As I gather the energy to pull my eyes open I looked down. It’s very difficult to see; I struggle to see the faint shape of my feet.
I look back up, and notice the smell of fire and brimstone as it scorches the inside of my nostrils, consuming every breath I take, making my eyes water, impairing my vision further.
I must push on is all that keeps racing through my head as I begin a steady pace forward.
I can feel a burning wind pulling me back, as though moving forward is no option. I turn my head and catch a glimpse of what looks like wings on my shoulders, blistering away with the searing wind. The wings feel ordinary and familiar; they make me feel comfortable as if they have always been apart of me.
I can hear what sounds like the weeping of children, the gnashing of teeth, the low whimper of an elderly woman who’s lost a loved one; the sounds seem to echo all around me, sending a shudder down my spine. In the distance I see something that brightens up the darkness. The light emits what resembles that of my brother’s old red wax lava lamp as it radiated against the walls. It also reminds me of the nights when Peter and I were kids and used to stay up telling each other ghost stories, just to see who’s was the most horrifying, or who would have nightmares.
Those are great memories, but memories that fill me with a great sadness. I can feel a tear fall and run down the side of my cheek and as it does it dries up as though it never was.
I carry on toward the light and as I do I feel the heat emitting from it. Never have I felt a heat quite like this.
Suddenly the air around me gets thin and I begin having difficulty trying to catch my breath. Relax. Control your breathing. Stay calm.
I manage to pull myself together, but it still feels like something is pressing against my chest. I drop to my knees and a wave of remorse rushes over me, a feeling as though I have failed. I have come all this way just to fail.
No! I shout to myself, I will, push forward.
I push myself to my feet and hear screaming and shouting. It hits me, I know the voice; Suddenly there’s a burning sensation in the back of my head, I remember it. I continue forward and the light makes way for what looks like pits of darkness from which the smoke of the tormented seems to bellow. As I creep closer it feels like a fiery oven with what seems to contain an unquenchable eternal fire, hell-bent on nothing but destruction.
I come to a ledge from where the light and screaming originates and look over and he is here. I have found him.
His screams are going what feels like right through me, screams of pain, but he was not moving not even an inch. I am so confused but move in closer as if I’m drawn to him. As I do I hear a deep trembling voice shouting. The screams seem to be coming from the flames that surround him.
As I move closer the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, I start feeling sick to my stomach, “HALT!” the voice bellows, so loudly the other noises become but a faint whisper.
His head starts to slowly lift, his eyes are unilluminated, yet they look at peace. “This is your doing,” he says, as his eyes meet mine I feel a pit in my stomach, in now what sounds like his own voice he whispers “Why my brother?”
“I’m so sorry Pete” I weep.
“Why did you let them burn?” he screeches.
I shut my eyes from the deafening screech, my ears start to ring, making me almost immobile.
At that moment my eyes shot open, trying to catch my breath, my pillow soaked from the tears I had just shed. My breathing was erratic as I realised it was only a dream. I sat up, my mind still trying to comprehend the horrible nightmare that gave a kick-start to the day ahead.
With a lingering taste of brimstone in my mouth I said, “I am so sorry” aloud with the thoughts and images of that fateful day still clear in my mind.
I have never recovered from the accident, and I don’t think I ever will. It is a burden I will carry with me until my time comes.
The clock read sixteen minutes past six. If I didn’t want to be late for my ride to work, I’d better get myself together. Nevins was just looking for a reason to fire me as it is. The buzzer for my apartment went off, then again, and again.
“Hello!” I shouted to whoever was at the other end of the intercom.
“I’ve been pushing this damn button for the last five minutes!” Nicole shouted back. “What are you doing in there? You know we can’t be late again and I’ll not take the flack for you anymore!”
Nicole was an ex-companion I met in a toyshop on the same day as the accident. Images flashed through my mind from the past at the second, we could have been great together, and we should have had a future.
“Sorry Nicole, I’m on my way down, I had the TV on pretty loud.” That was a lie; I didn’t even own a TV. I could afford one, I just didn’t have use for one anymore and preferred listening to the radio or some music.
My moments of zoning out had become very frequent. It is not something I enjoyed doing but, unfortunately, it’s something I have no control over these days.
The ride to work was the same as any other morning. We passed the small local grocery store just around the corner from my block. It’s the same small grocery store I buy my cigarettes from, with a bus stop just out front. There was a woman coming out of the store. She dropped her purse and didn’t seem to notice as she continued walking.
“I need to get cigarettes!” I exclaimed, and before she came to a complete stop I was out of the car. As I started to approach the women’s purse, I had a look around. No one else was there or seemed to see the purse drop. I looked back and Nicole was busy fiddling with the radio as I stood over the purse.
Now what? Then an idea popped into my head, a stupid idea but the only idea I had, so I went with it. I threw myself toward the ground, making out as though I had tripped, on top of the women’s purse.
Before I got up, I had a look around to see if anyone was watching me, Nicole did not even seem to notice as she sang along to Taylor Swift on the radio.
No one looking. I slid the purse into my jacket with a quick single motion, a motion I seem to have perfected doing just this, I then proceeded to dust myself off and carry on into the store. I went straight toward the soda fridges, they’re in the open, and there are also no camera’s in that part of the store. At this point, I looked into the purse and found approximately five dollars. There was change but it didn’t interest me. I headed toward the counter and used the money to buy some smokes.
“Anything else?” asked the shopkeeper.
“Not today Mr Pillay, unless you have a special running for a date with your daughter?”
I giggled. It’s a joke I used frequently at the store. Pillay was never impressed, but it puts a smile on Naseema’s face. She sat next to him at the counter watching TV, which was mounted on a high stand on the wall behind me. “I found this purse just by the soda section of the shop; maybe you can help it reach its owner?”
It had some form of identification in it, one of which was a library card; he saw the picture inside on one of the cards and seemed to know to whom it belonged.
“Ah yes, she was here not that long ago, she buys her diapers here for her baby, I will give it to her when she next comes in,” he said.
“Great!” I replied. “Have a good one Mr Pillay. You too Naseema,” I said as I flashed her a smile, I carried on out the store.
Nicole was upset; I could tell by the way she was leaning on the car horn. She was now in a worse mood to when the morning began, I could’ve sworn I saw smoke coming from the top of her head as she fumed.
“Are you really just trying to piss me off today?” she asked. “No more stops, we will be late for work at this rate.”
We pulled into The Triangular Plate at exactly seven forty-five, right on time. Nevins was standing at the door with a despondent smile on his face. We got out and headed to the door the boss was blocking.
“Morning Mr Nevins,” Nicole greeted him contritely.
“Almost,” said Nevins frustratedly. “One more minute and that would have been another punctuality discrepancy.” His disappointed tone was obviously directed at me as he was staring at me as he spoke.
I had a very smart response but thought it might be best just to keep my mouth shut this time and just listen to him carry on about ‘how I’ve let my standards slip’ and ‘what a disappointment I have become’. To be honest I think he suspected I slept with his daughter and got her high at this point. His assumptions would be correct, but I think I need to keep that quiet, for now anyway. Eventually the tirade abated, and Nicole and I escaped into the office building.
“You see, I told you he was keeping an eye on you.”
“It’s been four months Michael. Don’t you think it’s time to move on? Life doesn’t wait you know; you’ve got a long life ahead of you.”
I heard every word but chose to ignore it. If you only knew.
As I walked I looked around the workplace, the same walls, windows and crappy decorations. Did I really have to deal with the rumblings of patrons today, deal with the same complaints from the same people. Ah well, another day, another dollar.
As I was getting my station ready and checking my float, an image came into my mind again, an image that had become somewhat systematic, as well as the smell of burning metal and gasoline, leaving an unsavoury odour within me. Six months ago, this Friday, how did I let it slip so badly that day?
The doors opened at 9am sharp ready for the breakfast part of the business day. A few regulars were really enjoying the current special that came with a free cappuccino, and Nevins kept saying he was considering keeping the special going. I honestly didn’t care about the growth of his profits, but I did rely on the patrons and the tip jar I used routinely as my personal piggy bank. I must confess that every time I stole or lied I felt terrible, almost a disgust and disbelief in myself, unbelievably this was not the person I actually was. This was not the type of person I ever dreamt of becoming, but it is the person I need to be at this juncture in time if I had any chance of fulfilling my goal. If I’m honest I need to speed things up as the nightmares are haunting me every single night, and the images of that day are soul-stirring me every second I’m awake. It’s something there is no absconding from. It is something that is entirely my fault due to my stupidity and carelessness, and I wish I could take it back. There’s not a moment that goes by that I’m not wishing I could turn back the clock.
Everyone has those moments in life, but I believe I can change that. No, I believe that I will change that. There’s not a doubt in my mind about it.
I was not certain that my plan would work, but it was the only hope that I had left. Who really knows what happens after death, and who really knows if what I am doing will be just enough to send me to where the bible says Peter’s soul was sent. All I knew was if there was even the slightest possibility the lake of fire really existed, I needed to get there and I needed to get Peter’s soul out. I needed to free him no matter what It meant I had to do.