You stop walking. Something’s wrong.
Your breath catches in your chest. A pain—a numbness in your arm.
You’re in the center of a fist. Crushing.
You fall to the ground. Concerned people gather.
You see nothing.
You see your life. It’s not flashing before your eyes. Instead, yes, it’s taking its time.
Huh. How about that? All your years and you never once voted.
You could never pick a restaurant either. “I’m ok with whatever” was your standard refrain. Such boring memories.
When the war came, you didn’t join with your friends in the protests and the demonstrations. You also didn’t sign up and go fight, like your brother did.
You went on with your life, wondering if they would get around to drafting you.
You didn’t have a church. No favorite football team. Did you even have a favorite color?
You wake up.
You’re sitting down. A bench? Dear lord, it’s hot. Like an oven. An oven filled with rotten eggs. Your eyes water as you slowly open them.
Surrounding you is a cavernous room filled with bustling people. They all wear suits and overcoats, despite the intolerable heat.
The screech of metal on metal reaches your ears. A familiar sound. Trains.
Wobbling slightly, you manage to stand up. You see it clearer now: a massive train station. No windows, no lights…and yet somehow it is faintly lit. You take a few hesitant steps forward.
Walking through the station, you come to a rack of promotional pamphlets. There must be hundreds, all in neat slots along the wall. Your hand hovers over one, another, and another. No.
You scan their titles:
“Explore beautiful Lake Brimstone!” “Which punishment is right for you?” “Your guide to a new eternity of pain”
You stagger backwards. You make eye contact with a ticket-taker. He’s dressed in an old and threadbare uniform. His eyes glimmer with amusement.
“Hello there!” He calls. “I guess you’re just figuring it out, eh?”
Wordlessly, you nod.
“Your next step is to pick a train, buddy. Pick your punishment! The worse it is, the quicker it goes.” He smiles. “After all, nobody wants to be stuck here forever.”
It comes into focus. Each train has a destination lettered on its side.
You walk toward the platforms. Which one should you choose? They’re all terrible. But some are worse than others, right? You take a cautious step toward Heartbreak.
Instantly you feel a tragic sense of loss. For a moment, you understand what it’s like to have true, deep love—ripped away from you forever. You can barely breathe.
The doors start to close. You stumble away, toward Pain. A blinding, searing, tearing sensation fills your consciousness. You recoil.
The scent of blood billows from Mutilation as its doors slam shut.
You look back. Pain’s doors are closing. No. You make for it again, but the train begins pulling away. You turn to see Terror already leaving the station.
You’re alone on the platform.