Hello all, here is part two of a piece that I posted a few weeks back, 'The Children of Disobedience', which follows Thomas on his journey through the depths of Hell. To refresh yourself with the story, please see my post The Children of Disobedience - Part 1.
Enjoy, and as ever, thanks for reading!
The Children of Disobedience - Part Two
He clawed his way though the sea of twisted, tormented faces and tried to find a suitable place to stand. There was none, of course. Every inch of the ship’s deck was crammed with wretched, lost souls like himself. As he stood amongst them, he took a deep breath in and smelled the thick, fetid air. Suddenly, through the wailing, he heard a voice beside him.
‘It’s disgusting, isn’t it?’
He turned to see an old man sitting to his right who was looking at him. The man looked exhausted, his face completely colourless.
‘The air,’ continued the man.
‘What is that stench?’ he replied.
The man coughed, before rising to his feet and looking around him. ‘That is the stench of hell. And it never gets better. It keeps changing; every instant it turns in to a new reek, each more vile than the one that preceded it, so no matter how long you are immersed in it, your nose never gets used to it… you are always aware of it.’
‘How long have you been immersed in it, friend?’ he asked.
The old man looked around and coughed again. ‘I cannot say. Such thing as time does not exist in this place. There are no days and nights down here – that is a luxury that was saved for the righteous. I know it cannot be, but I feel like I have been here for eternity all ready. There is no sleep – no respite. Just waiting…’
‘Do you have a name, friend?’ he asked.
‘I did, once,’ replied the old man, ‘but names serve no purpose down here.’
‘And what did your name used to be?’
‘I was James, long ago,’ said the man.
Thomas perched as best he could next to James as the ship began to move, slowly but steadily underneath them.
‘Where are we going?’ asked Thomas.
‘Back into the darkness,’ coughed James. ‘Back where this ship has already been a thousand times before. It sails along the crimson river beneath us stopping at various ports on the way as it makes it’s descent into the abyss.’
‘And why do we stop? What happens at these ports?’
James looked at the ground and then back up at the thick grey clouds above him. ‘People come… and go. Those creatures…’ he nodded towards a hooded figure standing at the edge of the deck, ‘...when the ship docks, they walk off into the red mountains and return with more people like you and I. And they bring them here, stripped naked to the deck of this ship to await judgement.’ James looked around at the sea of tormented faces and sighed a long, pained sigh. ‘And some people go. When they have faced judgement, they depart at the chosen dock… where they will find the punishment that is appropriate for their earthly sins.’
‘And that will happen to all of us?’
‘All that was once man will soon be dust. This was the Lords plan all along.’
Thomas’s eyes caught sight of a young girl, a few feet across from him, sitting on the deck. She was weeping and wailing into her hands and repeating over and over some words that he could not understand.
‘Who is that child? Why does she weep so?’ he asked the old man.
‘That child?’ he replied, nodding towards the girl. ‘She took the wrong path. Only one faith can truly follow the word of God… only one faith is the righteous one. She was born into the wrong one.’
The girl repeated the same incoherent sentences again and again.
‘Hour on end she sits there, weeping and repeating the doctrine that her parents taught her so well – she prays that this is a test of faith… that the true God will rescue her from this sinner’s hell.’
‘But she is only a child,’ replied Thomas. ‘How great can her sins be that she has earned a place in this fiery eternity?’
‘She was taught the wrong things by the only people she could trust. That is her only crime.’
‘But what kind of God would make that judgement?’
‘The only God there is.’
Thomas began to push his way through the sea of people towards the girl, his fatherly instincts suddenly bursting to the surface. He wanted to comfort the girl… what sins could she have committed?
As he struggled through the weeping, terrified souls towards the girl, there was suddenly a commotion off to his right and he stopped and turned to see what it was. A man was climbing the railing at the ship’s edge and stood up straight for only a moment before diving off the side in to the blood red river.
Thomas turned around and looked back towards James who had caught sight of the man too. ‘He escaped!’ he shouted. ‘He jumped over the side of the ship!’ He pushed his way back towards his companion. ‘He has escaped… there is hope!’ he shouted. ‘If he can do it, then we all can, James!’
James was not moved by his enthusiasm. ‘Where will he go?’ he said.
‘He will swim to freedom!’ replied Thomas, a feeling of hope creeping through him. ‘He will escape this place. He has escaped!’
‘Where can he go? He will wash up on the riverbank like all the rest. Then they will bring him back. He could jump off the ship a hundred times… a thousand times, and it wouldn’t make any difference. There is no escape from this hell.’ James coughed and looked up through black, exhausted eyes. ‘There is no escape – you can be quite sure of that. Our Lord made it so.’