There’s a near infinite possible ways to die. A massive aneurysm. Being thrown off of a building. Chased down by a Siberian Tiger while on a vacation in Cambodia. She drags you through the jungle, her canines holding back the tide of your life draining from your femoral artery onto the jungle floor. She delivers you to her adolescent cubs; the three of them tear you apart.
Or maybe you were taken by a serial killer, kept captive, tortured, and killed. Your body, scattered in pieces to become fish food.
War. Famine. Pestilence. They all claim countless victims throughout history.
You needn’t be weighed down with a longer list of ways to die. Particularly since that isn’t really the point. Once you die, you awake, seated in a reclined black leather airport lobby chair. You know the kind. From the 1960s or 70s; in three-to-four chair bench sectionals.
Muzak is playing from the speakers overhead. The volume level is just enough to be an annoying thrum on your eardrums. On the side table next to your seat, there is an ashtray, filled to overflowing. Acrid, persistent. Just behind the ashtray is a bin marked, “complimentary Walkman and headphones for while you wait.” You pick it up, put the aging foam headphones on and press play.
Nothing but a warble and a click, as it stops playing. You open the Walkman, the tape’s ribbon spilling out. No tunes for you. You look around for another tape or a pen to try and roll the ribbon back in, but there’s nothing else.
You hear a sneeze. Looking behind you, there is a scattering of other people peppered through what now appears to be an endless lobby. Industrial carpet as far as the eye can see.
Meeting eyes with someone fumbling with another defective Walkman, you attempt a hello, but discover you are voiceless. Everyone here is. Mute and bereft of any writing instruments to communicate with. Those who were deaf in life have stubs for hands and can no longer sign.
But everyone can hear the Muzak.
It’s hard to tell how long you’ve been here. Then, seemingly randomly, a voice interrupts the Muzak.
“Hello, thank you for your patience. I am Saint Catherine of Genoa, known most notably for my Treatise on Purgatory. Just to inform you all, this is, indeed, Purgatory. When each of you awoke in whatever chair you are sitting in, your mortal form had finally been extinguished. Your eternal soul traveled here to wait. You will wait for however long it takes for your body to be discovered and cause of death determined. We keep very detailed records.”
During this monologue, people around you appear and disappear. The freshly dead arrive and those whose bodies found and cause determined leave.
Some people, during Catherine’s announcement, look as if they are trying to scream in horror, having realized they were the one devoured by the tigress and her cubs. Or the serial killer’s victim-turned-fish food.
“While this is Purgatory for most, I assure you that it will transmogrify into a very certain Hell for those whose bodies will never be found; cause of death never determined.”
The Muzak resumes, slightly louder to compensate for the newly panicked breathing throughout The Lobby.
Gabe Bogart lives in Seattle, Washington, where he patiently awaits the return of the Seattle Supersonics. He learned to love words in his senior year high school creative writing class and from his sister and mother. It’s been a long time since he took a major road trip and he’d like to do it next in a 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle Super Sport. His work has appeared in Pareidolia Lit, Hencroft Hub, Collective Realms, TERSE. Journal, Fahmidan Journal, acloserlisten.com, and thesianetwork.com.