Chapter Four: Walking
I became a little confused as we made our way ahead and down. I had gotten used to the growing darkness and stench, but as we headed towards the next group, there seemed to be a brassy glow ahead, and the smell changed, though not for the better. Now, we became unpleasantly aware of more human odors, sweat and excrement. I wondered if Robert was as sensitive to the smell as I was, but when I saw him uncomfortably adjust his mask, I realized, with some comfort, that he was also aware of the change in olfactory presence.I was getting used to “little” people in hell, so I was not surprised to see that the children I expected, were in fact small adults. But I was surprised by what they were doing.The group of seven were haggling over piles of feces and pools of urine, bargaining loudly over how much their pile was “worth”. I stopped and my jaw dropped.One among the group turned, saw us, and chuckled.
“Yeah, pretty impressive, isn’t it?” he asked. “Took me awhile to put it together, but there it is.”I just turned and looked at Robert, who shrugged.
“Uhhhh, mister” I began, “you do know you’re building a pile of crap, don’t you?”
“Yes indeed, you catch on quick” remarked the man. “Or do you?”
“You see” said the man, “We here were all very prominent financial experts, so we got together to see what we could make of the place.
“We’ve laid claim to a hundred acres around here, and of course, we needed a currency reserve, so we thought to ourselves, ‘what can we produce, that will do the job?’, and here we are.”
Robert grimaced.“Nobody wants to buy feces!” he cried.
The man grinned.
“Not now, sure” he said, “but later, when folks realize that’s all there is here, and when they realize that we’ve laid claim to the property, they’ll do business with us.
“Besides, we found a use –“ the man winked - “for the stuff, as well”
“But if you already have a pile of crap, what will you be selling, and what will you be buying?” I asked.
“Services, for now” said the man. “Then we’ll see.
“Hey, there’s still time to get in, on the ground floor, if you have the vision to see a great chance” offered the man.Somehow, the opportunity to build a financial empire from feces and urine didn’t excite me, so Robert and I just shook our heads and moved on.
The light went away again as we left the west bankers behind, but so did the smell, so it was a trade-off. But the further we went, the harder it was to see where we were headed ahead, and I was very glad to have Robert nearby.
Naturallly, that’s when he surprised me with bad news:
“Dan, I have to leave now” he said, “Another is coming to lead you where you are going.” I was able to discern a murky movement – away .
“Wait! Robert! Don’t leave me here!”“Don’t worry, it will be all right” called back Robert, and then somehow, I knew he was gone.I was getting real tired of hearing how everything was going to be all right. I also realized that if I didn’t get some help, I had no idea how to get out of hell. For just a moment, panic seized me and danced over me, as I wondered if God might have decided to just let me sit where I was. After all, hadn’t I chosen to go to hell? The irony of my own words coming back to condemn me was chilling.
Sitting in the dark alone, with cold wet winds of urine raining down on you, is depressing enough by itself, but to be abandoned by your friend, with no way home, and the uncomfortable feeling that you belonged in your misery, was almost beyond bearing.But after a long time of sitting in the fetid mud of waste and my self-pity, I decided I had to move on. The dark had grown, and I was not entirely certain which way I was going, although I wasn’t sure it mattered, either. I stumbled ahead, reasonably sure I was continuing as I had before, and aware that the ground continued to descend, a fact which I like not at all just now.After a while, my eyes began to adjust to the dark, enough to make out murky shapes in the dank and dreary domain. I thought I could make out some movement, and maybe just a bit more light off to my left, so I made my way in that direction. Partly from habit, I muttered a short prayer, asking God to watch over me and protect me from harm. I could have sworn I heard a quiet chuckle off in the distance when I concluded with “In Jesus’ name, Amen”. I stopped, and listened for a few seconds, but there was nothing more.As I walked, I heard what sounded very much like a party! This was different enough, that I decided I should check it out. At that moment I felt a breeze in my ear, like someone had blown in it, but there was no one there. I shivered for a moment, then moved ahead.I was sure that I had heard people’s voices, and as I approached I saw forms like humans and their shadows, but as I entered a cave and left the rain of stench and feces behind, I could not find the guests.As I moved about the cave, I felt hands caress me in private places, and quick snatches of words I could almost, but not quite, understand. A vague unease crept over me, and I decided there was something very wrong about this place, and my best course would be to leave. At that moment, as I stepped towards the mouth of the cave, I felt my feet yanked out from beneath me, and I hit the floor of the cave, face-first, and was stunned by the blow.The foul smell of some kind of animal filled my nose, and those unseen hands began to pull away at my clothes, as those voices spoke again, and tried to soothe me into compliance. In a panic and sure things were getting seriously bad, I resisted the hands, but was slowly losing the fight.From the back of the cave, I became aware of a man. He was naked, and realizing his intent I was glad from my memory of the plains before Heaven’s Gate, that his equipment was no longer there. But this fellow had put something in its place, somehow grafting something where his genitals used to be, and his intent filled me with horror. As he grew closer, the hands tightened their grip upon me, and I realized I could not escape. I also realized that the dark thing at his crotch was alive, and as he approached, it chuckled and showed me sharp teeth.I recoiled in horror, or tried to, as the man and that thing laughed...
A Word was spoken.
I don’t know how else to describe it. A simple word was heard in that place, which I cannot repeat now, and with it a bright flash of light filled the room. There was no force like heat or an explosion, yet everyone fell to the floor.I was not stunned like the others, although the light was hard to bear. Looking away from its source, I saw that the forms which had held me could now be seen, shadowlike but visible now, and they trembled in terror. I felt pity for them for just an instant, then I remembered what they had been trying to do, and I stepped away from them quickly.
The bright one spoke to me, and I knew her voice:“Dan, are you OK?”
It was my sister, Jean, although taller and stronger than I had ever seen her, and she shone like a potassium flare, though with a beauty and power no mortal creation could match. As the light faded or my eyes adjusted, I could now see that she was dressed mainly in white, in something like a bio-suit (appropriate to our location), but with green trim and in her fashion from years before, decorated to look like a Hereford cow. I chuckled in spite of myself.
“You don’t know how happy I am to see you, sister” I said, and we hugged.
Jean grinned at me. “This your idea of a party?” she asked, ”These your buddies?”
“Not hardly” I answered, “Let’s go”
And we moved on, although I was depressed to see we were still descending
Is this trip really necessary?” I muttered to myself, as we walked, but Jean overheard me.
“Yes, of course” she answered, ”and I’m gonna be nice, and not ask what you were up to with your buddies, there.”
“Oh, come on!” I shouted “I’m glad you broke in there and stopped it, but that’s not even funny!”
Jean grinned. "I thought it was pretty funny” she said. ”Besides, didn’t you read the sign?” , pointing to a small wooden sign I didn’t recall seeing before.
I hunched down and peered at it. I recognized the letter style, but not the words.“It’s Greek to me” I said.
Jean laughed.“Not knowing your classic languages has always gotten you into trouble, Dan.”
I muttered my response, but made sure it was sotto voce, to prevent further rejoinder.
As we made our way, the ground seemed to become a little more level, and it was dry in places, but as the smell changed again, becoming worse if not stronger, I saw Jean stop for a moment, look around, then point to a pass between two ranges of mud range.“This way”I followed. She seemed to know what she was doing, and since she was still glowing somewhat, it was easy to follow her, and I was afraid of the dark now, for good reason. Looking back, I could also tell that things were following us, to what purpose and consequence I did not know.
The right mud range moved, and I expected a mudslide, so I wasn’t surprised when Jean yelled “Run!”In the twilight murk of this netherworld, something rose up where I had thought a hillside lay, and I realized it was a man. A grotesquely fat man, not unusually tall, but so wide in girth, that his belly had spilled out onto the ground, covering nearly a quarter-acre of ground. In its middle, the man waded through his own skin and fat, dragging the greater portion of his own body behind him.As I regarded this grotesque spectacle, I suddenly realized he was not alone, and we were being approached on all sides by similar creatures.I ran again, hoping that we would make it.As we ran, I wondered at this strange chase. None of the creatures was moving with any speed, and I was sure if it were a few, we would easily lose them.But there were so many of them, and their size made it easy for them to block escape by simply getting into our way, that I began to worry.
We caught a break, however, when the things which had been chasing us came into view.Scurrying little reptiles and insects, I found them repulsive, but the sluglike dwellers of this place quickly fell on them and began to scoop them whole into their massive mouths, which seemed far too large for any human face.But we were able to escape from them by this diversion, and found ourselves quickly in the dismal but familiar piss rain and feces shower.
Jean grinned at me.“Having fun yet, Dan?”
I had the bizarre feeling she was enjoying all of this.
In spite of Jean’s glowing appearance, the world around us remained dark and dreary, and the contracts was making it hard for me to see what was out there. I wasn’t curious, but I also worried that not knowing would invite unpleasant surprises. Jean, however, continued to enjoy the jaunt, fairly jogging through the slop as we progressed.
“C’mon, Dan” she called out from ahead of me, ”only one more stop we have to make on this level.”
‘On this level?’ I thought to myself. I really didn’t like making this venture any longer than it had to be, and I really didn’t like the idea of other levels. Somehow, I knew the other ones would be in the wrong direction. Jean caught my mood, and grinned again.
“Don’t worry, Dan” she said, ”I’ll make sure you’re okay.”
Since my sister was now eight feet tall, and looked like she could take out Arnold on his best day, I didn’t argue. I did envy her spotless suit, while mine – let’s just say I wanted to find a hose. Soon.
“Just so I don’t have to repeat this lesson later” I said, “how about clueing me on what I’m supposed to be learning?”
“OK” said Jean, ”Just remember, it’s supposed to be you learning, not you cribbing off my observations, alright?”
I nodded, and she explained.“So far here in HappyLand, we have seen people in a variety of situations, all Americans so far, since that’s our cultural reference. Have you noticed what they have in common?”“Their fashion sense, their common appreciation of freedom from any need for hygiene?” I suggested.
“No points, especially for that kind of humor” Jean answered, ”Seriously, what did you notice?”
I stopped and pondered.“Well, they aren’t exactly happy” I said, “but the people here aren’t really being tormented, like I’d expect.”
“Partly, that’s because they just started” said Jean, ”And it will get much worse later, especially when this rain stops, and the fire starts.”
The way she said “fire” made me shiver, and it had nothing to being cold. I had not thought that this rain of urine and crap could be considered a good thing, but I realized that it might be holding off something very ugly.
“OK, what else?” prodded Jean.“Well, everybody here seems to be short” I commented.
Jean nodded.”Yes, they are diminished by their sin. Some further on are so weighed down, you have to watch your step, so you don’t step on any of them”
“So, by your logic” I quipped, “Lilliput was a very evil place!”
“Ha ha.” deadpanned Jean. "Just remember, Dan, a judgmental attitude stunts your growth”
And with that, we both fell silent for a time, as we trudged into the murk and mire.
It’s a very strange thing, to walk in a place where all around you people are suffering, but you are not, and to not be able to identify with them the way you normally would in the human world. I wondered about why I wasn’t more moved, as we passed people rooted in their own indifference, apathy, hate, lust, envy, gluttony, and every other wrong but human deficiency, and I stopped, wondering how I could not feel the compassion I believed I should in such a case.Spying one fellow off by himself, and seeming particularly more miserable than the rest, I decided I was going to try. Behind me, I heard Jean call out to me:“Dan! Where are you going? It’s this way!”
“I’m going to help, if I can” I replied, “Come with me or not, as you want.”
Like everyone else here, the man appeared smaller than normal, and I could see him shiver in the cold rain. I approached the man, and put my arm around his shoulders to shield him somewhat from the rain. Surprised, the man rounded on me and shoved me away.
“What are you doing?” he demanded.
“Sorry, just trying to help” I answered. “You looked cold and tired, that’s all”
The man sneered at me.“Ohhhh, I’m not strong like you, I’m not able to take care of myself, is that it?” he demanded. Before I could answer, he continued;“I can do very well, thank you. It’s people like you that have always been such a pain!
“You think you have all the answers, you have all the ideas, and folks like me should just do what you say, eh?”
“Actually, no, nothing like that” I said. Then an idea hit me. ”But I think I know how we can leave this place.” In that moment, I realized that I could leave, and so could this guy, if he would come with me. But I could see in his face, that instead of hope, he had found rage.
“Nothing like that?” he asked. “Then you tell me to come with you, if I want to get out. Yeah, right!”
“Really, I can help” I said, but the man had turned his back on me, and as he did, I saw him sink a foot or so into the mire. I suddenly realized, that things for this guy were going to get worse if he didn’t move.
“You really need to leave here” I said, but the man became very angry.
“Maybe I like it here, OK?” he demanded. “Maybe you can just go off and -“and the man named several unpleasant acts most people would find offensive.
Jean came up on us then.
“Who’s the glowstick?” asked the man.
“My sister” I replied. “If you won’t listen to me, maybe she-“The man cut me off with an expletive, involving placement of a lightbulb into an orifice, and I finally gave up.As Jean and I walked away, the man continued with a torrent of words and insults. Jean looked at me, and seemed to read my thoughts, as she answered.
“Dan, no one is here unjustly, even the ones who think so. Does that help?”
“But why don’t I feel compassion for them?” I asked. “There’s something wrong in that”
Jean shook her head.”No, Dan, there’s nothing wrong with you in that.” she said. ”If you could have done any good, you would have known before you tried. But these have rejected hope, some just for now, some forever. Unless they turn, you cannot make them.”
We walked on, and the dark grew deeper.
As we walked, I wondered what lay ahead. It seemed a useless effort indeed, to come to a place where you could do no good, to see people suffering. Some by their own choice, some in denial of their own pain, others in denial of their chance for relief and healing. I shook my head.Jean turned to me, and we stopped.
“Dan, in a little bit, I’m going to have to go, but not before your next guide arrives.” she said. ”I want you to understand, you’re going to come back here, but not before you are better-equipped. For now, I want you to remember what you saw here, and think about what purpose may be served, even yet.”
As she turned and I followed her, my thought just then, was that Jean had never been so firm and authoritive before, when we had been siblings in the old world. I also wondered just how dark and messy this place was going to be. Certainly, this place had no landmarks or architecture to see where you were. I wondered, idly, if GPS would do any good here.In the distance, I saw a glow, but remembering the last glow I had followed, I waited until Jean started that way, and I wondered what lay ahead. To my surprise and pleasure, the ground gradually became firmer, drier, and little by little, the smell receded, until I realized that I stank more than my surroundings.
Given everything I had encountered up to that point, this made me suspicious as all get-out.We were approaching a shining figure in the distance, a really big guy. I realized this was another being sent from Heaven, but bigger and brighter than anyone I had seen so far. Maybe ten feet tall! I began to wonder if Heaven was into Basketball, and where the nets might be placed.As we approached, the light became so bright, it hurt my eyes, and I couldn’t look at the shining being directly. I averted my eyes, and noticed that his feet seemed to be floating motionless about a couple inches from the ground.
Jean ran up to the being and hugged him. As they did, I saw his wings for the first time.“He’s an angel!” I exclaimed.
Jean laughed.“Yes! I’m glad you two can meet. Daniel, say hello to-" A Word was spoken, and I fell face-first into the muck from the force of it.
The Angel picked me up, and I trembled.“Do not be afraid” he instructed. ”For here, you may call me Asena. It won’t set off any after-effects like my true name.“I will be your guide for the next stage. I hope you will enjoy this next part, but please tell me if you become weak, and I shall minister to you.”
I suddenly realized the angel had strengthened me when he picked me up.Asena turned to Jean.“Cherished friend, the Master also sent me to tell you the City needs your skill and attention”Jean nodded, smiled at me.“Bye Dan, be good.”
She blinked and disappeared, and I had visions, just for a moment, of an old television show.
Asena looked down at me, covered in filth and grime as I was, and smiled.
“Daniel, are you ready to meet the Master?” he asked.