My life was an ordinary one.
Barring the details, it could have been lived by any other man, in any other country, in any other time.
I was born, went to school, grew up, got a job, then got married. Had kids. Had grand kids. Then the doctor gave me that long-faced announcement that I had The Big C. Mine had grown quietly in my pancreas before expanding outward to attack my other organs. He didn’t use the word hopeless to describe my chances, but his expression, his tone, they all told me it was.
The final few days were confused. Sometimes the kids were there. Other times, they were with Grace, even though she’d been dead for a decade. Those were the worst days. Every time Grace was there, her face had that disappointed look on it, like when she learned I wouldn’t get my pension because the company had used it and all the other pension contributions to buy stock back. On the final day, no one was there. I guess I couldn’t blame them. I died on a Wednesday morning, and like me, all my kids had jobs to be at.
I spent my final few moments gasping because my lungs didn’t seem to have enough air coming in. Then it was over.
Some folks insist you see a light at the end of a long, dark tunnel. Me, there was none of that. One moment I was staring at the cheap ceiling tiles, then I was here. In a line with lots of other rather ordinary people. On either side, all there is to see is a barren wasteland, a place covered in loose black rocks that looked like they’d come from the sloping sides of a volcano. The line stretches before me, and behind me, too far for me to see any ending to it. And we are always in motion. Not a rapid motion, more a shuffling amble, but always we move forward.
I don’t need to ask where I am. I know where I am: Hell.
There are no demons armed with pitchforks. No rising towers of flame. There are no seas of lava filled with screaming sinners. But I know this is Hell as surely as if a huge neon sign hung in the sky announcing it was.
And I knew why I was here.
My live was one compromise after another.
Every day, I’d seen things I knew were wrong, even evil, and just turned away.
I gave myself the usual excuses for not acting.
It would be too hard to change the way things were done.
Things had always been done that way.
It didn’t effect me, so why should I care?
Every time I didn’t do the right thing, every instant when I’d remained silent, had brought me to this place. Looking at the faces of those around me, I knew they were here for the same reasons. Some of them were angry, shouting that they’d done nothing to deserve this. Others wept, lamenting the chances they’d not taken to be better than they were.
But most were like me. They knew where they were and accepted it with the same stolid attitude they’d dealt with the rest of the disappointing events in their lives.
And so here we were, the vast tide of humanity trudging to our final reward for a live spent just getting by.