I had just been reborn. That sounds positive. No one ever stops to ask the all-important question though. No one ever stops to consider where one might have been reborn. Into what world. Into what state. I had been reborn in hell. That was not positive.
I had been reborn into one of the grey hell-realms. The grey hells were located somewhere between Avici hell and the world of the hungry ghosts, the Preta Loka. You might also say that they existed somewhere on the interface of the paranoid and neurotic hells. If the cartography of the lower astral levels happened to be a particular interest of yours.
I used to give a shit about that kind of thing (back when I had been an intrepid drug-fuelled explorer of all those different levels of consciousness) but not any more. Right now I was too busy waking up to where I was. Too busy getting my head around the fact that I was in serious trouble. Something bad was about to unfold, but as yet I could not tell what it was going to be.
Being reborn in hell is a fucked-up business. To start off with it’s just like anything. It’s just like waking up with a groggy head, feeling a bit dazed and a bit the worse for wear and slowly coming to your senses. Wondering where you are and what you are doing there.
There is a comfort in not knowing – a dozy, blurry, indifferent type of comfort. A blank, dreary, dull comfort. The comfort of oblivion. Then something stirs and wakes up out of that heavy blank non-existence. You. Slowly and stupidly shaking your thick head. Trying to pierce it all together.
That’s what it was like for me – a slow and not very pleasant emergence into consciousness. An unwelcome emergence into a world I did not want to know about. There was a rushing, whirring noise in my ears. Like a great bird passing very close over my head. Flying straight through my head. It was a bit like having been transported very fast indeed, rushed along at a dizzyingly incomprehensible speed from one place to another and then somehow ‘snapping’ into place with a weird elastic twang. It was also like being brought somewhere with impossible rapidity and then being left there, abandoned there to do as one will, whatever that might be. And that, given the dire limitations of this particular hell realm, would not be very much. Nothing exciting, anyway.
There were no terrible demons or monsters here in this grey loka. In one of the more psychotic realms that rushing, whirring noise might immediately transform into the uncompromising reality of a monstrous eagle landing on you and sinking its steely pinions deep into your head, screaming demonically and horrifically into your face as it starts to eat the brain right out of your skull. To give just one example.
In the neurotic hells on the other hand people get very frustrated and thwarted, and get totally caught up in repetitive rituals. They want stuff but they can never get it. The rituals are made up of their constant futile attempts to obtain whatever it is that they want to obtain. They never get tired of enacting the same pointless routines. The hapless dwellers of the Preta Lokas have lost all their humanity and have become mere mechanisms for futile clutching. All that is left of them is the ‘grasp reflex’. Over many centuries of slowed-down time they gradually become more and more insubstantial until at last they finally fade away completely.
Nothing like that happens here. There is no overt violence and no repetitive rituals. The grey hells are simply boring – mind-numbingly boring in fact. Atrociously boring.
As I came to my senses I realized that I was sitting on a wooded bench on the side of a shopping street in some nondescript, anonymous-looking town. I got up, stiff-kneed, and started to walk slowly down the street. Everything I saw had a coarse, ugly, brutal look to it. Everything was kind of grainy and indistinct, all made up of different shades of grey. There was no beauty, no lightness anywhere to be seen. No colours. Nothing to lift the heart. Nothing to alleviate the sense of dreary unremitting ‘sameness’.
Four or five dark figures were walking straight towards me from the other direction. They also had a coarse and ugly look to them. They also looked grainy and indistinct. They didn’t seem to have any faces. As they came closer I could see that they were all large, heavily-built if not actually overweight men. If they were men. Each was wearing a nondescript crumpled-looking grey or brown track-suit, reversed mesh-backed baseball cap, and Nike trainers. They were talking amongst themselves, but nothing they said seemed to make any sense. They were coming right up to me.
I could see now that they did have faces, but what faces they were! Where faces should have been I saw nothing but a huge expanse of grey flesh, with only the slightest suggestion of recognizable features. I avoided all eye-contact, instinctively knowing that eye contact would be a very bad thing. They were so close to me that they were almost on top of me. The smell of stale cigarettes and beer was overpowering. I struggled to remain calm. And then, after a moment of near panic, they passed right through me. Or rather I had passed right through the middle of the group. None of them had taken the slightest interest in me, I realized with relief. And why should they? I was just like them. I was one of them – I was a hell-dweller, a featureless denizen of the grey lokas. I probably looked just like them. This was my world now. This was where I belonged.
I was walking but I didn’t know where I was going. I was just walking because I didn’t know what else to do. Because it was something to do. Feeling bored and fed up with walking about aimlessly, I went into the nearest newsagents and bought myself a copy of the Daily Star newspaper to read.