Hell Followed with Us

Hell Followed with Us

Andrew Joseph White


If you set a fire, you’re going to inhale some smoke. I’m all for setting fires and burning whatever will catch flame, but I encourage you to be careful when you pour the kerosene.

This book contains depictions of graphic violence, trans-phobia, domestic and religious abuse, self-injury, and attempted suicide.

Hell Followed with Us is a book about survival. It is a book about queer kids at the end of the world trying to live long enough to grow up. It is a book about the terrible things that people do in the name of belief and privilege. So if any of the topics above will burn you, I respect your decision to step away. Actually, I admire you—I’ve never been so careful.

But if you’ve stepped even closer, close enough that you can feel the heat on your cheeks…

I wrote this book for a few reasons: Because I wanted more stories about boys like me. Because I was angry. Because I still am. But mainly, I wanted to show queer kids that they can walk through hell and come out alive. Maybe not in one piece, maybe forever changed, but alive and worthy of love all the same.

That’s what you’ll find here. Terrible things, survival, love, and a future worth fighting for.

Sharpen your teeth, take up your fire, and let’s do this.



And thus the LORD spoke to us—for again we have failed Him, again He regrets His creations, so again the earth must flood! And we have done His holy work, amen!

—High Reverend Father Ian Clevenger, before releasing the Flood virus on Times Square Be not afraid.

—Joshua 1:9, King James version

You will return to the earth for out of it you were taken; for from dust you were made and to dust you will return.

—Angel prayer

Here’s the thing about being raised an Angel: You don’t process grief.

Grief is a sin. Loss is God’s design, and to mourn the dead is to insult His vision. To despair at His will is sacrilege. How dare you betray His plan by grieving what was always His to take? Unfaithful, disgusting heretic, you should be hung from the wall so the nonbelievers will know what’s coming for them. Romans 6:23—for the wages of sin is death.

So the image of Dad’s body burns into the folds of my brain, writes itself between the grooves of my fingerprints, and I swallow it down until I choke. Angels cut out the parts of us that remember how to cry until we can’t. We learn to mask the grief, to pack it away for later, later, later, until eventually we just die.

The way I see it, I don’t have to worry. If the Angels get their way, all this grief will be His problem soon enough. And if they don’t—

God, please don’t—

I’m running. Dad’s blood is in my mouth. Brother Hutch shot him once in the chest to stop him and once in the head to kill him. Brother Hutch calls for me, “We can do this the easy way, we really can!” The other Angels sweep the riverfront, shining white in the blazing February sun, moving slow and sure through the streets. They don’t have to be quick. They know they’ll catch me eventually.

One sixteen-year-old boy against a death squad of Angels? I’m doomed.

I crash to a stop behind a stone pillar by the riverbank and double over to gasp for air. My hair sticks to my forehead in a slurry of sweat and blood—Dad’s blood—drying on my face and hands. My lungs burn. I can’t tell if the roaring in my ears is my heartbeat or the river.

Dad’s gone. He’s dead, he’s dead, he’s dead.

“Please, God,” I whisper before I can stop myself. What makes me think He’s going to answer me now? “Please give me something, anything—”

“Sister Woodside!” Brother Hutch cries. “Your mother is worried about you! She wants her daughter to come home.”

The first thing Dad told me—when Mom said I’d see the Lord’s plan for my womanhood eventually, that she’d carve it into me if she had to—he told me I’m a man, and I fought for it, and nobody can take that from me.

Open your eyes. Breathe. Pull it together, Benji, pull it together.

The death squads haven’t gotten me yet.

I can finish what Dad started.

I can get out of Acheson, Pennsylvania.

I peek from behind the pillar to look down the street. The riverfront district was probably beautiful before Judgment Day. Before the Flood hit. Now, ivy climbs up glass skyscrapers and cars rust in parking-lot graveyards. Lawns and gardens have gone wild, smothering everything they can reach. Flowers bloom in February. It’s one of the few good months for flowers. They’ll die of thirst by April.

But I don’t see any Angels. Not yet.

Brother Hutch shouts to the heavens, “We don’t want to hurt you, we don’t.”

The only way in or out of southern Acheson is the bridge—the one bridge the Angels didn’t destroy on Judgment Day. It’s just half a block from me. With the death squads closing in and the bridge guards called away to join the hunt, this is my only shot.

I was supposed to do this with Dad. We were supposed to leave Acheson together. We were supposed to make it to Acresfield County together. Now he’s a corpse in the lawn of a crumbling hotel, brains soaking into the dirt, returning to earth for out of it he was taken.

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