I Fell Through Hell

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Because it was bored and had little else to do but support my head while my body shut down to replenish itself, my pillow took advantage of the moment by whispering my destiny in my ear in the dead of night during that flash second of waking from a nightmare, the moment where the line between illusion and reality blurred, when fear tangled around the heart like a sweat-soaked bed sheet. It said:

Heaven holds no place for you.

It spoke to me in English but with a tongue drenched in an accent I was unable to place. Some dead language known only to pillows, I supposed.

My own unique brand of pillow talk first happened when I was a child and in defiance of all the childhood messages that slipped away unremembered, this one had taken root. I had accepted my fate at a tender age and decided to play the hand I was dealt. And after a lifetime spent in disregard of my fellow man and the consequences of my selfish actions as I baby-stepped my way through my sinful prophecy—I slipped and fell…

Down through the frozen landscape of Niflheim, where the branches, bramble and roots of the World Tree, Yggdrasill, beat my face and tore at my skin. And where Hel, daughter of Loki, stood on the Shore of Corpses, petting the head of Nidhogg, the giant snake that fed on the dead

Carried along on the poisonous snake river, Tuoni, I was brought through Tuonela, a place not wholly unlike Earth under the gloomiest conditions, where the maid of Death, Tytti, cast me down further for bringing no provisions as a tribute.

Down further, I was injured whilst falling onto the Chinavat Bridge, which was thinner than a hair, yet sharper than a blade. The twin four-eyed guardian dogs snapped their jaws at me, judging me based on the deeds in my life.

The bridge turned on its side, for my bad deeds outweighed the good, and pitched me into the demon-filled pit below, where the demon Vizaresh dragged me into the House of Lies, a place of disgusting filth, where I was served spoiled food and tortured by demons, hundreds in number, each representing a specific sin, before Apaosha, the demon of drought and thirst, and Zairika, the demon that makes poisons, cast me further down.

Through a lake of fire and up against an iron wall where I passed through a series of gates guarded by half-animal, half-human creatures named The Blood-Drinker Who Comes From The Slaughterhouse, and The One Who Eats The Excrement Of His Hindquarters, into Duat where my heart was weighed against a feather and eaten by the demon Ammut. Although horrified at the sight of my heart being eaten, I was fascinated by the sight and wanted to watch but I could not stop myself from falling…

Down through Gehenna, a deep and desolate place in which noxious sulfuric gasses hung in the air and flames continuously burned and rained from the sky into rivers of molten metal and where the followers of Moloch sacrificed children in the great fires. My fingertips clutched for purchase on this foundation but I fell…

Down past the nine-headed hydra, into Tartaros, where I was whipped by Tisiphone as I tumbled deeper into the deep black dungeon full of torture and suffering.

Down through Maharaurava where the serpent demon Ruru tried to eat my flesh.

Through Kumbhipaka where I was nearly boiled in hot oil.

Through Diyu where Yama Loki of Naraka condensed the 96,816 hells into 10 sections the Chamber of Tongue Ripping, The Chamber of Scissors, The Chamber of Iron Cycads, the Chamber of Mirror, Chamber of Steamer, Forest of Copper Column, Mountain of Knives, the Hill of Ice, Cauldron of Boiling Oil, Chamber of Ox, Chamber of Rock, Chamber of Pounding, Pool of Blood, Town of Suicide, Chamber of Dismemberment, Mountain of Flames, Yard of Stone Mill, and Chamber of Saw.

Down through Xibalba, where the lords of the afterlife inflicted various odd forms of torture on me such as causing pus to gush from my body, squeezing me until blood filled my throat and I vomited my organs…

Before being cast even lower into rivers filled with blood, scorpions, and pus, where I cascaded over a waterfall to my final death, crashing into oblivion and shattering into millions of pieces…

Only to wake up and hear my pillow whisper in its thick accent:

Hell holds no place for you.

So, again I lost my footing and fell, through limbo this time, into…

Text and Audio ©2014 – 2021 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

Busker For The Dead (Part 1)

I don’t have that look. Some people do, but I’m not so lucky. I don’t look like my profession. I’m a busker. Don’t laugh, it’s a living. Problem is, when you shut your eyes and picture a busker in your mind, be they small or tall, slight or portly, I will never fit the bill. I have the unfortunate appearance of someone whose job title is preceded by the word man. Milkman. Mailman. Garbageman. Just not a streetmusicman.

You may be asking why this is important. Fair enough question. When you’re panhandling for money–come on, let’s face facts, street performing is begging with a musical accompaniment–having the look of a starving artist plays as much a part in getting people to part with their hard-earned cash as talent.

“Oh, look at the poor wretch having to sing for his supper, let’s toss him a pittance, shall we, dear?”

Some of the others have nailed the look down from the hair that refuses to be tamed to the ragged clothes just over the borderline from being hip and trendy. Me? I look like a well-fed blue collar worker trying out a new hobby. That’s why I have to work twice as hard to earn half as much as my compadres. My audiences tend to be tight-fisted, self-absorbed philistines that expect blood for the bits of copper they toss my way.

Oh, I should probably mention that I busk for the dead.

Not the kind of job you rush out and apply for. Me? I kinda just fell into it. Turns out a friend of a friend knew a guy who used to work for the cousin of a woman who lived next door to a guy who was complaining that his employee just up and quit on him. Seems he couldn’t handle the stress of performing in Perdition, which I can plainly understand now.

What? No, I’m very much alive, thanks for asking. My work ID acts as a sort of day pass and allows me to mull about in Hell without experiencing any of the torment and damnation. Kinda cool, but it takes some getting used to.

Although it’s a paying gig, it ain’t enough to cover rent and bills–minimum wage in Hell is murder, no pun intended, so I rely heavily on the gratuity chucked into my hat. And yes, the dead have real money. Don’t ask me how that works. I’m still trying to wrap my head around the day pass into Hell thing.

My spot is the corner of Abaddon and Wretchedness, and while a part of the overall design of Hell, it’s technically Limbo, the waiting area where souls are processed and dispatched according to assessment. And as time moves differently in Hell, the wait can be an extensive one, so you figure folks would jump at the chance to experience anything that takes their minds off the situation at hand. That is so not the case. When facing damnation, the furthest thing from their minds is to listening to anyone sing. This is made evident from the contents of my hat. Today’s take so far consists of three dollars and eighteen cents in coins, a stick of chewing gum, a balled up snotty tissue and a punch card from some boutique java spot with one punch away from receiving a free coffee. The coins stay in the hat, the gum in my mouth, the tissue–ick–in the trash and the punch card in my pocket. I’m not one to go in for designer coffee but like The Police sang, “When the world is running down, you make the best of what’s still around.”

“Not what I expected,” a voice says from behind, nearly startling me out of my skin.

I turn to see a woman in her sixties, seventies, maybe–I’ve never been good at guestimating people’s ages–all done up as if for a night on the town. “You’re not the first person to say that.”

“And is it just me or is it chilly here?”

She was right, you’d figure being so close to Hell there’d be some sort of radiant heat, but there was a constant wind that blew shivers down the spine. “Not just you.”

“You’re not half bad, you know.” the woman said, looking into the hat. “You deserve more than that.”

I look up and down the avenue, We’re the only two people on the street at the moment. “It’s like they say, it all comes down to location, location, location.”

The woman opens her purse, a small clutch bag that’s a throwback to a classier time, and produces a two dollar bill. “I’m afraid I’m not in the habit of carrying cash, so this is all I have.”

“It’s the biggest tip I’ve received in a long while.” I smile as she places the bills into the hat.

“Not that I’ll have much need for it anymore.”

“Not unless you were crossing the river Styx.”

“You mean the ferryman doesn’t accept the card?” the woman pulls out an obsidian credit card. “I was told never to leave home without it.”

It’s an outdated reference, but we both chuckle at it.

“If you’ll pardon the intrusion,” the woman asks. “How did it happen?”

“How did what happen?”

“How did you die? Peacefully, I hope.”

“Oh, no. I’m not dead, I just work here.” I show the woman my day pass.

“How interesting.” and she appears to actually find it interesting but her expression drops.

“What’s the matter?”

“It would be my luck that the first person I strike up a conversation with in the afterlife would be with a living person. I was sort of hoping to find a travel companion for what lies ahead. I’ve always dreaded doing things by myself.”

“I’m not sure that’s how it works here. I think isolation is part of the torment process.” I realize what I’m saying just a smidgen too late to pull it back.

“Torment. I hadn’t considered that.”

“Sorry.”

“Not your fault. You’re not responsible for my sins.”

“I know I’ve just met you but it’s hard to believe you’d have anything to worry about.”

“Kind of you to say, but we’re all sinners in one fashion or another. I just wish there was a way for me to plead my case. I believe my sins were righteous.”

“You can always try.”

“No, no. I’ve never been good at that sort of thing.”

“Maybe if you practiced, rehearsed what you want to say? You can try it out on me and I’ll give you my honest feedback.”

“No, I couldn’t.”

“What have you got to lose? If you botch it up, you’re still being condemned anyway, at least this way you’ll have had your say.”

“Like my final words?”

“Exactly.”

She contemplates it long and hard. “All right then, if it wouldn’t be a bother.”

I gesture up and down the block. “Not like I’m doing anything else. Ready?”

“No, but go on.”

I straighten my posture and assume an authoritative voice. “You stand here accused of the sin of…”

“Murder.” she adds, sheepishly.

“Murder.” I repeat, stunned. “What say you in your defense?”

“I don’t deserve to be here. I was sent to the wrong place. I did what needed to be done, what no one else had the courage to do and now I’m being punished for my actions.”

“And whose life did you take?”

“My own.”

“Why?”

“Others would have died if I didn’t.”

To be continued…

Text and audio ©2015 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

Kiss The Lips of Death

Driven to desperation by your absence from my life, I traveled to Hades in search of the psychopomp for a solution. Know, beloved, that I would not be afraid to kiss the lips of Death itself if it meant I could bring you back for a day, an hour or even a second.

©2020 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys