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Saturday, 6 May 2017

An object of repugnance to everyone

I suppose every soul here [Hell] is forced to perform that journey once at least, and in so far it might not inaptly be called a pilgrimage, but to a frightful shrine. Whether it is on account of a certain inexplicable mania possessing us all sooner or later, or merely by dint of a dread attraction exercised by that awful place, I know not; but no one escapes the fate of going thither once, if not oftener. You know what a crowd is drawn by a public execution, and that people will assist at so dire a spectacle unless positively prohibited. It is strange! But what should you say if anyone by morbid attraction had a longing to watch his own execution? Something very like this takes place here.

You are aware by this time and must be so, apart from my inadequate account, that between this evil place and Paradise a great gulf is fixed. Great, I say, and would add frightful, but that words invented for earth's need are altogether unfit to describe that gulf. It is the home of Satan. Do you understand that? In the depth of that abyss, the quenchless fire is burning, forever tended by the devil and his host. How far away is it? I cannot tell; I think it is in the outmost limit of hell. How near one may approach it? Even at a distance of hundreds of miles one feels seized with giddiness and all the horrors of death, but one is drawn nevertheless. That one should ever escape it again seems marvellous. How wide the gulf is? When lit up by the radiance of Paradise, the eye at a leap seems to
carry you across, but I doubt not it may be likened to a shoreless ocean.

Light now is fast decreasing, swallowed up by the darkness rising afresh from the abyss. Do you expect me to describe to you that abode of terror? But I can no more depict it than I was able to give a true representation of Paradise. It is beyond human possibilities, and I am but human, even in hell. Yet one thing I may tell you; believe me, that more than one rich man is to be found by the awful pit, looking across to where they see the blessed poor in Abraham's bosom, stretching forth their arms too, and entreating for a drop of water to cool their tongue. But that first rich man of the gospel does not appear to be among them; there is a rumour that perchance he was saved.

Alas! I was among those begging rich, supplicating with all my soul, but no one—no one heard me. Despair urged me to fling myself into the awful gulf, that perchance I might lose myself amid the howling fiends of the bottomless pit. What power prevented me and eventually brought me back from the place, I know not. Is it possible that God in His mercy is yet keeping me?

I have returned then, dreading I shall be carried thither a second time. I must tell you more, though it be a subject of horror both to you and to me; but then all these revelations are fraught with horror, and these letters had better remain unread by those whose self-complacent tranquillity of mind dislikes being harassed.

As I returned shivering in every fibre, and conscious of the thought only of Satan and his angels, I all but fell into the arms of one coming towards me on his way to the gulf.

But was it a human being, this creature with mangled body and frightfully disfigured countenance?

A man indeed, his very appearance bespeaking his name—Judas Iscariot.

A piece of rope was round his neck, and in his hand, he carried thirty pieces of silver. The rope all but suffocates him, and the money burns his fingers; he keeps throwing it away, but it always returns to his grasp. I have heard that it may be absent awhile swelling some usurer's gains, but Judas before long finds it in his closed hand again, bearing the marks of blood. And then he is heard to groan, What is that to us? see thou to that!—a fruitless repentance, which is not repentance, eating away at his soul, and he spends himself in vain efforts to get behind someone and seize him by the neck.

What he intends by this is not quite clear, but people think he is anxious to find a charitable soul who will give him back the kiss he once gave to his Lord and Master, and thereby free him from those horrible pieces of silver. But the soul lives not in hell who would care to save him at the cost even of a kiss; he is an object of repugnance to everyone. I too burst away from him horrified.

Letters from Hell, L. W. J. S., Richard Bentley & Son, London, 1889