Hell Is A Queue

A modern depiction of Samsara, via Pinterest

When Prasanna woke up on judgment day he immediately thought ‘Shit!’ and then cursed himself for cursing. In front of ‘him’ (which was a vague concept, his body was more of a shape-shifting caterpillar), in front of him were many lines, like a set of supermarket queues. But which one to choose?

Prasanna had been observant in his life, as in he observed religions around him. He followed many religions, insomuch as they led to a meal. He’d be Buddhist at a dhane, Hindu at a wedding, Christian around Christmas, and he broke fast for Ramadan despite never fasting.

He assumed that each queue ahead of him was for a religion, and sometimes this seemed obvious. Many of the caterpillar people were wearing orange robes on their shape-shifting bodies, some sil white, some shirtless like a Hindu priest, some collared like a Catholic priest. Of course, nothing was obvious. Given his earthly experience with clergy, he wasn’t sure if those weren’t the lines he should most avoid.

Groaning inwardly, which he realized must be completely obvious to ye gods, he did the supermarket thing and simply went to the shortest line.

“What are you?” he asked one caterpillar, a body at one moment a man, at another a child, once wearing a grimace, another second a smile.

“Zorastrian,” the caterpillar said, somewhat absently, it was difficult to talk when your mind literally changed every second, nevermind your body.

“Shit,” thought Prasanna again. “What the fuck is that?”

He cursed himself again but no lightning or thunderbolts appeared. Perhaps cursing was a minor sin. He certainly hadn’t taken any deities' names in vain, but looking around he couldn’t be sure. The line of lines seemed infinite. There must be shit or fuck worshipers somewhere.

Prasanna thought he’d take a walk, dragging his many lives and seemingly some past lives with him as well. Sometimes he thought as a child, sometimes as a man, sometimes he felt nearly dead (again). He had once wondered what age you were in the afterlife and the answer seemed to be ‘all of them’.

Lurching as well as he could, through whatever passed for time and space here, he saw all the lines moving or not moving, everyone reverently observing a queue as much as a transmogrified caterpillar could. Prasanna found it difficult to even decide on everything because sometimes he was a doddering old man (as he died) or a child (as he began) or a young man (as he was). Even more confusingly he was sometimes other people, sometimes people he had relationships with, sometimes his parents, sometimes ancestors he didn’t even know about.

His whole head, as it were, was exploded and full of voices now, none of them telling him where to go. Indeed, he was beginning to lose sight of who was even asking the question. His government name of Samarasinghe Mudiyanselage Nilambegedara Gayan Prasanna Wanindu Dananjaya Samarasinghe felt increasingly ungovernable here. All of a sudden the whole village and caste and family and every other aspect of being was in his head and not on paper. More accurately, his head was open to everything and could not contain or be contained anymore.

And so Prasanna just ended up in a line, along with a lot of other human caterpillars now rendered mute. William Blake said, “if the doors of perception were cleansed then everything would appear to man as it is, Infinite.” But what he didn’t say was that this experience generally rendered humans speechless. Prasanna had passed through the doors, into the waiting room, and now his caterpillar became part of a long line of caterpillars trying to get somewhere they’d long forgot.

He was coincidentally in a line with a lot of worshipers of Ba’al who had been there before the Babylonians, which should give you a sense of what’s going on. Prasanna’s brain was, at this point, as coherent as a watermelon full of vodka, which is to say he didn’t have a brain at all. At this point, both brain and watermelon were equally bad metaphors for whatever was going on. Prasanna's mind was completely blown, in a way other minds simply cannot understand without also being rendered mute.

And so Prasanna passed this way, by whatever measure of time is relevant in a place without a sun or moon. They snaked through one line and then another, like a caterpillar looking for the particular leaf they needed to cocoon but never finding it. Just a bunch of butterflies, unable to spread their wings and go.

He traveled with tech worshipers, death worshipers, god worshipers, and actual saints. He met them as children, as adults, as networks of connections, however faint. He went through all his past lives and his future ones, both equally irrelevant. At some point, he woke up out of this dream of a thousand eyes and ears and had his first coherent thought in years.

Shit,” he thought, not giving a shit about cursing now. “This is the bad place,” he thought, and it was true. Hell isn’t fire and brimstone, hell is just a queue. You think you’re getting into heaven, but you never, ever do.

An older image of Samsara, via (toddpowelson.com)