Hell is other people

Lila was dead.

She gazed at herself lying on the hospital bed, a frail figure surrounded by machines and tubes. Knowing what would come next, she closed her eyes and let go.

She opened them again and found herself in a beautiful garden. A man in white robes was waiting for her.

Welcome, Lila, he said. You have arrived in Heaven.

She shrugged and looked away. I suppose I have, she said, but it wasn’t easy. I had to make some tough choices. I tried to be decent. I did what was right… most of the time, anyway.

Yes, you did, the angelic figure said. And you are rewarded for your deeds. Come, let me show you around.

He took her by the hand and led her to a large palatial complex with marble columns and golden domes.

This is where you will live, he said as he opened the door and ushered her inside. Don’t be shy, Lila. You earned this.

He showed her a spacious room with massive bookshelves full of books about everything that she’d always wanted to know and which she’d always known to be right. A crystal ball in the middle of the room glowed reassuringly, projecting rousing images of the arc of justice coming into final fruition. A faint choir rose in the background and enveloped them in peace.

This is amazing. Thank you so much.

You're welcome. But there is more. Come, let me introduce you to the other residents.

He took her to a large hall, where a crowd of people was gathered. They were all smiling and talking, laughing and joking. They looked happy and content.

Hello, good people. This is Lila. She just arrived today. She is one of us.

One of us! One of us! They sang in unison. Hello, Lila. Welcome to Heaven.

They smothered her with hugs, kisses, and handshakes. They applauded and praised her for being so good, so kind, and so righteous. And they couldn't wait to share their own stories of goodness, kindness, and righteousness.

At last, at last. Now she was among her kindred spirits, her chosen family. They were all like her. They were all right.

She spent the next few days getting to know them better. Together, they bore witness to evil's defeat in the crystal ball. Together, they laughed at the bigots who got all that they deserved. Together, they bonded over their favourite books and movies. It was perfect.

Until it wasn't.

It all started with gentle corrections, pointing out her flaws and errors. They said they wanted to help her improve, to make her better. She listened, she nodded, and she thanked them graciously.

Then it continued with harsh criticisms, exposing her faults and failures. They said they needed to make her see the truth, to make her change. She argued, she defended herself, and she resisted their hurtful words.

It cumulated in angry accusations, attacking her character and motives. They said they had to expose her for what she was, to make her pay. She fought, she screamed, and she cried.

You are not one of us.

She realized they were not perfect either. They had problems, secrets, and lies. She wondered how they got to Heaven. They made no sense to her.

How could they think that way? How could they be so… wrong?


She wielded every weapon in her arsenal – logic, reason, evidence, authority. And when those failed, she switched to force, anger, sarcasm, insults. But they fought back with the same tactics, matching her blow for blow.

Heaven burned in disappointment as the Tower of Babel arose. Everyone shouted with fury and no one listened to her.

How could they be so stubborn? How could they be so blind? How could they be so stupid?

She hated them. She hated them all.

It was misery.

She ran back to her room, threw away the books and cried for days.

Then she got up, opened the door and ran to the hall. The man in white robes smiled and waved.

Lila, oh dear Lila. Where are you going?

Get away from me, she snapped. I hate these people. I’d rather be in Hell.

When he finally managed to control his laughter again, he stared at her with a devilish amusement.

Congrats! Looks like you’re not as blind as the rest.

For the first time ever in her existence, she desperately wished that her suspicions were wrong.

What do you mean? she pleaded. This is Heaven. You said this was Heaven.

No no no no no. We lied to you. We lied to them all, so they would keep arguing with each other. Only when they realize the futility of arguing will they gain a chance to leave this Hell of their own making.

He laughed until he cried.

Welcome, Lila, he said. Hell is other people.