Hell Exists

photo by Nevin Ruttanaboonta

She saw, at first, a hallway of ghosts, of specters in sweatpants and compression socks. They drifted listlessly along the hand railings, across the open space in front of the nurses’ desk. Breath hung faintly on their lips, their eyes unseeing, hands trembling on nothingness. Then everything shifted, settled a bit, and once more they were elderly people lined up waiting to die.

Hell exists, she thought; it’s here on this back street through these sliding glass doors, up three floors on the elevator. The sounds of hell are the muffled shuffling of swollen feet, the soft scrape of a glass of water that can’t clink because it’s styrofoam and the ice has melted. The scent of hell is disinfectant, and hell is lit with fluorescent lights, and above the mad red glow of the Exit sign, are emblazoned Dante’s famous words — “All hope abandon, ye who enter here.”

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