Is this the way its
supposed to be? I dont know. I never died before.
Thats the trouble -- theres no one I can
talk to -- Im alone in here.
Its like a one time thing, you dont go around
again. I suppose something will happen sooner or later.
I was brought into this cell
on a gurney by a little dwarf of a man - looked like
one of those gargoyles on the towers of Notre Dame.
Lizard skinned, hoofs for feet and two bat-like wings
that hung down his back like wet leather. He rolled
me off the gurney and left me alone with three buckets,
one of which is empty, one is filled with water and
one half filled with what looks like what the butcher
stuffs in the belly of a chicken.
He brought me in through
that rusty iron door over there in the corner. I tried
to open it a while ago -- it wouldnt budge. Across
the room there are three more doors, two of which I
think I recognize.
I can feel the heat from the first door, the knob is
almost too hot to touch, and if I listen carefully I
can hear faint but unmistakable cries of agony and horror.
It doesnt take much imagination to predict what
lies ahead for me should I choose to leave through this
doorway. The second door is in the center of the three,
it has a small window through which I can see a blue
sky, fleecy clouds and an occasional bird. Try as I
might, I cannot see land of any shape or form. It leads
me to think that if I should choose to leave
through this doorway I would step into a bottomless
abyss and fall forever. I have placed my hand on the
doorknob to this door and it is cold, a numbing kind
of coldness that chills me to the bone. Then there is
a third door. Why should there be a third door? I was
led to believe in Heaven and Hell, I was never informed
of a third door.
There is a keyhole in this
door -- but no knob. I searched in vain all night in
my tiny cell for the key, between the cold and damp
stones and even in and around the buckets the gargoyle
left behind. I have held my breath and listened for
sounds coming from behind this door, and even timidly
knocked on it to see if someone might respond. There
was no answer.
The gargoyle has returned.
He looks at me questioningly -- as though waiting for
a statement from me. Perhaps he thinks Ive made
up my mind about the doors. But how can I? I call him
he but I have no reason to think such a
creature is either male or female. In his queer, lurching
bird-like walk he turns from me and looks over the buckets
in the corner of my cell and speaks
You have taken no water.
Your swill pail is empty and you have eaten no food.
It picks up the bucket with the entrails. Look
at this -- youve eaten nothing. How can you make
a decision without eating?
I answer abruptly, what decisions can a dead man
My attitude seems to have
angered the little ghoul. He shakes the bucket violently
and runs to each of the three doors banging on each
of them in turn. Eternity, you fool! Eternity!
Its an important decision -- dont you know
how long eternity is?
I cant eat that,
I shudder when I remember whats in there. It
isnt even cooked -- its raw!
Of course its raw. Would you have it burned?
It is the same food we eat. While holding the
bucket in his left hand he fishes around in the bucket
with his right. There are kidneys. Would you burn
kidneys? Of course not! The taste of urine would be
lost. The same with livers, he picks out a grayish
pink liver and sniffs at it delicately, the taste
of bile in liver is exquisite -- it would be completely
lost if it were burned. He puts the liver back
reluctantly and picks out a heart. The taste of
blood in a fresh heart, he looks at it with almost
religious awe, its indescribable. You would
burn these things? You are mad! It does not surprise
me that you are here in the first place!
Enoughs enough -- I
have had enough of this little monsters preferences
in cuisine, my stomach begins to churn and I tell him
to put the bucket down. I walk to the first door, the
one Im sure leads to Hell. Why would I choose
to spend eternity here? What man in his right mind would
burn in Hell forever?
He puts the bucket down and
shuffles his way over to me. You want no part
of it then. Without looking, eh? How do you know its
as bad as you think it is?
Everyone knows. The
Bible tells us so.
His face breaks into an almost
bird-like grin. A matter of taste, he says
quietly. Hell is not one thing, it is many. There
are places in Hell where a man can live like a king.
He reaches for the knob and flings the door open wide.
The smell of brimstone fills the room, fire boils through
the open door and reaches almost to the opposite wall.
The hideous cries of the damned are deafening. Its
not like that down there, this is your idea of Hell
-- not mine.
He closes the door reluctantly.
He looks at me and sniffs. Love the smell of brimstone,
he says. He moves to the second door and turns to me.
Heaven? Paradise? Valhalla? Elysium? Emerald City,
perhaps? Is this your choice?
Im not sure.
I havent made up my mind -- theres another
door you know.
Why wait? Here is Paradise,
just as you imagined it. He pointed to the little
window. Have you checked it out?
I looked in, yes --
there wasnt much to see.
He threw the door to Heaven
open. Here, he exclaimed, come closer
-- quite a view.
I held on to the jamb tightly
and looked out. Just sky -- blue sky up and down, puffy
cotton clouds and an occasional bird .... or an angel
perhaps, it was difficult to tell.
He closed the door again.
You seem confused ....
Its not what
I thought it would be. Ive always been told ....
You cant believe
everything you hear, you know.
It looks terribly lonely
.... whats behind the third door?
I didnt think this
little monster could laugh, but he began a long steady
chuckle, a laugh without humor or human feeling. Curious
-- all your life it was Heaven or Hell. Heaven for the
good, the pure of heart, for the pitiful few who walked
the path of righteousness -- Hell for the bad, for the
guilty, for most of us. He withdrew a key from
his leather belt. There are no free samples behind
this door, my friend. If I open it you go in and I close
it behind you.
How can I choose if
I dont know whats out there?
He stopped laughing to say,
You have seen Hell and Heaven -- youve turned
them both down. There is nothing to choose. Come lets
get it over with.
Why? A little thing
like eternity? Itll be over before you know it.
turned the key in the third door and slowly swung it