I’m going to Hell. At this point there’s no two ways about it, no changing my blasphemous ways, no making up for past transgressions, no last minute deathbed recantations. I’m a sinner, and that’s that. I’ve done some pretty heinous and sacrilegious things in my life, and I’ll be punished for them in the afterlife.
But, you may ask, how can I truly believe in something so unabashedly superstitious and fanciful as Hell in this age of learnedness and scientific enlightenment? I’m a pretty smart guy, you might say. What makes me so convinced that Hell is real and that I’m destined for it? The answer to that is because I’ve visited it.
It happened to me unexpectedly, as we quickly approach Good Friday in this inauspiciously marked year of 2013. I had just stolen an armful of day-old loaves of bread from a corner bakery and was slinking my escape through a nearby alley, when I was suddenly confronted by two stray, feral cats and a mangy, rabid bitch. As I fled my loping four-legged pursuers, slices of bread littering my panicked trail, I began to wildly evaluate the questionable choices that had led me to this climactic moment in my life and, should I be unable to evade these vicious beasts, what these choices I had sown would mean when it came time to reap.
Seeking cover in a damp hedge, I appeared to have lost the hairy harriers, but I had nary a moment to recall my wits before exhaustion overtook my frenzied mind and I swooned. When I came back to myself I was no longer within the muddy confines of the bushes, but standing at the foot of a twisted, towering gate. I became acutely aware of the lingering smell of patchouli, and the faint sound of a Barenaked Ladies song being piped in from somewhere. A man in a patchwork cloak, worn corduroy trousers, and a tattered top hat who introduced himself to me as Verge explained to me that these were the gates of Hell, and he was here to take me on a tour of what was in store for me.
The lobby of Hell was huge and had no seating. My guide explained to me that it was from this first room that the temperature in all of the other rooms in the entirety of Hell was regulated. The walls were lined with hundreds of thousands of thermostats, each one of them being squabbled over loudly by a bitter middle-aged couple for all eternity. I shuddered and begged to be taken away from this horror.
That was the first level of Hell, it was explained to me as we boarded an elevator full of stone-faced men and women in business suits forever unwilling to claim responsibility for the unwavering stench of coffee farts that hung heavy in the air. The Barnaked Ladies song was louder now. There were nine levels in all, I was told, and I was to visit them all as a grim prelude to what I would suffer through for all of my mortal wrongdoings.
What followed is almost too horrific to recount. An inescapable labyrinth with the constant smell and sound of frying bacon but all that can be found is raw cauliflower. A room black as pitch where all those that you so longed to see unclothed in the world of the living taunt you mercilessly with their nakedness. A vast pet store filled with puppies even more adorable than those of the surface of the earth, but all you can afford are bagged fish. A ghoulish multiplex theatre that only shows Nicolas Cage movies, but never The Rock or Con Air. A waiting room with only golf and bridal magazines from 2004 where the sending text meter on your iPhone constantly gets stuck just before completion. A never ending dinner table full of distant relatives asking what’s going on in your life. One level was just a Taco Bell.
Then, the deepest and most terrible level of all, where a demonic PA system pumps out the bilious strains of ‘American Pie’ on a continuous loop, the cancerous chamber of Satan himself. The Prince of Darkness is half encased in ice, his hideous visage a melding of three ugly, hate-marked faces, each spewing vile, guttural syllables that I only half understood and which made me weep and retch. One face discussed the results of last night’s hockey game, a second the results of last night’s football game, a third the results of last night’s baseball game.
I awoke, screaming, back in the hedge. I ran home. Had that all been real? Just a dream? I scrolled through the flood of meme pictures in my Facebook feed. I turned on my television and began flipping through the various reality show recaps and news blitzes. It was then that I truly realized there was no doubt that Hell existed.
Photo by Gregory Jordan via Flickr