Some souls go right through, you know? They don’t even pause. It’s right through limbo without a second glance, and then on to be judged and sent up or down. They’re the easy ones, because I can lay back and hold my lamp and they follow the light like moths to a flame, the ends of their frayed personalities fluttering even though there isn’t any wind.
While the masses go through without any problems, there are always those few troublemakers that just can’t seem to resist the lure of limbo. See, in limbo, there’s nothing, and while that may sound awful to you folks who are living halfway decent lives, to the souls that just came out of Hell on Earth, nothing is really attractive.
Limbo doesn’t hurt. It doesn’t feel good, either, but there’s no pain and no heartache and no wincing from the bruises on your back. There’s no joy, but there’s also no suffering or fatigue or withdrawal. There’s just… existence and perpetuity, and some of them think that since it doesn’t hurt, it must be the end of the line.
That’s a misconception. Hell hurts, but so does Heaven, in a kind of twisted, masochistic way. Songs of praise and streets paved with gold aside, there’s pain behind those pearly gates. Once you’re up there, you’ve got a bird’s eye view of everything that’s happening on Earth. Not so bad, you say? Yeah, well, you can’t do anything about it. You can sit and watch your loved ones suffer and plod on through life, but you can’t offer support and you can’t intervene.
Hell is worse, but you already knew that. Fire and brimstone and personalized punishment, all wrapped up in a neat little package you can’t escape. Kind of like the Hotel California, you know?
That song is about drugs, and that’s what limbo is like. Being high. Being so far gone that nothing, nothing can touch you or hurt you or make you feel anything at all. Are you starting to see why people don’t want to leave? It’s such a relief. The quiet. The emptiness. The complete lack of stimulation.
But I can’t let them stay there, just like you can’t let someone you know do drugs. It feels wrong, right there behind your heart and ribs. And if you think an intervention when someone is alive is hard, try it when they’re dead. When they don’t have anything to live for. When their world has actually ended.
They never expect me. Some of them think I’m Charon, but the ones that get stuck in limbo aren’t usually religious. The religious ones know that there’s something else, something more, and they go right through. It’s the rest of them that get caught up and need a little extra shove from me.
We converse. I learn their life stories, why they’re so happy to exist somewhere where nothing hurts. The combinations of domestic abuse, addictions, trauma, PTSD, and mental disorders are always different, but it’s always a mixture of those things. The souls that get stuck in limbo didn’t lead happy lives. They had no one to comfort them, no one to give them hope for a better future, and certainly no one to tell them that there would one day be a time when even hurting would be better than feeling nothing at all.
How screwed up is that? I convince these poor souls to leave their peace and quiet to return to an existence that hurts no matter what. And what’s even worse? They thank me for it. They thank me for dragging them out of limbo and into Heaven (or Hell, as the case often is), because as soon as they leave, they realize what death really is. Nothing.
There was this kid, an English major named Jasper who’d been on cocaine for seven years and a prostitute for three, who was stuck in limbo. I’ll never forget him. When I finally convinced him to leave and move on, he stopped right in front of me, the edges of his soul stained with the pain that was slowly seeping back into him.
And then he said, “I would cut, just to feel something, to prove to myself that I was still alive. The pain always cut through the fog and let me know I was still in it, still kicking. The… limbo, you called it? The limbo is nothing. It’s that place the drugs took me too, that I would force myself to go to when… And now I feel again. I… feel like I’m still in this. That there’s more. That there’s… hope?”
What could I say?
I’m sorry the only way to give you hope for a better future was to make you feel pain.