Prompt Day #361: Describe an encounter with the gatekeeper, sentry or maintenance man of a dark place.
The Halls of Sheol
“You fucked up, girl.” The man said. Kara looked up at him. Her eyes were almost swollen shut and what she could see out of them was blurred and blood stained. The man appeared to be older, maybe in his sixties, she’d never been good at estimating even when she was in her right mind.
“Help me” He was right, she had fucked up. She’d gotten in way over her head selling drugs. It was good money though, it was just that, after a while that much money became harder and harder to let go. She’d skimmed too many times and had been beaten to nearly death. But why this guy felt it was first necessary to lecture her before helping, she wasn’t sure
“Look at you.” He tisked.
“Please, get help.”
“You’re too far gone for that now. Too much blood loss.” He picked his foot up and shook it. Blood flew off, landing among the other spatters covering her clothes.
“Yes, I’m afraid you are.” He said, still simply standing there, looking down on her.
“I need…call an ambulance, please.” She was so weak, so cold. Soon, it would be too late if he wasn’t right and it already was.
“No.” He shook his head, “I told you already, you’re toast. There’s just you and me now. I’m all you got. You want my help?”
“Please.” She held her hand up to him. He took it. Her world went black.
When Kara opened her eyes she was standing in a long, cool hallway. It was poorly lit with an orange glow the source of which, she could not immediately determine. As her eyes adjusted more to the low lighting, she saw the walls lined with mummified corpses. She’d seen a picture once from the Paris catacombs, underground tunnels lined with human remains and piles of bones.
“Are we in Paris?” she asked the man standing beside her. He wasn’t much taller than her. An older black gentleman dressed in a black hoodie covered by a Carhartt bomber style jacket and a pair of chinos. He reminded her of the old men who met in the park by her house to play chess and backgammon.
“No, we’re in Sheol, the hallway between the living and the dead.” The man said and began to walk. Kara followed him.
“Then what’s with these guys?” she asked. Her mind refused to hear what he’d just said. This was a dream, maybe one of those crazy near death hallucinations that the very naïve believed were proof of life after death.
“Those are shells, just molds really, not really the dead. The dead have moved on, just as you are doing now.” He did not slow down, but walked at a leisurely pace as if they were walking through the walk.
“They look like dead bodies to me. What are they like death masks or something?” she wandered over to the wall to touch one. He caught her arm and pulled her back before she made contact.
“There was a time when many believed that in the future life would be restored to them. Everyone would need a body again so they could enjoy all the sensations of life once again. So no matter what happened to their actual body, they had a perfect replica kept here.” He explained as a parent would to a child who has asked the same question a million times before. She wondered if he had been asked the question before, probably.
“Are you Death?” she asked.
“Something like that, yes. Charon, Death, The Reaper, whatever your flavor. That is what I am. I am your escort through Sheol and on to your afterlife.” He gestured to the hall. “All of this is my domain.”
“My afterlife? Like Heaven or Hell? Does God tell you where to take me?” Kara thought she should be panicking, freaking out, but she was oddly calm. Just inquisitive, nothing more.
“There are no gods down here, Darlin’, it’s just you and me.” He said. He didn’t even turn to look at her, they just kept walking. The hall seemed to go one forever.
“So where am I going? How do you know where to take me?”
“I’ve been doing this long enough, you can trust me. I read people pretty well, I know where I’m taking you.” He said.
“No. No, that’s not how it goes. You live your life, you die and God decides where you go. I want to see him, I want to talk to him, not you!” Kara pulled her arm away from him. She hadn’t even noticed that he still had hold of it.
“What did I tell you?” He said. This was the first time he showed any emotion overtly. He was pissed. “There are no gods down here. They don’t care about you anymore. They are interested in the living. Their own private reality show. That is what they want. They get off on your measly little lives. You were created as a form of entertainment only, they sit around and try to guess what their favorites will do tomorrow or if nothing much is happening, they’ll send a tsunami or other natural disaster to shake things up. Maybe create some new crazy character that will come in and blow something up, or maybe run for President of the United States. But here is what you better get used to real quick: You’re dead, Sweetheart—voted off the island. They don’t give a shit where your generic soul spends its eternity. That’s my job, ok? So don’t piss me off.” He grabbed her arm again and walked her further down the hall.
Kara began to cry. Could this all be true? There was an afterlife but it would be as empty and useless as her life had been. It was all so terrible.
“Hey, now, don’t do that. Look, I know you did the things you did because you had to. You were trying to survive. I get it.” He eased up his grip on her. “So, just trust me, Ok. I know what I’m doing.”
They walked further and a scent drifted towards her from a side tunnel ahead. Immediately she was taken back to mornings at her grandmother’s house. Bacon and eggs cooking in the skillet filled with greasy lard. The popping of the bacon and the TV set volume competing to wake up the rest of the house. The walls fell away and she was once again the little girl padding out of the bedroom in her bare feet, squinting away the bright beam of light shining through the back picture window. The shooed away the dust motes dancing in the ray like she always had when a girl.
“Well, well, Looks like Sleeping Beauty is finally out of bed.” He grandmother said to her, the spatula bent backwards as she rested her wrist on her waist. Kara smiled. These were the best days of her life. When he mother was often off somewhere finding herself and Kara spent her days at her grandmothers.
Small Kara walked over to the aluminum and Formica topped table. The man who had escorted her here pulled the chair out for her. She hopped up onto it.
“Can I have scrambled eggs with cheese?” she asked.
“In two shakes of a lamb’s tail!” her beloved grandmother answered with her signature saying.
“I told you, you could trust me, Kara.” The man said and kissed her forehead. “I have to go now. I think you’ll be ok here.”
She watched him let himself out the kitchen screen door. He looked familiar but she could not remember who her grandpa had said he was. She guessed he was her grandpa’s friend because he looked like the kind of man grandpa would chat with at the feed store. She furrowed her brow. Why couldn’t she remember?
Her grandma set the plate of scrambled eggs down and Kara dug in, forgetting all about the man who had walked her home.