I made a mistake. Maybe I should say it in a way that conveys how critical the mistake was— I fucked up really bad. Funny thing is that doesn’t truly describe the severity of it either. I guess I’ll start by letting you know that I am an alcoholic. I go to work every day and have never lost a job or relationship due to my drinking, but I feel like I must drink just to feel normal. My alcoholism is simply defined as me enjoying being drunk more than sober.
For years I looked my wife in her eyes, swearing that I had quit drinking. I would hold my infant daughter and whisper my promise of sobriety to her uncomprehending ears as well. Both of these were blatant lies. I justified these lies by telling myself that they were coming from a good place with the best intentions, but they were still lies. The road to hell is paved with good intentions, right? Trust me, we’ll get back to that.
I didn’t realize at the time that I made a promised to everyone but the most important person– myself.
Drinking had become such a normal routine that I forgot about the possible dangers of driving after a few drinks. A few hours ago, I was driving home the same way that I always do. I honestly didn’t feel like I was that drunk. Trust me; I’ve been truly drunk before and this didn’t feel like one of those times.
The strangest part is that I remember driving home and the next thing I knew, I woke up in the half of my car that wasn’t’ wrapped around a telephone pole. At first I couldn’t see anything wrong with me. I wasn’t in pain and didn’t have any visible injuries. My excitement however was short lived.
There was a man sitting on an undamaged spot on the hood of my car. Man doesn’t completely describe him, but its close enough. He had all of the basic dimensions of a man with a few variations. The first thing I noticed was that his hands only had four nail less fingers. His feet were the same— four toes, no nails. His face was normal, save for his eyes being spaced really far apart. In addition, his sharp nose and full lips gave him the appearance of a predatory bird. He sat partially naked— his sunburned red skin only covered by a black and gold metallic looking loincloth and matching headdress that draped over his shoulders like and Egyptian pharaoh.
I stared in disbelief as he guzzled an entire bottle of dark liquor, in one continuous greedy gulp. When he was finished, he stared at the bottle and let out a loud and satisfying burp.
“Oh man, this stuff is fucking amazing. I see why you like it so much,” he said.
“What’s going on?” I asked stupidly as I stepped out of my damaged car. Some part of my mind already knew, but I was hoping that I was wrong.
Still lazily sitting on the car hood, the strange man said, “The simplest way to put it is you’re dead and I’m here to get you all settled into your new place of residence.”
“Dead?” I asked, trying to get my mind wrapped around the idea more than expecting an answer. “But I’m not hurt, look at me.”
He smiled and nodded towards the car. When I turned to look inside of the front seat, I saw my bloody body slumped forward on the steering wheel. There really isn’t an adequate way to describe how I felt. Confused, relieved, anxious, but not scared, yet.
“So are you an angel?”
Laughter erupted from him as he rolled onto his back. “Do I look like an angel to you?”
I shook my head.
“No? Why not? Is it because I don’t have wings and a golden halo?” Not waiting for me to respond, he went on. “There is so much you don’t know. I bet you think heaven is all clouds and hell is fire.”
“That’s what we’re told. How am I supposed to know about that sort of thing?” The fear was slowly beginning to seep into my mind.
“Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of pain and pleasure in both heaven and hell, but it’s not fire and pitchforks that you gotta worry about with me.”
The look on my face must have shown him how scared I was becoming. Jumping off of the car, he approached me.
With one finger he tapped the side of his head. “Hell is all in here. It’s the one place you can’t escape and the number of different tortures are infinite. Don’t worry, we got plenty of time for you to see what I mean.”
Something about the statement pushed my terror over the edge. I begged him for mercy. “Please is there anything you can do to help me?”
Thinking it over, the demon rubbed his chin. “I technically could help you, but why would I?”
I sank deeper into desperation. “Please, I’ll do anything, whatever you want. I just want a second chance.”
He looked down at me and after a long pause, he laughed. “No, I think I’ll just do what I was ordered to do.”
In a pathetic gesture, I fell to my knees and kissed his large four toed feet. It seemed to have no effect on him. I then tried to play on his emotions, hoping that there was a drop of sympathy inside of him.
“I’m sure you get a lot of people asking for second chances, but I have a daughter. She’s only a baby and she needs her father.”
He listened silently, as if he was waiting for me to get to the point.
I continued, “I have a wife, family, friends. I don’t know if you have feelings or if you can even understand human emotion, but if you could, you would help me.”
I really didn’t have a point; other than I wanted to not be dead and definitely didn’t want to go to hell.
He considered my statement. “I know how you feel, and I understand exactly what you want. I was human once.”
Hope surged through me. I knew that if I could tap into his past humanity, then I could be saved. Sadly there was no humanity in him.
“I wasn’t born a human or anything, but sometimes we get to take what you would consider a vacation,” He said with delight in his eyes. “I got to be a human for a day. His name was Frank, or Fred, I forget, but he had a pretty good life by your standards. Nice car, house, lots of money and a very attractive wife. I didn’t much care for the money or car. When I entered his house, his wife was so happy to see me. Her excitement aroused both me and her husband’s body. We had sex, but it was all so tame, so I started beating her and that really got me going. I wanted to have more sex, but your human dicks go through a period of uselessness right after pleasure reaches a peak. Didn’t matter, I beat her some more until his body was aroused then I had sex with her again. That went on most of the night and then I drank wine, whiskey, ate most of the food in his kitchen, and that was that.”
I listened in horror at his obvious disregard for human emotion. For a moment I forgot that I was trying to convince him to help me. “You don’t know shit about how I feel. You got to be in a man’s body for a day and all you did was beat and rape his wife.”
He considered my statement again. “True, but there were feelings, just very few that I cared for. The man was sad and disgusted the entire time. He was in love with the woman. He thought about killing himself too. I wonder if he ever did. I’ll check on that later.”
After a large exhale, he asked, “What would you do with an hour in your body again?
I should have stopped there. I should have realized that I was literally making a deal with a devil.
I told him that I would spend every second with my wife and daughter. I wanted more than anything to see them just one more time.
He laughed at my excitement. Next he sat an hourglass on the hood of my wrecked car.
“Alright, it’s a deal. I’m sure you know what this is. When you wake up, your wounds will be healed and you will be as healthy as you were before the crash. Don’t spend too much time sitting around. The moment you open your eyes, the sands will begin to fall.”
And just like that I felt my eyes opening. The seat belt was taught against my chest and the deflated airbag hung from the steering wheel in front of me. It took a few minutes for me to pull it all together, but when I did, the first thing I saw was the hourglass sitting on the hood of the car, slowly dropping grain after grain of sand.
The realization hit me that I was on borrowed time and I sprinted all the way home. I didn’t bother grabbing the hourglass. I was sure that it would go where ever I went.
It took me about ten minutes to get to my house. I didn’t want to wake my wife and daughter. I just wanted to watch them sleep until my time ran out. Waking them would only cause them more pain because I would undoubtedly cry the entire time. On top of that, I didn’t want the confusion of seeing me show up crying and then find out the next morning that I had died in a car crash earlier that night. So I just sat a watched.
The hourglass was sitting on the dresser just as I thought it would be. I was so happy to see that only a small amount of time had passed.
I quietly wept as I watched my daughter and wife for the last time. This is when the fear truly set in. Having a conversation with a demon and realizing that I was going to hell was scary, but being torn away from everything that I loved was the worst fear I’ve ever experienced.
As the time ran down, I thought about the demon and why he was at first so resistant to giving me a chance, then for no reason at all, decided to give me an hour of life. Then just like that, he appeared.
Dread filled my chest at the sight of him. “I still have at least a half an hour,” I pleaded.
“Calm down. I put your time on hold.”
I looked and saw that the sands in the hourglass were frozen mid fall.
“The reason I showed up is to inquire about payment,” he said casually.
For a second I was confused, but then the realization of the predicament I was in hit me hard. “Payment for what? This hour?”
Ignoring the question, the demon laid down on the bed next to my daughter. I sprang to my feet. “You better not hurt her you piece of shit.”
The demon chuckled at my clenched jaw and balled up fists.
“I accept payment in the form of souls or misery, nothing else. You told me that you would do anything if I helped you. You volunteered that, I didn’t ask.”
I knew that I had fucked up. So desperate to hold on to a life that had already slipped through my fingers, I failed to ask what the price would be for his merciful gift. I had been deceived.
I wanted to scream at him, but pushed my rage down and spoke through clenched teeth. “You tricked me. You lied to me.”
He placed his hand on my daughters back and gave it a gentle rub. “Wasn’t it you that lied to her. Wasn’t it that very lie that led to the situation that you are in now?”
I was so angry and scared, but he was right. I promised that I would stop drinking and now I was paying for it. The question that eluded me the entire time was why exactly I was going to hell. I wasn’t a bad man, besides drinking and lying to hide my drinking, but that shouldn’t be enough to warrant eternal damnation.
“You never told me why I deserve to go to hell.”
“You never asked.”
I couldn’t respond. All I could do was stare in frustration. The awkward silence was broken by his laughter. “You really don’t remember do you?”
As I said before, I remember driving home and waking up dead. It wasn’t revealed to me until that moment that somewhere along my trip home I ran over and killed three people before crashing into the telephone pole and killing myself.
“So back to payment,” he said, the amusement gone from his face. “Who do you love more, your wife or your daughter?”
The question and its implications shook me to the core. I knew what he was going to ask next, and I dreaded each second of silent tension he let build.
He swung his feet over the bed and onto the floor. “Don’t answer yet. Have a drink with me first.”
On the nightstand beside me sat a bottle of my favorite whiskey and two glasses already poured. Numb to the entire endeavor and wanting it to be over, I raised my glass and poured the liquid into my mouth. The warm sensation slowly calmed me, instantly making the situation more manageable. We drank two more before he spoke again, his tone suddenly consoling.
“Usually I don’t let people choose, but I’ll give that to you, free of charge.”
“What do you want me to do?” I asked in a shaky voice.
“All you have to do is tell me which one,” He smiled as he placed his hand on my shoulder.
“Will it hurt?” I asked, understanding that I was in a no win situation.
“Not a bit.” He whispered. “All I’ll do is place my hand on one of them, they will take one last deep breath and then they will be gone. I’ll be right there to catch the soul before it floats away.”
“What if I can’t choose?” I asked, hoping for some loophole in his proposition.
“Just as I’m trying to be nice to you, you would still think about denying me what’s mine,” he whispered in the same soothing voice. “If you don’t choose one, then I’ll take both of them.”
I cried as I poured myself another drink. “Can I tell you after my time is up?” I asked.
“Oh, of course. Enjoy your remaining time and we’ll handle business when I return.”
And just like that, he was gone again. Only the hourglass and the alcohol remained.
It’s pure hell having to decide between your wife and your daughter dying. I love them both so much and there is no easy choice. You might say that picking my daughter to live and avoid going to hell with me is a no brainer, but saying the words that condemn my wife is something I don’t think I can do.
I knew what he wanted me to do. He wanted the decision to haunt me. I fucked up so badly every step of the way, but I wouldn’t let the ones I love suffer for my mistakes. I couldn’t let him win.
I only had one option. I had to kill them both before he returned. He said that he had to catch the soul before it floated away so if they were dead when he returned, the only soul in the room would be mine.
So here I am, pouring another drink and staring at the hourglass. The last grain of sand fell long ago and the demon didn’t return as he promised. I wonder what he’s waiting for. Maybe he’s pissed that I outsmarted him. He thought that he would corner me into choosing between sending my wife or daughter to hell. All he gets to have is me.
The alcohol didn’t make my decision any easier and it hasn’t helped numb the aftermath of what I did.
I don’t know what I should do now. It feels like I’ve been sitting here for days just drinking and crying. Maybe I’ll clean up all of this blood, have another drink, and wait for the demon to return.