Mandy, Charlie & Mary-Jane

was told the fastest route to Hell was by Metro. I took a train to South Hades. The local information map had Mount Olympus and numerous other mythological sites from the major world religions marked on it as being located in nearby streets, but there was no sign of Hades. The cops by the ticket barrier made me feel nervous so I went up to the street. There was an Asian guy of about twenty smoking a fag in a doorway. He was in a shop worker’s blue shirt and blue trousers.

“Can you tell me how to get to Hades?”

“It’s in the Park isn’t it? It’s not round here.”

“Thanks.”

I tried a few more people. No one could help. I went back down into the underground station to ask the cops standing by the barriers for directions but they’d gone. I went back onto the street and climbed into one of a long line of waiting cabs parked outside the station.

Hades drawing by Marina Loeb
Hades, illustration by Marina Loeb

“I want to go to Hell.” I told the cabbie.

We seemed to drive around in circles. I saw the same landmarks again and again. We went past the South Hades Metro station at least five times. When I commented on this, the cabbie, who until that point had remained silent observed: “This new one way system is a bloody scandal. They spent trillions of dinars on it and it takes even longer to get anywhere than before the damn thing was built. I’ll tell you what, the authorities ought to stop using the police and traffic wardens to persecute innocent motorists and spend the money on buying state of the art torture equipment. Did you know that the racks and fires with which they torment the dead in the Pits of Hell are more than a thousand years old? If you ask me it’s a scandal, a bloody scandal.”

Eventually we reached the Gates of Hell. The taxi ride cost me a billion dinars. I then had to join a queue to pass through the gates. Two hours later I presented my passport to a border guard. After flicking through it he told me to: “Go away.”

“What do you mean go away? I’ve just queued up for two hours to get into Hell.”

“We don’t allow just anyone into Hell you know. Don’t you remember what Groucho Marx said about not wanting to join any club that would accept him?”

“What’s wrong with me?”

“You don’t have a visa for a start.”

“Are you telling me I need a visa to get into Hell?”

“Of course you need a visa! What are you, a raving idiot who died five minutes ago?”

“I’ve been dead for at least five hours.”

“In that case you’ve had plenty of time to wise up. You’ve made nothing of the opportunities presented to you to learn the ropes. You’re pathetic.”

“So what do I need to do?”

“You don’t sound like the type of suicide bomber we fast track. You weren’t expecting Virgins to screw?”

“Queue.”

“But I have just queued.”

“You need to queue and queue and queue.”

“So where do I queue now?”

“You have to go to the Embassy to get a visa. By the way, you wouldn’t happen to be a suicide bomber would you? You look stupid enough to be one of them. If you’re expecting to be greeted in Paradise by Seventeen Virgins forget it, ask instead to be put on the fast track to Sodom and Gomorrah.”

“I was a suicide bomber, but what I figured out was that the recent London bombings were actually Pagan outrages. Those who carried them out either were Pagans or else they’d been deluded into revivifying the Old Gods.”

“No, that’s a lot of nonsense.”

“No its not, you do get Seventeen Virgins, it’s just that those who believe they’ve died for Allah are often disappointed when they discover they’ve been tricked by Satan. The Virgins are Geezers Wearing Make-Up, and they give the would-be Holy Martyr more pleasure than it’s possible to take up the backside. When the Seventeen Geezers Wearing Make-Up have finished with one of these Holy Warriors, you can forget about not being able to sit down for a week, the burning agony in their arsehole goes on for three score millennia and ten.”

“You’re a man of the world, what’s it like getting fucked up the arse?”

“Anal sex with a mere mortal can be very pleasant, but the knobs of the Seventeen Geezers Wearing Make-Up are covered in a pestilence that makes all the versions of the clap you’ll have seen when you were alive look like the sugar coating to a bitter pill.”

“But in that case they can’t be Virgins.”

“Of course they are. They may have had sex with billions of men, but through the miracles of Satanic law all memories of this are wiped from their mind, and they become conceptual, if not physical, Virgins again.”

“Don’t you think you could be accused of mislabelling?”

“Get off, you’re a trouble maker, you’ll never get into Hell unless you change your attitude.”

I was seen off, so I set about getting a visa. The Embassy was at Mount Olympus Gate. I queued in the rain for hours. There was a notice with a number for priority appointments. It was on a premium rate telephone line. A couple of women talked about using it, the man standing behind them told them not to bother: “It cost me a fortune calling that number and there are no priority appointments, just huge phone bills.”

About one person an hour was getting into the Embassy. There was only one clerk dealing with applications for visas. The Clerk worked a daily three hour shift, which meant the vast bulk of those queuing were sent away without having succeeded in making an application for a visa. I went back the next day. I arrived in the small hours of the morning. There was one person in front of me. She got in at nine o’clock. I got in at ten after hours of standing outside in the rain.

“I’d like a visa.” I told the clerk.

“Have you filled in the form?”

“What form?”

“The form at the door, go and get it.”

“Okay,” I said after getting the form, “what else do you need? How do I fill in this form”

“Are you going for business or pleasure?”

“Business.”

“Then you’ll have an official letter of invitation.”

“No.”

“In that case you’ll have to go as a tourist.”

“But I’m a Pagan. I’m freshly dead after committing a suicide bomb outrage on Holy Island.”

I wouldn’t give a shit if you were Adolf Hitler, Genghis Khan, or some other late born Child of Light. If you don’t have an official letter inviting you to Hell, then you have to go as a tourist.

“I wouldn’t give a shit if you were Adolf Hitler, Genghis Khan, or some other late born Child of Light. If you don’t have an official letter inviting you to Hell, then you have to go as a tourist. You’ll need to come back here with the form filled in and a tourist voucher and pay thirty billion dinars to have your application processed.”

“How do I get a tourist voucher?”

“There are several guys outside who sell them.”

I found an Eastern European who said he could get me the tourist voucher. After I’d given him forty billion dinars, he took my name, date of birth and passport number, then phoned them through to a colleague. We talked dates and agreed I’d apply to visit Hell between 11 September and 11 October, a one month entry which is the cheapest type. Then the Eastern European disappeared. He returned fifteen minutes later with a couple of photocopied sheets of paper that looked official.

“You’ll have to come back early tomorrow. Make sure you’re first in the queue.”

I went back the next day and queued. When I got to the official dealing with the applications I was told the tourist voucher I’d purchased was fake. I’d been ripped off. I bought another tourist voucher and went back the next day, only to be told my application couldn’t be processed until I could prove I’d purchased medical insurance.

“You must be joking, why on earth do I need medical insurance to visit Hell?”

“Listen mate, there’s a lot of torture and other dodgy stuff goes on down there. Some Little Devil might throw you on a rack and rip your entrails out. It happens all the time. Unless you’ve got a policy to pay for a doctor to sew you up if this happens, you can’t be let in. Satan doesn’t like freeloaders, he’s not going to cover your medical bills.”

So I went and bought medical insurance. The next day I got up early and queued to get back into the Embassy at Mount Olympus Gate. This time my application was accepted. I had to pay thirty billion dinars for the privilege. I was told to come back after a week to pick up the passport. I’d have to queue to do that too. By the time I’d done all this I couldn’t afford a flight to Hell. I’d heard there were bargain deals but at the time I was permitted to go the cheapest air ticket I could find was four hundred billion dinars. So I took the coach instead. I barely had enough cash left to pay for food and a hotel. I went to the Winter Palace to see Satan. I was told I had to put my name on a waiting list and to do that I had to queue. On the first day the queue was dispersed before I reached the official who placed names on the waiting list. The same thing happened on the second and third day. On the forth day I reached the official.

“We’re booked four centuries ahead right now, but if you’re lucky I might be able to find you a cancellation.”

“Sounds good.”

“Okay, the first cancellation we have is in twenty-eight days time.”

“But my visa runs out before that.”

“Tough luck,” the official told me. “You’ll just have to leave, apply for re-entry and hope that you’re luckier next time.”

“Thanks, thanks for nothing,” I mumbled.
Then I left. Since then I’ve been sitting out my time in Hell in a hotel bedroom. There are loads of sights I’d like to see, but entry doesn’t come cheap. There are also the tortures, but the more horrific the action the more it costs to get in. I’m only eating one meal a day and spending most of my time in bed. I don’t have a work permit, so I can’t earn anything until I’m out of Hell and back in the less exclusive parts of the Underworld. It will probably take me years to save enough bread to come back. Even if I manage that, it’s going to be pot luck whether or not I bag an appointment with Satan. Sometimes I wonder whether he actually cares about the revivification of the Old Norse Gods. Regardless, I guess I have to put my nose to the grindstone and get on with it. I mustn’t grumble, since by now I must be really famous among all those still alive on planet earth. Perhaps one day I’ll even get to see some newspaper cuttings about myself. I hope the press said good things about me, I like to fantasise that they damned me as the wickedest man in the world.

–Stewart Home