Blackwood or marble?
Obsidian or silver?
Win or lose?
When Helen woke up, she knew something was different. The air felt different, more strained and tense. Her eyes snapped open, her mind trying to focus, but all she felt was a drifting haze.
“Jasper?” she asked sleepily. When she heard no response, her left hand reached across the bed, expecting to feel or touch him, but her fingers grabbed empty air. She tried to push herself up, but something was blocking her chest from raising. In her groggy state, she didn’t even notice. Her head met the pillow, her eyes looking at the ceiling with no purpose.
Suddenly, she heard something. A door. She turned her head and saw a huge figure coming towards her. Her mind was working slowly, her eyes squinting in the dark. She felt something sharp prick her arm, and then everything went away
Helen woke up, her mind alert. She didn’t expect to be in an empty room, tied to a chair. She tried to pry her hands free, but the rope dug into her skin, burning it. She tried to get up, but her entire leg was tied to the chair leg. She looked around desperately when she saw something. Two doors, one that looked dark and wooden, the other bright and white. They shone in her eyes, equally tempting. She was examining it when she heard footsteps. She tried to turn her head to see who it was, but before she could even move, cloth covered her eyes.
“Who is this?” she asked in a hurried tone, her heart beating painfully.
No answer. She heard more footsteps, but these were different from the first. They were sharper, crisper. Almost like… high heels.
“Hello?” Helen asked, her voice louder.
Rough hands covered her mouth. Something was shoved in her ears, completely cutting her hearing. She couldn’t see, hear, or move.
After a while, the hands removed themselves from her mouth, the things blocking her ears thrown away, the cloth binding her eyes ripped off. She looked around frantically, only to see a man and woman. The man was tall and skinny, with milk skin, silver eyes, blonde hair, and a sharp jaw. The woman had long, brown hair, olive skin, and green eyes. They both looked at Helen like a trespasser.
“Can you tell me what is happening?” Helen asked.
The man walked up to her, unbinding all the rope holding her to the chair. She stood, her legs numb. She was about to run when the man pulled a knife and held it to her throat.
“Try anything, and you know what’ll happen,” he whispered, his voice soft and commanding.
“Can you just answer my question?” Helen murmured, the knife’s point in her vocal cords.
“I can’t, nor will I,” the man said, his eyes piercing hers.
The woman walked across the room, examining Helen like she was an experiment.
“I can’t imagine why you would try her, Mimi,” the man mumbled. “She isn’t the type.”
“Now, now. She might be useful. We’ll see where her loyalties lie,” Mimi said, circling Helen.
“What do you-” Helen’s words were cut short by the knife digging into her throat, a warning.
“Leo, how can she talk if you do that?” Mimi asked exasperatedly. Leo’s knife retracted, and Helen relaxed a bit.
“I just don’t like it when people ask questions,” he snarled.
Mimi sighed. She grabbed his arm and pulled back, the knife finally away from Helen’s throat.
Leo jerked his hand away, retreating to a dark corner, glowering at Helen. She didn’t understand a thing.
“Can you just explain?”
Mimi looked at Helen, her expression calculating.
“You have a boyfriend, am I correct?” she asked abruptly.
“No, he’s my fiancé.”
“Hmm. And how long have you known him?”
“How long have you been engaged?”
“Why are you asking so many questions?”
Leo walked over to her, placing his knife on her throat again. “Just answer the Mistress,” he snarled. Mimi pulled his arm away.
“Leo, please. Leave us.”
As Leo walked away, Helen’s mind whirled with questions, yet she couldn’t ask them.
“I’ve been engaged to him for three years.”
“And why have you been engaged for so long?”
“He’s really busy, and we don’t have a lot of money at the moment.”
Mimi thought for a moment. “And do you love him?”
Helen was bewildered. “Of course.”
“Would you die for him?”
Helen stepped back. “What?” she asked in a small voice.
“You heard me,” Mimi said plainly.
“Okay. Now, you see these two doors?”
“Behind these doors lies two portals. The dark door is Hell, the white door is Heaven. Tell me, which one would you prefer?”
“Heaven,” Helen said without a second thought.
Mimi studied her. She turned to the doors. “And why are you so sure you want to go there?”
Helen was confused. “I mean, you would want to go to Hell? Heaven is a land of happiness and light, while Hell is the world of torture and darkness.”
“Yes, I guess you are right, but I am sure, to go to Heaven, you must die. Am I wrong?”
Helen’s mouth felt dry. “No.”
“Exactly. I didn’t say which one would you prefer when you die. I asked which one you preferred now.”
“I don’t understand,” Helen asked numbly.
Mimi turned to her, her green eyes blazing. “Heaven is anybody’s option. Who would want to go to Hell? This is where there is a twist. I don’t want you to choose Heaven without a price. For most people, that would mean death. For you, however, you might find the price to be more… demanding.”
Helen stayed still. “And that is…?”
“If you choose Heaven, your family and fiancé will go to Hell and suffer forever. You will not remember them. They will remember you and what you did, growing to be resentful. If you choose Hell, then they will go to Heaven and be happy forever, but you will be tortured and feel pain until the end of time. They will remember you and your sacrifice, yet they can’t do anything to help you.”
The world stopped. Helen’s eyes widened. “Can’t I just not choose a door?”
Mimi smiled. “No. You see, this is a test to see how noble and selfless one is. Most people choose Heaven. Very few choose Hell. Nobody chooses neither.”
Helen sat down in the chair, her mind blank. How can she choose Heaven, knowing she was dooming those who she loved? How could she choose Hell, dooming herself?
Mimi knelt until they were at eye level.
“You have one day to think. If you won’t make up your mind by tomorrow, then I’m afraid the only solution is death. Use your time wisely.”
Helen stood in front of the black door, her insides tightly clenched. She told Mimi she chose Hell, and now it was her time to go through the door.
She grasped the doorknob and opened the door. She didn’t see anything, just a black abyss.
“Go on,” Mimi whispered.
“Where do I go?” Helen asked.
“Down,” Mimi responded, ending Helen’s response with a shove.
Helen hurtled down, the black transforming into red and orange, the cool air becoming insufferably hot. Her insides felt like liquid, her hair whipping in her face. She didn’t know what would happen when she reached the ground.
Suddenly, she was on her feet. She blinked, and then immediately felt like she was in the sun. The hotness was unbearable, her body already drenched in sweat. Her brain fried, the boiling air squeezing her painfully. She felt a shove and looked to the side and jumped back. It was a man, huge, red bat wings sprouting from its shoulder blades. His hair was orange, filled with flames. His eyes were red slits. It hissed at her with a forked tongue. It was a demon.
“Human?” it mumbled quietly. Helen nodded.
“Mimi and Leo up to their old tricks. Stupid gits. Always shoving the living down here…” the demon grumbled.
It looked at Helen and grabbed her arm. She gasped, but suddenly, a breeze went through her, refreshing her. She looked at the demon questionably. What kind of creature in Hell can do that?
“I’m Ahriman. Mimi shoved you here, am I correct?” he asked, his voice surprisingly gentle. Helen nodded.
“Ahh, okay. Well, you chose Hell over Heaven, correct?”
Helen nodded again, too dazed to speak.
“Okay, well then, I must take you to the Lord. He’ll deal with you.”
Without another word, their surroundings vanished with a whoosh.
Helen stood at the foot of a tall thrown, the Lord looking down at her with amusement.
“I usually hate humans, but this is different. You were brave enough to go to Hell knowingly, just to keep our loved ones safe. Not all people are that selfless.”
Helen didn’t say anything, frozen. What was going to happen to her?
The Lord got up, striding up to Helen and putting a gentle hand on her shoulder.
“You deserve Heaven. Heroes like you don’t belong here,” he whispered quietly.
Helen managed a small nod.
“Angel!” the Lord shouted. A small pop sounded, and Helen stepped back, amazed.
A gorgeous woman stood beside the Lord, long blonde hair tumbling down to her waist. She wore a golden halo, huge, feathery wings, and a silky white dress that flowed to the floor. She had kind blue eyes and a huge smile.
“Yes, my Lord?” she asked. Her voice sounded soft and musical.
“Take this woman to your place. She isn’t meant to be here.”
The Angel looked Helen up and down. “Mimi and Leo?”
The Lord nodded. “Very well. Come with me, love,” the Angel said, gripping Helen’s arm. The red and orange disappeared.
Helen felt tired. So many things happened today, but all that vanished when she arrived at Heaven. Mere words couldn’t begin to describe what it looked like. It was huge and dazzling white, buildings and lush gardens everywhere. Music and laughter filled the air. The sky was painted in pastel pinks and reds. Helen looked down and saw she was wearing a white dress, not unlike the Angel’s. She looked back and saw she had wings and a halo, too. The Angel smiled at her amazed look.
“Just wait here, love. It gets better.”
The Angel flew away, and Helen stayed, drinking it all in.
Suddenly, she heard a shriek, and somebody slammed into her.
She knew that voice anywhere. She pulled back and saw Jasper’s shining face. She saw her parents and sister, all glowing and beaming at her. She grinned. She pulled Jasper close, looking into his face.
“Let’s go. We need to see all the magic Heaven has to offer.”