Jonathan Dunstann blinked several times. His entire world had changed. Around him was a dark, dank, humid cell. The walls were covered in slime and moss. The cell had no openings, no windows, no doors, and no bars. From some unknown source, the room was dimly lit, letting Dunstann see, even if it was only a little bit. He placed his hand on the floor, only to retract it immediately. His hand was covered in a dark and sticky unidentifiable substance. He wiped his hand on his jeans, thoroughly disgusted. Inside the room somewhere he heard the scratching of rat’s feet, scurrying across the floors.
From outside the room he could hear wailings and screaming. The scent of mould, sweat and burning flesh filled the room. He edged himself into the corner. Where was he? Why was he here? Where was everyone else? The questions swam in his mind until his thoughts were a pile of mush. He stared at the rotting wall before him and counted.
He counted to one thousand once, twice, three times. At the third he stood up and screamed. “Why me?” He didn’t even know to whom he was screaming to. Was it God? Was it a person? Or was it just himself? Despair gripped his heart making it colder and colder. Outside his body, in the room, the temperature was rising. He was going to die here. He could feel the walls closing in on him; he couldn’t breathe.
He didn’t even have final words.
Around him, the room grew hotter and hotter. “God if you’re real, save me!” he whispered into the empty space. Nothing around him changed. He waited one minute. Then another. And another. “Fine!” he yelled with difficulty. “You were no good when I was out there, in the real world. Why would you stop and listen to me now?” His voice lowered to a whisper, words almost choked in the back of his throat. “If you were as good as you said you were, or even if you were real, you could have saved me.”
Steam started to rise from the damp floor. It was getting harder and harder to breath.
Dunstann thought of his family, wherever they were. He remembered is mother, Elisa. She was truly beautiful. She would always kiss him goodnight, even though he was sixteen. Even though he protested that he was too old for it. “Indulge me a little, you’re my only son, and I love you.” He would always sigh when she said that and give in. But even he knew that he couldn’t go to sleep without it. What wouldn’t he do for just one more kiss?
He remembered his twin sisters Charlotte and Jess. He smiled as he remembered how they would always argue at the breakfast bar when their mum poured them cereal. One would always complain that the other had more cereal the she did, and then finished the box too quickly. He smiled to himself. It got so bad; they had to start buying separate cereal boxes for each of them. It was always sugar puffs. “It’s the most yummiest, delicious, sugar-tastic cereal ever!” They would cry whenever his mum asked why they loved it so much.
It was always the little things that meant the most to him, he now realised. The kisses, the hugs, even the arguments were even better than this. He used to hate it back home. Now it was the only place he ever wanted to be. He wanted to tell his mum he loved her and that he meant it. He wanted to spin Charlotte around one more time. He wanted to read Jess just one more bedtime story. He wanted a chance to say goodbye.
In the back of his mind it registered that he was dying, and it was coming all too quickly. Black spots were forming in front of his eyes. His breaths were becoming shorter and shorter.
He remembered his best friend- well, ex-best friend, Prince. Prince, with his rum and his cigarettes, always on his breath or in his pocket. He couldn’t even really call him his friend. He was just a dealer really. His go-to man when things got hard. Dunstann remembered that at first it was just a little grade, just to keep him numb from the world. He remembered Princes hazy words-hazy because he was always doped up on something or the other , “It just makes sure that the bad things just disappear, like nothing’s happening. You’ll feel good.” He smiled, like pot was the magic answer to everything. Then he moved on to stronger things like LSD and even cocaine once or twice. That was when it got really bad, and then it was just to feed a habit.
Of course, that all stopped when he OD’d. They said it was a cocktail of stuff. Cocaine, methadone and ecstasy were included in the toxicology report. He found out on the news. It was surreal. One minute, Prince was there selling and pushing like his life depended on it. The next he was dead. Full stop. End of. No going back.
He wheezed out a chuckle. How pathetic was it that his only friend was his dealer?
After Prince died, he got deeper and darker into himself. Nothing pure existed inside of him anymore. He needed new supplies, so he started to steal. When people started coming after him, he carried a knife and even a gun sometimes. He was a criminal, and he knew it. It made his mum cry herself to sleep every single night. Her son had lost all hope and there was nothing she could do about it.
Drawn out of his revere, it finally dawned on him: the time to die was here, now. He wasn’t ready. Wild panic bubbled up his throat as he finally realised what was happening. As he tried one last scream, it died on his lips as his heart just gave out. His last view of the world was this cell. And he didn’t even know his crime.
Dunstann was falling into a pit of darkness. He had been swallowed into a black hole, he was nothing. He tried to scream. No sound came out. He tried to feel, but there was nothing around him. All he could feel was a dull red heat radiating from whichever way was down. Was he condemned to fall forever?
Below him a speck of light grew closer and closer. His falling seemed to speed up. The hot air whipped past his face and his ears as he shot downwards. As he fell he started to think. “Aren’t I dead yet?” He voiced his thought to whomever, or whatever was listening. The light grew brighter and brighter. As he got closer, he could see that the light was a fire lit in a grate, on one side of this room that was beginning to come into focus.
There was a long dining table with two chairs at either end on top of a big circle with a pentagram inside if it. As he fell he could make out a figure sitting at one end of the table. Apart from that, the room was very sparse. The fire flickered, casting weird shadows that shouldn’t have been there. It was getting hotter and hotter as he got closer. But it didn’t burn his lungs as it did before.
Suddenly, his descent stopped. He hovered in mid air for a few seconds, and then was lowered into the seat at the other end of the table. From here he could get a better look at the man at the table. He was dressed in a black suit with a black tie. His oily blonde hair was slicked back. His smile was wolfish; he looked hungry.
“Ah, Jonathan. You finally ‘arrived’” The man broke the silence before Dunstann could ask any questions. He looked him up and down. “Death has been kind to you, there’s not a scratch on your entire body.”
Dunstann sighed. So he was dead. It wasn’t just a dream. His head snapped up. He was confused. “How can I be dead? I’m talking to you aren’t I? Why am I here? Where is ‘here’?” All his questions spilled out of his mouth at once. He looked at the man smiling at the other end of the table. He looked so flipping calm!
“Let me start with your last question first: You are in, for lack of a better term, Hell. You are a human-turned-demon and you now work for me.” The man smiled again. He enjoyed it every time a new one came in.
Dunstann paled. Hell? Dead? Demons? It was all too much. His voice wavered a little as he asked another question, “And who exactly are you?” But he knew the answer before he even heard it.
“Why, I’m the ruler of the whole of Hell. I have many titles; the destroyer, the wicked one, the tempter, Satan, the Devil. But to you, I am Lucifer.” His tone was so amiable; it was like this was ordinary conversation. Dunstann played this over in his head:
“Hi, I’m the devil and you’re dead, actually!” It would be funny if it wasn’t so damn twisted.
Dunstann shuddered, his heart going ice cold. He was in the presence of Satan? What had he done wrong? He wasn’t evil. This was a mistake! He opened his mouth to protest but Lucifer cut him off, raising a hand to silence him.
“Now you’re going to ask why you’re here.” He raised his voice into a high, mocking tone, “I’m not evil, I’m good. I don’t belong here. Blah blah blah blah blah.” His voice lowered again. “The fact is that no-one comes here for no reason. As a matter of fact, most know why. Are you saying you don’t remember?”
Dunstann shook his head, shaken by the new information he was unable to utter a word. Lucifer snapped his fingers. Instantly a flood of images crashed in his mind, filling the gaps in his memory.
In one memory, he saw his dad in his room. They were arguing about something or the other. They always argued. Their house was like a war zone. In another, he saw him and his dad again, rolling on the floor fighting. There was blood everywhere, whose was whose no-one could tell.
In the last memory he saw him and his dad in the garage. Dunstann’s hand was in his left pocket. His dad was yelling, like he always was. Dunstann’s fuse was lit, there was no going back. Without warning, he pulled a gun out of his left pocket. His dad raised his hands in surrender. But it was way too late for that. Dunstann had had enough. He flicked the safety latch. “Please son,” his father pleaded, “We can work things out all we have to do i-”
The body slid to the floor with a sickening thud, doubled over. Blood leaked out from the wound, staining the floor. As calm as ever, Dunstann took the keys out of his father’s jacket and got into his old blue Ford Fiesta. He drove off into the city of London as if nothing had happened.
Dunstann screwed his eyes shut. “I don’t want to remember anymore!” He hissed, as if he was in physical pain. Lucifer chuckled.
“I thought you wanted to know how you got here.” Dunstann prepared to yell in protest, but was stopped by another onslaught of memory.
Weeks after the murder of his father, Dunstann found himself on the streets of Hackney wandering around, sleeping in his car, eating whatever he could find. He saw news reports in shop windows of his father’s murder and a police order that if anyone found him, they needed to turn him in immediately. He just laughed at the reports. Like hell they could find him. He was invisible, under the radar. No-one could suspect some random homeless teenager. He was one of thousands now.
He was walking to his car late one night when he saw this gang of boys, his age, coming toward him. “Oi, you. I seen you on T.V. You’re the one that killed your dad innit?” Dunstann shook his head at the poor illiterate fool. He thought he could be smart.
“Maybe.” He was trying to be enigmatic. He thought it worked. He was wrong.
The boys rushed him and carried him over to a big white van. “We don’t need murderers like you walking our streets.” He heard someone hiss in the background. Crap. The boys piled in behind him, kicking him occasionally.
The car drove and drove. Eventually it stopped outside an old factory. Dunstann was shoved out of the car and picked up by a group of hands. “You know where to take him boys.” A gruff voice instructed. And then he was in the room.
Dunstann realised something. There were bars in that room. But why couldn’t he see them? He queried Lucifer. “How come, I didn’t see bars the first time, but now there are some?”
Lucifer smiled again. “I needed you dead, so I made it a little easier. For me, anyway. I just made you think that there were no bars, it was a glamour.” He waved his hand to demonstrate. Instantly a pair of giant black wings shimmered into view. “I didn’t want to scare you, so I hid my wings. But now you know, there’s no use in hiding them.” The monstrosities swayed in a breeze that Dunstann couldn’t feel. Lucifer clicked his fingers. The table had disappeared and Dunstann was standing up.
“Now that we’ve gotten this out of the way, there’s only one more thing that you need to do.”
Dunstann raised his eyebrow, but Lucifer just continued.
“I need you to swear your loyalty to me. You’ve already done half of it. All you need to say now is ‘I promise to serve you for the rest of my Hellish existence’”
Dunstann sighed. What could he do, he was already here, already a cold blooded murderer. “I promise to serve you for the rest of my Hellish existence. Why do I have to do that again?”
Lucifer grinned his wolfish grin. Dunstann shuddered. Lucifer did that too often. It was like he was looking at his next meal. “It just makes sure that you are un-saveable by any kind of heavenly or Godly force. You have to give up your humanity by your own will.” He shrugged and turned away.
“Where are you going?” Dunstann asked.
“Out.” Lucifer clapped his hands, eyes still on the wall he was walking towards. Around him, the room changed, revealing a bed, a smaller table, food and a woman. “These things are for your entertainment. I have an assignment for you; the information is on the desk.” A desk and chair appeared, along with a photo and papers. “Her name is Neve, and I need her down here with you. She has potential.” Lucifer began to walk away, but he turned just before he reached the wall. “By the way, you’re not here because you murdered your Dad.”
Dunstann stared at the man in total shock. “I’m not?” What worse thing could he have done to deserve this?
“No. You’re here because you rejected God. That was the thing that let me get my hooks in you. Had you held out for him, maybe you would’ve gone upwards instead of down here with me.” He let out a humourless laugh and walked out through the wall, leaving Dunstann alone in his room.
A burn worked up Dunstann’s throat and expressed itself in a terrible, guilt ridden scream. He recalled a saying from his Sunday school days. So long ago, he had forgotten the memories even existed.
I will never leave you, nor forsake you.
He slammed his fist on the desk. If only he had remembered. But it was too late now. He spat on the ground. “That’s what I think of you God. I’m in this mess because of you!”
He was remembering so much now. What was once blank was being refreshed with memories that were long gone. He recalled his mum talking to him when his granny died. “She’s gone to a better place now John.”She told him in hushed tones. “She’s gone to be with Jesus now.”
He hissed at the memory. “Why her and not me?”
Granny had died with her Bible in one hand and prayer book in the other. God obviously found more favour with this old lady, who was going to die anyway, than a teenage boy who had everything to live for.
Hot tears of shame ran down his cheeks. He wanted to say sorry, he wanted forgiveness. But he couldn’t even ask now. Now that he was one of the damned. He could picture his mother hanging her head, so disappointed at the son she had tried to raise right. He could see his sisters, hiding behind their mother, hiding from the demon he had now become. He could even see his father; the man who told him he would amount to nothing in this world. The man who told him he was a failure and a waste of space.
Dunstann’s chest tightened. How right his father was. He fell to his knees, all self pride and self worth gone, washed with anger and remorse. Who was he angry at? Honestly, he didn’t care. He let out a scream, letting out all the rage, hurt, suffering and misery he felt. He flung the table across the room.
Outside, Lucifer chuckled at the raging dead boy inside the room. This is exactly what he needed.