Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Apology of Hell, Chapter 1

What follows is the beginning of my attempts at an apology of hell in the format of a story. I need feedback, positive and/or negative. If it is good, if you like it, tell me. I need to know if I have anything going here. I also want to be able to improve it, so I also need constructive criticism. Honesty is virtuous.... I don't think I'm an overly sensitive/fragile person, though I am a little nervous posting this!

Also feel free to interact with the ideas behind the story. Obviously this is not meant to be a mere bedtime story.

Nate and Crista,
I think I showed this to you before. The beginning is much changed but the bulk of the middle and end is the same. I value your opinions and would like to hear them again, even if already expressed, whenever you have the time.

Everyone else,
I will take your advice and critiques seriously. Your suggestions will probably lead to edits and changes. Think of this as a rough draft. More will come as I write it.



Remembering...

Dying is a blur. I remember the fading but little else. But as to the details of living, my memory is much stronger in death than ever it was in life. Every forgotten, murky, and trivial strand is now remembered as vitally important, clear and distinct, and finally irreversible. In the last days of my life I had difficulty remembering much I had forgotten. Now I am trying hard to forget everything but I am unable to forget even the smallest detail of my existence.

What follows is my past, present and future. There is nothing coming to change my existence. My past created my present and determined my future. My story is not intended to frighten you, though it may. I describe my life now to reflect upon that which I cannot change. I wanted to argue my case. You can judge whether I have one.

The fruit of the eyes

Awake again, I found myself in a small room, empty and devoid of furniture, color, doors, or windows. I was naked, but was neither hot nor cold, I could not even tell if there was a temperature in the room, but I was both sweating and shivering. I was afraid of the emptiness and of being alone but was terrified when I saw a creature appear in front of me. It, like me, was naked. It seemed human but had no organs from which one could distinguish its sex. Its face was without a hint of an expression. Throughout all of our talks it never smiled and it never frowned. It spoke to me in a voice unlike anything that I had heard. It was clear and distinct and I do not think one could have ever misunderstood any word it spoke, but to describe it further is impossible. This expressionless, sexless, and descriptionless being studied me briefly without speaking and then introduced itself.

“I am Immer-Messe. I am here to explain and enlighten. Do you know where you are or why you are here?”

He asked, but I think he knew I was ignorant of either answer. When I had managed a weak ‘no’ he went on.

“You are here to reap what you produced in life. Here you will eat what you have fed to others and wear what you have given to others. Whatever god you have chosen to worship for will repay you for your service, if it is able.”

“You will now reap the fruit of your adultery,” it continued after a pause for a reply that I did not have ready.

It was wrong. I argued his claim, “I never cheated on my wife. There has been some mistake.”

“You dispute that you are a cheater?”

“Yes I do.” I replied confidently and indignantly.

“You never desired other women?” He asked peering deeply into my eyes, “Never undressed a woman in your mind? Never looked at images of women other than your wife? What you do with your mind, even if never acted upon, still bears fruit here.”

This creature was infuriating and intrusive but I was compelled to answer and found myself unable to lie,. “Uh…” the words were stuck in my mouth, “I might of done so on occasionally. No more than anyone else. But that didn’t harm anyone. My wife didn’t mind much. She never really lacked my love. I was good to her. I was faithful to her. How can you accuse me of adultery by charging me with a victimless crime?”

“Victimless? We will allow you to judge whether it is victimless. You will see and you will judge. Here now, is the harvest of your adultery!”

He and the room slowly faded. I found myself in an old bedroom. I was standing in front of the mirror but the image looking back at me was not my own, but that of my first wife. Judging from her face this was a late in our marriage which had begun to strain. As I (?) looked in the mirror I felt fat and bloated. I began to feel ugly and unwanted. Tears began to flow steadily down my face leaving my eyes red and blotchy and I felt even more ugly. I then turned around and sat down at the computer in our bedroom. On the screen was a picture of a twenty-two year old model with the perfect body. As I looked at her I compared her assets with those of the image in the mirror. The comparison again made me feel ugly and worthless. I felt ashamed of my body and of myself. Who could ever love anyone so unattractive? On the desk was a wedding picture. My hand (or my ex-wife’s hand) took it and smashed it against the wall. My shame turned to hatred, my hatred turned to back to tears. I made another trip to the mirror but the image was too disgusting to endure. I walked into the bathroom and found the scale. 138. Somehow I knew this meant I had gained another pound. The feelings of frustration and despair were overwhelming. I went to the toilet and knelt down in front of it. I began to make myself throw up….

Slowly, although I cannot tell how or when, the scene faded. I was no longer in my wife’s body, but the emotions I had been suffering remained. I was back in the same small room. It had changed however since I had left it. On one side of the room was a great table, with no end of my favorite meals. The wall opposite the table was one giant mirror. Against the third wall was a toilet and nothing else. On the last wall was a computer. At the desk sat my ex-wife, and on the screen was the ideal male body in a double bicep pose.

As time progressed, I felt more and more hungry and I helped myself to the fried chicken. The chicken tasted exactly as I remembered it but as I ate, I could feel my body expand and the feelings I had while I had been in my ex-wife’s body returned. The desire to be attractive to my ex overwhelmed me as the hunger had earlier. I turned from the chicken to the mirror to the man on the screen. I felt disgusting. I shouldn’t have eaten the chicken. I crawled to the toilet as if by habit. Throwing up was miserable. As I threw up I felt my body begin to shrink back to its original size, but I couldn’t get the taste of my own vomit out of my mouth and I felt disgusting. I looked at my ex again, hoping that she would take notice of me. She didn’t. She continued to stare at the man on the screen. I looked back at my reflection. I was still disgusting. Now the feelings of despair and hopelessness returned. I collapsed in the middle of the room and was overwhelmed by tears of sadness, anger, and frustration. They were interrupted by an intense hunger and desire to eat….

I cannot remember how many times this cycle repeated itself nor can I remember how or when it finally ended. Whether the shift was gradual or sudden, I cannot say. All I know is that eventually one scene faded or ended and another scene began.

I was in the center of the same small room. Instead of a mirror for one wall, the walls, ceiling, and floor reflected my own image. The image that I saw was much improved from the last scene. I was young (twenty-one or two) and in perfect shape (better than I’d ever been in my life). In the previous scene, the only attention I got from my wife was a glance of disgust. Now I was surrounded by women and I was the obvious center of attention. For the first time of my stay in hell, I felt good.

The women, however, never approached me or talked to me. At first I could not catch what they were saying, but I began to catch comments occasionally. They were making lewd and vulgar comments about my body. When I realized what they saying, I was embarrassed but slightly pleased at the attention and rather proud that my body could attract such attention. I waited, hoping that finally one of them would come and talk to me, but my patience bore no fruit. At last, rather frustrated and overcome by loneliness, I began to call out to them, hoping, longing to have an actual conversation, but none of them responded. As my loneliness grew stronger, so did my frustration. I began screaming and shouting. I finally realized that not only did they care nothing about me, but that as far as they were concerned I didn’t exist. My body was just an image for their pleasure. The real me; my character, my thoughts, feelings and well-being, meant nothing to them. I was a picture, nothing more.

Slowly, I became aware of a disturbing sensation. My body was changing. As I watched in the ever-present mirrors, I began to age. My face, which had been perfectly smooth, began to wrinkle. My muscle tone lost its definition. My waistline began to expand. For the first time, I noticed that there were other men in the room. I don’t know if they were there before or not, but there they were. They were as young and fit as I had been earlier. The women became bored with me and the crowd around me dwindled as they spread out to the other men. I was filled with despair and as my body continued to deteriorate, so did my self-worth. I tried everything I could think of to catch the attention of the women in the room but nothing worked. I was powerless. No one paid me the least bit of attention. I was worthless. All I wanted was someone to talk to, someone to complement me, someone to care about me. But of course, they didn’t, I was nothing. To them, not only did I not now exist, but I never had.

Again the scene faded, and I found the room as it had been at first, empty and without door or detail. In front me appeared that same strange creature with whom I had previously conversed.

“You have just begun to taste the feast you have made for yourself,” he looked at me directly in the eyes but I could not return his gaze and looked away. “Now you know the after taste of lust. You have yet to complete your punishment, and you never will, but it is sufficient for now. For now it is finished. Was your punishment unjust? Are the accusations false? There must be no questions of justice.”

I tried to answer it but I could not. I wanted to protest and argue that I did not intend to hurt anyone, but the words would not come out. I wanted to lie and deny that I had ever been guilty of his accusations, but I could not. I knew that penalty had been fair and no words could leave my lips.

“Do you accept the justice of your punishment?”

My head had already drooped in shame and I could not look at the creature. After a brief pause I could do naught but nod and hang my head in shame.

6 comments:

Bren said...

i do not think you really care what i think but i will tell you anyway. this is very interesting and i liked it. i am most intrigued with your take on women's struggles with body image and your addressing thoughts with acts committed is nicely done. do you have more of this book written out yet or is this it?

faithbornfromdoubt said...

Brenda,
Actually I care very much what you think, especially for this chapter. I am trying to understand women's issues that I don't know if I quite understand and in so doing understand the full consequence of the sins typical of my own gender.

I have some rough stuff on the next chapter. It deals with apathy- especially as relates to Africa and the rest of the impoverished and suffering. I don't think it'll be ready to post anytime soon. i hope to do more work on it this Christmas break.

Bren said...

i think i have some more thoughts on what you have so far but i need to chew on it some more. are you struggling with anything in particular in trying to understand the struggle?

faithbornfromdoubt said...

Not really... Just that I have this nagging doubt that i really don't have any idea what I'm talking about. I want to know how good a job I did on capturing some of the pain and hurt related to these issues.

VentiAmericano said...

Matt,
As I said earlier, great job! I will interact more fully on my blog.

Surls

Bren said...

Ok, I have much more than I can share here so I will just summarize. I think there are some women who actually love the kind of attention you depict, with the perfect body and lewd and vulgar comments that come with it, but most women I think feel completely dirty, demoralized, and objectified whenever she gets that kind of attention or is reduced to body parts. It's a double-edged sword though, because I think that it also makes us question our femininity if we can't attract anyone at all without being that elusive standard of a woman we are told is perfect, which may be the same for males as well. Even with women who would be considered perfect physically there is always an insecurity that once she gains five pounds or starts to get a wrinkle or two, it is over for her because that is the only thing going for her. Not who she is, not what she's done, but her only worth comes from how she looks and she's not considered even conversation-worthy if she doesn't have that advantage. Or at least that's the message we are constantly bombarded with anyway. I am not even going to touch the classic male defense, "that's just the way men are wired, or God made us," not to mention the implications this femininity and masculinity issue has on homosexuals. I think I have already written a novel and I don't even know if it helps in anyway so I will stop here.

About Me

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Tacoma, Washington, United States
"It is not as a child that I believe and confess Jesus Christ. My hosanna is born of a furnace of doubt." Fyodor Dostoevsky. I'm a Northwest Baptist Seminary graduate (MDiv) and current student (ThM). I plan on someday going to Africa and teach Bible and Theology at a Bible College or Seminary level. I hope to continue my studies and earn a PhD, either after I go to overseas for a few years or before. I'm a theological conservative, but I like to think outside of the box and challenge conventional thinking and consider myself a free thinker. I am currently serving in my fourth year as a Youth Pastor at Prairie Baptist Fellowship in Yelm Washington. My blogs will reflect my thoughts on both seminary and ministry life, though not (of course) exclusively. I enjoy literature and occasionally try my hand at writing stories and poems. "For I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes..." Paul

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