Redemption?

                The sun dims, even as it hangs high in the sky. The world quiets and fades. Our hero, mortally wounded, passes from one life into the next. His long prodigal son, weeping, cradles his head as he dies. After decades of estrangement, of seething resentment, of hatred. It takes the end. It takes sacrifice to bring these two back together.

                The gun trained on the young man. His eyes stood wide in horror. He couldn’t believe it. Was this to be all? All that came of his life? He was too young. He had too much to live for, a loving wife, an unborn child. Sure, he had made his share of mistakes. Committed his share of crimes. But was he already here, at the cliff’s edge, soon to be lost in memory? He looks to his father beside him, a silent plea in his eyes.

                Save me… please… save me. You’ve never given me a thing in your life. Save me. Save m-

                A gunshot, and before he can even register that he is not wounded. His father, once beside him, not in front, shudders and slacks to the floor. The gunman has already fled.

                And so the young man cradles the elder, one who abandoned him long ago, now our hero. And he weeps.

                “No… no, you can’t go. Please no. Dad, please no!”

                The older man looks up at him and smiles. “Son? How long… has it been… since you called me-”

                He dies mid thought, his eyes close at last.

                …and at the smell of sulfur, at the pain and the heat. They shoot back open in surprise. Around him swarms fire, and molten rock and dancing sadistic imps who poke his prone form with pokers.

                ARISE, NEW MINION!

                He struggles to rise, but broken glass bonds tie him to a slab of blades.

                “What? Where am I? Why am I-”

                In hell? You were a murderer, a liar, a usurer. What did you expect?

                In the smoke that hurt to breathe, a dark shape looms, multi-limbed and humongous. A beast the size of a skyscraper. There is no doubt. This is hell, and before him impends God’s once-favored. A beauty turned ugly, a ray of light lapsed into darkness.

                Lucifer.

                “My Son. I g-gave my life for my son.”

                Ah yes, redemption. What a theory. What a con. You thought self-sacrifice would punch your ticket to heaven?

                “I thought… I don’t know what I thought. I just wanted to save my child.”

                How noble, to be sure. But wasn’t it your drug deal that got him in trouble? Wasn’t it your abandonment that led him astray?

                The man has no answer. It takes all his concentration not to scream as the flesh flays from his skull, as his bones and muscle burn. As he is torn apart and remade, again and again. Suffering the same death and same rebirth, Prometheus torn to shreds by a thousand fiery vultures.

                The dark shadow bends to face him, eye to eye. A scabarous, horrid face, laced with boils and a hundred fetid mouths with rows of ten thousand rotting teeth. Eyes a sickly yellow, skin dark black and leaking pus from every orifice. Once beautiful, the corruptible angel is turned a nightmare by his sin.

                Be honest, as you died. Was your last thought of your son? “Thank God… he still lives.” Or of yourself? “At last, I am redeemed?”

                By his silence, the father’s truth is revealed.

The path to hell is paved with good intentions, down which men who do the right thing for the wrong reasons are always, always led.