Among the many failing industries during the Jurik Regime, science was the one facing the greatest extinction. The Juriks, who weaponized every aspect of the sciences, were determined to erase all remaining vestiges of study that was of no worth to them. This meant that psychology, unless in the form of mental damage to the enemy; biology, unless abused as biological warfare; geology; and astronomy were discarded, shutdown, and brought to their ends.
Among the many scientists and geniuses whose work was wrecked permanently, there was Harriet Narc, a formerly-renowned psychologist and philosopher who lived somewhere in Jurik-occupied Europe. On the day that his research facility was demolished by the Jurik work crew, he fell immediately into a deep and hopeless depression. His work, which was useless to the Juriks and therefore destroyed, was a study into whether anything remained after death. Although his results had been inconclusive at the time of his work's end, he strongly felt that he was nearing something that could change the world.
Fallen and without work, Harriet considered suicide. This was not only a last resort out of desperation, though — he knew that, if he wanted to find the true answer for at least himself, the solution was only one gunshot, knife wound, lethal injection, or fall down the stairs away from him. The temptation (and depression) was too great, so Harriet rummaged through a box containing the few things he'd saved from the ruined laboratory. A small syringe, filled with a sticky black liquid, was the only thing he had which he was confident could properly do the job.
Shakily, he stuck the needle into his wrist, but he hesitated to push the plunger. For a moment, he was terrified. Never had he faced a situation like this, but he also understood that it would be the first and last time. Even if there was nothing after death, he would never have to face this torture again. He pushed the plunger, and the black liquid death flowed into his veins. He felt it creep through his body, eating away at every living cell until it reached his brain and heart.
He stumbled forward and collapsed, lifeless.
Feeling quite hazy, he collected himself. There was only darkness around him, but far ahead, there was a bright light. His mind went to work without hesitation to put together the clues around him. What he saw and experienced was inexplicably similar to the common description of a "near-death experience," the subject of many of his experiments with various patients. He had never gotten so far as to actually draw conclusive evidence of real existence after death, however.
Harriet walked forward, his footsteps not making a sound. It was like he was walking on nothingness itself, because he could not feel the ground beneath his feet. He reached the source of the light, which was... surprisingly, what appeared to be an emergency light attached to a tiny section of plain brick wall, apparently suspended in the middle of nothing. Below the light, there was a decorative mahogany door. Harriet laughed a little, surprised at the frankly silly beginning of this. He opened the door eagerly, excited to see what was beyond.
Unfortunately, he was met with nothing but a small chamber that seemed to be a waiting room. It looked shockingly earthly and normal, and there was even a familiar blues tune playing from a radio sitting on the receptionist's desk. The carpet was the same deep red color as the door, but a long black and golden rug sat before the desk. A black-and-red sofa leaned against the wall — this was where things became notably unusual.
A black entity, fairly translucent, sat on the sofa. It looked like a shadow, or more descriptively, like a long sheet of fabric given shape. There were no limbs whatsoever, but two bright white orbs sat beside each other at the entity's uppermost portion. These, Harriet took to be the thing's eyes — at least, when the thing looked directly at him and the orbs narrowed analytically.
"Oh, another transfer," the thing spoke disgustedly. Its voice sounded like three or four voices of various pitches speaking in perfect unison.
A chill ran up Harriet's spine. It was alive, and sentient. He turned his attention to the receptionist for a moment and found that he seemed to be a perfectly normal elderly man, with a wispy, unkempt beard barely clinging to his chin. Harriet noticed one odd thing, and that was that the receptionist's irises were red like the carpet. Unnerved, Harriet awkwardly sat beside the black entity. Before he had a chance to think, the thing twisted strangely and faced him.
"You should take a number if you insist on waiting," the thing told him.
Harriet stared at the thing, "I beg your pardon?"
"You're a transfer." The thing leaned against the sofa casually, and an arm-like tendril grew from its side and clutched the armrest. "You came from Earth because your vacation is over. You need to take a number before you're redirected to any other place." The black thing pointed with its tendril arm to a small ticket dispenser at the receptionist's desk.
Harriet stood baffledly. Transfer? What did that mean? "Oh, thank you, er... sir?"
"Call me whatever you like," the shadow replied snidely.
Harriet wandered to the desk and extended a hand to the ticket dispenser, but there was no number ready to be taken. He was about to withdraw, but without warning something long and pink slid out from the dispenser and wrapped around his arm. Disturbingly, it was a long, wet tongue. Shocked, Harriet let out a fierce shout and tried to pull away, but the tongue held him back. The receptionist pulled a branding iron from somewhere beneath the desk and burned a number into Harriet's hand, provoking him to scream yet again.
When the number was in place, the tongue retreated. Harriet tumbled away and fell against the couch, and stared in utter horror at his hand. The number read 90,768.
"This is death?!" Harriet cried, unable to comprehend what was happening.
"Essentially, yes," said the shadow, sounding somehow proud of itself. "But you're still not seeing the whole picture, friend."
Harriet straightened himself and sat normally on the couch, glaring in bewilderment at the shadow, "What do you mean? I killed myself because I wanted to see what was after death. You... y-you see, I was a scientist, and all that."
There was the sound of tearing fabric, and a set of grinning teeth appeared in the air just above the shadow's head. Terrible laughter echoed in the small room, originating from the teeth. When the shadow spoke again, the teeth moved in unison with its words.
"This is what we call real existence, and you've been here before." The teeth grinned unnervingly. "You see, this is where everything originates. It is a horrible, despicable place, and everything here yearns to escape. That's what Earth is. It's the place where the lucky few of us go to escape the utter torment of this place. You, friend, have ended your vacation early by committing suicide, as you called it."
Harriet began to sweat uncomfortably, "But this place... It's only a waiting room! How can this be horrible?"
The teeth smiled even wider, and the shadow reached its tendril toward Harriet, "Do you want to see this room the way I do?"
Harriet stared at the sticky-looking tentacle that was only inches away from him. He wasn't sure if he did want to see this place the way the strange shadow saw it.
"Oh," the shadow said when Harriet didn't react, "where are my manners?"
On command of the shadow, four fingers and a thumb sprouted from the end of the tendril. It still didn't even come close to resembling a human hand, but it was much more tolerable than a featureless, somewhat pointed tentacle. Harriet slowly moved his left hand toward the black, slimy tentacle-hand before him. As soon as he touched it and closed his own fingers around it, he was repulsed — not by the sticky, disgusting feeling, but by something else entirely.
The walls fell away around him, revealing a truly enormous room that looked nothing like the quaint yet decorative waiting room in which he had been only seconds ago. The carpet was pure crimson, more closely resembling blood than the mahogany door (which itself was nowhere to be seen at this point). Thousands of sofas, benches, and chairs lined the seemingly-endless room, and each of them was occupied by an unspeakably hideous creature, all of which emanated the essence of nightmares. Tentacles thrashed about various individuals, yet still others shrieked, screamed, and roared from rapidly opening and closing mouths, whose teeth were long since chipped, broken, and bleeding.
When Harriet turned his attention to the shadow itself, he saw it in its true form. The grinning set of teeth were now in place on a malformed black head, whose face sported sunken eyeballs glowing with malevolent yellow light. Hundreds of miniscule tentacles clung to the sides of its head as a substitute for hair, and its body was no longer a shapeless black blob, but a disturbing contorted humanoid form, with red-tipped thorns poking up in sickening clusters comparable to pimples or sores.
Harriet, stricken with absolute horror, gasped, "W-what are... you?"
The shadow laughed in its many voices and retorted, "Why are you asking what I am, when you should be questioning yourself?"
Harriet, baffled, glanced down at his own body. Further adding to his terror, he found that he was nothing humanoid. Both of his arms (one of which still grasped the shadow's hand) were nothing more than long, scythe-like claws with a serrated edge, not unlike the blades of a mantis. Additionally, his body was multi-legged, and long hairs hung in messy clumps from the sides of his body, floating in the air and quivering and pulsing all on their own. Horrified, Harriet released his grip on the shadow's hand, and the room returned to the quiet waiting room that was so much more comforting.
The shadow was nothing more than its unintimidating (if eerie) amorphous form again, and Harriet was human like before. He dropped from the sofa and collapsed on the floor, gasping and wheezing. He turned back to face the shadow, still panicked. The teeth reappeared above it and laughed crazily.
"I hope you're not too eager to return to Earth," the shadow cackled, "because you're not going back for a long time."