

For as long as I can remember, everything in my life can be referred to as, “shiny,” or, “perfect,” – or my personal favorite, “golden.” As if people possess the capability of putting your life through the scope of a looking-glass, that resides behind a rose-tinted window pane. Wouldn’t it be something if people actually lived your life, if we could each know what the other person is feeling. Life lived with overwhelming emotion…what a thought.

These thoughts numbed me further now; I felt nothing.

I died, as I knew I would, from a drowning accident. I was finally rich in 2034, surfing off the coast of Japan – really living the dream, one of them; there were many and the stars were always in reach for me.

I was out for my morning surf – this was just one of the many ways I was glamorous – sparkly, whatever. I could count the others, but a morning surf was my only connecting point to the person I was before I became hungry for power. What’s better than power? Leaving the world as a legend. A woman loved by few, feared by many. Tragically killed by a deadly shark bite; just the way I’d always written it in my mind over and over.

Even death made me narcissistic, it was morbidly beautiful. I’d worn this gorgeous, white-diamond wet suite, my hair trailed behind me in a long, loose braid. The blood stained it, smattering splatters of ruby on white; I was a beached trove of jewels and gems, glittering beneath the golden sun.

The photographers got really lovely shots of me. I remember still feeling a little life in me, when they turned me and a bulb flashed; it took all of the commitment I had left to the image I’d built to keep my face fierce. My last self-portrait couldn’t be compromised with a smile. No, I was going to leave the world and be remembered as a true, tragically beautiful girl.

Even in death, I was chosen. I was chosen to wait in purgatory, for what felt like years. Scenes passed before me about choices I made, and how the alternatives would have played out.

I could feel them. You know that feeling, all humans feel it at one point or another; it’s no different when you’re in limbo. You close your eyes, and you can feel the hot, swelling tears, welling up in your eyes. You can feel your heart pounding, cracking, then ripping wide when it breaks. It doesn’t matter where you are, it floods you, releases you, then drowns you.

It’s too late, the decision has been made and there is no turning back. You’ve got nowhere to go, nowhere but regret. What a place to be.

It became abundantly clear that I didn’t know myself at all. I wanted to rip my hair out; well, the remainder of what hair I had. I looked in the mirror and though she was thinning all over, I still loved what I saw. I didn’t know my brain could have made those choices –  the ones I’d made with such conviction before just felt wrong, though that slight twinge of regret was a bitter taste on my tongue, one which I begged to linger. It some how reinforced the sweetness of defiance and revenge, feelings I cherished – sometimes, more than love. It was a potion, and the spell was working well.

My judgement was fair, and when this time came, I was so curious about my alternatives I surrendered to my sentence with ease.

No one tells you, but there is a holding room when you exit purgatory, one more spot for one more day as you are prepared to make your descent. “Purgandum,” it’s called. This is a place for you to let go, to give in, “purge” yourself of regret, if you have any left. Your humanity leaves you and you become whole in a way you never envisioned. For after that comes excess in forms there aren’t yet words for.

I had no regrets. I closed my eyes and let the darkness envelop me, a soft laugh escaping my lips.

Hell isn’t what you think; the people are much nicer, and the water is cold, not boiling like you think. Hell is cold. I mean, the temperature is different to everyone, but it looks a lot like the world I lived in a few short days ago. It is your perfect paradise, but the stakes are higher. You have to play better, be more ruthless, shrewd; judge harder, love less. Motivation is King, intention a clever pawn and power…the prize. This virtue comes with unimaginable guilt, though it’s not quite unlike the life I lived. It nearly mirrors it; it’s positively frightening.

It’s magical to some extent. It transposes depending on “candidates.” We’re in constant candidacy, if you didn’t know. Forever on campaign, defending our character, though this could be my perception of it. As I said, Hell is different for everyone, it can look like some time and place totally different. The part that drives you mad, the truly hellish part of that destination? You are only watching yourself; prohibited to make a judgement or move, tortured to watch what could have been. A game of chess in an electric chair in paradise, eternally waiting for the shock.

I went backwards in time, to a place I’ve never dreamed of.


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