A freewrite on Hell and human nature.

Hell, as it turns out, is not a fiery pit. It also isn’t nine circles of torture. It isn’t even “other people,” as Sartre seemed to suggest.

Unless you want it to be.

Like Heaven — so I hear — Hell plays into the imagination. You get your very own customized eternity. It’s all based on your beliefs, of course. I wasn’t aware of it in life, but my particular set of beliefs placed me at the center of blame for everything; so that is exactly where I found myself in death.

It’s strange. Nothing is different about me here — not physically, at least. I appear the same as I did when I had a physical body. The only change is the thin scar that runs along the base of my neck. No one can really see me aside from my sister anyway. She’s the only one with a mind open enough to perceive me as I am now. Of course, she isn’t very happy with me, so the point’s moot.

I watched my funeral. Somehow my family managed to make it everything I didn’t want it to be. No music, no food, no second line, just people dressed in black as they wept and moaned and complained. I wish I actually could haunt them, but I’ve found death doesn’t really work that way.

Most of my time is not spent among the people I left behind. Every now and then I’m allowed to go and visit someone, but as time goes on I do that less and less. Now it just serves as a change from the sentence I serve. Hell isn’t necessarily a punishment, but a learning experience, a review of a blighted, misspent life. Not that I can go back and change any of it or do it better a second time.

The custom, bespoke prison I inhabit is made of regrets. I spend long spans of time — day and night are nothing here — walking through my memories, specifically the ones that I left unanswered. Those little matters I never found closure on. My mother, my father, my first love, all the things I could and should have done differently. I relive it all again and again, the same way every time, because I can’t change any of it now.

It’s no surprise that I see him most often. The greatest regret of my waking days. I see the best and worst of it, from the day we first crossed paths to the night I couldn’t take any more of the pain he so unwittingly inflicted on me. I see him juxtaposed against other men who could and did love me, and I realize that in choosing him I had been chasing waterfalls — the opportunities for something real cast aside for what I thought for so long would be better, for something I expected to someday be returned, because that was the way my mind worked, in opposition to the world.

With that considered, it’s probably ironic that I can’t see him on my brief returns to the living world. he didn’t believe in me in life and he doesn’t believe in me now, so I can’t access him. That beautiful mind that was so perceptive and worldly is closed to everything involving himself.

The greatest risk I took in life was not publishing a book or starting my own company or leaving home for college. It was hoping to be loved by a man who had as much regard for me as he did for a stranger. But I paid for it well, didn’t I?

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