I didn’t expect death to be sweet.
Serenity called me, and a blinding light filled my vision. It shifted into shapes, the blankness becoming walls and the brightness dimming to a ghostly gray. Artificial lights blared in the room and reflected against the spotless floor, and at the center was a table with glass goblets filled with different colored liquids. “Welcome.”
My breath hitched as I snapped around to face the voice, a woman with short cropped hair and crystal eyes that reminded me of windows. I could look through her, but she could see into my soul. She wore all white. As did I. I awkwardly shuffled in the dress as she queried, “Name?”
Her eyebrows lifted. “How did you die?”
I swallowed at the memory of the hospital bed and the luminescent lights above, my husband’s hand wrapped around mine. “Cancer.”
She gave a sympathetic frown. “Sorry to hear that, dearie. Welcome to the gate. I am your assistant, El. Your death has brought you here as a final test to see whether you go to heaven or to hell.”
I gaped at her. “You gotta be kidding me.”
A short giggle came out of her that sounded more like an annoyed huff than a chuckle. She stalked to the table piled with goblets and splayed a hand. “Your test is to find the one that isn’t poison.”
I hesitantly followed her to the table and studied the contents. Twenty glasses. One wasn’t going to send me to hell. I shook my head. “This can’t be right. I thought I was good! I’ve donated to charity before, I’ve been nice—”
“Indeed,” El said, eyes dimming. “But everyone sins.”
My heart clenched at that, remembering the gun. The blood. No one knew about it, not the police, not my husband. Not even this lady could know about it. Which means I can still hide it. I rose my head. “I believe my sins have made me a better person, and therefore puts me in the rightful place to go to heaven.”
When El smiled, sharp teeth took up her entire mouth. I stepped back as she hissed, “We’ll see about that, darling. Choose your cup, and drink.”
I swallowed hard, sweat waterfalling down my back. No cup was the same color as the other. The clear one seemed too obvious, and the others just looked like water with food coloring in it. The black one made me recoil, along with the different shades of green. In the wild, bright colors normally meant poison or danger, so I ruled those out. Light gray, dark blue, light blue, lavender, and tan were all that remained.
I ruled out the beige colored one. It looked like someone had peeled a human and mashed their skin until it turned into liquid. I shivered at the intruding thought and discarded the gray and dark blue. When it came to the soft blue and hushed lavender, both drew me in. I pulled my lips together and looked to El. “I don’t suppose you could tell me which one is the poison?”
The smile she held earlier was still there, and only broadened, showing off the sharpness in her mouth. “Oh no, dear. My knowledge stays hidden.”
I gritted my teeth and looked between the two cups. What were the chances of getting the right one? I’d probably already cast it aside.
My trembling fingers held to the lavender one, and I glanced back at El, who was still grinning. The liquid shuddered in my hold. “Are you sure I have to drink it?”
She giggled. “Do you want to stay with me for eternity?”
That was enough for me to press my nose to the rim of the goblet. Fresh berries. I held my breath and gently placed the glass to my lips. A sip slithered down my throat with ease, and I yanked it away before anymore could go down. The moment of anticipation came and went. A fresh coolness coated my throat along with a mixed berry flavor. The chilling drink flared, and fire bloomed in my stomach, throat, and on my tongue. I gasped and fell to the floor, the goblet shattering with the liquid. The poison oozed and sizzled on the tile, and I was left to heave and reach for my neck while El stood over me, laughing as the white walls drenched black. The inky dark spread to the floor as red welled into my vision. I swiped at my cheek, blinking at the blood that oozed from my eyes. I gagged and coughed. More blood came spluttering up.
Blisters bubbled on my tongue and mouth, the pain consuming all my senses. The heat increased, rising and rising until I thought I would turn to ash. El buckled over herself, laughing, and wiped at her teary eyes. I swiped at my soaked nose as she knelt down, giggling. “Poor creature. How stupid could you be?”
Her foot smashed into my gut. I toppled over and retched as fireworks went off in my stomach. “All of the cups were poison. Did you really think you were going to heaven?”
The murky walls loomed over me as El began clawing at her skin. She ripped it off her arms and legs, exposing massive red muscle. She scraped at her neck and tore off her own face, revealing sunken black eyes, a sharp nose, and the same needle teeth. Wings burst from her back, and a lashing tail swept out. Twirling horns screwed out of her head as many voices spoke together to form venomous words. “Filthy mortal! You can’t hide your sins. This is hell. This is where you’re meant to be.”
She plucked me up, breathing searing air into my eyes. “Hell is pain. Hell is misery. And for you,” the devil grinned, “it will be drinking that poison again. And again.”
I didn’t expect death to be sweet.