Since she was a child, all Marie had ever known was plush pillows and silken shoes. Now that she was dead, she was finally getting a rude awakening in pain and dirt.
It was a twinge in her neck that first jolted her brain. Then it was her eyes. She forced them open only to be blinded by the sheer red fiery light that surrounded her. Her body felt like a brick. Every muscle ached. But the next sensation was her ears. They rang with the sounds of piercing screams.
Lying flat on her back, terrified to move, she looked from side to side as carefully as she could muster. Nothing. All she could see was a vast wasteland of black rock and smoke.
Marie sat up slowly, desperate not to attract any attention–not that she knew where she was or who she was hiding from. What was the last thing she remembered? It was all fuzzy. She rubbed her temples trying to find a memory buried deep when she heard another piercing scream come from directly behind her.
She whipped her head around, and she could swear she felt the skin of her neck move just an inch too far to be normal–like an over-stretched rubber band. It made her dizzy as she brought her gaze back to her feet still lying on the ground before her.
Shoes, where were her shoes? She was wearing some, right? She reached out and felt around her body, but to no avail. Not only did she hurt, she was lying on pure stone, but now she had to walk around on her bare feet? What was this place? Que se passe-til?
A booming voice interrupted her thoughts. “Which side?”
She looked straight up at the dark figure before her. He reached out for her hand. Recognizing this chivalrous act, she changed her face into a pleasant smile and hoisted herself up. She bent down gracefully to the side and picked up the rag that was the bottom of her skirt and held it gently between her fingertips. She felt the material for just a moment, scrunched her nose, and turned to the figure before her.
When she looked at his face, she froze, mouth agape–her eyes fixated on the sheer terror before her.
This man, if such a word could be used to describe this demon, had a face rotted near to the bone. His eyes were black holes sunken into ashen skin, and his mouth housed two rows of sharpened teeth Marie had only ever seen in paintings.
She tried to scream, but instead a small cry escaped. The demon’s hand moved against her skin and she looked down to see only bones and strings of flesh dangling from the palm. She whipped her hand back and held it to her chest.
The ghastly mouth spoke again, but this time more forceful. “Which side?”
“I’m sure I don’t know what you mean. Side?” She fought the tears she felt burning in her eyes.
“Did you squander or did you hoard?”
“I’m sorry, monsieur, but can you tell me where I am?”
The demon man steadied himself on his long wooden staff. “Madam, you’re in Hell.”
“Surely you jest.”
Marie felt her knees buckle and then sat hard on the stone surface. The demon made no movement to help her or steady her. Not such a gentleman after all.
“Hell? So, it happened.”
“Yes, madam. Now, before it gets much later, I need to ask a third time, which side do you belong?”
Marie looked down at her hands. Her fingernails were lined with fine dirt in a sort of macabre polish, something she had never seen before. She picked nervously at it trying to make them clean again, but it seemed an impossible task. “You’re asking if I was a squanderer or a hoarder?” She looked up at the gruesome face which merely nodded slowly back at her. “If I’m being honest, monsieur, I was both.”
“Hmm. A unique case to say the least. We will have to place you somewhere.”
“Monsieur, am I right that I have died?”
“Yes, madam. You are right.”
“Then do with me what you will.”
To be continued…