My Lantern 10/31/21

A short story from Jack, an acquaintance of Richard Bleil

No, you don’t know me, for I lived, and died, hundreds of years ago.

My name is Jack, born during a time modern scholars call “the Renaissance,” and I lived a trite and sinful existence. My sins were not accidental. I gambled, lied, cheated, stole, caroused with women, drank in excess and more, all of which were my choice. Never did I concern myself with tomorrow, or what the future held, even in the afterlife. My greatest joy were the pleasures of the here and now even though I was raised with the teachings of the Holy Mother Church. Yes, indeed, I knew what the afterlife held for me.

Coming home late one night, walking long enough to clear my head from the drinking, I could see in the moonlight the Devil himself sleeping in a tree. As quietly as I could, I carved a cross into the bark at the base of the tree. The drink heavily upon me, I fell asleep.

I awoke to a furious noise as the devil screamed in anger. As I could focus, I could see the cross in the tree that I had carved. Until that moment, I wasn’t sure if it was a dream or not, and frankly wasn’t even sure that I had successfully finished it. Apparently, I finished it enough.

“Did YOU do this thing, JACK?” he hissed angrily.

“You know my name,” I replied.

“Of course, I know your name, JACK. I know the names of all those who will be my guest eventually. Would like you like to know what is in store for you in the afterlife?”

The Devil went on, describing horrific tortures to fill my days through eternity. I sat, petrified, listening.

“But while you’re trapped, you cannot do these things,” I feebly shot back when he stopped to draw his breath.

“Take the cross off,” he demanded harshly.

“Never,” I replied. “I now know the fate that awaits me, what possible reason could I have to set you free?”

I had forgotten the side of his split tongue that was silken. “I can get you anything you want while you live,” he promised. “I can make sure you have a winning streak in your gambling, enough to amass a greater fortune than you could ever spend. I can give you power over women, as beautiful and plentiful as your lustful desires can stand. I can give you all of the alcohol you want, as much, and of any variety, more than you could drink in a hundred lifetimes.”

He went on, promising more and more, and being a weak man, I was tempted. After all, why not enjoy the life I have as long as I live. And it wouldn’t be until after I die that I…

Not until after I die.

I thought of asking for immortality, but that would have to be a special kind of torture. To see my loved ones age and die, losing everybody to the endless ravages of time as I simply went on. I tried to recapture the blessing of immortality, as everybody initially sees it, but I couldn’t undo the vision of myself alone in the world, wandering forever.

Then it occurred to me.

“You can grant me anything?” I asked of the Devil.

Looking at me suspiciously, he replied, “anything.”

“How about freedom from the tortures you described? Promise me that if I set you free, you will spare me the horrors of Hell. Promise me that, Satan, and I will set you free.”

The Devil thought for a moment. “I promise,” he said. “You will be spared the horrors of Hell if you set me free.”

The deal done, and Satan being known to keep his promises, I carved out the spaces to turn the cross into a box. The Devil descended and shook my hand. “A deal is a deal,” he promised once again.

Time marches on, and we all meet our inevitable end when our remains are again returned to the filthy dirt from which we are drawn. I lived out a life that was not extraordinary but continued my sinning way comfortable in my trust in the deal I had made with the Devil.

Come judgment day, I stood before St. Peter, who told me the news I already had anticipated. My life was too sinful for admittance into heaven, and I was turned away. From there, I knew the next stop was Hell, the only destination for those of us turned away from Heaven.

At the Gates of Hell, I pondered the words above the entrance reading “Abandon All Hope Ye Who Enter Here.” But I still had my hope. I knew I was destined for Hell, and yet I was given the sacred promise that I would be shielded from its horrors. I wondered what a horror free eternity in Hell would be like. The three-headed dog Cerebus guarding the gates of Hell eyed me suspiciously, eyeing me and drooling, looking hungry as the three great maws drooled and showed vicious fangs. By his side stood Balial, the Devil himself, stroking his fur slowly, reassuringly. “Jack, you finally arrived.”

“I did,” I said, standing tall and without fear.

“I see you remember the deal,” he said, with a know-it-all smirk on his face. “As do I, and a deal is a deal.”

“So, what now?” I asked.

“So, to spare you the horrors of Hell, as I had promised, I cannot let you in.”

“What do I do?”

“The only thing you can do, Jack. You were denied entrance to Heaven, and never shall you enter into Hell, so I curse you to the one fate worse than facing your punishment in Hell. You must live out the horrors of eternity wandering aimlessly on Earth. You will watch your loved ones die, you will watch the horrors of war, you will burn a pitiful existence for all eternity.”

I thought of this. “Is there nothing I can do? Can I release you from your promise?”

“A deal is a deal, but here, a gift for you, to help you light your miserable way in the dark.”

The devil gifted unto me a single, cursed, unholy glowing ember from the pits of hell, a constant reminder of my arrogance, and evil ways, and the entrance through which I was destined, but denied. I carved out a pumpkin, and placed the glowing coal within, my Jack o’ Lantern, which I will use for all eternity to light my way, and remind me of my sinful life.

My Lantern 10/31/21

A Short Story from Jack, friend of Richard Bleil

No, you don’t know me, for I lived, and died, hundreds of years ago.

My name is Jack, born during a time modern scholars call “the Renaissance,” and I lived a trite and sinful existence. My sins were not accidental. I gambled, lied, cheated, stole, caroused with women, drank in excess and more, all of which were my choice. Never did I concern myself with tomorrow, or what the future held, even in the afterlife. My greatest joy were the pleasures of the here and now even though I was raised with the teachings of the Holy Mother Church. Yes, indeed, I knew what the afterlife held for me.

Coming home late one night, walking long enough to clear my head from the drinking, I could see in the moonlight the Devil himself sleeping in a tree. As quietly as I could, I carved a cross into the bark at the base of the tree. The drink heavily upon me, I fell asleep.

I awoke to a furious noise as the devil screamed in anger. As I could focus, I could see the cross in the tree that I had carved. Until that moment, I wasn’t sure if it was a dream or not, and frankly wasn’t even sure that I had successfully finished it. Apparently, I finished it enough.

“Did YOU do this thing, JACK?” he hissed angrily.

“You know my name,” I replied.

“Of course, I know your name, JACK. I know the names of all those who will be my guest eventually. Would like you like to know what is in store for you in the afterlife?”

The Devil went on, describing horrific tortures to fill my days through eternity. I sat, petrified, listening.

“But while you’re trapped, you cannot do these things,” I feebly shot back when he stopped to draw his breath.

“Take the cross off,” he demanded harshly.

“Never,” I replied. “I now know the fate that awaits me, what possible reason could I have to set you free?”

I had forgotten the side of his split tongue that was silken. “I can get you anything you want while you live,” he promised. “I can make sure you have a winning streak in your gambling, enough to amass a greater fortune than you could ever spend. I can give you power over women, as beautiful and plentiful as your lustful desires can stand. I can give you all of the alcohol you want, as much, and of any variety, more than you could drink in a hundred lifetimes.”

He went on, promising more and more, and being a weak man, I was tempted. After all, why not enjoy the life I have as long as I live. And it wouldn’t be until after I die that I…

Not until after I die.

I thought of asking for immortality, but that would have to be a special kind of torture. To see my loved ones age and die, losing everybody to the endless ravages of time as I simply went on. I tried to recapture the blessing of immortality, as everybody initially sees it, but I couldn’t undo the vision of myself alone in the world, wandering forever.

Then it occurred to me.

“You can grant me anything?” I asked of the Devil.

Looking at me suspiciously, he replied, “anything.”

“How about freedom from the tortures you described? Promise me that if I set you free, you will spare me the horrors of Hell. Promise me that, Satan, and I will set you free.”

The Devil thought for a moment. “I promise,” he said. “You will be spared the horrors of Hell if you set me free.”

The deal done, and Satan being known to keep his promises, I carved out the spaces to turn the cross into a box. The Devil descended and shook my hand. “A deal is a deal,” he promised once again.

Time marches on, and we all meet our inevitable end when our remains are again returned to the filthy dirt from which we are drawn. I lived out a life that was not extraordinary but continued my sinning way comfortable in my trust in the deal I had made with the Devil.

Come judgment day, I stood before St. Peter, who told me the news I already had anticipated. My life was too sinful for admittance into heaven, and I was turned away. From there, I knew the next stop was Hell, the only destination for those of us turned away from Heaven.

At the Gates of Hell, I pondered the words above the entrance reading “Abandon All Hope Ye Who Enter Here.” But I still had my hope. I knew I was destined for Hell, and yet I was given the sacred promise that I would be shielded from its horrors. I wondered what a horror free eternity in Hell would be like. The three-headed dog Cerebus guarding the gates of Hell eyed me suspiciously, eyeing me and drooling, looking hungry as the three great maws drooled and showed vicious fangs. By his side stood Balial, the Devil himself, stroking his fur slowly, reassuringly. “Jack, you finally arrived.”

“I did,” I said, standing tall and without fear.

“I see you remember the deal,” he said, with a know-it-all smirk on his face. “As do I, and a deal is a deal.”

“So, what now?” I asked.

“So, to spare you the horrors of Hell, as I had promised, I cannot let you in.”

“What do I do?”

“The only thing you can do, Jack. You were denied entrance to Heaven, and never shall you enter into Hell, so I curse you to the one fate worse than facing your punishment in Hell. You must live out the horrors of eternity wandering aimlessly on Earth. You will watch your loved ones die, you will watch the horrors of war, you will burn a pitiful existence for all eternity.”

I thought of this. “Is there nothing I can do? Can I release you from your promise?”

“A deal is a deal, but here, a gift for you, to help you light your miserable way in the dark.”

The devil gifted unto me a single, cursed, unholy glowing ember from the pits of hell, a constant reminder of my arrogance, and evil ways, and the entrance through which I was destined, but denied. I carved out a pumpkin, and placed the glowing coal within, my Jack o’ Lantern, which I will use for all eternity to light my way, and remind me of my sinful life.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.