by J’Rie Elliott
“Why are you doing this to me? I know I wasn’t there for them, I…” He was not sure what he was saying; why had he not been there, did he even have a reason? What had been so much more interesting and important than the woman who loved him and the kids he helped bring into this world? These thoughts raced in his mind as he sat in the tattered blue recliner holding his face. The air about him was damp and cold—chilling him to the bone and making his joints ache within him. He pulled a cigarette from the pack in his pocket then flicked the lighter to light it—there was no spark. He walked to the kitchen to light it from the stove and the stove would not light. “Dam it to hell!” He gripped. Not only was he stuck here, but he couldn’t light his smokes either.
A golden glow appeared again in the house, this time it was coming from the master bedroom; Marvin Gay was playing softly on the radio. He walked down the hall to the back of the house to see Hannah sitting on the bed in a spectacularly sexy red full length night gown with white lace trim; candles burned on the night stands and dressers in the room. “Wow, I’ve never seen that outfit before. Who are you waiting on?” He could feel the anger and the lust boiling in his body at the same time. “Were you cheating on me?” Hannah stood up and walked to the mirror checking her hair and her outfit; she picked up a card from the dresser—he walked up behind her and read over her shoulder—‘Happy Anniversary to my husband’. “Oh babe, I’m sorry. I…” She did a turn in the mirror, her eyes got big when she saw a price tag hanging from under her arm. Hannah smiled at herself and clipped off the label. Looking at the clock she sat down on the bed and waited and waited and waited. Hannah fell asleep; the candles burned down to the nubs, Hannah jumped awake to the phone ringing—though it made no sound for him to hear. Hannah spun and lifted the receiver with passion and eagerness on her face; the eagerness went away and disappointment took its place. She nodded her head and placed the receiver back on the base; standing she walked into the bathroom and returned wearing her terry cloth robe holding her sexy night gown in her hand. She gathered up the candles and the card and threw them into the garbage along with the gown. She dropped across the bed sobbing like a child; he raced to the side of the bed and kneeled beside her legs; he was crying at her feet. “Baby, please listen to me, I didn’t know you had made all of these plans. Why didn’t you tell me on the phone? I would have come back home if I had known you were waiting on me. Please don’t cry baby, please don’t cry.” His pleas went unheard; Hannah was not there, this time was not there. This moment happened twenty years ago—back when his kids were still little and Hannah still wore his ring. The glow faded and the grayness surrounded him; he now knelt on a floor covered in dust, beside a bed that had no blankets, no warmth; there was nothing soft, warm or gentle in this room—it was just emptiness.
This shell of a man sat on the floor weeping softly, his chest heaving like that of a hurt child. There was nothing that would stop this flow of emotions that was running down his cheeks; a lifetime of mistakes all rushed to him—the ones he knew about and even worse the ones he never knew happened.
What was taking place to him? Was he trapped in a horrid nightmare that was vivid and yet still haunting? He lay on the cold floor exhausted from the turmoil he was dealing with—he could not sleep. “Of course I can’t sleep. How can I sleep in a dream?” He said to himself; but why was he not waking up? That was when a voice other than his broke the silence in the damp, darkened room.
“You cannot wake up because you are not asleep.” The voice boomed in the silent house. The man jumped with a yelp and jolted up from the floor. Standing before him was a man, a man of a nondescript race; he was neither White nor Black, Hispanic nor Asian, he appeared to be a combination of all human races. The tone of his skin changed with his movements through the room; his facial features shifted with the movement of his head. This gave him a chameleon likeness that added to his intensity. The only stable thing on this man was his voice; his voice held steady and true—comforting in a way, yet terrifying.
“Who are you?” This terrified lump of a man screamed.
“The question is not who am I; but who are you? You are a man without soul; a man who wasted the gifts that were bestowed upon him. A man who squandered the delights given to earthly man in search of instant self-gratification, fornication, depravity, ego, pride, coward-ness and drunkenness. You spat in the eye of every man in the Universe who unwilling lost everything they loved; every man who had to prematurely burry their wives or children; every man who prayed for the love only to find it was lost from him. You sir need to ask who you are before you ask who I am.” This shifting figure continued to pace back and forth across the room like a caged tiger that either had to pace or maul. The anger in his voice had become tangible; the comforting tone was gone—it had been replaced with distain and disgust.
“I don’t know who the hell you think you are, but how dear you lecture me!” He could not believe these words were coming out of his mouth to this creature that was walking around him; a creature that might possible have the ability to rip him limb from limb. “Who are you to judge me?”
“Who am I to judge you?” The man creature grew from an average height to a looming nine feet tall and widened by another two feet. His voice deepened and his eyes glowed beams of blue. “I am beyond your meager comprehension; I am the keeper of the lost souls!” His voice echoed off the walls in the empty house and the world began to spin; he grabbed this pathetic man by the shoulders and tossed him across the spinning room, he landed, his head bouncing off of the floor. “You are to be damned! Have you not figured that out?” Spittle flew out of the creature’s mouth onto the face of this damned man. The man’s face drained of color—from a peach cream to an ashen white; all of the strength left his legs and he stayed collapsed upon the floor.
“I’m what?” The words came out in a croak and his mouth instantly lost all moisture; his chest felt as though a lead weight was sat upon him and then pressed even harder. He could feel his bowels loosen within him and had to physically restrain his stomach from retching up whatever was inside of it.
“You are such a pathetic little man. What did you think, it was all a bad dream and you were going to wake up? Even if it was a dream, what reason would you have to wake up? You can clearly see where your life turned out—no one would want to wake up to that. Even I would not want that, and I have been damned to have to cavort with the likes of you.” The creature had returned to an average human size, though he was still over six feet tall. He rolled his neck as though to stretch the muscles; a grinding crunching sound came from him as though his bones were crushed within his flesh. His face shifted with every tilt and rotation.
“What is going to happen to me now?” The ashen faced man said looking at the dirty floor beneath him. The creature gestured his hands through the air; the room turned gold and warm again, the furniture was back and new, the air smelled like fresh washed linens. It was his home again, his home the way it was when he walked out on it.
“You have been judged and you have been sentenced; not by me, but by him.”
“Him, who is him?”
“Him, God, the Great Spirit, Allah, whatever name you call him, He is the judge. Everyone’s hell or damnation is different.” The creature said his voice still stable though certainly not comforting. “A man by the name of Dante said there were nine circles of hell…he did not count high enough. Each sin we cast makes a mark, each of these marks add up to a story. You are looking at my damnation; in my life I was what your culture term a racist. I hated anyone from another place, anyone another color; I was a misogynist who thought women were only for my amusement. I was a deceitful, detestable man. Now I am doomed to be all races, both sexes and I have to keep the lost souls. I am never at rest I am always in pain; I must endure the emotional pain I inflicted on people as physical pain.” The creature rotated his neck again making that horrid noise. “That is my hell, this is yours.”
“What about the devil?” He asked trying not to look at the shifting face and skin before him.
“That’s not for you to understand, nor for me to explain. What you are to know is that you are to watch all of you mistakes. The ones you made by your carelessness, your lust, your self love. You will spend eternity watching and reliving; they will be alive and warm, you will be cold and in pain. You will never eat, you will never sleep, and it will never stop. Every vision will be new to you as every cycle you will forget and have to relive the pain fresh each time. Eternity is a long time…what was your name?”
“Joseph Trilonnie” he uttered.
“Joseph Trilonnie, you will never hear your name again, you will only hear what the visions let you hear; you will be alone with the ghost of your past and the past with your family that you squandered. I will stay with you through this one last memory, and then you will be alone.”
Click here to read Part 1 of Lost Souls.
J’Rie Elliott is a poetess and ongoing contributor of Synchronized Chaos. To contact her, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.