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By Kath Richards

I died on an annual work retreat and found out that Hell is a road trip with my co-worker Dwayne, who I hate so bad. I’ve had to share a cubicle with him for the last three years and he always brings—brought—fish to work which he’d microwave, because gains, and he drank two mixes from his blender bottle every day, one around ten, one at three, and the metal ball shaking against the plastic bottle made me Want To Die. 

Now, though, I did die, which I felt by the way, the bus crashing and rolling, my head knocking against the window then my neck breaking on impact to the round bus roof. It was a stupid team building retreat in the woods, we were all wearing matching shirts and when I woke again, I was still wearing the shirt, I still am. I’ve tried not to look at the blood on the white “Dream Team :)” tee, but it’s hard not to.

In Hell I am driving in my old car, the one from high school, which was always loud through the windows and bumpy on the roads and made my back hurt when I drove more than thirty minutes. The lumbar was busted in the seat.

I knew I was in Hell because it obviously wasn’t heaven.

At first, I tried to pull over, but the car just kept driving, never speeding up or slowing down, just dark black road ahead, low highlights, loud windows, no other car on the road. It drove itself, I didn’t even have to touch the wheel, but sometimes I did, because it was something.

I guess Dwayne didn’t die right away because I drove like this for 82 hours (the car’s clock still worked) before he showed up in the passenger seat.


“Mhm,” I said. He wears a hospital gown.

“Are we in Hell?”


We sat quietly, and then he cried for a couple of hours. I’d never seen him cry and it was fascinating, but I also wanted to give him some privacy, so I tried to keep my eyes on the road, or at one point I crawled into the back seat and let him have the front.

“Are you real?” he asked.

“I am, yeah,” I said. “Are you?”

He sighed a big breath. “Yeah.”

I believed him. 

We spent the next while cycling through the four CDs in the car, and though the Matchbox Twenty one skipped so bad on “Unwell,” it was both of our favorites. 

We finally started talking, asking each other things we wouldn’t ask at work. I didn’t know he had a sister, he didn’t know I liked tennis.

It wasn’t long until I aired all my grievances about working with him: the fish, the blender bottle, his cologne, the way he laughed (so, so loud) when talking with another one of the guys in the company’s formidable Boy’s Club. He shared his own; I was judgmental, rude, a horrible gossip sometimes, and listened to music too loud, even with my headphones. 

I told him sorry about all that, and he said the same.

There was a copy of Hamlet in the car that we took turns reading to each other and then acting it out together until we both had it memorized. 

Eventually we talked about what it felt like to die.

Sometimes we both sat in the front, or both in the back, or we took turns, and sometimes Dwayne fiddled with the back seat’s bench until it collapsed and we made a flat, hard bed of sorts to lie on as the car ambled down the winding road. 

We both wore sweatshirts from my high school clubs, and there was nothing to eat but we weren’t hungry. More so we just missed eating. Missed a lot of things. 

Hell wasn’t so bad when we first fell in love. It sorta felt like we were getting away with something. Like whatever divine forces that put us here thought we would suffer, but we were happy, changed, and their trick hadn’t worked. We outsmarted God or the Devil or whoever cooked this up for us. We told all the same stories we’d already told, and more, but they felt different, like little treats now, little pieces of the person we loved.

Then the Hell was realizing that we couldn’t ever share the love, couldn’t introduce the other to the people we’d told so many stories about. We couldn’t travel to each other’s favorite places, couldn’t grow old or grow babies—though we tried—but decided that was for the best because having a baby in this little space would be its own hell, and what would we use for diapers?

Then Hell was something different. Hell was knowing that the person I loved had already died and wouldn’t ever be able to do the things he loved again. Hell wasn’t always so selfless, but that part was. 

“Are you real?” I whispered, days or years after we stopped counting the clock. After we didn’t need the copy of Hamlet, but sometimes thumbed through it for old time’s sake.

“Yes,” he whispered back. “I still feel real.”

“Me too.”

He pressed a kiss to my head and, forever more, we drove on into the night. 


Originally published in Papers Publishing.

Kath Richards received a degree in technology engineering and a master’s in creative writing, both from BYU. While there, she served as editor in Chief of Inscape Journal from 2021-2022. She misses it all the time.