I'm Going To Hell For Writing This

Of course, she had always expected to go to Hell. That part wasn't a surprise.

There was only so much you could write before you began making jokes about that. The sex scenes with their incredibly wordy descriptions of each steamy moment, the rapes, even the incest that somehow ended in siblings living happily ever after together – after writing a certain amount of it "…I'm going to Hell!" became an almost daily chant. Perhaps she'd never really meant it, had only said it half-jokingly, but then she died and it turned out it wasn't so much of a joke after all. In fact, as it turned out, there was a circle of Hell for people just like her.

It wasn't as she had thought it would be. She had always imagined little red devils, perhaps with pitchforks, and fire, and lots of heat.

But Hell was meant to be somewhere you learnt your lesson, somewhere you became ashamed of what you had done. How could fire make you ashamed? Whereas this.. this! She whimpered and tried to hide her eyes, tried to turn away from the sight but there was no escape. Around her she could hear the sobs of other writers in similar straits, all of them transfixed, none of them granted mercy.

No, no fire had greeted her on passing into hell, no torture, no demons. Something much worse had awaited her – watching the consequences of what she had created.

Legions of fans, robbed of their favourite author, made a dangerous mixture when combined with a publisher greedy for money. Robbed of their usual fix of smutty reading, the fans begged for more, and how could any publisher resist those pleading eyes, or the money clenched in those eager hands? Oh, they tried for a time, struggled to fob off demand with special editions and omnibuses, but over time even that was not enough.

And so here, she was treated to the Writer's Hell – a Hell no-one else would ever truly understand. There were no devils here to hurt her – hers were a different type of monster.

Here was The Bad Story Which Walks Again, the one which she knew had been a bad idea even when she wrote it, but had just had to get it out of her head. Hiding under her bed was the ghost of the bad grammar she used to know, in the years before she understood the proper use of apostrophes and grammar. Her nightmares were filled with bad spellings which she had been too vain to get corrected by an editor, her days by horrors of melodrama and angst which in her youth had seemed so original but now seemed simply tacky.

Stories live forever, but not so their authors. In her lifetime she had guarded such things with care, in case someone should somehow come across them and spill their dreadful secrets. In her death there was no-one left to guard them, no-one to prevent her publishers from ransacking her hard-drive and attic, pulling out the mistakes of youth and publishing them for all to see.

But even that was not enough for this Hell. Mortifying though that would be, it would not be enough alone for her to groan as she did, and sob, and beg for the horror to stop. If it were just that then perhaps over time she would have grown used to it, immune even, dismissing the stories as the mistakes of youth. Hell was not simply your worst and most embarrassing writing being held up to the light for all to see.

No. Hell was your most obsessive and faithful fans reading it and proclaiming it the best thing you had ever written. And that was a horror that would last forever.