Hell is a Tesseract
Wearing a groove in the rubber aisle mat pacing back and forth from the back of the bus to the yellow line that I dare not cross. My arms are numb, my legs ache, and my lower back is screaming. Could I have been walking the space of days? It sure feels like it. The green lights out on the street seem to have faded with a subtle lightening of the sky, or it’s just my imagination. Time is merely a figment I’ve engaged with very little, probably I’ve already told you. Something has changed though. Maybe it is just me.
I stub the large toe on my right foot and stumble. My legs quake in an effort to continue holding my weight but fail and I sprawl headlong reaching out for anything to brace myself. My right arm slips through the hand grip at the top of one of the seats and I buckles with a loud metallic ringing. It bends in a way that it shouldn’t be able before I slip out draped across the floor. I lay on the floor of the bus for some time breathing in the acrid fumes that leak in from the exhaust, the road, and the rank overheated metal and plastic that make up the bus itself.
Pushing myself up onto my knees with a concerted effort I manage to go the distance, get all the way standing. It took considerable effort. My legs shook like a dog in a thunderstorm. I was full of nervous energy. I couldn’t sit down. I didn’t know what to do with myself so I continued to walk. Yellow line, turn, walk, hit the back wall and lean for a second or two and then turn and walk to the yellow line. My knees began popping and the caps sliding, my hips clicked with each step. Time seemed even more meaningless during this period, despite the aged feelings I had creeping and creaking through my bones and joints. Even space became somewhat abstract. I paced the space of the interior of the bus; a space so small and yet endless loops curlicued my being opening up an immensity that I couldn’t fill with all of the ill feelings I was experiencing. Was he suffering because of me? If I didn’t know better, I might think he was suffering for me. Something horrible had happened to him, was still happening to him, the jade man. There was a connection, of that I was sure but it was intangible, transparent; a voiceless ghost.
I paced so long that the bus and I became one entity, intimately connected and full of him. The windows on the left were plastered over with his face, an animators story reel; smile to scream. Each window a transition in his life of expression from the back of the bus to the front so that as I walked, his pain, I saw and felt more acutely. The other side was the same only more torturous. It was him, whole at the back and smashed to a million fragments at the front. As the bus sped by apartment buildings and other structures these images were projected large on them by the bus’s interior lights and replayed the gruesome scenes of his life in hell so that it was a zoetrope of pain spread across the city.
This was hell. I knew it for certain now. I was suffering incomprehensibly. Shakespeare had it wrong, the stars were not crossed, nor was fate hanging there. Fate was starless, a smudged pastel of putrefaction filled emptiness. A different kind of emptiness than I’d come to know, but an emptiness none the less. That emptiness is a living breathing thing full of hatred and hunger that pulls lovers apart creating more empty space than it fills and feeding on the marrow until even the structures are hollow.
I walked the bus, back and forth back and forth as consciousness slowly worked itself into every fibre of my being. Back and forth, back and forth. Pacing focused me, helped me think until it occurred to me, the dimensions were wrong. My hell was expanding, bursting through flesh and bone, through the pane on the bus and encompassing each area of the city the bus moved through. My insides had expanded beyond my flesh; my experience and hurt had encompassed the bus and had become the city. A city populated by pain and regret. These were cosmic in scale and yet bound to me and the space that I occupied. Only they weren’t either. The only way to describe it is as an infinity mirror. My reflection is hollow revealing all the gruesome bits inside flowing out in infinite ways.
His pain was everywhere, it pounded and flowed with the fluid rise and fall of the engine pistons. It stretched across the landscape like a comet tail or a painter’s brush swinging wildly at the canvas. It was angry and visceral. It was bursting the seams of reality. It was livid and it was living, carried with me... I was living his pain now. It wasn’t mine anymore. Mine was a pale insignificant maggot under the foot of an elephant. He was Jesus and I was the cross, I am the nails, the crown.
People, half turned into those obsidian things from before were hanging everywhere. They hung from trees, lamp posts, out windows. They hung from signs and door handles. Bodies were splayed every which way. Some of them had their innards uncoiled before them. From one especially tall building there was a sheet rope of bodies hanging from near the top. Each person hung from with the intestines of the one above. A real barrel of bloody monkeys. I saw his face on every single one of them as we passed.
FWUMP! The nose of the bus dipped and then the whole thing rocked on its axles
“What the hell was that?” My reverie broken for the moment I looked to the front of the bus and held on so that I didn’t slide with the incline and then it straightened out. A hanged man star-fished the front windshield split from the impact from navel to sternum. Blood and guts fanned across the glass washing down in waves. The wipers were on high speed smearing the gory viscera around in large maroon streaks.
“Don’t worry about steering or anything, no need to go around. I’m sure the new drive-thru paint job looks real good.” I mocked the driver, but shouldn’t have. She clearly gave zero fucks, and I only had an inkling of what she was capable of. The nose dipped slightly again. As the windscreen finally began to clear of the mess - I would have hated to have been a pedestrian on the sidewalk as we passed throwing that mess - I noticed we were about to go down hill and into a tunnel. Since when is there a tunnel here? I’ve never seen a tunnel in the city before. The nose dropped again angling toward the mouth of the stone arch. The stone was shiny with wet and shimmered in the headlights. The headlights shifted giving strange creatures, gargoyles movement. A shadow rushed the front of the bus, much to small to be the actual tunnel, FWUMP! Ssshkreeeeeeee! The bus was rocked again lolling over from side to side, the fenders dragging on the wheels another face pressed to the outside of the glass, his face, the jade man, the rope snapped over the roof, the bus was engulfed in darkness and began to descend steeply. My insides lurched upwards as I was thrown off my feet during the impact. Everything slowed down, except the bus. Idle two feet off the ground and facing the luminously pallid face, eyes entirely black and empty of thought peering in.
“Now that she’s back in the atmosphere with drops of Jupiter in her hair...”
There it was. The coiling Ouroboros is swallowing its tale. Infinity approaches, passes, ends, approaches, passes, ends, approaches, passes, ends... Countless minutes flashed by. Tiny yellow pin pricks of light strobe through the windows as the bus drops like a roller coaster. The driver’s buckle is holding her close to her seat, about an inch or two above it. I’m in the middle of the bus between the front and back and both sides watching velocity unfold outside. The yellow pin pricks stretch into longer and longer streaks of sallow light framed in darkness. The hanged man begins to slide, his lips catch the glass and are pulled, at first into a grimace and then a look of surprise. His cheeks catch and pull as inches closer to the edge, revealing the soft, gooey, pink underneath before he caught a speed wobble and rolled over the edge bouncing along the right side of the bus, speed and collision spinning his broken body between each clash with the steel and the glass.
I reach out in a slow, smooth motion. I’ve forgotten about the heat and the smell. I’m in a void. I am void. Prone, I spread my other arm out touching the air. Nothing else inside the bus moves. Even the driver hasn’t turned the wheel or anything. Everything is quiet. As quiet and still as this world was when I first got on the bus.
"Did you make it to the Milky Way to see the lights all faded?
and that Heaven is overrated?"
It is so quiet I can hear my own breathing. The heavy exhale. The soft inhale. I float and I am thankful the hanged man is gone. Outside is just black with streamers of yellow light; and utter, incomprehensible quiet.