Dream or Reality?

 •  5 min. read  •  grade level: 3
A dream? No, it was a nightmare!
I awoke in hell. Of course I knew millions had done so before; it was no new thing. But it was new to me, and I felt miserable, wretched. "Is this hell?" I thought. It was so unlike what I had expected.
What was it like? It was like nothing I had ever known or imagined before. I had always liked to explore a strange place; I had no desire to explore this! I dreaded even to move, for I felt certain that the more I saw the worse it would be.
Suddenly I heard my name mentioned, though I could not recognize the voice. It appeared a list was published in hell, daily, of the people arriving in a day or so, and my name was there, and they were expecting me, but I had come a day too soon. I awoke. I awoke on earth—was it earth? Where was I? On earth or in hell?
I was covered with an icy sweat. It was quite dark and I dared not move. The terror of that moment!
I was truly on earth, though hell seemed more real. I dressed in a daze, and got into my car to drive to Ascot. It was Cup Day at the races, but why I went I could not say, nor how I got there. My whole time was spent in thinking where I had been.
I was roused by a small accident, a "fender-bender." I don't quite know what happened. It was my fault, I suppose, for the other with an oath wished me in hell. I had heard the phrase thousands of times at school and in the army; yes, I had used it too, but now it was like a new language to which I had the key.
Shuddering, hot and cold by turns, I drove on to the track. The first acquaintance I met was a brother officer. He had not seen me since I left the service. Shaking hands, in a joking manner he asked me if I had been in hell.
I heard no more. I knew that I had fallen and was being taken home. As I was carried along I heard oaths and curses on all sides. I had heard that at racetracks all my life; now I started each time I heard the name—that name—mentioned. It was only a joke to them; it was grim earnest to me.
I arrived home. The doctor said I must have had a shock—he never said a truer word in his life—and that I must be kept perfectly quiet. Keep me quiet! How did I know I might not fall asleep and wake up where I had been the night before? I was not expected then; I was expected now—and forever.
The paper on the wall was a kind of diamond pattern with spots on it. I began counting them—I could not help it. Suppose I allowed one hundred years in hell to each spot, how many years would it make? I got confused and began over again. Would life there never end? I think I fainted. When I came to, my brother Jack was sitting by my bedside.
I asked him to read to me from the Bible about Lazarus and the man. I meant the dead man, but I could not bear to name the word, and half closed my eyes. Jack had to go out to get a Bible, and then he had to go again to find the place. At last he began: "Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus."
That was wrong; I meant the beggar Lazarus. However, Jack read on slowly, though I did not listen. This story had no concern for me, but I knew Jack could not find the other one.
Lazarus was sick, was he? So was I. Lazarus was dead. Would I be dead in another hour or so? Then I heard no more until the words, "Lazarus, come forth," and Lazarus came forth. Where had this man been? It was strange that Jack should read about him. Jack stopped, but I asked him to read it again. Jack read it more slowly than before. This time I listened to every word. "Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again." Jack's voice trembled.
"Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live."'
"Stop!" I shouted; "say it again!"
Jack went over it three or four times and then went on: "And whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die. Believest thou this?"
Now I always had a good strong voice. For the life of me, I couldn't help it: I gave such a shout as woke the whole house. Never a patient had such a speedy recovery! I was out of bed at once.
I read that chapter over at least fifty times; it got clearer and clearer. How I praised God for it. "Shall never die," I cried over the words for joy. No more hell for me!
My chief concern was Jack, but he saw it too, only he was quieter. "To think, Jack, I am forty-five and you are forty, and we never saw before that Christ died for our sins to save us from hell!"
"Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth My word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life." John 5:2424Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. (John 5:24).