It was the most feminine voice I’ve heard all my life. It was light, round, and had a motherly feel to it. Every time it spoke, I could hear everything clearly at once—church bells ringing after a wedding, a baby’s laugh, prayers fluttering out a child’s mouth, the blinking eyes of fully grown men chattering through a can of beer, cries of pleading, desperate footsteps, and the sound of a peaceful death. I heard numerous things every time it spoke and it was really crazy to believe.
I stood speechless on the foggy ground in front of a blinding white light that came from behind a cluster of clouds above me.
"Who am I? Am I really dead?" Ever since I've arrived in this still wasteland with nothing but a pitch black surrounding and a thick coat of fog, I couldn't recall anything. The last thing I felt was something puncturing my heart. The last thing I heard was a cry that wasn't mine, and the last color I saw was red.
"Child, you are Jun Riddler. You have been brutally murdered on the twenty first of December." The fog grew. The chillness settled in. I observed the paleness in my hands until the realization hit me.
So, I was really dead. But how come I couldn't remember anything?
"So this is the afterlife?"
"Wrong." A bell rings, coming from above us. "You are correct that you are dead. However, you still have one more thing to do before entering my kingdom." I knew nothing of this voice but the way it filled me up with warmth every time it answered me was comforting . "You are to go into hell to find and judge your killer. I will put into your hands the fate of another soul till it dies..."
"Wait, what do you mean? I'll be going to hell?"
The light gets brighter and brighter. I couldn't open my eyes anymore. "Tell me who you are!"
"I am who I am, child." The voice pauses. "I'll see you after you are done with your task. For now, farewell."
I woke up on my bed, with sweat dripping down my neck and tears in my eyes. It was a recurring dream—no, memory of when I first realized my death. It was my first memory here in the afterlife. After talking to that mysterious voice, a small winged girl who was only half my size explained to me that I was to hunt down my murderer here in hell. And until then, my soul cannot find its peace in my respective resting place. It's been a while since that day and now I've been adapting well to life here.
Kicking off my blanket, I stood up and checked the small clock at my desk saying that I was just in time.
At five in the morning, I would wake up and get ready for work. At six, I'd leave the dormitory to arrive early at the Besmont's where I work as a cleaning maid.
After getting outside with only my handy satchel in hand and a new set of clothes on, I start hiking my way in the scorching, sandy desert. The sun is bright red and the air is too humid to be breathed in fully. Sand would always rise up in the air and it would make my journey to the Besmont's more difficult.
The dorm I live in, Crossroad, is a place where tasked souls like me would stay until our agendas in hell are over. Crossroad is a walking distance from hell's true gates. After Satan was killed, long before I entered this place,a powerful demon who loved gambling turned the land into one enormous casino and paradise called, Gehanna. It was composed of three sectors—the residential area, the commercial area, and the infamous lake of fire where sinners were eternally punished. Hell was still hell despite the changes. However, chosen souls would sometimes turn into demons as well. Most of them, when newly arrive, gain power and wealth, but after their one hundredth year, they shall be punished tenfold at the lake whih was an inescapable fate for all.
As I walked through the sandy ruins, my feet would be burried on the ground and it was getting harder to pick them up each time I took another step froward. And, as time passed, I could hear a sandstorm brewing up somewhere.
I was already halfway through my journey when I finally saw Gehanna's crimson gates and its brick walls that were over fifty meters tall.
Souls fell in line orderly yet lifeless to get into the capital of this wasteland with dead hopes in their eyes. Unlike me, most of them had a grey complexion and holes between their collarbones. On their wrists and ankles were chains that weren't really connected to anything, but they signified that those souls were meant to rot in hell. They were probably a new batch who just crossed and are now on their way to eternal suffering. All had the stench of death to them, clinging on their slowly withering skin.
I observed them and how pitiful their states were. Most of them were big-boned men with dark circles around their eyes and tattoos adorning their bodies. From the batch, I even saw a few young women and children. Sometimes, I ask myself what could they have done so morbid and grave in their past lives to create such dark fates for themselves. But who was I to judge them? I'm no saint. I can't even remember whether I was mean or greedy.
I went in between an old man and a little girl. She was petite with black hair and oriental eyes full of salty liquid. Her pale skin grew grey as the line going inside progressed. She was hysterically sobbing as she tried to move the shackles that bound her wrists together. Behind me, the man stood in silence with eyes fixated on the grainy ground. He was gray but parts of his body still showed purple bruises he got maybe from fights. His bare arms and legs were covered in lacerations and cuts.
From the crowd, a familiar face popped up and soon saw me. It was Miki, a soul just like me. She was short and child-like since she died at twelve and appearances in hell are altered. In her case, she looked four years younger. Her shoulder-length, jet black hair, swayed in the stinging air as she easily made her way in the depressing crowd just to come greet me.
"Jun!" She screams in her mouse-like voice with a conservative smile on her face, something rare to see in the depths of hell.
"'Morning. You sure are happy today. Any news about your killer?" We were the same. After she died, she was also confronted by the mysterious voice she called, 'God' and was thrust into hell to judge her rapist herself.
"Even better news,"
She breathed in deeply, looking straight into my eyes. "I know who he is."
Part of me grew healous because she finally got the answer she needed to escape the hellhole. It was her chance to get revenge and to make that pedophile suffer. I, on the other hand, am still waiting for news on my killer's death.
"You can avenge your death yourself. And, you can finally reach that heaven you speak of." I wanted to be happy for her, I really do. But I can't help but feel bitter. I try laughing it off though.
"Oh no. After I reveal myself to him, I'm letting him go. I've watched him from afar since I first suspected him. I've seen him repent greatly."
"Let him go?!" I intently looked at he, trying to look for the little girl I met in the slumps, crying and seeking justice. "You're simply going to do that? Miki, he violated you! He took your precious life away when you were so young..."
She gazed down at her feet and nodded. "I know, Jun. But it's my choice now. At first I didn't remember anything from that night but as I got closer to knowing who he really was to m, everything about that incident hit me back. I felt the same pain that night...all over again!" But then...then I met him the second time around. I learned how to forgive."
Years didn't flow down her cheeks. She wasn't that crybaby I first met when I arrived. She was here longer than I have and now she shall save the soul that greatly wronged her and shall gain peace for herself as well.
But if I was Miki I wouldn't hesitate to put that bastard in his rightful place at the depths of the lake and to make him realize how Miki suffered under his hand, I can't believe she's going to let it all go. "It's your choice. It has always been." I felt exasperated already so early in the morning. Any advice I try to give her she'll probably have a counter for it anyway. "I just hope you wouldn't regret bringing that sick man to heaven with you..."
Afterwards, I proceeded inside the gates, leaving her out in the crowd.
I tried to help her...I did.