“Sexy Beating Up Love”
By Jack Pedder
– How woeful, Saint Augustine says.
– I don’t want to call her an idiot, I say, sipping some 12 year Macallan, but it was so obviously a demon.
– Full on giant black claws demon?
– Freakish glare, full on bird legs demon?
– The whole blatantly demonic aesthetic.
– Playing XTC I bet.
– The boat was so visibly full of hell-fire. You could see the colossal clouds of smoke the flames were making, as well as the flames. She was so blatantly getting chucked into the hell fire when she ate that bloody apple. There’s enough pop culture warning people about apples and monsters, surely.
– She must have seen Snow White, or read Narnia or something. Even humans are a risky denomination to receive apples from. Would you take an apple from a human Augie?
– Not a chance!
– Did she think cultural tropes like weird people giving you apples had no a real world application, or did she just have a really weird childhood with a really weird cultural influence?
– She’s a ditz, Augustine said, lighting his cigar. We are on the balcony of our friend Brian’s flat. Those circumstances exactly, Augustine says, puffing cigar smoke into his own groin, have happened to me dozens of time; forgive me if I display zero empathy.
– I forgive you.
– If there’s anything I’m desensitised to, it’s the charred bodies of women.
– I understand.
– Did he eat her clothes at least?
– He did.
– That’s good, Augustine says. Some women burn without you seeing them naked.
– That’s not much consolation, I say, kind of disgusted. It was a really nasty way of seeing her naked.
– Oh, of course.
– It was actually quite mortifying.
– I didn’t mean that. I just meant: it’s better to see a human beings – especially women because they are objectively more objectifiable – naked before they get cremated. When you’ve seen as many women charred in hellfire as me, you learn to treasure the nudity you get, however brief. Female nudity is the best way of assuring yourself not to be afraid of fire. I can’t believe some women I’ve slept with didn’t immediately transfigure and float off in bubbles of light the minute they lost their clothes.
– I didn’t like it, I say, sipping my Macallan watching Brian hose baskets of flowers in the front garden. I didn’t like seeing her naked at all. I liked her.
Brian waves at me and I wave back.
– Well if you genuinely have feelings for her, Augustine says, I know a demon called Bleff who can get you into the charred women realm.
– How much does he charge?
– Well you know what demons are like – XTC listening pricks. Bleff only accepts payment in extremely specific labour. It’ll probably be a bit of surrealist bureaucracy in purgatory, my guess.
– That doesn’t sound too bad.
We look down and Brian has fainted, possibly died.
– They say you shouldn’t tell your children which one is your favourite, my father said. But neither of you are my favourite.
We were in the Gdansk National Museum, standing in front of Hans Memling’s Last Judgement triptych.
– I honestly see no substance or quality in either of you, he went on. Compared to other children you are doubtless prodigious geniuses, having inherited countless excellencies from me. You are above the rest of the human race in intelligence, courage, and righteousness, but you have been so perverted by them, as to completely disinterest me.
You, he said, are Hans Memling to my Rogier wan der Weyden.
He, and my family walked on, but I remained behind with Hans Memling’s Last Judgement.
Looking at the centre panel, I found myself with a massive gripe against the heavier man in Archangel Michael’s scales of justice. It looked like he’d rigged it. The ‘sinner’ wasn’t sitting right; knowing the connection between weight and surface area doesn’t make you righteous, I thought. I didn’t like his ‘righteous’ face – a mixture of scorn and entitlement – or his haircut or the way he was tucking his penis into his thighs. I brought this up with a passing tour guide, I felt the in justice needed to be repaired, and she told me this was a small portrait of the man who commissioned the painting, Tommaso Portinari, an Italian banker.
– Who is the other guy on the scales?
Memling probably didn’t have a specific subject for him, she said.
– Who’s less deserving of heaven than a banker? I say, squinting at him. She laughs.
He wasn’t doing anything I could condemn, just squealing in terror.
The righteous had a way of looking like horrible scumbags to me. It was probably the jealousy, and the resentment, and the seeming emptiness of ‘loving Christ’ as a virtue. ‘The changeable nonsense of love, above genuine work?’ I was incredibly jealous of heaven because I really felt like it existed and like I would never get there because it demanded more stupidity than I could ever re-acquire. The bright robes, the little rectangles of absolute gold; I knew they weren’t mine.
I remember thinking that Memling’s heaven-bound seemed like pretty decent folk, with the exception of Portinari the banker, but I was annoyed with them all the same for getting such a huge reward for such merelypassable lives – ‘in Christ’ whatever that meant. I liked the Afro man in front of the token black guy (at the back of the queue), I liked the grey goatee-beard man shaking hands with Peter, and I liked the man doing camp jazz hands on the edge of the cliff, but I couldn’t see that any of them deserved what was behind that gate.
Oh God in heaven I wanted to get behind that gate. I’d invade the middle-east, burn a few Jews myself if I got behind that gate.
I was thoroughly intrigued by the man on the staircase, with the red-cloaked angel’s hand on his back, his hands apart, his face fixed on something to his left. He looked like he was filled with unexpected melancholy memories of earth by looking at whatever he was looking at, to his left. ‘What is there to look left at from this canvas?’ I thought, looking at the grey slivers behind the glass staircase.
I suddenly got the image of our world being permanently blackened, depopulated and deemed totally irrelevant. What was he seeing and what was he thinking€ about?
Most of the righteous were turned away, looking at the gold rectangles – who wouldn’t? The angels, the saints: none of them were interested in the viewer. Why should they care about some doof in a Polish art gallery whenthat (whatever it is) is there. I think this helped my resentment: their completely justified disinterest in me.
You can’t feel good about the happiness of someone who isn’t looking at you.
– Be funny if both gates led to hell, I thought.
The burning sinners were all looking at the viewer.
By the time you were on fire, I guessed you needed to be looked at. Hell only makes sense, I thought, if you know you are being looked at. It doesn’t matter what you think you deserve, you need to be looked at, and to be naked. How much worse world hell be if it happened behind closed doors, with clothes on.
Oh God God, I thought, genuinely sickened and shaken by it all.
There was no way of telling whether someone was good or bad once they were on fire, I realised. That’s a lot of faith to put in a lack of clerical error, I thought. The Lord needs to be omni-bureaucratic, almost more than be needs to be omni-benevolent. The sinners who weren’t stupefied with horror were thinking what anyone would think in that situation: ‘I deserve this, exactly.’ Even good people think they deserve hell when they find themselves there. Everyone deserves their worst nightmare, I thought, just for showing up.
– What a mediocre collection for a mediocre city, my father said, as we left the museum, and walked under the communist tower blocks.
– Gdansk is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, said Bleff. Tell your father I disagree with him.
– I do.
– You tell him I disagree with him.
– I tell him strangers disagree with him, more or less every day. They insist on seeing me send the message.
– Tell him Bleff disagrees with him.
– He doesn’t know you.
– That changes nothing. I insist on seeing you send this message.
– Bleff disagrees with you, I sent my dad.
– I like Hell, he said, turning up the XTC song ‘All of a sudden (it’s too late)’. This is coming from a demon so feel free to disregard it, but Hell is a glorious place. The caverns: oh the beauty of those caverns! Imagine Rachmaninoff getting his hands on the cavern of his dreams. Then double it.
– That is very cavernous.
– Oh, Christopher, try to get to Hell. I know I’m a demon, and this is exactly the marketing spiel a demon is supposed to give you, but certain people are better off in Hell, and you are one of them. It’s the better option for the interesting half of the human race.
– I want peace though. I want peace and love.
– Peace we cannot give you, but love we can. Better love that heaven can give you, easy, no problem. Real love in Hell. Love where you can beat people up.
– I don’t want to beat people up.
– Sexy beating up love I mean.
– I don’t want that either.
– We’ve got all the dangerous, slutty love is what I’m trying to say. We’ve got all the suicidal, murderous, cough up your guts love.
– None of this is good.
– We’ve got the kind of rip your heart out, lovebite love. We’ve got makes you feel pissed love.
– I’d hate drunkenness for eternity.
– Love in Hell is the only lovable love. Love in heaven is sheer biological Darwinian necessity; you do it because you have to. Love in hell is all yours. You choose it like. When you love someone in Hell, you know you love someone God doesn’t. You know you love one of God’s creatures that God spends all his free time torturing. There’s nothing for the ego like knowing you love certain people more than God.
– How much is this going to cost?
– Getting to Hell? Nothing. Just don’t care about anything.
– Getting into the charred women realm.
– Just a bit of copywriting I expect. There’s always some stuff the man downstairs wants some copy for.
– Like what?
Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch and Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker drive a VW Beetle through Surrey, I write. Gregory is the better man and Hayden knows it. It is a dull and beautiful day.
– Ewan McGregor thinks I’m not ready to be a Jedi master but I know I am, Hayden Christensen says. He keeps holding me back. It’s not fair.
– Now Hayden, you shouldn’t be too quick to judge other people. Have you considered things from Obi-wan’s point of view? He is probably under some pressure that you are not taking into account.
– The Jedi think that they are the only righteous. But I disagree. I think they lack courage to seize power.
– Courage and power are not interchangeable Hayden. Courage is not a man with a lightsaber in his hand, it is a bladesman who knows he is outbladed before he begins, yet fights anyway, and sees it through to the end.
They stop the VW Beetle at Runnymede and set up a picnic table. They begin with a course of Pheasant a la single bean. First they roast a pheasant perfectly, and stuff it with juicy fruits of the earth, then take an everyday value can of beans, remove a single bean from it, and pour the rest of the beans into a roting pile of identical beans.
‘Avast!’ A pirate says, his wooden leg snapping, his bulk tumbling into a steaming pile of human lips – in Runnymede. ‘I’ll take care of this.’ Hayden says, as Anakin Skywalker. He lightsabers the Pirate’s pants off, and throws a few 200 pence pieces at him saying ‘something for your troubles, Long John Bronze.’ The lips suck his pirate flesh
Gregory Peck and Hayden Christenson follow up their first course with a course of unnecessarily killed mockingbird and Natalie-Portman-Os, a breakfast cereal made entirely of the body of Natalie Portman.
Bernie Sanders and the pokemon Azumarill arrive.
Nothing happens for a million years, then Azumarill says ‘Azumarill.’