Archive for fiction

Remembering

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on April 4, 2013 by deviant11b

The man lay in the bed he had occupied now for the last 2 years. He pushed the button controlling the morphine drip until it shut off automatically, and laid back letting the numbness wash over his body starting in his chest where it was so desperately needed and moving outwards towards his hands and feet. He looked up at the TV and saw a burning bus play across the screen, he didn’t pay much attention to the news anymore it was all the same these days. He wandered what the point was to living, but only for a brief moment.

He found himself in his old age becoming more reminiscent of the memories he could still hold on to. His son, he could still remember his face, and the faces of his kids. He considered this an accomplishment. His wife too, although she had left him some time ago after he had been ill for a few years. He couldn’t blame her; in fact he had purposely driven a wedge between himself and her. But even though they he hadn’t seen her since his sons last birthday he could still remember how she looked the day they had married. He could still remember one or two of his Army buddies as well, unfortunately he could still remember the memories he had made on the beaches of Normandy and the Ardennes forest. He had been a medic in the war, and of all the memories his disease had taken from him a cruel twist of fate had let him hold on to the faces of many of the men he couldn’t save.

Soon though he wouldn’t care, very soon in fact. He could feel it coming over him. Starting at his feet, which were just seconds ago numb, an eerie coldness crept up his legs until it consumed his body. He could feel his heart slow, and his breathing grow shallow. His eye lids felt heavy and finally he couldn’t keep them open. His hearing was the last to go, but he could hear a tone faintly and the bustling of feet the last thing he heard before he went was a loud.

“Clear.” He yelled as he walked through the bunker door, he stepped over the two dead Germans and looked out over the expansive beach head that was now littered with bodies both dead and dying. He turned around to move to the next bunker but it was just a long trench. He looked back towards the beach but there was now nothing. He walked down the trench now having traded his Army fatigues for a hospital gown. His knees wobbled under the stress of his age and his sight wasn’t what it was just moments before, but he could see a light. He kept walking passing images of his life that ten minutes ago he couldn’t remember. No matter how long he walked he couldn’t reach the light though. He finally stopped and fell to his knees to rest. He could hear a noise behind him, footsteps. He looked back and saw a tall man dressed impeccably from head to toe. More pale than anyone he had ever seen before, even more so than the prisoners he had encountered in those terrible camps his unit had found while moving west across Germany.

“This doesn’t have to be it old friend.” The voice said.

The man looked up at the voice but his face was obscured by shadows.

“This doesn’t have to be it. Until now you’ve done everything right. You’ve served your country, your wife, and your children. But this doesn’t have to be it. I can grant you an extension. Unfortunately only one day but those 24 hours will see you in good health physically and mentally. All those things you can remember now can be remembered in life.”

“What’s the catch?” The man asked.

“Oh you’re not that stupid are you? I’m sure you know. Just when you’re done with your day you come serve me. I require only your hand.”

            The man looked up with a sorrowful look and slowly raised his hand. A hand belonging to the voice met the mans and instantly he was back in his hospital bed, he looked around and decided it had been a dream, but then he started remembering things. Like the woman who was looking through the window at him was his nurse and her name was Sarah, he remembered the things him and Sarah had talked about last week. He remembered what day it was and that Sarah was about to walk in the door and give him his pills. She did just that and smiled before she left the room. He put the pills under his pillow, still unsure of what was going on.

            “What the hell” he said to himself.

            He swung his legs over the side of the bed and sprung to his feet as if he was 21 again. He got down and did a pushup, and then another one, and another. He stopped at 50 only because he didn’t want to waste his time doing pushups. He got up and peeked out the door, it was late and the nurses would assume he had taken the pills and gone to sleep. He wasted no time in getting out of the hospital. He took a right on Dowley Street and kept walking, but he stood out in his hospital gown. He passed a tailor and saw a sharp looking suit in the window. He stopped and admired it for a moment. The voice had told him 24 hours, and even if that was a dream and this was somehow a fluke what would they do? Send him back to the hospital? He decided right then and there to throw a brick threw the window, he snagged not just the suit but the mannequin that was wearing the fine black three piece with the golden tie and matching pocket square. He ran faster than he could remember running in quite some time, he ran until he came upon a dark alley hidden away behind a bar. He ducked into the alley and emerged wearing the suit. He stopped to look at himself in the bars window and decided that he looked good. He saw the people in the bar laughing and drinking and decided to join them.

            He walked in and stepped up to the bar, he was out of place, the dress of the clientele and the look given to him by the bartender told him so.

            “Scotch on ice and a beer, domestic, any will do.” The man said to the bar tender. It was a few seconds before the drinks were in front of him.

            He took a long sip from the scotch and swallowed enjoying the warm feeling that finally settled in his stomach. He took a sip from his beer and enjoyed the equally satisfying yet less harsh feeling that settled on top of the scotch already in his stomach. It didn’t take him long to finish of the drinks and feel a slight buzz. It was then he remembered he had no money. He sat there for a moment staring at the bar tender as he walked over.

            “Uh can I help you sir?” The bartender asked.

            “Where am I?” the man asked acting afraid. “I… I was at my wedding I think, yes, yes I was. Who are you? Billy? You grew up son, so fast.”

            “Sir you’re at a bar you had a drink.” The bartender now looking just as worried as the old man.

            “No I’m not a drinker, 20 years sober now. I have a coin in my pocket here.” The man made a show of searching every pocket he had.

            “You need a cab sir?”

            “My-my wallets gone, where is it?” I think I left it in my car I’ll be right back.

            “Hey man I’m callin a cab for ya.” The bartender called out as the man walked out of the bar.

            The man stepped outside acting as if he was still confused then took off running when he knew he was out of sight. He was laughing now as he was running, he hadn’t had this much fun since him and his friend Walt had gotten into a fist fight with some British soldiers, they too had ran from the MPs having left the Brits with a pair of bloody noses. Walt, yes he remembered him even when his mind was not what it was currently. He lived nearby if he recalled. Yes just a few blocks from here. He remembered the last time he had seen Walt it was after he had been moved to the hospital, Walt’s wife had died and they had been talking about catching up after he got better and was able to leave the hospital. He remembered Walt’s look as he left the hospital room, it was as if the last person he cared for was about to leave him. The man found himself walking until he was outside Walt’s door. He knocked at first than pounded on the door.

            “Walt you old bastard open the door, it’s me.” He stopped knocking when he heard the sound of a shell being racked into the chamber of a shotgun. The door slung open and it was leveled at his chest. Walt looked at him with no sense of surprise crossing his face. The man stood frozen on the step.

            “The fuck are you wearing?” Walt asked finally letting a smirk cross his face.

            “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.” The man said between laughs.

            “Ya I’m sure. Come on in I got some beers in the fridge.” Walt let the man in and had him sit in a chair as he walked to the fridge. “You know what time it is? Man pounds on a door in the middle of the night like you did hes liable to get his head blown clear off.”

            The man picked up the shot gun and racked it back, no shell ejected. “I suppose it would have to be loaded huh?” He said laughing.

            “Ya Mags never did like that thing, she said ‘you can have your gun or your shells but not both.” He said waving his hands around that were now holding bottles of beer. “I guess I just got so used to not having em that I never bought any after she died.” They sat silently sipping on their drinks. Silently mourning Walt’s wife and the best friend of the man’s ex-wife.

            “So I’m guessing the hospital doesn’t know you’re gone?”

            “I’m planning on keeping it that way too” the man said with a smile that bordered on mischievous.

            “Hey you know what, I’ve got glaucoma.” Walt said.

            “Well I’m sorry Walt I had no idea.”

            “No I mean I have glaucoma…” Walt reached into his wallet that was lying on the table and pulled out a piece of paper.

            “Ha Walt you bastard this is a prescription for weed?”

            “Damn straight brother.” Walt got up and walked into his room and reappeared with two joints. The two men sat there in silence until Walt broke it.

            “Thank you.” The man looked at Walt whose eyes were now growing moist.

            “Walt, what?”

            “I never did thank you, for that day.”

            Walt didn’t have to say another word for the man to know what he was talking about. The weed made the recollection even more vivid. It had been a rough night the snow had been falling since the week before and it wasn’t looking like it would let up. The man had been shivering in his foxhole when he heard the first shell fly overhead and land with a deafening impact not 50 feet away. Yells of take cover, and incoming were passed down the line, but the calls were just out of reflex, everyman knew what they had to do. They had to wait, just sit and fucking wait. Calls for a medic rang out. The man sat there he couldn’t go out of his hole until it was over and everyone knew that but it didn’t make it any easier to sit there and wait to die or tend to the dying. Then another call for medic but this one was familiar, the northeastern accent that made medic sound more like madic. The man jumped out of his hole and ran towards the call. His lieutenant yelled at him to get down but he kept moving. He could see Walt lying in the snow, he had been caught in the open and was bleeding from his stomach. Before he could reach him a shell knocked him off his feet. He staggered back up and got to Walt’s side.

            “Hey bud hang in there man I’ll get ya fixed up.” Another explosion rattled the two men as the man threw his body over Walt’s as the debris fell around them. He reached into his bag and pulled a bandage out which he used to cover the wound in Walt’s stomach.

            “Ah fuck this hurts man this fuckin hurts, god dammit.” Walt yelled out more curses but the man couldn’t remember exactly what at the moment. He reached to tear off the bandage but couldn’t grip it. He looked down at his hand and saw for the first time that his left index finger was missing. A piece of shrapnel had ripped it off. He used his teeth instead and then hoisted Walt onto his back and carried him back to his hole. Walt had survived but was sent back to England and would never see the war again.

            “I just wanted to say thank you.” Walt said one more time as the man’s gaze went from the stub on his hand to Walt’s face. “Mag and the years we had we owed them all to you.”

            “Walt come on” The man said tentatively. Walt just took another drink of his beer and nodded. The two men sat there drinking and smoking in silence each remembering what they wished they could forget.

            In the morning the man woke and said his goodbyes to Walt, he never told him the story about the man who offered him 24 hours, but somehow they both knew this would be the last time they would see each other.

            The man stepped out onto the street and walked towards his next destination. He walked slowly taking in the sights. He hadn’t been outside in almost a year now, and this morning was beautiful. He stopped at a park and watched a group of kids playing baseball, he remembered teaching his son how to throw a curve ball. Fingers split just so, two on the seam, and a perfect flick of the wrist. He kept walking until he reached another door, and again knocked. He could hear it being unlocked on the other side.

            “Dad?”

            “Mike how are you doing?”

            “Dad, what are you doin here?” Mike stuck his head out and looked around. “I mean come in please.” The two men walked to the kitchen the smell of eggs and bacon filled the room. “Karen’s on a business trip out west, Steve’s upstairs getting ready for school. You- you remember-.”

            “Son I woke up today with a clarity I’ve not had in some time, I remember everything. I decided to play hooky from that hospital, the food there is awful.” The man eyed the bacon on the stove as he said this.

            “Ha yea I got some more in the fridge hold on.” As Mike put more bacon on Steve came down the steps.

            “Grandpa!” The boy ran up to the old man and jumped up into his lap. “Are you better now?”

            “I am today. You were a lot shorter last time I saw you. You must have grown what, six feet?” The man said ruffling the boy’s hair as he laughed.

            “How long are you staying for?” the boy asked.

            “Oh only for a couple of hours, I think the hospital will notice I’m gone before too long. Say what do you say you miss school today, at least just for the morning?” The man looked up at his own son as he asked letting a glimmer of youthful hope escape his eyes.

            “Okay but just the morning and don’t tell your mom or she’ll kill all three of us.” Mike said.

            “She’ll do no such thing.” The man said to his grandchild playfully jabbing him on the chin. “Now where’s your mit? I’m going to teach you how to throw a curveball today.”

            “Awesome” the boy yelled as he leapt off the old man’s lap and ran upstairs to retrieve it.

            “You see mom yet?” Mike asked.

            “I’ll see her last”

            “Last?”

            “You know before I go back to the hospital.” The man said covering up what he said.

            “You were always a shitty liar dad.”

            “Just let me enjoy this one day of clarity please Mike.”

            “She’s not going to be happy.”

            “That’s why she’s last, you think being bed ridden killed off my brain cells?”

            “No but that weed I can smell on your clothes and the liquor on your breath might have. Speaking of which what are you wearing and since when do you smoke?”

            “Son if you’re ever lucky enough to live twice take advantage of it.” The old man got up from his seat grabbed a piece of bacon and walked out to where his grandson was waiting. “I’ve got three hours to turn my grandson into the next CY Young, and I intend on not wasting a minute of it.” Mike watched from the window as the man showed his grandson the same technique he had once been taught.

            The hours came and went and soon the old man said his goodbyes to his son and grandson.

            “Tell Karen when she comes back I’m sorry I missed her, take care son and take care of your boy there. I love you both.” Something about his goodbye made Mike uneasy.

            “Dad,” Mike yelled out running down the stairs catching up to the man at the sidewalk. “Dad Karen’s pregnant again it’s gonna be a girl, you’ll have a granddaughter dad.”

            The man stopped and looked down at his feet and back up.

            “A granddaughter… Ha a granddaughter. Let her know I love her too.” The man walked away without looking back with a giant smile and a tear on his cheek.

            The man walked around until he found himself in his old neighborhood. He stood in front of his old house and looked at it as if seeing it for the first time. It was just as he remembered it. He waited until he had the courage to make this last stop. He walked to the door and knocked. The door opened and a stranger stood in the door way. A young man with a baby in his arms.

            “Can I help you?” The stranger asked.

            “Uh yes is Susan here?” The man asked worried that he had gotten the wrong house, perhaps it was a dream and he was still losing his mind, standing here in strange clothes at a strange house.

            “No I’m sorry, I think that was the name of the woman who lived here before, we just moved in last month. I’m sorry you need me to call someone for you?”

            The man just shook his head and turned around. He walked at first than ran, he ran and ran. He ran until he found himself at the doors of the church him and Susan had married in. He hesitated before he opened the door. He had never been a religious person and stepping inside a church made him feel odd. He sat down in a pew furthest from the alter, sat down and cried.

            “Sir are you alright?” He turned and saw a young man wearing the collar standing behind him. “Would you like to talk?” He noticed how pale the man was, the dark collar in contrast to his skin that blended with the white surrounding the collar.

            “I’m not that religious I’m sorry.”

            “It’s alright we’re here to help everyone sir.”

            “Everyone except the Jews and the gays, the Methodists and the Arabs, aren’t you a bit young to be a ‘father’ anyway.” The man shot back still upset at the disappearance of Susan. “I’m sorry I didn’t mean that.”

            “Ha yes you did, and it’s okay. I understand your distrust. God is difficult to understand.” The man laughed out loud at this.

            “Science is hard to understand, math too. Why I’m alive and some of my friends never made it out of Germany. That’s hard to understand. God would have to be real to be misunderstood.” The father sat there and took the man’s words. “Why my mind was fading and I had to make a deal just for one last day of clarity, that’s fucking hard to understand.”

            “A deal sir?”

            The man hung his head. “I’m afraid I’ve done a bad thing.” The preacher put his hand on the old man’s back and sat next to him as he continued to weep. “The only reason I did it and she’s gone.”

            The two sat there in silence until the preacher spoke. “Go back sir, I’m sure they’re looking for you. Go back and be in peace for your last hours.” The old man just nodded, stood up and left.

            He traced his steps back, back to where he had stashed his gown. He slid it back on after removing the suit. He placed the suit at the door steps of the tailor, he had never stolen in his life, and did not intend to start tonight. He simply considered it borrowing. He walked back to the hospital and stood in front of the doors before walking back in. He climbed the stairs, he didn’t want to use an elevator while he still had the strength. He remembered to make a left turn not a right out of the stairwell to his room. Sarah saw him and ran toward him helping him to his room, asking where he had been. He simply stayed quiet wishing the time would run out on his day, but then he heard her say-

            “Did you hear me? You have a visitor.” He nodded earnestly and brushed her aside as he walked to his room.

            “Susan?” he called out as he stepped inside the room he had been so eager to leave this morning. “Susan?”

            “I’m right here.” He heard the soft voice breaking behind him. He turned and saw her sitting in the chair opposite his bed.

            “Susan baby.” He grabbed her and held her, then held on to her as his knees began to give to old age. She helped him get into bed. “How did you know?”

            “I got a call from Walt, then Mike a few hours later. Mike said he forgot to tell you I had moved.” She said holding his hand.

            “I’ve missed you Susan.” Susan began to speak but the man stopped her. “I’m sorry Susan I thought I was helping you by driving you away.” The man could feel his age catching up quickly now. “I love you Susan.”

            The nurse came in and gave the man some pills. “Susan this is- this is- my nurse.” The man said remembering that he couldn’t remember her name. “I can’t…”

            “Shhhh honey relax. I love you too you know?

            “I’m sorry I couldn’t see you when I was better today.”

            “You have nothing to be sorry about. You’ve always remembered me you just don’t know it. You know I’ve visited you once a week for the last two years, and every time you see me you light up. You’ve never forgotten me.”

            “That’s good-good-that’s good. I tried to see you today but you weren’t home. So I went to the church where we were married. You know how young that damn preacher was.” He said with a quick laugh.

            “Honey you know they tore that church down years ago, it’s a baseball field now.”

            “Yes, yes of course years ago.”

“Now you take your pills and I’ll see you next week.” Susan leaned over and kissed him on the forehead than the lips. He remembered how sweet she tasted. He remembered that for some reason he wouldn’t see her again but he couldn’t remember exactly why.

            He watched her leave, then he remembered he had to take his pills. He took a sip of water and swallowed them, drifting off to sleep.

            He found himself again in the trench facing the light. He started off slowly not wanting to finally reach it. Again he found himself on his knees and again he heard the voice.

            “Turn around.” The voice told him. “Turn around.”

            The man turned around and the face of the voice leaned down until the shadow obscured his face no more. It was the same face that belonged to the preacher in the church.

            “Now follow me.”

            The man nodded, got to his feet, and followed the voice into the light.

Convo with the Devil

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on January 16, 2013 by deviant11b

My body is moving downwards as I regain consciousness. My eyes flutter open, my lips smack together, and I slowly work my way up to my feet. I shouldn’t be regaining consciousness at all. Before this when I pulled the trigger I had figured that was it, no more waking up and hating every minute of every day of life. The light above me flickers on and off in a very unsettling manner. I look around and realize I’m in an elevator. My ears are still ringing from the sound of the gunshot. I reach my hand up to my temple. I can stick my finger into the hole made by the bullet I sent flying through my brain. The ringing subsides and gives way to the elevator music I recognize the song but can’t quite place the name of it, I hate when that happens. Thankfully it ends, but is replaced by yet another song, the name escapes me again. I realize I’ve been traveling downwards for at least five minutes, I look down at my watch but the hands have stopped moving. This must be what happens when your life slowly drains from your body. I’m hoping no one heard the shot and called 911. They better not revive me.

            “Long ride huh?” I hear a woman’s voice behind me. I turn around in surprise and see a beautiful, no not beautiful that’s a word you would use to describe a wife; this woman is not wife material. She’s the kind of woman you meet in a bar who you take home and have your way with, not make love to, but raw, passionate, animalistic sex. Sexy, she’s sexy. Tall, thin but not too thin, and the outfit she’s wearing accentuates her large breasts and toned body.

            “Who are you?” I ask trying to mask my immediate arousal. “Where am I?”

            “Who I am is not as important as what I am, or what my importance is as to where you are. You are in Hell, and I am its gate keeper.”

            “So I’m”-

            “Yes you’re dead, that bullet made pretty fucking sure of it. Now there are a few things we have to go over before we arrive. First there is no getting out of Hell, and no mistakes are made as to who deserves a spot and who doesn’t. Second try to enjoy yourself. Unlike what your bible may have told you we don’t eternally torture people here. Sure our whips and chains may come out every now and again but as long as you don’t cause us a problem we won’t cause one for you. Lastly you’re here forever so try and get comfortable. Find a place to live, make some friends, find a woman who can make your toes curl cuz forever is a long time to go without having some fun. Or for that matter don’t, I really don’t care. Now are we set?”

            “Uh ya I guess”

            “Good now get off my elevator a Tsunami just hit China and all Buddhists go to Hell.”

            With that the sexy woman in front of me disappears and I’m now standing in the middle of a bustling, dirty street. I look around and take in my surroundings. It looks like a very gothic style of New York, although the buildings aren’t nearly as tall. There is a rich smell of sulfur in the air, and it is just slightly unbearably hot. The image I see in front of me is in direct conflict with everything I had been told about Hell when I was young. There are no pits of fire, or demonic torture demons stringing people up. It’s just…normal. I walk along the street and before long I come across a bar. I walk in and find my way to a stool at the bar top.

            “Whadya want there?” A big man behind the bar asks me. His throat is slashed from ear to ear, but no blood leaks out almost looking like a second mouth.

            “Shot of whiskey” I pull out my wallet and hand him some bills hoping they take cash down here.

            “You’re new here huh?” He asks clearly proud to have made such an easy observance. He rummages around behind the bar and comes up with a credit card with the name Kyle Brownstone on the front. “Credit card companies work for us, every time some asshole gets a new Visa or MasterCard we get a duplicate. You ever had a strange charge from Manila or someplace?” I nod my head. “Well you ever wonder how a country with a reading skill comparable to a fucking pig could ever swindle you like that? They didn’t. That was some guy down here getting a drink, or a hooker, or some blow on your dime.” With that he just laughs and walks away. I lift up my glass and thank Mr. Brownstone for my drink and down it.

            Before I know it I’ve had several drinks on this poor guy’s dime and am feeling pretty good. I look around the bar for the first time. To my left a group of about ten or fifteen men are sitting at a table in white gowns with dark red crosses emblazoned on their chests. Their white hats sit on the table and I can hear them telling stories to each other about their exploits in Mobile, Alabama. To my right sits a group of pastors raising the bible above their head. Fag this fag that, dead soldiers this, hurricanes that. I shake my head and look to the person sitting next to me, and can’t believe my eyes.

            “Hitler?” I can’t even fathom the amount of surprise that must be registered on my face right now.

            “Ja ja ischt me. You vant un autograph?” He scratches the hole in the side of his head as he asks this.

            “No, not really. Just surprised to see you I guess.”

            “But my boy theees ischt mine baaar.” I now realize the name of the bar is Mein Kampf. A book shelf off to the side offers a signed copy of the book.

            “So I managed to get my first drink in Hell from a place that serves degenerates and racists like you?” He laughs at this comment.

            “My boy, you’re in Hell. We are all degenerates. The people in this bar are just honest about who they are.” I look around and see the men in robes and the pastors and the bikers I hadn’t seen sitting in the corner closing around me. I’ve been in Hell less than an hour and so far it’s not going great.

            I land on my face, literally. The bikers took their time in working me over but wasted no time in throwing me out. I find out quickly that in Hell you can still feel pain. Their beatings leave no marks though, and no blood flows from my nose, although it feels like I just had it broken with a sledge hammer. I’m quickly surrounded by a pack of lawyers who ask if I’d like to sue the bar. I really am in Hell.

I make a mental note to be more careful about what bar I stumble into next. Luckily enough there are plenty to choose from. In fact that’s all there is to choose from. Gay bars, Muslim bars, Christian bars, soldier bars, cop bars, rapists bars, and murderers bars. It seems like there is a bar for just about everyone. There are strip clubs everywhere too, so far my opinion of Hell is that it’s not so bad.

            I walk by a kiosk with pamphlets strewn about the desk. I pick one up called So you’re in Hell and another called God rejected you, now what? I walk into a nearby strip club and sit down at the bar. After fifteen minutes of reading it’s clear that almost everyone who has ever lived and died ends up here. In fact the only people who make it to heaven are the Amish. Evidently in the roulette game of picking the right religion they picked right. Hell houses everyone ranging from Jack the Ripper to Mother Theresa. Evidently the good Mother’s good socialist outlook on life enraged the right winged St. Paul and he sent her straight down to Hell. So it’s only fitting that a drinking, philandering, liberal guy like me made it down here.

            A woman comes up to me and puts her hand on my arm.

            “Care for a dance sweetie?” I can’t believe my eyes when I come across the face of Lindsay Lohan. She turns away and sends a bump of cocaine flying up her nose. She turns around and looks at my eyes. I decline quickly. Looking around I realize the name of the strip club is called starlets. Mary Kate and Ashley Olson are both on stage at the moment. To the left of them sits Marilyn Monroe. And that would mean that well-dressed man with a hole in the top of his head must be… Yes, it is. He turns his head and I’m looking straight at JFK himself. He flashes a grin and turns his attention to Miss. Monroe. I can’t help but wonder where Jackie is. I leave the bar and continue my journey of this increasingly interesting place called Hell.

            It’s funny how Hell could double as a historical re-enactment society, but when you think about it doesn’t it make sense how when generations die they would still keep their dress and traditions alive in the afterlife? The puritans have stood on the sidewalks for over 300 years now yelling at drunken passersby. Telling them their souls are doomed, not quite realizing the irony of their own situation. MLK still preaches equality, not quite realizing there has been a black president. The politicians of the 50s are yelling at the top of their lungs about communism.

Just then I see the largest building I’ve seen yet, VFW post #666. I walk in and step up to the ledger. My name is emblazoned on the page as I sign. The tours I’ve had show up next to my name. Iraq 05-06 Afghanistan 07-08, SGT Ross, 2nd Ranger Batt. Before I can take in what just happened on this otherwise blank sheet of paper I’m grabbed by the shoulder and spun around. My oldest brother stands there on one leg and a pair of crutches. Behind him are my two best friends. One with a hole in his throat and the other with the side of his face melted away. They greet me with a beer, a smile, and a long embrace.

“Welcome home brother,” they all say to me. We go and sit down at the bar which is the biggest I’ve seen in my whole life, living or during my short time in hell. Across from me I can see Audie Murphy and John Basilone, two of the most well-known soldiers to live, arguing over something but not truly upset at each other. Soldiers from all wars sit at the bar wearing the clothes they had on the day they died. It’s not just the Americans either. Soldiers from all sides, who had spent their short life trying to kill each other, drink, arm to arm. There is no animosity, and why should there be? We’re all dead now. Enemies in life quickly become friends when faced with the prospect of eternity. I realize now that in Hell everyone can understand each other. It seems to be a sick joke made at God’s anger at the people of Babel.

“We figured you’d be down here sooner or later” my brother says to me. I finish off my beer and signal for another while getting out the poor sap’s credit card. The bartender gives me a death look as he gives me the beer and denies the card.

“Drinks here are always on the house. Soldiers are Satan’s favorites. He has always held a soft spot for those who kill willingly, and do so for noble reasons. He’s not actually a bad guy. In fact I’m surprised you haven’t met him yet.” My brother goes on to explain that Satan meets personally with each war vet soon after they arrive in hell. He motions behind me. “In fact there’s your ride now.” I look behind me and see a man in a black suit, with a black shirt, and a dark red tie. He approaches me and extends his hand.

“I’m Lucifer. I’m here to take you to see my father.” I look back at my brother and my friends and tell them I’ll see them later. As I walk out several different men pat me on the back or shake my hand telling me I’m always welcome here. I nod in appreciation and leave the bar.

Lucifer leads me to the only car I’ve seen so far. I sit down in the back of the black stretch limo and pour myself a shot of Jack Daniels from the most impressive selection of liquors I’ve ever seen in a limo. The liquor settles in my stomach and warms me. I feel drowsy and decide to take a nap. It’s not every day the prince of darkness drives you to meet Satan, and I want to be well rested for this encounter.

I’m awoken by Lucifer telling me that we’ve arrived. I step out of the backseat and look at where we are. A very gothic looking castle sits in front of me made of old stone. Surrounding it is a moat of what seems to be very hot lava. His house is a stark contrast to the normal seeming city. I wonder why with all the time in the world Satan went so stereotypical with his landscaping. I’m led from room to room, admiring the different decorations from each time period. Lucifer doesn’t say a word as he reaches for the handle to a door that must have stood 15 feet tall. He opens it, lets me in and closes it behind me. A man sits at a chair in front of a large TV. Across the screen are the familiar images of baseball. The Yanks and Red sox are playing right now. I walk up and see it’s a tie game bottom of the ninth. The Sox closer winds up and throws to Jeter who steps up and drives the ball clear of the right field fence.

“God dammit” the man yells at no one in particular. “Damn Yankees always a pain in my ass.” He turns around and sees me. His face is almost too pale of a white, but is accented by a dark black goatee. His eyes are black with no color at all, but his teeth are the whitest and straightest I’ve ever seen. “You you’re a Sox fan aren’t you?”

I nod my head wondering how he knew that.

“I’m the Devil, God isn’t the only one that’s all knowing” He says. Now I wonder if he can read minds too. “Yes I can” he says, and motions for me to sit down in a chair next to him.

“I’m sure your brother and your friends told you why you came here. I always make it a point to sit down and talk with my VIPs. See I know what you’ve done and been through and how let down you are by the society up above.” He motioned to the living world with his hand. “Here you are, just come back from a year of death and mayhem and you turn on the news only to see the leading story is about some Hollywood actress who can’t keep her legs shut, or keep powder out of her nose. Now they say war is the Devils work, and I suppose to a point that may be true. But I ask you this, who gave man free will? God. If he had just done what I had told him and ruled over mankind there would be no wars. But no he cast me out and forced me to live in this asshole of a world. I’ve made the best of it as you can see. It’s not what your Sunday school teacher made it out to be. Yes I have ass holes like Hitler running around, as you already know, but Gandhi is here, Mother Theresa, MLK, Lincoln, et-cetera. How God decided to only let those backwards, living-in-the dark pricks walk the streets of heaven is beyond me. Now here is what I need from you.” I sit waiting for a deal for my soul or to become part of his dark army. He leans close to me as if about to part with all the knowledge of the universe.

“Have a good time, you’re a dead man, kick back and relax. I’m sure Medusa has already told you how long you’re here for.”

“Medusa?” I ask.

“Ah yes she doesn’t give her name out. She thinks she’ll attract too many stalkers. She’s the woman you met on the elevator. Anyway your soul has been damned for all eternity and etcetera so please enjoy yourself. Spend time with your family like your brother, and parents. While you’re living you spend all your time working for money to buy useless shit with. Down here everything is free, so spend time with the ones you love, and find you a good girl; there are plenty of them down here. Enjoy this time like you couldn’t enjoy your days living.” Satan shifts in his seat and falls silent.

“I must ask you to leave, another of your fellow soldiers has found his way home and I have to meet with him soon.” His eyes fall and for the first time I sense a sadness that I’ve never sensed or felt before in my life. “When a man volunteers his life for others it is the noblest thing one can do, and when God elects to turn his back on those who have given so much it hurts me much more than you can ever know.” With that our meeting is done as he gets up and walks out a side door. I get up to leave and notice next to the TV remote and a bottle of scotch sits a very worn bible. I shake my head thinking that if I were to stay in hell for one thousand years I may not be able to figure out everything about this place.

I stand, walk outside to the limo waiting for me, and pass another man walking past me we make eye contact and nod, no words are needed. I climb into the back of the car and head back to where my brothers are, and will always be.