The Worst Misery: Chapter Seven
Picture Perfect Paradise
My mind had felt like the reflection in a shattered mirror. My thoughts wildly jumped from place to place. I had, without question, lost my mind, but now in the light of Heaven I feel at peace. Like I’m wading through a perfectly still and crystal clean sea, weightless, without care or fear.
A comfortable bed captured my undying attention. I melted against the covers, whispering the words Michael left me with, “Jesus once said, ‘In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going to prepare a place for you.’ This is that place.”
I had heard that line once before. A very, very long time ago. Can’t remember who said it… But I never thought it would be so literal. Well, Hell is misery and Heaven is paradise. Maybe this is just how my mind sees Heaven. I bet when the lord spoke of preparing a place he meant crafting your ideal space in Heaven.
“I mean,” I said, “if Luci takes on whatever is most beautiful to you then why wouldn’t Heaven do the same?
I guess I shouldn’t wait for my madness to respond…
Madness isn’t allowed in Heaven. It’s just me here. As I was before the end of days…
“I need a hot bath!” I shouted to the madness that wasn’t there, old habits. “Then, I’ll laze about in Paradise!”
I wanted to forget some of my pain suffered for a moment. The fear that madness wasn’t truly gone lurked beneath me like it could come crashing into me at any moment. Part of me refused to believe that so much trauma could be gone from my mind so easily.
The bath was better than sex. The hot water washed over me cleansing away all the dark stains in my memory of ever knowing Hell. Scrubbing my form forced me to drain and refill the bath several times. All the dried blood and other messes were stuck on my skin easily adding ten pounds to my weight.
There was a mirror in the bathroom. The steam from my bath has made it useless. I stared at the foggy mirror with my hand raised.
What do I look like? I wondered as my quivering hand failed to listen to me. I’ve forgotten.
I knew I had a beard and shaggy hair, but that was because I could touch them, partially see the evidence.
What color are my eyes? Am I ugly?
My beard was brown, same as my hair, but the finer details…
My hand shook as I started to clean the mirror. I keep my eyes shut tight! I couldn’t breathe.
Why is this so frightening?
When I opened my eyes, I saw that they were green. A dull green, sort of watered down into an almost blueish, grayish green. I’ve got a few thick wrinkles, crow’s feet, laugh lines, and others that look like they were craved with jagged knives. I haven’t seen myself in so long that my own facial features mesmerized me. I smiled. Not fond of that. Frowned. Made my eyes pop and opened my mouth first hiding then exposing all my teeth. I made a few other faces, turning my head this way and that as I did, and just took in every single detail.
Well, you’re not hideous at least…
I smiled again, I really didn’t like my smile.
Could be worse.
I stared into my eyes hoping to catch a glimpse into who I was, who I’d been before all of this. All I could remember was that I think I had been a painter. I loved colors. Staring at myself, I feel inspired to paint the man in the mirror, this stranger that was me yet not.
Everything in Heaven was lavish—almost gaudy. Taking a comb, I swept my hair back, tidied up my beard. I brushed my teeth thinking of how horrible my breath must be.
No wonder Luci never kissed—
I killed the thought. As I took care of the normal dealings of preparation in the morning ritual of the twenty-first century, muscle memory guided me more any anything, guess it was like riding a bike, I thought about the personal Heaven of a person from the dark ages. They’d probably have a straw bed, a warm fire, and food—or something like that. That would be enough for them.
If someone is so happy with the minimal necessities of life, and I require more, what kind of person does that make me?
“A spoiled brat,” I said for the madness.
But as I thought harder about it, I realized that after my time in Hell I just wanted a bed. To sleep peacefully was my paradise. To know an end to hunger would also be nice. Also, enough paint to recolor the sky would be nice too!
Am I truly a monster for desiring something that I have come to see as a normal minimum?
It may have been greedy, but I wanted these things. I wanted to paint, painting was so very calming and I hadn’t had calming in years.
“You may see your father another time. Rest for now.” The parting words of Saint Michael.
The mirror revealed more of me than I wanted to see. I saw how my body quaked as if I was a whipped dog in those depressing ads on TV. How was it that I remember the silly things from my life before this, but nothing that matters? Were commercials more important than who I met or who I as?
“What priorities! I must’ve deserved Hell’s wrath. I thank God for showing me mercy. I wonder if I can convince him to show the others mercy. None have earned such pain.” The idea of offering myself again sprang forth from my subconscious. Then a longing to see Luci did as well. I hated that feeling! It caused me to punch the mirror.
I stood there in the following silence watching the crimson tears drip drop from my knuckles. It was as if I was crying so deeply that only blood could show the level of pain. In my madness, I had mistaken Luci as my true love. How I loved her, and how she played with that…
But she betrayed me. Was this how God felt when he cast her from Heaven?
It hurt. Somehow, it hurt the most.
The mirror had fixed itself; my fist was healed. Just like that all the evidence of my outburst had vanished. It now only lay within my mind.
“Heaven and Hell have some similarities it seems. That doesn’t sound as far off as I thought it would. They are identical opposites after all.”
I found clothes waiting for me on the bed, pure white and simple. It was a unisex long-sleeved shirt and pants. I bet it’s the uniform of Heaven. No need for name-brand garbage anymore. No more need three-hundred-dollar shoes. The uniform didn’t even come with shoes. I recalled the silliest of stuff. Why was it that you remember things that have no value, but what matters most falls away from you? Value.
Did I hold any value to Luci?
I groaned, slapped my forehead.
Shut up, brain!
I looked around the room and drank in all the details: the flowery dark wallpaper, the antique wooden furniture, the—
So many flowers…
“If this is my personal Heaven—”
The sight of a canvas and an easel, a wooden box filled with tubes of paint, a brush, and a palette cut me off.
“Everything I need!”
Who am I talking to?
I rushed towards the tools of creation and took them in hand. They felt alien as if I’d forgotten how to paint…
Or were you even a painter? I wondered but killed the doubt before it could ruin my mood.
I stared at the blank, white canvas, and for a moment, like an explosion, my time, that madness, in the white room returned. But as quickly as I came, it went. I shook off the lingering memories and looked at the canvas again but this time I only saw a gateway into beauty waiting to be opened.
Sleep is unimportant. I would just dream of her anyway.
“I want to paint.” I told nothing, and again the painting I did in the white room came to mind. I fixed my statement. “I want to actually paint.”
That mad rubbing of fluids was not painting. I can’t even think of what I painted. That made me curious and furious all at once.
“Curse this wandering mind! I have the chance to paint Heaven! A painter’s fantasy! Think of all the glory I could capture!”
“Am I still infected with madness?”
I dashed out of the room with all my things.
“I must paint!” My mind needs to be put at ease. Hell is still fresh in it. I must cleanse it with well-placed strokes of vivid color!
The thought of painting ignited my passion. I saw the reds of God’s house over all other colors. The endless halls done up like a palace. Minimal and lavish traits in a dancing paradox that was easy on the eyes. Along the hall in what seemed like, probably was, forever, were doors on each side and with only a foot or so in between them. On each door was a golden sheet of metal that read “So-and-so’s Heaven” in bold black lettering.
Why’s it in English?”
I looked at the door I just came from and saw that it read: Malloreigh Dawntay’s Heaven.
“So, we each have our own little rooms? Seems more like a prison than anything that Heaven should be…,” I whispered to myself as I approached a door that read: Chang Chao’s Heaven. It was right next to mine, on the right. I felt bad because I couldn’t tell if it was a male or female’s Heaven, but the excitement of meeting someone sane was intoxicating. I felt drunk as I set aside my paints and tools and reached out, taking the shiny golden knob in my sweaty hand.
Painting could wait. I have another person to talk to! No more grand beings to challenge, no more mad foes to grapple wits with, but an actual person to talk too. Another mortal, human being!
Much to my dismay, the door opened to a lush bamboo forest. I frowned. It was not a person that I found myself staring at but a rather frightened panda bear.
“Are you Chang Chao?” I asked the panda bear prepared for it to talk, thinking, I haven’t escaped anything, the madness is only playing—
“No, no, child of God, that is just a beast!”
“How are you talking without moving your mouth?” I asked the panda bear. However, when a heavy hand placed itself on my shoulder, I turned to face the towering Saint Michael.
“Oh, I see…”
“Everyone has their own personal room in God’s house, but none actually see it literally as a singular room. Save for you, silly child.” He found good humor in this, and I found some myself. “That’s Chao Chang’s Heaven, and if I remember correctly, she has a hut just the up the mountain on which this door opens. She lives in peace tending to her garden and enjoying all the freedoms that she lost during her life as a sex slave.”
I nodded making sure to shut the door tight.
“Well…,” I said, “…then I imagine that she wants nothing to do with men. I’ll leave her to her peaceful life.”
“Why not return to your Heaven? You can make it everything you want.”
“All I want is the luxury of a bed and bath. That is enough.” I kept the weird feelings at bay, but something about that Heaven I witnessed rubbed me the wrong way.
Was it truly real?
“Yet, you left your Heaven, why is that? There must be more that you desire.” Saint Michael seemed more so a sage in Heaven and less the warrior he had been in Hell. But I imagine that being in Hell would put any one on edge.
“I would like to see the outside. Might one of these doors lead out into Heaven, like the real Heaven?” I was eager, so eager that my words ran together. I took up my paints and tools as I asked, ready to capture the wonders of the true Heaven, the magical place where God and his angels lived.
“This is Heaven, child of God.”
“O…,” I failed to hide my disappointment. I suppose this was something the archangel never heard because he gave me the look that said, “You miserable ingrate!” I know he wanted to say it. So, I said, “I simply wish to paint.”
“Return to your Heaven. All you desire is there.”
I sighed with a nod. What else could I do? I could always mock him as I mocked the Devil. Spit in his face as I did Abaddon’s. I wondered why Luci never put me up against another prince of Hell. As if it mattered now. I was free from all that. Freed from her…
I was a good boy and returned to my room feeling like a punished child.
Once inside, I surveyed the room, again. It had changed a little bit. It still looked like the master bedroom of a manor, complete with a master bath, but the style was more Victorian. There was a nightstand with a lamp, tons of famous paintings that hadn’t been there before, some of my favorites. A fireplace with a chair, much like those chairs you’d see in those old movies with aristocrats, a table of alcohol in crystal decanters. The amber liquids shimmered in full blaze of the fire. And despite the fireplace being the size of me, both tall and wide, and raging like an inferno, the temperature was perfect. There were still flowers everywhere.
I guess I was a fan of this in my life on Earth. Why else would it change?
I wish I could remember. Maybe it would tell me why I was stuck in Hell. With how kind father was you’d think it would have rubbed off on me. When I turned around to set my canvas, easel, paints, and other tools aside, I jumped. A small yelp left my lips.
There was no more door, but instead the largest window I’d ever seen. It was looking out into the far reaches of the cosmos. It was inspiring.
I have to paint it!
I set up my station and got to work.
The void of space was an excellent background. All the blues that bubbled, purples that glowed, greens that glistened, and reds that popped. Stars twinkled just out of reach with all the majesty of life itself.
What a sight!
My brush raced like lightning. I probably rushed myself too much, but I was so very intensely thrilled! I was painting once again. True joy filled my heart pushing everything else out.
This was Heaven…
My picture-perfect Heaven…
“Is it?” asked my mind.
“Yes.” I told me, sternly. “This is paradise!”
My mind sulked, “If you say so.”
I pushed that out as just a lapse in my mental strength, recovered my concentration, and returned to painting.
Madness can’t hurt you here.
“That wasn’t madness, just silly ungratefulness!” It was reassuring to hear myself say that. I was no longer mad after all, right?
“Of course not!” I shouted. I was nice to hear those words.
I toiled away for hours before finishing. Stepping back, I took in the work. I was out of practice, but it wasn’t bad.
I have forever to perfect my talents.
“What to paint now?” I asked myself as my mind shifted about considering this and that.
Chang Chao. Is that name Chinese? Painting the Forbidden City as it is filled with life would be a treat.
I compared my painting to the cosmos, but it was difficult to compare a painting of space with the Forbidden City.
I looked out through the glass and into the courtyard of that fabled place only it was full of the wrong kind of life. It was full of madness and demons and nightmares as well as too much pain. All the noises bounced against the window.
Why Luci? I don’t want to see this. No. No, please, take me someplace happy!
The window winked bringing me to a wonderful looking landscape. I opened the gigantic window, which took some effort, to be greeted by the smells of the springtime perfume listing on the breeze. It washed over me. My thoughts calmed as I pushed what I just saw deep below.
That’s better. I thought, looking out over the beauty, but didn’t feel inspired. My mind turned over several ideas before I wished for a scene looking off the highest mountain during the sunset from anywhere but Earth. The view that followed had orange that razed the white blankets of the mountains’ peaks. It was chilling to the bone. The bitter, swirling winds forced a shiver out of me. I slammed the window afraid that I would catch my death.
Next, I thought of a sea. A sea appeared.
“This is perfect!” I shouted, clapping my hands together. “So, whatever I wish to see is shown. Never will this hand run out of muses!”
My voice filled the room. My chest heaved and my lips smiled wider and wider. I looked around only to have the emptiness of my Heaven spoil the mood.
I looked at the window. “Heaven.” I whispered
It was not all clouds and sunshine, nor did I see the hall of rooms. It was instead a vast plane filled to the brim with flowers of all the colors you could paint in your mind, and some that even a genius could not fathom, not even a madman, not even artist.
“This is truly majestic garden of creation, the beginning of all of mankind, of Earth—”
Earth popped into view again.
“No! Take me back to Heaven!”
I thought about the world I’d once known as I stared out into the infinity of Heaven—my eyes failed to see the end of it but my heart said it held everything.
Was this the garden we were thrown out of? Was this the place we lost to sin…
I thought of Earth, and how it hadn’t been itself in too long a time. Earth’s beauty was a child in comparison to this world. This place was in full and constant bloom, but the Earth felt like a prison for us that slowly became tainted by our sins.
The words to describe Heaven failed to materialize in my mind. There were none capable of justifying this garden. In truth, I don’t even believe a word exists that fully describes what I felt gazing over this place.
This must be the real Heaven.
But then…why are we not there? Why are we in our own Heavens?
Is it because a utopia between good souls is still impossible? Does that mean that the only way someone can be happy—truly and completely at peace—is if they receive their own personal world away from everyone else…? A world in which all things go exactly as they please?
I pushed the thought out of mind along with this Heaven.
“Just paint.” I told myself.