The following is a work of fiction. All resemblance to real humans is completely intentional and not at all coincidental:
It was a strange place, hell that is. It wasn’t dark and it wasn’t light. It seemed to be in between everything that was real. I wondered if I was still real. There are no mirrors in hell.
There she stood, still looking immaculate in her white sari and her hair pulled back with maroon lips. My mother had seen her as a child, my mother said she was once a good woman.
“Are you Indira Gandhi?” I asked in awe. Indira Gandhi, the former Prime Minister of India.
“I don’t know if I am still her, but that is what they used to call me.” She said. She looked visibly upset with her furrowed brow.
“Are you in hell because you bombed the Golden Temple?” I asked. I mean I had to ask.
“No, I’m here because I requested to be here.” She looked at me suspiciously as if she were telling me a secret but she wasn’t sure she trusted me. Her red bindi shined on her forehead.
“This is the only place I would be respected. I’m better than everyone here.”
“OK…” Weird but OK. “Who else is here?”
“It’s all men,” she said and looked at her manicured pink nails. You can get manicures in hell? “It wasn’t my idea to kill those people. Those Sikhs.” She shook her head in dismay. “Men, they were all around me, it was their idea.”
“I don’t know enough about it,” I replied. All of a sudden it occurred to me that she could be lying, I don’t think she chose to be in hell. I think she was put here like the rest of them.
“Why are you better than everyone here?” I asked, in awe of her natural sophisticated beauty.
“You think you are better than everyone here, don’t you?” she asked me, again looking suspicious.
“Umm, no, I don’t know, it’s my first time here, I don’t know if I’m here to stay or I’m just visiting. It’s all up in the air right now.”
I fumbled as I spoke.
“You think the world is male dominated, you should see how this place runs,” she declared.
“I figured as much,” I smiled at her.
“Women are better than men, are they not?” Indira Gandhi asked me, little old me.
“Yeah, probably, I would say an astounding yes to that one!”
“Everything I did wrong, I listened to men. A man killed me, my own Sikh bodyguard.”
“I heard,” I didn’t know what to say.
“It’s a man’s world and a man’s hell. They set me up for death, the men.”
“Don’t let them kill you because you are a woman.”
“Of course” I stammered. “Of course.”
She disappeared into thin air as fast as she had appeared. She was like a genie in a bottle.
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Johnny Carson? Really? He went to hell? Why? Did he make fun of god or something?
“I can’t tell jokes anymore,” he said to me with his bald head shining in the sun. “This is hell.”
“That’s your hell? Really?”
“Yes. You know funny is so hard, no one knows how hard it is. How miserable I was trying so hard to be funny. It’s not fun,” he continued.
“It’s not fun to be funny?” I asked.
“It’s a lot of pressure,” he said and lit a cigarette. I wanted to tell him that stuff will kill ya, but then I remembered he was dead. “Don’t try to be funny, try to be real,” he continued.
“Isn’t reality funny?” I asked and he handed me his cigarette. I took a puff, I don’t know why. We are all gonna die. Fuck it.
“Reality is hilarious, you don’t even have to make shit up shit is so funny, it’s already there for you.”
“Have you seen what’s been going down around here since you left?” I asked and coughed after inhaling the smoke. I’m not really cool, my larynx can’t handle cigarette smoke.
“Yeah, it’s a comedian’s heaven right now. They are saying down here that the Anti-Christ is Trump. But I don’t believe in that shit. I don’t believe in Christ. Probably one of the reasons I’m down here.”
“Why are you in hell?” I asked still wondering what would make this comical man end up here.
“Because I was never real, in my real life.”
“You have to be real to get to heaven? I don’t get it.”
“It’s complicated. Just remember to be your authentic self,” he pronounced with a deep voice of authority.
“What does that even mean?”
“Don’t be a phony.”
“You weren’t a phony,” I commented.
“That’s what they all think…ask my wife.” Then he was gone. Just like he came into the world, he left my sight.
It wasn’t as hot in hell as I thought it would be. It was a normal temperature. The place didn’t really look that big to be honest. Maybe there are not that many people that go to hell. But I don’t believe in hell. Then where was I?
“Am I in hell?” I asked and knocked on this wooden door that appeared before me.
“That’s a wonderful question, wonderful question. It is the question of life, am I in hell?” a voice said in an old style British accent. A decent looking man opened the door.
“Who are you?” I asked and looked around the room, it was a mess.
“I’m God’s writer,” he said, he was wearing a black hat. “They call me Shakespeare.”
“The Shakespeare?” I asked in awe there seemed to be papers with ink from a quill on all surfaces of the room.
“What do you mean you are god’s writer? Why did he put you in hell? What are you writing anyways?”
“I am writing the story of Earth,” he smiled and twirled a quill in his mouth.
“Is it a tragedy or a comedy?”
“Think of it as a Tramidy. A traumatic comedy.” He smiled, nodding his head up and down.
“How does it end?” I ask, fascinated by the whole concept that there is a writer behind this madness we call life.
“I haven’t decided yet. How do you think it should end?” he asks and looks deeply into my eyes. Shakespeare, god’s writer, wants to know what I think about how the world should end.
“I don’t think it should end.”
“A story without an ending,” he put his hands through his beard. “Hmmm…”
“Why are you in hell?” I ask again.
“Oh, this is where the interesting people are. It helps me with character development.”
And then he disappeared just as quickly as he had appeared.
And then there they were standing together, like brothers from a different mother. The usual suspects, the people you would expect in hell. Osama Bin Laden and Hitler. OMG that is so cliche. Of all the people to expect to be in hell, these two are the ones you expect to be in hell. You never get what you expect in life, but you do in hell apparently.
“Why am I meeting you?” I asked in a wavering voice as if even in this setting I feared them.
“The question is why are we meeting you?” Osama asked in a very heavy smokers voice.
“I have no idea,” I said, all of a sudden very angry at them. “You know what, I have something to say to you…you two…” tears spilled out of my eyes as I looked at them.”Why? Just why?” I asked and stared at their nasty faces.
“You wouldn’t believe it but we ask ourselves that question a lot,” Hitler said in a very strong accent. I guess it was a German accent.
“And what have you come up with?” I asked.
“We didn’t know they were people too,” Hitler continued.
“What kind of answer is that? What kind of excuse is that? They looked like people…” I stammered.
“We didn’t know they had souls,” Osama declared.
“Do you have souls?” I asked, flustered.
“We lost our souls when we were alive, we separated from our souls so much that we might as well not have had them,” Hilter pronounced.
“You bastards. Fuck you.” I don’t know, what else could I say to the actual devils?
“We deserve that…just remember we understand now what we did was wrong,” Osama added.
“I don’t care if you understand the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. I don’t care about you. You can burn here.”
“We are burning,” Hitler said and tears came down his eyes. “Every single person we ever harmed will harm us in a next life. That’s a lot of people…”
“Good. Maybe there is justice and karma, and where is god or the devil? Can I speak to the manager around here?” I asked.
“You are all we got. You are all we got,” Osama said and shook his head.
I didn’t get it, I’m not the manager of hell, if that is what he was trying to imply. I’m not the manager of anything, I can barely manage my life. I wanted to ask him what he meant, but poof, they were gone and I was standing on a cloud alone, alone, alone.