Joan, the missionary doctor, returned home for a furlough. While walking in the garden at the back of her mother's house, she noticed John, her former schoolmate. As happenstance would have it, he was visiting his parental home next door. Only his sister lived there. After exchanging hearty greetings over the fence, John's sister invited her in for a coffee. While sitting in comfortable armchairs they relived the past.
Then John frowns and speaks up about a scary nightmare that has been bothering him lately.
"In this dream I am dressed in my black leather motorbike suit," he starts out, trying to accentuate his words but only managing twitches of his neck and eyebrows.
"My machine bolts out of the garage with me on it like some bat out-a-hell. Tearing up the driveway I bounce onto the main road. There the Porsche of a pimp scoops me up with a hellish speed and throws me bodily into the great beyond. I wake up in the middle of the hot flames of hell and realize there is no hope for me here. The tears roll down and singe my parched cheeks like burning lead. All of a sudden I see light flooding in and holy mother Mary appears. With consoling words she addresses me: 'It is only going to be three million years, my son!' Then my eyes fall on a beautiful woman and I recognize in her a prostitute of my years of walking on the wild side. Her beauty captivates me so much that I answer the holy mother that I never want to leave her. 'Her breasts will comfort me forever.' Then suddenly the voice of Saint Peter booms out over me: 'You do not know what you are saying, young man. There is no satisfaction of sin in hell; only weeping and gnashing of the teeth for ever and ever!' But I answer that a look at this fallen angel is enough to solace me for ever. Then the door is slammed shut over me with a deafening bang and immediately I am hurled by a grinning devil into a bottomless pit. Then I wake up in a sweat and my breath is suffocating."
John walks to the fridge and takes out a beer. He pops it open with his lighter, showing considerable dexterity and with the same flowing movement he takes a long draft from the bottle. He sits down again over against Joan, strokes the nape of his neck with his left hand and continues.
"I have spoken about this recurring nightmare with quite a few people. I asked my girlfriend, but she just says that dreams are deceptive and that I am too nervous in my subconscious. My colleague at work, a Jehovah's Witness, says that if I only were to read the Watchtower long enough, I would find the answers to all my questions. My neighbor, a Pentecostal god-chaser, says that it is a vision of the night in which God is warning me. My priest says that I should clearly go to confession. I also asked my shrink, but he completely turned me off. He claims it is a sign of 'nascent religious delusions, breaking forth from my subconscious,' or some such garbage. According to him this is all a defense mechanism triggered by stress on the job. If I care to pay $150.= per hourly sessions, he will cure me. Or else my neurosis can develop into a full-blown psychosis, or some such trash. A spiritist that practices clairvoyance and who lives on the same block as me, told me that this is 'evidence that paranormal capacities are on the ascendence in me.' She suggested that I read the Tibetan book of the dead. But I was really frightened by a gypsy fortune teller at a fair. She warned me that death might be imminent. What do you think?"
Joan takes another sip from her mug, stares at it for some time, not aware that it reads 'When God created man, she made a mistake!' Then she nods pensively, offering up a short prayer silently and looks John straight into the eye.
"Yes, I may have a few thoughts for you. First of all the apostle Peter seems to stand for your conscience. Mary, the mother of Jesus, represents your religious background, the way you were taught truth. The grinning devil is the silly bogeyman's picture that many old-fashioned people have about hell. The fast motorbike pictures the recklessness and thoughtlessness of your lifestyle. The pimp with the Porsche, speeding over the main road, is a picture of the fast lane this society moves on. There is no time to repent after death. Your sudden waking up in hell tries to drive that home to you."
Here Joan stops and drinks the last bit from her mug. John's sister pours her another coffee.
"But what about the beautiful woman," John asks impatiently, "and why does the dream keep coming back?"
"Well, obviously you idolize sex obstinately. The woman is like a redeeming goddess. Or at least she shows your stubborn will to elevate sex as the solution to all your problems. Your conscience warns you that this is wrong, but you want to hang onto it come what may. As to the frequency of your dream. It must mean that all these things are deeply embedded in your mind. Its repetitiveness is a telltale sign that you repress the workings of your conscience. Now these things have come back to haunt you, begging to be answered."
"What about the tears that turn to lead," John asks visibly impressed.
"Clearly they speak of your vivid fears in case you do wake up in hell."
"But I can't believe that a loving God would create such a horrible place for humans."
"First of all, hell was made for the devil and his fallen angels, demons really. But people that reject God and His Son Jesus Christ pay homage to Satan, though they are not conscious of that. God is not only love, He is also justice. He is not a Santa Claus. If you reject His love now that He has manifested in Christ's sacrifice for the world, then you will once meet Him as your judge. You must confess your sins and believe in Christ, begging for forgiveness."
"But surely hell is not made of real fire?"
"Not real in the sense that it will destroy your body as here on earth. But real enough to inflict pain. I know of psychotic people that suffered excruciating pain that they described as a fire in their souls."
"Couldn't it be symbolical?"
"Symbolical or not, hell will be a place of pain that is meted out in different degrees. If we reject an eternal God, we must learn what it means to live without Him, eternally."
"What about that endless fall at the end of the dream?"
"That could have merely a physiological cause, like the falling of blood pressure. It happens regularly in dreams. But maybe you should go for a routine checkup at your doctor's, to make sure."
"Do you think the gypsy might be right?"
"How could I know that? I can only warn you that humans can die at any time, anywhere, any way. Therefore you must put things in order with God as soon as possible."
"As a doctor, would you prescribe Valium, or somethin' to me?"
"I don't know you well enough. But one thing I would prescribe."
"And that is?"
"Read the New Testament. Start with the Gospels. That is the best medicine for you!" And rising from the armchair, she says: "It is time for supper at mother's."
John points to the mug and asks her whether she saw the remark.
"Quite funny," she replies, avoiding a theological discussion with a smile. "If you can find out what the mistake is in men and do something about it, I'll hail you as a hero."
'Oh, oh, do we have a feminist missionary here!" Johns shoots back with a repartee. The last thing she saw of him was the winking of his right eyelid.