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I stood there, looking towards the end of the tunnel, to find a small sliver of light, a golden speck of wonder and hope. I could not smile. It was a weird feeling, but I could not pull my mouth up to express my happiness. I clenched my hands in frustration, and scanned the walls of this dreary passageway, seeing if there was anything interesting lining the bleak gray walls.
Nothing good came from my observation. There were red patches of blood in the shape of hands, smeared forward and downwards. Some were small, while others were big. One of the hand prints still had blood dripping down from the fingertips, sliding down the wall in such a slow fashion. It made my heart lurch and pound against my chest, for it made me question what I was getting myself into.
Warily, I walked forward, slowly putting one bare foot in front of the other, as if a trap might spring up and grab my face. When my foot landed on the ground, I felt the coolness of the stone underneath. It was hard like cement, but didn’t have that rough feel. Instead it had a moist and squishy feel to it, and I looked down to see moss and mold drenched in blood.
Unable to move back, I could only move forward, toadstool moist and spongy under my feet. It made me cringe, but I took a deep breath, and moved forward. That was when something new hit me. It was a smell so foul that I jumped up and hit my head on the ceiling of the cave, and I was brought down on my knees, grasping my head.
I held my breath for a moment, and then took another shallow intake of air through my nose once more, and squeezed my eyes shut at the awfulness of it. I smelled death, I smelled blood. I smelled the mold, the mildew. I smelled something rotten, and thought it could only be dead bodies.
Holding my breath once more, I looked up to scan the floors again, but found no bodies. I found no doors leading to other rooms that might hold dead bodies. I found absolutely nothing in sight but blood and the mold that lined the floor.
Curious, I got back up, my bruised head almost entirely forgotten, and determinedly stalked forward, only watching the light, only paying attention to it. It seemed to grow larger, but very slowly. It was agonizingly painful to watch it grow larger only by what seemed to be miles.
My feet already had blisters on them, such small things that do a world of hurt when trying to reach an objective by foot. My jeans, having been brand new before I came to this odd place, was beginning to tear at the ends, thread coming loose to drag on the moldy stone floors and collect blood and moss. My nose had somehow plugged up, relieving my sense of smell, and making me breathe through my mouth, which wasn’t any better, as I could now taste it all.
The dead tasted like bitter coffee mixed with lemon juices, dirt, sand, and mushrooms, all mixed together in one soupy mixture of a horrendous taste. I gagged several times, almost up-chucking once, but was able to hold it down only by pushing my tongue to the back of my mouth, clogging my throat. I have since then gotten used to it, but the taste of blood was still playing its vile, crude being in my mouth.
It tasted like copper, a thick metallic taste stabbing my tongue with a thousand needles, pounding my teeth and making me grind them to make sure that I wasn’t going to lose them. It tasted like chalk, and like sand, crude and demon-like. I couldn’t bare it, so I held my breath as much as I could. It didn’t last for long, and soon I was back to breathing in the same horrible tastes as before.
Soon I could stand it no longer, and I sat down on the ground, not caring what I felt under me. I wrapped my arms around my legs, pulling them close to me, and buried my face in my knees, both giving my feet relief and soothing my mouth and my nose from the violating smells.
I looked up, holding my breath, and saw that I was halfway there. The light seemed almost as large as a door. That meant that I was pretty close. I smiled, but buried my face again, relishing the rest that I was getting. Unfortunately, I could not fall asleep for some reason, otherwise I would. I don’t even remember what happened before I appeared here. Somehow my memory was just erased upon arriving here, as if it was some top secret dungeon.
Reluctantly, I got up, my legs and my back spiked with pain, cramping and sending flares of protest along my whole body. It almost made me fall back down, but I stayed strong and trudged forward, determined still to find the end of the tunnel. I would not fail this test, if it was one.
I walked as far as I could before I fell back down, closing my eyes and facing the ground, my arms taking all of the weight. When I opened them, my breath flew out of me as I saw a radiant beam of light wash over me, melting away all of the mold, blood, moss, and whatever else lined the tunnel walls.
I looked up, nearly blinded by the light, and saw before me the silhouette of a man, arms outstretched, and a smile on his face, reaching from ear to ear. He wore nothing but milky white robes and a golden sash across his chest. His feet were bare, and one foot was in front of the other, as if he were trying to walk towards me, but was stopped.
When he stopped I noticed another man beside him, but a couple of feet off to the left of the robed man. This man wore gilded blood red robes with black etching designs of dragons blowing golden fire towards his hands, up towards his neck, and down his chest to his waist, expanding outwards as it went to reflect the brilliant light onto my face.
He wore a golden crown on his head, and every gem I could think of was present on the golden frame. Jasper, onyx, ruby, emerald, diamond, beryl, turquoise, topaz, amethyst, sapphire, and chrysolite. He held a staff made purely of gold, with golden pictures surrounding it, and a large ruby on top, gleaming in the full light of this odd place. He, too, was smiling, but it was more of a cunning smile than that of a welcoming smile.
Still, his eyes promised treasures beyond belief, and his style proved it. I wanted to join him just for that, because I never had money or anything nice where I used to be, where ever that was. He was a man of great power, if he could be called a man. Maybe he was a god or maybe an angel. He sure looked like it. He was certainly handsome enough to be an angel.
As he looked at me, he chuckled, a simple rasp of air from his mouth that told me so much about him. His face straightened out as I realized just who he was, and when my gaze turned to the other robed man, his face drew up in disgust, and he disappeared in a burst of flames and black smoke, swirling around his fading body and imploding on him as he disappeared.
The place had suddenly got warmer, but it was comforting warmth. It filled my bones with the feeling of home, and calmed me. I felt no pain in my feet or legs, I had no shortages of breath, and the horrendous sights and smells were gone from my mind, though I still remembered them. Just not with detail.
The man held out his hand, extending it towards me slowly, and with the same reverence that his face held, I took it, and picked myself off of the ground with his help, and my vision faded as the world around us melted away and grew into something new.
Looking at my new surroundings, I saw giant marble pillars extending as far and as high as the eye could see, with balls of light centered in each one. Stone steps ascended to a gigantic throne of which sat the man, several times bigger than when he came to me. He still had that same smile that he met me with, and his eyes bore into me, but it didn’t freak me out, oddly enough.
Below me, the ground was neither solid, liquid, or gas, but something that incorporated all of them. It felt solid enough to hold me, but had a liquefying feel, damp and warm, and also had a misty presence. It felt funny, and tickled my feet, but did not distract me. Above me, great houses – mansions floated freely on large bulbous clouds, slowly rising and falling steadily, and drifting off into different directions, but none of them collided. Then, all around me were people, but they did not see me. Some were standing as I was, looking around as I was, and staring at the man like I was. They were all puzzled like I was, confused like I was, curious like I was, and surprised exactly like I was.
This place was so magnificent, so wonderful, that it made me want to dance, and it wasn’t just because of the new music that was playing. It sounded better than the music of Mozart, but had a free melody that came together in a godly harmony. It was loud, but soothing to the ears, and great musical voices lifted up in an air of grace and majesty.
I looked up to see that a choir of people in white robes and golden sashes were singing, each and every one of them on key and in sync. There was no conductor, for they had no need of one. Then beside them there was another group of people who held different instruments. Some had large mahogany harps with gold tinsel lining the frame, some with golden flutes, some with a silver trumpet, and some stood behind large drums twice their size, but set the beat and the rhythm. It all came together so well, that my full attention was brought to them.
After some time of waiting patiently, the man cleared his throat, earning my attention again. He chuckled, and looked at me, a new smile playing across his face. It was something between amusement and love. When he began talking, the singers and the band got softer, quieter, but they did not stop. They never stopped. Even when he was done talking and I was sent on towards a large book, ten times the size of any book I have ever seen, and ten times as big as any dictionary ever found in any library.
I looked at the book, but found no special significance in it, other than it had people’s names. Curious as to why this was, I looked a bit more, but dared not touch the book. Each and every name was scrawled carefully in golden ink, and seemed to shift into different languages, yet I could understand them all.
Scanning each and every name, I finally found mine, seemingly more golden than all of the others, and glowing, a wave of light crossing over my name and then my name blended and dulled like the others. It made me smile, the first time since I had arrived, and I looked at the man beside me. He told me that it was the Lamb’s Book of Life, and that he had prepared a place for me inside of his kingdom.
Immediately, when he had finished the word ‘kingdom’, the mist cleared, as if he had torn some sort of veil in my vision, and I could see the full extent of this place. The same tri-elemental streets extended further and further, never to cease. Large mansions with large yards stood taller than any building I had ever seen in my life, and odd figures flew around in the skies, singing their own songs or doing various things.
One was singing and dancing, twirling in the air and doing different tricks, and bringing others with him. Another one was flying steadily over buildings and other people, writing down on a large scroll, his feathered ink pen racing along the paper steadily, as if his hand never cramped. Others were talking, but they didn’t seem to be talking to anyone specific. I heard one say ‘He shall not come to the Father…’ and then he flew off before he could finish.
I looked at the man, curious, and asked my first and only question. “What is this place?” I didn’t look the man in the eyes, because for some reason I didn’t feel like I should. Like I wasn’t high enough stature to, but he answered my question patiently.
“This is your new home. Many call it Heaven, though you can call it whatever you like. It’s for people who have done well in their life, and have served me. Like you, many people walk through that tunnel, many of them having worse tunnels than you, and some with better tunnels. They signify what obstacles you went through in life, and once you get through all of them, you reach your next big obstacle. We call it the Last Temptation. You have to choose between Me, and the other being that you saw here. He is Satan, as many people call him. He was long ago known as Lucifer, the one who tempted Eve into eating the apple that condemned all into a harsh world. Each and every person that I had created after them had choices to make, and if they didn’t make the right ones, then they were hurt more and more. The best choice one can ever make is to choose me, and if they really accept it, deep in their hearts, then the obstacles become less and less of a hassle, and they reach the Final Temptation and find it easy. Others find it easy the other way, and choose not me, but the demon that rules those sent to a much worse place than Earth. For people who choose them, Earth will always be their Heaven, and for those who choose me, Earth will be the only Hell they will ever endure. You, My son, are one of the lucky ones that get beyond that Final Temptation and are rewarded with everlasting life, wonders beyond belief, and a place you can finally call your home. So, my good friend Gabriel will escort you to your new home.”
That whole time of him talking, I was enveloped in his words, nearly drowning in the love and passion that I felt behind them. It was heart-stopping and mind-boggling what he did to me. It made me feel good inside, and if I could have hugged him, I would have, because for once, He was someone who spoke only the truth.