I shoved Matt back into another Monitor, “What the fuck, Matt?”
Matt looked at me and bit his bottom lip for a minute, almost like he had no idea what he had done, “Look, what’s the matter?”
“What’s the matter? Are you shitting me, Matt? You sent me to a boy as he was fucking falling. As he was killing himself, Matt. Why would you send me to someone if you knew I couldn’t help?”
“Well, we…” he sighed, and looked away.
I crossed my arms, “Okay, I get it, you’re wistful, but you better get at explaining.”
“Alright, alright. Well…” he licked his lips.
“Now, you prick!” I shoved him back again, and another Monitor caught him, giving me a death glare. I decided to pick my battles wisely today.
“Fine! Fine. I’m just choosing my words.” Matt straightened up, “I was going to tell you earlier, but it wasn’t my place to not let you go. The boys upstairs are giving you a warning. You’re job is on the line.”
My blood froze in my veins, and my neck was already dripping with sweat. This is what I was so afraid of. The one thing that I’d rather eternal nothing over. “Look, you can’t send me back to Earth. I don’t want to be reborn. I’m happy here, and I mean, I work hard. Just don’t reincarnate m-”
“We won’t reincarnate you, Renville.”
I blinked at him, “Then what’s the warning for?”
“You won’t be reincarnated.” Matt put his hand on my shoulders, “But… You will go back to Hell.”
When you die, if you were really bad before, you’re going to notice one more thing.
There’s levels of real pain:
1: Dying dog/granny/grandpa
2: Cracking your skull open
3: Heartbreak after a relationship
4: Breaking your neck
5: Everything and everyone you love being taken from you
6: Your limbs being mutilated, and torn off one by one
See, those are slow burners.
And you might say 5 is worse than 6, but trust someone with experience here.
Because when you die, your loved ones are a memory. Yes, you will see them again, but not if you’ve done bad things.
So you already want to cry yourself to sleep for a few years, but then the bodily mutilation comes in.
First, they get you scared, and sobbing. They’ll put on the scariest faces, and make sure that you’re all alone. And they won’t touch you, they’ll just break you.
They’ll say you look pretty, that’s always unsettling. Then they’ll say they’re finally glad to have you in the flesh. And they’ll lick their lips, and hiss. They’ll take your dignity and your hope and dash it over the boiling hot, metal floor.
Then you’ll ask to go. You’ll beg, you’ll cry, you’ll choke, and then they’ll take you somewhere far, far away from the big stoney gates and lock you up, or chain you to pillars. You won’t want to move, or breath. You’ll try cry, but that’ll just burn your throat and eyes. You’re weak. You’re scared. Then you finally know you deserve it, and then they’ll come back for you, claws and teeth at the ready.
And then you have something to be really, really scared of.
That’s the seventh kind of pain.
And that was waiting for me.
“Matt. No, you can’t, Matt.” I was spluttering, trying to come up with any string of words to earn me another chance.
“It’s not up to me.”
“I know, but you have to save me. Try, at least. I-”
“Hello? C-Can someone help me please?”
I turned back towards the door, and saw a lanky, shaking boy standing staring from Matt to me.
“I’m sorry, but you’re not allowed in here.” Matt put on his best in-charge-of-the-situation tone “I’m sure the ladies at the desk will though.”
“Hello.” I said, trying to distract the kid while I figured out how I knew him.
He was too new to be anyone from a past life I was in. He was wearing a pressed white shirt and an equally as white pair of trousers.
“Hey. Why were you scared?” the kid mumbled, maybe because it was to himself, maybe because he only wanted me to hear him.
I slouched a little, bending down to hear him, “When was I scared, kid?”
“When you were in my head.”
Ah. So this was the Dameon Alfred, in the unscared flesh.
“How do you know I was in your head?” I chuckled at him.
For a boy who killed himself fifteen minutes ago, he sure was quick-witted. “Same voice. And you looked scared right now.”
I dabbed at my brow with my sleeve, “Yeah?”
“Well, you’re not in ship-shape either, kiddo.”
Dameon flashed me a toothy smile, and lifted up the leg of his trousers a little, “Nothing broken though.”
I extended my arms and bowed a little, “Hey, me neither.”
“Okay, that’s enough. Stop scaring the poor guy.” Matt put his palm on my chest, trying to straighten me back up.
“Wait, Matt, the kid wants to know why I’m scared. Doesn’t he have a right to know?”
Matt pressed his lips into a fine, white line, and lowered his hand. He didn’t like that kid being here in the first place, let alone with a mad man like myself in the same room, but this kid was going to need some scaring off.
I turned to Dameon, “Do you know what Hell is, kid?”
He nodded, slowly, unsure.
“Well forget everything you thought. Just picture this, follow my words. This is the place where nightmares come for inspiration, but they never leave alive. This is the place that makes skeletons shake, and ghosts hide. This is the end of the world, condensed into every crack of the whip and every broken bone. You’re going to wish you were dead, but then you realise that it’s far too late for a deathwish. Isn’t that right, Matt Gregory?”
Matt didn’t say anything, so I took it that this was his last gift to me before he sent me down to the place I was describing in such gruesome detail. The kid stood in the doorway, chewing on the inside of his cheeks. A bad habit, since there’s no pain up here. You could end up ripping half your face off, I’ve seen it happen before. I decided not to tell him that, though.
“And is that where you're from?” he said, looking me up and down.
I was covered in centuries of grime and dirt. My face still had it’s scars from my life before. I looked burned, beaten up, and rugged to the truest sense of the word.
“Do I look like I’m from Hell?” I asked, mockingly shocked.
He shrugged a little, and I laughed. He was persistent, I’ll give him that.
“No…” I said, taking smooth steps towards him. “No. You see, I…” I leaned right into his face, blowing my acidic and alcohol laced breath over his fresh and naive face. “I am not a scratch on the underside of Hell. Hell’s going to kick my ass, and do you wanna know why?”
He stayed still, apart from his rapidly heaving chest.
“Because I might as well be an angel down there. Because the light is dying, and you better shut up and keep your head down if you’re even thinking of surviving. And, remember...” I lit a cigarette off the heel of my boot and took a long drag, “That if you wanna fuck around, I will be waiting with the Devil by my side to treat you to all you deserve. Do your remember what you deserve, Dameon Alfred?”
His chest stopped moving too. He was more scared of me than death, and that was exactly how I wanted it. I tilted my head to him, and he got the gesture, nodding very quickly.
“Good boy. Now, I’m going to Hell. Will I see you soon?”
He shook his head, faster than ever before. I’m sure if he could feel pain, the vertebrae in his neck were buckling.
“Good boy.” I stubbed my cigarette out on his cheek, and he flinched out of instinct. “Now scat.”
And then he turned to leave.
I felt proud, honestly. I finally made someone do what I wanted. It was a nice feeling.
But, see, I don’t get nice feelings very often, and they seldom stay around.
“Oh, sorry, Dameon?” Matt called him back.
Dameon, whiter before, turned around, not looking me in the eye, “Yes?”
“Ignore Renville here. You would be more capable than him in Hell, him being so scared and all that. Not like it will ever come to you even going near Hell.”
I coughed a sort of laugh, “We’ll see.” I didn’t know why Matt was sticking up for this guy, let alone putting me down at the same time. I mean, I was going to Hell, didn’t I deserve some compensation?
“No, we won’t. And just so you know, Renville was nearly on his knees just a moment ago, crying over him being sent down under.”
Dameon tried not to laugh, but still managed to let a giggle seep out. Enough to recover some of his facial colour, and tint mine red too, “Bullshit.”
“Shut up, Renville. Anyway,” Matt took a long sip of his black coffee, and let us sit there staring at each other in a little bit of surprise. Even if you weren’t scared of me, I was never told to shut up. He cleared his throat, “Renville will not be going to Hell.”
My heart started racing. So was this a game? A warning? Who would play anyone like this?
Before I knew what I was doing I was grabbing Matt’s shirt collar, and pinning him against the wall, “Don’t fuck with me, okay? Why am I not going to Hell?”
Matt raised his hands in defense, then easily shoved my boney hands away from his throat, “Because I’m not letting you go.”
I shook my head, and felt my blood racing through my body. I wasn’t here to be toyed with, this was serious, “It’s not up to you.”
“I know that. But you do have one more chance.” he said.
I took a few deep breaths. I needed to stop shaking, and get my head around what was possibly going to be the thing to save my soul, “What do I need to do?”
“Save one kid. You have one shot.”
“You know I can’t do it. What makes you think I can do it?”
“Because I believe in you.”
“W-What… Okay, fine. Who is it?”
Matt smiled, and handed me a bright red file with “unsustainable” stamped over the front in big, block letters.
"Her name is Anni Bay. Welcome to the rest of your life.”