FICTION: Hell Is Where The Heart Is

Sign saying Welcome To Hell

Photo: James Lee

This was written for the Reddit writing prompt: You were one of the greatest people on Earth before you died. Instead of going to Heaven, you arrive in Hell and are welcomed with open arms by Satan himself, who you learn is your real father.

What would I leave behind? My running foundations for the needy? My success in fighting climate change? The eradication of disease?

I would say that these were my last thoughts on my deathbed, but as it seemed, I just went from one way of existence into another, much like waking up from a dream. It happened so naturally that I didn’t even know I had died. Not until my guide had told me who he was, which I found it hard to believe too.

After all, how was this hell? If he was Satan, what were we doing walking in a tunnel of light? I must’ve spoken those words, because my guide immediately answered: “Ah, but this is a just a break. Soon you’ll go through the cycle once again, and again, for all of eternity.” I thought those words pretty ominous, even though the delivery not unkind.

Was this guy pulling my leg? Was this a prank?

“A prank? Tell me, son, do you feel your body?”

As a matter of fact, I didn’t.

“It’s great to see you again, child. I’m sure you have many questions, and this is the time to ask them. Come on then. Our time is brief.”

Where was I?

“In between one life to the next.”

So I’m really dead?

“The best way to answer that is by asking your own heart. Do you feel fear? Pain? Anger? Love?”

I didn’t feel anything. Actually I did. I felt… free.

“Indeed. This freedom is what everyone looks for during their time down there.”

Down there? But if this was Satan I was speaking to, shouldn’t we be in hell?

A kind laugh, then: “You’ve already lived your hell. This is your respite. Soon you’ll enter the cycle once again.”

My hell? But I had a good life. I had nothing but abundance, helped improve the world, never started for a day…

“And yet you felt empty. You never really did get over that betrayal with Steve, did you? Everyone thinks they could do anything for riches like yours, but you know, son. You know there are some things that aren’t worth all the riches in the world.”

So to what did I owe Satan’s companionship to?

“The cycle, son. It never ends. Steve is the son of god—at least one of his many other incarnations—and you’re… always going to be the opposing force. This is the truth of eternity, and it’s about time you return to the cycle.”

A thought came back to me. In this freedom from worldly attachments, one thing clung to my consciousness: love. My family, will they be fine in this life?

“They will, son. Speaking of which, you’ve never once asked this question ever since you first descended. It’s the price I have to pay. Still, I hope one day the time will come when you remember me, but until then, it’s my duty to remind you of who you are every cycle.”

Who was I? Wasn’t I… what was my name… Gates?

“Yes, Bill, that was your last incarnation. But identities in that plane is ephemeral. This is where it all matters. Over here, you will, and always be, my son. I love y—”

I remembered. As soon as he uttered those words, I remembered, but accompanying that memory was the return of my physical sensations, and it felt as though I was being yanked through a funnel that got impossibly narrower, squeezing me from my legs up.

“Father,” I said, feeling my voice for the first time. “Faaaaahhhhh—”

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