And The Devil Frowned
A man was waiting in a line of other men. He was free to move, but stood still and swallowed and sweat in a cold room. He was naked in every sense. These were the gates of hell. All men fear what comes. And this man was next.
At last a dark vibration moved through the room. An old devil beckoned and the man stepped forward through a doorway into a narrow hall. To his right, another naked man sat on a wooden chair. And then another. And another. The chairs to his left were empty yet.
This man sat. But there in his place, a half-smile came to him, to his eyes and cheeks. The devil looked at the man, rummaging through his mind. And the devil said "You're thinking this is a trick. That you're really in Heaven." The man squinted, and turned his head to the side. "This is not Heaven." the devil said. And hell began to play.
The man's eyes went black. A scream severed his lungs but no sound was made. His jaw opened so wide that the corners frayed. There was blood, but he was too far away to taste it. He was just another, at the end of a long line of writhing men.
But the devil stopped the hell. And the man came around. He snorted to force out the smell and spat black tar and heaved smoke from his lungs.
"Do you believe me now?" the devil said.
The man took his time, chewing deep breaths. "I suppose," the man said, "you might show me hell so that Heaven will be all the sweeter."
"No," said the devil nodding, "this is it."
"I suppose," the man said, "that's what you would say either way."
Smoke trickled up from the devil's nostrils. He thought for a moment. And then he started the hell again. With a dark vibration, all the chairs moved one spot to the right. And the next man stepped in. But now this man was hopeful too, a soft smile on his teeth. He looked left and then right, and sat down in his chair. "So this is Heaven?" he said.
And the devil frowned.