Thousands of people came to the Devil daily. Someone he took in with a welcoming embrace, another one – reluctantly and idly. Each of them had one or a few sins the Devil, just like a priest, had heard of a million times. Someone regularly stole, someone killed somebody, someone recklessly lied, and someone could not help indulging in pleasures of the flesh.
The Devil was often bored. Though more susceptible to his influence, the modern world seemed dreary to him, lacking any real entertainment all the same. Until the moment he went and came up with the right entertainment.
The preparation didn’t last long. At the Devil’s command, a door was made in the wall. Almost immediately it was covered with red climbing plants, and in their veins, flowing and pulsing, was something blood-like. From all the walls, the souls that had grown into the very heart of Hell rushed to the door. The heavy lock and wide wrought metal ties, which served as decorations, became overgrown with moss and covered with mold. The massive wooden door seemed alive, it was horrifying because of an abundance of souls, which had managed to grow into it.
The first sinner, dressed in a rough sleeveless sackcloth belted with a twine, appeared in the distance. He reached the Devil’s throne, with his head low, and prepared to hear the verdict.
“Well, I already know about all your sins, you need not to announce them. Instead, I have an offer for you. You see that door?” The Devil pointed his knaggy finger with a long red claw at the hellish gate.
The sinner nodded.
“So that’s it. If you pass through the gate, you are free. If not, then don’t take it amiss.”
The sinner looked at the sinister door half-heartedly, and the Devil held his breath with fervour in his eyes. Pulsing scarlet veins glossy from the sweated blood flowing down in thin rivulets, thousands of bony hands, ingrown into the walls and straining after the ring-knob, as if they belonged to people made of alabaster who had solidified prematurely – all these came into the sinner’s view.
The sinner swallowed and faced the Devil.
“I will not go,” he said.
The Devil heaved a sigh of disappointment.
“Well, everyone has the right of choice.” He snapped his fingers and the sinner turned to ash.
Behind, there was already a fairly large queue, and the sinner next after the poor fellow, who had just been burned to ashes, watched the scene with round eyes. He was looking at the mysterious door with interest and so when the Devil called him, the second sinner enthusiastically took the stand of the previous one.
“Have you killed him?” he asked.
“No, I’ve sent him for recycling,” the Devil replied indifferently. “And what about you? Will you try to walk through the door?”
The sinner was nervously rubbing his hands.
“Yeah, I’ll try.”
All the wrongdoers following him in the line twisted their necks. Some people crouched, a good few of them receded a few paces – each tried to find a better view.
The second sinner cautiously approached the door. The walls began to move, the hands stirred, and, suddenly, a head with a mournful and slightly vague expression on the face, crept out of the wall with difficulty, struggling to discern the man.
The sinner stretched his hand out to the door and tried to grab the cast-iron ring. Overcoming his disgust to the flowing blood, cadaverous bony hands and nameless substances, the sinner pulled the ring. The door was heavy, so he grabbed the ring with both hands. From all the walls, the ceiling and even the floor, from all the writhen towering columns of stone and wood, other entities with heads, arms and footless torsos hanged out, as if they were hidden under a red blanket. Trying to crawl on their hands, being driven by some mysterious force, they tried to reach the door first. Jostling through, bearing heavily on the heads of others, they did not notice how they absorbed the man who was just trying to open the strange door. The sinner lost courage and did not even try to resist. They covered him completely, having cloaked the door with their red-white disfigured bodies for a few minutes, and when the souls realized that nothing had changed, they crawled away in all directions. On the spot where the second sinner stood, nothing remained, only new veins rushed to the mysterious exit into the unknown.
After this ghastly scene, none of the sinners dared approach the door any more, and each of them the Devil sent to a well-deserved place. Some of them were sent for recycling, the rest – to one of the circles of Hell.
At long last, only one sinner stayed. A fragile bare-footed girl with long chestnut hair and green eyes. She approached the Devil and said in a soft voice:
“May I try to open that door?”
The Devil, who had already forgotten about the new entertainment, being completely disappointed in people, waved his hand carelessly towards the blood-red doorway.
The girl began approaching the exit and saw with her lateral sight how the souls, which had grown into the infernal walls, became alarmed, preparing to rush after her. All of a sudden, she darted off, threw up both hands and, with all her might, pushed the door open. The veins at the junction between the walls and the door burst and retracted somewhere, and a bright white light poured from the doorway. The girl flung the door wide open and leaned backwards. She stopped, as if waiting for the light to roll over her like a wave, pass through, merge with her, allowing her to enter the new world.
The girl turned to the Devil, who was smiling somehow movingly and abnormally kind, continuing to sit on the throne in a laid-back, homelike manner. She boldly stepped out of Hell, following the way of light, and the door slammed shut, having managed to miss out two other souls that had succeeded in crawling on their hands to the saving exit.
(Translate by Pavel Zamachowski)