Q:  Where do you get your supplies?

A:  Supplies?

Q:  The racks, the whips, the…I’m not sure what you call those long sticks that are used for stabbing the traitorous souls in the back.

A:  Jabbers.

Q:  “Jabbers”?

A:  We tend to be, in hell, both practical and literal in our language.

Q:  Right, well the so-called jabbers must break sometimes.

A:  Frequently, yes. The shards that get stuck inside of the traitorous souls turn into ice rats, and they eat their way out.

Q:  I assume that the eaten pieces of the soul regenerate after they’re eaten?

A:  The soul is infinite.

Q:  Ah, I see. Back to the jabbers. Where do you get new ones once a jabber breaks?

A:  It’s complicated.

Q: (laughs) You’re not going to make this easy, are you?

A:  The short answer is:  despair.

Q:  Despair?

A: (sighs) Look, how do you breathe?

Q:  How do I breathe?

A:  Yes. Explain the process to me.

Q:  I allow gasses to come in and out of my nose and mouth?

A:  You allow.

Q:  Do I have it wrong?

A:  Could you prevent it? Could you stop allowing the gasses to come in and out in a permanent way?

Q:  Not without ending my life, of course. And then I might wind up here (laughs).

A:  So you couldn’t, in other words, stop without altering the system of your body. The despair/jabber issue is very much the same principle. The appropriate sectors of hell stay open in the appropriate ways, and things flow in and out as they should. They are altered during the process of this flow in a way that is similar to how oxygen melds with your red blood cells and so on.

Q:  So, you’re not really in control? You don’t necessarily know how it works?

A:  I’m aware of it in an academic way. In the same way that, again, you are likely aware of the mechanics of your breathing, but you don’t stop to think about it as it happens.

Q:  I know the basics of the organs, the path…

A:  That’s right. You understand, vaguely, that oxygen enters your lungs and that it’s somehow distributed to parts of your body. You understand the generalized picture, even if you don’t grasp the finer details.

Q:  Well…I might know more than you think.

A:  Really? What does an oxygen molecule look like?

Q:  Look?

A:  So you don’t know?

Q:  I’ve seen the diagram. I have a notion.

A:  You’ve seen the diagram.

Q:  Maybe I don’t understand the nature of the question.

A:  Never mind. I’m being nitpicky. I’m being a bastard.

Q:  Let’s get back to despair.

A:  Sure, despair.

Q:  It’s how you get your supplies?

A:  In a sense, yes.

Q:  How do you transform the despair into things? Or, to get back to your oxygen example, how do they get transformed?

A:  You’re on to something in recognizing that I don’t transform them.

Q:  But there must be some sort of catalyst? Some sort of mechanism?

A:  Like how you convert energy into matter or vice versa?

Q:  Right. But you’re mocking me again, aren’t you?

A:  Listen, heaven is eternal bliss, right?

Q:  Right.

A:  And ignorance is bliss.

Q:  I think that’s more of a trite adage than actual—

A:  So, if heaven is bliss and ignorance is bliss, then maybe just being a corpse, rotting into nothingness without any consciousness is the purest kind of heaven. And that’s a transformation, right?

Q:  Are you trying to fill me with despair? Trying to fill your storehouse?

A:  I’m really not. I’m trying to tell you about the nature of transformation.

Q:  Okay.

A:  Body to bread, blood to wine. Despair to jabber.

Q:  And back?

A:  In a sense. It’s like the law of conservation, I suppose.

Q:  Conservation of despair?

A:  Conservation is at least partially about awareness and how we measure things, to be fair.

Q:  It’s about perception.

A:  You could say that.

Q:  I didn’t expect you to be so Eastern.

A:  That’s very clever of you.

Q:  You don’t make that sound like a compliment.

A:  Maybe it’s a matter of perception.

Q:  That’s clever of you. It’s more about perception than awareness?

A:  Here’s the thing about awareness.

Q:  Okay.

A:  If you really understand these things, then you recognize that the barriers are arbitrary and, in many ways, simply figurative. I should add, too, that if you follow my reasoning that heaven is ignorance, and if hell and heaven are opposites , then you might say that heaven’s being ignorance would make hell awareness. Hell is really recognizing that the jabbers are your own despair, just in another form.

Q:  Sounds a little trippy to me. Especially coming from you.

A:  Maybe you should be glad that you don’t get it.

Q:  Glad?

A:  If I’m right, then if you did get it…

Q:  Then…

A:  Then you’d be in hell, wouldn’t you?




Zeke Jarvis is an Associate Professor at Eureka College. His work has appeared in Bitter Oleander, Moon City Review and Scissors and Spackle, among other places. His books include In a Family Way and So Anyway…