A truly grim and dark night set itself over the Thames, with heavy clouds of rain that flew over the city skyline like the ancient dragons from the fairy tales, but instead of exhaling fire they exhaled rows and rows of drops of rain, hitting the ground like a million pieces of glass that shatter on impact. Those frightening towers of mean, avenging steam soak up all the smoke from the chimneys and factories of London, as if this monstrous creature lived off the exploits or the mere existence of the human race, like a punishment, from God or from Nature (or just pure coincidence), for our ways of life and for our insignificance. In the street, people are like the ants retreating back to their anthill, like the fish running away from the predator, wandering around like some chickens with their heads cut into the meticulous-crafted urban maze, a maze in which they hope to meet their fate. Now bugs in our eyes, the humans we see, those lab rats we laugh at and feel sympathy for now, run and run and run, to seek shelter from the myriad of little liquid needles that pierce through their warm clothes, or ruin their fancy dresses, or both. Huh, those pathetic humans, those pitiful, pathetic humans, am I right? Luckily, we are safe from the rain… At least for now…
Now, the reason we are spying on those puny little ants isn’t to laugh at their stupid endeavours, but to learn the story of a particular one and what will happen with his wretched soul on this particular November evening. But you may wonder what is so special with the story of this man to make us forget the others. And the answer to that is that something really bizarre will happen to our little fellow tonight, and we are privileged to have the best seats to follow his adventure. As it is time for me to stop talking, I invite you to join me into this play of life and death, of good and evil, of sanity and madness, of God and Satan.
As we zoom down a little and set our sights in Southwark, we can easily notice in a quiet alleyway, a quaint house with a sign on it. The sign read “The Lame Fox” and from the name you probably guessed that it is a pub. But this pub had something special, I might add. Unlike most other pubs in London, this still retained the quaint and warm vibe of the pubs of old, not the touristy crap that are some vampires of money. Not many people visited or even knew the place, but that made it so warm and familiar, with enough silence for you to make conversation and enough room to breathe. But as soon as you finally discover this gem and are greeted by the warm smile of Old Nick, the joyful Irish bartender, you’ll never want your stay to end. It is a space where time never passes, where the bad things are left at the door, and, if you have the money, you can be treated with the best drinks and steaks in the whole of London.
Down at “The Lame Fox” tonight nothing out of place seems to be out of place. Judging by the fact that today it is Friday night, it is understandable to be more crowded that usual, crowded with people coming to relax from work, people coming to meet their friends, or just people who want to have a good time. If we enter and take a closer look at the costumers we can notice some interesting faces: at a table in a corner of the room sit five friends that chat and joke over one of them recent trip to Thailand.
“C’mon you Allan, we all know that you went there for those ladyboys I know it!” a fat man said, or more exactly shouted, while laughing heartily, as a blonde, slightly tanned man tries to make him lower his voice. To the other side, at a table for two we can spot two old men bickering back and forth over politics, then reminiscing nostalgically about the good old times when “England used to be English” and “we weren’t led by sissies”. Setting our sights on the bar that dominates the interior, at opposite sides we observe on the left a group of men catching some footy on the telly, and on the right two university girls consoling a third one over her recent break-up. And, in the free space that was transformed into a makeshift dance ring, a possibly drunk middle-aged man is dancing alongside much, much younger female company, who look visibly deranged by his presence and behaviour. And, finally, behind the bar we find our good Old Nick finding some spare time when he could catch his breath and receive new orders. In general, it was a jolly Friday evening at the “Lame Fox”.
As the people were chatting and having fun, enjoying their pause from the daily stress and obligations, the air rang with a familiar cling of the bell, which often announced that someone has entered the building. At this sound, the whole bar went dead silent for a few seconds at the sight of the dark silhouette standing in the rain, but, after that, they resumed their previous chatter and laughing, as if nothing had happened. The silhouette turned less and less vague as it stepped into the light, before transforming into a man, a really curious looking man.
The man was slender and really, really tall, at a height at which he simply towered over the average person, giving him a noticeably intimidating vibe. To complement his physique, he wore a long black rain coat and a dark maroon flat cap, which made him look like some sort of goon or movie villain. This idea was supported by the fact that his boots were making such a noise, that he could’ve remembered us of those drill instructors in movies. The face was remarkably pale, with deep blue eyes and red stubble that matched his hair. What made his face stand out of others were the slight scratches that were on his forehead and his cheeks, as if he lost a fight with a cat. Coming back to the eyes, which I consider to be the gateway to the darkest and best-hidden aisles of the soul, they had deep sorrow hidden in them, looking like he was going to burst into cry in the following seconds, but, funnily enough, they still kept the bliss of life in them, those little sparkles that appear in them when you are at the summit of joy, as if his soul was caught in a tug-of-war between cries of joy and cries of pain.
After he crossed the dance floor, he took a sit, put his cap on the bar, and nodded in recognition at Old Nick. Then, he slowly raised two fingers, which proved to be everything that Nick needed to serve him with his usual order: a plate of bangers and mash and a nice, cold draft of beer. After Nick went in the kitchen to prepare his order, the mysterious man took his head in his hands, as if a sudden migraine took control over his head. Shaking slightly, his mouth began to mumble some gibberish, but, fortunately, it didn’t attract some unwanted attention, maybe due to the noise that was around him. This way he stood for about ten minutes, until a warm, familiar voice broke his trance.
“Haven’t seen ye in a long time, have I?” said Nick as he placed his plate and draft in front of him. “And ye sure do look like crap! What happened to ye?” he questioned, taking a better look at him.
“Nothing and everything…” said our hero while laughing stressfully.
“Cut the bullshit now, Danny boy!” said Nick while giving him a serious look. And by the way our hero’s name is Danny Carter. “Seriously, what happened? Ye look like you shared a bed with a hedgehog, and don’t ye dare lie to me, Danny boy!”
“It’s really nothing,… I just fell that’s all…” stuttered Danny. “Just please, let me eat, Nick, I’m really hungry…”
“Firstly, ye haven’t come for a few good weeks, ye, my most loyal costumer, and now, ye flip me off?” said Nick angrily. “Something is wrong with ye, I can smell it! I won’t leave ye alone until ye tell me what happened to ye, Danny boy” he nagged.
“Okay, okay…” sighed Danny in defeat. “But, first let me finish my meal, I’m simply starving.” He added.
“Okay, but just that!” he threatened while going to serve some other costumers.
As Danny was enjoying his meal and minutes were flying into the void we call the past, people started paying their bills and leaving for home. They left in such a fast rhythm that by midnight Danny and Nick were the only ones left in the bar.
“So, I guess you won’t let me leave unless I talk.” Sighed Danny in a bored manner.
“Oh, ye are so right.” Said Nick while putting the chairs on the tables and cleaning here and there. “But, before that, I have got something for this occasion.” He said while going into the back, only to come seconds later with a bottle of whiskey in his hand. “I haven’t yet opened it. Thought it might be great to share it with ye, Danny boy.”
Danny let out a faint smile, his soul warmed by the kindness of his, whether he likes it or not, his closest friend, who at the moment was preparing the drinks. After he places the ice cubes and passed him the drink, they toasted and drank them in one single sip. After a few seconds of awkward silence, Danny decided to open his soul:
“As you might have known, I absolutely hated my job at the post office. I hated all that was tied to it. Completing forms, listen to all the bullshit our customers had to say, sitting on a god-awful chair for eight hours, and being surrounded by people who detest their job and everything they do as much as you. And this whole ordeal went everyday unchanged. Get up, go to work, go eat, go home and go to bed. This routine was driving me crazy. There was no colour in my life as a civil servant, only different shades of grey, bloody grey…” he whined as he refilled his glass.
“Danny boy, everyone hates work, even I feel like shutting my pub up sometimes…”
“Mate, in your case it is different,” confessed Danny. “at least you get to interact with them, to meet them, to learn from them. This interaction brings something new every day, you meet interesting people, get to chat with them… In my case, the only times people speak to me is to ask for their packages, and if they aren’t there, they’re getting mad at me as if I am responsible for the delay. I don’t get to find out something new about them, I do the same things over and over again. This is how I envision Hell: a place where you do the same task over and over again, until the end of time. But you know what frustrates me the most? The fact that I went to school for nothing for eighteen years, and the only thing it taught me is to be a cog in a gigantic machine. An ant that serves its own colony but it doesn’t serve itself. At least for my stupid job I get paid money, but they can’t pay me my time and my effort back. I’m not human anymore; I’m just a robot, a robot that does things over and over again. A robot in Hell.”
As soon as he finished his sentence, he sipped his whiskey and took a look at Nick. He looked visibly confused and concerned about him, but he appreciated the fact that the bartender was there to listen to him.
“But, hey, life can always take a turn for the worst. About a month ago, my boss called me and a few other colleagues to his office, and there he popped us the great news: the Post Office were making cuts in the personnel and we were thereby fired. At first, I was quite glad of “my escape from hell”, as I tried to look for jobs that were more suitable for me. But, guess what, I failed. I didn’t find one that fitted my dreams. Construction worker: I’m not the right build, plus my back is killing me; security man: Not the right build, plus I hate working during night time; and the others were civil servant jobs that I tried my best to run from. But what brought me down the most was ironically the lack of routine. Sure, it was hell, but it was still better than nothing. It kept me going. Without it I’m feeling empty…”
Danny took a little pause to sip from his drink and then resumed.
“During one mad night a few weeks ago, with my mind being on another world, a voice at the back of it told me something and I followed it: I jumped into the River Thames…”
When he spoke his last word, Nick jumped in shock and in terror, while Danny was just staring blankly at his glass, dead silent.
“Danny boy, what?...why?...? I’m so sorry…I’m so glad ye’re here now…” he said as he came to hug him.
The two men stood for a few seconds like this, when they broke off and retook their places.
“But the true torture came afterwards… When I woke up, I found myself in a sanatorium. I don’t know who saved me, nor who took me there, but I was there. Remember the definition of Hell I gave you earlier? Eh, that was only Purgatory. This was the real Hell on Earth. For the first days, you are tied to a bed and moved only by wheelchair, so you wouldn’t harm others or yourself. The only things that you hear day and night are the screams and shouts and whispers of the patients in pain. But let me say to you something: that… place isn’t meant to cure you, but the opposite, to make you completely mad, to rip off of you the last specks of humanity you have inside you, turning you into a shadow of a man, but what truly crumbles your sanity is the fact that you’re treated like you are a mad man, and because you are treated like that, you start to believe you are one. Here’s where the voices come, and the night terrors. And to stop them, they feed you painkillers. That turns you into a zombie, a sleep walker, void of any energy or feelings. Oh, and don’t get me started on the exclusion room. That room was the darkest depth of hell, the place meant for the most wicked and unfair scum of the earth… The walls white, …so…white, and so silent…, and no window that lets the sun and fresh air in, nothing… oh God I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t…”
While he was talking about the horrors of that despicable place, his eyes, although still, were bathing in tears, his body was shaking and he overall looked as if his whole body was about to crumble. Danny’s head, out of a sudden, went crashing to the table, but luckily Nick managed to catch him before any contact was made. With his head in his arms he started whispering to him calming words and second by second he felt Danny returning to his normal self, which calmed him a little bit. After about five minutes, after making sure that Danny could keep his head straight, he let him free.
“But I still don’t get one thing: how did ye get out that hell hole?” asked Nick, while refilling the glasses.
“Well, I simply played their game. Spoke only when spoken to, acted normal, ate my meals, stopped fighting. Thanks to my new behaviour, they took me in for the last check-up, to see whether I should be allowed in society or not. I don’t know how but I managed to pass it. So yesterday I was finally released. Although I should feel free, I don’t feel it, I don’t even know if I’m now alive and with you and this isn’t one big hallucination from those pills they gave me or this is that big film of your life you dream before you die or…”
“Danny boy, ye need to sleep lad. Ye clearly need to sleep. Ye already started speaking bollocks and ye clearly…”
“Oh please Nick please don’t tell me that I’m mad, please…”
“Look” said Nick. “Nobody said ye’re mad and ye clearly aren’t dying. Ye should go home where ye can catch some sleep and clear yer thoughts and mind and we can talk tomorrow, ok? Believe me, ye’ll feel better after ye rest a little.”
“Alright, I’ll go.” He said while putting his cap on and heading for the exit. “Thanks, Nick old chap, and thanks for that bottle of whiskey. Have a good night.”
“Take care of yerself man, and take a cab, it’s still pouring outside!”
“It really is…” he noted for himself as he took the first steps into the storm that was violently falling over the whole city. It took only a few seconds for the rain to make his clothes soaked wet and with every raindrop that fell on him felt like a bullet piercing his skin. In this open falling of needles, he increased his pace by every step he took, in a rhythm in which by the time he reached the main road he was in a full sprint. There, he stopped as if struck by lightning, and started to look in every direction possible in search for a cab. He looked to the left, nothing; to the centre nothing; to the right, there he is, a typical London cab waiting on the side of the road, as if it was waiting for him. But as he approached it, he noticed something weird about it: the lights were of a mild tint of green, that reminded him of emeralds, of the fields outside of London, but at the same time it gave the car a creepy vibe. This feeling was also accentuated by the black windows of the car that made it impossible to look inside the car. But in a second, most likely backed by the rain that assaulted him, he brushed off the feelings and entered the cab.
As soon as he entered the taxi, his face was splashed by a weird combination of freshly boiled tea and tobacco, which he found weird, since he was pretty sure that smoking was not allowed in taxis or other forms of public transportation. But the slight shock from the fragrance was replaced by the interior. The seats were covered by a thick layer of dust, as if the car hadn’t been used for at least a decade, but weirdly enough they weren’t dilapidated or broken, nor was the leather ripped apart. “At least they kept it safe.” He joked inside his head. After a few seconds of exploring the back of the car, he raised his eyeballs to meet the driver, but he was greeted by a thick wall made of dark glass, which seemed to serve the same purpose as the windows- to hide the driver’s identity. “Huh, interesting.” He thought. “Perhaps I’m in a car with a kidnapper or a human trafficker that’s going to kill me for my organs and shit.” He wondered. “But hey, lucky me, all my relatives hate me, I have no friends, and my organs are like raisins right now, so no ransom or organs for you, Mr. Kidnapper!” he said while chuckling lightly. “I’ll be his worst catch ever…”
As he was going on in his head about his endeavours with his alleged “kidnapper”, part of the glass wall opened up and revealed a pretty unusual looking face. It looked like he belonged to a man in the late sixties, his entire face being marked by wrinkles and age marks. He head seemed to have started balding, only some remains of his seemingly long, wavy hair survived the test of time. Regarding his facial hair, he sported a partly white, partly auburn goatee, again a symbol of aging, which partly hid a scar that crossed his lips, which seemed to have been there for a long time. But the eyes were the ones that really made him stood out. We’ve all seen beautiful eyes but this old man had some eyes that some people taken as a bad sign, since one of his eyes was blue and the other one was red. The blue one had the flashes of life in it, bright as the stars of the sky on the azure of the calm sea, a colour that made every person that stared into it regain some faith in life and in God. And the red one, well the red one most of the times seemed dead, not moving alongside the blue one. It seemed like one of those fake eyes people who lost an eye get at the hospital. But if you had the bad luck to take a closer look at this eyeball, at the very depth of it you can see the fiery pits of hell alongside the souls grilled inside them, all atop of sea of blood and rotting corpses on which ravens the size of vultures feast. But luckily for Danny the old man wears some glasses that obstruct the view to that devilish eye.
“So, where to?” said the mysterious elder in a foreign accent, which was particularly strange, since it was a mix of Russian and German accents, an hybrid Danny never heard before.
“Get me to Bromley.” Said Danny in an annoyed voice, impatient to get to that small flat of his, that suddenly became so warm and tempting.
“Can you be more specific?” the driver said in the same monotonous voice, retaining that weird, yet intriguing accent.
“Just get me there.” Said Danny already irritated by the prolonged discussion. “You need to make your way through some alleyways there, I’ll direct you. It’s easy to get lost.”
“It’s easy to get lost in life as well. That’s why you shouldn’t rush. We’ll all end up in the same place, anyways” said the mysterious man with a sympathetic smile on his lips.
“What is this mad man trying to say to me?” Danny yelled in his head. “Can’t he see that I’m tired as hell and not in the mood for philosophy? God, why do I always end up around mad people?”
Seeing that his client clearly isn’t willing to reply to his comparison, the driver of the Green-Eyed Taxi started the engine and began sailing the flooded streets of London, just like Noah in the Bible. They were driving smoothly, from time to time stopping at some traffic lights and then slowly accelerating when the light turned green. This calm movement and the sound of raindrops hitting the car made Danny sleepy, but strangely, when he closed his eyes, he felt an icy feeling going down his spine, as if someone dropped some ice cubes in his shirt. After a few more tries and the same result, he gave up. He was now reduced to watching the raindrops falling and sliding down the car window, just like some tears on a glassy face.
But, suddenly, after about a quarter of an hour, the cab put on the break, leaving Danny on the floor with a sore nose. Still dizzy from the fall, he managed to raise his head to the window and saw rows and rows and rows of cars stuck in a biblical-sized traffic jam. “This world truly went upside down, damn it.” Danny swore under his breath, while taking his place back on the backseat. “And in the middle of the night as well…”
“Well, I assume that we won’t get past this jam in a hurry, so I advise you to…” the man started.
“NO!” shouted Danny. “NO WAY I’M WAITING ANY LONGER! I’m walking home! Look, here’s the pay for the complete fare and…”
“Please, I can’t let you walk on this weather at this hour of the night. It’s dangerous and…”
“I’m out of here.” Danny said while stretching his arm to open the door, but his movement was halted by a sudden click sound, which Danny immediately recognised as the sound of locked doors. He still tried a few times, but the door was still locked. “WHAT THE HELL?” Danny yelled. “ARE YOU TRYING TO KIDNAP ME?!?! HAVE YOU LOST YOUR MIND?! I’M CALLING THE POLICE!!!”
“Sir, I’m not trying to kidnap you, you paid for a fare, I deliver it to you, no matter the conditions. As for calling the police you can call them if you want, I’m sure they’ll be delighted to arrest a man that’s doing his job and caring about his costumers.” Said the mysterious man, strangely calm and with a slight smile on his face.
“Oh I’m sure they will.” Said Danny, while searching for his phone. After he found it, he dialled 999, the emergency number, but just before his finger made contact with the touch screen to initiate the call, the phone died. Danny’s eyes opened in disbelief. He then tried numerous times to restart it, but to no avail.
“BLOODY PIECE OF ELECTRONICAL JUNK!!” yelled Danny, the yell being matched by the impact between the floor and the phone, resulting in a million pieces of the former phone flying in all directions.
“Hehehe” the driver chuckled. “Nothing in life is random, young man, nothing” he said while turning his head towards Danny.
“Leave me alone, old man” he spat while lying on his back. “If I’m gonna stay here with you for God-knows-how-long, I might as well catch some sleep.”
“That would be ideal, if you can.” The man said teasingly. “Good night.”
“Good night.” Danny spat back.
He laid down on the old leather backseats, closing his eyes and moving softly trying to find a comfortable position. And trying is what he did. No matter how hard he tried and how tired he was, he couldn’t fall asleep, as if something inside him told him to stay awake.
“You win.” Danny sighed, while getting up. “Now that I’m awake and you’re such a good professional and won’t allow me to leave it’s your duty to keep me entertained” he sassily added.
“That would be my pleasure sir.” He gleefully said. “Now tell me good fellow, do you ever watch the stars?”
“Sometimes, yeah…” Danny said, trying to remember when was the last time he looked at the sky. And he remembered, although he wished he wouldn’t. The stars, so bright, yet so distant, were the only things that gave him hope in that hellhole, changing place with them, so that he’d be so far away from this world of crap, and all his problems would seem so small, so insignificant in his eyes as a celestial body. That’s perhaps what he missed the most in the exclusion room, the fact that he had nothing to aspire to, nothing to make you feel free, and normal, and all right…
“Well, I like to watch them every night.” He said while looking upwards at the sky. “You know, makes the time fly faster when I’m lonely in this cab at nighttime” he said thoughtfully.
“You always take the night shift?” asked Danny, surprisingly showing genuine curiosity.
“What can I say, I don’t really like the Sun” the driver said. “Huh, that explains his pale skin…” Danny noted mentally.
“Me neither.” Danny confessed. “The Sun gets you all sweaty and hot, and, on top of all of that, the goddamn bastard only appears when he wants to, and often in the worst moments possible.” He angrily said.
“Explain” he enquired.
“I mean, in the moments we need Sun the most he gets behind that curtain of grey clouds just that we would miss him. And when he decides to shine, he sends so much heat that we can swear we are in a bloody oven in the middle of August. There is no middle way.” Danny clarified, visibly annoyed.
“I get you in a way. And, besides, the stars disappear when the Sun shines, and it makes me feel lonely…”
“What wrong with him and the stars?” Danny wondered mentally. “He seems really passionate about them.”
Then an awkward and complete silence fell upon the two of them, a silence of people that feel the urge to ask the other something, but are afraid that they might offend or hurt the other. They both wanted to talk, but they were waiting for someone to start the conversation.
“You know, there’s this story I heard when I was a kid,” Danny said finally breaking the silence. “that said that every star is actually an angel and that’s why they’re so shiny and beautiful, and God is the Sun itself, because He is the Light itself, He’s shining so bright you can’t look at Him, and all the angels fade away compared to Him.
“If so, which star is Lucifer?” he said with that unreadable smile plastered on his face.
“Well, he lost his star when he fell from the Heavens.” Danny explained while trying to remember that old legend of his. “You know, because he was so beautiful and so strong that he thought he could dethrone God.”
“Or perhaps God was afraid of him…” he muttered, loudly enough for Danny to hear. “That explains why the sky feels so empty tonight…”
Those last whispers left Danny in shocked, confused state. “Don’t tell me he’s from a Satanist cult or whatever, and he’s here to sacrifice me to the Big Mean Satan” he mentally laughed.
“Do you believe in God?” he rapidly asked.
“What?” Danny asked, still drowned in thought.
“Do you believe in God?” he repeated slowly and calmly.
“Well, I really tried, and until some time ago I succeeded, but recently some… unpleasant experiences occurred to me that banished my faith in everything.” Danny told him while looking at the rows and rows of cars that barely move.
“Care to share?” the driver enquired.
“No, not really, it’s really unpleasant and hurtful.” He said visibly disturbed, as all the memories flashed before his eyes, so real, as if they were there…
“I respect your decision” he said then stopped for a second. “I can’t deny the existence of every God that has been and will be, but I don’t believe, in fact I am sure He doesn’t exist, the good God from the Bible. In fact I am convinced that the true God is malevolent, even more so than Satan himself.”
“How so?” Danny asked intrigued.
“First of all, if God loved us so much, why are we suffering, me ,you and everybody else? Just to keep us noticing Him, the Supreme Attention Whore? And if we stop begging him and depending on him, suddenly a flood, a plague, a war falls over us? You know, that perfectly resembles what you said about the Sun, except in this the Sun is God. God wants us to keep us as slaves, to keep us dumb, limited, always feeling guilty, because everything that brings us pleasure or help us survive is a sin and you’ll rot in hell for basically living. That’s the deal with Lucifer, he realized his potential, he found a way to achieve true happiness, he found a way to liberate himself. With this power and will and knowledge inside him, God grew afraid of him and, out of fear of becoming irrelevant, he threw him out of Heaven.”
“Sooooo… are you a Satanist? Cause you sound pretty convinced about what you say.”
“If being a Satanist means breaking free of your shackles, defy the entire world, and grab your destiny with your both hands, then I’m proud to call myself that. Don’t you get it, Lucifer is a metaphor for the Superior Man, the man who knows what he’s capable of and who is willing to break every obstacle in his way to achieve his ultimate goal. That’s why our God is bad, he’s too proud to allow someone to shine alongside him, so he must obliterate him. So that’s why we need to remove God at this point in time. We’ll shine so bright that poor God will become just a firefly compared to us. He limits us, he’s become obsolete.”
“Oh, that’s that Nietzschean thing with “God is dead” isn’t it?” Danny intervened, proud of himself that he remembered something from high school philosophy.
“Yes, it’s true.” The driver said. “I was there when he wrote it.”
As soon as the mystery man finished his sentence, the cab was filled by a morbid silence, mixed with the visible shock emanating from Danny, who was left speechless by the words spoke earlier.
“But Nietzsche died like a century ago…” he found the power to mutter.
“Yes, he did. Everyone around him thought him mad… A smart man, might I add, perhaps a little bit too uptight…” he pondered.
“How…how old are you?” Danny asked, stuttering, as if he forgot to speak.
“I can’t even remember. All I know is that I’ve been alive for some time. I’m not even sure if I’m alive or not right now. I could’ve died, yet I don’t remember my death. Alive or dead, all I can say is that I am and, as far as I’m concerned, I’ve never ceased to be.” He said, staring blankly into the starry night sky. “I’ve seen people come and go. I watched children grow into adults who then started wrinkling and fading away, while I stayed the same. I’ve always been as you see me, ever since I can remember. That’s the reason I like the stars, since they’re the only things that never changed, that I can relate to, the closest thing I had to a friend…” he stated, a mix of sorrow and regret drowning his voice.
Suddenly, Danny’s heart was, for the first time during that night, filled with empathy for the odd man before his eyes. “That’s why he refused to let me go, he must be really lonely… But still, how can’t he remember his age, or how the hell did he meet Nietzsche while his corpse is rotting six feet under somewhere in goddamn Germany?!”
“Well,…” he slowly whispered, trying so hardly to find the suitable words to use. “…There must be something you know about yourself…”
“I do know a master.” He said calmly. “He is the star that shone brightest in the sky, He is the light that delivered us from darkness, He is the true meaning of knowledge and wisdom, He is the embodiment of heavenly pleasure and hellish pain. He is the one that will deliver us from that bastard in the sky. He is Lucifer.”
Danny was completely shocked. His vocal chords stopped working completely and his muscles became of concrete. His brain still tried to process everything, but seemed to fail each and every time. He was in a car with a worshipper of Satan. No, a servant of Satan. And he thought this night couldn’t become weirder.
“And what are you trying to do with me? Sacrifice me to your Lord and Saviour?” he said in a sarcastic tone, which he immediately regretted, since he wouldn’t have liked to anger the Devil worshipper in the driver seat.
“No, we don’t do that any longer” the man chuckled. “My master needs from time to time new subjects to perform tasks for him, to complete his work. As I told you, his work is evil just for the sheep that want to be slaves for the rest of their days, that are too weak to accept the truth as it is, still addicted to those lies that put him to sleep. His mission is to help overthrow the reign of ignorance and falsehood, to help humanity achieve its potential. Do you think all the smart people that ever roamed this Earth were doing God’s work by expanding their knowledge and using it to help the world? God wants you dumb, my boy.” The man concluded.
“So what are your intentions with me, then?” Danny asked, still confused by all the things the man said earlier.
“I want to hire you in Lucifer’s name.” he said calmly.
“Hang on a second… So you are telling me you are some sort of recruitment agent for Satan and you, out of all people, chose to hire me? How did you find me, and how do you find me suitable for your work?” he told him, more like shouted to him, while moving his hands frantically in all directions, showing how unsettled he was by the things he’s heard that entire night.
“First of all, you know the true meaning of suffering. Progress cannot be made without a little suffering, for knowledge itself is suffering. That’s why the smartest men are never truly happy and content with what surrounds them. And from that thing stems their constant push for enlightenment and advancement. Why would you like to move forward if you like everything as it is, am I right? Well, that why I chose you, you understand pain, so you understand knowledge, and you could prove as a nice asset to my master. And, plus you haven’t got much to lose. You’ve got no family, no close friends, you’re unemployed… the only thing that you have is small, dirty apartment in Bromley, for which you still pay a shitload to rent it… So do you accept my offer?” the man concluded, stretching his hand towards Danny.
“So, if I say yes you will take me to hell or some other godforsaken place to be a slave to your lord, but what happens if I decline your offer?” Danny inquired.
“Well if you decline, I can still take you by force, but I won’t, since I won’t save someone who wishes to bathe in the mud with the pigs. What I’ll do is that I’ll erase your memory and you’ll find yourself in your miserable flat tomorrow morning, returning to your puny, boring life.” He calmly explained, while keeping his hand outstretched to him. “So, what is your answer?”
Danny found himself between the hammer and a hard place, since both answers will bring something negative with it. If he said yes, he will transcend into another world or something like this he knew nothing about, on top of the inner fear that the man in front of him was just a random bum high as hell, and all he told him that night was the result of his trip. But he sincerely wouldn’t return to his former life, since in his eyes it was already destroyed. It was like going to go to some ruins that once meant something for you only to see them burn. So the answer was pretty clear, and it was:
“Yes.” He said as he shook the driver’s hand.
As they were shaking their hands, Danny raised his eyes to see the man’s face, and he was greeted by the red eye that stared deep into his soul. He tried to look in other directions, but the sight was locked on the red eye, as if some force kept them that way. As he kept staring into the eye that was the colour of the scarlet blood, everything around it faded to black, until the only thing that wasn’t darkness was the eye. From that moment on the eye started getting bigger and bigger, until it became like an enormous pit, like a black hole that swallowed everything. As he was falling, on the untouchable red edges he could see horrible scenes of violence and hate, monsters from another world and, the most terrifying to him, painful memories of his. Everything seemed like a moving mural painted in blood with different shadings, like the painting of a madman or of a serial killer.
After a certain unmeasurable period of time of falling, he finally saw something that he could compare to the end of this bloody tube of horror, as he saw the crimson margins ending into a pool of dark emptiness. Once he saw them, his fall got faster and faster, as if he was pulled down by an unknown force. Although he knew he wasn’t going to hit anything solid, Danny still braced for impact and closed his eyes. When he opened them, he found himself in that pool of darkness, just floating like a leaf in the wind, feeling warm and cozy as if he was again a baby in his mother’s arms. Because of these comfortable surroundings, his head felt heavier as he succumbed to sleep.
His slumber felt like a death-like sleep and seemed to have lasted an eternity, until a horrible headache engulfed his head, as a sudden reminder that he is alive. Is he truly alive? I don’t know, a more suitable word to describe his current state is the word “sentient”, since he was able to feel pain, and suffering is the ultimate proof of existence. Anyhow, feeling this sudden reminder that he is into some form of existence or another, he suddenly opened his eyes, which were greeted by a blinding light that doubled the pain, making him sigh in agony. But, second after second, everything slowly began taking shape, becoming clearer and clearer as time passed. When the dizziness disappeared like the fog in the Sun, Danny found himself in a grey room, with lots and lots bed bunks placed in two parallel rows alongside the walls of the long room. The only source of lighting was a lone lightbulb that hanged from the middle of the ceiling, and there were no windows, which baffled Danny, who didn’t understand why he was blinded by such little light.
“Perhaps I slept so much I got used to the dark…” he guessed as he got out of bed.
The first thing he noticed when he got up is that his clothes were changed. He now was dressed in a long black robe that was somehow similar to a hospital robe, but had a long, pointy hood, similar to what Franciscan Friars have. His shoes were replaced with Roman sandals that showed his white, pale feet. His entire new look reminded him of some medieval monks, which he now in a weird way is.
As soon as he stopped noticing the differences in apparel and gained some balance, he started walking, more like dragging his still half-asleep body through the long room towards the door, which was placed at the far end of the room. As he passed the rows and rows of beds, a sight which reminded him of some army barracks or some dorm from some boarding school he saw in some movie, he tried to recount everything that happened to him before he fell asleep, a task at which he failed miserably. The only things that flashed before his eyes were just fragments of the discussion he had with the man with the red eye, and of when he shook hands with him. His lack of memories from before his sleep left him incredibly frustrated, and all his tries ended in a severe migraine flooding his brain, so he quit. He felt like a drunkard who just woke up after a night of drinking and who was trying to recall what he did the previous evening. Damn, he even had the hangover. And that annoyed him to Hell and back.
After some five minutes of walking that felt like ages, he reached the door and opened it. Then, he found himself in a pretty large room equipped with armchairs and sofas. Somewhere in the back of the room, there was a pool table and a table tennis table, which made him wonder where is he right now and why were they there. “Do they have time for leisure in Hell?” he wondered, for he thought he was in Hell. Since he saw nobody in there, he went through the other door, where he found an enormous hall, very similar to a factory hall, but instead of heavy machinery he found rows and rows of desks, at which worked what seemed to be people, all dressed in the same fashion as him, but they all had the hood on. They all worked silently on what seemed to be portfolios, which they had multiple on their desk, and they all seemed so caught up in their work, that they never turn their head away from their papers, not even to their desk mates. They all just kept writing and writing and writing, as if writing was the only thing that they ever knew to do.
This whole image woke a really familiar feeling in Danny, like he’s seen this image before, although he had never been into a room even remotely similar to it. But, after what happened earlier with the headaches and all, he decided that it’s best to shrug the unneeded feelings off and not fill his head with heavy, useless thinking. So, he made his way through the rows and rows of desks, trying to ignore this feeling and keep the pain away. When he reached the opposite side of the room, he spotted a set of stairs that took to what seemed like a room with glass panels that overlooked the entire hall. He went up, knocked a few times, and despite not hearing any permission to enter, he opened the door. There, at the desk in the middle of the room, stood a familiar face: the driver of the Green-Eyed Taxi.
“Hey, you woke up!” he exclaimed in a slightly cheery voice. “I wondered if you would find your way to me, but you’re a smart kid so I had no worries…”
“What’s all this?...” Danny asked with a mix of anger, fear and curiosity in his voice. “What’s the whole deal with the robes? And who are those people?” he said pointing to the rows and rows of people beneath them.
“Well, they’re your new work mates.” He said smiling. “Welcome to Hell, Inc.. Our mission is to illuminate the world and to eliminate any kind of superstition and soulless faith from the human soul. And what is more beautiful than to enlighten people? What gives you more power than to be a God killer, the architect of a new, superior breed of man?” he said with sparkles in his eyes, explaining his company’s grand goals.
“Well, that sounds nice but,…” Danny started, clearly not sharing his enthusiasm. “… but, what am I going to do? Am I going to roam the Earth like you and find sad dumbasses with no goal in life to recruit for your holy cause?” he added sarcastically, but at the same time was afraid of what might happen to him.
“Not yet.” Added the man calmly. “ For now you’ll work down there in reviewing dossiers for every person that are alive and find out who would be useful to our cause, separate the wheat from the chaff, you know… If your work rate is good and find a few good picks that would bolster our ranks, then you’ll work on field like me and have your memories wiped…”
“Memories…wiped?” Danny asked freighted.
“Yes, so you won’t have preferences or weakness in picking the people the organization needs. Separate the wheat from the chaff, remember that?” he calmly explained.
“Alright so what you’re basically telling me is that I must stay here working like a slave for your lord Satan and lose all the things that make me me and not complain at all. What do I earn here? And what happens to me if I don’t do as I’m told?”
“What you earn is more valuable that all the material things in the world you just left. What you earn is ultimate knowledge, the ability to uncover all the mysteries of the Universe. Isn’t that great?” he explained joyfully. “And so please do as you’re told. You don’t want to anger our Master, you don’t want to stay in the way of his wrath, believe me. Plus, nobody forced you to join, remember?”
Danny here felt there was no way out. He did agree to his own fate, and he didn’t thing that attracting the wrath of the Prince of Darkness is the best idea. Thinking this, the last sparks of revolt and free will died in him. Defeated, he said:
“Alright, you got me. What shall I do now?”
“Go to your desk, which you will find easily. On the desk, there will be portfolios with people that need to be checked by you. You can do whatever notes you want on them, but ultimately you must either check or cross your page to enter further analysis. A bell will ring when the day is over, and you can freely go to the bedrooms and recreation zone.” He calmly explained while giving him a small smile. “Now go, or you won’t have time!”
As soon as he said that, Danny turned around as he went down the steps towards the large hall where he was supposed to find his desk. Once down there, he scanned the room in search of his possible place, and he found it pretty easily. He then took a seat, took a pen and opened the portfolio closest to him. The first page was about some witch-lady in Zambia that somehow knew some secrets of alchemy.
“Pretty crazy, right?” he said while looking left and right to see whether his desk mates had a reaction. And nothing, they just stood there, like statues, from time to time underlining something of making some notes.
Now Danny understood what was so familiar to him. It’s the same type of job he drove him mad in our world.
What Danny went through this fateful night is the actual life story of many modern humans, the essence of modern humanity. The human soul has an inherit wish to be free, to be in danger, to flirt with death, while the brain needs safety, needs things to hang onto in case everything goes awry. And the purest form of safety we found is in monotony. What is safer than something you’ve done a million times before, no?
But if we’re exposed too much to this monotony, we’ll have our humanity ripped away from us and we’ll be driven insane. Monotony will take away the thrill we once had in living, the thought of not existing tomorrow that gave it such a sweet taste. This wish for safety turns us into slaves…
Humans are born and will die as slaves. We never are truly free, we just exchange masters, being lured away by chivalric goals and naïve dreams. So we shouldn’t sell our soul for safety and a goal in life, nor for empty promises of greener pastures if we want to lose our shackles, for they take away what made life beautiful. We must sail freely in the stormy waters of life, for if we remain steadfast we may sink. And we must be careful, for everyone has its Green-Eyed Taxi.
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