. The Number 192: Inside the Floor in which we encounter a vision of Hell ’Twas on the 192 at Tottenham Hale, It happened not so many years ago, A certain Mr. George Arbuthnot Dale Experienced a bout of vertigo. While standing on the lower deck as usual He thought he saw a face inside the floor. Though others present claimed he’d been delusional The truth of this account he fiercely swore. The face had stared at him in utter sorrow, Revealing an infinity of pain; The bus’s floor indeed it seemed was hollow, And this was Hell he’d steadfastly maintain. He’d looked behind the face and seen a stairway Which seemed to spiral endlessly below. The stairway acted like a kind of causeway And all around he saw a sulphurous glow. As far as he could see the way descended To ever deeper realms of hellish fire, And on and on it went and never ended: A world compressed in space and yet entire. And as he looked, he saw there other creatures: Some human, others of a different kind, And these possessed bizarre and hideous features The which he’d never seen among mankind. They seemed to gaze at him with quiet interest As though examining an alien being; And all were Hell’s inhabitants he witnessed And spirits of the damned he now was seeing. Then one began to move in his direction And offer him a friendly scaly hand: It seemed to signal kindness and affection, Inviting him to try this hidden land. At this the human face appeared to panic--- It stared and seemed to shake its head in warning! And in its eyes he noticed something manic And something else resembling endless mourning. But what occurred next seared his mind forever. Its gullet now the demon opened wide, And there he saw what caused in him such terror As words could never properly describe. It showed a world of utter desolation Where only hopelessness and sorrow breathed: A world outside this beauteous Creation For which eternally it longed and grieved. Foul tortures worse than humans have invented And things more terrifying than Man has seen The gaping demon then to Dale presented, That witnessed once could never be unseen. Machinelike structures of colossal size It showed being filled with throngs of rotting souls, Which, loudly grinding, these would liquidise Before excreting them through jagged holes. And in this form the damned would rot together In Hell where all are dead and no one cries; Now all as one and one as all forever: A heaving soup of torsos, limbs and eyes. Yet even while it showed him this it gestured, Still motioning him to join it there below, While yet more multitudes he saw there festered As still more horrors yet it put on show. But suddenly the awful vision vanished, And George Arbuthnot Dale saw nothing more. He woke distraught, all joy forever banished, And lay a stricken figure on the floor. . . Paul Martin Freeman is an art dealer in London. His recent book, A Chocolate Box Menagerie, is published by New English Review Press on whose website an earlier version of the current poem first appeared. “The Number 192: Inside the Floor” is from The Bus Poems: Tales Sacred and Profane, currently in preparation.