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A Wanderer in the Sprit Lands, by Franchezzo (A. Farnese), [1896], at

CHAPTER XVIII.--The Approach to Hell.

I would have liked to ask Hassein a great many more questions about the astral plane and its many curious forms of life, but we were now fast leaving it behind, and passing downwards through those lower spheres which I had partly explored before. We were traveling through space at a wonderful velocity, not quite with the rapidity of thought but at a speed difficult for the mind of mortal to conceive. Onward and still onward we swept, sinking ever lower and lower away from the bright spheres, and as we sank a certain sense of awe and expectancy crept over our souls and hushed our talk. We seemed to feel in advance the horrors of that awful land and the sorrows of its inhabitants.

And now I beheld afar off great masses of inky black smoke which seemed to hang like a pall of gloom over the land to which we were approaching. As we still floated on and down, these great black clouds became tinged with lurid sulphurous-looking flames as from myriads of gigantic volcanoes. The air was so oppressive we could scarcely breathe, while a sense of exhaustion, such as I had never experienced before, seemed to paralyze my every limb. At last our leader gave the order for us to halt, and we descended on the top of a great black mountain which seemed to jut out into a lake of ink, and from which we saw on the horizon that awful lurid country.

Here we were to rest for a time, and here, too, we were to part from our friends who had so far escorted us upon our journey. After a simple repast consisting of various sustaining spiritual fruits and food which we had brought with us, our leader on behalf of the whole company offered up a short prayer for protection and strength, and then we all lay down upon that bleak mountain top to rest.

Next: Chapter XIX.--Through the Wall of Fire