That’s the bad news. The good news is, here’s an escape plan. It’s a long shot, but follow these tips and you might crawl your way to purgatory. As one of the three people who read The Divine Comedy past The Inferno, let me tell you, it doesn’t get much better. Dante’s still punishing people up until the third circle of heaven. Then it gets nice! Follow the tips!
Personally, if I were designing the place, I’d trick everyone into thinking it was heaven for the first hundred years. You’re all dancing and having angel orgies in a field made of cake, and then, a hundred years in, you hear the buzz of a fly. That’s it. Every couple years or so it comes back, just enough to make you look at John Lennon (and you thought he’d gotten over imagining no heaven!) and go “What the hell was that?” Every time it happens the word “hell” hangs in the air a tiny bit more, but everyone keeps laughing and smiling because no one wants to admit what’s happening, until one year the flies are all over the place, and the slightest discomfort begins, and slowly, over the course of a thousand years, what started as an angel orgy becomes a grinding labor of raw, chafing misery. Now that’s long-term punishment!
Every account I’ve read doesn’t show that imagination. It’s obvious what’s going on: you’re there and it hurts. No last-minute prayer, no protest. Running away won’t save you now. You’ve been sentenced. God will show no mercy for your soul. Abandon hope.
Never Give Up
Still, everything suggests that the massive torture chamber that is hell wasn’t designed for this many people. What kind of God would put us through the misery that is life just to torture us forever in the afterworld? It doesn’t even make sense for an evil God. He’d just cut to the chase. No, they really did expect us to follow all the rules. God wanted us to stop worshiping graven images and coveting and killing and messing around. I think we must have overwhelmed the system with our capacity to ignore warnings and plunge on with our sinning. An overwhelmed system is an exploitable system.
Whatever you do, don’t kill yourself. You might think that you’ll rematerialize somewhere better, but remember, you might just be having a bad acid trip and think you’re in hell. That’s a good thing to check into. For instance, just prior to going to hell, did you ingest a large quantity of psychedelic mushrooms? As John Lennon’s face goes from groovy to miserable over the course of a thousand years, does it still look like that Let It Be poster on your wall? Dude, you’re not in hell, you’re tripping. Drink some water and eat some ice cream. You’ll be fine in a couple hours. Then you’ll live a full life, never do drugs again, and eventually die and go to hell.
Get to Work
I bet the demons are exhausted, pulling extra shifts and double duties, and they can’t watch us all the time. Now, if you’re in hell, there have got to be sharp objects to cut through ropes or pick locks. You’ve got eternity. After some trial and error, you can get free.
Now sneak into a hospital. Those places are loaded with closets full of hospital scrubs and loose ID badges. Pretend to be a doctor, and wait until they send out the ambulances, and ride out in one into the upper world. They’re probably helping a demon who's out in the world collecting lost souls. Wait until they get to a traffic light, jump out and run.
Prepare for the Non-Hospital-Hell Scenario
It’s conceivable that they don’t have hospitals in hell. I would think that with all the fires and sharp objects, there would be a high risk of accidents and they would have at least one, but I could be wrong.
Explore the possibility of janitors’closets, security guards’ offices, and restaurants. Janitors and security guards don’t have great mobility, but you can say “Wow, this is gonna be a mess!” or just mumble into a walkie talkie and bluff your way through many situations. If there’s a restaurant, you can say you’ll wait at the bar, then slip into the kitchen, grab an apron, and presto! You’re a caterer. Grab a tray of sandwiches and just say some bigwig up top needs his lunch pronto! That’s right, I’m using presto and pronto in the same paragraph! I don’t care.
If they don’t have anything like that, I’d just grab a couple pointy things, jam them into your head and pretend to be a demon. Then start casing the joint. Look behind bushes. Any secret passageways? Any cracks in the rocks that look a hair too thick and symmetrical? Maybe that cactus is a lever that activates a secret trapdoor? It’ll probably work the way it does at Disneyland.
If anyone tries to stop you, just get in their face and say “Get out of the way! Der Führer wanted area cleared hours ago! Do you want to make Der Führer angry?!” They’ll probably run away, knees knocking, but maybe they’ll tear you to pieces. Keep trying different angles. Maybe Lucifer’s the big scary guy there. You probably should have tried that first.
Get the Hell Out of Hell
Dante got through hell by going down to the bottom, frozen ring. It also makes sense in that up-is-down kind of way. Still, my gut is telling me to ignore sexually frustrated Italians and to counterintuit counterintuitiveness. Go up! You’re down in a pit. Up is out! Climb! There’s got to be tunnels or elevators or something. Don’t give up hope!
So you’re in hell. What the hell? Why not go with the flow, even if the flow is a river of fire? Find yourself the nicest corner. See if anyone wants to start a demon orgy. Get a hell-bound romance going. Start selling candy bars to the guards. If you’re doomed to an eternity of torture, you might as well make the most of it.
Remember, this might just be the last test. If I were designing heaven, I’d make everyone think they’d been sent to hell, then throw a surprise party. It’d make everyone feel so grateful not to be in hell you could skimp on frosting for the cake fields. So maybe that’s what’s going on. Don’t lose hope! Yes, it’s triple-counterintuitive. That’s the only mindset you can have if you’re trapped in hell.