Saturday, January 3, 2009

Apology of Hell Chapter 2

Introductory Comments:

For some reason I always have to make some introductory comments. Don't ask me why, I can't seem to help it!

A while ago, I posted a chapter of a sort of novel I am trying to write as something of an apology of hell. If you haven't read the first chapter or you don't remember it, you can read it here. You could probably follow the second chapter without reading it but it'll probably help somewhat.

As before, I am eager for your comments, especially those of you who have some writing experience or expertise (Crista... Heather if you read this - I know you have a couple times at least, Sabrina... I know you try your hand at creative writing from time to time). As with any fiction, the story and pictures should not be taken for a one for one representation of how I think Hell will be like. But I am trying to not only picture something of what hell might include, but help to show why hell, the punishment of the unsaved, is just. I recognize that this question is bigger than this writing attempt, but maybe I can help people realize why 'good people' could go to hell.

The writing still needs editing and improving, especially the beginning paragraphs which seem horrid to me. Again, I welcome your criticisms and/or helpful comments. Feel free to leave them as comments, or if you'd rather email them to me that's fine too:

Chapter 2

Despite my relief, done with the first day, any feelings of relief I had were overwhelmed by my fear and apprehension for what was still to come. I remembered that my guide had accused me of murder. If the punishment for adultery had been this horrible… I didn’t want to think about it, but couldn’t help being overcome with terror. My whole body shook and trembled so violently that despite my attempts to stand up, or even sit up, were useless. All I could do was lay helpless on the floor, shivering and weeping.

“You will now face your second charge.” The creature’s eyes caught mine as he entered or appeared into the room. His gaze was magnetic and powerful. It seemed that either he or some unknown power had control over my eyes and would not let them rest upon the floor as I sought to avert them in vain.

“Gluttony. Oh how much your countrymen will suffer for this crime! How peaceful you were in your greed! You pretended to be good; you thought you were beautiful; but you did not know that you were hideously ugly in your appearance, bloated and disgusting! Your brothers and sisters had nothing and you had so much! Yet you fed your dogs better! But it will be better for the starving brother in the end!”

His words, as they so often did, terrified me into silence. I continued in my struggle to avert my eyes. His eyes did more than frighten me. They condemned me. They told me that not only did I deserve my punishment, but that I really had no right to exist. I had felt guilt in my previous life but I could always choose to ignore it, to hide it from my immediate consciousness. When he looked at me, my consciousness was flooded with guilt impossible to suppress. I had thought I could defend myself, but I was beginning to realize that I was indefensible.

“Your punishment then, glutton.”

As before, the small room disappeared and I found myself in a rapid succession of scenes from my life. They seemed rather inconsequential and they passed by swiftly. The first scene was from my childhood. I was in a department store with my mother demanding that she buy me something, what it was I cannot remember, that I wanted. I refused to accept her negative answer, but threatened and began to make a scene. To avoid embarrassing herself in front of the general public, she caved in and I became the proud owner of whatever it was, which I somehow knew would almost never be used. In the next scene I was with my college buddies at a restaurant. I merely ordered an expensive steak and the scene quickly faded. Other scenes found me buying a new car, putting a down payment on a house, buying a new television, or on the phone with the cable company. Other scenes were quick glimpses of board meetings at work and even one at church. Yet another strange scene found me buying my son a new game system for Christmas. There was a brief moment from the Hawaiian vacation my wife and I took for our fiftieth wedding anniversary. These scenes closed with me as an old man pulling into the driveway of my comfortable condo in my newly purchased Jaguar, a mere six months before my death.

During these scenes, I had seen everything in first person, from my own eyes as I had seen them when they had actually occurred. But after the final scene, I (or my view) was slowly lifted out of my beloved Jaguar. I ascended rapidly into and then above the clouds until I could see the earth’s continents. The earth rotated until I was no longer the North American continent, in which I had lived all of my life, and I began to descend again at an ever-increasing rate towards a continent that had been of little concern to me in my lifetime, Africa.

The scenes that began to flash before my eyes were horrifying. I saw images of starving children that I had seen on television, but this time I could not change the channel and I could not look away. I watched in horror as they withered away, bloated, died, and were consumed by vultures and maggots. I saw people from my country who were doing what they could to help, but were so short on food that they could not feed them all. I visited the homes of women and children dying of Aids. I watched children watch their parents die, and I saw mothers and fathers forced to bury their children. I saw even more horrifying images of men slaughtering women and children with machetes. I saw very young boys forced to don military gear and very young girls raped and discarded as garbage. In the background of each image, I could see people in my country who were doing all that they could to help. Some gave money to charity; some gave money to their churches that sent missionaries and aid in the form of medicine, food, and education. A few even dedicated their lives to ending the suffering, disease, and violence, leaving their countries of origin and the comforts therein to do what they could to help. I did not look for myself in these pictures. I had no doubts concerning my absent.

After these images cycled through once, they repeated themselves but with one change. I saw myself in every scene. In each image, I sat at a table eating a great feast. As the scenes progressed, I grew larger and larger until I was quite obese. But I never once paid any attention to anything going on around me. There was so much more food there than I ever could have eaten but I never shared any of it. Oblivious to the starvation around me, I continued to gorge myself on my feast. When the cycle finished a second time, I saw myself sitting at my table surrounded by a great crowd of starving people begging me for a scrap of food. I ignored their pleas and continued to shovel more and more food into my mouth. As I ate, I not only became more obese but I grew tremendously. Soon I became a massive giant, thirty feet high. When I had finished growing, I lifted my table in both hands and dumped the remainder of the feast down my throat and set the table back down, empty, and walked away having never looked at the starving rabble that lay dying at my feet.

The grotesque became the pathetic. I found myself in the room once again. In the middle of my room there was a great table full of every food imaginable. Around the table were seated all the people I had seen starving in the earlier scenes. I’m not sure how I knew who they were because their appearance had been radically transformed. They were of a healthy weight and were dressed magnificently. Two were obese, one woman whom I had seen starve to death was excessively so, the rest were of varying sizes and shapes but all looked healthy and comfortable. The children were children and misbehaved like any western child does as the table to the consternation of their scolding mothers. The men I had seen butchering innocent people in earlier scenes laughed and spoke comfortably with their former victims, who, unafraid in their company, laughed, conversed and sometimes even flirted with them like they were the best of friends. Sometimes there would be minor arguments, sometimes there would be gossip about a person or persons not present, sometimes there were snide and rude comments, but on the whole it was a quite civil and enjoyable banquet.

But as for me, I was no longer the grotesque gargantuan giant who devoured everything in sight, but starving, skinny, and shabbily dressed in rags. I was unable to stand up, my legs were worthless – too scrawny to support my weight – and I could think only of finding something, anything, to eat. My body was ripe with sores and wounds of every kind and infested with insects and infections. I was able to catch and eat a few insects and once found a rather large grub, but the only real source of food I could see was the table but, try as I might, I was powerless to reach it.

But those at the table ignored me. They ate and laughed but they didn’t look my way and they didn’t throw any food my direction. Midway through the meal, a television, which I had not noticed until now, was turned on and a newscast came on discussing the horrendous conditions in the United States, mass disease and starvation, civil wars, and natural disasters. One of the women at the table, who I had seen stave to death earlier, appeared disgusted and scolded the man who had apparently turned it on,

“Turn that off, can’t you see I'm trying to eat?”

“Sorry. I feel sorry for those people though. The famine has been pretty bad recently, even worse than usual.”

“They have no one to blame but themselves. If their governments weren’t so corrupt and if they would actually listen to people who want to help them they wouldn’t be in such a mess. They are killing themselves. We’re not to blame.”

“I know. Still I feel bad for them.”

“So do I. But what can you do? Their governments are so corrupt that you can’t send them any food or money. Until you replace their governments they’ll always be that way.”

“Yeah, I know. And we all remember what happened when we tried to help them in New York. They killed our troops who were trying to help them. Still, I wish we could do something. Oh well.” After a short pause, he turned towards one of the other men, “Did you see the game last night? What an amazing comeback!”

And the conversation went back to more comfortable subjects. There was one small exception to the apathy. A small boy got up and threw me a dinner roll, towards the end of the meal. As I devoured it greedily, I was made to remember a time when I was a young boy myself and had given five dollars to help a missionary minister to people. I had felt sorry for them and gave some of the money I had received for my birthday. The roll was not much, but it relieved my hunger slightly for a few short minutes. I received nothing else from the party for the remainder of the meal.

Towards the end their supper, some of the children attempted asked for their dessert before they finished their meals. Their mothers scolded them,

“Don’t you know that there are starving children in Europe who would give everything they had for your carrots? Clean your plate or you’ll go to bed without your dessert.”

They reluctantly ate their carrots as their mother told them to. There was still a good deal of food left over and I hoped that, perhaps, some of it would be thrown my way. But instead, their plates were placed upon the ground and their dogs came in and licked the plates clean. I was ignored. I began yelling and screaming, trying to get their attention, but no one even looked at me. They arose from the table and they and the table slowly faded from view. As for me, the process of starvation continued. I continued to wither rapidly. My throat was beyond parched, my lips began to crack and bleed, and I was no longer to sit up by the support of my pencil thin arms, as I had throughout the scene. Now helpless, I could do nothing as vultures and rats began to gather around me. As a large vulture swooped down to pick at what remained of my pathetic carcass, I tried to fend it off but my arms were quite useless. As he began to tear at me, the scene slowly faded and I found myself back in the empty room with Immer-Messe.


Sabrina said...

you did well with provoking my imagination - good rough draft ;). yeah, you're correct; the first paragraph is rough, and there are a few other things here and there that my editor's eye caught, but overall, not bad.

Anonymous said...

well, where do i begin? you succeeded in reawakening some of the disappointment i have felt in regards to how utterly clueless we are in this country in considering true poverty. even many of our 'poor' families have so much more than they realize and it is hard for me to see how out of touch we are with that realization. we have so much here and yet we have no idea we do. the waste, the mass consumption without a second thought to the needs of others really shows how successfully the blinders have been put on our society. nice job matt. the only thing i would want to clarify is that there is nothing wrong with thankfully enjoying the good gifts we are given. the paragraph depicting the scene where a steak is ordered seems to imply that it's a sin to enjoy something expensive once in a while. it may not be what you intended but just wanted to point that out.

faithbornfromdoubt said...

Thanks Sabrina and Brenda. Yeah Brenda, that's not what I really was trying to say, I just wanted to show that this guy had a lot, was able to eat and eat very well yet used nothing that God (the sin against God part will be the last chapter) gave him to benefit others. I don't think its wrong to buy a car or put a down payment on a house either. I'll work with that and try to make it clearer what's wrong here. I think I may have mislabeled the sin... apathy may be better here than gluttony/greed... though both work together. Thanks for your comments.

Crista said...

Wow. That's really gross - and it really gets the point across. I agree that it's a tad rough and I think Bren's right, too, but you really did a good job on this thing.

About Me

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Tacoma, Washington, United States
"It is not as a child that I believe and confess Jesus Christ. My hosanna is born of a furnace of doubt." Fyodor Dostoevsky. I'm a Northwest Baptist Seminary graduate (MDiv) and current student (ThM). I plan on someday going to Africa and teach Bible and Theology at a Bible College or Seminary level. I hope to continue my studies and earn a PhD, either after I go to overseas for a few years or before. I'm a theological conservative, but I like to think outside of the box and challenge conventional thinking and consider myself a free thinker. I am currently serving in my fourth year as a Youth Pastor at Prairie Baptist Fellowship in Yelm Washington. My blogs will reflect my thoughts on both seminary and ministry life, though not (of course) exclusively. I enjoy literature and occasionally try my hand at writing stories and poems. "For I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes..." Paul