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Chapter 1 – So Young, but So Evil
It’s Christmas time again and Linus is back to his old ways. He acts like a spoiled brat with a long Christmas list and shows off the good things he does to make everyone think like he earns them. With his overbearing personality, he forcefully gets his way even if he’s doing wrong. If he does wrong, he justifies it by blaming his stress to do good and the responsibilities he has. There aren’t many people in town who actually like him. Most think ill of him while some pray for him to change.
His parents don’t believe in harsh discipline, so this behavior of his has been the same for years with no change in sight. On one harsh winter day, Linus comes back from donating a portion of his payments to a local church. In relation to the amount he got, he only gave a little, but the people in the church thought he gave a lot because of how much he gave. While exiting the church, he accidentally knocks over a nativity scene set that was sitting outside. Many of the figures are broken into pieces and scattered in the snow. Because he wants to get home early to relax, Linus disregards his accident and walks away. On the way home, he comes a homeless man curled up in dirty bedsheets sitting in the doorway of a closed store. The man has received generous donations with various fives, tens, and even two twenties and a fifty-dollar bill in his cup.
Linus sees that the man is barely awake. He thinks to himself that he can take the cup away and if he feels guilty, he can bring it back, but a bit lighter of course due to his fee of mercy. Once he grabs the cup and takes it away, a paranormal force within the snow storm takes him away with its winds and makes him disappear. The chilling gust of wind wakes up the homeless man. He looks down to see that his cup full of donations hasn’t moved as if Linus never took it. Thankful for the donations, he goes to church to donate some of it before using it to rent an apartment room and a warm meal.
In a dimension separate from earth, Linus finds himself in a more intense snow storm. There are no buildings or people nearby, only snow and ice.
A light with wings in a human figure appears to Linus and says, “Because of your continued selfishness, you must rediscover what it means to love.”
“Where am I?”
“You are in Winter’s Clutches. A pocket area in the pride layer of Hell.”
“Hell?! But I’m just a kid!”
“You are within the age of reason. You know what you did was wrong, and you’ve been doing it for years with that knowledge. Now you must redeem yourself or suffer the same fate as those that eternally wander this frozen wasteland.”
“Am I just going to freeze here while you lecture me?”
“No, you will not. This is a dangerous area with many dangerous spirits within it. You have to travel to my light to get to a safe area. This is to test your faith and determination to change. Don’t follow a false light or stray from the path or else the demons of pride will chase you until they catch you and trap you here forever.”
“This is unfair. Haven’t I done enough to make up for my mistakes?”
“All of your good deeds are vanity because you did them to reap the rewards rather than to love. Come to my light and be saved. Your soul rests in your hands.”
The light travels to its destination within a blink of an eye. With no other choice, Linus begins to walk through the snow. The ground itself is uneven, but it isn’t obvious as all of the snow is fairly level with each other. Sometimes Linus can walk on top of the snow while other times it’s up to his waist. Some of the ice is hidden within this thick layer of snow, which makes him fall on the hard ice a few times. Linus has to walk carefully through the snow while enduring the harsh cold weather at the same time. It’s a taxing process that takes its toll on him within minutes.
The only thing driving him forward is his will to live and the light ahead of him. It gives him a warm feeling, but it also makes him feel guilty. When the wind blows, he hears every selfish act he’s done and word he’s said. He doesn’t want to think about it and tries to keep his guilts out of his head. His eyes begin to tear up because of his guilts and the shame he’s feeling.
Another light in a different direction then catches his eyes. It looks similar to the light he’s following, but it gives him a different feeling. He no longer feels guilty as his good actions are praised by the wind. The light itself gives off a weird cold chill that feels warm and comforting. The thought then occurs to Linus that what the light said to him might’ve been a trick. He’s always tried to do the right thing, so why should he be forced to do this challenge in the pride level of Hell of all places.
He decides to follow it instead of the original light. As he walks towards it, he feels stronger and more energized. To Linus, this seems to be the right way because of how it makes him feel and the idea he has about it. He then begins to hear other movements besides his own. It sounds like someone or something is walking in the snow. This makes him remember the demons of pride that will come after him should he stray from the light. He counters this thought by thinking that he’s hearing another person like him walking in the snow. Surely there must be other people like him since this dimension is so vast and expansive.
The sound of the being moving through the snow then begin to sound irregular for a normal person to be walking through it. It sounds like something large is trying to quietly and slowly walk through it. This sound seems like it’s heading in his direction. He thinks to himself that someone must be heading towards the same light he’s heading too since it seems to be the right one. This thought keeps him calm until the sound gets really close to him. When he turns around, he is shocked by what he sees.
It’s a tall, white, and lanky creatures with long legs, arms, and fingers. Its legs have a singular sharp foot that it uses to take long steps with. If it was in a simple room, it would have to bend down because of how tall it is. The demon then points at Linus with its contorted and long fingers as if it’s accusing him. It slowly opens its mouth while a noise that sounds like the scraping of nails on a chalkboard comes out. The silent rise of this noise is distracting and painful to listen to, but the soon of something moving behind Linus gets him to turn around to see a demon on all fours with a smile on its face and arm raised. He quickly rolls out of the way and runs towards the original light as the demons chase him.
They crawl on all fours and are fast enough to catch up with Linus who is the fastest runner in his school. The demons swipe at his legs, head, and arms to try to grab or trip him, but he manages to just barely stay ahead. Linus then runs across a frozen river. He slips and slides across it while trying to balance himself. He then comes to a halt around the center of the river with the demons standing in the snow.
Thinking they can’t walk across the ice, he smiles and says, “Ha! Can’t get me now, can ya?”
The demons smile then walk on two legs. With long strides, they rapidly close the distance between them and Linus. In a panic, Linus slips and slides across the ice until he reaches the solid snow just in time to avoid the demons’ clutches. He keeps running until the light is within reach. Once he gets to it, he enters into a simple cabin with a fireplace, chairs, and a dinner table with holiday food and drinks ready to consume. Linus eats his fill of ham and turkey and drinks a jug of tea because of how hungry and thirsty he is after the long chase.
The light with wings and a human figure comes out of the fireplace. Its face is clearer now, but it doesn’t appear to have one. It says, “Linus, I’m glad you made it.”
“Me too. Can you tell me what I need to learn so I can get out of here?”
“Have patience, boy. You will learn everything you need to know in good time. Tell me what charity is about.”
“It’s about helping the poor and needy.”
“It’s much more than that. It’s about showing your love of God by showing love to your neighbor. You show this by sacrificing or giving something to someone else who needs it.”
“Don’t I already do that when I give to charities and to the church?”
“Not at all even though it is the same act. It is your motivations that are wrong. You give to other people to make yourself feel good. To be praised and to be rewarded for your ‘good deeds’. You don’t even give enough for your charity to count as a sacrifice. It would be one thing if you gave a little because you had little, but you have so much more to give. You give so little that you might as well have not given at all.”
“Oh…I get it now. I can’t even save money, can I?”
“Currency is meant to be spent. You can save it up as long as you plan to spend it on something good that God would approve of.”
“Would if I become poor?”
“God takes care of all his creatures. The birds of the sky don’t work and are rarely given food by other creatures and God makes sure these creatures are fed. If He cares about them enough to feed them, then He will surely take care of you as well. You will eventually die and lose everything you have here except for your soul. That is unless your soul is rotten then it will be thrown into the eternal fire.”
“Why is this so serious? I thought the holidays were supposed to be a light and joyful time.”
“When you spit in the face of that in the form of your actions, especially during the month of the King of King’s birth, then your punishment must fit the crime.”
“You’re a smart boy, Linus. If you open yourself up to understanding, then you will survive this. Rest for now then head back out into the storm.”
“This isn’t over yet?”
The light fades back into the fireplace as Linus sits on the couch by the fire and passes out.
Chapter 2 – An Example to Remember
A cold chill makes its way into the cabin and wakes up Linus.
The light says to Linus, “You have to get going. The demons are coming.”
When Linus opens the door, the cabin behind him is swept completely away from him as if it was a piece of paper. The chilling wind bites yet again into his skin, which makes him brace himself. He lifts his head to see the light waiting for him in the distance. This time it seems farther away than last time. After a traveling a short distance into the storm, Linus finds himself in a forest with frozen trees and plants.
The vegetation here appears to be good enough to eat, but it’s stuck behind a thick sheet of ice. There are hide sheets of ice hidden near the vegetation as if they were placed there to purposefully slowly kill the vegetation or to trap someone hungry enough to be seduced by the appetizing look of the fruit. Linus makes sure to watch his steps while traversing this forest that soon becomes maze-like. Some of the trees are clustered together with ice surrounding them. He could fit through the gaps between the trees, but the ice is too slippery to attempt that. After what he experienced, he’s decided to not take any shortcuts no matter how right they feel to take.
Sounds of movement then catch his ear. This surprises him since he thought that he was doing the right thing. There shouldn’t be any demons chasing him, but then again, the light did say the demons were coming. Regardless, he still takes his time navigating the frozen forest. Even when the demons are in sight, he calms his nerves while focusing on the ice around him. There is a total of five demons around Linus or more. It’s hard for Linus to tell if the same ones are following him or if they’re more in the forest because of how the winter storm is. The demons themselves don’t seem to see him nor know where he is despite being so close, which is in stark contrast to how easily they found him in the frozen wasteland.
The idea gets into Linus’ head that him straying from the original path was the thing that attracted them to him like how the light said. He tries to keep thinking this as the demons cross paths with him and come uncomfortably close. Fortunately for him, there are plenty of trees and rock-like bushes to hide behind along the way. Progress through the forest goes by smoothly and without a hitch until one of the demons gets frustrated. It slams its fists into the ground several times like a primate while yelling its terrible yell. Smaller humanoid figures appear in the distance. At first, they seem to be normal people, but their lack of clothing makes them look extremely suspicious. Half of their head then splits in half to reveal a mouth with dozens of sharp teeth. The people also have a hole in their chest with a shriveled heart inside. These people appear to be the ones who failed to follow the light.
This shocks Linus as he becomes unsure of what to do. He tries dealing with them like the demons, but their erratic movements with their limbs and heads disturb him. It’s like they’re suffering inside their bodies and are trying to break out of them but can’t. They let out high pitched screams inconsistently, which shocks and makes Linus stay in place. He wants to keep moving to not end up like these people, but his fear keeps freezing him in place. This gets him in trouble as a demon comes close enough to see him.
Another chase ensues as both the demons and condemned souls run after him. The demons are able to easily traverse through the frozen trees and ice. The condemned are able to bite their way through the trees and their erratic movements negate the slippery ice. More shortcuts are in sight as if the forest itself is alive as false lights begin to shine through the trees.
They whisper to Linus, “Follow us.”
“Come to us.”
“We’ll keep you safe.”
“We’ll lead you to salvation.”
“The angel will only damn you.”
“You were right all along.”
“We’ll handsomely reward you.”
Linus does his best to ignore these voices no matter how sweet they sound or how enticing their offer is because he knows that it won’t end well. He manages to stay ahead of all the monsters while staying on the path towards the light. The storm then begins to pick up with snow quickly covering the ice around him. He has to have faith in the light ahead of him in order to not slip or walk on the ice. Even though he does slip a couple times, he makes it to the light by the skin of his teeth.
He finds himself in a cabin again with food, drinks, and warm fireplace there for his efforts. Linus digs in because this challenge was more taxing than the last. Even though what just happened might’ve seemed like it took a half hour at the most, he feels like it took a couple hours or even three hours at most to get through it all. After getting his fill, the light emerges from the fireplace, but this time its body is clearer. It appears to have a masculine figure with robes made from that of a tiger.
It says to Linus, “I’m glad you made it, but you can’t always get by like this.”
“I didn’t mean to.”
“I know. You must have faith and not fear any of the abominations that wander this plane of existence. If you do that, nothing will worry you. Not even death.”
“I’ll have to practice that then.”
“You’ll have plenty of time to here.”
“Oh great. Now, what do you have to tell me now?”
“What are you most grateful for?”
“My parents and the skills that I have.”
“Name some more things.”
“What about this chance you are given to change? A lot of people lead lives like yours fully aware of their horrible actions and live them anyways without any plans to change or take responsibility for what they do.”
“I guess I am. I don’t feel thankful for it, but I guess I should. Why am I given this chance?”
“Because you were about to go over the point of no return. Your way of thinking is also able to be humbled in order for your ways to change.”
“Were the other people I saw out there like me?”
“Yes, they were. Everyone is given the same chance and the same level of difficulties to overcome. None are handicapped or given an easier challenge.”
“So then how did those other people die?”
“They chose to give up. They thought they knew better and did what they wanted to instead of following the instructions they were given. You were smart enough to pick yourself up when you fell.”
“Don’t let it get to your head. Remember that this layer of Hell specifically punishes the prideful.”
“I’ll be sure to.”
“Good. Now rest up for the next challenge. Because what you’ll be facing next is so daunting, remember also to have faith and hope. These will carry you through what seems to be an impossible obstacle to overcome.”
“Can you tell me more?”
“Unfortunately no, but the only thing I can tell you is to not slip up.”
“That doesn’t sound good.”
“It wasn’t meant to. You should, nevertheless, be able to pass this challenge if you follow my advice. I trust that you will even though this may be the toughest one.”
The light goes back into the fireplace as Linus continues to eat and reflect on what the light told him. After about ten minutes, he falls asleep by the fire while holding onto a pillow as if it were his mother. He wishes he was back home with his family to tell them how much he appreciates them and how sorry he is for the things he’s done. There’s a part of him that also wishes that she and his dad would’ve told him what was right instead of approving of all his actions. He wishes that he got in trouble and talked down to so that he would know better. Now, he can only hope they do this to him later in case he becomes selfish and self-centered again.
Chapter 3 – The Slippery Slope
The cabin Linus is in suddenly shakes.
It wakes him up as the light from the fireplace speaks, “Hurry and wake up, Linus. The demons will be here soon.”
“Alright. Give me a second.”
“Be careful on your way out.”
Linus stretches and gulps down a glass of warm iced tea before exiting the door and falling door a slippery mountain of ice. He manages to catch himself on a piece of ice that juts out from the side of the rugged ice. Looking down at the mountain, he sees that it’s a long way down to the light as if he’s standing on the world’s tallest mountain that can reach the atmosphere. Several icicles, the size of a normal human being, jut out of it that Linus can use to safely slide down to the end. It’s even colder up on the mountain with a harsher wind and biting chill.
The temperatures keep Linus in place as he endures the cold. That is until demons break through the cabin and start slipping down the mountain. Linus then falls from one large icicle to another until his legs almost get caught in a large mouth. There are condemned souls within the ice of the mountain. They still appear to be alive, but these condemned have extra teeth behind their normal teeth that are larger than them. Their hands are little heads as with the fingers being teeth and their palms being mouths.
The condemned twitch and fidget as they try to break out of the thick ice. It seems that there is a countless amount of them trapped within the mountain. The ones near the surface seem like they could break out any second, so Linus makes sure to move swiftly, decisively, and carefully. The demons behind him walk with long strides with their legs while others fall from icicle to icicle like him to catch up. Some miscalculate their movements and fall down the mountain. Others are caught in the mouths of the condemned.
Even though Linus has foes on all sides that are aiming for him, they are unable to get to him despite their best efforts. It’s almost as if there’s an invisible barrier protecting him. Linus continues to keep a steady pace despite the constant close calls and the seemingly never-ending slide down the huge mountain. The light feels closer and closer with each fall down. The wind speaking his guilts and deeds no longer bother him because he sees the chance to redeem himself. A chance to be a new and better person.
As he continues to slide down, several other lights can be seen. They are lesser lights, but they let out a sort of burning freeze. These lights gravitate Linus towards them. He fights against their pull while continuing to fall to the original light. The lesser light’s pull becomes stronger and stronger the closer he gets to the end. Their pull becomes so strong that they completely through Linus off course from where he meant to slide to. He begins to become worried because it doesn’t seem like he’s going to make it.
Knowing the consequences of losing faith, Linus holds onto it and hopes that the light will catch him at the end. Near the end of the mountain, he can see that the lesser lights have long dark skinny hands in them. They reach out towards him and continuously scrape the side of the mountain as if trying to pull the mountain closer to bring him closer. Voices from these lights call out his name and beckon him towards him. Their pull is extremely strong from this distance as Linus struggles to hold onto the icicle. It seems like his chances for survival are slim, but he has no choice but to move. The demons behind him are swiftly approaching and are already reaching out to him with smiles on their faces.
He closes his eyes as he lets go of the icicle and trusts in the light to catch him. As he slides down, the multiple arms from the lesser light converge on him, but a hand from his light grabs Linus in the blink of an eye. After being grabbed, he opens his eyes to see his light holding him. The light’s features are clearer now with eyes on its angel wings.
“You did it, Linus.”
“I…I knew I would…somehow.”
The cabin Linus is in is the same as the rest. His light lets him down so that he can rest.
“What are you going to teach me about now?”
“What you just did to pass the last challenge which is having faith and hope. To have faith is to trust in a person despite your concerns and worries. It’s a constant action you must take every day in order to trust God and those around you. To have hope is to be sure that you will be saved. You must feel some sureness and comfort in yourself to have true faith. Both of these are intertwined and a means of saving your soul.”
“How do I show that I have faith and hope?”
“By doing what you just did. You have to trust in God, in what’s right, and then act from there. Faith without action is a dead faith because it shows a lack of faith in one’s self and in the person being trusted.”
“What about hope? What if things seem hopeless?”
“Then have faith. You know that better things are waiting for you in the future as long as you keep your faith and work towards them. Even when everything seems lost and the chances of success are slim like you saw, you will be caught and brought into safety.”
“Thank you. That’s reassuring to know.”
“You’ve grown so much, Linus and in a short amount of time.”
“Well, when you’re forced to see the consequences of your actions, it can change you in a matter of seconds, right? Also, the constant threat of eternal death and torment help too.”
“That’s always a threat in your normal reality. A single mortal sin will condemn you to Hell and you’ve committed many.”
“Thank God for this second chance then even if it’s a bit harsh.”
“Your parents never disciplined you like they should’ve.”
“They cared about me too much to.”
“But in actuality, discipline is a form of love. It’s better to correct someone you love now than to leave them to reap the harsh consequences of their ignorance later.”
“Will my parents be punished for not disciplining me?”
“In a way, they will be.”
“Can you please have mercy on them? I know that even though they are partially to blame for me being here, can you spare them from their punishment?”
“I can if you make it back them.”
“That’s good. How are they doing now? I bet they’re worried sick about me since I was supposed to be home.”
“Time works differently here. If you return home, it will be as if mere seconds passed.”
“You only have one more challenge ahead. Be prepared for it.”
“Can you tell me anything that will help me pass it?”
“It’s going to be more difficult than the last.”
“That doesn’t help!”
“Then remember the two greatest commandments. Love God above all and love your neighbor as you love yourself.”
The light fades into the fireplace as it’s given its final word on the matter of the challenge. Linus sits down to eat and rest with what the light said in his mind until he falls asleep.
Chapter 4 – Breaking an Icy Soul
For the last time, Linus is wakened up by the light for his last challenge.
“It’s time,” it says from the fireplace.
Linus has woken up groggily every time, but this time he shoots up and immediately goes out the door. He’s now in the icy center of pride. The devil is suspended in the center and is separated from Linus by a chasm. Satan’s limbs, body, head, and throat are wrapped in chains. He fidgets as spirits and energy are released from his body to exert his influence on the world as far as God allows. The body of Satan itself is at least as big as the mountain that Linus slid down.
Several demons and condemned souls crawl up from the depths of the chasm and surround Linus. There doesn’t appear to be any way out as the hordes surround the boy on all sides. They laugh and mock him as they push him around and swipe at him to make him dance for their enjoyment. The condemned souls here are much different than the previous ones. Because they are much crueler, there are more teeth in their mouth, which includes a snake-like mouth in it as well. Additional mouths line their skin that continuously eat their regenerating skin. Along with their hands being mouths, their feet have also become mouths as well. These particular condemned scare Linus the most.
They taunt him by saying, “You’re going to be like us, kid!”
“You can suffer with the rest of the brats here after we tear you apart limb from limb!”
“I’ve forgotten how children scream out in terror and pain! Give us a reminder won’t ya?!”
“We’ll be sure to make your pain last forever and ever!”
Several dark spirits spit out from Satan. The crowd of demons and condemned move aside to make way for them. The dark spirits morph themselves into different versions of Linus that are like the condemned and demons of pride.
One speaks, “I have a pride that rivals the devil.”
Another, “Look how good I am! I’m truly an angel among angels sent by God!”
And another, “What else do I need to trust in besides myself? I’m already amazing as is.”
The doppelgangers then surround Linus and begin throwing punches at him. None of the punches land weirdly enough, which gives Linus the opportunity to fight and push them back.
Unaffected by his attacks, the copies say, “Hahaha! So much for you being a force to be reckoned with!”
“A lowly street dog has more strength than you do!”
“You don’t have a chance to escape with your power!”
The three then start swinging at Linus again, but they never harm him. Thinking of solutions in his head, Linus remembers that through this journey he has learned to despise himself, but that’s not what he’s supposed to do. He thinks to himself that he should love himself and that he can’t everything on his own. He then puts his hands together to pray. As he does this, he can feel, not his heart, but the very core of his soul starts to crack and melt as if it had been frozen for years. A light then begins to shine from his body and scare away the demons and condemned while teleporting Linus away to a view overlooking all of Winter’s Clutches.
He sees all of the challenges he’s faced along with other areas he hasn’t seen. He can even see other normal people going through their challenges. Most fail while few succeed.
The light descends from above and says, “Congratulation, Linus. You’ve done what few do.”
“I guess I can be pretty amazing-if I put my selfishness aside.”
“Do you know what the goal of life is that this season emphasizes?”
“It’s to spread the love that God shows us back to Him and to our neighbor. We do that through our actions during the seasons, but we shouldn’t just show it now. We should be doing this for our entire life.”
The light hugs Linus.
“I’m so glad that you came back to your senses.”
Linus hugs back.
“Thank you for bringing me back to them. What happens now?”
A strong gust of snow sweeps Linus up into the wind. When he opens his eyes, he’s standing in front of his house.
“Oh…I guess this does,” Linus says aloud, “But I’ll always treasure my experience and the lessons they taught me. Yes, today, I’m a new boy!”
Linus’ parents step outside the house because they head him talking. He hugs them and tells them how much he loves them and how he’s going to be a better son from now on. He then heads inside with the biggest smile they’d seen on his face in a while. In terms of changing, he takes off things from his Christmas list, goes back to the church to donate more money, and becomes friends with the other kids at his school with the goal of having a relationship with them instead of taking advantage of their smarts and abilities. Everyone in town doesn’t have a clue as to why he changed, but they like it. Linus becomes a loving and productive member of his community with the goal of staying like this for the rest of his life thanks to the lessons he’s learned and the challenges that disciplined him.
Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas!
A Catholic self-published author that writes to entertain and teach. Writes mostly horror, fantasy, and short story fiction.
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