This Time Will Be Different

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Hell found me again. All the fire, brimstone, pain, and hurt came flooding back as soon as the bony hand clamped itself on my wrist. Then I was back in the holding cave waiting for my turn to be tortured and humiliated. It was not the first time. I was not surprised. This was my hell, getting out was not hard, but for eternity I was to be hunted in a world I could never again be part of.

I could hide my rotten appearance for a while, tight gloves over bony fleshless hands, glasses over dead white eyes, loose baggy clothes, but it would not last. Eventually someone would see, and then the chase would be on. Every time they came for me, it was different. Sometimes they looked like me, caricatures of humanity, delicately blending in with people who cared too little to even notice. Other times they would appear as horrors even my imaginative mind could not comprehend.

They loved the chase, letting me think I was getting away, giving me a false sense of hope. Foolishly, I would hold onto it like a life raft. I would cling to the small feeling like a man drowning at sea reaching for anything to keep afloat, no matter how flimsy. I would grasp at the thin straws until the very last moment, the moment I always knew waited at the end of our little game. The end of the line. Then I would be struck down and sent back to hell where I was sentenced to burn with the rest of the suffering souls.
This time would be different, I know all of their tricks. Quietly I slipped out of the dark damp holding cave they threw me in. Stepping over the bloated and decaying bodies of the tortured, I ran as fast as I could through the demons playground. The cries and screams of the less fortunate followed loudly behind me as I tried to push them out of my mind. I climbed up the wall of the broken bodies that crumbled under the horrendous punishment. Trying not to gag as the wounds and gashes they suffered tried to mend under my weight, knowing only more pain and suffering awaited them when they could stand it. Near the top of the pile, I found the small fissure in the heated rock wall.

I walked through the smoldering crevice for what seemed like hours, no one pursued me, no alarm sounded. I was out again, free from the fiery hells that tried to claim me. The wall’s heat seemed to intensify as the wall narrowed into a point. I had to thrust roughly through as the rocks sharp contours burned and ripped chunks of skin from my decaying body. I pushed the pain away, small cuts and burns were nothing compared to the horrors bestowed on you in hell’s playgrounds.

The heat faded away as the fissure closed in around me. I gave one last push. The loud dry snapping of bone and muscle did not even slow me down as my body squeezed forcefully through the small slit and was birthed out the other side. The hidden tunnel expelled me out into a small cramped bathroom stall. I stood up slowly, being careful to snap the dislocated bones back into place, patching my dying body up just enough to walk or run if I had to.

The bathroom was dark and dirty, the door was broken off its hinges and laid limply against the doorframe like a scab waiting to be ripped off with the slightest touch. The blue color was faded and tattooed with graffiti. Behind it, I could see a broken mirror and the white tile on the floor was cracked and stained gray. I held my breath and waited for the sound of gasps and shrieks, but they never came. I was alone, no one was in the bathroom when I came through and I was not followed.

Gradually I made my way to the door and listened, low murmuring and whispers drifted into the bathroom from wherever the other side of the door led. I could not wait any longer, making up my mind I pushed open the door and stepped out. I could not believe my luck, I was right where I wanted to be. The door lead out into a slow, barely occupied tram station. It must have been late at night, or even early in the morning. Only a handful of commuters were mulling around. A few looked in my direction but mostly they were too busy or tired to care about someone walking around looking lost, no matter how sick he looked. Without pausing, I walked up to the loading platform, not caring where the tram went. As long as I could get far away from the opening, which brought me here, I had a chance to become lost in the crowed.

I heard the tram coming from down the tunnel and my hopes began to soar. I could finally do it, I could finally be back in the world I was taken from so long ago. I looked around expecting to see someone running after me, expecting to be chased, but no one was there. The weary eyed travelers started to line up behind me, waiting for the tram that would take them to work or school, anywhere but here.

The tram’s large bright light appeared down the dark tunnel and I had to restrain myself from running down the tracks to meet it. Someone behind me tried to push forward and shoved me closer to the edge. I turned back to say something but the words got caught in my throat. From the corner of my eye I saw the door to the dingy bathroom swing forward and a man was standing there, looking out towards the tram’s loading platform. His black suit gave him an imposing look as he stood in front of the white painted wall. His eyes glowed red.

The man in front of me was talking, but the words were lost in the rushing wind of the oncoming tram. A glimmer of red flashed just to the right of me. My head whipped in that direction, almost involuntarily. One of the late night commuters dropped his briefcase and pointed at me. I saw his eyes go red and horns push through his straight blonde hair.

The women next to him also stopped walking toward the tram and began to point, a devilish grin spreading slowly on her face. I could see the large fangs poking out from her small thin lips. Laughter broke through the now noisy tram station, it came from the man in front of me. I could see him, but now he was more than just a man. It was as if a demon was wearing a translucent husk of a man. I could still see the man’s face and features, but if I stared too long they seemed to be replaced by the blackish rough scaly skin of a demon. His eyes were blood red, the inside of his mouth looked like it was full of crushed glass. I realized I was wrong.

My hell was not to be chased in the world I used to be part of. How stupid was I to believe I could ever escape hell? My punishment was to be constantly hunted, not in the vivid world I used to know, but deep in the bowls of hell. A place that they could twist and contort to whatever I wanted most. Just so, they could rip it out from under me and crush my hopes repeatedly in an endless cycle of torture and heartbreak. I was not surprised as the demon in front of me shoved me in the chest. My feet left the ground and I flew backwards towards the tracks. Everything ran in slow motion, dozens of the red eyes watched me with eager anticipation, wanting to see my death over and over again, as they have been doing for years. This was their game, I was just a piece to be used, not even a player, just a pawn.

I closed my eyes as I landed roughly on the hard unforgiving tram tracks and the laughter was blended into the whirling sound of the oncoming tram. I did not try to get up, I did not want to give them the satisfaction of seeing me struggle. I tried not to look, but as the tram got close, my body forced my eyes open. Seeing the silver tram barreling down like a bullet out of a giant gun was not the worst part. What got me were all the red eyes peering hungrily down at the tracks. I tried not to scream, but I did. Everything went black.

Hell found me. All the fire, brimstone, pain, and hurt came flooding back as soon as the bony hand clamped itself on my wrist and threw me into the holding cave. This time would be different, I know all their tricks…

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