After the end of time. The burning, fiery lake.
"Jesus Christ, it's hot in here."
"Would you puhleeze stop saying that? You know how it upsets me!" Satan glared at Cain, who averted his eyes.
"All right," Cain said aloud, then to himself, "Aren't we Miss Sensitive."
"What did you say?" asked Satan.
"My skin is so sensitive," replied Cain.
"I thought so," said Satan. "Well, you wouldn't be here if you didn't deserve it."
"Oh, let's not start that again," said Cain. The two looked balefully at each other until Cain pointed to Christian up to his neck in liquid fire like the others.
"I'm still surprised he's here though," said Cain. "I thought he had, like, a deathbed repentance or something."
Christian smiled wryly at them. "I thought so, too," he said. "I repented, God damn it!" He stopped, looked sheepishly at them and said, "Sorry," then continued. "Well, I did repent. I turned away from all I had said and done my entire life. I said it was all a mistake. I knew I'd hurt my father and I really did want to make it up to him. So I dutifully followed him to London, stayed at his right hand, caught pneumonia and died. Sure was surprised to find myself here. Then realized perhaps I'd repented more for my father's sake than my own, and really hadn't meant it after all. So here I am, where all the bad boys go."
"We're really a disgrace to our fathers, aren't we?" asked Satan.
"You can say that again," replied Cain. "Not that they were ever so great themselves. Big blowhards if you ask me, so full of themselves it makes you want to prick them with a needle."
"Then stand back and watch 'em rip!" said Christian laughing. "You know," he added, "We may be in everlasting fiery damnation, but at least we can laugh at ourselves. My father had absolutely no sense of humor."
"None here either," said Cain.
"Nor here," added Satan.
"And they never understood us, did they?" asked Christian.
"Never," said Cain.
"Nada," added Satan.
"So here we are and here is where I guess we'll stay."
"You know," Christian added, "Forever seems like a really long time."
"You can say that again," replied Cain.
Another lengthy pause.
"An ice-cold lemonade would be wonderful about now," said Christian.
"Tell me about it," said Cain.
"How would you guys like a refreshing drink of cool spring water?" asked Satan.
"What do you mean?" asked Cain suspiciously.
"I mean, Christian has this spring named for him, always flowing, never ceasing, so he says. And I thought that, maybe, he would like to visit, seeing how he never got a chance when he was living."
"Could you do that?" asked Christian eagerly. "Get us out of here and all?"
"Sure," replied Satan. "Our present here is forever, so there really isn't a future. But nothing prevents us from going into the past. It can't be changed. We can just look on, so to speak. Would you like that?" he asked Christian.
"More than anything," he said.
"Then let's go." Satan snapped his fingers and the three of them instantly found themselves beside a small frame building. It had a stone cellar and a stream of water ran outside through a trough for about twenty feet, then disappeared under a rock ledge. The building was near a creek and surrounded by towering trees. It was the only building at the site.
Christian looked about him. "Are you sure this is the place?"
"Absolutely," said Satan.
"But where are the buildings? I recall a description saying the spring was covered by a two-story building attached to a three-story building, not a little thing like this. And there are massive barns, hundreds of animals and birds, dozens of brothers. Where are they? This place looks deserted. It's not at all what I pictured."
"Hmm," mused Satan thoughtfully. "I'm sure this is the place. When was the community founded?"
"In the 1740s," said Christian.
Satan closed his eyes for a moment, scowled, then looked at the others with embarrassment. "Wrong century."
"What?" shouted Christian. "Can't you do anything right?"
"Oh, don't get your hair fried," growled Satan. "It's a simple mistake."
"How far off are we?" asked Cain.
"Two hundred and fifty years."
"What?" shouted Christian. "You mean this is the end of the twentieth century?"
"That's right, honey," said Satan.
Christian looked around him in disbelief.
"What happened?" he asked. "Where did it go? My bro- thers, where are you? What happened to the grist mill? The fields? The orchards? How could they all be gone?"
A loud explosion shook the ground. The three jumped. Cain shouted, "It was over this way!" and started running towards a road. The land on the other side was fenced off, but the three looked through the fence to see an enormous hole in the ground, half a mile across and hundreds of feet deep. Smoke was billowing from one side of the vast pit as huge machinery, for which the three had no names - bulldozers, earth movers - rushed around filling trucks with stone. As each truck was filled, it drove up a steep road out of the vast quarry, quickly replaced by another. The machinery made loud grinding noises unlike anything the three had ever heard. As they watched, another explosion, closer this time, filled the sky with smoke and debris. Through the smoke and beyond the quarry, the three saw block after block of houses in apparently endless number reaching to the horizon.
Christian looked at the sight in amazement. "And I thought I was in hell before," he said. His eyes filled with tears until he could no longer stand the sight, then turned away and walked back towards the spring house, followed by his friends.
"It's pretty horrible, isn't it?" agreed Cain.
"I can't believe it," replied Christian. "All that we dreamed of and worked for is gone."
"Perhaps if you hadn't gone soft and weak then things would have been different," said Satan. "If you'd told your father where to go, pardon the expression, and come over here yourself, as you said you would, maybe your community would still be here."
The words hurt, but instead of defending or attacking, Christian just turned to him and said, "You may be right."
"Knock it off," said Cain. "Blame and shame can't change things now. Anyway," he added, "It looks as though your spring house has visitors."
He pointed to the whitewashed building where they saw two men open the door and go inside.
"Let's go see what they're doing," said Satan. As they reached the door, Christian stopped and asked Satan, "Can I speak to them?"
"You can only appear to them in disguised form. They will not know it is you."
"Then do it," said Christian.
"It is already done," replied Satan. "Each of us is now visi- ble.”