Written by Bernadette Callaghan, Riley Guyatt, Lily Harrison, Samson Ullinger, Cinnamone Winchester, and Kate Wood
Graphic by Navita Wijeratne
This piece was originally published in ‘Memento Mori’, Bossy’s 2021 print edition.
The Asphodel Meadows
Please note that in writing this review I have chosen to put aside the deep offence I suffered by having been deemed ordinary, in order to present a clearer picture of what the circumstances here in Asphodel Meadows are like.
To put it plainly, it is uninteresting and unchanging. Everyone here is apathetic and bored by each other and themselves. I’ve done my research. This is the place for those souls who did not commit any significant crimes, but who also did not achieve any greatness or recognition. While I disagree with the premise that neither I nor my life was significant, it is obvious that all others who live here are exactly that—dreary.
As a side note, though meadows are in the name, surely someone thought there was an overabundance of grass and might have had the creativity to offer some semblance of varying landscape? There is definitely room for improvement—and I would recommend a better vetting process as it is clear my being here is a mistake.
Just as T. S. Eliot described, “this is the dead land, this is the cactus land”, and I’d like to leave now please.
A Hollow Man
The Fields of Mourning
‘Field’ is an awfully generous way to market this place. I get it, alright? By the Gods above, I get it. I wasted too many turns of the sundial yearning for Heracles—but really, I challenge you to watch a divine hero save your village from the beastly maw of a lion and prove that you aren’t in love by the time they first take pause to mop the sweat from their brow—and now he’s bathing in offerings on Mount Olympus while I wither beneath the feet of the living. Literally.
If I could dine on melodies, I would want for naught—but while the shades around me keep themselves busy with pan flutes and lyres in the gloom of shadowy myrtle groves, I find the pomegranates always grow just an inch too high upon their branches, the trickling streams dry out when I walk too close.
I’ve learned my lesson, Hades. I understand the metaphor. Desire for that which is beyond one’s reach is a waste of time, and I should have just settled for Lykaon. He’s no warrior, and his penchant for generosity has quite possibly turned him into the least wealthy healer in all of Greece, but I suppose he may have at least known what to do about that snake bite.
Can someone please deliver me to Asphodel now?
With unrequited affection
Weighing of the Heart Ceremony
The Ancient Egyptian afterlife has gone downhill since the last time I was here. The first time I visited the Duat, I arrived on a quaint reed barge and, as I was travelling domestically and not inter-humously, I was treated to a lovely cup of date wine. When we arrived the other people on my barge were processed with wonderful dignity. They patiently waited their turns to have their hearts weighed, and duly paid the tariffs to Anubis and Osiris. The system worked wonderfully, and I rated it as such.
My second visit wasn’t for several millennia. The system was a great deal more stressed than the last time I visited—they’d recently switched from the individual heart-weighing method (which was causing half-century lines) to the more efficient multi-heart-weighing system. Ammit (‘Great of the Dead’, ‘Devourer of the Dead’, ‘Eater of Hearts’), Osiris’ pet crocodile-lion-hippo monster, showed signs of overeating due to the increased demand for death. My most recent visit for this review was rather disappointing. Ammit’s health issues have progressed to a full-blown case of leonine heart disease combined with hippo gout. Her diet, exclusively composed of the hearts of the wicked, has been contaminated with large amounts of cholesterol due to the 20th century increase in arteriosclerosis. In addition, the processing system for the dead has been vastly strained due to the population boom of the industrial revolution, and new ships haven’t been delivered to the afterlife since the fall of the Roman empire, so conditions have become horrifically cramped. Linked below you will see a GoFundMe Osiris has set up to help pay for Ammit’s healthcare (People are no longer buried with money—this has caused a financial crisis in the Duat). Please don’t let this poor heart-eating crocodile-lion-hippo monster baby (5000 years old) live in pain.
Herodotus P.H.D (Post Humous Doctor)
I would rate this ghostly existence higher, but the lack of closure rather lets it down. After centuries of wafting about in a dingy alleyway, I’ve come to learn a great deal about my after death situation—and may I just say, it leaves much to be desired. My family knew I was being transported to Australia but I died before I could write to them, so they knew nothing of my demise, and thus were unable to pray for me. I only died in this godforsaken alleyway because I thought it rather undignified to die on the main street, and my illness took a turn for the worse on my walk home.
Regardless, let me proceed to the review itself. I’ll start with the favourable aspects: I know all the gossip courtesy of the ladies who walk together every morning, I’m able to spook vagrant teens in the depths of the night, and I don’t need to eat or drink. The more unfortunate aspects are that I will never see my family again, and I will never feel the joy of living a full life, let alone any life beyond this mildew-riddled alleyway. I will say, the more exciting moments in my afterlife have been the Spiritualist movement, and the recent ghost tour fad; it does make me feel appreciated in a small way. I simply wish people would stop trying to take photographs of me—if you expired in an alleyway covered in your own feces, would you want strangers attempting to take a “selfie” with you?
A promising concept for an afterlife with many failures in execution. The entire hoarde feasts nightly from the great boar, Sæhrímnir, who then regrows his meat each day ready for the next feast, raising some major food hygiene concerns. Further, while the constant feasts taste great, this boar regrowth phenomenon results in their being unvarying. Activities are limited to feasting, hunting, and fighting, which becomes monotonous after a few hundred years.
There is no day spa, no quiet, and no public cleanliness. Some capital works are needed—the golden shields used as shingles to decorate the Great Hall of Odin look fantastic but the roof does leak in thunderstorms (which are not uncommon as, like me, mighty Thor suffers from a lack of relaxation time—it’s time to build that day spa).
Valkyries are polite, diligent staff who could kill a man with their thighs and I cannot fault them. Excellent service.
Vexed in Valhalla
I don’t think Hell deserves its bad reputation. Sure, it’s not exactly eternal paradise, but it’s not THAT bad. Look on the bright side! Okay, so, it’s very hot here, but if you close your eyes and imagine you are tanning at a beach in Bali, it almost feels pleasant. Yes, the screams of tortured souls can be piercing, but if you just think about it as white noise you can manage a couple of hours of sleep a night—more than I ever got on Earth!
I’m sure you’re wondering about all the torture. Well, to be honest, I have found the demon torturing me to be quite an interesting conversationalist, and they certainly have innovative methods. Even reliving my worst memories on loop isn’t so bad; at least it’s something to occupy my time. And I’m confident that at some point I will lose all feeling in my body from the constant stabbings. Then maybe I will be able to work out how to get these spiders out of my ears… right? I just have to be optimistic!