"I'll be waiting for you."

Those were the last words uttered by my father as he lay on his death bed. They had seemed to make my mother happy, but I was filled with a cold dread. I had never been able to escape, and now not even in death was I able to get away.

My father had always told me stories about Heaven. How he believed that everyone went there, regardless of what they did in their life. He told me that no matter how bad a person had been they would always get eternal happiness. This didn't make sense to me. Surely if a person was bad then they deserved to be punished?

Each time I listened to these stories there was a new twist. I can't remember them all now, but I was shocked at the time. My father's views completely contradicted my own. Completely went against everything I had ever been taught. But I was young, and trusting ones parents at such a young age comes almost second nature to a child.

It was when I started to voice my concerns and disbeliefs that he started to change. He no longer gave me a good night kiss or smiled and wished me good morning when I arose. He no longer drove me to school, instead letting me walk alone on treacherous main roads. He became angry and it seemed that whenever I saw him he was drinking. Sipping liquid out of a can or a glass.

My mother did not seem to notice the change. In fact there was an air of jubilance in the house whenever my father stepped through the door. He would always meet her with a smile, scooping her into his arms and making sure she was safely out of sight before turning his dark face to mine.

At first I thought nothing of it. I was too young to understand the meaning of the looks he gave me. Like he would prefer it if I wasn't there anymore. But I finally realised something was wrong when he came into my room at night and hit me, clean across the face. I was so shocked I didn't even cry out. I just sat there. He grabbed me, hoping to invoke a reaction. He told me that I was bad and that I had to be punished. Then I said something unbelievably stupid, but in my defence I must say I was in heavy shock.

"But you said that no one should be punished, no matter what they've done."

He snarled and struck me heavily across the face, throwing me to the floor. I cried then. I cried so much I thought my heart was going to fall out of my chest. When I stopped and looked up, he was gone.

And so began my life of torment. I began walking slowly home from school, taking the long routes and as much time as I could. I would stay after school late with my friends and then crawl home. I spent as much time out of the house as possible. I would wake before him and get washed and dressed, eat and go to school, where I would hang around waiting for classes to begin.

When I did step over the threshold into my prison he would be upon me immediately, gripping me by the shoulders and shaking me. Pushing me to the floor and stamping on my chest. Throwing me down the stairs and laughing. He never took me to the hospital, not even when he cracked my ribs. He just told me to stay in bed and not make a sound.

And my mother through all of this remained decidedly ignorant. I don't believe for one second that she could have known about this and done nothing, and to this day I haven't told her. She loved this man. And I wasn't about to tell her otherwise.

My torture continued through five long years. Many was the time that I wanted to leave it all behind. To go to school and never come back. But I didn't. What if he then turned on my mother? I couldn't risk it. So I stayed. I endured. I knew one day I would be free.

My heart was like a feather on the day that he fell off his ladder. He had been replacing the tiles on the roof. He was putting the last one into place when he slipped, damaging his body beyond repair. The doctor allowed him to stay in the house and die in his own bed when it was found that there was nothing that could be done for him.

And so we were here. My father thirty-eight. My mother thirty-five. And me, a mere ten years old, my father dying before me. My whole being was ordering me to jump for joy. But I forced myself to remain outwardly calm. When he beckoned me closer I did not hesitate. Even I, who had been through hell at the hands of this man, would not deny him his dying words.

That was when he whispered the words in my ear. Every story he had ever told me came flooding back. Every detail about the place that everyone goes to after death. Every fibre of my body was telling me to pull away but I didn't and he died in my arms.

That is what has kept me awake for all these nights in between then and my death day. Another one of my beliefs that has been taught to me. That has been grafted into me so strongly is that a dying man's wish always comes true. So I have the same dream, night after night.

I am walking through the gates of Heaven, angels waiting to welcome me. Clouds are dancing in the distance and a soft lullaby is being produced from one of many harps that line my way. But then my father comes. He rises up out of the clouds and grabs me, throwing me roughly to the floor and bringing his foot clashing into my stomach. But the worst thing is nothing else has changed. The angels are still smiling, the clouds are still dancing, and the music is still soothing. The perfect lullaby.

I am thirty years old. I have lived a life of solitude and loneliness because of what happened twenty years ago. I always believed Heaven to be wonderful place. But now I fear it. It haunts my dreams and every waking moment. My life has been ruined by a nightmare. The nightmare of Heaven.

EDITED: 21/08/10