This story was inspired by our apartment neighbor who smokes in the stairwell frequently. The smell of his cigarette smoke leaking into our bedroom combined with the daily prompt about beliefs brought this story to my fingertips.
Young-jin smoked in the stairwell of apartment building 105, screeching the window open on the landing between the fifth and fourth floors. He inhaled and blew out slowly, watching the stream of smoke dissipate into the hazy night. His lungs rattled as he breathed.
His wife told him that vices were a sure way into Hell, but he didn’t believe in such things. Heaven and Hell, that is, not vices. He exhaled again, his breathe easier, but thick.
Vices, those were believable. He could feel the calmness a cigarette brought his nerves or the way the soju bottle erased the grating, nagging sound of his wife’s voice from his brain. Hell though, that seemed pretty ridiculous to him, though not half as unbelievable as Heaven. His wife was always going on and on about a virtuous life, living without vices and sin, the footsteps to God’s Golden Gates and a life of eternity at His side.
Young-jin lite another cigarette.
Given the choice between them, Young-jin knew he’d take Hell.
His chest constricted, his lungs rebelling at the second cigarette. He took another puff.
If he believed in such things, that is. What was the point of Heaven if the things that brought him comfort in this grey, hazy world were forbidden for eternity? What sort of paradise was that? Young-jin figured Satan wouldn’t care if he smoked cigarette after cigarette or drank soju until he passed out in his own puke, just as long as he remained in the fires. He’d be sure to scream periodically, just to keep up Satan’s reputation. Wouldn’t want the Believers to know that Hell wasn’t as bad as those missionaries led them to think.
“Young-jin!” his wife didn’t even have to open their door for her voice to find him. It sounded like a howl when she said his name. “Yoounngg-jjiiinnn! They’ll be here any minute! Get in here.”
He inhaled one last time and set the cigarette butt, still smoldering, on the window ledge. His lungs wheezed painfully as he climbed the seven stairs to their apartment. Sixty cigarettes left, he figured. At this rate, he’d be in the fires sooner than later, and that was just fine with him.