by Sumayyah

I thought it was a fever dream at first. It was so hot that I was choking, and meanwhile I was sinking, sinking. I sank through my bed and then the floor, and then through the very dirt. The earth's strata rose up around me, rock and lava and dinosaur bones. I passed through the layers like an image sweeping across a wall. It was as if I were lighter than light itself, but then... Why was I falling?

I came to rest with a ding, atop a scale like those used in the fruit sections of supermarkets.

"This soul is definitely too heavy," I heard a man speak. Judging by his tone of voice, he was a nice guy. Judging by his pressed grey uniform, he was an attendant for the scale that caught me. Judging by his brick red skin, ram horns, and forked tail waving from behind his coattails, he was a devil and I was in Hell. He offered me a hand to rise. I was still in my pajamas and blushed a bit for it.

"That can't be right," I said slowly, looking about myself at the cavernous ceilings and smoky air, the red-skinned workers and other unmistakably hellish details. "I mean, I've never really done anything bad. And I only died of a fever." I mean, I'd been lonely enough to kill myself at times, but I never did it. I expected someone to praise me for refraining.

The devil attendant still had my hand and led me away down the steps of the person-sized scale--three scales over, another recent arrival was caught with a ding--and towards the depths of Hell. I looked more like a miner's city than a punishment center "Have you ever told a lie?" he began.

"Well, I..."

"Raised your fists?"

"Not since..."

"Drank? Gambled? Cursed? Lusted? Envied?"

"..." I said nothing, but merely thought that at that rate, no one would be allowed into heaven. We continued descending in the meanwhile; the scales were high up like windmills or solar panels, and we had a ways to go before we'd reach the ground.

The demon smiled as if he read my mind. "You're right; the majority of all humans do end up here. And we punished them all. There is poetic punishment for every foible you can devise. Including those for passive-aggressive suicidal regressive girls like you."

Again I said nothing. I suppose one of my greatest fears would be to have my mind read. I was quietly the entire way down, when we came to the ground level streets.

"But don't worry! The punishment only proceeds on weekdays, from 8 to 5. The rest of the time, you're free to do as you please. And seeing as you've died on a Friday night, it's the perfect time for me to show you around. Over there is where you will be forced to swallow liquid mercury for all your past untruth, and there's one of our most popular boutiques..."

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