The Four White Walls Within Hell

            Marceline awoke before her son in a room plagued with white. Before she could really take in her surroundings she ran to her son’s side. Sliding up his navy-blue sleeves and wiping off sun-dried dirt, she did a double take. Expecting to find the cuts and scrapes that naively preceded his death, Marceline questioned her sanity as she instead found a perfectly healthy forearm. Baby soft, in fact. Was it really her son? He did have the same two matching moles on his wrist that she often drew a mouth under to make him smile. 

            She held his face in between her hands and looked him up and down, confirming it was Riley.

            The child was unharmed, and it was Riley. She lay his head back down and patted herself everywhere, unwillingly letting out a barely audible gasp. Her bruises were gone too. 

            Obviously, this was a dream. Or they were dead. And they were dead.

            Marceline was in Hell. In Chamber 800, to be specific. But she would never know. Nor would her son, who was also in Hell. They would forever be protected by the two-way mirror that made up the walls of their particular sanctuary. 

            For them, heaven was a beautiful, pearly white box. They would not just survive in this large, white box- they would thrive. They would never feel constrained within those pearly white walls. It was a color so calming, an atmosphere so tranquil, she was sure it could never again be disturbed. Marceline and Riley would have access to all their basic needs and greatest desires. They would never so much as suffer a cold, or a paper cut again. They would grow accustomed to their new home, discovering that they could walk outside, ride bikes and explore the world within those four walls. If they extended an arm, the wall extended to their arm. Someday, when they are ready, they would realize they are not alone, and that other survivors were in their own white rooms- thriving, healthy, happy, and eager to welcome Miss Vittima and her six-year-old son. For now, they would rejoice in their reunion.

            Mark was in hell too. Chamber 800, Sector 2.

            He awoke simultaneously as the “ol ball and chain”, yet nowhere near her. Yet.

            He gasped for air and felt around for stability. His hands made unwilling acquaintance with several very alive body parts, causing their associated bodies to cry out in annoyance. He recoiled immediately, not because they touched a random human body, but because of the thin layer of slime on them that Mark took to be sweat. It was really hot. Really, really hot. 

            Chamber 8 and all of its associated sectors were devoted to domestic violence, both the victims and the perpetrators. Unlike his ex-wife Marceline, Mark immediately knew he was in Hell. His body told him before his brain. His ears were ringing, his nostrils were burning, and his mouth was impossibly dry. Oddly enough, however, his eyes could not stop crying. They were just tears, no intention, no emotional trigger, not even a facial expression. Like raindrops slowly and constantly slipping down a window. That part annoyed him the most. Looking around, he felt his headache at the sight of his new environment. It was like staring into shades of flaming neon at full volume, forever. Mark was noticeably sore all over his body. He winced especially hard at the shooting pains all through his right arm and shoulder. He would be chronically and completely sore for an eternity now, but he didn’t know that. His self-pity party was interrupted by a large, calloused hand whose chipped engagement ring scraped the side of Mark’s neck. He tuned out whatever apology the man threw at him and craned his neck to get a better view of where he was. 

            He was at the very top of a twenty-two-foot-tall pile of bodies; the majority being men, the entirety being conscious. He began to make his way down, every step prompting an awkward cry for help, like playing a broken piano. Only a few steps into his descent, Mark instinctively jerked around at the sound of a shrieking alarm followed by a large thud. The obligatory moans and groans that rose from the mountain of bodies told Mark that this happens regularly. Mark wondered if he appeared that way. 

            Of course, he was confused. There was no explanation. No information center. No assistance of any kind. Some of Hell’s unlucky citizens knew immediately why they were there and would likely obsess over that knowledge forever. Many, however, would wrestle with the disease of a bold and disastrous ignorance, one that spread and severely clouded their self-awareness. They would suffer the internal turmoil of believing they were good people somehow misplaced into an evil place, never really knowing why. They were the most deserving. The only resource that supplied knowledge of their situation was time. 

            So, Mark Mosure was drawn to those who looked afflicted with time. As he stepped off Mt. Sinner, he realized he was barefoot when he endured the first of many strides onto Hell’s sticky, burning Lego-tiled floor. The first wrinkly and exhausted man he could find, a measly six steps away, told him he had arrived only hours ago, and he was just as confused. He was dressed as a priest off duty, but the way his eyebrows and lips rested left a devious first impression.

            “Don’t bother.” called out a man wearing a dotted blue suit in the near distance. “We’re not meant to know.” He was right.

            As Mark came closer, he noticed the suit didn’t have dots, but rather an even pattern of cigarette burns. His pants were cut off at the thighs, ripped possibly. His sleeves were definitely ripped off. You could tell his skin was desperately dehydrated despite being thinly coated with sweat and stray tears. “What do you mean? Why can’t we know?” Mark began walking quickly toward the man with one arm outstretched, expecting an answer. 

            “This is Hell, what more do you need to know?” The man spoke with an unearned satisfaction, nearly inviting a contradiction. 

            Mark was about to raise his voice as his frustration rose when he was startled by another high-pitched, shrieking alarm. He turned to see another body, this time a woman, appear several feet above the pile he walked away from, then fall, causing the same thud he heard earlier. While turning to face the pile of bodies, he noticed a large white wall in the distance. 

            “Nah, I wouldn’t go there if I was you.” said Cigarette Man. 

            But of course, that only encouraged Mark to wander towards the strange white rectangle. As he came closer, his head ached even more than before. It was a white so bright, it was nearly blinding. He realized it wasn’t just a wall, but four walls. He reached out with a sweaty hand and placed it flat on the wall. The wall seemed to recognize him. Scanned him even. Suddenly, the white became clear and a room of people appeared. Two people, to be exact. A woman and a child. They looked awfully familiar. 

            Another shrieking alarm enlivened Mark’s senses. This one didn’t stop though. It kept ringing, and shrieking, and drilling lead into his ears. He rubbed and widened his eyes, soaking them in the involuntary tears that continued to spill from his tired eyes. It was Marcy and Riley. They were hand painting in a well-manicured plot of grass, sitting beside a well arranged spread of sweet and savory snacks. They were smiling like they’d just seen a puppy do a somersault.

            Mark knocked, or punched rather, on the wall trying to get their attention. It took mere seconds for him to lose his patience enough to begin a child-like tantrum. He nearly body-slammed himself into the wall calling out to them. His eyes ping-ponged around their room begging for answers. Everything was impeccably clean. Mark couldn’t decide if it looked more like a hotel suite or a freshly staged house. Why is he out here if they’re in there? He punched and kicked so hard his wife beater started to stretch and slip off his acne-scarred shoulders. He yelled and yelled and yelled, his voice becoming hoarse with rage. His arms were used to this kind of force.

            A hand came to rest on his shoulder. Mark turned to see it was Cigarette Man. He had a crooked smile that uncomfortably contradicted his tearful eyes, the sight of which made Mark shudder even before Cigarette Man started to run his hands down his body. “Oh, cheer up. Wouldn’t you rather be here with us?” He crooned. He looked in agony too, but almost in a casual way. It should have comforted Mark that he looked used to the pain, but it didn’t.

            Mark shook his hands off like bugs and forced himself upon the white wall again. Again, he yelled and yelled and yelled, to no avail, of course. Cigarette Man stepped back. He could wait. Mark Mosure would be pounding on the two-way mirror for eternity, but his ex-fiance and son would never hear him. They would live in between those four walls, indulging in all the comforts they could dream of, forever satisfied and safe, while Mark watched from behind. Mark could choose the fiery, hot agony surrounding him or he could distract himself with the desperate rage he felt watching his former lover raise his child in a heaven he could only look at. Marceline and Riley were in hell, but only their killer would ever know. 

 

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KELSEY CHEREVKO

is an English major who regularly consumes burritos, writes comedy, practices karate and plays with her dog whom she lovingly named after the great Dwayne Johnson.