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James Griggs stood looking over the bow of the charter boat Destiny. He and 6 other passengers were about to be taken out into the Atlantic Ocean to go fishing for the day. The captain, named Petey, was a joyful old sailor. He was so experienced in boating that he could have navigated his way around the lake with his eyes shut. He walked up behind James and slapped him on the shoulder.
“Ready to go?” he asked cheerfully. James smiled and told him yes. As they made their way away from the docks, James noted how beautiful the weather was. It was about 8:00 AM, and the sun was already beginning to peek over the horizon. A gentle breeze blew across the water, creating small waves that gently lapped the side of Destiny.
It wasn’t long before they were far enough away to not see land. Fishing poles and bait were passed around, and James found a comfortable chair near the stern. He adjusted his life jacket and settled into the chair. Every once in awhile, someone would catch a fish. But no one caught anything that big, and silence always settled on the boat soon after a catch.
Around 3:00 PM, with just a couple of hours until the end of the trip, James noticed that the sky was darkening. Petey instructed everyone to get below deck.
“We need to get home,” he said, with a worried expression. “There’s a big storm coming. And when I say big, I mean big.” Everyone except Petey piled into the cabin of Destiny and found seats on boxes of fishing gear or the floor of the cabin. James started to worry about this coming storm. He knew Petey’s reputation for being an experienced sailor, but the old captain seemed worried.
“I think this is gonna be a mighty bad storm,” said an old man sitting next to James. “That old man knows what he’s talking about. He wouldn’t send us down here if it wasn’t dangerous.” No one answered, and they sat there in silence. All at once, the storm hit.
A fast and cold wind blew through the air. A pounding rain pelted Destiny, each drop moving sideways as a result of the strong wind. Waves began to crash over the side of the boat, and lightning flashed through the sky, accompanied by booms of thunder. The passengers simply sat and listened to the storm. After a half hour, it wasn’t letting up.
James began to wonder if they were going to make it home alright. He opened the door that led to the deck, and shouted over the storm to Petey. Petey either didn’t hear him, or he simply ignored him. He looked like he was trying to concentrate, twisting the ship’s wheel here and there, his eyes locked on a point on the horizon.
Still worried, James decided to climb onto the deck and make his way over to Petey. He stood next to him and yelled in his ear.
“Are we going to make it home alright?” he shouted.
“I think so,” Petey said determinedly. “What are you doing up here? Get back into the cabin!”
James realized that he was indeed in a very dangerous place. As he walked back over to the hole in the deck, he noticed something in the water. He wasn’t sure what is it was, so he decided to go and investigate. As he leaned over the railing, a huge wave rocked the boat and he was thrown into the ocean. He managed to grab a rope just before he fell.
He was only under water for a few seconds. He came back to the surface, waves moving him here and there. He held onto the rope and tried to climb back onto Destiny. It was no use. The wind, waves and rain were all working together to disorientate him and make it hard to concentrate.
He felt a tug on the rope, and the next thing he knew he was lying on the deck of Destiny. He looked up, assuming that Petey had pulled him back on. But to his surprise, Petey was nowhere to be found. Thinking he must have gone into the cabin, James climbed down the ladder and shut the door behind him.
The cabin was empty. Petey and the other passengers were nowhere to be found. He got back up on the deck and began to crawl so he wouldn’t go over the edge again. What in the world had happened to the other passengers and Petey? They were there just seconds ago.
He knew this wasn’t the time to play a practical joke on him. There had to be some other explanation for where they were. He looked over the railings, all parts of the deck, and the cabin again, but he found nothing. The others were simply gone.
“Is anybody here!” he shouted. There was, of course, no reply. Thinking that he needed to get out of the storm, he crawled in the direction of the cabin. His heart skipped a beat as he saw there was no cabin. The door that led to it was gone. Now there was nothing but a section of deck in its place.
James crawled back over to the side, which was not an easy task since the boat was still rocking violently and nearly capsizing. He grabbed hold of a sturdy rope and held on for dear life. He laid there for awhile, trying to figure out where the others might be. The wind ripped at his bare arms and legs. The rain pelted him as he lay on the deck, still clinging to the rope.
Suddenly, he was struck by a feeling of extreme shame and guilt. He thought of all the bad things he had done in his life. He had stolen, drank and cussed like sailor, cheated on various girlfriends. The list of his transgressions went on and on. He didn’t know why, but he couldn’t stop thinking about those things.
He still held onto the rope. After only a few minutes, the pain and remorse he felt became so great that it caused him to fall forward with his face on the deck. He began to weep, wishing he hadn't done any of those things. He promised himself that if he got out of this storm alive, he would change his ways. He would live for good rather than evil. Make peace with his creator.
The storm raged on and on. James wondered how long it would be before the storm was over. He was amazed that Destiny hadn’t capsized yet. The waves still crashed against her, trying to pull her under. As he lay there and wept, hoping that the storm would soon end, something in the back of his mind told him that it was too late. That this storm he was in would last forever.
Basic logic told him this was impossible. But then again, did logic still apply to the situation he was in? People on the boat had suddenly disappeared, and the storm seemed never ending. And then there was the issue of his guilt. The thoughts of his sins still flooded his mind. He couldn’t think about anything else but those and his desire to escape this storm.
There was a small voice in the back of his head. It told him that he would never get out of this storm and his own crushing thoughts of pain and guilt. He shook his head, trying not to listen to the voice. He wasn’t sure if it was real or not. He knew it couldn’t have been real, but it sounded like a real voice. It was as if someone were whispering in his ear.
The storm, his guilt, and the voice combined were starting to make him mad. He couldn’t get away from any of them. He tried time and time again to clear his head, but it simply didn’t work. Soon, the voice became so vivid that James opened his eyes to see if there was someone right next to him. It continued to speak discouraging words to him. He realized after a little while that the voice must have been his consciousness, or his own feelings.
He wondered if he was crazy. His thoughts and feelings couldn’t actually speak to him, could they? But after all that had happened today, he didn’t doubt that this sort of thing could happen. He became so distressed, that he began to yell.
“How do I escape from here?” he shouted. “I need to escape! I can't take this!”. The voice in his head was quiet for about 30 seconds. And then it spoke.
“There is no escape from Hell,”.