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  • Writer's pictureGeorge Line

H, E, Double Hockey Sticks

Welcome, Hell.

That’s what the sign said in front of the tall, baroque building. When I stepped inside, I was struck by an omnipresent, musky odor, which somehow reminded me of those extravagant Arabian harems in days of yore. A thick, slightly yellowish fog prevented me from gauging the dimensions of the place. The ceiling might have been only a few meters above my head or perhaps a few kilometers. I could not tell if I was standing in a single, vast room, a tunnel, or a maze.

From the wispy gloom in the corner, a fabulous creature slithered up to me, revealing an ample bosom and a hideous face. The shadows revealed little from where I stood, but the face looked strangely leonine, although it did not possess a mane. Instead, it had a long and slick goat-like beard that coiled upwards at the very bottom, like a pig’s tail.

“You look eager for it.” The creature’s voice was buttery, almost liquidy–not what you’d expect from a freakish-looking beast.

“For what?” I stammered.

The lion-goat hybrid curled its lips in a hideous leer. “Never mind, I know your type. First, you act all incorruptible, but that’s merely a cover, a veneer to hide all of your perversions, your kinks. Where do you think I got these marks from?”

The creature turned and brushed aside its glossy fur to expose a reddish skin patch near its tail. I gave it a prolonged stare. I couldn’t help it–it was like being sucked in by a black hole.

“Unbelievable,” the creature muttered, clearly miffed by what it perceived as impertinence on my part. “You men are all the same, aren’t you?” Shaking its head solemnly, it trudged off.

After a few minutes of clueless stumbling around, I came to a narrow mahogany door, on one side of which stood a cloaked figure. It was massive, about three times taller than the lion-goat monstrosity. Slung over its shoulder was a rifle with two absurdly large barrels.

“What’s behind that door?” I ventured, looking so high up that I started to feel giddy.

“I can’t tell you.”

“Why not?”

“Because He ordered me not to.”

“Who’s He?”

The cloaked figure kneeled down and pressed its face up against mine. Its face was bloated and covered in pustules. Its eyes were far apart, its nose bumpy and sharp.

“You don’t wanna know,” the figure croaked, the skin around its mouth lifting in a gross apery of a smile.

“Can I enter?”

“Not unless you have the golden key.”

“And where would I get that?”

“You can’t.”

“Why not?”

The figure suppressed a laugh. “Because it’s on me.”

“Oh.”

A shadow rippled along the gap underneath the door as though marking somebody’s presence. Despondent, I said nothing to the guard and moved away.

“Wait!” the guard called. I turned back.

“I know you… you were here before. Must’ve been a week ago.”

I rummaged through my brain for a memory that should’ve stood out as clear as day. “No. I can’t… I don’t remember you.”

“That’s right. That was when He still admitted… pilgrims. Too late, sonny. You go back the way you came now.”

I could not make a head or tail of it. Was that who I thought it was behind the door? I thought. And the guard, the rifle–was it not all symbolic? Did it not mean something very crucial? Why am I even here to begin with?

The lion-goat creature re-emerged out of the darkness, putting an end to my reverie. “Well, now, took you long enough, eh?”

It grasped me with its paw, strangely leathery and tough, and pulled me along I know not where. “Where on earth are you taking me? I demand to know at once!”

The creature made a hushing sound. “Please, don’t ruin this for the both of us.

The second time round is always more agreeable.” It let go of me in front of a rickety door.

“You’re starting to remember, aren’t you?” the creature cooed, gently nudging me forward against my will. Or was it perhaps not against my will? The door seemed somehow familiar.

I caught a glimpse of a plaque above the door, which read:

Hell, welcome.


Written by George Line.

Cover photo by Katie Manning.


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