"Since the dawn of our species, the most apathetic of us have spent years convincing themselves that infinity is unknowable and thus beyond our concern; that only the dead know what happens when our pulse stops and all that makes us unique is forever wiped away as our bodies decompose and are recycled back into the natural world from whence we came, and thus that it would be foolish to spend our days worrying what will come next. But in these past hours, one man learned that there is nothing more terrifying than the prospect of infinity." <p class="copy-paste-block" style="text-align: center;"> <p class="copy-paste-block" style="text-align: center;">-LD <p class="copy-paste-block" style="text-align: center;"> <p class="copy-paste-block" style="text-align: center;"> <p class="copy-paste-block" style="text-align: center;">

I - September's Folly

Do you know what happens after you die?

The soft whisper shook Luca awake, springing him free from the rusted steel chains of his slumber. For the past few days, it seemed like he was spending more time sleeping than not; no matter how hard he tried, he couldn't stay awake for more than a few hours at a time. Dazed, he lifted his weary eyes from his mechanical pillow to see that his word document was now exceeding 600 pages in length. Taking a few moments to cut out the nonsense that he had unwittingly created, to his dismay, he found that before dozing off, he had only managed to write one word: The.

Sighing in frustration, his gaze shifted to the slightly ajar window to his left that allowed the cool autumn air to flow into his home. The sun's warm rays were all but gone - another day spent doing a whole lot of nothing. It took him a few moments to realize how cold he was. He promptly rose from his desk, took a moment to stretch out the knots that had formed in his back, and sought the comfort of his worn purple jacket that he'd left in the other room several hours ago.

Luca's eyes wandered, marveling at his home's adorned walls as he walked downstairs; old paintings, mirrors, and other family memorabilia, most of their origins he knew not to this day. Once he had descended down his ancient stairs, to his surprise, the kitchen stove's digital clock revealed that it was only eight post meridiem; Luca's naps tended to be quite consistent, lasting hours at a time. But he distinctly remembered sitting down to begin another writing session at precisely six forty five - uncharacteristically short. He began to wonder what had caused him to wake.

He pondered the idea of preparing some sort of meal to stave off his hunger, but it was not to be: his chronic stomach pain had begun to plague him once more, and as a servant would not dare to upset his leige, Luca would not tempt his tormenter by having the audacity to eat anything of substance. As his weariness intensified, so too did his unending abdominal torture. He knew his family had some history of stomach issues, but even after dozens of doctor visits, he had never been diagnosed with any one condition, and thus lacked any proper treatment.

However, out of necessity, he had adopted a number of homemade remedies, namely an expensive herbal tea that sometimes granted him temporary solace from his hell. Hoping to ward off his pain before it escalated to the point of no return, Luca prepared a cup of said tea, and after wearily mixing the ingredients together to create his desired brew, he sat himself down at the dinner table situated at the center of the tiled kitchen; a table that only he had used in many months.

Luca sipped his brew sheepishly, dreading each bitter gulp as the liquid coated his insides and seared his poor red throat. Still, despite the dreadful taste, it was preferable, in his mind, to the alternative. The house was completely silent as he gulped the tea down - that was, until an ungodly whisper forced Luca to drop the cup to investigate.

Cursing himself silently for allowing his delusions to spook him once more, Luca sat back down. He was no stranger to the horrors of a stained mind. Through his numerous past episodes of mental darkness, he had learned to cope with the apparitions, soon seeing them as nothing more than harmless shadows, or moreover, reminders that he would never be rid of his affliction.

But the whispers persisted.

Do you know what happens after you die?

Luca shook his head, attempting to dispel the darkness. But still, the whispers persisted.

Do you know what happens after you die?


Do you know what happens after you die?


Do you want to know the secret?

He began to perspire, the sweat on his brow soon accompanied by desperate gasps for air. Pain gripped him - pain like he'd never experienced before - and soon he was on his knees.

This is only the beginning of your misery.

White. Nothing but white for as far as the eye could see. Luca looked down to inspect himself - his body was intact, as was his mind (the pain had even subsided), but looking around him he saw nothing but a bleak, white oblivion. He felt as presence with him as well, but in an odd way in that there was surely no one around him, but he felt... something. Something.

"Am I dead?" Luca asked weakly, staring in what he perceived as the direction of north.

Not quite. You have touched death vicariously.

"When I die, then..."

As all things do.

"Is that what awaits me?"

The entity scoffed with amused surprise. Is this not what you were expecting? it asked. Endless oblivion? Absolute nothingness? Just you and your thoughts forever, with no love, hate, sadness, happiness, pleasure, nothing to contemplate or achieve? Is this not what you were expecting? it inquired once more, this time with a hint of condescending aggression, as if it was speaking to an entitled child.

"I... I don't know," Luca admitted, still darting his head around for the source of the voice.

Do you want something different?

The whiteness faded to a slightly darker shade of its original color, and several beings popped into existence. Ahead of him, a massive gate extended into the "sky," for thousands of miles, guarded by a man holding a massive list of names. Luca stood directly in front of his raised podium.

"Sir, please step forward. You're holding up the line."

Luca looked behind him to see that a massive line of people - most neutral, others despairing - was behind him. He quickly stepped forward to get a better look at the man, but oddly, he could never directly stare at his face, as if an unseen force diverted his gaze whenever he attempted to study his features. He spoke with uncontested authority.

"Ah yes, Mr. Luca Dane, is it?"

Luca nodded.

"We've been expecting you for some time now. You're overdue. Let's see..."

The man began to fumble through his notes, following a line of text with his finger until he found what he was looking for.

"Here we are. Mr. Dane, you have exactly 196,712 sins on record. Including, but not limited to: 678 counts of boasting, 293 counts of denying God's word, 4,984 counts of discontent with what you have, 543 counts of..."

Luca listend intently to each sin he had committed, each of them stinging like a dagger in his bac. The man continued for what seemed like hours before he reached his final - and most severe - sin.

"And one of the worst sins of all: laying with another man. You truly are a despicable soul, Mr. Dane. Do you deny these allegations?"

"I...I... no, I do not."

"Do you beg for forgiveness? Plead with the divine Creator for salvation, and for mercy?"


"That's another sin on the list. You never learn your lesson, do you? Guards, please escort Mr. Dane to his new home. He clearly has no place here."

Luca opened his mouth to argue, but no sound came out. Immediately, two armor-clad men warped into existence, grabbing on to him and dragging him to some unseen punishment. Weariness fell over him, and once again he slipped into a restless slumber.

He awoke once more in a classroom, only something was odd. The classroom was occupied mostly by what appeared to be students much older than him. At the front of the class was a sinister looking instuctor, whose eyes gleamed with a faint silver. Not surprisingly, Luca almost immediately began to feel fire burn in his abdomen once more.

Meekly, Luca raised his hand to get the attention of the instructor, just barely audibly pleading that he be excused. Every other student turned to face him, their faces filled with disgust and disappointment. Most poisonous of them all was the teacher himself.

"Mr. Dane, please stay after class. We need to talk about these outbursts you've been having. And no, you may not be excused."

The entire class immediately burst into howling laughter, and it seemed with every passing moment, Luca shrank another fraction in size. As the pain escalated, he had no choice but to dart out of the classroom, making a mad dash for the nearest bathroom. Unfortunately, it was the girls' bathroom.

Strangely, however, the two women inside paid him no mind, one of them even remarking that she adored his makeup. Clutching his face in horror, his stained hands revealed traces of pink and purple makeup, peeling off his skin from the sweat. He made a break to the nearest unoccupied stall; the moment he swung the door open, the ground beneath him collapsed to reveal a pit of flames. The entire building - and all of existence - unfolded before him, consumed by the flames that he was now descending into.

It doesn't have to be this way, the voice said comfortingly, somehow audible over the crackling flames. We can make it different, if you want.

Instead of landing in a lake of fire, Luca splashed into a river not of hot magma, but fresh water. Climbing out of the river to dry himself off, he immediately noticed that his hands were no longer fleshy and humanoid, but blocky and fingerless.

II - Him

In production...

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