“Where do you want to go?” Saint Peter asked as I stepped up to the gate.
“W-what?” I asked.
“You get to choose, do you want to go to heaven or hell?” he said, looking up from his clipboard.
“You’re joking, right?” I asked.
“You saw how long the line is, can we please get a move on here? I don’t have time for jokes,” Saint Peter said. “Up or Down?”
“Obviously, I want to go to hell,” I said as path beneath me opened up, and I fell. “I was being sarcastic,” I yelled as the wind whipped past me.
The free fall wasn’t so bad, considering that I didn’t have death to worry about anymore, but the thought of Hell was undoubtedly terrifying. Images flashed through my mind of the fire and brimstone. The idea of being tortured for all of eternity didn’t sound like the best plan either.
The earth approached at terminal velocity, and out of habit, and I put my arms over my face before I hit the ground, only there was no impact when I expected it. I pulled my arms down to see soil, mud, clay, and eventually, magma moving past me so fast I could barely keep up.
“Finally! Someone came down!” a deep resonate, nearly musical voice cried as I instantly stopped.
Before me was a massive beautiful angel, its arms extended out as though expecting a hug while its face was full of enthusiasm. The light coming off it was almost blinding, and I covered my eyes.
“I-Wha-Um,” I stuttered.
“Slow down, buddy. You’re good. Take your time,” the creature said as it looked down at me. “Wait, this won’t do. You can uncover your eyes.”
A plainly dressed man my height stood right in front of me, the same smile plastered to his face. We stood in a vast cavern with stalactites hanging from the ceiling hundreds of feet long. Small bursts of flame would erupt from various points around the area, shedding a bit of light and casting long shadows on the far walls.
“Hell! Yes!” the man said. “What do you want to do first?”
“I’m sorry, but I think there’s been a mistake. I told Saint Peter jokingly that I wanted to come here, but torture really isn’t-”
“Torture?” the man said, his voice full of laughter. “Why would I torture you? It’s been literally thousands of years, and I haven’t had a single person choose to come here.”
“Why would someone choose to come to-wait. You asked why I would be tortured? Isn’t that kind of the whole deal with Hell? You come here, and you suffer for all of eternity in a lake of fire until the end of days?” I said.
“What’s your name, pal?” the man asked.
“Joel Pearson,” I replied.
“Nice to meet you, Joel. I’m Lucifer,” he replied, holding out a hand. I grabbed it hesitantly, “How’d you kick the bucket?”
“Um, I think it was an accident?” I replied, half pulling away, half curious.
“Oh, what kind? I think that planes are the way to go. A few minutes of panic, your heart slamming in your chest, then BAM! Game over,” Lucifer said, acting out the scene with his other hand as though it were the plane.
“I’m confused,” I said.
“No doubt, bud,” he said, raising his eyebrows as he nodded. “I’m here to answer any and all questions you have.”
“Is Hell a place of eternal suffering, or-”
“What? No! Why would I torture people for coming down here? This is the fun zone!” Lucifer said, waving his hand. The cavern wall moved along with it, revealing rollercoasters, fair food booths, on the far side an entire city was built sleek and modern looking. “Of course, it’s going to be a bit rough for me as your the first to come down, but man, we are going to have so much fun!”
“Wait. I’m the first?” I repeated.
“Yeah, I don’t understand it either. You did your time on earth with all that suffering and pain, why the this-place would anyone want to make you do more of that?” Lucifer said.
“But, the bible-”
“Ah! Okay, that makes a bit more sense. Yeah. Dad did kind of tilt the scales in his favor a bit,” he said nodding. “I didn’t think it would be so long, but hey, you’re here now. That’s all that really matters, right? So, what do you want to do first? You want to go balls to the wall, or do you want to work up to it?” he asked, clapping his hands in front of him before rubbing them together.
“I mean, I did always love funnel cake,” I said, eyeing the fair food stands.
Lucifer snapped his fingers. Suddenly, I was standing just outside the window, and he was inside, dressed in dingy clothes with greasy hair.
“What can I get you?” he asked, his accent sounding like he was from Northern New Jersey. “We’ve got cake and corn dogs, and sodas. Ice costs extra, though.”
“What is happening?” I laughed.
“Tickets, you need tickets to get food here. You got tickets, right?” he asked.
“I-I don’t think-”
“Check your pockets,” he whispered, looking around as though he expected someone to see him.
I stuffed my hand into my jeans, feeling the edge of a ticket between my fingers. I pulled, and it came up, but it was attached to a long line of other tickets. I kept pulling, and they didn’t seem to stop.
“Whoa! We’ve got a big spender over here!” Lucifer called to the empty park. “What’ll you have then?”
“Um, I think a funnel cake, and do you have Coke?” I asked.
“That’s illegal, sir,” he said, lifting an eyebrow, “but I suppose-”
“No!” I blurted, putting my hands up, “I meant the soda!”
“Oh, right,” he said, tapping the edge fo his nose with a wink. He spun in a circle, and in an instant, he was setting down a paper plate with a greasy funnel cake, covered with what I hoped was powdered sugar and a can of Coca-Cola. “That’ll be five tickets. Anything for your friend?”
“Yeah. I’ll have a funnel cake and Mountain Dew, please,” Lucifer said from beside me.
“You got it, pal. You got tickets?” Carni Lucifer asked.
“I don’t,” Lucifer said, patting his shirt and pockets before he turned to me. “Joel, can I borrow some tickets? I swear I’ll pay you back.”
“Sure?” I said, unable to suppress my chuckle.
“Thanks, pal! You’re a lifesaver!” Lucifer said, handing the tickets to himself, I’m pretty sure.
“How are you doing that?” I asked, pointing to the food vendor.
“Doing what?” Lucifer asked as he retrieved the plate and drink from the hands of himself.
“You’re in there, but you’re also out here?” I said, scratching my head.
“Ah, yes. Lots of practice and boredom to be honest. Does it bother you? I don’t have to do it anymore if you don’t-”
“No, it’s fine,” I said, waving my hands, “just unexpected is all.”
“Want to go on a ride?” he asked as though we hadn’t spoken at all.
“Sure,” I shrugged.
“We should probably finish these first, though, huh?” he asked, lifting his food and drink.
“Yeah,” I agreed.
We spent the next three hours playing in the fair and eating various foods that I could only remember finding at carnivals. The entire time I expected something to turn dark and twisted to torture me suddenly, but instead, it was fun times, and everything was perfect, right up to the end of the day when we went to sleep.
“That was my first day in Hell,” I said to the man standing before me. I had met him at the arrival point. “So no worries, man. If you want to go back up, I’m sure Lucifer will be disappointed, but hey, we are dead after all. No point rushing anything, right?”
“Umm, I-What?” the man said.
“My sentiment exactly!” I said, clapping him on the back. “What do you want to do first?”
“Welcome to Hell!” Lucifer boomed from a blimp. He had just finished building that circled slowly over the city. “May your stay here be fun and rewarding!”
“You have no idea how excited we are to see you,” I whispered to the man. “Oh yeah, I almost forgot, I’m Joel. What’s your name?”
“Lee, Lee Yang,” he replied, looking out over the city with a look of fear and awe in his eyes.
“Nice to meet you, man. It’s going to be fun having you here!”