• Louis Roux

Hell


Photo by Marcelo Jaboo from Pexels

In the end, he was left with only two choices. The hell he knew, and the hell he didn’t. It was clear to him that he would never get out, one way or the other. The noose swung lazily before him, presenting the illusion of escape. He had tied the hangman’s knot using a Wikihow article, ignoring the suicide hotline ads that popped up.

Somehow, he still believed in God, in divine retribution and the final judgement. He knew he would be one of those cast aside. That was the only thought that had given him pause, now sitting, watching the noose for who knows how long. He had never thought of himself as an evil person. Of course not. And besides, if there was a God, and he was evil, why had he not been struck down yet? Unless, of course, God had decided that his punishment for the murder was not to be relieved by the instant death of a lightning strike or some such, but rather a long life of slowly declining health and ever-decreasing prospects. And if he decided to end it all, would that not be a further transgression against His will, deserving of an even more thorough castigation? But what could be worse than the eternal fires of damnation? These were the confused theological thoughts that occupied his mind as he watched the noose, frazzled ends of fibers sticking into the air, glowing gold when they caught the light.

He was drinking, but was not getting drunk – a strange and unwelcome side effect of his continually spiraling depression and anxiety. He stank. He could smell the sickly sweet musk every time he raised the glass to his mouth. He had not bathed in... Who knows how long? In fact, he had not moved from his chair for at least two days, if the rising and setting of the sun was anything to go by. He considered finally reading Crime and Punishment, but knew he wouldn’t get through it, or even be able to remember all those Russian names.

He got up, put the noose around his neck and jumped. Nothing happened.

He was now a few centimeters above the ground, and swaying as though in a breeze, but nothing else was different. He was not dead, was not strangling or choking, did not even have a slight neck pain. He felt at the rope with his fingers. It was tight, no room to slip in a finger anywhere, no way that he should be breathing. But he was. He jiggled a bit, trying to use his limited scope of movement to deal the final blow. He sighed – it wasn’t working. He didn’t have enough momentum. He reached with his foot for the stool he had leapt from, trying to get it back under his feet to try again, but it had tumbled and was out of reach. He tried to pull himself up by the rope, but he had grown weak in the last weeks and months, could not raise himself even a little. Oh well, he thought, he would starve eventually. That wasn’t the most pleasant way to go, but perhaps he deserved it in the end.

Three weeks later he was still swinging, by this time so incredibly bored that he didn’t even try to puzzle out what exactly God was getting up to here, and spent most of his days rocking from side to side, remembering the years when a swing was the most exciting part of his day and he had not yet become a monster, or revealed himself to be one. He cracked jokes – “I have good noose, and I have bad noose,” – and snickered. He sang, his voice clear and loud, unrestricted by the rope. He had hoped that someone would find him, check up on him, but he knew there was no-one to do that. Perhaps when his landlord realized that he was three months late with the rent, but he didn’t hold out much hope for that. On the doormat, he could see bills piling up. He kept singing – it was all he could do.

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