To Be In Hell By Midnight

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“Shoot yourself now. Paint your ideas on the walls behind you and forget you ever survived this long. To violently pass the things we have learned thus far, we must push ourselves into territory we didn't know existed. We are the crocodiles, the wolves, the rabid dogs locked in the backyard of the trailer park. We are agitated insects buzzing around the ankles of god. Now it's over for us.”


Someone had taken their time with a dull pencil, carving delicately into the seatback.

The train was quiet, all of the passengers just lying in wait like vipers in the desert. Waiting for the day we would all get off and walk briskly into the terminal. There would be carved porcelain lions waiting at the gates. It would simply be a grand exit for the passengers on train B6. As we all were the ones who put shotguns in our mouths, tied shoelaces around our necks, tipped ourselves out of apartment windows.  We were all dead and we were all quiet.

There was a general consensus that we were away from the real world. Somehow, each of us knew that the train really didn't exist, physically anyway. We were captivated by the landscape outside the oily windows. There were endless fingerprints and scratch marks down the walls. Other dead people had carved messages in the backs of the vinyl seats.

I am a poacher in your cellar.

Lydia, follow me into this darkness.

Call 555-0038 for a good time.

Matty was here!

On the opposite side of the window, there was a bad color painting the landscape. It was dirty and greasy like oil paint that was poorly mixed. There were strange shades of orange and yellow, it looked like an abstract artist's vision of the ocean at sunset.


 


This is the most magnificent train I have ever been on. The air conditioning was blowing lightly against the sweat of my neck, head tilted back and eyes shut. There was someone humming softly in the back of the car. The large caboose tilted back and forth on the tracks as they curved like a snake's back through hills and plains.

The metal backing of the seats was gold and the vinyl covering was a maroon color. There was an intercom through which you could order drinks or food, although no one had done so yet. An old man with a beard had placed his order for a scotch on the rocks, neat. It had not come yet.

Most of the ceiling was gold bordered mirrors that showed slightly skewed perceptions of what was below them. I looked up and saw that my eyes had become dark and circles of a bruised color had welled up underneath them. There was blood in my gums.  I had never been so tired.

Every couple of miles there would be someone wandering by themselves, lost in that never ending desert. They held the same meaning to me as did litter, just trash collecting in the sand. One of the wanderers had even begun to wave his arms at the train as it passed, asking to come along. He buckled to the ground before long and didn't move much at all. I do doubt that he was dead, it is hard to die when you are fixed in purgatory.

Maybe we would have picked him up on the ride home. We never went home though.

A shrouded woman, or at least what I assumed was a woman, came out of the train car door ahead of me and walked to the bearded geezer. She had a cold, honey-colored glass of scotch littered with chunks of jagged ice. It was sweating condensation and perspired cold. None of us had realized how sweltering the train car had become.

We all looked at each-other, blank faces with sunken in eyes. Everyone ordered drinks after the shrouded stewardess left. No one wanted to tell her what they wanted in person, they enjoyed not seeing her. With them, I ordered a rum and soda with a cherry at the bottom. With extra ice and with extra rum. Somehow I knew there was no reason to pay for the drink, the money in my wallet had grown black with mold and the wallet itself was falling apart. We weren't in Kansas anymore, we weren't anywhere.

What most people don't understand about the afterlife, it isn't an instant moving of the soul. There is a journey to the final destination that takes as long as any other vacation, maybe even longer. There are maps around the underworld, maps that were made to follow. Oddly enough, there are bad alleys in hell, bars that some people aren't allowed into. There are subway trains.

We began to talk on the train.

No one discussed where we were going but only the weather and where they had been the day they died. An old woman discussed the sterilized stench of her hospital bed, another man vaguely remembered the drunken bus driver that had smashed into him. I thought simply about the gun in my closet and the way it had tapped against the back of my teeth.

"Now, young man, you didn't think you were going upstairs did you? You simply can't just think you believe in a god and expect that you are rewarded with heaven. It doesn't work that way. This train is nice though isn't it? I think the bottoms of these glasses are made of ivory." An old woman spoke fluently, she had a tight bruise around her neck.

Apparently she had hanged herself after her husband died of a common cold that turned out to be influenza. She had used 200 pound-test fishing line and it did its job. She had gone to war with the very thing that kept her alive.

The things you do when there is no one left to judge you.

We all had our drinks, our peanuts, our turn of the century wine glasses. They were made when poachers were impossible to track. When it was okay to cut the tusks from the elephant's hide. Hell was quiet and the train was rolling into deep orange hills that snaked through deep ravines, scraping over bridges that crossed black rivers. There was a time when you'd think it was all fire and brimstone, but now it just seemed like Utah at dusk. Plumes of lightning colored smoke filled the car with ghosts. It made us into what we really were.

The old woman with the neck bruises had fallen into a deep, alcoholic daze. Everyone else was quiet with the exception of a few chatty youngsters who had all decided to drink drain cleaner and vodka in the basement of an abandoned house. A raven-haired girl was smiling and smoking a cigarette, talking about how mad her parents were going to be. She was a devil, even in hell. She was keeping the afterlife electric in black lipstick and gauged ears.

I had spilled the melting ice out of my glass and onto the floor, it melted instantly. Sinking into the carpet, the water was actually boiling into the floor. Evaporating.

There were a group of wanderers outside the train, they had white horses that looked too skinny. Each of them carried a rifle and large packs filled with random items. The two vagrants walking ahead of everyone else were veiled in plastic animal masks. If this was an artist's vision of the desert, it was another man's dream of hell.

The train began to slow.

When the locomotive fully fell to a sluggish crawl, many of the ivory glasses dropped to the floor and rolled along the aisle. The suicide pact group had stopped talking, the hanged woman was smiling with her eyes still closed, I was sweating out all the rum I had drank. The air conditioning had clicked off.

Everyone watched as a singular cement structure began to arise in the dark distance. Dirty, tan clouds had welled up in the air and it seemed as if there was no sun, only dirt in the sky. Almost as if someone had covered heaven in wet dirt. There was no sky, only what all the dead men want to believe.


A signpost read "Welcome To Holyfield Station"

It was a small, cement platform that had nothing but wooden benches in an open, arid patch of wheat. There was a water fountain that did not work, small particles of dust encrusted around the mouth of it. There was no conductor speaking to us over the speakers, it was curiosity more than anything that got us off the train.


We were tired.

The station had nothing but the benches, the broken fountain, and a set of cement steps that led down into another platform of some sort. We all traveled quietly, walking next to one another and watching the sky disappear as the cool air of the tunnels crept up our legs. Tufts of wheat grew in the cracks of the steps, it tickled the air.

A man with a hunting arrow through his chest was still sipping a whiskey sour out of a glass that had begun to sweat with condensation. He finished it and threw the glass into the wheat field that surrounded the station. It broke into a few separate, crystalline pieces and was promptly forgotten.

We stepped downward, into the tunnels.

They were cement and grey with track lighting overhead. Halogen lights, bright and agitated and completely unsettling. We could hear the crackling of electricity and the smell of burning oil. The tunnel opened up into another station, it was a subway station. A large sign read "Holyfield Station Metro Transit" in bold print. The walls were tiled with an auburn and white alternating pattern. There were no exit signs and absolutely no bathrooms, no one had to go anyway. Elevator music was singing quietly over the public announcement system. Vagrant men slept in the creases between the grey wall and the grey floor. Some still wore signs around their necks telling us the world was ending. I guess they weren't completely wrong.

There was a single man standing in the subway toll booth, he was tanned and smiling. His eyes were nothing but white layers of nothingness. Like fog in marble. The way you would imagine infinity. He kept his hands behind his back until he gestured us in a courteous motion through the revolving bar gate. Then he disappeared into a back room.

There was something wrong about this trip, in all the history of things being in existence, could they not have found a faster way to hell? We, the dead, were simply upset at the journey. As humans we have been traveling all our lives, we waste them on endless stretches of highway and dirt roads. We drove ourselves to death, why would we want to travel after we were dead?

I realized something that I never realized before that moment, we were already in hell. This was the perpetuity that we were doomed for.

Getting on and off trains for the rest of time. Finding the station to be dry and irritating. Itching for a drink and calling the stewardess for a cigar lighter. We are sinners and that is simply fine. You never know that the little things will put you in a tomb you'll never leave. You drink, you smoke, and you sleep with faceless people in places you wouldn't eat in. Those are things that might have condemned you, but I would rather regret most of my life than have not participated in it. If we're punished for living the way we see fit, so be it. I remember every night I can't remember, and I am released. I am made a better man by being a bastard. We, the forever cursed, feared no god. And so, I shall fear no devil.



Now, on this luxurious subway train, I will sit in silence. I will smoke my cigarettes and drink my rum, I will laugh at jokes no one told. I will do all the things I never took the time to enjoy, because I have all the time in eternity.

Created: Aug 14, 2012

Tags: trains, prose, afterlife, story, devil, ghosts, hell, fiction

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