Continued from Part 5
I stare at the desk.
As I have for days.
I know I must open it.
But I am terrified of what I might find.
Of what I could become.
I finally reach a trembling hand towards the first drawer.
Suddenly there is a knock on the door!
I nearly crap my pants.
I call out in a shaky voice.
More by reflex than curiosity.
I dare not even imagine who might be coming for me in this place.
The Office of Hades.
“Who is it?” I croak.
“It is I,” replies a voice.
But, surely not here?
It must be a trap.
But I am already trapped.
And I never thought to lock the door.
What have I got to lose?
J: Hello, Ernie.
E: You? Here?
J: Of course. I have a standing appointment on Fridays. Did you not check his appointment book?
He gestures with his eyes towards the unopened desk.
I am embarrassed to tell Him of my cowardice.
Rather than answering His question, I parry with one of my own.
E: Um, you actually come here? Every Friday?
J: Yes, since the first Good one.
E: But he… I mean you… Isn’t he like, like…
J: The Accuser? [chuckles] No, not quite. Though it is a natural mistake, since they share the same address.
E: But doesn’t that mean the Accuser is his boss?
J: No, though he may think he’s the landlord. This isn’t Satan’s kingdom, Ernie. This is his prison.
E. But… why Hades?
J: Because he is my most faithful servant. Of all the Lesser Ones, he alone never asks for more than his due, and gives far more than he takes.
E: I can think of many who would claim otherwise!
Jesus raises an eyebrow at that.
It occurs to me that sass might not be my wisest strategy.
Especially considering how it got me stuck here in the first place.
E: Um, you’re probably wondering what I am doing here…
J: Of course not, Ernie. You are right on schedule. This was all part of the plan.
E: What? But he… I mean I… That is…
J: [chuckling] Seriously, does nobody actually hear anything I say?
All roads lead to here, Ernie.
They always have, ever since your forefather Adam ate of the Tree.
Even those who did their very best to tame the Lesser Ones and bring Heaven (or Hell) on Earth, always lost to Hades in the end.
E. Then… I have failed. I am no better than my forefathers. Is this then how my story ends?
J: No, Ernie. This… THIS is where it truly begins!
E: I… I am confused.
J: Really? Do you not know that a seed only truly lives after it has fallen into the ground and died?
E: Well, sure. But then it isn’t really a seed anymore, is it?
J: But Ernie, it never really was. Being a seed isn’t an identity, it is a phase. Just like being human.
E: What are you saying?
J: Joseph Smith wasn’t entirely wrong, Ernie.
He grasped, however faintly, a deep truth that seems to have eluded most of my followers.
My Father is genuinely serious about raising Sons of God, men and women who will follow in My footsteps.
All this [gesturing with His arms] — the cosmos as a whole, but most especially this place — is the nursery for raising them.
E: I have no idea what you are talking about.
J: That is because you are trying to reason with your head.
Your heart already knows this truth.
It doesn’t much matter whether you understand, or even agree.
All that matters is that you live it.
He glances meaningfully at the desk.
I swallow, close my eyes, and open the first drawer.
When nothing explodes or leaps out at me, I cautiously open one eye, and then the other.
Inside is a golden key.
With sapphires in the handle.
I glance at Jesus.
I reach down hesitantly, then pick it up.
The key feels like ordinary metal, slightly cool to the touch.
But I… I feel like I have been transformed.
I stare at Jesus in wonderment.
E: Is this…?
J: Yes, Ernie.
These are the very keys I promised to Peter.
Many have come here before you to borrow one, and accomplished great things in my name.
But you are now holding the Master Key, which none have held since Peter, and he only for brief times.
I grow wary.
If Peter ever held this great a key, there must be a reason he gave it up.
I look at Jesus, and he nods gravely.
J: Yes, Ernie.
Many would say the key is cursed, but that is only because they do not understand.
The one who holds that key may not leave this place.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t use it to good effect while you are here.
E: Then I can use it to escape!
J: Yes. But only once.
J: Power like this is too great for your mortal husks to bear.
Even as you are here, it leaves an indelible imprint upon your soul.
You are not worthy to bear the key, any more than Peter was.
Use your time here well, for you will not get another chance.
E: But… then what’s the point?
J: What you do here with the key will still matter, and greatly.
But of far greater import is that you return and tell others how to get here.
That is how my disciples will truly become judges of all the earth, until the day I come to claim that key as my own.
I fall at His feet, and for a timeless eternity I worship.
When I open my eyes, Jesus is gone.
The door Hades slammed is now open.
Grasping the key, and my courage, I step into the portal of Hell.
To be continued…