The woman in the post office queue the other day was mouthing off angrily about doing something, “The day after hell freezes over.” I smiled from the inside out. It is a commonly held notion that Hell is hot. I suppose that rumour got around because the Old Testament was written in hot countries. Those old style leaders were good at what they did. The populace could vividly imagine burning heat but had little or no concept of burning cold and so, between suppressed imagination and corny leadership, the fallacy of a hot Hell was born.
Think of the coldest that you have ever been and then some. Have you ever got stuck to the inside of the freezer or experienced chilblains? You know a little of the true heat of Hell. Hell is so cold that your urine freezes in your bladder. Oddly enough, your blood keeps moving and your heart keeps on beating, for Hell is not about a living death it is a living punishment. On first arriving in Hell you are still able to walk about quite freely whilst at the same time somehow recognizing that a place has been allocated for you and that on reaching that place you will somehow adhere to the permafrost. In that spot you will spend eternity – or what is left of it at any rate.
It seems that you are only just in your allotted place when, comfortable or not, you find yourself frozen to the knees. Time passes by with an amazing slowness even though events seem to occur with startling rapidity. I suppose one way of describing it is by drawing on the analogy of watching a movie recorded on long play played back at standard play: fast, jittery and nauseating. You would think that being slowly or rapidly – depending on your point of view – encased in ice would add to or enhance all those negative qualities that got you to Hell in the first place. Surprisingly it has the opposite effect. You become caring, thoughtful and considerate before the ice is even halfway up your thighs. By the time that it has reached your chest you are almost good enough to be considered human. In fact, by the time the ice is chest high, you are considered good enough to begin your punishment. Reminiscent of the fairy story hot Hell, the punishment lasts through all eternity, and there is no remission for good behaviour.
So there you are: stuck in Hell, encased in ice, then the floorshow begins. Your negative life begins to play and replay itself “live” for you. It begins with the childish indiscretions of the schoolyard – perhaps a little bullying that you indulged in. Remorse immediately fills your heart as your victim’s life unfolds before you. You see all the things that went wrong for them as a direct consequence of what you did. You are watching a chain of events that you could have stopped. You shake what little of your head that you can in disbelief as you see their life played out as if you hadn’t been such a bully. The pain is indescribable, the cold is eating in to you and the tears that just ran down your cheeks are freezing before building up to drop off in big chunks, taking huge pieces of skin with them. So it goes on. Each inconsiderate moment, each small act of theft or treachery. The large things about which you had hoped you had managed to cover your tracks and obviously hadn’t. Your lying, deceit, envy and greed playing over and over again until the very idea of them cuts your soul into julienne strips and serves them up for dinner – yours, of course.
Each time this happens your soul is cleansed a little more, your sense of right and wrong is ingrained a little more in you a little more deeply and the pain gets more and more intense. Each child that was never born, each genius unfulfilled. How many cures for say, cancer, have slipped through our hands because of our sins of commission and omission caused their discoverers not to be born? If I am making your skin crawl, you with your spot-on average misdeeds, just think of how Hell pays back the really bad guys. I dare say that Hitler, with six million souls on his conscience, will never see too many replays of his sins even through all eternity. His heart, and he has got one, must feel as though it wants to leave his body. Hell has enough pain for the relatively childish misdeeds but when you do something deliberately after you had the opportunity not to… Well, Hell does a little unfreezing and refreezing from time to time.
Oh yes, the Devil. That is another thing that people have got so wildly wrong. Hell is not presided over by one big boss with lots of little helpers, that is far too reminiscent of Santa Claus. The Devil is each and every one of us. He is the part of us that denies common sense and indulges selfishness. Hell is, quite simply, the perpetual remembrance of every single thing we have ever done be it right or wrong. It is the relentless asking of questions that can only begin with “What if?”
Hell is home made, an icy freezer full of ready frozen sins and snack-sized mistakes. And remember, you cannot escape Hell because there is no such place as Heaven.
Copyright © Cecilia Weightman 2000-2010. Reproduced with permission. Original source: