Kristin sat at his desk in the sparsely decorated government office. He was busily reading through the correspondence of the day. The letters were usually the same-old-same. People would query their latest tax demand. They would invent reasons as to why their annual calculation should be lower than what they were billed. He mused over the fact that the initial communication from each person would be cordial, sometimes even fawning in their appreciation of the department taking the time to consider their applications for tax relief. With the exception of a few legitimate claims, most were just pleas to lessen the burden of the annual charge or to extend the payment due date. A second letter from the same member of the public, when reading closely between the lines, would usually show a hint of desperation. The third would stink of desperation (usually after they had received a dreaded ‘red notice’ or final demand, as it was officially called.) If anyone sent a fourth, then that would usually be at the end of the process and, more often than not, would be hostile to the extent of a profanity riddled rant. These would come from people whose cases had been heard and judged upon with a negative outcome. By negative, it meant business foreclosures or asset and property repossessions.
Although not many had the stomach for his career choice, Kristin was happy in his work. If he dared admit the truth to himself, he even found himself rather enjoying the process of punishing those who did not pay their dues. He always paid his taxes in a timely manner, he rationalised, so why shouldn’t everyone else. If unforeseen hardship had fallen upon those businesses who were now struggling to make ends meet, a death of a business partner, a downturn in the market, then they obviously hadn’t put safety measures in place to ensure they didn’t fall into the debt trap. FYI, not his problem.
He lightly perused the last letter in his in-tray and stamped it ‘Claim Rejected’ with a bit more enthusiasm than was called for. He then sat back, looked upon his day’s toil, and stood to leave for the day. After putting on his coat and scarf, he collected the two piles of paperwork from his desk. On his way out he stopped at his secretary’s desk and put each pile in the correct tray. The one for rejected claims, he deposited the large wad of letters. The one for accepted claims, he put in a single letter which he begrudgingly had to admit held merit for tax exemptions. His secretary (he could never remember her name, nor took the time to even try and make the effort to) smiled sweetly at him.
“Good night, Mr Holland. Have a nice weekend,” she said as he turned to leave.
“You too,” he insincerely said in way of reply.
The next morning, he got out of bed at the usual time of 6.30am. Whether it be a workday, a weekend or even Christmas Day for that matter, his morning routine never wavered.
On descending the stairs down to the kitchen, the only thing wavering seemed to be his balance. He felt very unsteady on his feet and felt the need to grasp the banister to get to the hallway below. He walked through to the Kitchen with some difficulty. Each step was akin to traversing a deep sponge.
On looking down at the ground, he unintentionally let out a shriek of horror. He wasn’t walking on the floor; he was walking in it. The soles of his feet were at least an inch lower than the laminate flooring, and they were sinking further with every passing moment. He heard a rattle of keys by his front door and with effort managed to turn to face it. In desperation he called out and tried to make his way to his long-time partner who was returning home after getting the morning papers. He had never got round to making their relationship more official. He had thought about it, as he had to admit the tax breaks that he would receive on getting married made the idea rather appealing.
Now sunk up to his knees within the floor, each step was like wading through a river of treacle. He sank further and further until the ground passed his mouth, making it impossible for him to make any audible sound whatsoever. Then, within a second, there was no sign of Kristin nor any sign that he had been there at any time that morning. The kitchen floor was as hard and unyielding as it ought to be.
Kristin slid silently through the foundations of his house. He then passed through thick wet mud, which oozed into his nose, ears and mouth, running down his throat and making him gag. His face was pushed against the remains of a body which must have been buried on the plot of land his house now stood many years before it was built. The smell of death filled him with nausea and still he continued his downward journey. Despite the physical relationship between himself and the matter around him being broken, he could still see, smell, taste, and worst of all, feel.
As his body was sucked downwards through mud, chalk and eventually stone he could feel his skin being continuously torn from its body. The pain was agonising and unrelenting, as his flesh was abraded by granite and flint. His skin still it seemed to remain attached to his skeleton. Each layer that was sliced or wrenched from his body was immediately replaced by new growth. Although he could not breathe, the unconsciousness of death eluded him. It refused to clutch him to its bosom for that final relief of oblivion. Instead, he had no choice but to endure the relentless torture of having every nerve ending in his body scraped against the innards of Mother Earth.
Each passing hour seemed like a lifetime of pain. And with each hour a different texture and therefore a different kind of pain. Granite felt different as Kimberlite, as did Obsidian, Basalt and Pumice.
The deeper he travelled the colder he became. As well as the searing pain of friction he now also had to bear the mind shattering freezing temperature.
After what seemed like an age he began to feel, at first, warmth, and then searing heat. It started on the soles of his feet, but slowly worked his way up his body. He could see clumps of flesh singe and burn away from his bones. As each slice of meat barbequed into ash, another piece of fresh flesh grew in its place, and so the burning process would begin anew.
He knew that his final destination would be the furnace of the Earth’s core.
Kristin wondered if his fate was the result of him relishing in other people’s misery and his selfish attitude in both his business and personal life.
Or was it in fact true, that all tax collectors deserved to burn in Hell.
∼ Ian Sputnik
© Copyright Ian Sputnik. All Rights Reserved.