Ariana, a desperate young woman, trapped in an eternal hellish nightmare, knew that to get to heaven she had to prove her worth to the demon who held her captive. There was a reason for killing that man, Mike, her husband of 25 years; she did not mean to do it, it was in self-defence. Yes, she may have stabbed him twenty times or fifty with that kitchen knife, she lost count after plunge number five; but he had it coming. It was unfortunate that he had two of his friends with him, but they were easy to dispose of. Both drunk and sleeping. One on the armchair, with his legs, splayed over the wing, and his other mate who had previously vomited is sprawled out on the rug in front of a dead fireplace.
And yes, she may have removed all of their heads with the same blunt blade, after sawing into their bone and bloody flesh for hours. The stench of raw meat and iron filling the room, as she sat in a pool of blood, severing the heads of the men that made her life intolerable. Why should she have to endure his mental and physical torture, night after night, being beaten black and blue from each punch and slap? With the added kick in the stomach for cooking his evening meal and keeping his home clean? remarking.
“The judge must have had a row with his wife before going to work. Or he has a real hatred for women in general.”, “Death by lethal injection was too harsh a punishment for a first offence.”
Sitting in her dark cell, minutes before the regular torment of her sentence began, which was an eternity of hourly torture, held by an invisible force to a table in a replica of her kitchen. Visited by an evil dark screaming shadow wearing her late husband’s face as a mask, who claws deep into her skin with red hot kitchen knives as nails.
Convinced of her naivety, believing that her unbearable torment is too much for her one-time crime, and wanting to leave the horror of black skies streaked in red from the blood of the other screaming souls in their anger and pain. She sat pondering on the words to convince her evil jailer to release her soul.
Believing her innocence, she requests an audience with her keeper. He agrees to see her, but she has two minutes to offer her plea.
The door of her cell opens, and two beasts with goat heads and yellow beady eyes, with legs and torso of a lion, step inside. Ariana is ordered to stand; she is then handcuffed by one of the guards and pushed out of the room by the other. She is barefoot and even though she is dead, she can feel the scorching heat underneath the souls of her feet, which burn every step she takes. They approach an elevator, which is encased in black stone. The door glides open, she is pushed inside. The two guards disappear. Surprisingly, the elevator resembles that of one in an office block. She can see her reflection in the mirrors on the surrounding walls. Her mousy brown hair is matted, she has scars on her face and body from the constant ripping torture. Her eyes are deep-set, dark and grey in colour, no longer the beautiful blue from before. Her complexion is sallow. Her body is frail, her rib cage bones are visible through the tears on her red and white polka dot dress. The one she was wearing on that fateful night. The door slides open.
As she steps out of the elevator, she is transformed into the beautiful woman before she met her husband. Her hair flowing with brunette curls, the colour of her skin changed from grey to pink. The frail frame was now the voluptuous figure from before wearing the same red and white patterned dress that fitted perfectly. Ariana looks stunning! Now, gliding confidently in her shiny red stiletto shoes she approaches the receptionist. Who looks straight at her.
“Can I help you?”
Ariana’s confidence instantly begins to fade, and she stutters answering the impertinent red-haired, smartly dressed, beautiful woman.
“I... I …I have an appointment.”
The woman glares at her and nods to the seat behind.
“Sit, he will see you shortly.” Ariana turns and watches as a room with comfortable chairs and a small table appears from nowhere. She sits on one of the chairs. A loud buzzer sounds out, which makes Ariana jump. The receptionist points at two large black doors which suddenly appear. Barking,
“You can see him now.”
Ariana stands and walks towards the doors. The receptionist begins to vanish, the chairs and the elevator are gone. Panicking, she hurries through, thinking that she may disappear next. They close as soon as she enters.
The first thing she encounters is a handsome, dark-haired man in a suit, sat on a chair behind the desk, in front of windows stretching from the floor to the ceiling showing blue sunny skies. She walks towards the light and airy view to take a look, feeling the cool breeze on her face from the open window and the gentle warmth of the sun on her skin making the hairs on her arms stand. Not the blackness of her cell and the torturing heat she was used to. Glancing down through the clouds, she could see various tall buildings climbing up to the blue sky. A beautiful winding river snaking through green fields filled with colours of red and yellow. Guessing they could be flowers or crops. The water is glistening replicating the colours of the sky. In the distance, her goal, the stairway to heaven. Which stood majestically climbing up through the clouds. Ariana takes a deep breath. The smartly dressed man asked her to take her seat. Without thinking she begins her story.
“My husband and his friends arrive after a night of drinking….”
At the end of her story, she remarks, grinning,
“An evening of servitude was worth it.”
The handsome man, amused by her plea, gives her permission to try to reach the heavens. Then shows her to a door that suddenly materializes. Stating,
“Each step has a quest attached, each one harder as you progress.” Ariana optimistically walks through.
Delighted with the opportunity to redeem herself, she approaches. Standing at the base, she looks up at the most outstanding stairway, although it is invisible to the human eye, she saw marble steep steps, in an array of colours varying from black, to deep red, green, then blue and finally right at the top, white.
The first 50 steps involved a repetitive occurrence of the fatal evening in question, running over like Groundhog Day. 49 times he beat her, and she killed him in a variety of ways, all resulting in the same ending. Death by lethal injection.
On her 49th attempt, instead of the usual waiting for her husband and his friends to arrive, she pauses, and then runs up to her bedroom and packs a suitcase in a haphazard way. Then runs back down the stairs to the front door. Unlocking and flinging it open. As soon as she walks through, everything changes, and through a mist, she finds the stairway. She has reached the next level. The Earthly plain. The next 50 steps are cloaked in the memories from her past. Each step creates visions with sounds and familiar smells. Noises of the ocean with gently rolling waves. The scent of suntan lotion and ice cream. The soft breeze lifting the spray off the sea, which kisses your face as you walk along the water's edge, feeling the cool water running over your tanned feet. This was the day of her honeymoon, the happiest time of her life. Mike was so different then. He did not drink. She recalls the gentle kiss from his soft lips as they embraced on the beach in the moonlight. This was the man she loved. The memory was too much to bear and brought tears to her eyes. Falling onto the sand she could feel the grains of salt digging into her knees as she knelt. Lifting the sand and sifting it through her fingers. She cries,
“This is real!”
But when she stands, it all vanishes, and she is back facing the stairway. Ariana had completed the 2nd level.
The last quest was where she had to redeem herself, prove that she was worthy to go through the gleaming gates at the top of the last 50 steps. Her task was to forgive three people. The ones in question were Mike and his two friends.
The same scenario happened, back at her home, inside her kitchen, late at night waiting for the inebriated men to arrive. Instead of murdering each one, she forgave them for her mistreatment. In doing so, each man vanished.
This was it! The final door opens and standing in all its glory are the pearly gates of heaven.
Each step is brighter than the rest as she climbs. Angels are heard singing harmoniously behind the walls. Ariana climbs the last step and nervously approaches, stretching out her hand, reaching for the long golden material chord hanging from thin air. She tugs hard and various bells ring out in sequence, and the gates begin to open. The light inside is so bright that she shields her eyes for a second before taking a glance. The choir grows louder, and white fluffy clouds enclose the entrance as she steps through.
Then, the light is distinguished, the angel’s song stops, and the feeling of being redeemed has gone. Once again, she stands alone in the darkness of her cell. With the sound of laughter echoing around the walls. What Ariana did not know is this is a foul trick played by the devil. A booming voice like nothing ever heard before sends cold shivers about Ariana’s blood-streaked body.
“The rules are if you take a life, you pay the price. Nobody leaves.” And Ariana paid for eternity.