They always said Hell would be worse; fire and brimstone, devils with whips, boiling oil and lakes of fire, but to me, it looked like a quaint neighborhood.
Of course, it looked different to everybody; they said that in the initiation packet, right before they dumped us into our respective Hells.
I got there on a shoddy van near the point of breaking down with nothing but a knife in my pocket and a note: kill Clarice.
What would happen if I didn't make an attempt to wasn't made clear, and I didn't really want to imagine it anyway before I went right on with it. Kill a woman.
That's all I had to do before I received my next task, presumably, so I shoved the knife deep into the trench coat I was wearing when I died and meandered down the streets.
I knew the house as soon as I saw it; it seemed to be glowing with some kind of ethereal energy, so I went right inside through the back door and set on my way to finding the girl.
I wondered what the twist could possibly be: was this a ploy to see if I would get into Heaven? Maybe the girl was actually my girlfriend or something?
Maybe it was simply a ruse; get into the room, and turn out to be in actual Hell, a chance at a decent eternity squandered.
I laughed at the possibilities as they grew more and more frivolous, creeping up the stairs.
The door shone as the house did, like a studio light was facing it; I turned open the door and was surprised to see no one noticed me as I carefully shut the door.
Afterlife murderer bonuses, I guessed.
But, as I looked up at the surroundings of the room, my jaw fell agape. A medical setup dominated half of the room, hundreds of tubes and wires sticking out of the girl.
She seemed to be shrinking due to the immense capacity of medical equipment surrounding her.
A tear rolled down my cheek as everything the family had gone through sailed through my head, and their grief overwhelmed me.
I sank to my knees, bogged down by a father's, a mother's, a sister's mourning all at once. I couldn't kill her.
And yet, something in this cruel Hell of mine pushed me forward, sobbing, each tear like a drop of acid on my cheeks.
I couldn't kill her, not when an entire family, an entire neighborhood, was mourning her.
All of her memories, her happiness, her dread circled me in a bittersweet anthem of torture, and I was at her bed, and oh God, I was raising the knife.
She looked at me with tired eyes, a soul that had given up, and shifted as if to offer her chest to me.
The knife sunk into her ribcage, and into my heart, and I watched as the heart monitor flatlined, as the mother rushed in with fear in her eyes, and I felt every emotion from every paramedic, from every citizen watching the ambulance go by, from her mourning family and friends.
I sank to my knees and I sobbed, I sobbed right in that little room of the girl's, and six months went by in a flash, and I could feel every second of it. Their emotions were mine.
So, as I cried out to the heavens, begged them to let me have Hell as it was promised, they laughed at me and spit fire in my face, returning to their drinks.
I stepped out of the shoddy van again, in some part of Rural Africa, with nothing but a knife and a mission, and I cried.
Know that I have felt every twinge of sadness after someone's death on the news, every mother's cry, every father's regret. I have seen it all and it still hits harder every time.
This is a fate I would not wish on any other man.
This is punishment.