Finally, after decades of a painful and miserable life, I had reached the end. As the last remnants of myself drifted into the cold nothingness, I found myself relieved. At last, I could rest. At last, I had no more worries. At last, I was free.
But then I felt an unwelcome familiarity, gravity.
I was falling, no, plummeting into the yawning abyss below me, with no way to stop my fall. As I fell faster and faster into the depths of nothingness, I began to see a bright light. Not the white of light of death one might hear of in stories, but a dark, red light, with an air of pure evil.
Faster and faster I careened toward the light, the red swelling in size until I could make out thousands of blazing fires, each brighter and hotter than the sun itself.
Finally, I made contact with solid ground. Solid, painful ground. As I landed, every inch of my flesh was torn into by thick thorns the size of nails. I struggled to stand, but quickly found I was surrounded by the thorns as if the entire floor were made from them.
Then the stench hit me. A horrible, sulphuric stench that bombarded my every olfactory sense, forcing stinging tears to my eyes. I covered my nose with my hand but found that that smelled even worse, the stench of burning. My hands were alight with flame. A terrible, painful, hellish flame that quickly spread across my entirety.
I could bare the building pain no longer, I cried out in agony. Immediately, my cry was joined by billions of other screams. It was then that I realized I was not alone. I looked up and saw thousands of people before me.
I gathered my remaining strength and got to my feet, so as to face my company. They were all Human, the same as myself, but also the same as myself, they were alight with hellfire.
Everyone here burned, but none of them showed marks of their burning. The fire bit them and scathed them, but I realized, it would never destroy them. I began to walk towards one of them, but let loose another cry of pain. I was barefooted, and walking across the ground rewarded with puncture wounds from the thorns across the field of torment.
I was afraid to move, every step was pain. But then again, so was standing still. Everything was pain, I couldn't stand it anymore. I fell to my knees, weeping.
Another saw my plight and began to make his own painful trek towards me. Yet before I even saw him approach, a hideous creature leapt from the fires and swept the man away. All I heard were his screams, and even those were eventually drowned out by the constant wailing of the billions of other souls that constantly bombarded my ears.
There would be no mercy in this place. Only pain. Only torment.
I crumpled into a ball, pleading with anyone who was listening, for reprieve. But even that was pain. To speak, I had to breathe, and I could not breathe, for I found there to be no oxygen, only heat. Yet I did not suffocate.
For days I lay there. Burning, crying, screaming. Soon, as one does, I became accustomed to the pain, but as soon as I did, the heat of the fire intensified, the thorns of the ground thickened, the air staled further, and my pain doubled, forcing a new agonized cry from within myself.
Even crying had begun to hurt, so I stopped. I stood again and began to walk. To where I wasn't sure.
I wanted to escape. To go back to my life. My family. My job. I wanted it all back. I yearned for it. So I began to walk across the thorny ground, screaming with each step I took, the pain unbearable.
I realized now that despite being with other souls, I was alone. I had approached some of the others here, to discover that behind the flames that engulfed then, they had no face.
It dawned on me. It didn't matter who they were on Earth, down here they were nobody. And so was I.
So I continued to walk. Intent on some form of escape back to Earth. Back to life.
Days bled into weeks.
Weeks bled into months.
Months bled into years.
And soon time had no meaning at all.
For eons I wandered, every day my pain grew greater, and every day my hope of escape faltered. Perhaps there was no escaping this place. For an eternity I had searched, yet here I still was. Subject to pain greater than I had ever felt when I was alive.
What had it been like to be alive? I had been here so long I was starting to forget. All I knew was pain. Endless fields of thorns, flame, and pain.
Then I found something new. Something I had not seen before.
A podium. And atop the podium, a book.
I approached the podium, wary of any demons looking to torment me. But I was alone for now.
I opened the book and learned what it was.
A manifest of souls. Every Human who had ever lived, and every sin they had committed.
I flipped a page, and saw my name, and saw my sin, one sin, and fell to my knees, weeping.
All at once, I knew where I was, and why I was here. I deserved to be here. Nonetheless, I cried out to God. Pleading apology.
But then I wept more. He could no longer hear me.
I had had the chance to save my soul.
But now it was too late.