The Emporium Gazette
Issue 17 -- September 2000

Basement Purgatory
by Bob Nailor

He sat there huddled in the corner, pondering. What he knew wasn't known to any living soul. Time wasn't important, but still, he had to make a decision. He pulled the mother-of-pearl pen from his shirt pocket and fiddled with it; doing so helped him to think.

The basement light suddenly flooded the area. He cowered into the shadows of the corner.

Elizabeth, his wife, cautiously came down the creaking steps of the cellar and headed toward the freezer.

She shouldn't see him, not like this, not now. He cringed at the thought and closed his eyes to avoid the confrontation.

She grabbed a bottle of wine from the shelf next to the freezer, turned, and quickly headed upstairs.

The light went off and he once again was alone in the dark. He eased out his legs and enjoyed the momentary relaxation of muscles.

No, Elizabeth wasn't expecting him home yet, but she was already preparing the evening meal in anticipation. He still had time, but time for what? The pressures of work had forced him to the basement and into this dire predicament. He'd called the office that morning to let them know he wouldn't be in and waved the car pool on. Elizabeth had been asleep and had absolutely no idea of what had transpired shortly thereafter.

Yes, work anxieties had caused this. Still, if he'd known that the brain ceased to function only when the body died by natural causes, be them traumatic or quiet; he would have done things differently. The members of his car pool had all perished in a violent four-car accident before getting to work.

Fate has a wry sense of humor, he realized.

Purgatory existed only by its non-existence. There was no purgatory, per se. His car pool members were released at their death and given their just rewards, be it Heaven or Hell. For Heaven and Hell does exist for them.

He had to face the facts. He had to open the freezer since all the answers lay inside. He had to face reality.

Carefully maneuvering around items, he approached the huge chest freezer. Slowly opening the lid, he felt the cold escape about him.

The freezer light flicked on and in the harsh glare, the vision shocked him. He stared at the contents.

The body lay in a pool of frozen blood. All color had drained from the face through the gash in the throat. Some blood had spurted onto the freezer walls and soaked into the ice build-up. The blue hued lips formed a silent, anguished yell. The green eyes, covered in frost, glistened wide in death's knowledge. Arms stretched upward. The curled fingers with shredded and broken nails revealed the failed attempts to claw away the freezer's lid. Frozen blood encrusted the mother-of-pearl pen in the shirt pocket.

He'd committed suicide. Yet that single, damnable spark within his brain continued to exist, to think, to be. He was dead but he couldn't die. There was no Heaven or Hell for him. When he released that last spark, he would cease to exist and never have been. Until then, he was doomed to this basement purgatory.

Bob Nailor is author of "The Secret Voice," an Amish-Christian story, "Pangaea, Eden Lost," an adventure story, "Three Steps: The Journeys of Ayrold," a Celtic fantasy, and "2012: Timeline Apocalypse," an end-of-time tale. He is also included in several anthologies and collections. Check his website at

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