This is a true story but it’s not a story. It doesn’t have narrative form because to have narrative form there must be a beginning and an end–in other words there must be change. And nothing ever changes here.
I am in hell. I am in hell forever. I am being tortured and I have no idea why. If I had any idea why it wouldn’t be hell. You see, people think of punishment as having reason: “the punishment fits the crime” and so on… but in reality, punishment IS the reason. And if I knew why I was being punished, there would be some consolation to it–consolation that is forbidden to me. So I am punished, without reason. The pain is the reason, and the denial of reason IS the punishment.
I am here and my punishers are demons. They are not red or horned, there are no flames. This is more like a dimly lit warehouse, the demons grey-fleshed middle-managers with onyx eyes. But since part of the punishment involves continual washing of my memory and my personality, I cannot recall too much. There is a continual blurring and then sharpening. I gradually begin to retain awareness that I am indeed in hell, and then right when I get to the cusp of that awareness, my memory is reset. This process has an organic rhythm, like tides of blood under a midnight sun.
The real punishment of hell is loneliness. This is said so often it might as well be a cliche, but think of this as the most solitary solitary confinement. It’s impossible to convey the extent of this isolation without resulting to ponderous abstraction, but lets try anyway. You may never have known God in your life, but when you are forever cut off from him, you will know the difference, you will know it in your flesh. The way the flesh can sense storms, etc, in some elderly people, your flesh can sense the presence of God. You will miss this presence with every inch of your being. Your flesh will ache constantly with the worst kind of sickness and revulsion for being itself. It will want nothing more than to be free from itself, but it will never achieve that. It will want union with God, it will long for God like one longs for the warmth of the sun. You will try and remember what it felt like to be unhappy on Earth, in the normal sense of being unhappy. Because that was paradise, relatively speaking… that warmth of God on your flesh, the feeling of being alive.
It is hard to say if you are 1000 miles, or 1000 light years from God. It is hard to measure distances, all you know is that you are too far to get any warmth. You are in a place that must be hermetically sealed off from God and from everything that is good. This great distance touches even your memories. Every emotion, every affect that you remember from your old life–all of it feels impossibly distant. When you remember feeling happy it’s like you are looking at this happiness in a snow globe, you can’t feel it, it doesn’t enter your body. (It’s possible that this metaphor came to me because my boss here has a snowglobe on his desk in his office. It’s so hard to make metaphors when you have limited imagery at your disposal). Every memory I have is like a film projected on glassine. Usually I don’t try and replay these memories, even when you have them. It makes things worse, I often shudder involuntarily when watching them. I suspect that your torturers want you to view these films—these memories that gradually sharpen every so often. Hope is the instrument of your torture, and in this sense you are torturing yourself.
But it is impossible for you not to have hope, it is something generated by your flesh reflexively. So is the disgust and the fear that you produce—possibly a byproduct of hope. Dreams dashed against rocks like brains and blood into sea-spray.
I guess I should describe the place. It is like a warehouse. It is largely empty, although I can’t remember much from the previous times they wiped my memory, I do sense that it continually regenerates different objects and decor in different rooms. Not that any of it is particularly pleasant. In one room there are tanks like those that house lobsters at the supermarket, but the water is darker and there is an icy stink that comes off the top of them like an ocean breeze. There are giant crabs and sometimes freakish, Japanese fish in these tanks. You would think that would be amusing but I don’t find it pleasing at all. Sometimes I am assigned to stand in that room and look at these creatures, and I always end up shivering, although it is not particularly cold. What gets me is the deepness of the blankness of the black in their eyes. It is truly null. The water also feels like it comes from very deep in the ocean, because of its awful opacity, and then the sensation of distance from God emphasizes itself more. I get the sense that my torturers have fancy prose styles, like all murderers, and they mean me to imagine myself at the bottom of an ocean where no light absolutely reaches me, not even the light of the lamb of God. And maybe these creatures are real, transfigured from other damned souls I once knew. More likely they are just holographic, although I wouldn’t want to touch one to find out. It’s just too awful to really think about.
I said it’s like a warehouse—it’s also kind of like a mall, a large building with many different rooms and stores within it, constantly changing—mostly never manned by anybody. There are a couple of offices that are actually filled with demons. The floor is always unfinished concrete, and the lights are always fluorescent, but usually dim and flickering, with gray spots that must be flies. Sometimes I imagine the lights are god. I have never been to the outside of the building, so I imagine it as part of a cavernous area inside a planet. I know the planet cannot be Earth though, or it would be warmer. I know that if it was Earth, I would be able to feel the warmth of humans and feel their emotions even through the ceiling of the cavern; I have certainly grown that sensitive in my longing for another being.
Occasionally I will conceive of a rebellion against my captors. It usually comes in the hotheaded and ill-thought out form of me lashing out with contemptuous insults that I think will hurt them. One time I worked myself up into a cold rage and I called them “little Eichmanns”. They just laughed and reset me again.
I asked to see God another time because I wanted to petition him for my release. I went to meet him at dinner at the one restaurant they have here. I got halfway through the conversation before I realized it wasn’t God, but just one of the local crazies that normally hangs out in the middle of the mall had named himself god with a small g. I guess even hell has homeless people. He must have been a demon that had tired of the work of punishment.
I have realized that nothing I can do will set me free from this place, so I have resolved simply to find a way to make my captors feel the punishment they inflict on me, perhaps tenfold.
If I thought that what I said would reach anyone outside, I would be joyous and probably my descriptions would improve as I would suddenly find this place interesting rather than monotonous. As it is this is simply an entry in a universal ledger that nobody will ever see, a scrawling on a cave wall.
“I am both the thresher and the wheat.”
Memories are splayed out across space and time. Have considered mapping them recently, but my descent precludes this. I don’t even have a proper working model of time—I know it’s not a line, but it might not be a circle either.
But still, I return to things—points, locations, et cetera, that I had thought lost in time. I’m not sure of the logic, it could be random. What might be happening is that as my mind decays, one of the layers (imagine a topographical model of spacetime in which there are several map layers that are variations on the same spacetime stacked on top of each other) starts to rot and then I drop through onto another layer which has pretty much the same events, but in a different order. I am constantly falling through these layers as if through rotted floorboards in an attic. This is my primary mode of travel, as a bewildered passenger; drowning in midair.
When people talk about time as a circle, they fail to imagine what the circle or wheel is itself situated within, that there’s a descent. And brother, I am feeling this descent. Into the earth, maybe, but not fertile earth. Earth that’s plugged up with clay, ash, aluminum. Descent into the cold, infertile body. The Earth is a corpse that I am copulating with unwillingly.
I have visions that are meaningful but not vivid–they are generally damp and gloomy. I have to bring them into focus, adjust the projector lens, do all this from memory, if I really want to wring some meaning out of them. Mostly I don’t, they just pass and I let them pass, because it is healthier to forget. Sometimes I don’t.
(X) was here and that we were sitting on my bed talking. She had a perfectly impassive, slightly disappointed expression fixed on her face. The corners of her eyes were turned down. Nothing I said seemed to penetrate her face. But when I would start to complain about my suffering she would turn away, and the longer I would go on she would get up and start to walk away, until I would say “No, don’t go, please, I’ll stop.” And then I would try and move on to a more pleasant topic, but I couldn’t think of one and I would just meander. Sometimes I would just say things I thought profound, like “In the absence of vitamin c, the body’s old wounds will reopen… our flesh has a memory, we are never truly healed but full of locked doors that are ready to open”. I thought sometimes that this is a great mystery, how two people can sit so close to each other and their souls never touch. This is true of everybody I meet. There are few wildernesses left in the physical world but there are untraversed oceans and perilous precipices in the distances between every person on this earth. It’s almost impossible to communicate at all, but I try.
They rape my veins sometimes, these “helpers”. They never put anything good in there either. I have a vision of my body like an effluvial plain, mapped from above, the veins etched into the landscape, but they are dry.
One time recently I snapped and I started crying. The salt in my tears reminded me of my mother the ocean, and of the sea-fungi that grow frills on their lips and burrow in the ocean floor.
I knew that my blood had once been the same ionic concentration as the sea, and that it had stayed in fact steadier than the sea; as if I carried an intact part of this sea-matrix with me, a titanic ancestry.
I imagined opening my veins with razors, making the rubbery green things flay, starting rivers in these plains… down the tracks, not across the street… Making my veins weep, at first rivulets, then spurt and pour and cry salty, warm blood like rivers. As I imagine this I hallucinate the voice of a cat mewling pathetically.
One day, there will be a reckoning.