A tour of hell
March 31, 2014 by Thomas Wictor
Ever since I was a child, I dreamed of going to hell. I never saw flames and demons. Instead, my hell was full of unreachable, loud people; inexplicable machinery; winding corridors; and a sense of powerlessness, purposelessness, and hopelessness. Today I saw a video that someone made during his tour of hell. Before I post it, I’ll show you what was clearly one of my formative influences.
It was a 1937 cartoon titled Pigs is Pigs. I remember seeing it when I was about four, long before I developed my lifelong weight problem. Still, it scared me so badly that it gave me nightmares. That yellow mad scientist’s voice was enough to make me cry.
I always thought of that little pig as being in hell. Everything being done to him mirrored what I experienced in my hell-dreams. My book Hallucinabulia: the Dream Diary of an Unintended Solitarian has one of my more extravagant such dreams. I’ve held back the more hideous details. You can read them in the book.
June 22, 1996
The floor on which the man and woman lay opened up in a swirling spiral, like a nebula. It was the gateway to hell. Before I could run, a woman clamped onto my back, her soft arms around my throat. I could tell from the rounded contours of the warm face pressed against my right cheek that she wore an ear-to-ear grin. Unable to resist, I was drawn toward the nebula, feeling as weightless as a soap bubble. My head buzzed and vibrated as if shocked by a powerful electric current. The couple in the garbage bag disappeared into the hole and I followed.
I floated down through the floor into a large room hung with displays on the walls. The centerpiece was a doll that was either Cyndi Lauper or Courtney Love. I couldn’t tell which, even though I knew it was one of them. A life-sized head on a dwarf’s body, it was in an attitude of crucifixion on a bundle of large sticks. As I floated past, it gave me a look of perverse, self-pitying defiance, as if begging and daring me to feel sorry for it. I realized that it wasn’t a doll but the actual singer, and whoever she was, she deserved her place in hell because she refused to change or admit to her sins. I didn’t know if I deserved to be here.
As the woman on my back and I floated down sloping, bile green hallways and through crowded rooms, I heard a sonic wallpaper of murmurs, whispers, and declamations. Unseen people babbled, some narrating my progress downward.
“And now he passes by another room and continues descending, confused and terrified, wishing desperately he’d done things differently in his life…”
The woman clinging to me became gelatinous entrails. Her arms were suddenly loops of intestine that I dislodged. They came apart and fell to the floor in globs, sections slipping through my fingers. I came to an expansive barroom filled with people, some of them celebrities. One of the walls was entirely covered with a mirror, and I noted my reflection. Although I still had my ponytail and beard, I was now bony and sharp featured, my face a gently smiling mask…
Above my head Charlie Sheen appeared on a balcony, surveying the crowd. I wasn’t surprised to see him in hell, but as I came to grips with my situation, I wondered how these people could be so casual about spending eternity in this ugly, filthy, soulless place. A party was underway, and the denizens of this netherworld were jaunty about their fate. Despite the gentle smile I still felt plastered on my face, I was in an agony of horror and guilt, finally accepting that I deserved to be here but thinking it was still unfair.
Earlier today I watched this video, taken in Bangkok’s Nana Plaza.
Absolute hell on earth. I can’t imagine actually wanting to be there. Look at all the old men with their white hair.
It’s also an allegorical video. My personal belief is that people aren’t sent to hell. Instead, they put themselves in hell through their choices. To me, hell is a state, not a place. The unifying feature of my hell-dreams was that I felt lost, dirty, and unwanted.
I no longer feel that way.
Among my all-time favorite songs is “One Night in Bangkok,” by Murray Head. I was never able to even approximate Rutger Gunnarsson’s phenomenal, utterly original bass line.
The lyrics of the chorus are quite germane to my dreams, as well as my view of Bangkok’s Nana Plaza as hell.
One night in Bangkok and the world’s your oyster
The bars are temples but the pearls ain’t free
You’ll find a god in every golden cloister
And if you’re lucky then the god’s a she
I can feel an angel sliding up to me
One night in Bangkok makes a hard man humble
Not much between despair and ecstasy
One night in Bangkok and the tough guys tumble
Can’t be too careful with your company
I can feel the Devil walking next to me
The Devil walked next to me for most of my life, but I’m not afraid of him anymore. He has no power over me.
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