They were his people

And the screams released with each of his steps were calling him

Welcome To Hell

Sunday, May 19, 2013 :: Fiction

Note: The author can’t make claims to have actually been to Hell. He’s been through it, to be sure. But to land in the place, to spend time there and to get to know it is beyond his experience. So, most will, necessarily, consider this a work of fiction. As far as meeting the Devil is concerned, again, the author cannot claim this as fact. Though it must be said, he once met Rush Limbaugh and Dick Cheney, so that argument is still open. Wide open.

Something resembling a sharp stick struck him in the side. The pain was registered, but overwhelmed by a sudden wave of pain that was beyond comprehension and description. DevilFalwell cried out in agony. He was coming to and this new reality wasn’t within his realm of experience. Where the hell was he?

“You Falwell?” said the voice. Another stab in the side. “I said, You Falwell?”

“Of course I am! Who are...”

The pain forced itself upon him again, not the stick in the side but the pain, and he couldn’t continue. He sat up and looked at the man, trying to focus, trying to find some bearing.

“Come with me. He wants to see you.”

Falwell couldn’t complain. He couldn’t voice an objection. He was having trouble breathing, among other things. He simply shuffled after the man, trying to focus on his surroundings and move beyond his pain, or through it, its intensity caused a cognitive dissonance that left him scrambling to find some sort of grip.

The hallway was made of stone, the floor a dusty clay mixture of cobblestones. There were cries coming from ... somewhere. He couldn’t tell the direction or what was being said. They could have been wails of agony, but he thought he heard something in their pain, something familiar. Either way, his own pain was so immediate it was difficult to focus on anything outside of his thoughts and feelings. Besides, the heat in the place was oppressive and beat him down like a wave pounding the shore during a storm.

Focus, he thought. I have to focus.

The dirt floor wasn’t the red clay cobblestone he supposed it to be. There was a permeating heat that was just at the edge of tolerance and excruciating pain filtering up through it, denying even a moment of comfort. The stones were rounded, some brittle.

“Keep up, Falwell. I don’t have long.”

“Where am I?”

No answer.

“I said, where am I?” his light southern drawl strung out in a halting cadence from the pain he could barely control.

No answer.

Where am I? Falwell asked himself. He was in his office toiling over paperwork, he remembered, and then ... what? He couldn’t say. He had no idea and the pain wasn’t allowing him to think clearly. Sweat ran down his brow and cheeks, burning his flesh like acid.

Two quick turns later and the hallway ended and opened into a larger room. To the right a pair of large doors were opened as they approached. The room inside was like a cavern, large, with stone walls so tall that the ceiling couldn’t be seen. The light was low, as it had been in the halls on the way. Along the worn path, off to the sides and barely visible, others lay on the ground moaning and writhing in pain. Their whimpers and cries frightened him. But the path he was on was different. The cobblestones weren’t cobblestones at all. They were skulls. The tops of skulls. Some of the screams and cries were filtering their way through the bones that had become a walkway.

“Where am I?”

“Keep up. I don’t want any trouble.”

Falwell looked ahead to see where they were going, but the room was too dark to see. There was some sort of red glow coming from the end of the path.

And in the cries and whimpers that came from those around him he could hear something familiar, something known, something that was just beyond the reach of his memory, just one synaptic jump away from recognition. It scared him so he kept his eyes fixed on the robes of the man in front of him and tried to manage his pain and control his fear.

The man stopped. Falwell nearly ran into his back. There was a smell like urine and decay now. His eyes burned in the acrid air. The pain was worse here.

“He is here, Sir.”

The man turned and walked away, along the path they had come. In front of Falwell, sitting on a throne of stone and dirt and clay was a giant of a man, though he looked like no man Falwell had ever seen. In the low light it was difficult to make out the man’s features, but his presence was felt, his bulk pressed its influence upon him. The man towered over Falwell and looked down upon him like a teacher looks upon a prized pupil, or one about to be reprimanded. It was difficult to say in the light.

The man leaned forward and Falwell could see clearly then the red, craggy face of the Devil.

“Welcome home, my son. I hope your stay hasn’t been too difficult.” He grinned.

“What, what am I doing here?”

The Devil cocked his head, furrowed his brow, and looked at Falwell.

“What do you mean?”

“I don’t belong here. I’m one of God’s chosen. I’m a Believer!”

The Devil’s head bent backwards and a laugh erupted from him that filled the hall, echoing off the walls and causing smaller rocks to fall from above. The laugh lasted for a few seconds and felt as though it shook the foundations of the place.

Finally, he looked at Falwell and said: “You don’t really believe that, do you? I mean, really? All this time I’ve considered you one of my best lieutenants. My word, man! You’ve been on the front lines for me for decades.”

“What are you talking about? I’ve been God’s loyal servant my entire life!”

The Devil sat back and regarded Falwell. The room quieted for a moment, the pain subsided some, only a fraction, yet noticeable. Falwell fidgeted, stood taller, as if gathering himself and his confidence.

The Devil leaned forward again. “I never contacted you all these years. I thought surely you and those like you had to know. I never imagined you actually believed in the things you said. Not today, not after all these years of history.”

“Of course I believed them. The word of God is my word.”

A curl, menacing and mischievous, formed in the corner of the Devil’s smile. There was a gleam in his eye. “What ‘word’?”

“What do you mean? The Bible, of course.”

The Devil laughed, low and soft, almost as if to himself. “The word of God? What words?”

“All of it, of course. The Bible IS the unerring word of God.”

“Is that so,” said the Devil. “So, you believe that hating anyone different than you is God’s way.”

“What? Well ...”

“You believe that kids who talk back to their parents should be murdered. That homosexuals should be murdered. You believe that in any town where the people believe in another God that they should all be murdered, including the women and kids. These things are all in the Bible. You don’t need me to tell you this, do you Falwell. And of course, as it says in Jeremiah, cursed is he who holds back his sword from blood.”

The Devil looked at Falwell and then said, “And you never did hold back that sword, did you? You never failed to speak with the harshest tongue. You created a church, a large one, based upon those principles. And they gave you the grandest of platforms – every week you were on national television, one station or another.”

Falwell looked at the Devil. He said, “The Bible is the inerrant word ...”

“Oh, stuff it, you moron,” bellowed the Devil. “You’ve said that so many times I find it hard to believe that you really mean it! Who do you think put that stuff in that idiotic book? Really, do you think any God worth serving would teach that. Murder, genocide, slavery!”

Falwell was dumbfounded and, for once, speechless.

“Look Falwell, I like you. You served me well. Don’t ruin it by pretending you could possibly believe all of the hatred was actually God’s work and His words. You aren’t that dumb. I expect more from you.”

The Devil smiled a toothy grin, his eyes focused tight in on Falwell’s and held him in his gaze. “The greatest marketing tool I ever devised was that book. It’s beautiful, really. Getting those men to write all of that drivel and attributing it to God. I expected it to bring a few folks my way, but I never expected it to last. I mean, really, how could it. A god that promotes hatred and murder? But it did. And for two thousands years I’ve been feasting upon the results. It’s beautiful. A stroke of marketing genius on my part.”

The Devil leaned back his head again and roared in laughter. The walls shook. The floor shook. Rocks of varying size fell from above, one crashed into Falwell and cut his right cheek open, blood flowed slowly.

Falwell recovered from his confused panic. “Jesus says ...”

“Jesus!” roared the Devil. “Jesus! That long–haired, sandal–wearing little son–of–a ...”

And the walls shook, hard. The floor cracked in several places, opening a crease in the earth that reached out as if to swallow them. Boulders fell from above, some landing on those huddled in the cavern, breaking bones, causing blood to flow from new places in many who were already bloodied. The Devil shrank into himself and appeared fearful. Slowly it subsided.

“Look, Falwell,” said the Devil, when the place had settled, his voice almost a whisper, “that Kid tried to tell you the truth. He told you he was here to show you a new way. You chose my way, didn’t you? You guys are all the same. You talk about Jesus but the moment he gets in the way you abandon Him. You revert to me, don’t you. I make it easy. There are clear lines. None of that “love your brother” crap and nothing about not judging others. Just black and white. With me, you know who the enemy is and that’s why guys like you love me.”

“You tricked me. I shouldn’t be here.”

“I didn’t trick anyone. Well, maybe before there were books and before everyone could read. But, come on, you don’t have to be smart to figure it out. And murdering everyone – gays, non–believers, your own kids! – how does that make sense? Good grief, your God believes in witches!”

Falwell, shoulders drooping, confidence fading and his inner control disappearing, tried to stave off despair. His mind was asking questions it couldn’t answer. “The Bible is infallible,” he muttered to himself.

“Falwell, you’re home. Rejoice, my son. You’ve done good work.” And the Devil laughed. “Go now. There’s more work to be done.”

Falwell turned and walked away, slowly, head lowered, down the path of skulls and screams. The pain was stronger, a new enhanced version of it flooded over him. His mind raced, memories flooded his consciousness and he felt embarrassed, stained. He wanted to look away but they were his thoughts, his memories. Internally, he flinched and went numb.

Slowly, with each agonizing step, he felt something new. One step he was confused. Then crushed. How could God abandon him? God didn’t abandon him, did he. This was a test. He needed to be strong.

But he knew this wasn’t true, this was no test. The next step he was angry. Why did God do this to him? Of all people, why him? Give me one more chance, Lord. Let me make it right. Let me be your light! He thought, pleaded.

Two steps later he was in despair and couldn’t go forward. He wanted to give up. How do you just ... stop. How do you know that everything you did was misplaced – and as wrong as a gospel singer at the gates of hell – and still carry on. How do you take the next step?

But he did. Three steps later he became aware of the suffering around him, of the agony, of the cries. The feint whispers that couldn’t be placed before became clear. With each step he knew. With each step the cries congealed into a frightening realization. They were calling to him, Falwell.

They were his people, those huddling in the dark, writhing in pain, the skulls beneath his feet. They were for him. And the screams released with each of his steps were calling him. In their whimpers and their pain they were calling his name.

They were his flock.

 

FALWELL QUOTES

“AIDS is not just God's punishment for homosexuals; it is God's punishment for the society that tolerates homosexuals”

“Christians, like slaves and soldiers, ask no questions”

“I personally believe that we need to reduce the time between conviction and execution.”

“The Bible is the inerrant ... word of the living God. It is absolutely infallible,without error in all matters pertaining to faith and practice, as well as in areas such as geography, science, history, etc.”

BIBLE QUOTES

“He who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death.”

Exodus 21:20-21 (NAB):
“When a man strikes his male or female slave with a rod so hard that the slave dies under his hand, he shall be punished. If, however, the slave survives for a day or two, he is not to be punished, since the slave is his own property.”

Leviticus 20:13 NAB
“If a man lies with a male as with a women, both of them shall be put to death for their abominable deed; they have forfeited their lives.“

New Living Translation (©2007)

“You must not allow a sorceress to live.”

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