I desire to go to Hell, not to Heaven. In Hell I shall enjoy the company of popes, kings and princes, but in Heaven are only beggars, monks, hermits and apostles.
“Do you have any questions?” asks Morgana, formerly Merlin’s apprentice and now my guide in Hell.
“Well, you’ve reassured me that there have been major improvements since I was frightened half to death with stories about this place. Even so, I’m curious. You say that people come here of their own free will, but why would anyone choose to go to Hell? I’ve heard people joke about how in the great hereafter they’d rather have fun with the sinners than sing hymns with the saints, but I’ve never taken it seriously.”
“Oh you should, because some people really mean it and come here with intent. Seriously, there is a meme of hell and damnation that has lodged itself deep in the collective psyche of the human race and which centuries of scientific enlightenment have not entirely eradicated. So you’re right to ask: why would anyone in their right mind choose hell?
“The first thing to understand is that Hell has been simplified and rationalized. It now has just two domains which are strictly demarcated: we call them Dives and Dungeons.
“There are two groups of people who voluntarily choose to spend time in the Dives. We call them “thrill seekers” and “hell raisers”. Thrill seekers are rebels, often reacting to overly safe, bland lives, who think it’s cool to be members of the hellfire club. Most of these souls are tourists who are happy with a few beers and a shag but faint at the first glimpse of hardcore, leaving the field to the true hell raisers.”
“Yes, there is a deeper level which is penetrated only by the true hell raisers. Hell raisers walk the left hand path into serious transgression, desiring to break all taboos. Funnily enough some of the most immoderate are prigs and zealots who in their earthly lives took self-mortification to the point of perversion. Their sanctimonious egotism caused much misery, forcing themselves and others into a mould of conformity that they mistakenly believed would make them a better person and earn them a reward. Please note well that this is a warped, deluded idea of virtue. When they arrive they therefore want nothing more than to indulge in all the forbidden desires they have so strenuously denied themselves on earth. They sometimes spend quite a long time here trying out everything on offer. Hence an orgy of drunkenness, sexual experimentation, indulgence in everything that was such a temptation before. Unlike the authentic hell raisers, it is more a purge than a binge.
“Here you may act out your darkest desires and fantasies. That’s how we roll. We have lots of play rooms to cater for all tastes. One of the favourites is the BDSM zone, recently renamed the Room of Pain by our visitors. This comes complete with an enormous panoply of instruments of torture titillation. I get a lot of invitations to participate in these games as mistress of ceremonies. People want to see me in fishnets and stilettos, cracking a whip.”
I jump as her cackle of laughter is followed by a loud crack, and I stare hard at her. Gone is the severe robe, replaced by a kick-ass black latex catsuit unzipped to reveal a plunging cleavage. She cracks a long black whip on her thigh, which is clad in boots of shiny black patent with 6-inch stilettos. Such an ensemble could easily look trashy, but Morgana exudes hard-edged Gallic chic.
“I like to party, it relieves the monotony of the job. Here, let me open this door for a moment to give you a glimpse of the revelries … at a safe distance so as not to violate our new client confidentiality agreement. Here nobody gets named and shamed.” I poke my head cautiously round the heavy metal door that Morgana holds open and hear a blast of loud music accompanying what looks like a full-blown orgy. Blushing furiously, I withdraw hastily while Morgana laughs like a drain.
“Another favourite is the twilight zone containing Count Dracula’s crypt, where you can transform yourself into a Vampyre, choose your own coffin and arise in suitably ghoulish form without fear of frazzling up in sunlight.
“Then there is the war zone where many of our visitors devise elaborate battle plans, apocalyptic scenarios of lurid proportions, summoning up all manner of monsters and demons to fight in their dramas. You humans do so love a battle, the fiercer and bloodier the better.
“We used to run a simulation of the full-blown badass medieval hell. Of course there is no physical pain in this discarnate existence. I should also make it clear that the spirit helpers are like film extras, and nobody gets harmed in these re-enactments. Sometimes the roles are temporarily played by former (human) actors seeking a new challenge, enthusiastically stoking the fires … sorry, just my little joke. But the replications were so grimly realistic, the psychic pain so intense, that the daemons got stressed out and had to be sent off for counselling.
Eventually we had to close down the operation, and now the whole zone is decommissioned. We treat it as you would an old nuclear reactor, giving it a wide berth. Once the energies have been decontaminated, our clean-up crew will wade in there and clean it out thoroughly.
“So what do you think?” Morgana looks at me quizzically.
“Shit just got real … Sorry, I mean I think that our image of Hell needs some updating…”
“Indeed it does. Nobody really wants to think about Hell, any more than you want to know where your cheap clothes come from or how your food gets onto your plate. Most of our visitors hurtle here somewhat impetuously, driven by greed for new experience, which easily tips over into self-destruction. But it’s important to acquire an informed and balanced overview of the options in order to make the best choice for your requirements. Do you have any more questions?”
“Yes I do. I totally get it that the Dives are a cool playground for bad boyz and girlz, even if it’s not to my taste. But what about really bad people, I mean like serious sinners?”
Morgana’s expression visibly darkens. “They go to the Dungeons. Come along down with me and take a look…”