Of Heaven and Hell
Saniya Doshi | Art by Cynthia Wang
Death (noun) the act of dying; the end of life; the total and permanent cessation of all the vital functions of an organism.
Death, despite its dictionary definition, has always been an abstract idea. Everyone has considered it, but no one likes to really think about it. It almost feels as if death is simply a myth at times, or at the very least a faraway reality. The truth, though, is that we are all afraid of it, no matter how much we say otherwise. To humans, there is always a lingering fear of the unknown. That’s why you felt nervous when you had your first job interview, and a bit sick each year on the first day of school. To humankind, death is the ultimate unknown.
I know that you’re secretly terrified. You’ve been afraid since you were just a child, when one of your close relatives died. How do I know this? I can see inside your mind, in a way that even you can’t. You might not remember it clearly anymore, but that year, your mother’s cousin died unexpectedly. At the funeral, you saw his body and started crying—the pale face and the unusual stiffness of his back scared you. That was the day you began to grasp what death was. When you grew a bit older, you wondered what happened to this relative after he died. Did he cease to exist? Or was there someplace his soul went after his life ended? Soon, these thoughts simply didn’t apply to him, but to you as well.
You stand out to me. I know you think you’re average. You look average, with mundane brown eyes and hair. Even your name is average. But it’s not your person that fascinates me, but rather your mind. I know I’m not supposed to have favorites, but I do. You have an uncanny way of thinking, did you know that? You tend to linger on things that others usually avoid. I can’t quite explain it, but I’ve taken a liking to you. And because of that, I’ll tell you what happens after your soul will leave your body once and for all.
It’s not like the stories you heard as a child say—there’s no bright white light as you float up to heaven as angels gather around you, their golden voices chiming with joy. Nor is there eternal fire and burning if you’re unlucky. It’s like staring at a blurry photograph, perhaps taken when the photographer moved too quickly. There’s colors and shapes, but nothing to really define the picture, to give it any meaning. Then, as you squint at the image, you finally realize what it is—it’s that one moment in your life that you were really, truly happy.
Now, I know what you’re thinking—that people are happy hundreds, thousands, even millions of times during their lifetime. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about that one moment you felt on top of the world, when everything was beautiful and you didn’t think you could ever be sad again. That one moment when you felt something actually change inside you, and you emerged as a different person than you were before.
I know that you can’t remember a moment in your life when you felt like that. Don’t worry—your moment hasn’t happened yet. I can’t say when it will, though. You still have a lot of life left to go. After all, you’re still young. Maybe you’ll get married, and that will be your moment. Maybe it will be when your first child is born. I can’t say for sure, but don’t worry—everyone has their moment. And when yours happens, your mind will preserve it for you, so you can die and see something beautiful.
What happens after that, you ask? When do you get to go to heaven? That is your heaven. You can live in that moment forever, but it’s not like repeating something in your life on Earth. There, you get tired of things easily, you get bored quickly. It’s not like that. Here, you can never get bored of your moment. It’s just the same feeling of elation and eternal happiness.
Of course, if there’s a heaven, there’s a hell as well. And just like heaven, hell lives inside of you.
It’s not the opposite of heaven—that would mean you live through your worst moment forever. Trust me—it’s worse than that.
Hell is darkness. I know you’re not afraid of the dark, so it might not sound that bad. But it is. Blackness is just what you see. What you hear, what you feel, is terrifying. Every single thing you’ve ever feared is there, but you can’t see it. From the cockroaches that hide in your kitchen cupboards to your fear of thunderstorms to the secret fears you’re too afraid to admit—it’s all there. You feel their presence, you hear the gruesome sounds and screams. It crescendos until you want to kill yourself, but you can’t because you’re already dead. So you try to claw off your skin, your ears, anything to get rid of the horrendous feeling, but then you realize you don’t have a body anymore. And that is your eternity.
You ask me which one you will get—your heaven or your hell? The truth is, I don’t choose. You do.
It’s not just being a good person. It depends on if you believe you’ve lived a good life. If you believe that the math test you cheated on in the third grade is worthy of sending you to your hell, then it will. On the other hand, if you can look past your flaws and mistakes and still think you are worthy of a heaven, then you are.
Now, you may be asking how I know so much about both. Which one did I end up with? The answer is neither. You see, I am not like you. I am the creator of your heaven and hell, the one who weaves the images of your mind into a reality. Some may call me a god, some call me the devil. The question is—which one will I be for you?