An immediate, blissful peace washes over Jill. Then, a stark but welcomed silence.
She is aware, but disembodied in a way that isn’t of tremendous concern. Her surroundings matter little, mostly because there don’t appear to be any.
Just a moment ago, she was heckled by sirens, and flashing lights, and cold steel, and uniformed men screaming as they slammed black, heavy objects against her chest again and again.
There was a series of beeps, she thinks. Or maybe it was just one long beep. She’s no longer sure, and the memory fades as effortlessly as a recent dream.
“Welcome, Jill,” The Narrator says.
“Hi. Could you tell me where I am?”
“Irrelevant,” interrupts The Narrator. “We’ll spend this conversation reviewing the time you spent in your life on the earth, which culminated some time ago.”
“Oh, so I’m … dead,” responds Jill, more whimsically than she expected, as though anxiety were prohibited.
“Your word, not mine,” dismisses the now agitated Narrator. “According to our records, your time was brief – just nineteen years. You were a bright child, prone to love, and brought regularly to church by a caring grandmother. You even excelled early in education, but like many, trouble awaited you in adolescence.”
The Narrator weaves together the good and bad details of Jill’s life with stunning indifference. From those events that occurred in public, to tragedies that would tunnel her many poor choices, to her most intimate thoughts and fears–everything is laid bare as her story is made known.
Jill remains unflinching, which she finds comforting.
“At 12, you showed tremendous promise, a light amid a dark place, given your mother’s addictions.
“It was about that time you were raped.”
The Narrator doesn’t spare the tragic elements of Jill’s compromised youth. The neighbor’s house. Muffled, broken screams that went unanswered. The panting. The smell of his breath–a toxic stew of alcohol and marijuana. And blood. So much blood. Finally, the shame. The Narrator reveals a cruel twist: Jill’s mom had made an arrangement with the neighbor for drugs just minutes before.
She hadn’t known this until now.
Jill is stoic, but feels propped up, as though she’s become a passenger as the brutal and hellish details are retold of her final seven years.
“You numbed yourself, as so many of you do, with chemicals,” continues The Narrator, lacking any sense of empathy. “You turned away from your faith and God, and wore your disbelief proudly in public and private. This helped you justify an abortion, and later cope with a miscarriage, after a boyfriend beat you in a rage that left you hospitalized. It was hell on earth for you.”
The closing chapter was imminent, as Jill wonders what is to follow.
“Your love for family, in particular your grandmother, was quite genuine,” comments The Narrator. “Yet a coldness was born of the circumstances, some on your account, others not, that fostered a hate that was perpetually in conflict with your capacity to love.”
Jill identifies the cosmic choice that she had made in, or through, life, but cognizant it was never really a choice.
“No, you never really had a choice,” affirms The Narrator, understanding Jill’s thoughts, because in this place–whatever this place is–there isn’t a difference between words spoken and thought.
The Narrator concludes with Jill’s final moments on earth. Suddenly, the memory of her demise is resurfaced, like photographic evidence to accompany the trial. The Narrator’s voice becomes nearly muted, as Jill’s final experience is relived.
She sees–no, she feels–the dirty needle entering her arm, the pinch of it breaking her skin, and the brief smirk that crossed her face as the pain is lifted. She had been alone in a cold, darkened alley that final night, a dilapidated soul battling away demons, escaping the reality of a life that ended much earlier.
The scene ends, and the silence returns.
“So, may I ask again, where am I?”
“Hell,” concludes The Narrator. “You’re in hell.”