“Hellbound” began with a couple random questions: What if dieing was like jury duty? What if you got a summons in the mail and what if the summons you got let you know you were going to hell? From there, I thought about running to get there on time to see if your number was even called and then I got this idea to let each city block represent one of the nine circles of hell, ala Dante’s Inferno (thus, the bulleted list left to remind me of what each circle represented)…
I’ll be going to hell when this is all over. I already got my papers. I’ll be there to counsel and console the others. It must have been a quaint little club in the beginning… a corner bar with an infernal climate control issue. Now it’s more like the department of motor vehicles, or so I hear. I’m the first in my family to go. My parents don’t know yet. Well, maybe my mom does. She’s dead. I killed her. It’s probably the most humid place ever, ’cause that’s what gets ya–try summering in D.C., you’ll feel it. Drops of sweat bead up and start to roll down the small of your back just from breathing. The papers say not to pack anything and to call the main number the night before to see if my lot has been called for the day.
So I call the night before. Might possibly be the worst automated phone tree experience of my life. The recorded message cut off just before announcing lot numbers. I called back and heard a recording saying the number had been disconnected. I tried again. And again. No luck. Maybe this whole thing is some sick practical joke. What the hell am I supposed to do? I don’t know whether it’s my turn. Should I show up tomorrow? What if I show up and I’m not supposed to go yet? What if I don’t show up and I am supposed to go? Beads of sweat already rolling down my back. Fuck it–I’m going.
I get up early. No alarm necessary. I get dressed–which means putting on my shoes since I slept in my clothes. I don’t eat. I don’t brush my teeth. I walk out the door without having fed the cat or unloaded the dishwasher. According to the papers, it’s about 9 blocks away. Some sort of ragtag, urban marketing squad is stapling promo posters for DJ Beat Trish all over my street. Breathe. A reminder to myself.
The first block is long, but strangers I pass by seem unusually friendly. Unusually ordinary. Just as I’m getting to the corner, I swear the same dude I passed a minute ago passes again. Wait–there’s the old woman with the grocery cart. It’s like they’re doing laps or something. I cross the street. I never come this way. It’s the border of the red light district. The youngest of geriatrics asks if I’m “looking to have some fun”, unnerving me with a grin populated unevenly by gaps where her teeth once lived. I mumble excuses about being late. A door opens, a client scrambles out scratching manically at the crotch of his pants. Daylight is no friend of this district. I pick up the pace, but am left waiting for the light to change. Seven blocks to go. Why am I rushing?