What Dreams May Come

What Dreams May Come

(Based off the Film and Novel with Dante's Divine Comedy)

Disclaimer: This story will feature issues such as suicide, heaven and
hell, religious theology, and trans issues that may be disturbing for
some readers.

***

Chris Nielson was an all-American boy and popular kid at his high
school. He was the school's football quarterback, prom king, and famous
for being a "white knight" against bullies. He had decent grades and
was known for being kind, gentle, and respectful. Arnie Collins was
none of these things. He was from a broken home, poor, and not
successful in anything. He was often bullied and was too weak to defend
himself.

One day, Arnie was slammed against the restroom wall by three bullies.
"What do we have here?" the bully asked rhetorically.

"Looks like a queer to me," the second bully said.

"Is that right, Collins? Are you a queer?" the first bully questioned.

"Come on, guys. Just let me be on my way," Arnie said lamely.

"No, not this time," the first bully grinned.

Just as the three were about to pummel Arnie, Chris entered the
restroom. "What's going on here?" he asked upon noticing the three
bullies.

"None of your concern," the first bully told him.

Arnie gave Chris a helpless look. "Alright, back off," Chris told the
bullies.

"Or what?" the second bully asked. "There are three of us."

"Doesn't sound fair," Chris grinned.

The first bully smirked and the four got into a fight. Arnie watched in
silent amazement as Chris fought evenly with the bullies. In gratitude,
he tried to interfere and got an instant bloody nose. All five ended up
tangled up and were eventually broken up by the school cop.

***

Arnie and Chris sat together outside the principal's office. Chris had
a few bruises on his face and Arnie had a bloody nose. "Thanks," Arnie
said lamely. "I'm sorry I got you in trouble."

"Don't sweat it," Chris smiled.

"You have a future ahead of you, and I could have ruined it," Arnie said
looking down in shame.

"Hey, don't talk like that. Remember how we first met in elementary
school? Nothing's changed," Chris said.

Arnie was not convinced. Since those days, their paths had radically
differed. "The principal will see you now," the secretary referred to
Chris.

Chris entered the principal's office without trepidation. "Mr. Neilson,
you know it's against the rules to fight on school grounds. You could
be suspended for fighting," the principal said annoyed.

"I understand, sir," Chris said respectfully.

"You going to do something like this again?" the principal asked.

"Yep," Chris replied boldly.

"Fine, whatever, get out of my office. Give the kids the impression you
were chewed out," the principal requested.

"You got it, sir," Chris agreed.

The principal smiled and shook his head as Chris exited his office.

***

Chris gave Arnie a smile and went out to the parking lot to his car. He
put on his shades and drove off towards his house. To get home, he had
to take the freeway. As he came across a long tunnel, he saw a sudden
car accident. Vehicles were smashed against each other at high speed and
flipped over. Chris put on the brakes narrowly avoiding becoming part
of the crash himself. Regaining his senses, he got out of his car and
ran over to the wreck.

Chris didn't have a hero's complex. It just came naturally to him to
help out. He had taken first aid classes and what better way to apply
it. He found a car flipped over with the driver bleeding inside.

"Help," the helpless driver said panicked.

"Don't move. I'll get help," Chris told the driver.

He took out a phone to dial an ambulance. As he was on his phone a
speeding car didn't notice the wreck and slammed right into him. Chris
was hit hard and fell to the ground. Stunned and in shock, he couldn't
move. He couldn't tell the extent of his injuries, but he knew he
couldn't move. Chris went in and out of consciousness as paramedics
finally arrived. The paramedics checked his vitals and placed him in
the ambulance.

Chris didn't feel any pain, just disorientation. He felt like he was in
a dream. He ended up in the hospital but couldn't focus on anything.
He had no way to tell how much time had passed. Finally, he started to
fade towards sleep. Doctors and nurses rushed to his side as he started
to flat-line. As his body began to shut down, Chris felt like he was
floating away from his body. After a few desperate minutes, doctors
finally called it. Chris Neilson was dead.

A large crowd showed up to Chris' funeral. The entire school showed up
along with members of the community leadership. Chris became a hero for
sacrificing his life to save others. The priest discussed how Chris
made the best of his short life. Arnie was in the crowd among his other
classmates. Tears formed in his eyes, but he quickly wiped them away so
no one would see it. His defender and only friend was gone.

***

Chris found himself in a forest backpacking up a mountain. An old man
named Albert was walking with him with a walking stick. Albert was his
grandfather who died a few years prior. "Is it too much for you
gramps?" Chris chided.

"Of course not. Son, you do not need all that gear," Albert said of his
pack.

"A man must always be prepared," Chris replied.

Albert smiled at that. "What do you intend to do once you get to the
top?" Albert asked.

"I think I will enjoy the sunset," Chris said.

The two eventually came to the top just as the sun set. "So,
beautiful," Chris remarked.

"Yes, it is," Albert agreed.

"You know what's odd. I don't feel tired at all," Chris said.

"Well, that makes one of us," Albert joked.

Just as the sun set, it reappeared on the horizon in the east keeping
them in daylight. Chris didn't notice the supernatural occurrence. "I
feel like something is missing," Chris pondered.

"Like what?" Albert wondered.

"Shouldn't I be in school?" Chris asked.

"Here, you can decide what you want to learn," Albert said.

Chris nodded in approval. He then turned to Albert who was sitting on a
large stone. "I'm dead, aren't I?" he asked.

"What gives you that idea?" Albert asked.

"I was at your funeral, grandpa. Is this Heaven?" Chris wondered.

"It's certainly not hell," Albert smiled.

"Where are God and all the angels?" Chris asked with a smile.

"Oh, they're here. When you're ready you will see them," Albert said
knowingly.

"How do I become ready?" Chris asked.

"When you lose attachment to your Earthly life. Here, in this place,
race, ethnicity, age, gender, and nationality are all meaningless,"
Albert said.

"Then why do look how I remember you?" Chris questioned.

"I took this form because it would be familiar to you," Albert said.

Chris gave Albert a curious look. "Then, how can I know for sure you're
my real grandpa?"

"How indeed?" Albert wondered. "Here, you know people by their
personality, their words, and their deeds instead of how they look."

"Alright, let's try this out," Chris said moving towards a lake. He
could see his reflection in the perfect water. He appeared as he did
right before he died. Chris concentrated and then saw his reflection
change making him appear as different people. Chris smiled as he became
a famous movie star and then his favorite rock star. He then focused
harder and changed his racial skin color to Black. Chris looked at his
darker skin tone with amusement and then felt his shorter hair.

"I wonder," Chris said.

While Albert looked on, Chris changed his appearance to that of a girl
with long dirty blond hair. She looked like she could be Chris' twin
sister. Chris saw his female appearance with amusement and then went
back to his original body. In a sudden flash, Chris saw the image of
Arnie in the water.

Albert gave Chris a concerned look as Chris' appearance became that of
Arnie and then back to his original form. Chris then walked over to his
grandpa. "I still like this form the best," Chris said.

"In time, you will even forget your appearance and your name," Albert
said to him.

Chris took up his pack. "Let's get down."

"We could fly down if you want," Albert reminded him.

"Nah, I like it this way," Chris smiled.

"Very good, son," Albert smiled amused.

As the two went down the mountain, they saw a distinct tree in the
middle of a garden. Chris looked at the tree and saw that it was
producing rotten fruit. He picked a rotten apple and then threw it away
in disgust. "I thought everything would be perfect here," Chris said.

"The things here are only as perfect as your thoughts. This tree
represents things you have left behind," Albert taught.

"What I have left behind?" Chris wondered. "My parents?"

"Or your friends," Albert added.

"Someone is in trouble. That is why the tree looks this way," Chris
figured.

"Best to get rid of negative thoughts," Albert said handing Chris an ax.

Chris took the ax and then thought better of it. "Why use an ax?" he
asked himself.

He reached for the sky and summoned lightning down on the tree. There
was an explosion of light and fire as the tree shattered to thousands of
pieces. "That will do it too," Albert said amused.

Chris felt regret and attachment beginning to disappear. What purpose
did it serve to remember his Earthly life? Everyone he had ever known
would eventually end up with him in Heaven anyway. He just had to wait.
Looking over the pieces, he saw a piece of wood with writing on it. He
picked up the piece and saw "Arnie" written on it as it carved into it
with a knife.

Chris stepped back haunted by it. The name disappeared from the board.
"Can we communicate with the living?" Chris asked.

"Not directly. You can pray for the living just as the living pray for
the dead," Albert said.

"Why would we need the prayers of the living?" Chris asked.

"Your parents prayed that I would guide you and here I am," Albert
smiled.

"That presupposes you wouldn't be here if my parents had not
intervened," Chris smirked.

"It helps to have a reminder," Albert replied.

Chris imagined the tree as it was before. The pieces of wood came back
together and formed a healthy tree. He then picked a healthy apple from
the tree but it began to rot in his hand. The tree then rotted as well.
Chris stepped back confused.

"Let's continue on," Albert suggested.

The two wandered around until Chris came upon a hill. "Let's build
something," Chris said enthused.

"Put your mind to it," Albert told him.

Chris outstretched his hands and summoned marble and rock from the
ground. The marble came forth and them assembled together to form a
large mansion. In accordance with his imagination, Chris created a
large house in Ancient Rome style. A garden appeared effortlessly in
the front yard. As he walked around the house, Chris summoned a
basketball court.

Chris summoned a basketball into his hands. "Let's see if I still got
it."

Albert watched on as Chris threw the basketball into the hoop with ease.
Chris shot from different angles but each one went in. Chris then threw
over his head and it still went in. "It's not real," he realized.

"It's as real as you want it to be," Albert said.

"There are no mistakes or imperfections here," Chris noted looking
through the house.

"Why would you want them?" Albert asked.

"For the challenge," Chris replied.

"Such a human emotion: ambition does not exist here," Albert said.

Chris wanted to resist what his grandpa was saying but realized it was
his human imperfections ruling his heart. "There's someone I want to
help. How can I do it?" Chris asked.

"Who do you wish to help?" Albert asked.

"There's this kid, Arnie Collins. He's always being picked on and made
fun of. I would protect him from bullies. Now that I am gone, I don't
know how he will manage," Chris said as the two walked through the
garden.

Albert gave Chris a grave look. "Arnie Collins is dead. He died a
short time after you did."

Chris gave a sad look and then realized what that meant. "Well, I can
see him here right? We can play ball and go on hikes," Chris said
excitedly.

"I'm afraid not, Chris. Arnie is dead, because he killed himself,"
Albert said.

Chris stared at Albert confused and disbelieving. "What? Why?" Chris
questioned.

"After you died, he had no one to support him. He obsessed over his
physical imperfections and unfulfilled desires. He lost hope," Albert
said.

"Why can't I see him then?" Chris asked.

"The sin of suicide is unforgivable. He is not here, because he is in
Hell. It's best to forget about him," Albert advised.

Chris gave Albert a horrified look. Hell, up to this point, was just an
abstract concept. Now, it was so real in his mind. Chris and Arnie
would be separated for eternity, never to see each other again. "No
way," Chris said stunned.

"It's God's law of nature. All living things strive to live on. When
someone kills themselves, they defy this law. They take their lives
into their own hands instead of relying on God. It is selfish and
arrogant to try to control one's destiny. Your body is not your own but
belongs to God," Albert taught.

"Granted, he should be punished...," Chris began. "However, he should be
allowed to repent and serve his time."

"No, Hell is for eternity," Albert corrected.

"How can that be just?" Chris shouted at him.

The weather suddenly changed and became dark. A storm formed in the
distance and started filling the sky with violent lightning strikes.

"Time has no meaning here. Memories fade over time. Hell is not an
eternity of suffering but an eternity of individual lifetimes that
continually repeat themselves," Albert said.

"And that makes it better?" Chris asked bitterly.

"Arnie is not suffering flames and torture by demons like medieval
literature. He is suffering regret and loss of what could have been had
he lived his life to its fullest," Albert explained.

"I have to save him," Chris said resolved.

"It is impossible. No one has ever brought a person back from Hell
since Christ when he came to free the captives," Albert said seriously.

"Well, my name is Chris," he pointed out.

"Do not be naïve. You will lose yourself down there. You will become
trapped like Arnie. Think of your parents and your friends," Albert
said.

"I have always protected him. I will not fail him now," Chris said
determined.

"He failed himself. It was not your fault," Albert told him.

"He's dead because I died. I shouldn't have played the hero and got out
of my car," Chris said. In the garden, the car crash was recreated.
Chris could see the destruction and death in clear detail.

"Don't relive this," Albert advised him.

Chris saw his body hit by a speeding vehicle. "Why couldn't he have
seen me?" Chris asked angrily.

"He was a drunk driver, Chris," Albert explained.

"He lives while Arnie and I are both dead," Chris said angrily referring
to the driver. The wind picked up as Chris' anger swelled. The ground
began to shake as Chris' world became unstable.

"He will pay the price for his actions," Albert assured him.

The ground shook and then ripped open. A large chasm appeared that was
impossible to jump across. Chris then saw an image of Arnie on the
other end of the chasm. Fire roared between them separating them. "Oh
dear," Albert realized.

Chris closed his eyes as he tried to meditate peace into his mind. The
storm ended and the ground became plains again. Albert nodded as Chris
took back control of his mind. "I am going to bring him back. Are you
going to help me or not?"

"This path will only lead to regret and failure," Albert predicted.

"I have to try," Chris said.

"Very well. I will help what I can. This may be the only way to teach
you the truth that no one ever comes back from Hell," Albert agreed.

***

Chris and Albert boarded a sail boat to go on their journey. "Do we
need a crew?" Chris asked.

Albert simply smiled. "This is all in your mind. There are no physical
limitations but what you can imagine."

"In that case," Chris smiled. The sailboat became a giant American
battleship armed with powerful guns and thick armor.

"A bit dramatic, aren't we?" Albert said dryly.

"Take us out," Chris ordered.

The battleship moved through the sea on its journey to Hell. Chris
imagined dozens of versions of himself manning the guns on all sides.
Albert noted Chris' anxiety upon entering Hell. Chris then created a
large naval fleet that included an aircraft carrier, cruisers,
destroyers, and submarines. Even Albert was surprised by Chris'
imagination.

"Scout the area," Chris ordered his other versions on the aircraft
carrier.

"Yes, Admiral," the aircraft carrier captain replied in his voice.

Chris smiled in amusement. Fighter jets lifted off the aircraft carrier
and started scanning the surrounding areas. As they continued, Chris
saw castles and peaceful villages. The large naval fleet looked out of
place in this peaceful place.

"What is this? Is this Hell?" Chris wondered.

"This is the place where virtuous pagans go. They followed the moral
law and did fine works, but they did not put their faith in the one true
God. Therefore, they only suffer desire to be with God. Forever, there
is distance between them and God despite their yearnings," Albert
explained.

"We could take some of them with us," Chris said thoughtfully.

"Even one soul will weigh us down. Concentrate on the mission at hand,"
Albert advised.

"Right," Chris agreed.

The fleet then exited the outer limits of Hell to the next circle. A
powerful storm slammed into the fleet. The ships were tossed in the
waves. The winds were as strong as a Hurricane. The fighter jets lost
control and slammed into the mountain cliffs exploding. Some of the
smaller ships capsized as the strong waves overtook them. Looking up,
Chris saw a giant hurricane filled with the souls of the damned. There
were an uncountable number being whipped around. To his horror, he saw
souls being ripped apart by the powerful winds only to materialize whole
again.

"Best not to look up," Albert advised.

"So many of them," Chris gasped.

"These are the souls that were lustful. They committed adultery,
fornication, and did not honor their bodies. Now, they are whipped
around in this storm for all eternity," Albert explained.

Waterspouts formed and went straight for the fleet. "Brace yourself!"
Albert said as the waterspout hit the ship. Both of them were soaked in
cold water.

"Maybe the submarine would be better," Chris considered.

"It's as terrible under water as it is above water," Albert told him.

"We need to rise above the storm," Chris figured. He transported
himself to the aircraft carrier and met the captain who was also
himself.

"What are your orders, admiral?" the other Chris asked.

"Take the ship into the air," Chris ordered.

The other Chris smirked. "Yes, Sir!" he said enthusiastically.

The aircraft carrier then added four wind turbines that started
rotating. Rocket engines underneath the ship caused the water to boil
underneath. The aircraft carrier ascended into the air and rose above
the hurricane. "Where to?" Chris asked Albert.

To that island," Albert pointed out.

The flying aircraft carrier went past the hurricane and approached the
island. The aircraft carrier then landed in the water on the coast. An
awful stench emitted from the waters. Chris looked down and saw that
the water was black and filled with filth. He then saw countless people
stuck in the filth.

"These are the sinners that were gluttonous. They indulged every
pleasure and never shared with those less fortunate," Albert explained.

"How much farther until we find Arnie?" Chris asked impatiently.

"We still have a long way to go, my son," Albert grimaced.

Unable to use the ship on land, Chris created a tank that landed on the
shores. The tank had difficulty getting through the sludge but
eventually reached dry land. The tank tore the rough terrain. As they
passed by, they could see men taking large sacks of money up a hill.

"What's their deal?" Chris asked.

"They are the greedy. They will forever take bags of money up to the
top of a hill but as soon as they reach the top, the bags will fall back
down," Albert pointed out.

"Then, why do they do it?" Chris asked confused.

"Here, in this place, each soul thinks they are taking the money up the
hill for the first time. When they fail, they forget their first
failure. Imagine living for eternity but never remembering anything
you've done," Albert explained.

"Why do they care so much about taking the money up the hill? Why not
have it at the bottom?" Chris asked.

"Observe, my son," Albert pointed.

At the bottom of the hill, lazy souls were attacked by other greedy
souls for their money bags. Coins were dumped out and greedy souls
swarmed to get every coin they could get. Those that took their money
bags up the hill were relatively protected.

***

The tank came across an impenetrable lake that was filled with blood and
damned souls. "These souls are the violent ones. They were filled with
anger and malice towards their fellow man," Albert said.

Chris looked around to see what he could see to cross the lake. "Let's
keep it simple," he said and picked up a staff on the ground.

Albert smiled as Chris placed the staff in the bloody waters. "Part,"
Chris commanded the waters.

The hellish lake defied him. "Best if I do it, son," Albert smiled
dryly.

Albert took the staff and parted the sea so dry land appeared in front
of them. "Shall we?"

The two walked across dry land through the lake. Wrathful souls tried
to grab and bite them as they passed by. "We are now crossing a
boundary in Hell. Everything up to this point were sins of the moment,
impulsive sins. The sinners up ahead committed pre-mediated sins of
fraud, theft, murder, and treason. We will find Arnie in there," Albert
said.

"Why will we find Arnie here?" Chris wondered.

"He thought about killing himself for many days and attempted a few
times before he successfully ended his life. It was not an impulsive
decision and therefore our task will be all the more difficult," Albert
said grimly.

The two made their way across the lake and encountered souls that wore
beautiful robes. They were shinny and expensive-looking. "Doesn't look
so bad," Chris said upon seeing them.

"Do not be fooled by appearances. Their robes make them look rich but
each robe weighs their body weight. Forever, they must wear these
wretched robes for their hypocrisy," Albert pointed out.

Chris noticed that each soul was walking hunched over from the extreme
weight of their robes. He then encountered countless graves filled with
fire. "These are the souls that misled others into false doctrine.
They taught falsehood to benefit themselves," Albert said of them.

Albert and Chris stepped through the giant cemetery trying not to fall
into one of the graves. As he did, he saw corpses in the graves shake
as they were on fire. Then, they came across a giant forest of dead
trees.

"Be careful not to step on the roots or break off a branch. These are
the souls of those who killed themselves. Forever, their bodies are
like that of trees, because they disrespected the bodies they were
given. Now, their corpses hang on their branches, because their bodies
will never return to them in the resurrection," Albert taught.

"Is Arnie one of these trees?" Chris asked.

"No, these souls have existed here for many years. Arnie has not
reached this stage," Albert told him.

"So, there's still hope," Chris said brightly.

Albert shook his head with a grim expression. The two went through the
dead forest towards their final destination. Chris was less graceful
accidentally stomping on a root or breaking off a tree branch. The trees
moaned in pain as Chris passed through.

"Sorry, so sorry," Chris said apologetically.

Vultures then came upon the forest and intentionally broke off tree
branches. The entire forest moaned in pain. Chris covered his eyes as
their terrible suffering overwhelmed him. Chris didn't watch his step
and fell through.

"Chris!" Albert shouted as he fell through the ground.

Chris landed with a thud on the ground near a ruined house. He looked
around and figured he was in some kind of cave. Albert joined him from
behind. "This is as far as I can go," Albert told him. "If I go in
there, it will only hurt our chances."

"Arnie is in there?" Chris figured.

"You have to understand that he will not recognize you or understand his
situation. He will be denial that he is dead and in Hell. He will be
trapped forever in his miserable existence no matter how many times he
tries to kill himself. He will never wake up from the nightmare he has
made for himself," Albert told him.

"What can I do?" Chris asked.

"You must try to break through the denial and pain. You have to
convince him to come back with you, but you also need to understand the
danger. If you become too attached to him, you could lose yourself as
well and become trapped here forever," Albert warned.

"He's just a friend. You act like he's my boyfriend," Chris smirked.

"Nothing is as it seems here. Nothing he says will be the truth. He
will lie and destroy your reality. He will want you to stay with him
and be just as miserable as he is," Albert said seriously.

"Got it," Chris understood.

Chris ventured towards the ruined house and found the door broken. He
quietly opened the door but it creaked as it did. He then stepped into
the house but made a noise with each step. "Hi, Arnie. You here?"
Chris called out.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw movement. He turned around the
grabbed the assailant's wrist just in time. Chris held the assailant's
wrist tightly until the kitchen knife fell to the ground. "Who are you?
I'm looking for Arnie," Chris demanded of the girl.

"Stop calling me that. My name is Annie," she said angrily.

The soul calling herself Annie was frail and slender, short black hair,
sunken eyes, dried lips, and in ragged clothes. She looked malnourished
and sickly. Chris was able to easily overpower her. "Arnie?" Chris
questioned upon seeing some resemblance.

"Shut up! That's not my name. My name is Annie. Why do you torment me
so?" she screamed at him.

"Okay...Annie, my name is Chris. I'm here to help," Chris said.

"You here to fix the plumbing?" she asked.

"What? The plumbing?" Chris asked incredulous.

Annie's eyes fell and she began to cry. Chris played along and tested
the sink in the kitchen. Sure enough, it didn't work. The electricity
didn't work either. "Yeah, maybe I could fix a few things around here,"
Chris offered.

Annie looked at him hopefully and then began to cry again as doubt
overcame her. Chris sat next to her on the couch. "What happened to
you?" Chris wondered.

"This was how I was supposed to be. I was supposed to be a girl. God
cursed me with this body," Annie said.

Chris considered Arnie's strange behavior growing up. He did have
feminine qualities that couldn't be ignored. He didn't think Arnie
would take it this far. "Come with me, and I'll find people that can
help you. You can live in a big house in the countryside, eat well, and
relax. I can fix you," Chris said helpfully.

"There's nothing to fix!" she shouted at him.

"Sure, you want to be a girl, you can do it there," Chris said recalling
how easily it was to project a new mental image of himself.

"What are you talking about?" she asked him annoyed.

"Where I come from, you can be whatever race or gender you want," Chris
invited.

"How is that possible?" she demanded.

"It's Heaven," Chris said obviously.

Annie suddenly moved away from him. Chris eyed the scar on her wrists
for the first time. This was all real. He wasn't trained to deal with
this kind of thing. "You're death," she said horrified of him.

"No, it's me, Chris," Chris said as if it were obvious.

"Chris is dead. I was at his funeral," Annie said sadly.

"I'm alive again. This isn't the real world anymore. This isn't your
house," Chris tried to convince her.

"You saying I'm already dead?" Annie asked fearfully.

"Yeah," Chris said simply.

She looked at him horrified. "No, I don't believe you. Damn you! Get
out of my house," she ordered.

Chris couldn't deal with her hysterics and left the house defeated. He
went up towards his grandpa. "Did you know?" he asked him defeated.

"I told you it was hopeless," Albert reminded him.

"What happened to him?" Chris asked.

"From his early childhood, he felt different. He didn't accept the body
he was given. He imagined himself as something else. After your death,
he underwent hormone treatments without the guidance of a doctor and
sterilized himself. Society did not accept him, and he began to hate
his own body. He spent everything he had and lived destitute. Finally,
he slit his wrists in a back alley and died alone," Albert explained.

Chris gave his grandpa a horrified look. "It's not fair."

"It's not about fairness. Had he overcome his vices, he could have been
the brightest in Heaven. But he failed," Albert said.

"I can still save him," Chris said determined.

"Him? He doesn't even see himself that way," Albert doubted.

"Fine, whatever he is, I'll bring him back," Chris said.

"You will spend eternity trying. Even now, he has completely forgotten
your intrusion," Albert said.

"All of this Hell is a pointless broken system. I will break it," Chris
said resolved.

"You are coming back with me to your station. I will not betray your
parents by losing their son to Hell," Albert said seriously.

"I am not going back until I finish here," Chris said.

"Very well, but I can no longer protect you. May God be with you,"
Albert said sadly and then walked away into the darkness.

***

With Albert gone, Chris went back to the house. He entered the living
room and found Annie weeping. "Hey, what's wrong?" Chris asked her
sitting next to her.

"Who are you?" she demanded of him.

"My name is...Bob. I'm your neighbor," he said.

"My place is a mess. The electric and plumbing don't work," she said
apologetically.

"Let's fix it, together," Chris suggested.

"Alright," she agreed.

Chris went to work on the pipes and found them completely rusted.
Concentrating, he summoned new pipes into his hand. As Annie looked on,
Chris started replacing pipes. Once he was done, he tried to turn the
faucet on. It still refused to work. "I guess you don't have a water
supply," Chris figured.

"It's hopeless," Annie said frustrated.

"We need a well," Chris said and took up a shovel.

Annie curiously followed Chris outside as he started digging a hole.
The ground was rock hard, and Chris was having difficulty with it.
Annie simply watched him and then took a shovel of her own to help him.
It broke instantly as she dug into the ground. "It's okay, let me do
it," Chris said as she cried over her broken shovel.

Chris continued to dig a good sized hole while Annie watched. "Let me
help," Annie said upon seeing Chris dirty and exhausted.

"Sure," Chris said giving her the shovel.

As soon as she used the shovel it broke on her. "I ruin everything,"
she muttered.

"Nonsense, its fine," Chris said showing her the unbroken shovel.
"Let's dig together," Chris said placing his hands on hers.

The two dug the hole together with Chris and Annie holding each other's
hands. Finally, they reached water. Chris then went to work on the
plumbing. After what seemed like months, Chris got the faucet to work
again.

"No one has ever helped me like this. Not since," Annie muttered.

"Since?" Chris pressed.

"There was this boy. I forgot his name," Annie said embarrassed. She
then gave Chris a grateful look and put her hands on his chest. "Allow
me to thank you properly," she said.

Chris didn't immediately catch on until Annie started taking off her
shirt. "No, don't," Chris said to her.

"Why?" she asked offended.

"Not like this," Chris said. "I just wanted to help out a friend."

"No one does anything just to be friendly. You wanted my body. That's
why you helped me," Annie accused.

"No, I just wanted to be a nice guy," Chris said honestly.

"Nice guy, huh? Fix my electric," she ordered.

Chris frowned but began working on the wiring in the house. He wasn't
sure where he could find an independent electrical system. Using his
mind, he created a generator and some gasoline to full it. After hours
of work, Chris finally got the lights to work.

"Now, fix the furniture," Annie ordered coldly.

Chris began to feel like a slave as he went around fixing the house.
Annie showed no appreciation for anything he did. As he worked, another
visitor entered the house. To Chris' amazement, Annie started kissing
the man. The two kissed passionately and held each other tight even as
Chris continued to work. The man then took Annie towards the bedroom.

"Hell no," Chris said and then entered the bedroom.

Annie already had her shirt off and was notably flat-chested. "Hey man,
get off...," Chris said confusing himself as to what pronoun to use.

"Get lost," the man said to Chris.

The man began to slap Annie around and manhandle her body. "You like
that, don't you?" the man said rudely.

"Yes, give me more," Annie said to him.

Chris couldn't take it anymore. He took hold of the man and threw him up
against the wall. "What's your problem, friend," the man said annoyed.

"Leave...her alone," Chris said finally.

"What are you talking about, idiot. That's a boy. You queer or
something?" the man said.

Annie covered herself as she watched the fight. "Get out," Chris
ordered.

The man simply grinned and beat Chris down. "You're out of your league,
kid," the man said over him.

Annie watched silently as Chris got a beating. She turned to look at
the man and then back to Chris. "Please," Chris cried out as he was
beaten down.

Annie took a piece of broken furniture and slammed it against the man's
head knocking him out. "Chris?" Annie asked confused.

"Took you long enough," Chris groaned.

"Why didn't you say who you were?" Annie demanded.

"You wouldn't believe me," Chris said getting up.

"He's going to get back up soon," Annie said as the man's head wound
regenerated.

"Come with me," Chris held out his hand to her.

"Only if you call me Annie," she said hopefully.

"Sure," Chris said shaking her hand.

The two ventured outside the house. Chris looked at the hole in the
cave leading to the surface. He materialized a jetpack and then held
Annie close to him. Activating the jet pack, the two of them shot out
of the hole to the surface. As if to prevent their escape, a rain of
fire came down upon them. The rain of fire created a forest fire among
the trees. They all screamed in pain as the fire raged through them.
Chris winced at their suffering but kept his mind focused on his goal.
A fireball hit his jet pack disabling it. The two crashed into the
cemetery.

Chris groaned as he got back to his feet. Annie screamed as she found
herself in a grave. Chris immediately went to help her pulling her out
of the grave. A damned corpse tried to keep her in. Fire raged around
all of them. Chris finally pulled her free as the corpse arm was pulled
off.

Annie then looked around in awe at all the graves. "We really are in
Hell," she realized.

"Yeah," Chris said fatigued.

"Why am I in Hell? I did nothing wrong," she said becoming frantic.

"Look, we can talk about it later," Chris said losing patience.

"It isn't fair. What did I do?" she demanded.

Chris took her wrist and showed her the scar. "This is why you are
here," he told her forcefully.

Annie looked at her wrist as if noticing it for the first time. "I'm
truly dead. I killed myself," she realized.

"Yeah," Chris nodded.

"Chris, I'm fucked up. You should just leave me here," she said
depressed.

"Oh, no you don't. Keep going," Chris demanded of her.

"Don't worry about all this Hell. All damned souls are eventually
united with God in the end," one damned soul said from a grave.

"Is this true," Annie said hopefully.

"Don't listen to him," Chris said to her.

"Just wait a little longer, and you will be saved," the damned soul said
after them.

The two then found themselves in a crowd of hypocrites wearing colorful
clothes. Annie became memorized by their clothes. "I want to wear one
of them," Annie said excitedly.

"No, you don't," Chris warned her.

"This soul defied God by trying to become female," one of the hypocrites
said. "Yes, this soul went against the laws of nature," another said.
"He has relations with men. A damnable offense," a third said.

"Shut your mouth," Chris said to them all.

Annie cried as the hypocrites continued to verbally assault her. "Don't
listen to them. They're just trying to make you as miserable as they
are," Chris told her.

She nodded and the two kept going. On the shores of the lake, Chris
used the staff to open the sea. The sea refused to cooperate. "Damn
it," Chris realized his dilemma.

"We have to swim through that?" Annie wondered. She could see the
countless damned souls fighting with each other in the lake.

"Yeah, we do," Chris said exhausted.

Annie then took up the staff. "Maybe, I can," she said. She placed the
staff in the water and immediately it became ice cold. The lake froze
over and all its occupants were trapped in the ice.

"That'll work," Chris said impressed.

Taking the staff, the two went across the frozen lake on foot. Every so
often a frozen soul would try to grab or bite them. Chris used the
staff to hit them over the head as they attacked. As they crossed, the
ice began to crack. "We have to run," Chris told Annie.

The two ran across the frozen lake just in time as the ice melted away.
The tank on the other side was rusted away as if centuries had passed.
Chris quickly realized his power was due to his grandpa's power and not
his own. Finding the tank not functional, the two went through the
hills of gold coins and trinkets. Annie was amazed by the sight of
treasure everywhere. She picked up a coin to look at it and immediately
damned souls came near her.

"Don't touch anything," Chris warned her.

"So pretty," Annie said picking up a crown.

"Focus, Annie," Chris said to her.

She then put down the queen's crown. Chris eyed the queen's crown
seriously. This wasn't an act. This was real. "Let's go," Chris said
to her.

The two went past the hills of gold and treasure and found themselves in
a dump of filth and garbage. Chris could barely stand the stench of it.
However, for Annie, she smelled wonderful foods and drinks. She saw
large piles of tasty foods that made her mouth water. Annie went off on
her own to try some of them.

"Annie, no!" Chris has to grab her before she could partake in them.

"I'm so hungry, Chris," she protested.

"This isn't food. You don't need food anymore," he told her. She
looked at him confused. Chris pointed out her wrist. "You're dead,
remember."

Annie refocused herself and nodded. They went past the morbidly obese
damned souls who were eating the filth and garbage non-stop. Chris led
Annie to the aircraft carrier sitting on the water. When they got
there, the aircraft carrier was a ruin. It was nearly rusted away as if
centuries had passed.

"That sucks," Chris expressed heartbroken.

"So, we fix it," Annie said simply.

Chris gave her a dumbfounded look. "I could repair some pipes but this
is whole different level."

The aircraft carrier was on fire and looked like a hideous pirate ship.
Damned souls were crawling all over it looking for anything valuable and
finding nothing left. Chris and Annie went inside the ship through a
gigantic hole in its hull. Reaching the deck, they saw some decayed
fighter jets. Chris went inside the jet to see if it could fly. Seeing
some important parts missing, he then looked at the other jets.

"They're all ruined," Chris said defeated.

"Maybe you can find spare parts from the other jets and put them all
into one jet," Annie suggested.

"Right," Chris agreed.

The two went to work looking for spare parts and repaired one of the
damaged jets. After they were done, the jet became operational.
"Alright, let's do this," Chris said happily.

Annie couldn't help but smile. The two entered the jet and flew off the
deck of the aircraft carrier. The jet flew across the sea towards the
large storm system. "We have to get through that to get out of here,"
Chris pointed out the powerful storm.

The jet tried to get over the storm with some success. "Too easy,"
Chris said amused.

The jet then stalled and fell into the storm. "We're going down!" Chris
shouted as he lost all control.

The jet was spun around the hurricane and flung towards a mountain.
Chris and Annie ejected from the fighter jet and parachuted down to the
ground. The winds hurled them around separating them. "Annie!" Chris
yelled as he lost sight of her.

Chris finally dropped down with a thud. Wincing from the fall, he took
off his parachute gear and went looking for Annie. The storm continued
to hit with him forceful winds, and he couldn't hear anything over the
howling wind and screams of the damned. Somehow, he was able to find
Annie in the chaos. Of all the voices and sounds, he could hear her
voice clearly.

She embraced him warmly and tried to kiss him. Chris held her back.
"What?" she asked offended.

"This is not the time. Not here," he rejected her.

She looked at him hurt. "If I were a real girl, you wouldn't reject
me."

"That's not true," Chris said defensively.

"You still see me as a boy," she said outraged.

"It's not about that. When I last saw you, we were just friends. I
want to save you, because you're my friend," Chris said seriously.

"Maybe your friend is dead. Maybe your friend never existed. You never
knew the real me. What I felt deep inside," she said.

"I'm willing to learn," he offered.

"You just saw me as a victim. I was a victim against bullies and now I
am a victim of my own choices. Hell is my bully. You can't win," Annie
said.

"I am dragging you out of hell if you like it or not," Chris told her.

"What if I want to stay here, Chris?" Annie asked.

"You're not right in the head right now. Once I get you safe, you can
decide to go back. Got it!" Chris yelled at her.

Annie went silent. "Okay," she relented.

***

The two made their way against the winds avoiding the tornadoes coming
off the giant hurricane. They finally reached the peaceful plains. "We
finally made it," Annie said enjoying the sun the first time.

Chris took a rest on a rock. "No, almost there," he said tired.

"What do you mean? This place looks great," Annie said of the castles
and rivers.

"This place is for virtuous non-believers who never knew God. Heaven is
so much better than this," Chris said.

"How so?" Annie asked curiously.

"I can travel to any land I want or even go to another planet. I can
create a mansion with my own pool, a car on my own highway, and I can
learn anything I want. There is no time, no wants, no suffering," he
said.

"What of having children?" Annie asked.

Chris was stumped. "I don't know," he conceded.

"I want to be what I should be," Annie said sadly.

"In Heaven, you can take any form. If you want to be a woman, you can,"
Chris said enticing her.

Annie smiled at that and then thought of something. "When I was
younger, I had a crush on you," she revealed.

"Really?" Chris asked not offended or horrified. He was thinking of
Annie more-and-more as a girl than as a boy.

"Yeah," she said embarrassed. "It started when we went to summer camp.
We were in the same cabin," she revealed.

"That was when we were both thirteen," Chris recalled. "Why did you
ever say anything?"

"Why do you think? You would have never returned my feelings," Annie
said.

Chris said nothing. It was true. His younger self would have been
repulsed. "We are not too far. Let's go," Chris said changing the
subject.

***

The two walked across the endless plains and arrived at the dock. There
was a boat that would allow them leave. As they got to the boat, a
flash of light blocked them. A man dressed in pure white robes and
holding a sword of fire appeared before them.

"This one shall not pass," the angel said pointing his sword at Annie.

"Come on. We made it this far," Chris said dumbfounded.

"You may go, this one may not," the angel said to him.

"Why?" Chris demanded becoming angry.

"This one defied God's natural law by slaying himself. He is a murderer
of himself," the angel said coldly.

"My grandfather and I journeyed through hell to find her," Chris said
shocking himself by referring to Annie as "her" in front of the angel.

"It was a futile quest," the angel replied.

"Bring my grandfather here. He'll settle this," Chris said to the
angel.

"My orders come from the Most High," the angel replied.

"It's alright, Chris. I did sin. I deserve this," Annie said defeated.

"No, we can fix this. Just stay here. It's nice here," Chris told her.

"I am taking him back to where he belongs," the angel corrected Chris.

"No, you can't!" Chris argued. "If you send her back, I will come back
to find her again to bring her back here. I will not stop!"

The angel looked at Chris indifferently. Annie then began to sink into
the ground. Chris stared at her in shock as her feet disappeared into
the ground. "I'm so sorry, Chris. I want you to know that I always
loved you. Your death broke my heart," Annie said teary eyed.

"No," Chris muttered as she continued to sink.

"I have one last request," Annie said to the angel.

"Ask and you shall receive," the angel replied already knowing it.

"Disguise me so Chris can never find me again," she said.

"No, Annie, don't do this!" Chris practically screamed at her.

"As you say," the angel agreed.

"Thank you, Chris," Annie said as she continued to sink and then
disappeared into the ground.

"No, Annie!" Chris shouted as she disappeared completely. Chris then
confronted the angel. "Where did you send her?" he demanded.

"Where you found her, but you will not recognize him again," the angel
said to him.

"I will go back and find her again," Chris pledged.

"There are millions of damned souls to sort through," the angel told
him.

"I don't care. I will find her," Chris said confidently. Chris then
turned back away from the dock on his way back. The angel simply stared
as he walked away.

"Wait," the angel said appearing in front of him.

"What?" Chris asked annoyed.

"An arrangement has been made. For your sake, it will be done," the
angel said.

"What arrangement?" Chris asked suspiciously.

"Arnie will be sent back to Earth as a reincarnation. There, he will
have a second chance to enter the Kingdom of God. He will have no
memory of his past life, and his sins from his former life will be
forgotten," the angel said.

Chris nodded liking the deal. "There is another condition. You are to
be reincarnated as well to balance the scales. Arnie will have the
opportunity to be saved, and you will have the risk of losing yours,"
the angel said seriously.

Chris stared at the angel realizing what this could mean. He would have
to trust his reincarnated self to be a good person. Arnie and Chris
would become two different people with no memories of the past and
possibly separated. "Alright, but I have a condition of my own," Chris
said.

"Speak it," the angel said knowingly.

"You have to make Arnie female," Chris bargained.

"Done," the angel agreed.

The angel summoned Annie from the ground with his hand. She broke
through the ground and stared at the angel in fear. She looked at Chris
with surprise and joy. "What is this? Don't give me false hope again,"
she cried.

"We're going back," Chris assured her.

"You will be given time to say goodbye to your family before you leave,"
the angel said to Chris.

"Where are we going?" Annie asked concerned.

"On another adventure," Chris smiled and then kissed her in front of the
angel.

***

Chris took Annie's hand up a hill to his mansion. "It looks beautiful,"
she said impressed with the valley, the garden, and the architecture of
the house. Annie looked perfectly female with long brown hair, full
breasts, feminine hips, and a colorful sun dress. The scar on her wrist
was completely gone.

As they reached the top, they saw Albert and an elderly couple. They
were playing cards and having drinks. "About time, you showed up,"
Albert said warmly.

"Mom, dad?" Chris wondered upon seeing them. They had aged but were the
same people.

Chris' parents embraced him. "It's good to see you again, son," his
mother said warmly. "We were so worried about you," she added.

"Next time you take trip through Hell, invite me," his father smiled.

"Sure," Chris said stunned at seeing them. "But this means, the both of
you are...," Chris began.

"Dead? Yeah," Chris father said as if it were obvious. "We must have
waited for centuries for you to come back."

"I am so sorry," Chris said realizing for the first time how long it had
taken him to get out of Hell. Everyone he had ever known was dead by
now.

"And who is this lovely lady?" his mother asked of Annie.

"This is Annie Collins," Chris introduced.

"Nice to meet you," Annie said although in truth she had met them
before.

"We have something to announce," Chris said holding Annie's hand. His
parents and grandfather waited patiently.

"We're going back," Chris smiled.

"To Hell?" his father joked.

"Back to Earth, the land of the living," Chris clarified.

His parents and grandfather gave worried looks. "Is this truly what you
want? On Earth, there are sufferings, disappointments, and death," his
mother reminded him.

"I'm sure," Chris said. "We don't have much time," Chris said referring
to the angel waiting for them down below.

"We've waited centuries for you, kiddo. What's another century?" his
father said sadly and shook Chris' hand.

"Just a word," Chris' grandfather said taking Chris aside. "This is
very stupid...and very brave of you, my son. You've done what no one else
has ever achieved, no doubt many have tried," he said sadly.

"You were the one that attacked us in the house," Chris realized.

"Forgive me, son. I knew that only by creating a common enemy, would
the two of you work together," he said.

"Well, it worked," Chris allowed.

"Win her heart, son, and get me some great grand-kids," Albert smiled.

"Sure, I'll find her," Chris said confidently.

Chris then reunited with Annie and walked down the hill to the angel.
"I'm scared," Annie confessed.

"It will be great," Chris assured her.

"Find me," Annie said as she kissed him.

The two disappeared in a flash of light.

***

A boy and a girl met at a dock playing with toy sailboats. The
sailboats hit and the smaller one sank into the lake. The boy watched
his boat sink with annoyance. The girl smiled and laughed upon seeing
the boy's frustrated face. She reached for her basket and took out a
sandwich and gave it to him. The boy no longer remembered his toy
sailboat. All he could think about was the pretty girl in front of him.

"What's your name?" the boy asked as he ate his sandwich. "My name is
Chris."

"My name is Annie," she replied.

End



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