Marginalia, no.32

Its passage was lit by the usual lamps.

~ John Collier, Halfway to Hell

Several of Collier’s stories were adapted for Alfred Hitchcock Presents and he was an inspiration for Rod Serling, which is obvious enough after you’ve read some Collier for yourself.  In this particular story (collected in Fancies and Goodnights), the hero, Louis, commits suicide in a hotel room near Piccadilly Circus.  But rather than melting into a desired oblivion, he finds himself still conscious – dead, but self-aware and able to move spectrally about, invisible to the living.  He steps out for a walk and is accosted on the street by a devil who announces his intention of delivering him to hell.  Louis manages to distract the devil with liquor, and comedic adventures follow.  But at one prickly point in the story, when the devil drags him down into the Piccadilly Circus tube station, Louis catches sight of an escalator shaft he’d never noticed before.  It’s down this that the souls of the departed and their fiery escorts make a long final descent.  The shaft appears bottomless and has an odd reek of sulphur about it, but is nonetheless “lit by the usual lamps” – the same as one finds in any other tube shaft.  Which seems right: hell would have to be as mundane as that.

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