Hell is for Hell

Posted on by Dave Woodruff

First the white lights, then it was like the lights were turned out. Not just black, the absence of all light, the deficit of everything. Complete stillness, no sound or smell, to be precise, nothing, complete sensory deprivation. Devoid of sensory input, time stalls. Without time, space becomes meaningless, and here I am, dead, on the brink of something, or maybe the brink of nothing.

Then suddenly the world is returned. My eyes fade back into focus, light surrounds me, I feel the rush of air refill the void in my lungs, but where is this place, am I dead, or was it all a dream? I’m sitting on a chair on the porch of a house, I have the same experience from dreaming where you understand a situation even when you are introduced to it midstream. The porch I’m on is mine, but it’s not my house, at least, not the house I lived in when I was alive. This chair is not my porch chair. The plants are not mine, But in my mind it is mine. Peculiar, to say the least. 

The first thing that comes to mind is an odd stillness here. There is no breeze, the air feels as if it has no temperature, the sky isn’t exactly sunny or cloudy, it’s a hazy intermediate of the two. I can’t even tell if the time is night or day, the light is dim like a persistent twilight.

I walk down the street in front of my pseudo house, There are cars, but not as many as I remember in my city. I’m not sure if this is my city, although, in my ersatz, shifted world, it is my city. I see a group of birds sitting on a wire, they stare silently as I pass beneath, they don’t bother to fly away. After a walk around my unfamiliar neighborhood, I return to the porch which greets me like an unfamiliar acquaintance. It’s my porch, but I don’t care or have any affinity for it. As a matter of fact, I haven’t seen anything since I got here I can say I like in any way. 

I enter the house masquerading as mine. The small living room is scattered with foreign, meaningless possessions. It as if someone made a set for a play with items to imitate my house. I peruse the books in the overflowing bookshelf. Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman, thankfully something here is still in place. I flip it open to the ribbon marking my favorite passage.

I SING the Body electric; The armies of those I love engirth me, and I engirth them; They will not let me off till I go with them, respond to them, And discorrupt them, and charge them full with the charge of the Soul.

I expect to feel the familiar rush of genius and beauty I have so many times before experienced, but instead, the words are just words on a page. It’s almost like I’m reading another language, I fully comprehend it, but there is no meaning aside from the literal definitions of the words. The art on my walls, much of it of my own hand has no stimulus to me, much the same way as the book. 

The refrigerator is on the wrong side of the kitchen, but I look inside anyway. I recall at one time I used to appreciate package design, now the word ketchup simply means ketchup, no matter how it is displayed, I don’t even care about the font. I have a drink of orange juice, not because I like the color anymore, mostly because it is closest to my hand. The orange juice has no flavor, I could say it tastes like water, but water at least has a feeling of satisfaction, this mock orange juice is just a stand in, it actually seems to be orange juice, it just has no flavor. I grab an apple and carefully bite into it. It does not crunch like an apple should, it just gives way. It’s not bad, it just isn’t an apple. Like the orange juice, totally flavorless, devoid of everything that makes an apple, an apple.

I suddenly realize what this is. Maybe hell isn’t the same place for everyone, maybe some people do go to a place where winged demons wield pitchforks and poke and jab at them as they are tormented for eternity, or perhaps we are condemned to live out a sentence in a world of the familiar, with all the things we loved stripped away like the carrion cleans bleached bones in the sun. Imagine the wretched eternal numbness of never knowing joy again. Never feeling the sun on your face as you watch the light dance off the water. Never again listening to music as you feel the goosebumps grow in waves up your spine, I’m suddenly faced with the realization, I can remember it all, but like a terrible farce, it is all held away at arms length. Whatever gave meaning, is lacking.

The worst punishment is not the cruel, torturous treatment with no escape, it seems to give someone a desire, then deny forever, is a worse fate. Sadder still to be witness what you once had. In this place, I am surrounded by the memory of everything I once treasured, but haunted by it unendingly.