A dry humored story of a young man that finds himself in his own personal purgatory.
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I never really thought about death much. I always thought it's just something so morbid and depressing to dwell on and ponder and to be honest, it just ruins my fucking mood. It's much easier just to put that sort of shit to the back of my mind and worry about it later - like most problems in life, just push them to a dark and dusty corner in my head and forget about it. I find that relatively easy to do anyway. In the long run, it's probably gonna bite me on the arse but if it lets me temporarily evade any potential problems on my part, I'll do it. But of course, there's always some annoying guy on a comedown chewing your ear off at the end of a terrible house party either talking about conspiracy theories or something he judges to be a 'deep conversation'. "Where do you go when you die?" seemed to be my friend Georges go-to conversation at this stage of the night. This happened far too many times as I usually avoid the dull chit chat that's being said in my general direction, praying that someone, somewhere in the room can be arsed to give a reply to other than myself. I usually can't even pretend to be remotely interested in biting back but he once managed to wriggle my very forced and improvised opinion on what happens when I die.
"You see, if it's this shit down here, the place you go after has gotta be even worse. Hanging around with your dead relatives and pets whilst you watch the world go by below you. New shit coming out on earth that you'll never get to see or do cause you're stuck up there in the clouds talking to your great-grandma that you couldn't fucking stand even when she was alive, listening to other people talk shit about times when they weren't just a spirit and actually had a fully functioning body that they could use rather than floating about the place looking busy enough to be deemed worthy of getting into heaven... Utter shite. Now fuck off George."
Ah, it was something like that anyway, I can't really remember fully what I said, but words to that effect. Eventually after time, sure enough, we all do find out what happens afterward. I got knocked down by a bus and the collision that my head made with the concrete killed me almost immediately, I was 29. My own fault really, I was pissed and on the way home thinking I could make it across the road before the night bus swung around the corner. I remember it not 'hurting' as such but just feeling really disorientated and gradually feeling colder - turns out that cold feeling was the massive blood loss I was suffering as my head pissed out with blood. It's not like in films where your spirit floats out of your body immediately and you're straight up to the pearly gates, you're more of an invisible bystander, stood about 15 feet away from your own corpse. Because I was walking home alone at the time, I had to watch my own body become limp as no one was around at 1 am on a Monday night to try to save me. - even the bus driver took his time to get out and have a look at the damage done to me. I think it took me a good minute or two to actually realize that I'm now dead and whatever form I've taken, isn't actually visible to anyone else around me. It's not as if they're walking through me like I'm a ghost, more of it's like they're actively avoiding me as if I was a lamp post in their way or something. People actually parted around me as they eventually came to see what had happened. Of course, by this time I was past needing the paramedics' stage, they may as well have just phoned the undertaker straight away to get me planted. The next bit is a complete blur, I don't know where I went after this, it's almost as if I fell asleep for a while before waking up for my own funeral.
I've never been known as a popular guy but the church was packed out to be fair. Family at the front, close friends behind them, then the shite people filling the rest of the place up that I didn't really care about - nor did they really care about me - old neighbors from 10 years ago that I haven't said a word to since or past girlfriends that hated my guts when I was alive and now suddenly when I'm dead, I wasn't "That bad of a guy". There are a few people standing up but there's one empty seat left at the back which I just presumed was for me. Next to me sits my barber, which to be fair, I have been going to his shop for years but I still don't even know his last name. It's not great watching your family grieve for me when I'm technically still in their presence but in all honesty, I just wanna see what comes after all this is finished. As I mentioned, death and funerals and all that shit isn't something I really spoke about or planned with anyone so I had no clue how this was gonna work out. A couple of 'bent truth' stories from George and my cousins and a few more tears and that was about it to be honest. They royally fucked my song up though. 'Forever Young' by Rod Stewart. I can't fucking stand the guy and that's what I get played at my own funeral. Utter shite. Immediately following this terrible send-off for myself, I once again feel like everything is a blur and I'm having a restless sleep. I come to my senses and am in a waiting room. Just I sat down by myself. Imagine the blandest waiting room you can and times that by ten. That's the kind of place I'm in. No posters, no magazines, just a shitty worn-out carpet with brown colored chairs all attached to each other against the wall. In addition to this eyesore, the walls are very roughly painted magnolia. It's the kind of room you step into and instantly, boredom hits you like a train. With me not being religious one bit, I don't fully understand the process of what's supposed to happen or what the decor is supposed to be like of heaven, but this isn't exactly St Peter waiting at the gates for me whilst we're just floating about on clouds. The only saving grace about this dull environment is that there is a waiting desk with a man behind it, not even considering looking in my general direction. Now, if this is St Peter, then I got bullshitted to so much to as a child that I would sue if I could. In the thickest Glaswegian accent I've ever heard and without even looking up from whatever he was reading, the man casually says; "Jist hold oan pal, the big man will be wae ye in a second." - "Are you, I mean, are you supposed to be St..." - "Naw pal, let's get that cleared up right now, am no who ye think I am and neither is the big man. Jist wait a wee bit longer." I've never met anyone less interested in a conversation with me - including my dad and he fucked off years ago. This guy whoever he was just sat there chain-smoking cigarettes - literally chain-smoking. He'd be putting one out as he's flicking the lighter on his next one. Occasionally I'd hear the guy chuckle to himself at whatever he was reading. It's an awkward silence for me like I've never had before, not for him, he clearly doesn't give a fuck. I debated asking him what book he's on just for something to say and break the silence but thought against it. I just sat still like a fucking obedient dog, waiting to be called. - "That's you the noo. First door oan yer left behind me." I didn't even hear a calling but I just did as he said, he's still never clapped eyes on me and I must have been there for 15 minutes. On the way past him though, curiosity got the better of me and I did have a quick glance over his shoulder, he's reading Irvine Welsh. No wonder he's laughing. I walk through the door and shut it behind me, I'm suddenly greeted by an old guy with terribly dyed black hair, wearing a suit looking like he's trying to make an impression. Wrinkles cover his face and as he approaches me to shake my hand and introduce himself, he quickly slicks back his hair and walks with a limp you can tell he's fighting against. The guy looks like the hero of a pantomime show that's been running for 30 years straight. Maybe in his day, he was a bit of a boy, but now he's this sorry excuse - a fat bastard going through a middle-aged crisis.
"You're Tommy! What did you think of the funeral? Busy one, yeah? Bit unfortunate what happened to you though to get here though, yeah!?... A bus... Hahaha!"
He's uncomfortably forward and rather too jolly for my liking to be honest, especially seen as how I've just fucking died. He grabs my shoulder and doesn't let go as we stay perfectly still as he says;
"Well, it's gonna be a bit of a shock to you Tommy, but understand death is just part of life and now you're onto the next part. You're probably scared and confused but I'll explain all that to you now." Instead of replying with any words, I do the slight backward shake of my head that is basically code for 'yes'. Now putting his arm around me, we take a walk through his office doors at the back to unveil a huge bar. Literally huge. A dance floor the size of the foundations of the fucking empire state, a sea of comfy recliner chairs and booths and the bar itself was a mile long.
"See, we categorize people into different places judging from their lifestyle when they were alive. I know you loved a drink which unfortunately, led to your passing so I placed you here. Bar 1808. This is your kind of 'Personal purgatory' if you will. I won't lie to you mate, the waiting list is long to see where you end up going so I can't actually tell you how long you'll be here for, but that's your own room there, next to the stage. You won't hear any disturbance when you're in there from the bar either. One thing you have to know is that whilst you're here, money isn't an issue, it simply doesn't exist, everything is completely free for everyone that stays here. The main thing is that you can now relax... It's not like down on earth where you have to constantly check your moral compass or looking back to right or wrong - you're dead. You're currently getting assessed as to whether you're 'up there' or 'down there'. Literally ANYTHING you want to do whilst you're here, you can."
He emphasizes the word 'anything' as he stares at me with not even a hint of joking about him. The most serious I've seen him since he shook my hand. He just says "enjoy" and gives me the creepiest wink followed by a stare that lasts about 3 seconds more than it should have, and then leaves. I'm in the biggest bar I've ever seen literally by myself. No one else is here. The sheer size of the place just boosts the feeling of loneliness. I presumed it was self-service so I head towards the bar in search of whiskey. As I get to the bar, a young boy appears in front of me - as if he appeared from thin air. He looks about 18 years old so I presumed that's how old he was when he died. "Whisky please mate." I thought about asking him what happened to him but 18 is far too young to die. Poor bastard. About as talkative as the guy in the waiting room, he gives me the drink and vanishes once again. I'm left to drink by myself like a loner prick. I lean back on the barstool and try to comprehend everything that's happened. It's a huge weight on my mind but again, like I always do, I put it to the back of my mind and take another drink. The whiskey is so fucking strong that it burns all the way down my throat and chest, causing me to wince after every sip. I lift the bottom of the glass to my eye level to see it mixing together before feeling a huge slap on both of my shoulders - causing me to drop my drink. "What the fuck is -..." - "JUST THE BOYS TONIGHT THEN EH?" I'm interrupted by someone shouting this in my ear, the image is a mystery until he comes from behind and takes a seat beside me on a barstool. It's a homeless man - well, I say homeless, he's fucking dead but he LOOKS like a homeless man. Scruffy clothes, long, greasy hair and a black beard that comes to his chest that is surely going grey. He orders us both another whiskey and as he takes the first sip I notice the amount of shite under his fingernails and the yellow tobacco stain on his fingertips. The guy looks like he should smell like shit but weirdly enough, I couldn't smell anything. I go to ask him who is and why he's here but no sooner have I got the first few words out, the dirty looking bastard interrupts me yet again with a speech;
"Yeah, yeah let's get this out of the way. So let's see... I've been here about 12 months now and still awaiting my judgment. Frankly, I don't really care about that, I'd rather stay here. Free booze... Free bed and I can do anything I want. All the luxuries I never had when I was actually alive. This place, bar 1808, is an absolute blessing. Now I actually have a home and regular food and drink. That's why I came here, cause I was bad on the drink. I take it you were too so you're stuck with me son. Get comfortable too cause you'll be here a while. CHEERS!"
He forcefully chinks his glass to mine and sees off his whiskey in one mouthful, without showing any sign of recoil. That was it. That was my introduction to the guy. Maybe an hour or so passes by of me listening to this guys shit stories about when he was alive and to be honest, I almost pitied him. I emphasize the word 'almost' as he has made some bad decisions in life but then again, haven't we all? He just got dealt a shit hand to be fair and didn't get the kick up the arse he needed. He enthusiastically taps me on the shoulder and points behind me;
"See her there... Red dress, I had her the other night. I'm telling you, this place is absolutely brilliant."
I look in the direction of where his finger is pointing to see 4 women sat at a booth, only one is wearing a red dress. Jesus, this girl is fucking stunning. Like, it's intimidating how good looking she is. Long black hair, gorgeous face and the body on her was absolutely ridiculous. The kind of girl that even in his day, Brad Pitt would fucking struggle. I start to think of a somewhat polite way to either tell him he's a lying bastard or to ask how that happened because, well, seeing the state of him, this girl wouldn't wanna be anywhere near this dirty looking old guy. I choose my words carefully as he's a big guy that strikes me as an unpredictable character that could lash out at any moment.
"So... You and her, how did... Like did she..."
I know I was stuttering, but once again, I'm fucking interrupted.
"Haha... Yeah, you don't believe me do ya? Well, when you get told that there is no right and wrong here, you can do what you want. They actually mean that it's a big relief to be honest. See, when I was alive and begging for spare change, living on the streets, that girl over there probably wouldn't give me the steam from her piss. Up here though, up here where there's no moral compass and I can just 'take' these golden opportunities without any second thought or hesitation... Well, it's fairly silly not to, isn't it? Plus, up here, she has the power to erase any bad memories she might possess. She won't even remember it happening. Seriously, listen to me... When I was alive, I was scum of the earth to most people and didn't have the same chances at life as most people do... Probably including yourself. Here though... I can't do what I want and not have to worry about anything. It's a thing of beauty! Haha!"
It all makes sense what he is saying but I sit in shock staring back at this piece of shit rapist that doesn't have an ounce of remorse in his body by the sounds of things. How the fuck did I end up drinking in a bar with a fucking rapist? Do I hit him? Shout at him? Call someone over? In the end, I don't even dignify him with an answer. I remove myself from the stool and head to my room - trying to shake that image out of my head. I've heard things before that knock me sick but imagine someone speaking so freely and proudly about raping someone right in your face - I just couldn't comprehend it.
The room surprisingly enough looks like a glorified travel lodge room - just a bigger bed and TV. I've been drinking whiskey so I never know when to call it a night. I order a crate of lager from room service which comes almost immediately. I open the first can and sit upright against the headboard, switching the TV on at the same time. Fuck me, I spent half my life alive channel flicking, avoiding terrible American comedy sitcoms and reality shows - but it's kind of a settling feeling knowing that the TV is just as shit here too. In the end, I settle for a 'friends' marathon - shite American comedy but it's easy - watching and something to fall asleep to. The cans are going down like water as I seem to be able to put away an unusual amount of drink compared to what I normally do. What felt like a moment later, I wake up to the theme tune of yet another episode starting, I don't know how long I've been asleep for but I feel perfectly fine - no thumping head, my mouth isn't as dry as fucking dirt and I'm not sat over the pan for the first ten minutes of my day. - I feel fresh. If addiction was a thing in this place, I could see how alcoholism would be an issue. Because I don't have a real clue how this place works, I wonder what to do with my day. Do I still have to work? Do I just drink all day, every day because it's all free and I don't get hangovers? It's all a mystery to me. I open the wardrobe and to my shock, all my best clothes from over the years are neatly hung up. All my current size too. It's as if every aspect of my living life that I enjoyed has been brought through with me when I died. Nothing really shocks or surprises me anymore - I don't even think about questioning how they got there or how they knew these clothes were my favorites, I shrug it off and opt for a dark blue tuxedo I bought years ago for my aunties wedding. I loved that tux, any excuse to wear it I would take. Eventually becoming a bit of a fat bastard in later life, it never fit me anymore - so obviously, I'm made up that it fits now. I guess the only thing to do is go to the bar and see what else I can get up to in this strange place. Once again, I'm alone at the bar. I understand there are no real penalties up here for continuously drinking away the days spent waiting to hear my judgment - but I'm already worried I might get very bored, very quickly. I order a pint and am cautious that the first swig doesn't cover my tux like it inevitably will do, but with extra care, I manage to prevent it from happening. I read all the spirit bottle labels I can clearly see without actually moving from the barstool. - This is through sheer boredom already as I hope and pray there is something more to do here.
"You've spilled drink on yourself." I hear a voice say. Without acknowledging where the voice came from, I instinctively look down to see a big wet patch on my blazer. Bastard. I was so careful and still fucking managed to spill on the tuxedo I haven't worn in years. I spin my head round to come out with some half - nasty, sarcastic comment through my own anger to find a woman staring back at me with a small grin on her face. It's rare it happens, but when I see someone I find so attractive, I fold like wet fucking tissue paper. Instead of making a joke out of spilling my drink as a normal person would, I freeze and let out the most painful, half-assed laugh I've ever heard. This girl is that good looking, that it isn't lust I'm feeling, I feel like I should marry her - yesterday. After what felt like hours of blankly staring at her, I muster up the courage to introduce myself, careful not to make an even bigger ass out of the situation. Outstandingly enough, she plays along and we actually have a conversation - as opposed to me just blabbing on, stuttering on every word I say. She tells me her name - Shannen, and how long she's been in this place - I imagine explaining how long you've been dead and how you died to new people (myself included) is on a par with how annoying it is telling people about your holiday when you land back home. It's just making conversation - but a pain in the arse nevertheless. After another drink, she excuses herself to go to the toilet. Now, it's early days and I'm being quite presumptuous, but I think I could really get on with this girl. Excited and a bit jittery, I order us another round and glance over in her direction as she walks away. She also turns her head back to look at me and gives a heart-melting grin. She's absolutely beautiful. This somewhat flirty moment is then ruined when I spot that homeless-looking dickhead I met yesterday lurking outside the female toilets. As Shannen passes him, the slimy snake that he is rubs his hands and follows her into the toilet. My heart melts and a feel my head swelling with anger... I know what he's going to do. The same as what he did to the other woman he pointed out yesterday. That fucking prick, I'm not going to sit back and let it happen. There's literally no one else here either. Due to anger, I stand bolt upright off the stool and throw the whiskey straight on the floor. I'll stick this fucking glass in his neck. I've got no idea what the outcome will be, cause he's already dead but fuck it, I'll try it. Anything to see him suffer. No morals and all that up here? Why shouldn't I glass the guy? he's a fucking rapist. There's no rules apparently... He's okay with raping people, why would I feel guilty about sticking this inside him? I march with a purpose towards the toilet with my mind going 100mph. Adrenaline rushes through me more than I have ever known the closer I get to the door. With the glass clutched in my hand, I sneak inside, careful not to be seen or heard and peer underneath the cubical doors. I hear Shannen struggle as I presume he's forced her into the cubical. My fingers touch the door to burst it open when I'm suddenly thrown to the floor by someone barging me from the side. My head hit the floor with force, leaving me slightly disorientated as I stare up at this stranger that's just thrown me.
"Stuart Gillespie... STUART GILLESPIE. OPEN THE DOOR NOW." - The stranger shouts as he rattles the door. Three more men enter the bathroom, followed closely by the 'fat bastard' that introduced me to the bar earlier. I have no idea what the fuck is going on and my head is throbbing as I struggle to see straight. The guys that just came in the bathroom have zero interest in attending to me as they slam and wrench at the door the rapist and Shannen are in. I drag my body into the next stall and lean up against the toilet as I run my fingers through my hair to check for bleeding as I'm sure the glass shattered under my head. I'm dazed, but I vaguely remember hearing something along the lines of -
"Stuart Gillespie, your judgment day is here. You're coming with us. Your actions over the past year have summed you up as a person. You've been evaluated and judged based on the rules we gave you and your decisions on how you behave..."
I came to my senses pretty rapid upon hearing this. It's not free to roam up here, it's a test. A final decider on where your body and soul travel to in the afterlife. A judge of character and it sums up people's character fairly by having no 'moral compass'. Just because there are no rules up here and you aren't forever being watched by some 'God' seeing your every move, it doesn't mean you can't be a genuinely good person. It's a test to show people's true colors without them feeling guilty about not pleasing the big man above.
It's a lesson.