At Least – A DIY Hell

30-Day Flash Challenge, Day 27

Photo by Felix Mooneeram on UNSPLASH.

The theater is dimly lit. The screen is flickering, but there’s no movie playing. I’m guessing it’s lit from behind somehow.

I’ve been here, alone, for a very long time. Each time I wake here, I get up from the seat I’m sitting in (always H-59) and investigate the theater again. I would try the doors out of here, but there are none. Similarly, when I gaze up high on the rear wall, where I expect to find a projectionist’s window, I see only a blank blue-gray wall.

There’s only a little light in here, but I can’t tell from where it’s coming. I see no light fixtures on the ceiling. Nor do I see one. I only assume one is up there somewhere.

There are ten rows labeled A through J; each row contains 128 seats, 1280 seats total. I’ve sat in each one, examined each seat numerous times. I’ve looked for clues around and under each of those seats. I was trying to find a clue to the big question: “Where the hell am I?”

I live in a state of bored, apathetic lethargy. The dim lighting and absence of other people leave me in a mood for frequent naps. Color me crazy, but I think being here (months? years? decades?) has left me depressed. I’ve fallen asleep in nearly every single chair in here. But each time when I wake, I’m back in H59. Weird, right?

The place feels like something from a dream. Perhaps that’s all it is, a dream. I don’t know. I have no means for taking notes, recording my time here.

I tend to forget here. But, today, I remember something that I’ve forgotten.

I am pretty sure I’m dead. I mean, I’ve been here, conservatively a year. And in all that time, I’ve not used the bathroom one time – not that there is a restroom. Nor have I had anything to eat.

I need to work the ramifications of this out before I forget again. Okay, I’m dead. Check. And that means what? This place is some afterlife.

Color me entitled, but I very much doubt this empty theater, with its drab, gray-blue light, no exits, nothing but four walls, 1280 seats, a screen that flickers a pale yellow-white light from behind, is heaven.  

I don’t believe in purgatory.

You also don’t believe in heaven and hell my inner wiseguy points out. I ignore him.

So, that leaves hell.

I am dead, and I am in hell. Whew! I’m making outstanding progress today.

Am I really in hell? Was I that bad?

Don’t go there now.

I look around again. This place is gray and bleak, but still, it doesn’t feel like what an endless stream of preachers taught me hell would be. Where is the lake of fire? The screaming demons with their cartoon pitchforks?

I rise, walk briskly up and down the aisle. My body feels fine.

Well, that was something. Right?

“Well, at least I don’t have my low-back pain,” I say to the empty theater as I enter row J.

My back gives out, and I find myself wracked by back spasms, trembling on the cold gray floor.

If I’m dead, why does my back hurt? Surely I’m just a soul that’s manufacturing the felt experience of back pain.

My insight in no way diminishes my pain. I pull myself onto G-63.

My breath is ragged and tiny. Inhale too much, and I feel glass shards penetrating my spine.

I decide to nap where I am. I gingerly try to find a position where I’m not in agony.

I don’t feel like I’ve slept, but when I open my eyes, I’m in H59.

And my back still hurts.

Well, that’s interesting, my inner wise-ass opines.

I really shouldn’t entertain him, I know, but I am bored.

What’s that?

Your pain didn’t start until you thought it.

My breath halves in size again. That is an awful development.

What if I involuntarily think some new torment?

I wake; my back is a steel trap.

A thought arises unbidden.

Well, AT LEAST there aren’t hornets.

One of my biggest fears while I was alive.

The dim light gets dimmer; the air fills with the pounding, brain-penetrating buzz of thousands of hornets, big ones. They are everywhere, and they brush past me, filling me with terror. I am too paralyzed with fear to do anything. They’re crawling on the floor. If I walk now, I will invariably crush several of them, and that seems very much like something I want to put in the “Stuff-Not-To-Do-Ever” bin.

The surge of adrenaline from seeing the cloud of hornets where previously there were none has receded into my endocrine system. I feel myself beginning to crash; I grow dizzy and drift off.

I wake again; my back is a coiled-steel question mark. The hornets still swarm endlessly around and around the theater.

I sit up and take stock.

But I have nothing to add to wrenched back and a theater full of the hugest hornets ever.

Instinctively, my optimistic side rushes to find something for which I can be thankful.

“Oh, no, no, no, please stop,” I beg my unconscious.

Well, AT LEAST they aren’t stinging me.

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