A Hard Rain
Bob Dylan walks into a diner, sits next to me, and orders a coffee. He is wearing sunglasses and smoking a cigarette. It’s a hot summer day but he is wearing a jacket. “Crazy weather we’re having,” he says to me, “Looks like it’s going to rain.” He then takes out a harmonica and blows out a tune. The waitress is annoyed. An old man spills his coffee. He puts the harmonica away, takes a sip, drags his cigarette. Sunshine stretches his shadow across the countertop. “It’ll be like Noah soon enough,” he says, “Better build an ark out of whatever’s under your bed.” He plays the harmonica again. A child begins to cry. The waitress calls the police. A few minutes later, the cops arrive and take Bob Dylan out in handcuffs. He whistles the whole time. I pay his tab and step outside, into the blanket of heat. The wind picks up and sounds like a harmonica. I put on my jacket.
The Devil Introduces Hell 2.0
(after Patty Paine)
That image you have in your head – the one with a lake of fire, a gurgling cauldron of flame-lined water with souls chopped up and tossed in like carrots – is archaic. Outdated. We’ve advanced in our understanding of eternal punishment since the age when I was giving tours to Dante. These days every man gets his own city street to walk down. It’s a metropolitan stretch of road, crowded with cars and flanked by skyscrapers, but no other people – just the damned and his little kingdom of asphalt. And as he walks its little fires everywhere – messy dog shit fires on the street, lightning bug fires floating in air, rainfall fires like Molotov cocktails. Tiny fires all over the place, so many you can’t miss them, so many that as the man walks it’s the constant pinpricking of flames on the skin. If that somehow sounds more tolerable than the magma bath we had before, you’ve never felt the acute pain of a localized singe of the flesh, followed by the ever-building agony of the skin being covered with welts and blisters, all topped off with the anguish of knowing that wherever you walk, whatever you do, it is only suffering that awaits - the torture of the mind to complement the physical discomfort. That’s the genius of Hell 2.0: the critical understanding that if you want to really dismantle a man, you have to undo him atom by atom, one little bit at a time, from the inside out.