Where Would You Find Yourself If Your Life Suddenly Ended?

By Marsha West

Around 740 BC

“In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another:

‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.’

At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.

‘Woe to me!’ I cried. ‘I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.’

Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, ‘See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.’”  Isaiah 6:1-7

2015 AD

“Holy crumbs, where am I?”

A sweet fragrance filled the air that was unfamiliar to the teenage girl.  What a heavenly smell, she mused.

She noticed a narrow staircase a few yards away and wondered where it led to.  But before she could decide whether or not to investigate, a voice from out of nowhere hollered “Come hither, Jillian!”    

The girl looked around to see who it was. 

Louder.  “Come hither!”

“Hither?” she said under her breath, befuddled by the word.  Whoever‘s up there must be from a different country, she thought.  The voice was neither male nor female. 

“Up, up!  Come up!” urged the voice. 

Jillian scanned the staircase looking for signs of life.  It had no railing. 

“You are dawdling!”

She chuckled and shouted back, “I have no idea what that means.”  Clearly this person wasn’t an American.  English, perhaps? 

“Come forth without delay!”

Irritated, she replied, “Okay, okay!”  She inhaled deeply and went full bore up the stairs.   

Slap….slap….slap….slap ….came the sound of her rhinestone studded flip-flops as they hit the steps.  The teenager made quite a fashion statement in her faded low rider jeans.  She had taken a pair of fabric sheers to the knees to achieve a well-worn look and was thrilled with the outcome.  A wide leather belt was cinched tightly around her slim hips. 

She had climbed fairly high before realizing she wasn’t winded at all.  That’s weird, she thought, shifting her monogrammed L. L. Bean Boat and Tote to her other shoulder. 

The higher she went the more she fretted over her appearance.  Why do I feel half naked? she wondered.

Perhaps wearing the skimpy crop top hadn’t been such a good idea after all…?   She had bought the top because the scoop neck showed plenty of cleavage, likewise the hip wings tattoo on her lower back was on display for all to see. 

After climbing for what seemed like forever she stopped to get her bearings. “Where the heck am I?” she whispered.  She gazed into the sky and marveled at the clouds gathering overhead. She had never seen anything quite like them before.  It was as if she had stepped into a Thomas Kinkade painting.  Light poured down from the clouds onto the staircase as if to light a path before her to follow. 

“Keep going,” she reminded herself and resumed her ascent.

She hadn’t taken ten steps when the unicorn tattoo on the back of her neck suddenly popped into her mind.  She loved that tat and had displayed it proudly for over six months, but now she didn’t feel all that proud of it. She wanted to cover it up!  Without pausing she removed the large plastic clip from her hair and let the thick dark mass tumble down her back.  Once the occult symbol was no longer on display, her focus went to the eyebrow safety pins that were now throbbing. Her mother’s reaction when she arrived home from the mall with pierced eyebrows came to mind.  Mom had hollered and threatened, even so Jillian wasn’t punished.  That wasn’t the case with the tattoos, however.  Mom had gone ballistic over two small tattoos and grounded her for a week.  For the hip wings she got two weeks and a rebuking phone call from her father.  Even though she hated having to stay cooped up in the house all that time, getting inked had been worth it.  The bad girl look had gotten her the attention she craved. 

* * *

Pink rose pedals floated past her on the breeze.  This is too weird, she thought as she pondered her predicament.  She toyed with the silver loop on her bottom lip with her tongue.  Mom hadn’t been too wild about that piercing either but was even more unhappy when she learned that her teenage daughter had a14 kt gold dollar sign pierced through her tongue.  For that Jillian had been called an idiot.     

One day at school a popular jock she had a secret crush on noticed the piercings.  He chuckled and said to his buddy: “Check out the pinhead.”   Having her heartthrob poke fun at her had cut her to the quick.  Even so, she wouldn’t give up her body decorations for love nor money.  She wished she had flashed her belly ring with the blinking red light at those jerks. 

Before resuming the climb, Jillian shifted her bag back to the other shoulder.  Even though it contained most of life’s essentials, it felt as light as a feather.  Inside was an International Male catalog, a Gucci wallet and matching key chain, a full pack of Merit Lights, a propane lighter etched with Taurus the Bull, her iPhone, spearmint chewing gum minus one stick, three condoms, a compact, lipstick, shinny lip gloss, blush, eye shadow, a hairbrush plus an unopened letter from her sister.  She loved Jackie, but after becoming a born-again Christian Jackie had become too bibley.  

Jillian’s expression turned sour.  “Where in the heck am I?” she cried out. In her mind’s eye she saw two bright lights heading rapidly toward her.  Her arms flew up to shield her face.  The sound of screeching tires rung in her ears.  She heard screams…..breaking glass…..sirens….someone was hollering Jillian!  Jillian!

Blackness.

Jillian shook her head and looked around.  “I was in Boston…so, how did I get here?” she asked aloud.  “Is this…am I?  No.  No, I-I can’t be–”

Jillian trudged up the stairs until there were no more to climb.  She stopped and looked around.  The bright light and magnificent sky was no more. Standing alone at the top of the stairs, she found herself enveloped in what appeared to be fog.  But the air wasn’t cold nor damp.  Fog in Boston made you cold to the bone. 

She was startled to hear a male voice from quite a ways away call out “Wait here!”  She peered into the fog.  Although the tone was non-threatening, she was afraid.  “Who…who’s there?!” she queried.

No response was forthcoming. 

She noticed that the fog was starting to dissipate to the point where she could see a gigantic building with two imposing doors.  There were no windows on the structure.   “I’m going in!” she hollered as she looked around for someone to stop her.  When no one did, she took a deep breath, let it all out at once and moved briskly toward the doors. 

Directly above and closer than before the voice hollered “STOP!”

That voice meant business, which stopped her dead in her tracks. 

“Wait your turn!”

She looked in the direction of the voice.  “Why are you hiding?!”  

No response.

“OK, fine. Stay hidden. See if I care!”

The voice softened.  “Wait until you’re called.”

She glanced around.  “Since I’m the only one here mister…..bossy pants, why do I have to wait?”  She placed her hands on her hips. “What am I waiting for anyway?” she demanded to know.

This time a much deeper voice responded. “Your appointed time.”

“My appointed time?  You mean like a meeting?”  She would certainly remember making an appointment. “Are you saying I have an appointment with someone?  Who?”

The softer voice replied, “The King!”

He was joking, right?  She had never met a king. “King who?” she snapped.  “Like, the king of England or something?”  Her tone dripped with sarcasm. “Now I get it.  Fog…England.” She looked up and said, “So I’m in England?”  It suddenly occurred to her that England didn’t have a king.  The face of Queen Elizabeth flashed in her mind.  Frustrated she said “Dudes, I think you’ve got the wrong person.  I’m Jillian…from Boston.  I’m in Boston, right?”  She added for clarity, “And Boston doesn’t have a king, we have a mayor! So there’s been some kind of mix up.  You’ve got the wrong chick.”

Neither voice responded. 

“Listen you two, I have better things to do than stand around waiting for some appointment that I never made!  You’ve had your fun–” 

She heard a distinct whoosing sound.  “What on earth is that?”  More whooshing.  She said in a singsong tone, “I can hear yoooou…..” 

More whoosing with what sounded like whispering.  They were definitely talking.  Jillian felt defeated.  This was not happening.  She’d wake up from this nightmare any moment.  Why did it seem so real, though?  The teenager let out a log slow sigh and said, “Okay fine. I’ll wait…but not forever.  Nope.  Not on your life.” She looked up at the enormous structure.  “That must be where the king lives.”

* * *

The imposing doors looked like they were made of super large pearls, maybe the biggest in the world.  The sight of them brought to mind a ring Grandpa had given to Granny on their 40th wedding anniversary.  “Wow,” Jillian whispered.  “Those doors must’ve cost the king a mint.”

Desiring a closer look, she threw caution to the wind and walked briskly to the building. Once there, she looked for a doorknob or a pull but there wasn’t one.  Now what, she thought.   Not easily deterred, she dropped her bag on the ground and gave the door on the right a push.  When it didn’t budge she tried door #2 only this time she put her shoulder into it and pushed hard.  No movement whatsoever.  “Must be locked from the inside,” she whispered.  She pushed with all her might but to no avail.  So she took a few steps back and yelled loud enough to wake up the dead, “ANYONE HOME?!”

No one came to the door so she tried again: “ANYONE IN THERE?!  

Third try: “HELLOOOOOO!!!”

The miserable teenager signed and said, “This place gives me the willies. It’s like being in a morgue.”  Growing increasingly despondent she looked up to the sky and snorted, “I have better things to do than hang around this horrible place!”

Boy was it quiet. So quiet that if you listened closely you could have heard a spider sprint across the floor.

Jillian fought back tears.  “Um, I want to go home….so please tell me how to get out of here.” 

No response.

“I’m….I’m lost.” 

“Indeed,” said the voice.  “Lost.”

“I need directions.  Will you help me find my way mister….whoever you are?”

“I cannot.  You must wait here Jillian from Boston.”

She wiped away the tears, black from her mascara, that were streaming down her cheeks. “I feel like a prisoner.”  

Frustrated, she returned to the staircase, lowered herself to the top step and leaned forward, both eyes fixed on the step.  Whoever my appointment’s with must’ve forgotten about me.  She let go a long slow sigh.  It would be more fun watching paint peel

“HALLALUIAH!”

Startled, Jillian looked around. 

“HALLALUIAH…GLORY BE TO OUR GREAT GOD!”

She jumped to her feet.  What in heaven’s name….  

The light had become so bright she couldn’t tell which direction the voices were coming from.  She glanced toward the massive doors.  The singing stopped.  “Is that a church or something?” she said hoping for an answer.

There was none.

This was getting old.  “What? You can’t even answer a simple question?”  Really steamed now she snarled, “I’ve been waiting here, like, forever!”  Her cheeks were as red as garden tomatoes.  “Dude?  How much longer?” 

When no response came, she kicked her bag and bellowed, “HELLOOOOOO!”

Quiet as a graveyard.

Suddenly she heard a voice call out, “Jilli…Jilli…wake up Jilli!”  The person was crying…sobbing. “Jilli, please…”  Then two familiar faces appeared in her mind – Amanda and Kim.  That night the three of them were in Amanda’s car on their way to Jason Plumber’s party, when the next thing she knew she was out of the car standing at the foot of the stairs feeling dazed.  Gripped by fear she cried out, “What happened?  What are you crying about?”  Poof!  Her friends were gone. 

She bellowed, “AMANDA!  KIM!” Neither of them answered. 

Jillian gazed up into the light. If only someone would appear and provide the answers she was seeking.   “Dude!  Where are you?!” she demanded.  “Tell me what happened to my friends?!” 

But her plea was met with silence.

The teenager collapsed onto the top step, hung her head and pondered her situation.  This is the worst nightmare ever, she thought to herself. Why couldn’t she remember what happened that night?   

She turned her head and eyed the two gigantic doors suspiciously.  “Hey!” she yelled.  “What’s on the other side of those doors?”  Not expecting a response, she continued with the questions.  “Is that a church building?  I mean, it looks kinda churchy to me.”  She tilted her head and squinted.  “Hey, I know! It’s a synagogue!”   

She heard the sound of whooshing above her head.  Her face brightened.  They’re back.  “Where’ve you been?” she demanded.

The whooshing ceased. 

“Hey you up there!  How much longer do I have to wait!”

She was surprised to hear the softer voice say, “Soon.”

“Soon?  That’s not an answer.”  She sighed.  “You’re heartless.”

“You’re next,” replied the voice.

Pleased, Jillian said, “Oh, so you do have a heart. I was beginning to wonder–” 

He cut her off.  “Patience!”

“Allright already!”  She shook her head in disgust.  “You sound like my mom.”

Once again she lowered herself to the top step and pulled herself into a ball.  With her chin resting on her knees she hummed the tune to Over the Rainbow.

* * *

Jillian had no idea how much time had elapsed since she had arrived here.  It had to be well after midnight by now.  She glanced at her watch for the umpteenth time.  Still 9:20. She had paid big bucks for this Gucci.  Why had it stopped keeping time?  It seemed like hours since the voice said she was next.  She looked up to where the voice had come from and cried, “I’m done! Done!”  From inside the building a chorus of voices thundered, “PRAISE FATHER, SON AND HOLY GHOST!”

Now her heart was in her throat. “What the—“ 

“HOLY, HOLY, HOLY!” boomed the voices.

No longer able to walk, Jillian fell to her knees — not in prayer, though.  Fear got her there. 

Whoosh…whoosh…whooooooosh…

She squeezed her eyes shut and begged, “Stop playing games, okay?  You’re creeping me out!”  A warm breeze whipped her hair around and she noticed a familiar smell…. the ocean?  What a pleasant surprise.  She sniffed the air.  Boston Harbor.

WHOOSH-WHOOSH-WHOOSH…

The sound seemed closer — too close.  “Back off, dude or I’ll–”

Just then the magnificent doors swung open revealing a well-lit room.  This only added to her confusion.  Did someone open the doors for her?  She waited for someone to appear and invite her inside.  When that didn’t happen she decided that she wasn’t going in that place uninvited and headed to the stairs.  When she heard the doors slam shut she breathed a sigh of relief, looked up and said, “Think I’ll wait here, thank you very much.” Force of habit caused her to look at her watch…9:20. The battery definitely needed replacing. 

The doors swung open and a voice roared, “Bow down before the LORD of Hosts!”

Jillian about jumped out of her skin.  “Holy crackers!”  For the first time in her life she felt real fear. Run! she shouted in her mind.  But her legs wouldn’t cooperate.

“Bow down before the LORD of Hosts!”

Jillian squeaked, “B-bow?”

“Bow!” he repeated.

“You mean like in…bow?” She couldn’t believe her ears.  “You’re kidding me…..right?”

The voice rumbled, “BOW!”

Jillian clamped both hands over her ears, “I heard you the first time.  You could’ve shattered my eardrums,” she harrumphed as she reached for her Boat and Tote and slung it over her shoulder.  She managed a quick curtsey then bowed at the waist.  “How’s that?”

“Unacceptable!”

The insolent young woman quipped, “Unacceptable?  Dude.  I’m from Boston!  Bostonians don’t bow.”  Just then “The King and I” popped into her mind.  In the movie the King of Siam’s subjects bowed before him.  She decided it couldn’t hurt if she bowed for a couple of seconds so she released her bag, dropped to her knees, bent forward and placed her forehead on the ground, which she noted wasn’t warm nor cold; it was room temperature. As an after thought she extended her arms and placed both palms on the floor and said to herself, Might as well stretch while I’m down here.  She counted to 10 then raised her head and looked around. “Pretty good bow for a beginner, eh?”  

The doors banged closed.

Jillian sat back on her heels.  “Dude!  Where’d you go?”

Once again the sound of whooshing overhead. 

“I felt a little breeze so I know you’re close by.”  Then she added playfully, “Come out come out wherever you are…”

But no one came out.

“Okay fine!  See if I care.”  Jillian’s eyes shot to her tote bag.  Wonder if Ethan called.  She slid the bag closer so she’d hear the soft purr of her cell if it rang.  What she heard instead was a blood-curdling scream.  Then a woman’s voice cried out “Noooooooooooooooooooooooo.”  

A sense of dread washed over her.  “Ohmygosh! Sounds like someone’s being tortured,” she said aloud.  “I need to talk to Ethan.”  Could she reach him from here – wherever “here” was.  If Ethan saw her bowing like a servant he’d LOL! 

Maybe the bossy voice wouldn’t notice that she was texting.  Her fingers were itching to press the keys.  Suddenly she had an idea.  “I need a stick of gum,” she announced as she searched through her bag pretending to look for gum.  She faked a smile. “My mouth’s kinda dry.”

She heard someone say, “Ethan Caldwell is on Earth!”

“How do you know Ethan Caldwell?” she rasped.

Her question was met with silence.

Louder: “Please…how do you know Ethan?”

The presence heard but didn’t respond.

Jillian began to tremble.  “It’s cold in here.”  She got to her feet. “I wanna go home.”

The voice replied matter-of-factly, “Would you like to go someplace hot?”

She snapped back, “No!  I hate the heat.”  To herself she said, I hate this place. I can’t stand having to bow to someone you can’t even see. I mean, that is so retarded!

Once again the enormous doors opened wide and a flood of brilliant white light poured out.  Inside the building she could hear voices saying things like “Glory to God in the highest!”…..“Our God reigns!”…..“He is wonderful!”…..“Marvelous!” 

Jillian clamped her hands over her ears and shouted “Who are those people?!  And why am I here?!” The voices abruptly ceased.  The teenager collapsed on the floor in a heap. “I-I want my mom!” she whimpered. 

The ground beneath her began to shake.  Seconds later she was enveloped in smoke.  Odd that her eyes weren’t burning.  She raised her head and sniffed the air.  Orange blossoms…..cut grass?  Baby powder.  And, yes!  Chocolate truffles.  She didn’t mind smoke that smelled this great getting in her hair.  Ethan wouldn’t mind either.

Suddenly a creature with a wingspan that dwarfed an Andean condor’s came out of the sky and landed several yards away.  “JILLIAN LILA MORRIS!” he roared.

This was no bird she recognized.  His entire body glowed like an incandescent bulb.  She couldn’t make out his features.  Without taking her eyes off the winged creature she stood to her feet, knees trembling. “W-what are you?” she asked.

“I am…a messenger.”   

The light emanating from the creature was causing her eyes to tear so she looked away.  “Do you have a message for me?”

“I do.”

She looked straight at him.  “From who?”

“The message I bring is that the Most High God will see you now.”

Looking at the creature was like gazing directly into the sun, so she looked at the ground.  “God?  Like in God?   I mean, the guy who lives in heaven?”

A momentary pause, then “Yes, that guy.”

“I’ve heard God’s not real,” she said staring at her toes. 

For some reason she noticed the chipped polish on her toenails.  Holy smokes, she said to herself. I need a pedicure. Ethan thought the purple glitter polish looked lame so the next time she had a pedi she’d go for black, no glitter, just plain black. 

I could sure use a cigarette.  On second thought, from what she’d heard about God, she knew He expected people to live clean healthy lives and take care of their bodies.  No doubt heaven would be non-smoking so when she went there she’d have to quit.  But at least she could boast that her family was “green.”  For over a year she hadn’t so much as thrown a toothpick wrapper on the ground. He’d probably like hearing that.  She’d also let Him know about her kindness to animals and that she had adopted Max, her German Shepherd, from a shelter.  Suddenly she missed Max. She hoped her mother remembered to let him out.  Sometimes she’d get on her computer and forget all about Max.  The sound of a purring cell phone interrupted her musing.  Ethan?  She eagerly searched through her bag.

With one sweep of a wing the tote bag was out of her hands and sitting at the creature’s feet.  A human-like hand reached into the bag and pulled the phone out.  “Wrong number,” he said as he removed the contents one by one in a very deliberate manner.  He’d eye each item, say what it was, then toss it aside.  Jillian grinned when he held up the first condom.  “Me and Ethan are in love,” she said.  “We always use protection,” she added as if she was the epitome of virtue.  If she could of, she’d have grabbed the cigarettes out of his hand and lit one up.  

While he pulled credit cards from her wallet, Jillian’s mind drifted to her lime green and yellow bedroom and the white chenille bedspread Granny had made for her.  I want to go home.  Granny would die if she knew her sweet little Jilli smoked cigarettes…and pot.  Her mother would kill her!  But a drunk driver had saved Mom the trouble.

Somehow Jillian knew she would never see Boston again. Would she see her family?  Her beloved Ethan?  Good ol’ Max?  Her thoughts were interrupted by the messenger. 

“This is sealed,” he said as he held up the envelope. 

“Oh that.  I haven’t had time to read it,” she lied.

“Then I’ll read it to you,” he offered. 

“No, that’s OK. I’ll read it later.”

He opened it anyway. 

“Hi Jilli!” he began.

She rushed toward him and grabbed for the letter.  “Hey, Big Bird, that’s addressed to me!” 

He replied politely, “I’ve been instructed to read it to you.”  He cleared his throat and continued reading.

Grant and I are happy in Atlanta.  But I miss you and mom terribly.  And dad, too, even though he can be a real poop at times. 

We love our church and have met some wonderful new friends.  Granny asked me to tell you that she made you an afghan to keep you warm.  Grandpa says it’s time for an oil change – and don’t procrastinate.  They send their love.

He paused and said, “Your sister, I presume?”

Jillian’s eyes misted over.  She gave a nod.

He continued…

Sarah is growing like a weed.  Can you believe she’ll be 3 in May?  The baby is due in 8 weeks!  He’s a kicker!  We’ll call him David.  King David was a “man after God’s own heart.”  We pray our children will grow up to love God with all their hearts, the way we do. 

Did I ever tell you that Jesus went to the cross to pay the price for our sins?

Of course I did!  Just wanted to remind you, that’s all. I know you don’t believe in Him – yet!  So –  Grant and I will continue praying that someday you’ll come to faith in Christ.  We want you in heaven with us! 

The messenger said with a heavy heart, “I’ll stop here.”

“There’s more?”

He nodded.  “You’re out of time, Jillian.” Still holding the letter he tucked his wings in and turned and walked away.  “Follow me!” he called out.

“Please…finish reading the letter,” she cried. 

“Come,” he urged.

“OK, but first finish reading it.”  Tears wet her cheeks. 

“Come!” he said, raising his voice.  “It is time for you to meet your Maker.”

Jillian knew he meant business.  She tried to move but couldn’t manage even one step.  Beside herself, she crumbled to the ground in a heap and began to sob.  She was feeling the emptiness she felt when her parents divorced.   She had never gotten over her father’s leaving them to marry someone else. 

A clear strong voice broke into her thoughts.  I will never leave you or forsake you.

“Jesus?”  She looked around the room.  No one was there.  Her face knotted into a scowl.  “Where were you when my dad left?”

The voice in her mind spoke again: Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

“Go away!” she spat.  “I don’t need you!  I don’t need anybody!  Jackie wants you around.  Go to her!”

The messenger returned. “Come and meet your Maker!” he said sternly.

“No!” 

Jillian turned and sprinted down the steps. She had no idea where she was going.  All she knew was that she didn’t belong here. 

Seconds later the messenger swooped down out of the sky, scooped her up in his arms, made a wide turn and headed back to the temple.  She cried, “Put me down!  I don’t want to go!  My mom needs me…Ethan needs me!  Granny made me an afghan! My oil needs changing!” She begged and pleaded and squirmed and kicked. 

With Jillian still kicking and screaming the angel flew into the temple.  He placed her before the throne and said, “Now meet your Maker.”

* * *

Jillian’s eyes fluttered open, her heart pounding so hard she thought it would explode through her chest.  The room was hot…so hot!  “I’m melting,” she moaned.

The air hung heavy with the stench of sulfur.  Jillian had to peel the damp matted hair off her face in order to take a look around.  All she saw was blackness.  No hint of light anywhere.  She sat bolt upright up and drew in a breath to calm her nerves but couldn’t get air into her lungs.  In a panic she stood up.  The place was as black as a cave.  Her head started spinning so she sat back down. “I think I’m going to throw up!” she broadcast loudly.  Maybe someone would hear her and rush to her aid.  No such luck.  So she yelled, “I can’t breathe! I need air or I’ll suffocate!”  Tears streamed down her face. She wiped her nose with the back of her hand and sat there sniffing.  At her wits end she blurted out “Doesn’t anybody care that I might be dying?!”  

Somewhere off in the distance a woman wailed “Ohoooooooooooooo.” 

Jillian looked like a deer caught in the headlights. “Ohmygosh, what was that?”  The woman’s cry frightened her.  She suddenly recalled her earlier experience…the beautiful bright place with the indescribable fragrance…those amazing doors…waiting to be summoned!  That part was a drag, for sure.  For a long while she sat there thinking…

Did I have a vision?…

No way! Religious freaks have visions, not normal people.

So Jillian declared it a dream…until the winged creature came into her mind.  The recollection threw her into confusion.  She mulled over the memory…

Must have been one of those nightmares you try to wake up from but you can’t pull yourself out of.  Then it occurred to her, What if it wasn’t a dream, what if it was real?   She shook off the thought.  It was a dream.  I mean, it couldn’t have really happened…

This hot place is a dream, too! 

Jillian felt the sting of perspiration in her eyes.  She pressed her palms against them without giving a thought to her mascara.  After a good rubbing she looked around.  Still pitch black.  “I’m as blind as a bat!” she gasped. 

It occurred to her that the place she had come from was bright – so bright that she had to squint. But in this hell hole she couldn’t see her hand in front of her face. In what seemed a matter of seconds she had experienced two completely different worlds.  The first place was as bright as the Son with wonderful fragrances and magnificent winged creatures.  But this place was utter darkness.  And there was that disgusting sulfur smell– 

Bingo! 

Reality hit like an oncoming freight train.  “No way!” she blurted.  “I-I’m not in—“  She couldn’t bring herself to say it so she said, “I’m not in the place where bad people go.” 

A voice came into her mind and said, How can you be so sure? 

She snarled, “Because I’m a good person!”

Really? said the voice.

“Really!” Jillian retorted.

“Did you not reject the Son of God?” queried the voice.

Jillian bit out, “What if I did!”  Her palms were sweating.  She remembered hearing that people who rejected Jesus Christ would spend eternity in…outer darkness?  Uh-oh. 

The voice finished her thoughts: Where there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.

This was not happening.  Tears rolled down her cheeks in a torrent of despair.  She cried, “That’s so unfair!  How was I supposed to know God was real and that He would actually send people to, um, you know.”

The voice was no longer in her mind, it was overhead, loud and clear.  “You were warned, Jillian. Your own sister shared Christ with you.  You rejected Him.”

“No I didn’t!  I mean, not seriously anyway.  I-I’m young!  I have plenty of time—“

“Time’s run out, Jillian.”

A second voice called out: “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”

A third voice chimed in, “John 3:36!”

She covered her ears.  “I don’t believe what Jackie and Grant believe—and don’t quote the Bible at me!”

“Because you don’t believe is the reason you are in…..you know.”

“Aunt Donna, who’s a very spiritual person, told me everyone has eternal life.  Everyone goes to heaven when they die, not just people who believe in Jesus.”

The voice said without ire: “Satan has led multitudes astray.”

Jillian was incredulous.  “Satan? I don’t even believe in Satan…or the devil!  He’s a myth!  A fable!” 

The first voice replied, “Satan is no myth, Jillian.  He may be invisible to humans.  But he’s very real.”

Jillian’s question was dripping with sarcasm.  “So, does the devil actually have pointy ears, a tail and carry a pitchfork?”

“On the contrary,” replied the voice.  “That is a caricature of Satan.  Humans should never view him that way. He is very dangerous.  The Son of God warned of him.”

Jillian had heard enough.  Her mind was made up.  She was not going to spend one more minute in this God forsaken place.  Maybe if she apologized for rejecting Jesus she’d get to go home.  “Listen, I’ve been thinking a lot about Jesus,” she lied.  “What my sister said about him dying on the cross for my sins? Well I believe it now.  I, um…and I repent of all my sins.  There.  Now can I go home?”

She waited for a response….but none came.

She tried again.  “Um, and I’ll be good from here on out.”

Still no response.

Now Jillian was worried.  She’d have to try harder to be convincing.  After a heavy sigh she said meekly, “I’ll even go to church, I’ll…I’ll treat my mom and Jackie nicer!  I’ll remember their birthdays.  I’ll clean my room.  And—this is really a sacrifice–no more sex until I’m married!  I promise!  Plus I won’t do drugs, no getting drunk, and no cussing either!  I’ll be a saint–like Mother Teresa.  I’ll even move to Calcutta and help poor people the way she did. How’s that for a changed woman?”

Off in the distance a voice cried out in anguish, “My hair’s on fire!”

Jillian held on to her hair and wailed “Holy smokes!”

“Human beings have an eternal soul, Jillian.” The voice was back.

The teen was shaking like a quaking aspen.  She groaned and said, “Oh geeze, oh geeze…ohmygosh…eternity is like forever isn’t it?”

“Indeed…indeed it is,” came the reply.

Begging was in order.  “Look, just give me another chance, okay? I deserve another chance, don’t I?  I wasn’t that bad!  I mean, c’mon, America’s presidents are a lot bigger sinners than me and God lets them in heaven…right?”

“Depends.”

She blew past that comment and said “Do I get another chance or not?!”

The voice replied, “Your fate is sealed, Jillian Morris.”

Clearly he was not buying anything she said, even though she had tried her best to sound sincere.  For a moment she even believed herself…but then Ethan popped into her head.  Knowing Ethan, he’d drop her like a hot potato if she told him she couldn’t sleep with him anymore.  Besides, having sex wasn’t a sin if you loved the person.  Ethan may not love her, but she loved him like crazy.  Surely God would understand.  Then she remembered her sister saying that God hates sin.  “Because He’s a just God, He must deal with sin.  So He punishes sinners.”

Jillian closed her eyes and whispered, “I’m sunk.” 

Her mouth was parched.  Right now she’d kill for a cold drink of water.  She felt around for a comfortable place to lie down so she could collect her thoughts.  The ground felt hot and every place she touched was as hard as granite.  “This has got to be a bad dream!” 

Jillian stood there thinking to herself, I’m going to wake up in the morning, in my own room, in my comfy bed, with my whole life ahead of me…

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Copyright by Marsha West, 2010. Revised 2019. All rights reserved.