A Hell of a Day
'Come on Down!'
No Way Back
'Fancy seeing you here,' said a voice behind him.
'Yes, I suppose it was inevitable really,' John replied, as he shrugged his shoulders and resigned himself to his fate. 'And to think we actually had to queue to get in!'
But Could There be an Exit Strategy?
A tall, cloaked figure, dressed in black was there to guide them; it was none less than the grim reaper himself, scythe poised, knowing John and his friend had no choice but to follow. 'Memento Mori,' he said mournfully, as his bones, denuded of all flesh, rattled beneath his sombre cloak. 'Remember, you must die.'
The Forever Elusive Pearly Gates Shone White and Misty Above the Inferno
Speechless - for what was the point in protesting? John did as he was instructed. Countless others shared his unenviable destiny; they too could never retrace their steps, into the world they had left behind.
The hapless duo was led towards a place of eternal damnation where doomed souls were being tortured before their very eyes. A malodorous stench of death hung heavily in the air as they wound their way through twisting labyrinths, down into the final abyss, the realm of the dead. A skeletal figure, enmeshed in dusty cobwebs, brushed against John's shoulder making his flesh recoil at its monstrous touch. Looking the very harbinger of Mephistopheles himself, the skull stared menacingly at him out of two cavernous sockets where the eyes should have been. 'As you are, I once was, and as I am so you will become,' it warned icily, through clenched teeth, chilling John to the very core. Apart from the faint glow of flaming torches hanging from the labyrinth walls, the bleached whiteness of the skeleton's molars and picked-clean bones was the only stark contrast amidst the perpetual darkness.
'I wish we could go back,' John's companion gasped in dismay, still a few paces behind him, but he was rebuked by several demonic laughs nearby.
'You cannot go back, it is not possible,' the reaper informed him gravely, as he pointed to a sign on the dimly lit walls.
Bats screeched devilishly above John's head, causing another lost soul beside him to let out an eerie, blood-curdling scream.
'There will be a weeping and a wailing and a gnashing of teeth,' shrieked the reaper with a sardonic laugh as he wielded his scythe high in the air for extra emphasis. 'You will be judged according to your works and cast down into an unfathomable lake of liquid fire and sulphur, into the bottomless pit, from which there is no escape, and the unquenchable flames and smoke will consume you forever and ever.'
It all sounds like something out of a Dave Allen sketch, thought John, wishing he'd bothered to study The Bible more often. This place was certainly a revelation though. He'd never given much thought to Hell before. Who does? After all, no-one really expects to end up there - do they?
People's perceptions of Hell differ, just as their expectations of Heaven. Some even believe this existence to be Hell. Why was it all so misleading and confusing? John didn't even know what brimstone was, but it looked as if he was soon to find out.
To his right, a monstrous rat scurried away with a mouthful of grisly entrails and a hideously disfigured entity tried desperately to remove the worms feeding on its dismembered flesh. On his left were yet more irredeemable souls, lamenting piteously for lives long lost but not forgotten, bearing their anguish to time indefinite. Rattling the chains of their incarceration, they pleaded continuously for release from their everlasting punishment. None came. Instead, more fiend incarnates were sent to persecute them, a constant reminder of the paradise they had forfeited.
There were no redeeming features about this place, it was about as far from St. Peter and the proverbial pearly gates as anyone could get. Wasn't there an old film called: 'Where Angels Fear to Tread?' John asked himself. Well, there would be no self-respecting seraphim or cherubim found in this unholy place! This was the great divide, a yawning gulf that separated the godly from the wicked.
John's present surroundings made him ponder deeply about his life: I haven't been that sinful have I? Surely I don't deserve to be sent somewhere like this? I'm no saint, admittedly, but I haven't been evil either. Maybe there's a special place for people like me; neither good nor bad. Don't they call it Limbo or something? Yes, I'm sure I'll be let off the hook when it comes to the crunch. Okay, so I've cooked the books now and again at the insurance company where I work and I've cheated on my wife a bit too. But I've always given her my gold card to use whenever she goes shopping to Harvey Nichols - surely that's been more than enough to compensate for a few minor indiscretions?
'For this is your just reward,' the reaper continued with his morbid diatribe, jolting John back to reality as some disembodied spirit started to hover above his head, cackling fiendishly. Perhaps it was Lucifer, the very epitome of evil himself.
Maybe I should try to bargain with him like Dr Faustus, John wondered. But then he saw another sign:
'ABANDON HOPE ALL YE WHO ENTER HERE'
He realised it would be futile - rearrange the words but the message remains the same.
A leper with one side of his face consumed by his malady, beckoned to John, as a green, slimy substance emanated from his suppurating boils. Reaching out to him, he tried to tear at his skin with claw-like nails, as if to pollute him with the same terrible affliction. Nauseated, John flinched away, but there were more gruesome sights yet to behold.
An impaled head, the eyes plucked out by searing talons and its lifeblood still dripping from ruptured vessels, became carrion for a huge raven-like bird. An ashen corpse could be seen rising up from its coffin in the centre of a dismal necropolis, while shadowy spectres wailed in an inharmonious moribund chorus. Leaping out from upturned tombs, they summoned him to participate in their unholy rites. John heard another discordant dirge coming from a macabre organ without a player, the keys depressed by some unseen hand. So this is Purgatory, Hades, Tartarus or whatever one cares to call it, all rolled into one, he mused.
Trying to envision Heaven in a vain attempt to block out the horrendous sights before him, he found himself longing for those sweet fields of Elysium, an eternal paradisical existence - and salvation. And why oh why, he wondered, if God was so all-forgiving and loving did there have to be a place as abominable as this?
A horned, satanic-looking creature complete with forked tail, attempted to prod John savagely with a pitchfork, urging him forever forwards. How much more of this desolation would he be forced to see? He was tempted to cover his eyes but if he did, he knew that he would stumble in the darkness and be trampled underfoot by those behind him.
'Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death...' somebody recited nearby. Clutching a cross that hung on a chain around his neck, he pressed it desperately to his lips.
'Bit too late for praying now, mate,' John observed dryly.
Imagine your most terrifying nightmares; they were all here amidst the carnage of this godforsaken place, this dominion of the damned, where misery and malevolence reign supreme.
John and his companion were afraid, but both were reluctant to show it in case the wicked, little devils running at their heels would torment them all the more. Watching in utter repugnance, John cringed as a blood-spattered executioner dragged a gory cargo of severed heads to a pit of hungry wolves and tossed them remorselessly over the edge. Howling relentlessly, their appetite insatiable, the ferocious beasts barred their razor-sharp fangs as they began to devour putrefying scraps of human flesh. A partially-masked vampire sank his teeth into the neck of some hapless victim, his pallid complexion a shocking comparison to his blood-red lips. He grimaced maliciously at John and his companion as they hurried past. Then slowly opening his cloak, like some perverted exhibitionist, he revealed the remains of a blood-stained stake that protruded from a gaping wound in his gangrenous torso.
Just then, as John began to think he could bear no more, a small warm hand, the lifeblood still coursing through it, searched for his in the murky darkness. And a shrill little voice piped up: 'Daddy... I don't like it here anymore... please can we go on the roller coaster now?'
'Of course son, it won't be much longer; I can see the EXIT sign,' John replied. Turning around, he pointed to the man behind him, 'look who's here! It's Mr Evans from down the road. He's brought his kids along to the theme park too. Perhaps we can all go and buy some popcorn and have lunch together by the boating lake afterwards.'
Versions of Hell
More Different Beliefs of Hell
© 2015 Stella Kaye