Pyper rode in silence with Abigor on the shiny black horse. The massive animal trotted with grace through the ash-filled streets of the in-between—the after death realm. Sadness filled her heart. Why did I have to die? An aneurism? How is that possible? My family needs me! She averted her eyes from the journey ahead as tears flooded her cheeks.

An undetermined amount of time passed when Pyper noticed the air had grown significantly warmer. She lifted her chin and turned her attention to the road ahead. In the near distance were red, orange,  and yellow-filled skies—resembling fire. That’s strange, mused Pyper.

Several black ghostly-shaped silhouettes appeared from the gloomy clouds, zooming through the air. They flew overhead, zig-zagging up, down, and around. A sizable creature approached Pyper at a rapid speed. It glared at her through soulless onyx eyes and opened its mouth, revealing a dark, hollow space. The hideous creature growled in her ear as it passed by.

She squealed and ducked. “Wh-what are those?”

Abigor chuckled. “My Dear Pyper, those are the guardians. They protect our home.”

“Guardians? I thought angels did that. Those things are… intimidating… not what I envisioned a heavenly-being would look like.”

Abigor chuckled. “Don’t fret, my Dear Pyper. It’ll be okay, trust me.”

The massive horse trotted along, continuing on the path toward the fiery landscape. They entered a short tunnel, and the brightness and heat grew more intense. She gazed in horror at the vast amount of fires, burning just beyond the tunnel’s exit. Her stomach sank.

“Uhh, Abigor? There’s no way this is Heaven!”

“Dear, Dear Pyper, I said nothing about Heaven. In fact, my exact words were, ‘The delightful place awaiting your arrival is bright and warm.’ Is this not bright and warm?”

“Wh-what?” Pyper replied, barely above a whisper.

Her jaw hung open, and her eyes grew wide. They exited the tunnel, and the horse came to an abrupt halt. Ash, rocks, and boulders—all aflame—filled Pyper’s surroundings as far as her eyes could see. Soaring demon tridents cluttered the blazing skies. She worried the fork-like weapons might drop from above and penetrate deep into her flesh.

Abigor noticed her flinching every time a trident zoomed overhead. He laughed and assured her they would remain in the sky.

Pyper’s heart raced, and her knees wobbled, threatening to give way. “S-so… th-this… is… Hell?”

“Why, of course, it is, Dear Pyper. But you say that like it’s a dreadful thing.”

Her anger grew, and she crossed her arms over her chest. “Take me back to my house—Now!”

“Oh, Miss Pyper, that is not possible,” he responded while pointed at the tunnel in which they had come. “We have crossed the threshold, so now you must remain here… forever and ever.” Abigor hopped off the horse, then helped her to the soot-filled ground. “I’ll be but a moment. Wait here, my Dear.”

Abigor left her standing in Hell, struggling to ward off the surging panic and anger. A silhouette, similar to the flying guardians, approached her. She held up her arms and stepped back, fearing an attack from the ominous creature.

“Miss Pyper,” it whispered. “Do not fear me. I am an angel in disguise. I’m here to save you.”


“There’s no time to explain. Go! Get out of here… run back through the tunnel… exit… now!”

“B-but Abigor told me I could not leave because I’ve crossed the threshold.”

“Abigor also told you this place was delightful. Do not believe the words of a demon. Go! NOW!”

Without further hesitation, Pyper sprinted toward the threshold. Several guardians noticed her attempt at fleeing and flocked to her, growling and biting. She refused to stop and swatted at them with her arms.

Blood oozed from her wounds, but she continued onward. Pyper made it over the threshold but maintained her speed through the tunnel—toward the in-between. Her heart pounded against the wall of her chest, and she ran faster than she had ever run before. Almost there, almost there, I can do it, she repeated in her head as she neared the exit.

Pyper reached the opening and leaped through, landing with both feet on the ash-filled ground. She kept sprinting toward her home—away from Hell’s entrance. Skyward movement caught her attention, and she gazed upward.

Several angels appeared overhead and fought off the guardians chasing her. The demonic creatures directed their tridents at the angels, but the heavenly-beings had invisible shields protecting them. The angels raised their arms into the air and sent the guardians backward with an invisible force.

The largest angel then swooped down and grabbed Pyper’s right arm and spoke with a honeyed-voice. “Miss Pyper, I will get you out of here.”

Relief flooded Pyper. A surge of hope ran through her… until something yanked her left arm. She jerked her head to look and found a nefarious guardian tugging her away from the angel.

Pyper screamed as the two beings jerked at her arms, struggling to gain possession of the young mother. Her body jolted back and forth repeatedly. The angel tugged her toward the right; then, the demonic guardian yanked her body toward the left. She feared being torn in half as the pain intensified.

Pyper lost her balance and fell to the ground, but the angel and demon refused to release their grip. The two spirits climbed on top of her chest. Their combined weight made it difficult to breathe: the pressure—the steady on and off weight—the pumping.

Pyper snapped awake and looked upward. Staring down at her were many faces—doctors and nurses. An elderly man with a stethoscope dangling from his neck smiled, then leaned down and said, “Welcome back, Mrs. Robinson. You’ve suffered a brain aneurysm. Then your heart gave us a scare. It quit working. But we stopped the bleeding and got your heart pumping again.”

Her voice failed her. What? She wondered, too weak to speak.

The gray-haired doctor recognized the confusion on Pyper’s face. “You left us for a few minutes, Mrs. Robinson, but you’re okay now.”

The kind doctor turned and gave a few orders to the roomful of people donning scrubs—nurses, she presumed. He then turned back and leaned down to offer a few more words of encouragement.

“Okay, Mrs. Robinson, I’ll be back to check on you a little later. I’m going out to speak with your husband, Oli, and will let him know you’re okay.”

Pyper gave a slight nod of acknowledgment.

“You’re in skilled hands. Our head nurse will watch over you. If you need anything, just let him know. His name is Abigor.” The doctor motioned over his shoulder, then stepped out of the way so Pyper could see her nurse.

Pyper’s eyes widened, and her stomach sank as she stared into the nurse’s glowing orange eyes. Abigor? “N-n-n-n-noooo,” she muttered.

Abigor stepped toward the hospital bed and glared at her through soulless eyes. An evil smirk possessed his face. He ordered all staff members out of the room, assuring them the patient was in expert hands with him. When the last hospital employee vacated the room, Abigor pulled out a needle and turned to glare at Pyper.

She shook her head back and forth as tears ran down her cheeks.

Abigor winked and whispered, “Don’t fret. My Dear Miss Pyper. I will take wonderful care of you, trust me. It’s time for you to go back to your proper destination.”

A panic-stricken Pyper watched as Abigor shoved the needle into one of her lines, injecting a fluid. Instant dizziness consumed her awareness, and she surrendered to the darkness—until she awoke in the sweltering realm full of blazing fires.