Hello all : )
Imagine a world where the biblical concept of Hell is real. When you die, you are damned to a burning pit, cast into a lake of fire for all eternity.
St John told us that 'God is love', that he is compassionate and caring for his creation, but if this is true, how does the concept of Hell fit in to this? Surely if I have led a good life - been kind, charitable and humble I would deserve some reward in heaven? Do I deserve to be punished in the most horrible way possible for all eternity for not taking Sundays off and not accepting a man who lived thousands of years before my birth as my personal Saviour? Even still, if I have committed crimes in my life, surely the punishment is vastly out of proportion? Even if I sinned every minute of every day for my whole life, my life is finite, and so I can only commit a finite number of sins - so how can infinite punishment possibly be the actions of a just God?
So begins The problem of Hell.
This idea was the starting point for my novella 'The Children of Disobedience'. It follows our main character, Thomas, though his death, his journey through the bowels of Hell, and eventually his judgement at the hands of a higher power. This story will form part of a larger collection of stories which deal with the on-going debate about existence of God, which should hopefully be complete by this summer.
Part one of 'The Children of Disobedience' is below - please feel free to comment etc. and keep your eyes on the blog as I will be posting the subsequent parts in the following weeks.
Thanks for reading!
The Children of Disobedience - Part One
‘Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.’
- Ephesians 5:6
When he awoke it was dark – complete, all encompassing blackness. The sky (if it was even still there) was black and the sun had withdrawn. He didn’t feel right. He felt incomplete. As he patted himself down, he was certain that his body was there, but he felt somehow disconnected. The darkness enveloped him, suffocating him as he rose to his feet, waving his arms in front of himself, trying to work out the size of his enclosure. With the use of his eyes robbed from him, his other senses began to work overtime. Somewhere far in the distance he heard a low wail, like a wolf howling on a distant hilltop.
Suddenly, through the darkness there was a glint of light that was barely visible in front of him. As he edged closer, he strained to hear a barely audible whisper that was creeping through the black. Then he saw it again – a fleeting flash of sliver teeth through the vast charcoal emptiness.
‘Who is that?’ he asked, a rush of fear building in the pit of his stomach. ‘Who is that, out in the black? What is this place?’
There was no reply. Just the gentle hissing of incoherent whispering rippling through the air.
‘Show yourself, stranger,’ he pressed. ‘I know you’re there. I can feel you by my side. What is this dark prison? Why can’t I see?’
‘You will see once you are ready to open your eyes.’ The voice that replied was deep and shook him to his innards.
‘Who are you, faceless spectre? Why have you brought me here to this place? What do you intend for me?’
‘You brought yourself here.’ The booming voice spoke again. ‘Every decision you made, every road you travelled – they all brought you here.’
‘What is this pitch black eternity?’
‘It is just that – eternity.’
‘Have I died? Have I crossed over to the other place?’ As soon as those words crossed his lips, colours began to swim into view, and he blinked as a thousand shades of red and grey came bursting in to view. ‘I am beginning to see things… colours.’
‘Then you are ready.’
Slowly the colours began to turn into shapes, and as his eyes began to focus, he saw the world around him as he had never seen it before. Long ridges of blood red rock towered up on either side of him, winding down the sides of a long path that led downwards in to a deep dark unknown world. As he turned around, he saw his companion for the first time – a tall, shadowy cloaked figure who stood by his side, his silver teeth only just visible under his hood.
‘What manner of man are you,’ he asked, ‘that dwells in such an unforgiving place?’
‘I am no man.’
‘Then what are you? If you are not man, are you beast? What hides beneath those robes?’
‘I am neither man nor beast, alive nor dead. I am a member of the jury that will judge mankind.’
‘And me?’ he replied timidly. ‘Am I to be judged?’
‘All shall face judgement at the hands of their creator.’ The stranger’s voice shook him again.
As he looked despairingly towards his feet, he noticed something. On the right hand side of his stomach, there was a seeping crimson bloodstain, and he pulled his hand in, running his fingertips across the wound, and inspecting his stained fingers. Even though he could see and smell his own blood, and he could see the wound that cut deep in to his stomach, he felt no pain. He felt nothing. ‘I remember now,’ he said. ‘I was killed. I was shot in the stomach trying to defend my home. I have died – I have died and come to Satan’s lair.’
The cloaked stranger was silent, and he extended a long ash grey finger from the depths of his flowing cloak and pointed it in front of him, towards the man.
‘Shed your clothes,’ he growled in his deep, terrifying voice.
‘My clothes? But why?’
‘They serve no purpose in this place. Are you so ashamed of the man you are when you are stripped of your robes that you will not shed them? That was the sign of the very first disobedience.’
‘No man likes to be stripped of his clothes – exposed for all to see.’
‘Have you anything to hide?’ growled the stranger.
‘We all have our private shames.’
‘And they will be exposed. There will be no more secrets now. All that was hidden will be uncovered – every secret sin will be exposed. No man will hide from the truth in this place.’
And so he began to strip himself of his clothes, leaving them in a pile on the rocks next to where he stood.
‘Now you are unmasked,’ growled the stranger. ‘And all shall see the man that you really are.’
He stood naked and exposed before the stranger, still hiding his shame as best he could with his trembling hands. ‘What now? What is your intention, stranger?’
The cloaked stranger turned and slowly began to walk down the path in to the unknown. ‘Follow me.’
Slowly he began to follow his new companion, timidly trying to see past the long crimson ridges into the place to which they were heading. ‘What lies down that road?’ he piped quietly.
Suddenly the stranger stopped and turned around where he stood.
‘A dark place.’
* * * *
Some way down the path, he began to hear a noise coming from the dark distance. Long, low wails were drifting over the blood red crevasses and echoing through the thick, grey air. ‘Tell me stranger,’ he said, ‘what is that terrifying sound?’
‘That is the sound of darkness.’
‘Are we going into the darkness?’
‘Perhaps. But not now.’
And so they walked on in silence, listening to the hideous wailing that rose up from the distance. They followed the path down through the winding vein that was cut into the rock until they reached an opening, where the path widened and wound downwards towards a blood red river.
‘Is this the place I think it is?’ he asked timidly.
‘Where do you think we are?’ replied the stranger, looking straight ahead and continuing to move steadily.
‘Is this eternal damnation? Is this the place that was foretold in the holy books?’
The stranger stopped suddenly and glanced up for only a moment towards the endless grey clouds that hung overhead. ‘When Venus and his angels fell,’ he said, ‘this pit opened up to receive them.’
‘Have I fallen as they did?’
The stranger began to walk slowly again. ‘The pit isn’t closed. It remains open to beckon any man who does not watch his footsteps.’
‘So the holy texts were true.’
‘What reason have you to doubt the word of god?’
Soon they reached the bank of the red river, and as it gushed and swirled at his feet, he noticed something. Someway down the river, moored at its bank, sat a huge ship bobbing up and down with the river’s flow; its lifeless grey sails disappearing into the fog.
‘What is that ship in the distance?’ he asked.
‘That is the vessel that will guide you toward your final destination. Here is where you will wait for an audience with Venus.’
As he walked, two or three feet behind his companion towards the ship, he pointed towards the river. ‘The water,’ he asked, ‘why is it that colour?’
‘Because it isn’t water,’ growled his companion. ‘It is the blood and waste of the lost souls.’
Thirty feet or so from the ship, he noticed something on the riverbank. It was a man; he was gurgling in the black mud, grasping with all of his strength at the rocks by the river’s side, trying to pull himself up. The man was trying to speak – but he uttered only single, broken, incoherent words.
He jumped towards the riverbank and extended his hand towards the man. ‘Take my hand!’ he shouted. ‘I’ll help you out.’ He reached and reached but he could not make contact with the man.
The cloaked stranger watched from his side. ‘You cannot help him.’
‘I nearly have his hand!’
‘No one can save him. Not now; not for the rest of eternity. Only he could have done that. Leave the slothful glutton to his works.’
Still he tried to save the man, but each time he reached out his arm, he seemed to get further away. Finally, he realised that the stranger was right… he could not save him, so he gave up and left the man as he was instructed.
The stranger stopped as they began to walk up the gangplank towards the ship, and looked down at the man on the river bank. ‘He has found his fate,’ he said. ‘And it is a fate worthy of his sins. He decided upon a life of gluttony, now he must lie by the river bank for eternity and feast on rats and toads and snakes. He has found his fate just as you will find yours.’
Soon they reached the top of the gangplank and he looked out to see thousands of faces standing on the deck. They were crammed up as tightly as they could be packed. Thousands of fear stricken faces stared back at him and his companion, and the sound of weeping and wailing hit his ears like the crash of a cymbal.
‘Who are these wretched souls?’ he asked, his eyes and mouth hanging wide.
‘They are lost,’ growled the stranger, straining to be heard over horrifying wails. ‘They are seeking direction – and this is where they will find it.’
‘Tell me stranger… why are they so afraid?’
‘Why are you not?’
The cloaked stranger turned towards him and growled under his breath. ‘This is where we will part ways. You will wait aboard this ship until you are called – then we shall decide your final destination.’
‘But what shall I do until then? How long will it be until I am called? Tomorrow? Next week? In ten years time? You cannot leave me stranger!’
But his hooded companion had already begun to walk back down towards shore.
‘You will be called,’ he growled behind him.