Perpetual Hell

Submitted into Contest #2 in response to: Write a story about someone who's haunted by their past.... view prompt

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Perpetual Hell

They say you go to hell when you take your own life; or perhaps you simply create a hellish reality in which eternity seems to flow. 

My name is Sarah, and I have never believed in reincarnation, heaven, hell, or the likes of eternal souls. That is until I stared death in the face and choked on my own ignorant doubt. Allow me to offer an insight into the domains of heaven and hell.

I cannot remember a time when I was truly happy. Years of therapy didn’t help. My family and friends offered a constant reminder of how miserable my life had become. I had no ambition, failed in school, had no hobbies, and everything seemed to bore me to tears. Drugs and alcohol provided a temporary reprieve from my misery, but it was just that—temporary. 

Razor blades drawn over my flesh assured me that I was indeed alive and could still feel something, but again, that feeling was temporary. The wounds healed leaving only the scars of humiliation. I found myself purposely placing myself in danger, not really caring whether I died or not—until that fateful night of December 4th, 1998. 

I was walking home from my job at Jiffy Lube when a gang of five men surrounded me. One of them held a knife. The glint of the blade attracted me as candy would a young child. Fear edged from my mind as the hope of death offered a blessing. I literally launched myself toward the twelve-inch steel until it pierced my belly like the fires of hell. The men grumbled something, then ran down the street as if the devil were chasing them. The street felt warm under my body, or was that the blood that flowed around me? It didn’t matter, really. My life would soon fade, along with the misery it accompanied. 

No scream escaped my lips as bliss encompassed me in a blanket of comforting darkness. There was no tunnel of light, nor were there angels awaiting my arrival; just darkness and peace. Then, as if a movie flickered before me, I saw the lives of many people. The suffering they clearly displayed gripped my empty heart as if I were part of their pain. I witnessed them taking their lives, but the pain and suffering never left. In fact, with every death I witnessed, the pain accumulated in my heart like a growing fungus. I knew and felt these people as if they were a part of me; my soul. 

A man appeared before me; handsome beyond measure. His eyes were blue as the Mediterranean Sea, and clear as ice. The white robe that flowed around him resembled feathers. Was he an angel? When he reached out to touch me, I saw another movie play out in my head. This one was less familiar and featured the people in my life; my friends and family. I felt their love as if it were a tonic, something I had never felt before. The darkness I surrounded myself with prevented it. In the presence of this angel, the darkness ebbed away like a falling tide. 

“Escape your hell,” he said, his voice like silk in a summer breeze. “Fulfill your purpose.” When he released my hand, the darkness consumed me once again like a familiar friend, or was it my own self-induced enemy?

I had time to ponder this theory for quite some time. You see, I was in a coma for nearly a month. I awoke to find my mother by my side, reading one of my favorite childhood stories. When she saw my eyes flicker open, she dropped the book and gasped. 

“Oh, sweet girl. You’re back.” She kissed my forehead that pounded with every beat of my heart. The hate I felt toward her assaulted me like a tarnished penny that refused to be tossed aside. The perfect flow of her flawless black hair, her steel-grey eyes that mesmerized all who met her, and a figure that constantly reminded me of my own misgivings, taunted my pride like a passive bully. I was fat compared to her, and shapeless as a flag pole. The hate drove a dagger through my heart and the darkness consumed my soul like an entitled shroud. I pulled away from her, not wanting to feel her love. I did not deserve it. 

My older sister sauntered in, wearing a bored expression. Unlike Mother, Denise and I harbored equal abhorrence toward each other. “The cat escapes yet another fatality,” she seethed. “I’m shocked—really.” 

“Don’t be like this, you two,” scolded Mother. “Do try to get along.” Her strong British accent chimed with snobbish upbringing. She had been born a Lady, and had graduated from London’s most prestigious finishing schools. In her opinion, sibling rivalry was considered unladylike. But this was not London, was it? This was Southern California where perfection was something you purchased, not fostered. Thanks to Mother’s decision to divorce dear-old Dad, we lived on ramen noodles and beans. 

I looked away from Denise and her judgmental stare. I was the embarrassing failure of the family; the one most likely to die first, or so I’d hoped. Dad was no longer part of the picture. He had married a young model and had moved to Hawaii without so much as in invite to visit. Denise blamed me for that at every opportunity. 

A man walked in dressed in a white coat. When his eyes met mine, I choked. He was the angel in my dream; right down to his perfect teeth and brilliant-blue eyes. “I’m doctor Grant,” he said, picking my chart up from the foot of my bed. “Welcome back.” His smile nearly undid me. After examining my eyes and asking me basic questions, he jotted a few things down on my chart. “Do you remember what happened?”

I looked away, embarrassed. 

“She probably tried to kill herself,” said Denise. “And again, she failed.” 

Mother stood, taking Denise’s arm. “Come, let’s get something to eat and allow the doctor some time.” It wasn’t a suggestion. Mother just had a way of making it sound like one.  

I waited for them to leave before speaking. “I … ran into a knife.” 

“On purpose?” His golden brow arched as he took a seat beside me. 

Why could I not meet his mesmerizing gaze? He had to have been in his fifties, nearly twice my age. It wasn’t a sexual thing. “Yes,” I blurted. “My life is hell. I want it to end.” 

“I see, and you think dying is the answer?” 

That got my attention. “Death is the end of life, so yes, I do.” 

“Death is not the end of life; it is merely the beginning of another. When we choose to end our life prematurely, we basically create our own hell from which it is hard to escape.” 

“I don’t believe in that.” 

“Some things are true whether we believe them or not. Escape your hell and live the life you were meant to live. Take your life and return with the same pain and suffering you run from.”

My eyes snapped onto his. “What did you say?” 

“I believe you heard me. This hate and darkness you foster thrives within your heart, while the love and light you crave are starved for attention. Only you have the power to turn things around; to escape this perpetual hell you have chosen to live in.” He stood and returned my chart to the end of the bed.  

My mouth hung slack, my eyes misted as he left the room, his white coat fluttering around him like feathers. What an odd man.

Moments later, my mother entered the room carrying a bag. “Ready to go home?” Her beaming smile seemed misplaced. 


“Yes, Doctor Adams has released you, dear. Don’t you remember?” 

My brows furrowed, making the headache wracking my brain even worse. “Doctor Adams? What happened to Doctor Grant?” 

Mother frowned. “Hmm, Doctor Adams said you might hallucinate over the next few months. You suffered a horrible trauma. We nearly lost you.” She helped me get dressed and ready to go. 

I later learned that Denise had never visited me in the hospital. She had grown tired of the many attempts to end my life and I couldn’t blame her. It seemed to be a yearly endeavor as of late. My anger and hatred had managed to push everyone from my life; except my mother. She had remained by my side as she always would, despite the horrid way I treated her. Darkness, however, was not easily quenched and little would change over the next several years. 

Therapy helped a little, but it was not a magic pill. I had to change. I had to make a choice as to who I wanted to be before the darkness consumed me once again. One micro step at a time would see me to my fiftieth birthday. 

I held my mother’s hand as she faded from this life, still perfect and beautiful as always, yet the years had been hard on her. I didn’t help much and the guilt overthrew my resolve I tried so hard to keep in check. 

“It is never too late, my girl,” she said. Then, in her best feigned California accent, she added with a smile, “You got this!” Her delicate hand fell limp in mine as her spirit faded away. 

I never got the chance to tell her how much I loved her—no, I never TOOK the chance to tell her. My pride was too thick to admit I had been a chump all these years. Now it was too late. The one person who believed in me passed from this life without knowing my gratitude or love. She only knew and felt my hatred. Tears streamed down my face like liquid fire as the hell of tormenting emotions flooded over me. I sobbed like a child who had just lost a favored pet.

“Is she gone?” Asked a quiet voice in the doorway. 

I looked up to see Denise. She had been crying as well and looked as if she had done so for quite some time. Her eyes were red and swollen, her cheeks ashen and blotched with pink and white. She worked the tissue in her hand as if it were a stress ball that had been horribly overused. 

I stood and walked toward her and offered a long, lingering hug. She and I had not seen each other for over twenty years. I had some making up to do. 

She gently pulled away from me and wiped the tears from my eyes. “It’s good to see you crying again,” she laughed. “Mum always had faith in you and was so proud of how far you have come.”

Another flood of emotions poured through me. The tears flowed like water escaping a worn-out dam. So many years I had wasted. Denise held me as I sobbed and tried to speak unintelligible words. “She never knew how much I loved her!” 

Denise allowed me to babble like some tortured child finding her voice for the first time. When the flow of tears ebbed and my breathing slowed, she forced me to meet her eyes. “She knew, Sarah. She knew.” 

Years of therapy and meditation finally culminated into one simple, yet hard-learned lesson. Hell is of our own making, yet its chains dissolve in the presence of love. I had people who loved me, who believed in me yet I had spent nearly half my life trying to push them away with hate and despair. 

Life is full of hardships. These trials are what forges our spirit into armor. I never had children to pour my heart over, nor had I married. I spent the last 23 years of my life helping others who attempted to take their lives. When I died, my room was filled with appreciative souls and there were many hands holding mine. My purpose had been fulfilled; my perpetual hell dissolved. 

August 15, 2019 23:07

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1 comment

Rhonda Larson
05:07 Aug 25, 2019

Powerful message in this short story! I believe that so many young women fight a battle that few understand.


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