By Chef SteelPanMan
There was a mirror in the room that reflected dust from the windows and the stilted light that came in. He saw himself in its reflection and he also saw past himself. He looked at the film of dirt and black marks upon the mirror and wondered how old it must be.
He wore a suit that he had never owned and it was a shadow in the dark room. There was music outside and he listened hard but he could not understand it. It floated beyond his ears and he could only feel it in a ghostly way.
He stared at the mirror and looked at himself.
To be insulted by these fascists is so degrading.
He wondered where he had heard that before.
Does that make me a bad person?
And he thought, yes, he must be a bad person, for he had never asked himself that question before.
The door opened and there was tepid light flooding in. The light hardly reached him and he saw more dust motes dancing in the air. A beautiful woman looked at him. She was older than him, a perpetual thirty, and she had a kindness about her and he had never seen her before.
“You are awake,” she said.
“Where am I?”
“This is the last outpost. We call it the Crossroads. Here is the last meeting place of both our worlds.”
“I don’t understand. where am I? Am I under arrest? What has happened?”
“Look outside, if you will. You might understand then.”
The window was yellow from light, a blinding hole from an outside that did not want to be seen.
Scary monsters and super creeps keep me running scared.
He blinked the thought away and looked out the window. There were people outside dressed in black and sitting in folding chairs and there was a priest beside a casket. He knew he was inside that casket.
“You know what has happened. It will take some time to digest, I’m sure. But please, we have so much to do.”
He remembered something he had read on dreaming. It was called lucid dreaming. That was when you knew you were in a dream and then you could control it. He had tried to induce them many times before.
I am dreaming. I am dreaming.
He forced the dream to change but nothing changed and he was in the room with the woman and there was dust about and a feeling of dread overcame him.
Then others in his mind:
Good. Scum like you should die.
He looked at the woman. Her kindness belied an easy attractiveness about her, a dangerous kind that told him she was sharp and prepared.
Just like every woman, he thought. You can’t trust them even in a dream.
His heart hurt. Or maybe that was yearning, an emptiness that he mistook for his heart.
“I am in hell,” he said.
The woman smiled and came closer.
“I know why you would think that,” she said. “But no. we’re in the other place.”
“This doesn’t look like Heaven.”
“Well this is an outpost, and this outpost is rarely used. You must excuse its condition.”
Around him were dark wooden furniture, a bed for resting that was well loved, and there paintings on the wall of nostalgic Americana.
“What’s going on? This is hell. It has to be.”
“So you admit you were wrong in your ideology?”
“I admit that everyone told me it was wrong. People these days can’t handle the blunt truth.”
“And what’s that?”
“That the strong survive and the weak must die.”
“Is that so?”
He was shaking.
“And yet we’re here.”
In the mirror he saw himself and the woman. The image was a comedy with him next to her. He saw the marks on his face, the years of unkind genetics and the apathy that fostered it.
I could look better.
That hurt him badly.
I could have tried more.
She stared at him with some confidence that he was unaccustomed to.
“I was right then, if I am in Heaven. Our thinking is right. There is a Master Race.”
She smiled at him with a patience that made him angry and afraid.
“You’re a hero,” she said. “You’ll even get your own special place in Heaven. This is why we came to this outpost. The way is hardly used, but sometimes we get someone worthy.”
“I was right then?”
“You are a weak man,” she said. “Look out that window and tell me if you were right.”
Mourning him were his kind. They were a scant few and he was embarrassed by them. When he was alive, he had thought them brave and outlaws. They were outcasts and nothing more.
“This is a joke. I am in Hell. This is a cruel joke.”
He looked at his hands and they were shaking.
To be insulted by these fascists is so degrading.
It was coming to him. what was that girl’s name he wondered? Was it she who had pushed him, or was she merely the last in an inevitable conclusion?
“Her name was Amanda,” said the woman beside him. “But she told you her name was Anne. She didn’t like you very much and thought you were a fascist.”
“How do you know?”
The woman shrugged.
He remembered he was crying. He had the gun in his hands and there was vengeance in that weight. He listened to that song. She had mocked him with its words and he had listened to it to hurt himself and culture that self-pity he had thrived on.
To be insulted by these fascists is so degrading!
He wondered what he had called her.
“You called her an animal when she would not go out with you,” said the woman. “She did not cry as you hoped she would. She mocked you with that line.”
“And I listened to the song.”
“You searched the internet for it in your obsession.”
“And I planned to…”
“Yes, you planned to do it. To really do it this time.”
“I don’t know. You don’t know. Maybe a mall or a street. Anywhere there were people.”
He could feel the weight of the gun in his hand.
“This is Hell,” he said.
“No,” she said. “This is Heaven.”
“There is no Master Race. You think I am a loser like they all did when I was alive.”
“Then this is Hell.”
“How? And why?”
“Because you did not do it. You hadn’t the heart to do it. Like all your kind, you were a coward at the end.”
“So what did I do?”
“You know what you did.”
The moment was blacked out in his mind. Like the music outside, he could only sense it in an ephemeral way. But he knew what had happened. There was purpose against his skull. The gun was cold and he trembled and nothing had seemed so harder than to breathe and commit to what he did not really want to do.
But I did want to.
“Yes,” the woman said. “You did. And you did do it.”
“I killed myself.”
“Yes. And as a result you saved many. Your life was an abyss for others to be ensnared in.”
“So you reward me with eternity in Heaven?”
Suddenly he was glad and he felt righteous. But the woman was bigger than him, as though her shadow would engulf him. He wondered what angel could she be.
“It is not an angel that you fear,” she said. “It is a woman.”
And he was breathing hard.
“I am in Heaven,” he said. “You said so yourself.”
“Yes. You are in Heaven. But for you it will be Hell. You will find that there are not many like you in here. All your brethren shall be in Hell. Here you will be the outcast you always were. Here you will live in a house of boredom, forgotten as the dust, another piece of furniture for the mirror to reflect.”
“No,” he said.
“Yes,” she said.
“Your funeral is almost over. Look well at those faces for they are the living. When we leave this place you will never see them again.”
He looked outside and the gathered was thinning. People he did not know paid half-baked respects. Little kin was there, and they wore dead faces, hopeless faces that tried to make peace with what he had been and what he had ultimately become.
Nothing, he thought.
“Yes,” said the woman. “And so shall you always be.”