Five thousand years. That's how long I've been here. Here….this place. This horrid, disgusting place. The smell of burning flesh and brimstone never leaves the air. Every punishment is different, as are the crimes that denote them. Every person has their own version of hell. This is mine. I'm reaping what I've sown. It's not that I had sin; it was that I didn't acknowledge my sin. I didn't see it, didn't apologize for it. I didn't try to be better. I kept committing sin after sin; never even looking for new leafs to try to turn over. I kept telling myself that I would live forever – that I would pray tomorrow, that I would attend church next week. So, I have made my fiery bed, and now I must lie in it.

But, I don't believe it's over. The faith that I may have lacked in my former life has come back to me, in an overwhelming sense. I pray now. I think about nothing but God. The evil here tells me that He no longer listens, that He no longer cares. It spreads through my mind every second of every excruciating hour. I'm sure it goes through the minds of the others that are here, though I can't see them. You're always alone in this place. Alone, except for evil, and the dark one. The dark one. The one who first betrayed God, and in turn set the stone for all those that would follow. The words that spill from his mouth tell of hopelessness, pain, and despair. They tell me that God is not here, that He cares not of my woes and pain. They tell me he loves me no longer. They come in and out every minute, and they are cruel, harsh words. And they are forceful. But I don't believe them. They are lies. The merciful one that I call God loves eternally, encourages faith, hope, and love. Love. It has been long since I've felt love. The closest thing to love that I know is a tiny little speck of faith that I keep in my heart of hearts. Faith that tells me that God still knows, still cares, and that he will always love me. That is all I have. The only thing that keeps me from breaking. But I am so close to breaking. I'm so tired, so very tired. But I will pay for my sins. At one point, I had the gift of forgiveness. God sent the one, his only one to pay for my sins. A blessing that I took for granted. But now, I wish I only could have felt an iota of thankfulness towards God, towards Jesus. I burn here because of my lack of love. A burning that can't be described in human words, only in depths and depths of pain that slices the soul. I must be wrong. This must be it. The end, the final judgment. This is where I shall remain, for deeds that I alone am responsible for. This is my hell.

But, no. No. Something happens. One time-filled space that I now call a day, the burning stops. My wounds, inner and outer, begin to heal. The chokehold on my soul is released, and for the first time in five thousand years, I breathe. I truly breathe. Air has never tasted sweeter. The trappings that bind my soul to this hell begin to break, the darkness clears. I see others. Their binds break as well. Something cool wraps itself around my charred soul. My wounds begin to close. I hear the dark one screaming, cursing and spitting hateful words. The dark one screams "No, no, no, no!" over and over again. The dark one is losing….is dying. Yet suddenly, my mind is elsewhere. A soft voice tells me not to think on the dark one, that he is forever gone, along with his demons. I feel myself being lifted, out of the depths, into the air. Higher, higher, higher. I think, almost for a second….but no. It can't be. Would He? Does He choose to love me? My wondering mind is hushed, and the most beautiful voice that has ever graced my ears speaks. "Fear not", He says, "You are loved, you are saved – you are forgiven. For, even in the darkest of times, you regained your hope, your love, even if it was in the smallest of measurements. You, my child, have kept the faith." The voice blurs into soft music. I'm suddenly surrounded by billions upon billions of people, all of whom I seem to automatically know. They are hugging me, welcoming me. I have never felt peace like this before. I know that this is Heaven. I am wrapped in a hug by God himself. He hugs us all, and calls us His children. He loves us. He loves me. He always had, and now, forever more, He will continue to love me. He will love you. He loves all. But soon, you will feel this peace and love that I speak of. Just remember to keep the faith, and know that there is a love waiting for you, full of hopes and mercies that are beyond current understanding. A love that endures forever.