by David Eide 

Scenes from New Stories 


Hell is not a burning pit populated by devils and their victims. It is a perch between the higher planes of the atmosphere and the vacuum of space where one sits and stares at what he loves the most disintegrate through time and ordered to write reports about it for those he can't yet see.

He's told he can see them. A confident person has assured him that the reports will get him a good seat on the inside of Hell, "a most exciting place," and so, figuring that Hell is all he'll get he stares and reports; stares and reports.

This particular victim had never written a complete sentence in his life but was expected to record everything dissimulating down below where, at least, people stopped for breaks and slept. "Ah, they are lazier than they admit!" And he was amazed by how much pressure they put on each other not to be lazy but, in their daily lives, were always seeking the pleasure of being lazy.

The Earth rotated in a hypnotic, slow and easy manner, noiseless and absurdly there like an exotic stone found along those stretches of dunes up along the coast of Oregon. When he was not dictating his report down onto scraps of paper he found himself looking at this rotating thing, going right under him like the gears of a silent machine. It was the fishtank effect but with persons instead of fish, just as colorful and as unpredictable as the fishes he watched in a large tank he had in his office.

It was a glowing hemisphere that hypnotized him and distracted him from his duties as one put in Hell by, let us say, less than a valuable life "down there among 'em," he would mutter to himself.

The first thing he noticed was that they didn't, generally, know where they were. They had no idea they existed on a physical planet that rotated on its axis and sped around the sun. They did not grasp yet the implications of "knowing what is perceived," but insisted on living as the primitive peoples had lived. He tried to understand it as pure ignorance perhaps, even, fear but now he came to a different and more hellish conclusion. "They are the animals the scientists tell them they are!" To a scientific animal a piece of food is broken down a thousand different ways to produce a thousand different effects, except the final effect that is emptied out of every human being who eats. They perceive that the dog shits. And that the giraffe can have elegant intercourse in the grasslands of Africa. And the monkey happily urinates to the camera with a howling laughter.

Perceiving that it is thus with human, albeit with our own peculiar riffs on these matters most conclude, sadly, that we are animals. And then a man dies and is never heard from again. He disappears like a leaf down a long dark well. Animals too, pets, and zoo-kept animals disappear.

The scientific animal had its own specific poses without a doubt. Anything, for instance, that was noble or beautiful or beyond understanding was laughed at and then beaten down by the culture the scientific animals had created for themselves. Just as the religious animal and political animals before had found out, when you have competitive advantage build it so no one can take it away from you. Build it so they must hang on to you for dear life. And so the powers of the scientific animal went to work on anything that strayed out of the circumference of the known. Called "liberating" the scientific animal was, in truth, one of the most repressive animals known in all the cycles the Earth had been through. Everything was taken down into the bowels of the powerful method and scrutinized as rigorously as the inquisitors had inspected old texts for clues to its impious message.

If they were turned into animals because the scientists told them so then perhaps there was no devil and no Hell and he was perched on this plane for reasons he couldn't fathom. They lied to me! he seethed for a time.

Animals who liked to watch things. Hmm, yes, it is apparently the case. And they watched the whole spectrum of things the animal was capable of doing leaping around in excitement when they saw something for the first time.

He had a strange sensation akin to compassion watching them. They knew nothing of their fate. They were convinced they were living the right and singular life but, in reality, they were simply transmitting the same genes as they had done for thousands and thousands of years. And by not being able to arc from one life to all lives ever lived and adjusting for what they found there they were condemned to live the same life. It was their duty to kick, hit, judge, and otherwise try to halt anyone who went differently.

They knew nothing of their fate and yet jumped around with vigor, as though they knew exactly what it was they were doing and what everyone was doing or soon would be doing. It astounded him, now that he was in the position he was in, that everything was so ardent and sincere. "What wonderful fakers!" He exclaimed to no one but a passing cloud leisurely moving with the rotation of the Earth.

The wonderful fakers, he reasoned, were a permanent fixture on the surface of the planet and sought each other as in a species imperative. At first they are confused about their state of being and run around getting into trouble and embarrassing situations and then they meet each other as my instinct, connect, and form their great tribes. There was nothing worse that a tribe of fakers that believed in itself, stampeding through "enemies" that emerged from some forgotten self.

His job, he figured out, was to watch the tribe of fakers destroy all that was good while calling themselves good and then demanding everyone surrender to their control. Ah, he thought to himself, so this is the way history is made! And he marvelled that one in Hell was vouchsafed such significant information, such profound truth.

More wealth created more fakers, hordes of them, so they were a dominant species. Fakers were seen breaking loose of every cord that had contained their parents to go do what pleased them since they were only loyal to what freed them to do whatever it was they wished to do.

Hell had clocks and the need to be organized to keep up with the happenings "down below," he chuckled to himself. They would bong and tinkle; buzz and pulse and he would alertly get out his file to note that dastardly deed happening that day. "Ah, they are killing powerful people. Well, yes, they have turned from killing the powerless to now killing the powerful. And the powerful go to Hell so I will have great conversations with them! It will be their turn to do this infernal reportage."

He then noted that everyone who was not killed or doing the killing were explaining why it was all happening. They used language and speech; gestures and moving images. "The survivors tell the tales but are always turned out by time." So, it was a kind of presage for Hell, a kind of intuition that all must pass through the mighty portals and learn a few things.

He did not like it when good people were destroyed. He had a twinge of heart. But then grew nearly philosophical about it and reasoned that good people were destroyed because they weren't quite prepared for what would hit them. Therefore, they had to take responsibility in the next go round and so the process would stay healthy, efficient, and honest. If good people were permitted to simply move through life effortlessly then the impossible would have been achieved and the impossible was not permitted on Earth; only in Hell and "that other place," he would think about wistfully. Ah, the other place. And what perch did they built for that "other place?"

Just as soon as he had that thought he was plunged down and then up in a radical way so he was dizzy and shaking from one side to the other as if being punished for his mere thought. He must have dropped several thousand miles in a second he thought to himself. "Hell is full of surprises," he commented.

It was disconcerting to him how lonely Hell was. There was hardly a soul out with him and they were very conscious they were out in the void of space, that infinite place that can appear to be anything and nothing to people with imagination. Ah, so it was finally revealed to him! "Hell is above us, not below. It is starkly apparent, there, a palpable thing not a mystery down under the surface somewhere.

Hell is where a voice travels light years to go nowhere.

It was where the planets were deformed and stars burning bright for no reason at all.

It was the place where people spent half their eternity denying they were there. "Ah well, you see it's different for us then for the old set of beliefs. We see through things and know that they are phony. It's all bio-chemical. We are here for our courage. It is courageous for us to be in this place they call Hell, it stiffens us up for the hard work ahead."

The next third of their time in eternity they could be heard wailing like banshees, totally out of their minds with the realization of how real it was.

And then a devilish shuffle through the realms that Dante depicts.

The problem was that without belief there was no exit as the old philosopher put it. Many philosophers had pictured eternity or related it to the largeness of the physical universe and that convinced them that ignorance made people believe. They usually wailed the loudest.

Oh finely turned rotating thing here below me wrapped in pretty dark clouds, he thought to himself. If only when I had a life there could I have seen the whole of it and made the whole it a part of me, just a part, perhaps under my eyelid or a nail on the third toe. A beautiful lifetime could have been spent he thought, just listening to it grind one more year, a minute even that he would record and then play over and over again like a hungry man who finds the scraps thrown out by the finest restaurant built inside the corporate headquarters where the businessmen and businesswomen went to eat.

I know now I will be here for eternity to see four things I need to see.

A beginning, two middles, and an end.

Stretched across the two middles was a road and he watched the empty road when a car, one car, rode onward with one man or, sometimes a young woman, humming with happiness.

Hell. The end of intensity and the quiet waiting in a room of shadows. And after a time they say you can smoke. Ah, but I quit when I was a living man! Perhaps I can fake it, I can take a piece of paper and make it appear to be a cigarette.

Hell was superior in one sense than the life people left behind regularly on the planet. There was more freedom and less anxiety because one did as they were told in Hell. There was, for instance, very little sickness and no anxiety about missing work and those types of trivial details that could ruin a life that lived on the planet. No, Hell had attributes. Hell was nearly a place one could aspire to while on the Earth! It was progress of a sort. But then it was eternal as well and that is why it became the Hell of lore. Yes, Hell said, you progress to here, to this place but it merely goes on forever, there is no change. You do not want to return to what is below you but you can not advance beyond to some "heaven" or, even, "purgatory."

Hell was always home to the roar of approval and is resounded on predictable turnings of the hour.

Hell could even become a collective passive sigh heard through all of humanity one fine day; even small children picking up the vibration and feeling that they, too, were connected to something much greater than themselves.

Hell had made some people very earnest and they moved with meaning from place to place, never questioning why they did so or what the connections were that made their life cohere so well. Life appeared to be a train speeding backwards on narrow tracks and the trick was to hop on it with a non-plussed expression on the face. The train roared its disapproval of every person who happened to be on board and rushed backward until it ran into something or simply stopped for lack of energy.

At that point the people were in a quandary. Will it start again or will we get off and make our way through the formidable territory called Hell? Some braved the territory even without the ability to orientate themselves and use their animal instincts to go in the right direction.

It's what made Hell a sad and desperate place.

The mind was useless but the brain reigned supreme and, while commanded, did command or tried to in that space known as Hell. It was a matter of not-having-a-choice and so predictable reflexes and eyes that had widened before enacted at the slight hint that god was among them. That god was possible because a man had declared himself a god and it was good; it was a shining light among all the depressing dark thoughts one climbed through in the "enlightened age."

Hell was the idiot's paradise and they built vast structures centered around their idiocies.

The Victim was particularly interested in small clots of people who ran about with calculated abandon and always entered rooms with a sense of entitlement as they had been trained in a variety of places. Even though they were alive, in a sense, they had long ago given up their intimate and real self since they had experienced the Earth as a dome of all and nothing. And as life pinched into them it became all or nothing. And in nothing they experienced the horror of some reality they always tried to name and then throw the name out into the sea as if to protect themselves. Everytime they picked a flower it was on them. Everytime they glanced at the silver skyline of the city it was on them. Everytime they put their hand on a rushing cold brook it was on them.

The Victim watched them in fascination and tried to come up with names for them. Fools was the first thing because these people believed that they were the opposite of nothing for fear of it but in reality were the embodiment of it. "My nothingness today will be this, this, and that!" He put dialog into their mouths that moved but didn't say anything. Even in Hell, the Victim realized, not everything is heard or, even, perceived.

"The Devil has many tricks and this must be one of them. He must think but concealing things from one of his Victims that victim must concentrate and be more attentive, grow those large legs of the mind he was missing when he was alive.

He was entertained when the clots of people turned on one another either over a woman or money. And the arguments between men and women were no different than all the barking of dogs or hissing of cats through the ages, he'd seen it all. Their tears were an old river sagging under this impression that the dogs would heel.

"Nutty creatures, one day you'll have your turn on the perch and see what awful imitators you were!"

* * * * * * * *

In Hell one consumed most of what human beings had produced, over and over again. Every scene, every horrible piece of music, every speech calculated to excite the dullest and deadest of the bunch, every nude sex scene, every secret told to powerful people, and then the final vision: every human being who ever lived lined up shitting as they did when alive, in Egypt, now in Kush, now in Japan, and again in modern America; males and females, poor and wealthy. Billions of shitting asses with blank expressions on their faces their bulging bellies heaving and collapsing; a person in Hell was never far from this terrible vision projected against granite cliffs.

It rode a river down to the nickel core and sent up a vast spout of steam so all the shitters sighed, "ahh," at the precise moment the steam vented through the mantle.

* * * * * * * *

Hell is that place where everything is figured out and no matter what style one has or how much one is ardent, they are two steps ahead of you and have already judged you even as you are overcome with the feeling that Hell is a place where you must justify yourself.

* * * * * * * *

Hell was a visible air that covered the faces of those who did not know. They did not know, we knew, they suffered. A few centuries could be described that way. But who knew had grave responsibilities depicted on the sides of clean wash walls inside of which were infinite arrays of products.

Hell was not necessarily an angry place but one where there were long sighs, as long as a thousand lifetimes in some cases. More than a few lived on their haunches in front of TV screens and watched everything depicted but were not allowed to feel any emotion. Still others were paralyzed with fear of their own shadows which always had strange hats on them with bright white teeth slit across the black of the face. Scientists, and there were many, had to swallow anything made from their ideas. Vast areas of Hell were filled with these types bulging and stretched for miles sometimes with the effect of the things they had helped birth into being. Minor despots were lined up along a barb wire fence and masturbated into a growing river of their own come from which came all their nutrient.

There were, of course, the phony commentators who, even at this late date, wanted influence and to be part of the on-going stupidity. Many made it to their particular level of stupidity and retired, later, only to be dragged away to Hell for taking advantage of useless women. It was a sin afterall to knowingly consume a useless woman when one knew they were useless, yet with a vote and coin purse. Those who agreed with these commentators were assigned to a row of sulphur like incense that jet up into their asses so they leapt disdainfully up and down to some ditty they played on obscure stations late at night. "Oh our asses are on fire but we love him so!" "He makes us feel as though we are knowledgeable even though we have nothing in our brains. It's all in our asses!" And they would bounce up and down as if they were on a hot toilet.

The world in a Hell it doesn't recognize, calls it something else, well there is something....

* * * * * * * *

Hell was for tricksters; for without them there would be no Heaven, no salvation, no connection. All would be a huge devouring spiral we would only recognize at the last fatal moment. "Ah, it doesn't matter where up is down or left is right, it doesn't matter at all whether we live or die, it is all the same!" And then silence and a kind of sucking sound.

Focused on a negative outcome of our own demise proved to be productive.

But so too was that divine spark that was conscious and could see how the passive spirit was fated. That was the thing! Aggression in the face of the eternal mask.

That was, if not the way out of Hell, at least the expression of pride. Anyone inherited a body and certain sense apparatus. Every man, like every centipede knew the dance of love. But only a human being could fashion a mask good enough to get him through life, through the terrible ones as he put it, through the muck and mire, and think how pleasant life could be after all. The mask. It was everything as the old novelists had known.

And yet, on entering Hell, the Devil had demanded every single mask a man had artfully made for himself! David

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