There’s a wash basin on a pedestal, Mr. Strudel thinks, as his eyes focus on the solitary object set fifteen feet from him in the never ending void of white; like a pen stroke on a sheet of sketch paper. The fuck could they possibly want from me now? Prior to the appearance of the basin, Mr. Strudel was suspended in perfect darkness. No up nor down, not a thing to grab hold of both literally and metaphorically. He simply dwells there, in the black nothing. Now, in the white nothing, as he calls it, Mr. Strudel feels the telltale knot of dread in his stomach. It begins again. But what form will the torture take this time? An opening in the time-space pulls itself vertically like a window shade to the maniacal cackling of his red-furred tormentor and the disembodied laughter of children. The knot has turned into a ball of pure terror.
“Hahahahah! Mr. Struuudelll! Hello, Mr. Strudel! Hahahahah!” The small, red, Duke of Hell greets with a voice of pure mockery, helium, and hate. Mr. Strudel looks down at the garish outfit he now wears. Another point of contention and humility. Oversize pants with suspenders, a shirt that itches beyond any coping mechanism, and a bow tie that could very well be the propeller of a small plane. Mr. Strudel suddenly wonders when the last time he brushed his teeth, or ate a meal was. All he can recall is the viscous cycle of dark, cold void…bright, torturous void…dark, cold void.
“…” Mr. Strudel opens his mouth, but nothing comes forth. He has forgotten that he had been stripped of speech long ago. He simply waves toward the time-space fissure, to the red, bug eyed abomination, and tries to make it look sincere.
“Mr. Strudel…we were wondering how you wash your feet!” The Tormentor says. Strudel has danced this dance countless times. Whatever it is he hears is incorrect. He heard feet, but it could be literally anything else. But he must obey. Those are the rules. Mr. Strudel approaches the basin, and carefully places his left foot into the cold water. As he begins to wash his foot, a score of childlike voices admonish him.
“That’s your foot, Mr. Strudel!”
“You’re doing it wrong!” The voices shout. The terror in Mr. Strudel’s chest turns into shame and an overwhelming need to please his captors.
“Your elbows!” one voice cries out. Mr. Strudel collects himself and nods with aggrandized understanding. Without hesitation, he places both of his elbows into the basin to another volley of jeers. Yes, yes, he knows it isn’t right, but perhaps his mistake will curry the favor of those faceless horrors. Perhaps he should make a face? Worth a shot. Look at me, so silly! He thinks as he grimaces. Pity me and release me from this never ending nightmare!
“Wash your face, Mr. Strudel! Your godless face!” the legion decree, but Mr. Strudel has figured it out. He places his hands into the basin and rubs them together. There is a cacophonous cheer.
“Use the soap, Mr. Strudel!” once voice commands. It is only then that he notices the bar of soap resting on the pedestal’s edge. Gingerly he plucks it up, but it shoots high above, causing another streak of anxiety throughout his body. He juggles and struggles to control the bar of soap to the raucous laughter of the damned. He contemplates the idea of letting it fall—or seeing how long he can keep this fumbling bullshit going in hope that his masters will be assuaged, and thus end the day’s session. He knows deep down that neither would work, so instead he catches the soap and successfully washes his hands.
“Hahahahah! Thanks, Mr. Strudel!” The red-furred execration cheers. The time-space tear immediately closes, the basin and pedestal vanish, and the darkness once again consumes all. Mr. Strudel floats in the silent, black nothing and wishes for death. But he knows, deep down, that you cannot kill someone that is already dead…and damned.