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One Hell of an English Class
They say that there are five people you meet in heaven. I never heard anyone say anything about hell. Why then, would anyone ask you to write about the three people you would meet if you decided to take a vacation to hell? I mean, of course, you would visit hell for the resorts and the easy access to molten lava, but I’m sure that the people you would meet there would not necessarily be the nicest or the happiest people. After thinking about it for awhile, it all makes sense. The reason they are in hell is not because they were terrible people or because they had a black heart, but rather because they knew they had made mistakes in their life; discovered hidden misfortunes in the shadow of good, and they needed to convey those findings to someone who still had time to change.
This was what my English teacher wanted me to write about. Was she crazy? I have no idea, but sitting in English class, thinking about this made my head hurt, so I just decided to folds my hands, flop my head down, and close my eyes. The next thing I knew everything started heating up and spinning. Before I could think, I opened my eyes. What the hell? No pun intended, I was seriously in the underworld. Yet all I could manage to think was, “so much for relaxing.” Just goes to show you the lack of sleep you get in one week as a freshman, but that’s beside the point.
Looking around everything seemed dark, moist, hot, and hazy. One too many adjectives for hell I thought. One thing I noticed was that it was not the way Homer describes it in The Odyssey at all. All this thinking made my head hurt even more; so I decided to just take a plop on the bottom of this vast, empty…. emptiness.
Before I could count to three or even make a 360 degree inspection of my surroundings; everything began spinning, again, and this time I ended up in an antique house, dating back to what seemed to be about the early 1900’s. I turned around to get a full inspection of the house, and was shocked by a raspy little voice that appeared to be coming from nowhere. I twisted around in astonishment searching near and far to find the voice; it wasn’t until I looked down that I actually saw the stout man with the wrinkly eyes. He had on a very distracting bright red tie hanging flat on top of a plaid shirt, which was tucked into long beige pants held up with a thin black belt. Where his pants met his feet, I noticed his strikingly shiny penny loafers and couldn’t help but giggle and attempted to look back at his face to straighten myself out. It was then I noticed the man had a small transparent patch of white hair on his head that matched the wiry beard around his mouth, and a pair of spectacles that sat loosely on the edge of his nose. I recognized those glasses. I recognized everything about this man. He was my great-grandfather who died when I was 8. The funny thing is, I wasn’t surprised to see him in hell. No one truly found him to be a great person aside from my great-grandma Mary. My only question had to be, “Why are you one of the people I see?”
“Watch that mouth of yours, Elizabeth. You can’t even say ‘hi’ to an old relative before questioning his whereabouts?” the raspy voice sounded as familiar and harsh as it always had been.
“I’m sorry, Papa, How’s hell?”
“It has its perks; I can’t lie. But it wasn’t exactly my first choice of places to go after I die.”
“Can you tell me why I’m seeing you now?” I was trying to speed things along.
“Pushy pushy, just like your Grand-pa. How about you tell me what you value most in life?”
His question confused me, and I could only think to respond the way I imagined anyone would, “My family, I suppose”.
“I valued your great-grandmother the most. She was everything to me.”
“What does this have to do with anything?” I was impatient, what can I say.
“Hold your horses! I’m getting there… I would have done anything for Mary. You know that; everyone knew that. Yet I spent my time being a grump over the things that I couldn’t do for her, and be the person I thought she truly wanted. I didn’t have much money; I felt like I wasn’t a good husband or father at points. I did everything I could to make her happy; unfortunately, I was making myself unhappy along the way. I was a grouch to everyone I met and everyone I knew. I treated barely anyone with the kindness they deserve, and I cheated my way through things. It turns you into a bitter person, Elizabeth. A bitter person you don’t want to be. Your great-grandmother only wanted me to happy because that’s who she loved. She loved being with me because it made her happy. She didn’t care about the materials that came with loving me; all she cared about was me. I was too blind to see any of this, and now I am in hell while the love of my eternal life is sitting in the clouds. You need to not care about those materialistic things Elizabeth. You have to be happy and be yourself no matter what you think might be up to par for other people because yourself is all you can be.”
This harsh voice seemed wise and disappointed in itself for the first time since I had ever heard it.
“Thank you, Papa I will do absolutely everything I can to be happy and never forget who I am or where I come from. I know you and Grandma will be together someday. I love you.”
Before I finished my last farewell, the room had started spinning again. As tears filled my eyes, all I could do was make a secret promise to myself that I would keep him and his words in my heart and mind for the rest of my life This whole room spinning thing was getting on my nerves. Couldn’t Hades think of a more convenient less nauseating way of traveling from one point to another? Then again he was the ruler of the underworld and convenience was probably the second to last thing on his list, right above getting chocolates for the pillows.
As I craned my head every which way to try and see where I was, it just so happened that I appeared to be in a space ship. Oddly enough I had never met aliens in my life up to that point so this situation was a bit unexpected. Looking out the rather large window I saw the solar system. All of it, every star every planet, every minute little detail was visible. As I began marveling at this spectacle, I felt a hand on my shoulder. My head shot to the left, only to see a quivering limb. Once again I shot looks in every direction searching for the culprit who had frightened my arm, and once again it wasn’t until I looked down that I saw it. A small white mouse scuttled across the floor to stand on its hind legs in front of me. “HEY LADY! GET OUT OF MY WAY! THIS THING CAN’T DRIVE ITSELF!” it shouted in a high pitched voice filled with infuriation.
Now to be quite honest a talking mouse was the last person I expected to see in hell. Then it all connected itself. I was in The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. My only question was, “Why?” Of course the mouse didn’t do a very good job of explaining that, and it wasn’t until I heard a strong, clear, and intelligent voice coming from behind me that I realized what was going on.
“You must be Elizabeth Sockol,” the strong, clear, and intelligent voice said.
“You must be Douglass Adams.” Duh. “Pleasure to meet you, sir.” I extended a hand shake.
“Pleasure to meet you as well. I see you’ve met Rupert.” He says this as he waved his hand toward the small plump mouse.
“Ah, yes. He seems to be… quite a character.”
“As are most of the subjects in my books.”
“Would you by any chance know why you are one of the people I’m seeing at the moment? No need to be rude, I’m just a bit confused.”
“Of course! Well to put it rather simply… the answer to life was not 42.”
Was he serious? “Are you serious?”
“Yes, actually, I am.”
“Well, that’s a lot easier than the last explanation,” I said with a sigh of relief.
“I wish I could say that was it, but God wouldn’t be too happy with me if he knew I left out the important part. I’m in Hades for many reasons, a few which are of no concern to you, but one of which is to advise you. The answer to life, the universe, and everything was, and is not 42. I learned this the hard way. That is only half of it though. I also learned the hard way that you cannot predict the future or life itself for that matter. Life is too precious a thing to take for granted or to try to think too far ahead. You have to take life with a steadiness that allows you to have fun and do the things you want without being distracted by the small details that could throw you in the wrong direction. Don’t try to solve every problem, that’ll lead you nowhere expect for a room filled with nothing but solutions. And everyone knows that knowing the answer to everything leaves no room for surprises and fun. Apart of being happy and enjoying life to the fullest, is being able to face the surprises and situations that get thrown at you, and taking them with stride. I hope you take this advice with you and understand that there is more to life then there appears to be, just try not to figure it out all at once. And don’t build any machines that are supposed to know the answer to everything. That gets you right where Rupert is.”
“You have no idea how much this means to me. Thank you for everything, Mr. Adams.”
And just as before, as the last word spilt from my mouth, the room melted around me and faded in a spinning blur of nothingness. This was officially my least favorite part of Hades.
At last, regaining my balance and gathering up my scattered thoughts, I found myself in a palace. Surrounded my intricate designs every which way, I was astonished. This definitely tops the spaceship.
My thoughts wandered away again as I observed the gold encrusted doorknobs and the delicately weaved tapestries. Every painting, statue, floorboard, and even tabletop seems to be unsoiled with any form of dust or dirt. This was a new experience to the fullest. As I reached my hand out to admire one of the pieces of artwork, my thoughts clattered into one jumble again as a stern voice echoed throughout the vast room, “TAKE YOUR HAND AWAY FROM THAT PAINTING YOUNG LADY!” Why was everyone calling me a young lady these days? I spun around to see a tall slender woman with short blonde hair. Everything about her seemed to be perfect. As if every strand of hair had been placed in a specific way, her fingers and toes must’ve required a team of experts, her makeup was done so that not one smudge or line was visible and everything looked natural, and even her skin looked absolutely as smooth as a baby’s butt from near 20 feet away. I knew that face anywhere though. Princess Diana. She died the night that my dad and mother met.
“I…I….I… I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to be obtrusive… just the artwork… I only meant to admire it.” I stumbled at my attempt to speak.
“It’s all right. At least you have good taste. That is one of my favorite pieces. So I can only understand. Do you know who I am?” Jesus, she even spoke like a princess.
“Of course, Princess Diana.” I almost regretted it after I had said it.
“Haha, of course! Of course! That’s what they all say.” Her tone was befuddling.
“I’m confused…” I said in that absent minded tone of mine.
“The reason you are seeing me is because I know who you are. I know your dreams are to be that person who everyone looks up to and sees as a role model and an inspiration. I have been there Elizabeth, and I know of the blunders that are waiting right around the corner in that kind of world. Fame is not all it’s made out to be. You believe that you must be so many people and personalities at once to try and make everyone like you, but that can never happen. You can only be yourself, and hope that people accept you for who you are. You have a great amount of potential, and you can go anywhere you wish in your life, but you must never forget where you came from or where your morals lie. You are the most important person to yourself. Fame can get to your head and can turn you into someone you never intended to be in the beginning. Do your best and be yourself and that’s all anyone can ask for. Don’t let money or jealousy get the best of you, and especially don’t let the paparazzi get into your head. You know who you are, and no one else can tell you that. I hope you fully comprehend the message that I am sending you Elizabeth. I wish you well on your journey home.”
For a moment my jaw simply hung in place unable to move no matter how hard I tried, and then finally as though it were the last words I would ever speak I said, “Thank you so incredibly much. This has been the experience of a lifetime, and I shall never forget the things you and everyone else have shared with m…..”
“Liz, care to pick up where Alec left off?” Mrs. Collontrelle obviously knew that I was not paying attention…
“Umm…. I like this book… great book…. Great story line… mhmm… can’t get enough of it…” I laughed to myself.
“Pay attention please… Collier, since you are fully conscious, would you mind taking up from there?”
Collier’s words just faded out in my mind as I thought about everything that had just happened…. Or had it happened? It seemed so real… Well, at least I know one thing. Even if it wasn’t real, I have something to write about now.