Image courtesy: Matt MacGillivray-flikr creative commons
I was on fire. I know, I say it like it’s not a big thing although it usually is.
So, like I was saying, I was on fire. Flames were all around me, they coated my clothing, caressed my skin, entwined in my hair. There was not a single inch of my person that didn’t have flame erupting from it.
I have no clue why it didn’t hurt. Do I look like the Amazing Kreskin? Ok, maybe I am looking pretty amazing from the outside what with flames covering my body and me calmly relating the situation. I can’t even tell you where the fire came from. One minute I’m hunkered down in the back of a car careening through the streets of Philadelphia and the next I’m just standing here covered in flame but not feeling a thing.
I don’t know where Jimmy and Frank are. Frank was in the passenger seat clutching the bag from the bank and trying to keep his lunch in his stomach while Jimmy threw the car around curves with wild abandon. Every time we’d scream for Jimmy to slow down a bit he’d just point out the back window to the line of cop cars that still were behind us and closing fast.
We had a close call on Front street. One of those tiny cars that look more like matchbox cars than a vehicle suitable for a grown man came shooting out of a side street. Jimmy jinked to the right but still clipped the idiot’s bumper. Who knew those things were mostly plastic? The front of the tiny car exploded in a shower of bright red plastic leaving behind a spinning car flashing its denuded frame and wheel wells like a cheap stripper.
That slowed down the coppers for a minute and Jimmy pushed the speedometer even closer to the pin on the right as we dodged cars beneath the elevated train tracks.
Frank couldn’t make up his mind whether he wanted to scream like a little girl that we were going to crash or laugh maniacally about our successful heist. Frank was the one who told us how to pull off the robbery. He used to work at the bank and knew the routine. Thursday was the day to hit. There was always a large amount of cash brought in before the weekend rush of paycheck cashing. He knew that the back hallway where the guard with the cash came in was easily accessed from the alley door. Employees had long ago jimmied the lock so they could sneak in and out for smokes or in late without coming in through the keypad secured employee entrance. Their illicit actions allowed us a way to sneak in without cameras and lay in wait for the armored car.
Frank and I stealthed our way through the broken door before the bank even opened and hid in a janitor’s closet. The two guards dropped like sacks when we cracked them with our crowbars. Frank grabbed the cash bag and we escaped the way we entered. The driver must have spotted us or something because no sooner had we gotten into the car than we heard sirens and the guy was shooting at us from beside the armored car and the chase was on.
Somewhere around Susquehanna Avenue things went horribly wrong. Jimmy took the corner too fast and we went up on two wheels. Frank started screaming like a stuck pig. The car slammed back down and Jimmy cuffed Frank in the side of the head, screaming at him to shut his mouth.
The car swerved back and forth as Jimmy regained control. Frank said something like, “What’s that beeping”. I opened my mouth to say something and Frank opened the cash bag. Bright pink liquid exploded forcefully from the bag and filled the front of the car.
I heard Jimmy screaming about his eyes and then there was a squeal of tires and the next thing I know I was on fire.
“So how do you like your new home?”
A deep voice reached me through the flames. It was the first thing I had heard since the squeal of the tires.
“Home? I’m on fire.”
“Of course you are.”
I could see a huge dark shape moving toward me through the flames. It continued to grow in size as it approached until it revealed itself to be a man standing eight feet tall. He had huge wings covered with black feathers. Somehow he wasn’t burning.
“You’re in Hell young man, of course you’re on fire.”
“What do you mean Hell?” My voice was a mere squeak.
“Ronald Wiltshire, you are dead and this is Hell.”
The man smiled and I noticed that his teeth were pointed and small horns sprouted from his brow.
“Oh my God,” I said.
“Close but no cigar,” he said. “I’m the other guy.”
“Wait, if this is Hell that means I’m being punished right? So why am I on fire and I don’t feel any pain?”
Lucifer laughed, a sound like thunder grumbling in the distance.
“A soul must understand where it is and why it is here otherwise its punishment is pointless. You, my dear boy, are guilty of many crimes both petty and large but the one that brought you to my domain was the murder of a security guard.”
“I never murdered anyone,” I said. I know what happened and I was prepared to argue with the Devil if that was the only reason I was here.
The flames before me wavered and a circle appeared. In it was an image of the corridor in the bank. Several paramedics were wheeling one guard out while another was zipping the guard I had struck into a body bag. I could see a gaping hole in the side of his head where I had struck him. Tough luck guy, sorry about that. The image dissolved into flame once more.
“This was your crime,” Lucifer said. “Now you understand why you are punished.”
He turned and walked away. I was still on fire. This wasn’t such a bad punishment. Odd but not so bad.
Suddenly I could feel the flames. I screamed in agony as I would for the rest of eternity.