Purgatorio

I guess the Lord doesn’t have much of a sense of humor. Moments after my angry tirade, I was struck with such a withering blast of pain that I was unable to stay conscious for more than a few moments.

A big, black darkness set in, and for a time there was nothing. It was impossible to tell how long it lasted. Could have been seconds, could have been days. Eventually, my consciousness returned, and somewhere along the way a strange vision appeared before my eyes:

I bore witness to five massive, concentric rings laid upon on a barren, wintery landscape. Like a giant game of Skee-Ball, each ring was separated from the other by a high, insurmountable wall. No ladders, bridges, or tunnels allowed passage between the rings. The walls were unusual, for they were not ordinary, solid walls—they appeared to be forged from darkness itself, save a curious silvery sheen that played upon the surface, a meandering layer of gas or fluid that almost seemed to be patrolling the wall’s perimeter. On occasion I thought I spied a figure or a face emerge from the wall, but it was gone as quickly as it came, and I found myself doubting whether it had ever been there at all.

The vision shifted and I had a closer look within the walls of the outermost ring: a vast, circular space populated by dirty, disheveled people, many of whom were shouting at one another, savagely beating weaker inhabitants, or hidden in the shadows, working crooked needles into their arms. Piles of dead lay frozen in small piles at nearly every turn.

The people seemed to fear the wall. They kept a healthy distance, at least fifteen or twenty feet, and averted their eyes as they passed. Momentarily I saw why: the snow near the wall’s edge was splattered with red and black, stained the color of blood and darkness.

The vision shifted again, this time zeroing in on a spot where a bedraggled little boy, bundled in a patchwork of old clothing, was playing on a rope swing tied to a rusty overhead pipe. The child, maybe six or seven years old, was singing a variation on a familiar tune:

Rings around the center
Wayne’s eternal winter
Slashes… slashes…
We all bleed out.

The child suddenly looked up. His eyes were burnt out of his head.

I awoke with a start.