Authors: Kenneth Zeigler
Tags: #Fiction, #General, #Religious, #Christian
Heaven and Hell
© Copyright 2009 – Kenneth Zeigler
All rights reserved. This book is protected by the copyright laws of the United States of America. This book may not be copied or reprinted for commercial gain or profit. The use of short quotations or occasional page copying for personal or group study is permitted and encouraged. Permission will be granted upon request. Unless otherwise identified, Scripture quotations are from the King James Version. Please note that Destiny Image’s publishing style capitalizes certain pronouns in Scripture that refer to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and may differ from some publishers’ styles. Take note that the name satan and related names are not capitalized. We choose not to acknowledge him, even to the point of violating grammatical rules.
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ISBN 10: 0-7684-2826-2
ISBN 13: 978-0-7684-2826-1
For Worldwide Distribution, Printed in the U.S.A.
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This book is dedicated to my wife, Mary, and all of the prayer warriors who confront the enemy on a daily basis.
And there was war in Heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in Heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him
(Revelation 12: 7-9).
he heat was oppressive, 114 degrees in the shade, but finding shade was the problem. It was mid-afternoon, at least it felt that way—it always felt that way. The huge reddish orb that passed for a sun hung high in the western sky; it might just as well have been nailed to the dusty amber firmament. And except for those times when dust storms obscured it from view, it was just another eternal fixture of this grim arid landscape.
This was an unforgiving land. Never as much as a drop of rain fell upon these forsaken plains. Nor did a single lichen cling to the rocks. It was the template of utter desolation.
Yet this was not a place whose silence was broken only by the occasional howling winds of a fierce dust storm. No, there was no peace to be found here. The air was full of sounds—weeping, shrieks of pain, screeching birds, and clanking chains. These sounds were a natural part of this place, as natural as the blazing sun or blowing sands.
Across the plains, a myriad of altars composed of polished black marble were laid out in orderly rows as far as the eye could see. It was reminiscent of a great city, its streets and avenues laid out in perfect geometric precision. Draped over most of these altars were rag-clad humans, their wrists, ankles, and necks securely restrained by chains and manacles. So short were these black monoliths that their occupants’ heads and their legs, from the ankles down, dangled over the ends. Here, shackled and scantly clad, they were exposed to the harsh elements.
Yet the harshness of those elements went beyond oppressive heat and the discomfort of tight barbed restraints. For above this field of agony, large birds, scavengers, glided and pirouetted on the thermals. They were a savage and aggressive lot, with a 3-feet wingspan, oversized heads, and large beaks with jaws as powerful as steel traps. They were the result of evolution gone horribly wrong, scavengers with an instinct and physiology adapted specifically for preying upon a single species—humans. Indeed, the flesh of these helpless humans was the birds’ sole source of nourishment and human blood their only source of moisture.
Occasionally, the birds would swoop down to claim a piece of the living flesh offered to them upon the altars. They would land upon their prone human prey, digging into soft flesh with their razor-like talons, pecking into it with their sharp beaks, and eventually coming up with slices of stringy meat that they swiftly and greedily gulped down.
So numerous were these scavengers that two or three of them might gather to feed upon one human at any given time—a gruesome feeding frenzy. Through it all, the prey would squirm and curse, scream and cry, yet to no avail, for they were shackled too tightly to their altars to offer any meaningful resistance.
It took several hours of continual feeding for the birds to reduce a human being to a mass of indigestible organs, bones, and sinew. Then they would fly off, seeking out heartier pickings elsewhere. Yet the story didn’t end there. In the absence of the feasting birds, the bodies of the desecrated humans would undergo a swift yet grotesque process of regeneration, becoming whole again within the span of an hour. Then the cycle of feeding began anew.
Here, there was mortal pain and horror without the ultimate release mortality offered, for there was no death. All of these victims had already died once, and that experience of death would not be repeated. This was Hell, and Hell was forever.
Rathspith stood amid the carnage like some vulgar stone gargoyle, gazing across the flat barren plains. He looked across the myriad of altars toward a low range of mountains in the distance, mountains that seemed to undulate and ripple with the passing waves of heat. It had been a full hour since he had so much as moved a muscle.
His large bat-like wings were folded tightly together, arching a good two feet over his head and nearly touching the ground behind him. His wrinkled tan face exhibited a menacing scowl, yet his wide green eyes held a blank stare. He seemed totally unaffected by the goings on about him.
No, the cries of anguish from the altars were of little consequence to him. He had learned to tune them out long ago. If anything, he found some measure of comfort in their screams. After all, they were just humans, abominable creatures, made in the image of God, pale imitations of their Creator. They exhibited the physical perfection of their Creator, yet deep within they were creatures most foul, full of rage, hatred, envy, and avarice. No, this was the perfect place for them—a fitting destiny, an eternal supply of food for the scavengers of the air. Here, at least they served some useful purpose.
Rathspith was the lone sentinel watching over 10,000 of these loathsome creatures, the guardian who would ensure that none would escape their eternal destiny. But what was the point of it? How would one of them escape? They were all securely shackled to their altars, dehydrated, weakened by the pain and the heat. They weren’t going anywhere.
No, this assignment was an act of personal retribution against him. It was the sort of assignment given to a minor demon of the seventh rank, not a lieutenant such as himself. A lieutenant? No, former lieutenant now. And these humans were to blame. Actually, it was just one human who bore the blame for his fall from grace, and ironically he had never even met her.
Six years ago, that new female arrival had been sentenced by the master himself to the most vile torment to be found in all of Hell, the Sea of Fire,
a flaming ocean of black oil that fully encompassed a third of Satan’s realm. There in the midst of a broiling heaving nightmare, she would come to know another definition of pain, terror, and eventual madness. At least that was the intent. Yet after only four months into her eternal sentence, she had simply vanished. It seemed absolutely impossible. After all, no human had ever escaped from that turbulent fiery realm. The shorelines around the sea were steep and rugged, the sea itself was turbulent and well-patrolled, and the humans within too weak and crazy with pain to formulate an escape. But somehow she had. An exhaustive search for her had yielded nothing.
Rathspith had been assigned the task of recovering her; indeed, his desire for power and accolades had compelled him to volunteer for the assignment. Yet things had gone horribly wrong. She had slipped through his grasp; and during the search, a demon of the sixth rank under his own command had vanished without a trace. Worse still, the human female had escaped Hell altogether by means he didn’t even pretend to understand. Now she was back on Earth, proclaiming the message of salvation, stealing Hell-bound souls from the master, and the burden of the blame had been passed from minion to minion, inevitably falling squarely on his shoulders. Over the years, her name had been burned indelibly into his mind—Serena Farnsworth.
The incident had enraged the master and led to Rathspith’s demotion into the company of the lowest ranks of demons, relegating him to the dirtiest and most mundane tasks in the dark kingdom. Had it ended there, things would have been bad enough. But Serena Farnsworth was just the first in a series of missing humans.
Some months later, another human disappeared without a trace. Additional months of searching had yielded not so much as a trace of her. She had vanished from Hell. Then went another and another.
Satan was positively livid. The disappearances led to the implementation of more rigorous security measures, more monitoring of the humans. That
edict had brought him here, and here he had remained. All of his appeals for a transfer had been declined by his superiors, so he was stuck. And that fate, the one so cruelly dealt him, ate at him as surely as the birds ate the nearly desiccated bodies of these miserable humans around him. He had gone over it again and again in his mind. It had become his personal tormentor during these past years. This time amid his simmering rage, he hadn’t noticed the small gray cloud sweeping across the plains toward him.
High above the dusty plains, a large buzzard began to descend toward a now fully restored victim who was struggling frantically upon her black altar near the edge of the field of agony. The buzzard circled the newly discovered prey, but when a small brown creature flew past him, he instinctively abandoned the descent toward the human and pursued it. Perhaps it would offer more moisture than the dried up human. His sharp beak opened wide, even as the small insect-like creature was overtaken and swept in. His huge beak snapped shut, yet he was unable to swallow his prey—it resisted, lodging itself firmly in his throat. The vulture gagged, swung his head from side to side, yet to no avail. Then came the burning stings, and a spreading of blood across the feathers of the vulture’s neck. Seconds later his neck exploded. Body and head parted company and the buzzard plummeted end over end toward the desert below. The small creature continued on its way.
It was only when several other of the winged tormentors had met a similar fate, that Rathspith’s attention was drawn to the aerial carnage. He stood in wonder as the birds scattered in confusion, meeting their deaths as a result of a common mistake.