This Story Was an Honorable Mention in Our Contest
After thirty-two hours of labor, Zion Norris came out screaming and bit the obstetrician’s face.
By the age of three, he had lit his mother’s curtains on fire. Twice. When he was five, neighborhood cats started disappearing. And then they reappeared….with their heads sewn onto the bodies of missing puppies. After getting held back in elementary school (for the third time), he cut his teacher’s brake lines. She survived the fiery crash but ended up with quite a speech impediment.
He was in and out of group homes, juvenile halls, scared-straight programs, military academies. And none of them could set Zion straight. The harder they tried, the worse he got. He eventually broke out of a maximum security facility in Vermont, hiked for three days through dense forest, and became one of the most feared drifters in American history, murdering over fifty motorists in thirteen states.
His biggest mistake was getting caught in Florida where they handed out death sentences like they were going out of style. But Zion embraced the thought of death. He knew he was going to hell, and as a fanatical devil worshiper, he looked forward to sitting at the right hand of the Prince of Darkness. Together they would rule the underworld, and even if that meant having to endure everlasting torture, Zion would accept his fate. As long as it didn’t involve spiders.
And so, on Friday the thirteenth of March, at two in the afternoon, after a last meal of raw chicken livers, sheep’s eyes, and a Costco bag of Sour Patch Kids, the authorities strapped Zion to a table and pumped his veins full of sodium thiopental, pancuronium bromide, and potassium chloride. He had just enough time to ask, “Is that all you got!?!” before slipping into everlasting slumber.
The first thing that Zion found unsettling about Hell was the temperature. He thought his skin would be melting off his bones, but instead it was seventy-two with a pleasant breeze. Not a hint of Floridian humidity. He looked up and saw the most perfect billowy clouds. One looked like an ice cream cone. Another like a hot-air balloon. And the noise. That awful noise that could drive a man insane. The laughter of children.
It was then that he realized he was standing on a residential street in some soulless suburb bordering Anywhere, USA. The houses were identical with white picket fences, meticulously trimmed lawns, and picture windows framing picture-perfect living rooms.
Each cookie cutter house had a unique novelty mailbox to show the family’s individuality. One was a largemouth bass. Another was a garishly painted parrot. Zion’s feet started moving involuntarily as some unseen force pulled him down the sidewalk towards a mailbox shaped like…a Tupperware container?
Suddenly he found himself knocking on the front door. He caught a glimpse of himself in a window. Holy crap, he was wearing a cardigan. He used to murder people for wearing cardigans. What the hell was this place?
The door opened, and he was greeted by a woman with pineapple yellow hair and more clown makeup than John Wayne Gacy. Her bright pink sweater read “Eternal-Ware is Forever,” and under the comic sans font was a cartoon Tupperware container, winking at him.
“Oh, Zion! You are right on time!”
He was about to throttle the housewife for daring to speak his name, but instead he found himself hugging her. She smelled of baby powder and consumerism. He felt like throwing up.
Her name was Cheryl, and after pouring him a large cool glass of orange Tang, he found himself sitting in her living room with Karen, Carol, Kiki, and Cassie. The walls were lined with curio cabinets, and hundreds of Precious Moments figurines stared down at him in adorable judgment.
They sat around a coffee table piled high with plastic containers sporting the same enigmatic slogan “Eternal-Ware is Forever.” Zion was just about to go medieval on these housewives when one of them (Karen? Kiki? Who fucking knows?) popped a chocolate eclair in his mouth.
“Isn’t that mmmm mmmm mmmm good?”
She was feeding him. He tried to bite her finger off, but instead he found himself sucking on it. The housewives giggled and stuffed their faces with cookies, cannolis, and cream puffs. Their smacking lips and “nom nom” sounds were driving Zion crazy. He opened his mouth to tell them to “chew with their fucking mouths shut” but instead he heard himself say…
“Tell me every little detail about what your beautiful children have been up to.”
Cannolis? Cute kids? Chatty Cathys? This was worse than being disemboweled and forced to use his intestines as a jump rope. Much, much worse. Three hours later, they finally ran out of stories about their children, but then he heard himself asking…
“And what about your husbands?”
Another three hours and they finally got around to demonstrating Eternal-Ware. Zion had already decided he would buy the entire stock. No need for a sales pitch. No bartering. Just buy the food storage containers and get out of this house. But that’s when he heard Cheryl say: “And so it is my great pleasure to welcome Zion to the Eternal-Ware family. Starting immediately he will be selling Eternal-Ware for eternity.”
The room was spinning. The women were laughing. The Precious Moments figurines seemed to mock him. And when he finally got his bearings back, he found himself in another perfect little house, only this one had teddy bears staring down at him. He was sitting in Cheryl’s place, and four new but familiar housewives were introducing themselves. Laura, Lucy, Lillian, and Lyla.
“Good morning. My name is Zion, and I’m here to tell you about the wonders of Eternal-Ware. Would you be interested in purchasing…”
But they cut him off. The sales pitch could wait. First they wanted to gossip and eat with their mouths full and brag about their families.
Why rush when they had eternity?