I mean really, why would being naked make him bite me? If anything, you’d think that being naked and free, reflecting the monkey’s nudity, all of us god’s fair children frolicking under the glorious sunlight – you think it’d make him feel more at peace with me, more connected? Yeah, well.
I never met god, but I met Jesus. He seemed like a reasonable guy. He told me that I’d done some things that weren’t right, and I guess that was true, I mean, he had all the facts straight. But he told me that he was giving me another chance because the rapture was happening pretty soon and if I learnt how to straighten up and fly straight before that point and repented the shit out of things then I’d be alright. I mean, he didn’t say it quite like that but you get the gist.
Anyway, he explained to me that what no-one tells you is that after you die, Jesus does his judgment thing and he decides if you’re worthy or not, but you get to see heaven either way. The thing is, if you’re not worthy, he shows you heaven, and part of hell is knowing that you can never, ever go there. And when you go to heaven briefly, all your friends are there, and all the animals are there, and your friends are lying in the pale sunlight on the soft, cool grass with some deer and a rabbit and some kittens and scorpions and you try to call out to them but they’ve forgotten about you and they don’t recognize your face and they can’t understand what you’re saying and they just laugh happily to each other like schoolgirls and then you go to hell.
The first thing about hell is that it’s not hot. People are all, ‘Hell is really hot, fire and brimstone, inferno, red things, etcetera’ but hell is actually much worse than that. When you get there, you need a jacket, and then after five minutes, you have to take your jacket off. Then it starts to rain, really hard, like needles, and then the wind picks up, and five minutes later you’re sweating again. And it just goes on like that. So you never know how to dress, you know?
And you’ve only got what you brought with you anyway, which isn’t really much, because it’s the spiritual world and you get a pretty tight limit and because it’s hell, the clothes that you’ve got are actually the clothes you recklessly bought in your earthly life that you’ve never really worn properly and always felt awkward in, so the jacket’s sleeves are too small and the pants are scratchy and you’re wearing a novelty hat and also a shawl you once bought in Thailand. All at once. Until it gets hot again, and you have strip down to nothing. But then you have to figure out where to put your clothes and everywhere is covered in a weird kind of goop that smells a bit strange, so soon your clothes get pretty goopy.
The other thing about hell is the apparent rationing of apostrophes. And everyone splits infinitives and no-one knows how to use a semicolon. Semicolons don’t actually exist in hell. But that’s not even the worst bit because the worst bit is that you’re the only person who knows the rules, and everyone else is completely convinced that they’re totally correct and there’s nothing you can do to change their minds. And all of the available surfaces – of which there are many, because hell is very cluttered with things – are covered in all the great novels of the world which are all written with the wrong apostrophes and split infinitives and no semicolons and someone is reading them aloud and pronouncing hyperbole, nuclear and library wrong every single time.
A lot of people think that hell is repetition, a bird eats your liver, Chinese water torture whatever, but actually repetition is kind of only part of it. In hell I think repetition would be relatively OK but what actually happens is that one part of your back is really itchy and this guy comes over and he scratches your back in one spot which isn’t quite the right spot, and then he just stops. Forever. He will never scratch the itchy spot. And it never stops itching. And every now and then they show you a video of him scratching your back, to remind you about it.
Because in hell you crave everything that you want, and none of it exists anymore. In hell there is no soft cheese, or vegemite, or toast, or hits of the ‘80s, or nailclippers or hot showers or butter or salt or taxis or two dollar coins or plastic bags without holes. There are no tissues or drinks or cigarettes or painkillers. There are no friends’ shoulders or long-awaited telephone calls or good test results or childhood toys, or warm towels or matching socks or unexpired buspasses or final puzzle pieces. There are no teenage bedrooms or memories of your parents. There are no pay rises or sick days. There are no smiles or hugs or kisses or caresses or hand-holding or gentle touches or sex or unbroken hearts.
But there are lots of pieces of paper, everywhere, and they’re ridiculously thin, and you stoop down to pick them up - and for some reason they’re not covered in the slime and they don’t even stick to it - and you try to hold them and read the really, really faint text that is written on all of them, but every time you pick up a piece of this ridiculously delicate paper, it slides out of your hand, and you can almost see what it says but you never quite manage to read it because the paper is too thin and light and mischievous and it flies away from you, and you never, ever know it but on every single piece of paper there are words written on it that will fill you with hope and happiness and warmth and completeness and beauty and truth.
And that is what I found I had taken back with me to the world, to help me for the rapture, one of those pieces of paper in the pocket of a pair of jeans I couldn’t have been wearing when I went to heaven, because I was naked, with the monkey, remember? But it was in there, somehow. But I was too afraid to read it because I wasn’t sure and I almost completely forgot about it until I remembered it and opened it, which is how I know, but by then it was too late.