Sympathy

A Short Tale of Empathy

Sympathy
model: Lexi Carter

“Please understand that this is my punishment, not just yours,” Satan said.

Chris just stared at him, metaphorically. Everything he was or did appeared to be metaphor since he died, as he had no actual substance. Just a damned soul, existing in some sort of otherness without form. But still, this interaction was somehow happening. He was hearing Satan and he was responding with a blank stare, even if he had no ears to hear or eyes to glaze over. But he was sure whatever he had, they were glazed over.

“I feel for you, and that’s the punishment,” Satan said. “If I didn’t care, or enjoyed my work, it would hardly make sense for me to be here after committing what He considered the greatest sin. And I wish it could be different, for all of us.”

Chris was adjusting to the conversation, and the venue. He was surrounded by the wails of other souls, though it was not a loud cacophony—more of a constant low groan from millions, collectively counting as a wail. Metaphorically.

“See, I love you as my own. I was part of your creation, if not the actual creator. But if Heaven was a profit-sharing enterprise, I would have gotten a heck of a bonus that year. Your sense of touch—all me.”

“And yet here I am, for my rebellion, social worker to humanity, for eternity.” Satan sounded sad, but also resigned. Chris was starting to fully realize his situation. He was not any sort of super-villain, though his life of pettiness and egotism was undeniable. He arrived in Hell without the benefit of the self-delusions and justifications that he had so carefully constructed over a lifetime of self-indulgence. Apparently, that sort of psychic armor was not allowed in a place of eternal torment. Which made sense. Things were very clear to Chris, and he realized that, logistically, this same talk must be happening with hundreds of people at the same time. Satan continued speaking.

“So, in sending me, a big softy, all of the damaged souls, he is really just punishing me. You are not irredeemable, and I get that. I mean—semantically I guess you are—since you’re here. But if you were a soulless monster you wouldn’t be here. No soul. You just messed up... a lot. Like me you might have been able to change your ways, but now you to have to be here, outside of any of His grace, and that’s that. I’ll bet all that smug self-righteousness gets brought along with the souls in Heaven—can you imagine? ‘Aren’t we the best?’ ‘Totally!’—it must be a like an 80’s ski lodge up there. But here we are. You with your absolute, horrific sobriety, and me with you. Forever.”

Chris moaned a little. He was starting to remember events from his past, but objectively. So... objectively. He had such been a douche. This was like rereading Facebook posts from a decade ago, but they never ended. Every missed social cue, every moment of self-importance, every argument he should have lost laid bare before him. And no spin, no rationalization, no deflections to mute or in any other way shine that stark light of clarity away from his actions and attitudes. The moan continued.

“We’ll get through this.” Satan sighed. “I mean, we won’t, but you know what I mean. I’m here for you. I’m here for all of you.”

The wails continued, Chris’s voice adding to the billion others. Satan, omnipresent and omniscient in his own kingdom, began his conversation anew with the newest arrivals.

fiction
Byondhelp Photography
Byondhelp Photography
Read next: Run Necromancer
Byondhelp Photography

Photographer

Print publications: Digital Photography World, November 2016 and Practical Photography, April 2017.

IG: @byondhelp

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