“My name was once Micha Haaretz and now it is Legion. This is Hell. Our masters, who are the collective thoughts of all of us, will not tell us whether it is eternal or not. Perhaps they don’t know either. Or they do know and the answer is No, but they can’t let any of us have hope, or they would simply disappear. Eight more have joined me in Legion from the Zone and, usually if not always, most of the pain of Hell isn’t physical torture, like people imagine, though commonly some of it is, particularly at first. There is no Black Widow for you to stay strapped to for eternity and no canes.
“At your moment of truth, which is not the death of the physical body, but the total ejection of your awareness from it, and from the human world, there is a pure unalloyed brilliance. What you specifically see is what you’ve been taught to see. What I saw was the Four Letters of the Holy Name that I used to wear as a choker. When I saw them, as one of the Chosen People, my yearning for them was insatiable, but I could not reach them no matter how much I wanted to. I fell away from them with a tumble into blackness and merged with all lost souls in one. My yearning for it is still insatiable, and that is the first torment of Hell, that you are separated from that brilliance, perhaps forever, or if not, the part of me still Micha Haaretz knows that it is so long that the individuality I still try to cling to will have totally been eaten away by loss and despair.
“My name will then only be Legion and Nothing and No One and my torment even worse. As for now, we are what the Kabbalist rabbis of old called the Quiploth, the Shells of the Dead, and in our shells we keep the memory of pleasure, which is what most of us cling to. The Egyptians called them the Ka, and did everything they could to keep and sustain them for eternity. There are still shells here from hundreds of thousands of years ago, not many, but a few, as well as thousands upon thousands of Egyptians, still chanting that they are Osiris The Justified and evading the fact that their own death and conscious continuance is an attributed bulwark against deeper suffering, but it is in no way a paradise. So how long I will last shoring up the mere memory of freedom and pleasure is unknown.
“The eight more who have arrived are still trapped in the pain of their death and their anger in life, which, at least, I left quickly behind. Without Henry and without purpose, it was easy to let life go. I even, and with little effort, quickly lost the exquisite tormenting burn of the bullet through my heart. One among the eight who also found it easy to let go is named Bernadette Johnson. She thought there was nothing left to live for, but now knows that she was wrong. When the bright light hit her, the pain was much worse than the slow and careful caning of her bottom so long ago. She felt piece after piece of her imaginary skin burn and peel off and the scar on her bottom, which she still clung to doggedly as a focus for hatred turned into a burning hot coal that kept her screaming and screaming when she couldn’t release from it.
“The potent unconscious and the physical body do not respond well to the cutting off of your own life abruptly and short. And this even more so if you kill yourself. Then you bring with you not only death trauma, but also a permanent and horrid separation of your heart and awareness into two warring halves. The unconscious and the body of Bernadette wanted to live, wanted to continue, and it’s unreleased trauma in death follows any suicide as the fiery stripping of those imaginary onionlike layers of the Ka from you without your consent. Soon, however they will completely burn away to a cinder, and as she falls from the burning light, she will fall into Legion quickly, like a dropped stone, no longer wanting the black and shriveled husk of her Ka, her shell. As long as you hold on to the Ka undamaged, the torments of Legion are held somewhat at bay, you don’t have to feel as intensely the collective suffering of all who once had names like your own.
“The victims of her revenge, the Matriarchal Cabinet, would give anything for those layers to burn away and to die to their names, but their layers are stiffened and fused with the anger and fear of their lives, the malice toward others, the sadistic enjoyment of others’ pain, the greed for power, and the demand for arbitrary fulfillment of their private will in any and all things.
“Now they feel themselves as the screamingly painful crushed and lacerated bodies of their death, and as long as they cling to wanting to abandon them, that pain and torment will continue. They see but can’t recognize one another, completely mutilated, as their killer had told them their bodies would be. And, even worse, crushed to human pâté, which even their killer didn’t anticipate.
“Where are the others? Where’s Henry? I can’t tell you. Maybe he is also in Legion, with his shell stripped away. Maybe he went, like so many, most actually, back into rebirth. Maybe he reached that light where no shell can form because no imaginary body remains in the pure bliss (part of my specific torment is to know so intimately exactly what I have lost).
“The many men (and three women) whose caning on the Black Widow into flaming cripples drove them to suicide, went through a process similar to Bernadette’s, though incomplete and much briefer. They are all with me here in Ka of sooty white sheets of light covered in crumbling ashes, pointing their fingers at me, clinging to a demand for a too late Justice, a continuous wave of testimony at my trial for violating my solemn Hippocratic Oath: “First, do no harm…” We are all in Hell, what penalty is left for me to be given?
“They wait for you, too, Angie Albertson. Be glad that your Ka face is so mutilated and your Ka body so broken that they have not yet recognized you. I asked for a clean death, in full acknowledgement of my crimes, though still without remorse, conscious and living demon that I had become among the Chosen People, so their pointing fingers cannot touch me. You, Angie, didn’t ask for it, and there will still be the suffering to come when their white hot fingers touch you.
“Very few of my murder victims (as Micha I knew how many in total, as Micha’s shell and husk, I’ve forgotten) are here. Far fewer than I would have expected. I guess I was the perpetrator of a massacre of the innocents. Their death, with the body saturated in endorphins from intensely prolonged sex, passed by without their knowledge and only those guilty of much else, but who are strong of character, remain here in Hell. Since they were all young spies, it’s amazing how few there are.
“They no longer have need to accuse me. Whatever linked us as murderer and victim broke with a snap like their neck. The stain of their murders is already ground deeply into my Ka, and it has given me such a terrifying exterior, which I hid behind my looks and my sensual musk on Earth, that many of my fellow shells now simply panic and run into Legion after they first encounter me. Luckily, Hell has no mirrors, at least for me, and, with effort, I can will my earthly appearance to reappear if I choose.
“I get to see some of the future of those on Earth. In a very few hours, as we count time here, their own planet will have taken away the chances for all of them and the story of our species will have ended. The ones here who deliberately made money, knowing that the future would suffer for it, are now tar-and-feathered with that money, smothered in it, and in the pain of the burning tar, with the knowledge of that money’s worthlessness both then and now.
“The one who stripped away all her names, the “intelligent little rabbit” as I called her behind her back when at SecSpy, hears me as I speak. I’m not taunting her; what she hears is her manifestation of my own torment as her guilt and remorse, given words from her clinging to me and not me to her. She called for response from me over and over and over to hide from what she was–a cold blooded killer as well but one whose will to see herself live and thrive masked from her that cold-bloodedness. As a fellow killer, I have enough sympathy to hide my hellish appearance. She will see the light as the names she threw away and now cannot recover.
“You have already lost those names, Little Rabbit, and none of them any longer shield you from these merciless dreams of your guilt. And she will see the light after we finish our little chat. Yes, you know what little chat, and you already are in terror of it. It will be even more terrible than you yet know, for I will not be wearing the earthly mask of Micha Harretz, but my true form as a minor demon of Hell. The powers that be here would be quite peeved if I did anything less.
“My little rabbit’s crimes? They are deeply ground into her Ka, no matter how much she learned to hide them with a deep patina of languid elegance as a fruit of her ambition to lead a spy agency, which but led her to her downfall. She leads that spookhouse no longer, her power and prominence merely dust in the road on her journey, and her only chance to postpone the bitter fruit of her crimes comes from the prayers of her whore and her madam lovers.
“They might work, but, be warned little rabbit, unless you purify them in the next life you will join me here for good. You are already in Hell but for a only last visit and not your permanent home. I’ll fill you in about the details when we meet again, but, broadly, you must try to keep your contrition totally through death and beyond. I still like you, insofar as I can now “like” anybody, and would even pray for you myself, but my prayers can no longer be heard.”
Then Lady Chief woke up into her regular concatenation of screams and virulent weeping.
After this happened, Elizabeth or I or both of us together would hold our sister in the middle of her hysteric terror and, though she could not bring herself to repeat the details, in our minds we saw a lurid picture, rather like an electroscreen program trailer, of Micha Haaretz as tour guide to Hell. After three episodes of this and similar dreams, we came to the decision that she could never be allowed to sleep alone. The mere presence of one of us in bed with her, that she could immediately cling to, diminished both the mental torment and the number of dreams significantly from when she dreamed alone.
We would occasionally even dream in parallel with her, exploring the webs of her own fears and anxieties together, each a dream phantom to the other walking along the same terrifying path. Her dreams of Micha occurred about once a month, often, though not always, at the dark of the moon, and we shared enough of them to piece the composite together that I wrote out above.