In the distance lay a wide, red glow on the horizon, like the sun-rise mirrored on a lake, except of course there was no sunrise. There were no campfires around either, but the rosy light bathed everything nearby with a faint luster.

There were trees – palms, judging by the silhouettes of their branches – and even fields of flowers, wild and sweet. It reminded me of a south Georgia dawn on the swamp and felt almost like home. But the ragged cliffs, rising starkly on either side of the redness, spoiled the picture.

Before long I could hear the crystal laughter of children, a multitude of children, their voices a sparkling waterfall of innocence. Then in the brightening light I began to make out the lines of their tiny figures, none of them, I guessed, older than five when they’d died.

They played without wrangling or even arguing – many couldn’t speak at all – crawling and waddling, and a few running or carrying others. There were no adults keeping watch here. None were needed.

“The Lake of Innocents,” said Miss C with a broad sweep of her arm. “They died before they were old enough to have sins of their own. But they are here nonetheless because they died before the stain of Adam could be washed from their souls. They suffer no pain, and though they are outside heaven, they are not yet aware of the loss. So they are content for now.”

“You said you would show me the evil of the human heart. Where’s the evil here? They might as well be in Eden.”

“Walk with me to the lakeside.”

The closer we came to the lake, the deeper the color turned, until it became bloodred. The surface was covered with large bubbles, and the water rippled with a regular rhythm, the gentle, double pulse of a heartbeat.

When we reached the water’s edge, I saw what the bubbles held.

Babies. Millions of unborn and newborn babies.

“This is the grisly harvest of your century, Thomas. These were murdered by their own parents, by physicians, by scientists. They are the victims of abortion, infanticide, or medical research demanding their death. Here they rest for a season in a womb, safe at last from the mothers who rejected them, the fathers who hired killers to snuff them out, and those who considered them mere fodder for science.”

As far as I could see to the horizon, the babies floated, wave after gentle wave of countless little bodies, perfectly formed and still.

I had to sit down.

Miss C remained standing. “Tell me, Thomas: how could you have lived in such a land, where such a crime was protected by law?”

My Visit to Hell, by Paul Thigpen

I had the same chill Thomas describes next. How indeed can we tolerate this crime? How indeed can we stay silent? How indeed can we crowd the Lake of Innocents with more?

What am I doing to add to the population of this lake? What am I doing to deplete it?

Incidentally, this book is fabulous. I’m about a quarter of the way through, and won’t be able to resist sharing the tidbits here, and then doing a full review when I finish it. My recommendation for it came from no less than Padre himself, that bibliophile of priestly wisdom, and it is his very copy that I’m trying not to mark up. Somehow, that makes the reading of it more enjoyable, much the way that I have special fondness for those additions to my garden who come by way of someone’s sharing.