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A Stroll Through Purgatory

by LeutnantSchweinehund

There was no sound. No echo. No hint nor mention of the thunder that had brought an end to my life lingered in the air around my bleeding corpse, and yet fewer signs remained that pointed towards the motives of my crime. I brought them with me to the frigid chapel floor that was my eternal grave, the final resting place of that which was once my own. In its bloodied hand lay a steel revolver, so wonderfully precise, its chamber empty. Smoke still rose from this great piece of craftsmanship and ingenuity, marking my final action. An ace of clubs fell lightly to the ground, carried by the gentle winds of autumn, landing before the cross. The virgin mother Mary wept above.

Yet it was not my final action, rather the opposite. It had merely brought an end to an era of being, the first era, the shortest and most filled with shallow vanities, accompanied by the keen sting of hatred and bitterness. There was more to be seen. This was a path of joy for some, and a lonesome road for others. I was among the latter folk, my life turning sour with every step made, bringing nothing but sorrow to a mind troubled by loss of faith and failure. I recall little from this period of my existence, and yet I distinctly remember writing melancholic drivel, which, to a very limited extent, somehow resembled stories. I had become rather decent, as writers are, and I was an extraordinary typist by every definition of the phrase. And, come to think of it, I had often indulged in the art of engineering. Even the gun was of my own making. What made these details remain with me, I do not know. Yet none of it mattered, as my body lay cold, lifeless, without breath, hollow, its black hair caressed by the remnants of the storm that had just passed. We are all so very similar in the dark, together in death, mortality our single greatest common trait.

I was awake, more so than ever, I feel. My world became smaller, more compact, with a mere day lasting lifetimes of men. If ever I felt alone in life, it was nothing when compared to the solitude of death. There was nothing here. Nothing but the cooling white remnants of that which once formed me, memories which began to fade with time. I watched them mourn from above, I watched as their chests rose and calmed, as their hearts beat with the rhythm of life itself, and tears of sorrow pearled down their cheeks. It was every bit as vivid as I imagined, and yet no joy came of it. I could not feel what I had once felt, as even these images ebbed from existence, hollowing my soul bit by bit. Many days passed before the chapel crumbled before me, and my body had long been lying to rot in the Earth. Life went on.

The hands of demons reached out from below as a black abyss tore my world in two. I cowered on the last edge, in the tall bell tower, at its highest peak, the dark expanse hungrily gazing upon me from all sides. I could not bear the torment any longer, the voices of cackling witches and decrepit demons of ages far more ancient than my own resonating throughout the ethereal void, filling emptiness. As the last tile, the last plate of brass broke away beneath my frail feet, and my fall began, I bid my love farewell. I outstayed my welcome, and the time had come to fall upon my knees and beg for the mercy of forces, their meaning far greater than that of any man, living or deceased. I was unbound, like a falcon, soaring through the black, star-filled skies of night, like those I had so often fondly watched.

My journey took me to a land of such bizarre, indescribable nature, that even the greatest writers of mankind would seldom do it justice. Black hills extended for miles, with no horizon in sight, paths of checkered tiles, black and white, leading in utterly nonsensical directions, houses which stood roof on ground, held up by powers unseen by common sight, and many skeletal figures, devoid of flesh and skin, composing on their violins and accordions melodies of inhuman genius. Never before have I heard such complexity. This world now seems to me like a fading dream, details sailing off as I write this final note.

These skeletal figures, musicians of the new world, showered me in glory. I was their guest, or so it would seem. They shared with me the greatest wisdom of the universe, revealing to me the secrets of everything, and I would lie, were I to say that I understood half of what their toungless mouths told.

"There is no conscious power, there is only life and death. That which lives will die, and that which is dead may once yet assemble in the glorious orchestral play that is life. All will fade, as will life and death. So indeed, what I say is untrue. There is not life and death, there is only existence. That, unlike all else, shall never fade. Existence is all that was, is, and ever will be. And that, my dear Lupus, is the key to eternal happiness."

Upon hearing the greatest, wisest skeleton, most proficient in the art of philosophy, I felt regret at my choice to strip myself of the gift of life, to end the performance prematurely, at the oh so young age of sixteen. I could have lived for so much more, and yet I threw away that opportunity. Perhaps I would never have discovered the key to all existence, perhaps that was the point of death - to gain the knowledge we sought to reach, and to ponder one's life for eternity. I cannot understand why I doomed myself to such a state, between life and nothingness. I grew increasingly bitter. Neither the food nor the wine of the dead brought me comfort, and their songs, growing more corrupt and melancholic by the hour, filled me with a desire for nothingness once more. Yet there was no way to take my life beyond the grave, for I had done so already.

Soon, the skeletal men traded instruments for weapons, waging war upon one another, as bone clashed with bone, regrowing when it fell. It was as if I had disappeared completely, as the combatants starved me of attention. I was alone once more, without friend or foe, walking the endless hills, eternally a hermit in the vast plains of nothingness that awaited all those who carelessly meddled with their own mortality. I stopped at a great stone temple, two doors at its face, grimly staring at the spirit which stood before them. I lay there, in the eternal night, my legs too weary to carry on.

Neither door opened, I am afraid. Whatever lies before them, I do not know. I will never know. I was not content with my knowledge in life, nor my knowledge in death, for there is always more to have, and not all may be acquired. I now carve these words into the faces of mountains, so that I may ease my pain, cursed to an eternity of wandering, thinking, and yet more wondering still.

The skeletal men will forever wage war, and my mind and soul shall never lie to rest, never be at ease, forever pondering what might have happened, had I not so foolishly made decisions which were not my own to make, had I played my ace of clubs.

A fate far worse than death. 

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66 Reviews

Points: 5274
Reviews: 66

Sun Jun 25, 2017 5:09 am
iamanaspiringwriter wrote a review...

Hey there LeutnantSchweinehund! Happy review day!
I've got to say, this story tripped me up on the first read through. I even had to read the first paragraph 3 times to have enough of an understanding of the setting to keep going. But, seeing as you wrote this when you were tired, I get it. I think if you read this over, you'll be able to channel your main points to the reader a whole lot better. Even underneath the confusion, I could still sense the immense creativity. I enjoyed the word choice. I got this sense that you didn't use simple speech, but it wasn't unfittingly advanced or fancy either. It seemed like your voice throughout the entire story, and that was refreshing to see. Also liked the image of the skeletons as musicians of the new world. Just imagining these skeletons against the landscape playing music looks so beautiful in my mind.
One question I had was: Is this about someone committing suicide? I saw that Eli had said maybe it was about murder, but I'd gone along thinking it was about suicide. I think that if you clarify whether it was murder or suicide, then it might change the perspective of the entire story.
Also was caught off guard by the skeletal men waging war. At first, you mentioned the "food and wine of the dead", which kind of made me think this was a peaceful place where people were well cared for. Then the skeletons were at war just kind of confused me.
Eli mentioned much of the nitpick stuff that I'd seen, so I think you're all set on that front.
I think, with refinement, this could become a cool piece. I think, like you said, you just need time to sort out everything going on in the story. For a first draft, it's good. It's great to see all of the cool ideas that you are visualizing for this world,

Have a fun day/night!


This thing isn't worth a second draft, to be honest.

Anyway, to clarify, yes. It's about someone who shot themselves in a chapel and now cannot pass through purgatory for their crime. The character is stuck there forever. He attempted to end a life of loneliness and monotony, only to find himself stuck in an eternity far worse than life. I'd like to think the main character is actually supposed to be me.

Skeletons waging war represents the shift from relief to angst and suffering. He was happy and free, having stripped himself of the terrors of life, and only when he realized that life after death would be even more of a lonesome road, that which seemed amazing became stale.

The skeletons fighting one another for all eternity also represents inner conflict. Should he have killed himself? Would life have gotten better? Once this conflict settles, the skeletons too will disappear, after what may seem to be an eternity.

I don't really like what I made here, to be honest. All in all, it's really just a bunch of flowery prose. Suppose it could be worse - it could be flowery poetry.

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485 Reviews

Points: 21027
Reviews: 485

Sun Jun 18, 2017 12:38 pm
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Elijah wrote a review...

Hey there! Eli here for a lovely review of your wonderful work!

I will be honest when I say that this work really confused me when it came to its content, maybe things I needed to read several times to try to understand better. The concept of the story is understandable but still put out so complex and twisted that you need your time to be sure that you fully gripped on the idea and actually understood it. My complains are minor and the questions as well. They will include some grammar and tense complains. And also what really makes me stop and overthink my decision of finishing the read of this piece which I ended up reading until the end so I could really discuss it properly.

One of the things that I love and hate at the same time, I know it sounds weird, is that your choice of words is so exotic that I needed to check the words for their meaning several times because I had no idea what the heck they meant. It is great to have big variety of words but it makes it sound like a book in a different language that no student wants to read. That is of course my opinion. There will always be words one person will not know, we live and learn. But on top of that, your sentence are pretty long as well. I love that you get deep with your description but sometimes it is a bit too much. I would do my best to understand them but three rows sentence with so many action in it needs to be cut down to pieces. Some readers would ditch the work and quit. Or just do not understand its content. I love your details and you do not need to cut them off completely but have limits when it comes to them. I forget what you were talking about while I read about your description of something else in the same sentence. The sentence for example starts with description of his mistakes in life and suddenly I know everything about the paintings on the walls. Everything else I want to complain about is in the orange text down below. Some are questions, others are full edits and chit chat.

The story still caught me even if it is so complex. Still a simple idea it is. Death and life. Life and death. I still can not tell where it is going on at the beginning and what the crime exactly is, maybe murder? But it has that meaning of what is life and what is existence at least for me. Overall, the idea of the story itself is great. I would love to read about crimes and human's mistakes any time any day.

the final resting place of that what? which was once my own.

In its bloodied/bloody hand laid a steel revolver, so wonderfully precise, its chamber empty.

And (no comma) now that I think of it,

We are all so very similar in the dark, together in death, mortality,/- our single greatest common trait.

I was awake, more so than ever, I felt.

with a mere day lasting lifetimes ?of men?

They shared with me the greatest wisdom of the universe, revealing to me the secrets of everything, and I would lie,if I were to say that I understood half of what their toungless mouths told.

'and I would lie' what would you lie about?
You would lie if you said you understood half of it?

I lay there, in the eternal night, my legs too weary to carry on.

Shouldn't you let this in past tense?

Neither door opened, I am afraid. Whatever lies before them, I do not know. I will never know. I was not content with my knowledge in life, nor my knowledge in death, for there is always more to have, and not all may be acquired. I now carve these words into the faces of mountains, so that I may ease my pain.

Suddenly the tense is changed from past to present again. And in past back again later.

Keep on writing!

I was only half lucid when writing this awful excuse for a literary piece, so I don't even know what the hell it was about myself. I think it was about some guy who shot himself and now he's doing something after death. The character, I believe, is the author, in this case. I know I was listening to Chopin and the Devil's Trill Sonata from some other composer. It was meant to be something of a short version of some Renaissance Italian guy's work about going through hell and purgatory. Forgot the name.

As for the tense problems, mostly true. I tend to mess around with tenses, since just about everything I write is written in retrospective first person, where the main character writes of something that happened. That's why I sometimes add things like "I was more awake than ever, I feel." As in, writer looks back at the situation, and now feels he was awake, but may not have felt it back then. This doesn't make it grammatically correct, and I will fix it, but I think that's where my mistake stems.

One thing I'm genuinely not sure about, however, is the past tense of "lie." The man lies cold, the man lay cold? I distinctly remember having trouble with it, since apparently "lay" is past tense in some strange form.

Overall, I wouldn't bother with this story, if I were you. It's more the ramblings of a depressive cynic destined to a life of loneliness. Actually, that's mostly the theme of the story, but it's overwhelmed by the pseudo-intellectual structure. I didn't even purposefully try to make it complex, and I realize now that it's probably quite unattractive for readers, but a lot of my work just pops out that way for some reason. In the end, there isn't really much point to the story other than skeletons dancing around, playing accordions, fighting each other and running around as a dead, suicidal engineer ponders existence. There's no point to it but raw imagery, which, I admit, isn't very good either.

Thanks for the review, Slavic Engineer is happy to accept!

Elijah says...

I have a feeling that 'lay' is correct, yes. I tried to check and 'laid' is still popped up as the right answer. Maybe it is an option?

You are welcome!

I checked it as well. Both are used under different circumstances, and frankly, I don't get it at all.

I know that when reading the Philosopher's Stone some time ago, and I think it said "He lay in his bed." in regards to whatever. But it was past tense. And then I see people use "laid" in past tense as well, so I'm left clueless.

Elijah says...

I think of just not mentioning it as a mistake if both ways are correct. It makes no sense but I guess it is right?

I suppose. I don't plan on becoming a full-time writer in this lifetime, so I suppose it's a mistake I can live with.

Elijah says...

Totally true.

I always like to look on the optimistic side of life, but I am realistic enough to know that life is a complex matter.
— Walt Disney