This piece is by David Chase.
Crystal lay in bed, feeling worn out, dead inside. The light played across the ceiling, making odd patterns and she had no desire to get up. What was wrong with her?
It was Saturday morning and she was meeting her boyfriend, Mike, for the party tonight. It was going to be an awesome day; so why did she fell like life wasn’t worth living.
She needed to shake this! She sat up and threw off her covers, the chill of the room snapping her awake.
“What the fuck. Is the heat broken?” she grumbled under her breath.
She reached over to and flipped on the light, then stopped, something was wrong, really wrong. Her cute pink lamp was missing its pom-poms, it’s silver base corroded by age. The floor looked disgusting, dirt ground into the white carpeting. Looking over at her dresser she saw that her beloved stuffed animals were torn and ratty; and the pink walls were streaked with mold, the paint peeling in places. And the smell. She hadn’t noticed it before, but it reminded her of that rotting shack her and Kerri had found where they were ten; the walls buckling, the roof sagging.
Fear took root in her stomach, breaking through the dead feeling and she began breathing more heavily, which just made the smell worse, causing her to gag.
She got her stomach under control and slowed down her breathing, she needed to figure out what was happening. But first she needed to get dressed. She slowly opened her dresser, expecting to find her underwear and socks in tatters, but whatever had happened to the room didn’t seem to have effected the items in her drawer. Pulling out a pair of socks, she went over to her closer and found that her clothes also were undamaged.
Grabbing her uniform sweater, which was emblazoned with Diamond Hills Varsity Cheerleading, in royal blue across the field of green, over a mole with his pickaxe and helmet; tee shirt, jeans, and a pair of sneakers, she got dressed.
She left the room and started exploring the rest of the house. It was if no one had cleaned in decades. The hanging light in the hall was grimy, the paint peeling, the mirrors in the bathrooms corroded over, leaving only a silhouette behind and no amount of scrubbing would clear up.
Strangely the lights and water worked and the refrigerator was stocked with plenty of food, no sign of corruption there. But her books, laptop and television were damaged beyond repair.
Opening the front door Crystal found the house in the middle of large, flat field, just dry swaying grass as far as the eye could see.
“I’m in a dream. That’s what this is. A strange dream. Time to wake up. Time to wake up.” She pinched herself, nothing happened.
Running into the living room she found a young man standing next to the DVD cabinet, the door to the cabinet on the floor.
“Sorry, it fell off.” He said sheepishly.
“Who the hell are you and what are you doing in my house?” Crystal asked sharply.
“Oh, sorry. Name’s Eric, and I was scavenging. Didn’t know anyone lived here.”
“Well, I live here. Or at least I live in a house like this, when I’m not dreaming.”
Eric slapped her hard, sending her stumbling. She tripped over the coffee table in the middle of the room, knocking her knee hard and landed face first on the couch.
Agony flooded through her and she grabbed her leg, tears flowing down her face.
“Sorry about that.” Eric said, looking embarrassed. “But you’re not dreaming. This is as real as it gets.”
“What’s going on here?” Crystal cried through her tears.
Eric shrugged, then sat down next to her on the couch, “Some form of judgement perhaps?”
“Judgement for what? I’ve lived a good life. Am a good person. I’m popular, go to church every week, have loving parents. This is some kind of fucked up joke. We’re on a movie set, aren’t we? Like one of those stupid reality shows. I’ll bet there are cameras everywhere! You’re an actor, aren’t you?”
“In a sense, yes. I’m playing a part.”
“Well, I’m not. Fuck this! I’m outa here!”
Crystal stood up slowly, and found that her knee was fine. She walked out the front door, faced the sun and started walking. The road couldn’t be far from here.
She was in good shape, being a cheerleader did that for you, and she covered the ground quickly. About half an hour later she saw a speck in the distance and broke into a light jog, it looked like another house. Whoever lived there could drive off this stupid set.
As she got closer she saw that the house looked familiar and worms began to form in her stomach. Entering the back door, she found Eric in the kitchen laying out sandwiches and tall glasses of milk.
“I figured you would be hungry. Have a good walk?”
Crystal started breathing harder as the worms began crawling through her stomach and up into her throat. She found that she was suddenly out of breath and her vision began to turn white.
Eric came over and began rubbing her back. “Breathe slowly. Here, have a seat. It’s going to be Ok, you’ll get past this. “
As the panic attack passed, Crystal took a bite of the sandwich and took a drink of milk. They were delicious, and perfectly normal.
“What’s going on? What the FUCK is going on?”
“You know, you curse a lot.”
“Shut up! You know what’s going on here. Tell me!”
“As I said, it’s probably some kind of judgement. Can you think of any reason anyone would be upset with you?”
“NO! I told you I go to Church every week, sing in the choir, am in the youth group! I’m a good person.”
Eric looked at her and nodded slowly. So… Are you are saying that you didn’t make out with Mike, Kerri’s boyfriend in her bedroom during her 17th birthday party?
Crystal felt a pang of what might be regret, but pushed it down. “Maybe, but it’s not like I forced myself on him. He was asking for it.”
“And afterward you didn’t harass her in school, call her a slut, spread false rumors after she confronted you?”
Crystal remembered the scene perfectly, Kerri with tears running down her face, saying that Mike had cheated on her and was leaving her, accusing Crystal of ruining her life. Damage control had been needed.
“That bitch was getting in my business, ruining my reputation. She needed to be dealt with.”
Eric shook his head. “She killed herself last night, right after stopping by to visit you, and smother you in your sleep. Welcome to Hell.”
Crystal dropped her sandwich and began shaking uncontrollably. “No, no, no. I’m saved! I accepted Jesus Christ! I’M SUPPOSED TO BE IN HEAVEN!”
“You sinned against another human being, and didn’t repent. You went on, day after day, full of self-righteousness, hypocritical in your faith. Actively harming another for your own gain. You took from her all pleasure, all purpose in life, leaving her a shell. And so, you are damned to live the same life. All of your basics will be provided for. Food, clothing, shelter; but you will live a life of loneliness with no pleasure.”
Eric stood up and started walking toward the back door. “I came here to see if you were salvageable, I can see you’re not.”
Crystal stood up, knocking her chair over and ran to block his way. “Wait! I’ll repent right now.”
She dropped to her knees and bowed her head. “Lord, I pray for the forgiveness of my sins against Kerri; lust, anger, hated and lying. I pray that you would save me and bring you to you in heaven! In the name of your son, my Lord, Jesus Christ, Amen!”
She looked up to see Eric standing there, watching her, disgust on his face. Without another word, he turned and walked out the back door, closing it behind him.
“I REPENETED!” She yelled, throwing the door open, but he was nowhere to be seen.
She went back to her room and sat on her bed, the horror of what faced her for all eternity and began to feel numb.
Suddenly the doorbell rang. She jumped up and ran to the front door, throwing it open.
A man who looked like he belonged in a swimsuit catalog was standing on her porch, smiling beatifically. “Your prayer has been heard. You will no longer be alone. I shall visit you every evening to take away your loneliness.”
“Thank you Lord!” Crystal cried, joy filling her.
The man’s smile widened and he backhanded her. As she hit the floor she felt him crawl on top of her, his hands yanking her pants down.
“Yes, the Lord of Lies has heard your false prayer, and he always rewards. Every evening you will belong to me.”
As he violated her, Crystal finally understood, she truly was in Hell.
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