Sunday, September 08, 2019

Journey out of Hell


Erik, Derek, and Kyle were college students and roommates. All three were preacher's kids who lost their faith the first year of college. There they discovered each other and moved into the same dorm room. Kyle and Erik were hedonistic atheists. They spouted atheist tropes, catchy quips, and witty one-liners. Theirs was a chic, hipster brand of atheism. 

But Derek was different. Derek was hardcore. He needed something stronger than atheism. He graduated to nihilism, but that wasn't enough. He hated everything Christianity stood for. He found that he needed something stronger than nihilism. He needed a cause. So he graduated from nihilism to Satanism and witchcraft. Unlike atheists, he didn't want God not to exist. To the contrary, he wanted God to exist. If God existed, that meant Satan existed, and Derek wanted to be on the enemy side. Kyle and Erik could never figure out the source of his pathological antipathy to the faith. 

Derek had a miniature Baphomet in their dorm room. Kyle and Erik couldn't bring themselves to take it seriously. They hung underwear and jockstraps on the Baphomet, which enraged Derek. He organized a Black Mass and invited them to attend. For them it was too extreme. Things were getting out of hand. 

Derek began casting spells. At first, Kyle and Erik thought it was a lark…until bad things happened to teachers and students Derek hexed. That's when it got scary. They wanted to break off their friendship with Derek and kick him out of their dorm room but by then they were afraid of him. He was dangerous to be with, but more dangerous to snub. 


Erik woke up late on Saturday, after a wild party the night before. Kyle and Derek were still asleep. He went over to the window and peered through the blinds. That was strange. It ought to be broad daylight but it looked like twilight. He rechecked the time on his cellphone, then double-checked the time on Kyle and Derek's cellphones. Something was really off. 

He woke them up. They dressed, went outside. The campus was deserted. They consulted their cellphones for news, but the Internet was dead. 

Erik went back into the dorm and knocked on doors. No one answered so he began to open doors, but all the rooms were vacant. Erik then went back to their room to fetch his jacket when he saw a backpack in the corner. He didn't remember seeing it there before. He unzipped it and looked inside. It contained silver crosses, Aaron's rod, and the armor of salvation: a sword, shield, belt, helmet, and winged sandals. He remembered that from the book of Ephesians. 

So he took the backpack. They piled into Kyle's car and got onto the freeway. But the freeway was deserted. At this point Erik figured he must be dreaming. This was a lucid dream. It couldn't be real. Problem is, even if it was a dream, it was indistinguishable from reality. Erik never had a dream before that felt this real. It was uncanny and unnerving. 

They kept driving until sinkholes began to open up in front of them. It was too hazardous to keep driving so they got out of the car and headed for a strip mall. On the way, Kyle fell into a sinkhole. It was like fifty feet deep. Erik pulled the belt out of the backpack. It was ridiculously short for the purpose, but when he lowered it to Kyle, the belt miraculously elongated. Erik and Derek then pulled Kyle out of the sinkhole. 

At the strip mall they found an elevator. They went inside and pushed the button for the next floor.


They stepped out into San Francisco. Once again, it was dark except for garish street lights. Everyone there was naked, and their heads were on backwards. And if that wasn't bad enough, they all had snake eyes. 

The dream–if that's what it was–was becoming nightmarish, even hellish. In hell, damned humans and demons had snake eyes. All the old-timers had snake eyes. Some of the newcomers developed snake eyes after they became acclimated to hell. The longer in hell they were, the more hellish they became. Some newcomers were already so diabolical that they had snake eyes the moment they crossed over. 

And another thing: it was always dark in hell. Usually night. The brightest it got was a polar twilight, but the sun never rose above the horizon. 

The sodomites noticed the new arrivals and began to surround them. Erik pulled the helmet out of the backpack, which made the three of them invisible. They kept on walking until they found another elevator. If this was hell, then the way out was the way up–assuming there was a way out. 


They stepped out into a cemetery. Indeed, it was so vast in all directions that it was more like a necropolis. As they walked they hard faint sounds that were hard to make out. It then occurred to them that the sounds were coming from under their feet. They stopped at some of the graves and put their ear to the ground. They heard people pounding and screaming inside the coffins. Using Aaron's rod for torchlight, they read names on some of the tombstones, like Harry Blackmun, Bultmann, Feuerbach, Freud, Hume, Mao, Marx, Muhammad, Nietzsche, Bertrand Russell, Margaret Sanger, Sartre, Joseph Smith, Socinus, Swedenborg, Stalin, and Voltaire. They then resumed walking until the found an elevator in mausoleum. 


They stepped out into barren valley with a volcano lighting up the sky. Rivers of fire flowed from the volcano. It rained flaming snowflakes from the sky. They turned around to duck inside the elevator for shelter, but it had disappeared. Erik pulled a shield from the backpack and used it to protect them from the flaming snowflakes. But it rained down on the bare skin of the damned, leaving seared patches. Yet their skin healed in a matter of minutes. 

The three kept walking until they found another elevator. And a paradoxical elevator it was. Not set into a wall or tower, but just a box with nothing above it. Yet when they stepped inside and pushed the button, it took them up to the next story. 

The control panel always had just two buttons: the story where they entered and the next story where the exited. You could go up, but you couldn't go down. You could only go up one story at a time. And it always disappeared after they stepped outside. 


This time they stepped out onto a wasteland. The damned were wandering about while giant insects like hornets stung them from above, centipedes and praying mantises ate them alive, and fire ants swamped over their naked bodies. Yet after each ordeal, their bodies regenerated, only to repeat the process. It took the sword and shield for Erik, Derek, and Kyle to ward off the giant insects until they were able to escape into another elevator–like a box standing incongruously in the middle of nowhere. 


They emerged on a riverbank. They got into a boat and began rafting down a shallow river, under the current. It was smooth going until an anaconda snatched Kyle right out of the moving boat. Erik grabbed the sword and plunged into the river. He was able to slay the anaconda with his sword, then dragged Kyle's wounded lifeless body onto the bank. Although drowned and blooded, Kyle regenerated in minutes. They ditched the boat and walked along the banks until they found another elevator at a fork in the river. 


They stepped out onto a trail in a valley. A forest lay on either side of the trail. They began walking under a full moon. They heard howling in the distance. Then the howling came from behind. They turned around and saw, silhouetted in the moonlight, figures of something not quite human and not quite lupine. The figures had heads like a wolf, on broad shoulders, and a human torso. They were standing upright. They then went down on all fours and gave chase to Erik, Derek, and  Kyle–who started running as fast as they could, but the werewolves were gaining on them. As they were about to be overtaken, Erik stopped and pulled Aaron's rod from the backpack. He handed it to Derek. It turned into a torch. Afraid of fire, it kept the werewolves at bay while the three of them were able to put on winged sandals. They were then able to outrun the werewolves until they found an elevator to dash into, with the werewolves not far behind. 


They stepped out into a jungle. Hidden pythons hung from the trees to seize unsuspecting hellions. Kyle used the shield as best he could to protect them from the pythons, but one of them grabbed Erik. Derek used the sword to decapitate the python. Erik was injured, but healed in minutes. 

Being intelligent as well as insatiable, the werewolves followed them into the elevator and began to resume their pursuit in the jungle. But having left the moonlight behind by moving onto a different level of hell, they reverted to human form–which made them a renewable feast for the lurking pythons.


Having found the elevator, Erik, Derek, and Kyle stepped out onto a swamp. They picked their way along a broad footpath. But it began to narrow until it was submerged at that end. Behind them, crocodiles crawled onto the footpath, inching their way to the new prey. There was no escape. They couldn't go forward or backward. Then Kyle struck the water with Aaron's rod. Water receded on both sides, leaving a broad footpath for them to make their escape. 


They emerged from the elevator onto a plain, lit up by an electrical storm. It was pitch black apart from flashes of lightning. During lightning strikes they could see the plain populated the damned. Every so often, thunderbolts struck them, making their naked bodies sizzle like hotdogs. But they regenerated, so the process repeated itself ad infinitum. Erik used the shield to protect the three of them from electrocution until they located the elevator. 


They stepped out onto a deserted city. They walked for blocks until they found a multistory garage. They figured it had an elevator, so they went inside. But this time the elevator was blocked by Satan himself. He was waiting for them. His body was androgynous. He had snake eyes. His expression was hard to describe: utterly mad and utterly malevolent. He had a retinue of hyena-headed demons. The demons surrounded Erik, Derek, and Kyle. Kyle used Aaron's rod to form a circle of fire around the three of them. At that, Satan cackled like a hyena and with a gesture, extinguished the fire. 

For the first time, the three were up against a superior foe. Their weapons were useless. Were they doomed? In desperation, Kyle begin to sing "I need thee every hour". Erik joined in. The Devil grabbed his head as if the hymn gave him an unbearable headache. Yelping like a hyena he fled, followed by his entourage. 


The elevator opened in a cave. Erik used Aaron's rod for torchlight. Kyle and Erik were beginning to lose hope. Perhaps there was no way out of hell. Maybe there was always another level. Always another battle. And they worried about Derek. By contrast, he seemed to be in his element. He was turning. His pupils becoming elliptical. Was too late to save him?

But their concern was interrupted by vampires emerging from tunnels in the cave. The vampires were wary of the torchlight, which gave Kyle and Erik the opportunity to don crosses. The vampires hissed and backed away. Seeing the elevator, the three made a run for it, but when they got inside, Derek held the door open to let the vampires in. He had switched sides. Erik shoved him out the elevator while Kyle pushed the button for the next floor. They felt a thud as the vampires slammed against the elevator.


This time when they came out, it wasn't another floor of hell but a mezzanine. They stood in a country churchyard just before sunup. The vampires followed them into the elevator. But the vampires were afraid to enter the church. They then saw this wasn't a polar twilight. The sky was getting brighter. They rushed back to the elevator, but it was gone. Now they were trapped. As the sun rose, them melted like slugs. Their bodies dried up like hardened slugs. Every time at dusk they regenerated, but there was no one in the churchyard to exsanguinate, so they suffered from unbearable thirst. Every time at dawn they melted like slugs. The cycle repeated itself forever. 

Inside the church, Kyle found an elevator in the sacristy. Had the vampires been able to access the sacristy, they could leave hell and enter our world. But when they put their hand through the door to test it, their hand was incinerated. By the same token, Satan could ride the elevator up to the mezzanine, but he couldn't enter the church. 


This time around, Kyle and Erik didn't step out of the elevator. Rather, Erik woke up. He was in his bed in the dorm room. With trepidation he went to the window and peered through the blinds. It was a clear spring day. Birds were singing and flowers were blooming in the sunshine. 

Erik went over to check on Derek, but he couldn't rouse him. Paramedics were unable to revive him. An autopsy revealed that Derek died in his sleep from an undiagnosed congenital heart defect. 

Erik shared his dream with Kyle. Turns out they had the very same dream. Presumably Derek had the same dream as well. But he stayed behind.   

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