My First Thousand Years of Hell

The worst of boredom is to listen to the dreams of others, the worst of rudeness is to force others to listen to them, but nobody is forced to read, by writing.       
One night a strange character appeared to me and told me what follows. To be precise, he was writing all this and I was reading over his shoulder. And for even greater precision, he wrote in a “universal” alphabet and language, I shouldn’t have understood, but I understood all the same, perfectly. It was vivid and bizarre.

“…en un plazo infinito le ocurren a todo hombre todas las cosas”. J. L. Borges

I have heard that nothing can come out of where I am, so these considerations take no risk, much less have any hope. They are not looking for it.

History does not record my name, and probably even the most well-known ones of us and the events of our brief human error have long been forgotten. Oh tiempo tus pirámides. I too, after so many centuries and many companies, have almost forgotten who I was alive; but no, let’s say something, I was following Rodolfo Drengot, a courageous man, sometimes brusque, but of good traits and a certain nobility of soul, so I would define him.

I was an unbeliever, of little nobility, adventurer and Sybarite. Here ends my description, you will have nothing else, not a name, oh vanity, vanity!   
I lost my life in combat, almost foolishly, in about 1020. I had a squire, he also joined me right here a few years later, from the Norman county of Ariano; what a joy it was!

He was my best friend and beforehand, before my brothers exiled me, cook in the family castle and companion of a thousand gastronomic adventures and experiments. Since then, we have never separated in almost a thousand years together!

It was a great surprise to discover all this: the afterlife, the hellish bureaucracy, the devils, the divine laws, its quibbles and caveats. It was even more surprising to see that among the many possible, I was destined for the group of gourmands in the gluttony circle. I asked for explanations, isn’t disbelief, to mention one, a greater sin? It is not! Because whoever is an unbeliever, when religion reigns, is at least sincere; he loves and tells the truth and God is truth before he is anything else. I have always hated the Church more than God, it seems.  
“I have killed!” “Terrible people! And who doesn’t deserve to be hit with a spiked club on the head?” It was replied to me.    
“I stole!” “To serve the gluttony …”    
Gluttony was the only truly deplorable consequence of my wanton Epicureanism and my deep, but almost understandable, existential despair.

This infernal circle has been closed, they tell me, gluttony is no longer a sin, there is too much abundance not to be an exaggeration now. Since this news has settled, we, the ones included in it, feel almost to belong to kind of exclusive club, we even think of ourselves as forerunners, more than an almost abandoned and forgotten wing of a huge penitentiary.

The second of the surprises was seeing how it works here. When they read my sentence: guilty of gluttony, the all eternity in the circle of gourmands and epicureans, I expected to be boiled in blood, roasted on a skewer on embers, grilled, gutted and stuffed, skinned, salted and seasoned like a ham, marinated, ground like a filling, beaten, hanged and matured, chopped as in the use of Franconia, boned, even chewed and swallowed; instead, as for a “delicate homeopathic retaliation”, as some scholars have defined it, we are at the table and eat in joy. It is an endless party.

The cuisine is excellent, I must say, excellent; the service is impeccable, the devils are thoughtful and attentive, we never miss anything, provisions, dishes, wines… anything! My goblet overflows. I made friends with some of the attendants. The company is also pleasant, we are arranged at the table so as not to bother each other, we are among compatible people; I would hate to have a petulant plebeian by my side, there is an Italian marquis instead; he does not shine through acumen and conversation, but he is harmless and affable, a huge fatso. Another Italian is in front, he was a court jester, sometimes he really makes you laugh. To my right is my friend. We can also change places if we like.

I said, the devils cook and bring us everything, the “punishment” is that we have to eat. If we want something specific we can request it, otherwise they propose “novelties”, depending on the human history of each ethnic-cultural group, they also keep us updated on the secular events of the century, once a week, with more or less detailed information: wars, geographical or scientific discoveries… we know a lot.

I remember the discovery and evolution of potato and tomato. For years we have eaten everything with them involved somehow. Then we got a little tired and went back to being reasonable. We try everything, Chinese cuisine, excellent, Mongolian cuisine, less in my strings, Japanese, I had no idea that such a place existed; my friend loves Italian polenta, especially with sausage and from a dripping pan, this makes the Marquis very happy, for some reason. I have loved Mexican food for a while now.

We have to eat, but we can move, obviously, walk, take part in personal activities; here I am writing, sometimes you can find me fencing. We also have something to satisfy our physiological needs. The toilets are infernal, the whole design of the place and the lights are such way, there’s a lot of red, caves, torches, everything is luxury, but devilish and fierce in taste. I like it here!

The holes where we fulfill our needs are solidified and dark lava, not uncomfortable though; they end up in another infernal circle, which doesn’t seem to be as pleasant as ours. I asked what exactly it was, it is that of the lustful. Not bad! It’s not that I have ever liked lustful people; I, as a misanthropist, could stand neither men nor women, much less those who took pride in reiterated and intimate contacts, but I expressed some regret that I had never had the opportunity to defecate on the head of a Pope… nor an Emperor, for what concerns me. A devil laughed at my “boutade” and replied: “And who says you have never done it?” We often joke and laugh here.

Let’s go back to the kitchen. Sometimes we miss homes and remote times, the devils cook for us as if we were there, year thousand, the childhood cook, her bowl of cream, the bay leaf garnishing it, the aniseed biscuits. Other times they even ask us for a hand in the kitchen, we turn roasts, we recommend on the times; roasts are our strong suit, especially lamb, ox, pork, various birds. It’s a lot of fun, there is everything in the kitchen, you always learn a few new tricks. There is all the time.

For many centuries the quality, quantity, and variety of ingredients and the execution have improved almost constantly. It is true that everyone prefers his own stuff, but I believe that the objective peak in techniques and ingredients was reached between the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Now I’m a little worried. After a thousand years, not only the dishes begin to repeat themselves, but the most recent ones are not that great. There is this new thing that everyone is crazy about, the Internet, and then social media, and finally, they have been cooking and spreading the worst for decades on TV. We try to make their recipes, they are bad. They all claim to be quick and easy. Zucchini sautéed, the other day, preparation: twenty minutes total. We were perplexed. They were bad, half raw, watery.

Cooking takes time! It seems that people no longer have any. My friend and I wonder what the heck men have to do today when they don’t even fight anymore. We do not understand, and in the end, we don’t even care, but a thought has been pestering us for a while.     
We wonder if, in the long run, this place will really become hell, linked to the incompetence and the rascality of modern man.

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