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Hell Is Lonely

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"What is hell? Hell is oneself.
Hell is alone, the other figures in it
Merely projections. There is nothing to escape from
And nothing to escape to. One is always alone."
Edward Chamberlayne, The Cocktail Party

Hell can be depicted in many ways, and a lot of authors love to get creative with Fire and Brimstone Hell or Ironic Hell punishments. However, even the worst of that can be endured if only you have someone to share your misery with...

Unless you don't.

Sometimes, one of the key parts (or even the key part) of Hell is loneliness. Maybe the sinner gets a Personalized Afterlife, or maybe it's simply impossible to see other people through all the fire and brimstone around. Either way, the sinner has to endure his torments in total solitude, forever.

When portrayed, it is usually shown to be a much harsher punishment than the actual physical torments (and, indeed, the physical torture can be absent entirely). Go Mad from the Isolation might very well be a possibility. If another character passes by on an Afterlife Tour, the sinner is often delighted to have someone to talk to. If the sinner wishes for companionship more than for any personal comfort, it may be a sign that Deliverance from Damnation is in store for them.

Contrast Together in Death and You Are Worth Hell. See also The Nothing After Death, where the afterlife is featureless but not necessarily lonely.


Examples:

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    Fan Works 
  • In The Fairy Sapphire, the worst afterlife punishment for a sinner is endlessly falling into an abyss, all alone. If the sinner has enough goodness left in them to trigger a Heel Realization, they are able to join the good souls in the heavenly ancestors' abode — even though they remain decrepit and ugly, at least they have the company of others. Lady Marguerite's mother managed to stop her fall and get herself to the abode after she saw her saintly daughter's ascent and felt remorse for abandoning her, but Peter Pan is still enduring his punishment the last time he's mentioned.
  • The Peace Not Promised: The first thing Severus Snape becomes aware of after his death is a blank white void. He assumes that it's a personalised hell. (Fortunately for him, it's merely the Afterlife Antechamber.)
    He couldn't think of a worse eternity than to be in a place devoid of all mental stimulation or distraction. Alone with only his thoughts.
  • Pony POV Series: In Dark World, Applejack believes this is what Hell is like after her encounter with the Father of All Alicorns, which she brings up to Angry Pie during their fight.
    Applejack: Ah've…Ah've seen. A great Big Alicorn Guy showed me; no bluff. The warm light at the end...it ain’t ​a payoff, i​t's a 'welcome home' present. And the other place ain't a 'penalty' for failin' a test score, it's the coldness and loneliness outside that light. And Ah ain't forgot the here and now! Ah'm tryin' to make this world a better place for everyone here! And it ain't WHAT'S waitin' for me! It's W​HO'S​ waitin' for me!
  • In the Torchwood fanfic Waiting for You, Ianto wakes up in an afterlife consisting of himself alone in the Hub, and ends up believing that he is being punished for his actions in life. In truth, he actually is in Heaven: he's meant to share his Personalized Afterlife with his soulmate, but that soulmate turns out to be Jack.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Rapture: The final scene shows the prophesied Rapture happening, with Sharon and Foster vanishing from the world and reappearing in a dark void (it's unclear whether it's Hell or Purgatory). Despite her daughter Mary's pleading to join her in Heaven, Sharon refuses to overcome her Crisis of Faith and renounce her resentment toward God, leaving her alone in the void.

    Literature 
  • In Dimon by Fr. Alexander Torik, it is specifically mentioned to be the punishment for:
    • Idle talkativeness. Sinners wander aimlessly in a fog, trying and failing to find someone to talk to (and unable to listen to others, should they even manage to encounter anyone else).
    • Greed. Sinners are given a mountain of treasure, and nothing else, meaning no human interaction. The sinner Dimon encounters hasn't yet realized the trap.
    • Hoarding. Like in case of greed, sinners are given a world where they can get any material treasure they want, but they cannot interact with each other. After the glamour of being able to hoard all they like wears off, they get desperately lonely. Here, Dimon meets a woman who has been there for a long time, and she laments her desperate state to him.
  • In The Divine Comedy, the Ninth (and lowest) Circle of Hell has sinners frozen in ice separately from each other. In the first two rings, it's possible to have two sinners frozen together — if they were mortal enemies in life, that is — but in Ptolomaea (people with only their faces exposed from the ice) and Judecca (people encased completely in ice), it's absolutely impossible to have even that kind of companionship.
  • In The Great Divorce, the residents of Hell are so quarrelsome that most of them move further and further away (the distances measuring light years) from their neighbors. The loneliness is part of their torment, but most of them are too unwilling to let go of their vices to do anything about it.
  • In My Posthumous Adventures, in the lower regions of Hell, people don't even remember anyone who isn't addressing them directly, and, despite being grouped together, only ever look out for themselves. We only see two exceptions — one of a Happily Married couple who stayed together in Hell and still loves each other despite the wife having ascended to Paradise and the husband refusing to, and a less happily married but still loving couple who also stay together and look out for each other (and even then, in their case, it takes fervent prayers of a good friend on Earth for them to come to it).
  • Neil Gaiman's short story "Other People" has a man find himself in Hell alongside a demon who warns him that "Time is funny here." before torturing him and making him admit to truths and consequences that he would have admitted in life, with the demon always seeming to know when he's lying. The demon is described as having been scarred and flayed at some point, and then, when the torture is over, the demon vanishes, and the narrator finds himself alone in the room he'd entered, until the door opens, and he sees a man in a business suit enter, and it all becomes clear to him, as he tells the man, "Time is funny here." The implication is that he is to spend all of eternity torturing and being tortured by himself.
  • Warrior Cats: The Place of No Stars, also known as the Dark Forest, is introduced as a creepy, black, prey-less forest where evil warriors are condemned to wander alone. When Darkstripe meets up with Tigerstar there, Tigerstar dismisses him and insists they need to be apart. This aspect is quickly dropped; soon after, the cats of the Dark Forest act as an evil army, training together and planning to conquer the Clans — even back in the past.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Heathers (2018): The show ends with the school blowing up and everyone who died attending a prom in Heaven, except Veronica and JD who are locked out and unable to see, hear, or speak to anyone—even each other—for all eternity as punishment for the murders they committed.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959): In "A Nice Place to Visit", one of the first hints that something's not quite right with Rocky's afterlife is when he asks to see the rest of his gang and is told it's impossible and the afterlife is entirely his own. The only living being besides Rocky is Pip, who turns out to be a demon, and everyone else (beautiful girls, casino croupiers, taxi drivers, etc.) are literal Living Props.
  • In the The Twilight Zone (1985) episode "The Kentucky Rye", a drunk driver hits another man on the road, killing both men (although the drunk driver doesn't know this until the end of the episode). The driver enters the Kentucky Rye bar and thoroughly enjoys himself, to the point that the owner convinces him to buy the bar. After he does, he passes out, waking up an untold amount of time later to find that, in actuality, the bar has been abandoned for years. The ghost of the drunk driver's victim tells him the truth about what's happened. The bar's owner (implied to be a demon that he's sold his soul to) laughs at him, telling him that the bar's all his... forever.

    Mythology & Religion 
  • Christianity: In the Sacred Tradition, there is a story of St. Macarius the Great. He once found a skull in the desert and talked to the soul that previously lived in that body; turned out it was a pagan priest who thanked St. Macarius for his prayers — usually, he explained, it's impossible to see the other souls in Hell, but when St. Macarius prays for them, he and his friends are able to see each other.

    Webcomics 
  • I'm the Grim Reaper: The 9th circle of Hell is an endless realm of void, so each and every 9th-level sinner spends all of eternity with nothing but their thoughts.
  • Wilde Life: A woman who had sold her soul to the Satanic Archetype Sheol says that he swallowed her up into a place where she's always alone, only letting her out now and then as a Hope Spot for his entertainment.
    "I can tell I'm not the only one there, but I can never find anyone else. It's just the quiet..."

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