I had a half-baked idea to write a novel about a man's journey through a bizarre afterlife. This is what I have so far. Nate's Inferno is the working title.
I'm not supposed to be here.
That's all I keep thinking as I stand with a dozen or so people in a red-lit room watching an orgy in progress. It was Saturday night, and I had a slipped into my private routine, the shades drawn and all the required implements in place. There was a box sent from Japan, and I remember opening it and staring at a flesh-colored object that exuded warmth and forbidden pleasures. I took the device in my hands, held it close to the lamp light, felt its smooth skin, found its orifices. A small fortune paid for a prototype produced by a disgraced manufacturer. A black market item. They said on the internet that you wouldn't need anything else, that days and weeks would disappear once you used it. Eons, they said. It was exactly what I was looking for. I don't remember using it, but I must have, and now, instead of lying in eternal bliss, I stand next to a man in a penguin costume, watching a rotund gentlemen with a cactus for a penis pile-drive a women into a comatose state. None of the other viewers seem to think this is out of the ordinary. Two faceless naked figures stand behind the couple, their fingers in each others anuses. A dwarf crawls around it all, moaning, vomit dripping from his dragging jaw. I look at the man in the penguin costume. His face wears an intense expression, as though he is trying to decipher the scene and discover its hidden meaning. Big hook nose. Eyes that sink back into the depths of his skull. Bloodless fat lips. This is a face that I can trust.
"What are we watching here?" I ask, leaning in close. He smells a little. Faint hints of garlic and used gym shorts.
"This is how she died," says the penguin. He doesn't look at me; I barely hear his voice.
"This isn't my sort of thing," I explain. "I'm a private person. I don't even remember how I got here."
"You will when it's your turn," says the penguin.
"What's with the suit?" I ask. He doesn't immediately reply. I notice that there is a button flap on the bottom of the penguin's suit.
"It was a convention," he says, after a minute or so. "I went with a group. We met up with some other people. I went into a room with someone I shouldn't have." He turns and looks at me, stares with those hollow eyes. His gloved hands grab my own and place them on his white stomach. When I take them away, they are covered in blood.
"Jesus Christ," I say. He snorts and shakes his head. There are others on the stage now, tall and pale, strange shadows with elongated fingers. The crowd starts to dissipate as people wander down hallways that I didn't notice before, hallways that seem to stretch and curve like the inside of a colon. Flesh-colored walls. A pulsating red light. My sense of place has deserted me completely.
"How do I get out of here?" I ask.
"I don't know," says the penguin. "I've never tried."
"What's your name?" I ask. He shrugs and looks back at the stage. The pale people cuts at each other with their claws, moaning, making promises, saying horrors. I don't want to watch it; it's terrible, the way that they rend their flesh, making slow, deliberate movements. Alley cats. Dead things in heat. I suddenly realize that I can't remember my own name.
"Penguin," I say, grabbing his suit and pulling him close. "Who am I?"
"A guy with half a penis."
I look down and see that I am wearing no pants. He is right; half of my penis is missing. Then it hits me; the pain, the absence, the missing sensations. It's worse than losing an arm or a leg. A part of my essence is gone. Sundered. Vanished. I don't know what to do. Is there anything I can do?
"What the fuck is going on?" I whisper. The penguin looks at me and I finally see his eyes. They are tiny, microscopic. Vestigial. A faint yellow light emits from behind them, an amber glow.
"Stop trying to understand it. You'll make it worse. Speaking makes it worse. It's best to just accept your situation."
"I got to find some pants," I say. "Help me. Help me get out of here."
"And go where?" he asks.
"What's this guy talking about?" asks the dwarf who was crawling on the floor. He's got a big head and big ears and a mustache hovering above his upper lip with flakes of vomit dripping from its corners.
"He wants to leave. And find some pants," says the penguin.
"Leave? Why the fuck would you want to leave?" The dwarf gestures, sweeping his hands around. "This is the best place you can be. Nonstop debauchery. Depravity. A constant mix of pain and pleasure. This is existence with all the boring parts cut out of it. If you can think it, you can do it. If you want to do something to somebody, just walk over and do it." He pauses, noticing my severed penis. "Well, you can work around an injury like that," he says, pointing. "That won't stop you. There are people here with no legs, blind people, people with half a head. Just go at it. Don't mope around like this guy. Voyeurism is overrated. I spent half my life as a voyeur. All it got me was a bullet through the head."
I look around and notice the deformities, the grotesques, the aliens things from another dimension. They moan while they walk, these people. Their tongues dangle from their yawning mouths while their maimed genitals swing. Some press others against the walls and hump like animals. Others stare at the floor and sob. This is dysfunction; this is society breaking down, crumbling into anarchy and ruin. Where is the order that holds us together? These are purposeless beings; they have nothing but their lust. I look down between my legs and realize that I belong here, despite my initial doubts. What I can't do is accept my fate.