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  • Writer's picturePhil Thomas

Worst. Afterlife. Ever. novel sample

My daughter is dying. I’m already dead…

I watched my reflection cut through the cracked mirror that hung from the wall of my hut. My cheekbones appeared healthy, strong, buffed out. Yet, the sockets where my eyes should’ve been, emoted darkness and fear, a sense of despair. To gain a broader view, I stepped back, and the entirety of my skull came into focus, marrow on display, lacking any discernable features.

I turned away.


I hit the brakes and tore the steering wheel left. My tires spun on the asphalt’s icy patch, flipping my car not once, but twice before landing on all fours. Two tons of steel fishtailed across the crystalized mud of the playground’s lawn before slamming grill-first into the monkey bars. A jutting wayward rod impaled my windshield. If the steel tube had pierced the glass six inches to the right, I would have walked away with not much more than a couple of bruises. Instead, it speared the center of my chest. It was the end of me. I hung on long enough to see the red-and-blue lights spiraling in the distance…until I saw nothing at all.

My ticket was punched precisely eight months ago on an early February morning as I drove to an emergency work meeting. I had planned to attend Sunday service with my wife and eight-year-old daughter directly afterward, but I never made it to either.

I had a family, a decent job as a business analyst, a modest home in the suburbs of Philadelphia and fine friends. All of that is now gone. Worst of all is where I ended up. I didn’t arrive at that primordial place with white fluffy clouds, sprawling meadows, and winged cherubs hovering around carelessly because, much to my surprise, I landed in the other place.

I lived my life on the straight and narrow, thinking I did everything right and checking all the boxes. I even attended church every Sunday. None of it mattered because somehow, I ended up in shitsville. I say that in the literal sense because practically everything in Hell is covered in shit—from the streets to the buildings to the residential homes. An astringent odor permeates every area of the place, no matter where you go it’s unavoidable. When I first arrived and was assigned to my one-room residence, I thought it was a mud hut. Nope, shit hut.

Surprisingly, Hell isn’t really called Hell, neither is Heaven. That’s just how we reference them on Earth because it’s what we’ve been taught. I’m not allowed to tell you their actual names. You’ll find out eventually.

It took several months to accept my fate because I had no answers as to why I was here. I knew how I died, but not why a good person like me had been condemned. All of those questions would be answered when I received a letter from Satan in my sludge-covered mailbox. I knew nothing about him, had never seen him, and to be honest I wasn’t even sure if he really existed. But here, he had contacted me personally:

Drake Teller,

You have been invited to plead your case for entry into the 534th annual Halo Run competition.

I had only been in Hell for eight months, but everyone knew about the Halo Run. It’s probably the most coveted invitation here because once a year, a qualifying group of residents are selected to partake in the contest. They’re referred to as Runners, and they return to Earth in their physical bodies for one whole day. The first contestant to successfully reach the end wins it all. The prize? Well, it’s far better than any trophy or jackpot, because the winner is offered a chance to be reincarnated, to be reborn, and have another shot at life in human form. Thankfully, there’s no off-chance that we’ll end up being reincarnated as a caterpillar or a worm, or a grasshopper. No one would sign-up. The best part is the winner receives a one-way ticket out of Hell, never to return—unless, of course, they screw up again in their second life. Since every winner retains all of their memories of Hell and their former existence, no one has ever landed back here after their second go-around.

Luckily for me, this is the year that my Division was selected for participation. I live in the twenty-seventh Division, which encompasses the city of Philadelphia and the surrounding suburban counties. It’s nothing more than the geographical location that we residents reside in. Hell is actually an exact replica of Earth, and every place that exists on Earth at any particular time also exists here, from the pyramids to Everest.

So because I lived in the suburbs of Philadelphia during my lifetime, it’s where my shit hut is currently located. Hopefully, you live in a half-decent place because if you end up in Hell, that’s where you’ll be stuck for eternity unless you buy yourself out and upgrade to a larger shit-free home in a more exotic locale. Believe me, it requires a lot of Psycho Slugs, Hell’s main currency. At the rate I’m saving my money, I’ve estimated I’ll be stuck in my current structure for another thousand years. The invitation couldn’t have come at a more opportune time.

There was no return address on the envelope, which was probably for security purposes. I couldn’t imagine Satan welcoming unscheduled visitors. But I was welcomed. It was just the opportunity I needed to inquire about why I was condemned.

Be ready on the 28th of October, the letter continued. Expect your escorts at precisely three o’clock.

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