I've been wandering for nearly three hundred years now. My blistered feet never seem to heal, and every time I stop walking, I'm sucked into the sand and slowly dissolved, before being spat back out to continue walking. There is only one correct path, marked in blood red sand. It goes up a mountain, across a jagged bed of rocks, and we have to hang ourselves above a pool of water at the end. We pass out, feel the joy of drowning, then resurrect instantly at the starting point. Any attempt to deviate from the path doesn't work. It's like a magnet will pull us back to the road, and as punishment, we get sucked into the sand.
Trust me. It hurts much less to walk. I walk as slowly as I can every day, but it only prolongs the torture to come.
Every day, every hour, I walk. I wonder why I've never seen another soul here. How can I be the only one in Hell? Some days I fantasize that I'm actually strapped to a hospital bed, and all this will end once I wake up. But it never does, and I am not that deluded.
One day, I was given a chance.
I was going up the same mountain I had to go across every day, and this time I saw a tall, dark haired, rather handsome teenager. He snapped his fingers, and the red sand blended into the background. I stopped in front of him.
"Hello, Martha." He smiled, his teeth gleaming beneath a pair of nightshade violet eyes.
"Who are you?" I gasped. Those white teeth increased as his lips pulled back in an even wider smile. "Take a guess, Martha."
"You're the Devil," I said.
"Bingo!" The teen laughed, an unholy sound in this solemn mountain. "And I am here to tell you that your punishment is almost up. Your time has come to be reborn."
"No need to look so surprised. I punish bad people. I don't keep them here forever."
I was still too suspicious to believe him. He was the Devil, after all. There had to be a trick.
"What do I have to do?"
He pointed behind me, a dark finger materializing a door from a different dimension. Now I knew why I hadn't seen anyone. We were probably walking through a million different dimensions, each of us oblivious. The realization made me a little less lonely, especially when a man stumbled out from it.
"This is Peter. Peter, Martha. The two of you will need to work together to get out of Hell. After you've drowned yourself, follow the red sand all the way."
The Devil looked at me, and a voice boomed in my head, "Only one of you will make it out of here. The other stays here forever."
I gasped, and Peter grabbed me. Apparently he hadn't heard anything, because his face looked more concerned than worried.
And so began our arduous trek. We walked past the inner sanctums of the Devil's playground, wincing with each new revelation. Every step, I was wondering how I would overpower Peter when he was obviously stronger.
"Hey, you alright?"
I looked over at him. "Yeah, I'm just wondering what it would be like to be reborn again."
"Why were you here anyway?"
I bit back tears.
"Suicide. I was being bullied in school for sleeping with the most popular kid, who had a girlfriend at the time. They called me a slut, egged my car, burned my books. The teachers weren't doing anything either, because one of the teachers was the mother of the girlfriend. I couldn't take it... I jumped from a bridge." I bit back tears, remembering the terror of falling. What about you?"
His face looked sad.
"Murder. I had a daughter who was being bullied, too. I saw her cry every night. One day, someone cut her hair off." A glint appeared in his eyes. "I tracked down the kid and he pulled out a knife on me. My Marine training kicked in, I took off his arm. He died of blood loss."
He looked at me. "And now here we are, suffering for things we never deserved to go through."
I looked back at him, and something changed. It was as though love grabbed hold of me, as though it could somehow exist in this hellhole. I smiled, and replied:
"Well, at least we're done with our sentence."
We exchanged details of our past lives, and eventually we fell in love. The month-long trek seemed easier with him around. We went past fire, freezing waters and glass showers, until a reddish aura began to appear at the foot of a gigantic mountain. He kissed me as we reached the end of our journey, looking up at the gate on a rock shelf, just out of reach.
"Martha, give me a leg-up. I'll pull you up afterwards."
His smile made me remorseful, as despite all my affection, the Devil's words still rang clearly in my head. He murdered. He took someone else's life. I deserved to get out of here more than him. When we were reborn, we wouldn't even remember each other anyway.
"Okay." He went up first, and then pulled me up. We held hands as we prepared to walk through the portal, and he turned to me.
"I know we won't remember each other after this, but I wish we could. All my time in Hell, and I'm only sorry for that."
"I'm sorry too." I twisted, prepared for his look of shock as he tumbled to the ground. Instead, he held strong and flung me off the rock, where I hit the red sand with a thump. I began to sink, but instead of the standard dissolving and recovering, I only felt the pain. I couldn't even die and resurrect; it was the kind of pain that I envisioned only Hell to harbor.
"Why?!" I screamed up at Peter. He looked at me, and walked through the portal wordlessly. I was left to rot, in an endless eternal loop of anguish and pain.
Peter stepped out through the portal, and sighed. The teenager was at the other end, kicking back on a chair.
"How was it, Peter?"
He shrugged, and turned to face the wall, where the lady was still struggling in desperation, watching the gates close forever. "I thought she was different."
The Devil laughed. "Different? People are all the same, Peter. They don't know love for others. They only know how to look out for themselves, and given the right excuse, even eternal damnation can be justified. Look at her, prepared to sacrifice you, the one who made Hell bearable for her! You still think people can be saved?"
Peter's face betrayed no emotion. "There's a reason this is called Hell."
The Devil smirked, surveying his guest, unfolding his wings and picking up a clipboard.
"And that's why you don't get many visitors, Saint Peter."