The Psycho Rapist Pasture wasn’t really a pasture. It was more like a circular prison that never came around all the way, and in the middle there was an off-limits garden. Jim figured calling it a pasture was some kind of euphemism.
“And if you’ll look over here,” said the chipper tour guide, “you’ll see the Masochist Chambers, where psychotics can torture, bind, mutilate, and rape a few lucky visitors. The facility is equipped with every known torture machine devised by man, dating all the way back to the bronze age – and a few that the angels cooked up themselves.”
Jim and the others in the tour group approached the one-way looking glass. On the other side of the glass were a series of dimly lit dungeon cells, each equipped with the multifarious instruments of human torture. Jim recognized a few of them from the movies, and he had some fun guessing at the purpose of others. Then he came to one of the cells that was occupied.
The young man was suspended from the ceiling by hooks in his naked flesh and metal chains. A psycho stood beneath him with a flaying knife, gazing at the exposed belly and chest and the thighs, like an artist might gaze at an empty canvas. And when the brush made its first stroke, and the young man opened his mouth to scream and writhe in pain, Jim was surprised that it didn’t bother him a bit. He thought that maybe it was the knowledge of the willingness of the victim, or the novelty of the Psycho Rapist Pasture as a whole, but then he decided it was probably the internet’s fault.
He was glad he couldn’t hear any of it, though, as he recalled that fucking brick video.
“Excuse me, miss?” Jim called the tour guide over. She had one of those smiles that ripped her face in half at the ears, seeming to cut off all communication with her dull eyes. Her choice of make-up was all of it and her hair never moved. “Do they know we’re watching them?”
“They’re fully aware and cognizant of their surroundings, but once they’re locked in they don’t have any more contact with us. They certainly can’t hear or see us.” She wrapped the glass with her small knuckles. “The psychopaths don’t seem to mind the man-behind-the-curtain, so to speak, as long as they get to indulge themselves. And for the masochists the humiliation is a bonus.”
“So the psychos are in on it? Like they know the guys they’re torturing are having a good time?”
“And gals. Twenty-nine percent of the clientele is female.”
“I know what you’re wondering. You’re wondering, if a psychopath’s whole thing is power and control, stripping others of their will and their humanity, and feeling like a god as they turn the final screw, how are they supposed to achieve satisfaction with a willing, even enthusiastic victim? And assuming they can, is it moral to allow them to do so? Very common concerns, but completely unnecessary. Our facility in no way compromises the devil’s decree that everybody ought to enjoy paradise.”
Jim scratched his neck. “Well, uh, that’s good. But I was actually gonna ask if they take requests.”
“Yeah, I really want to know what that spiky thing in the corner does.”
Her smile never faltered under her dull eyes, but Jim was pretty sure the question put her off.
“They don’t do requests.” She walked away.
Jim ppffffff’ed. “Oh yeah – sure, I’m the one that’s out of line here.”
He looked back into the cell and watched as the flaying knife came down diagonally across the young man’s sternum and approached the nipple. He sucked air between his gritted teeth and cupped his own nipples in his hands.
“Oh, man, not the nip,” he said to himself. “Don’t do it. Don’t do it. Don’t do it.”
But the knife and it’s psychopathic wielder were relentless. The young man shook in his suspension as the blade left an angry red stripe across his flesh. Jim imagined the sound of the chains rattling and the screams of pain and the calm voice of the psycho. He shivered.
“I think he might do it.”
The nipple came off. The psycho took a moment to admire that peculiar bit of a man’s flesh, and then he popped it into his mouth and ate it. Jim decided he didn’t really need to know about the spiky thing and rejoined the tour.
When they came to the Pedophile Wing Jim went full stop. He looked at the words for a long time, bold black letters on a white sign over an arrow pointing left. For reasons he couldn’t explain to himself, discovering the presence of pedophiles in paradise was far worse than discovering psychopaths. Hell, it was worse than finding out that Hitler was off the hook. He imagined a pedophile standing next to the Fuhrer, and he set it against the backdrop of the holocaust with all of its gore and horror, and he just wanted to punch the pervert.
“You don’t really let people diddle kids up here, do you?”
“So why is there a Pedophile Wing?”
“This is where the pedophiles are.”
“Well what the hell are they doing here?”
“If you’re unhappy with the tour, there’s an exit at the end of the hall.”
The tour guide smiled – which is to say she made no reaction whatsoever – and she continued up the linoleum hallway at the head of the group.
They eventually came to a room with a screen and several rows of chairs. The guide motioned for the group, and Jim along with them, to have a seat. She informed them that they were going to watch a video that would put them at ease about the pedophiles-in-paradise problem, and afterwards they’d have an hour to roam the wing.
The lights went down and Jim hovered at the edge of his seat.
A cozy study. A bookshelf on the back wall is filled with tomes of religion and philosophy, and a friendly old angel peruses the Bible in the comfort of an armchair. Noticing the camera, he closes the good book and sets it aside.
Well hello there. Forgive me if I didn’t hear you come in. The Book of Job never fails to suck me right in.
Speaking of the Book of Job, you might be wondering about the moral implications of pedophilia in the relativistic paradise. And you’d be right. But before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s talk about free will, shall we?
What a lot of people don’t know about free will, is that it started even before the Bible, way back in the caveman days. Because cavemen were conscious too, and if you’re conscious you might kill yourself. But they didn’t because we’re all still here, and that’s why free will is such a controversial subject to this very day.
Don’t take my word for it, though. Take the devil’s.
A digital pop-up window appears over the angel. Lucy stands in front of some green-screen pyramids.
Hi Mr. Angel!
Hello Miss Devil!
Do you have the free will blues again?
I do, and I don’t seem to have a choice in the matter!
Well you just sit back and let me put that anguish to rest.
You see, free will happens because of the world. The world is everywhere and it’s filled with lots of different things to play with. Some people play with trombones, some people play with coins, some with money and power. A lot of folks just play with themselves all day, and that’s okay too. Because as long as you’re playing with something, you’re engaging existence and celebrating the miracle of your awareness – when you might have said ‘fuck it’ and shot yourself. So that’s the world and why free will exists.
And that brings us to pedophilia. Pedophiles, given the whole world of things to play with – they don’t play with any of it. Instead they play with small children. But small children aren’t really a part of the world yet: They don’t pay taxes, they don’t hate their jobs, they aren’t worried about accidentally tweeting something that might one day be tediously construed as racist or misogynist by a bunch of sexless Mass Comm majors from Missouri.
Ahem. Excuse me. The point is, if small children aren’t yet a part of the world, then to play with them the pedophiles must not be a part of the world either. Being not part of the world, they have no claim to free will. And if they didn’t have free will in the world there’s no good reason to give to them in paradise. That’s why we chain them to radiators and use them as slave labor to make things like license plates and tin hats.
Back to you, Mr. Angel.
The devil fades out.
Thanks, devil. And thank you all for watching, and for taking such an intellectual curiosity in the problems that we face in the paradise of today. I don’t know about you, but feel a lot better knowing that free will doesn’t rape little kids. Enjoy the rest of the tour!
When the angel faded away and the lights in the room came up, Jim had several objections to the argument as it was presented. He took them to the tour guide.
“If free will doesn’t rape little kids, it doesn’t play trombones either,” he said.
The tour guide crossed her arms and the smile faltered. Jim didn’t care if this was his third strike with her. The strange logic from the video shot lightning through his brain, and the charge had no escape but through his teeth.
“I mean, it’s just too easy, isn’t it? So you’ve got this problem, where Lucy makes this blanket statement that paradise is for everybody and everybody gets to be happy about it, except some people get their happiness from the suffering of other people. I respect that. It’s kind of a big dilemma. I get it.
“But you can’t just take away their free will and call it a day. Like, if they don’t have it then what’s the point of me having it? I’m just a little bit goddamn proud of my moral accountability and the fact that I went through the whole world and never raped a little kid. Now you’re telling me it was never an option, because pedophiles have some weird otherness factor? Fuck all that. I very well could have diddled a kid, and I didn’t do it. And that’s why I’m a good goddamn person.”
At this point Jim realized that he had the attention of the entire tour group, and he sensed that they were pulling away from him. The tour guide’s smile was nearly gone.
“I’m not saying I would diddle a kid. I’m saying that I could have diddled a kid. I’m saying it was in the cards. Because if it was never in the cards, then I’m no different than the guy who did diddle kids. And if not diddling and diddling are morally equivalent, then who’s to say that you shouldn’t diddle kids?”
Jim was desperate for a counter-argument, or even just a single word from somebody to acknowledge his existence and his present anguish, but no one dared the compromise. They avoided eye contact as they filed out of the room, and out of this story, forever.
(Jim borrowed a moment to wonder why the author had written the tour group in at all, since none of them ever said anything or ever served any purpose whatsoever. But the author – like the group – didn’t want to get too close to Jim right now, so he watched and wrote from a silent distance while his character became utterly alone.)
The tour guide was distinctly not smiling now, and her arms were crossed so tight that her boobs were a full cup bigger.
“I’m not a pedophile!”
“I don’t want to diddle kids! I just want the record to show that I might have!”
The tour guide’s boobs had achieved maximum upward density, and she had no choice but to trip the alarm. She went to the wall, removed the glass casing, and punched a big red button.
The room flashed white and metal shutters clamped down over all the exits.
Smoke came in through the vents. The guide took a gas mask from beside the alarm and pulled it over her hair and onto her face. Before he lost consciousness, Jim didn’t quite have time to say,
“Yer all a buncha fuckin cheaters.”
Jim regained consciousness in an interrogation cell. His leg was chained to a bolted-down chair and before him on the table was a Pedophile Litmus Test, and answer sheet, and a number 2 pencil.
“I’m not taking your Pedophile Litmus Test,” he said. But the room was empty and he received no response. “I don’t care if you’re not there. I’m still not doing it.”
He leaned back and demonstrated his disdain and his dissent by whistling Jingle Bells in a roaming key. From there he travelled on to Mary Had a Little Lamb, then Row Row Row Your Boat, took Fur Elise and Greensleeves for a ride, and settled down on the chorus of Iron Man for about an hour. He was whistling his way through a Hendrix guitar solo when the intercom over the table crackled and spoke.
“IF YOU WANT TO LEAVE YOU MUST PASS THE TEST.”
“I won’t do it,” Jim said.
“I won’t do it, and that’s the whole damn point. I mean, is this not free will?”
“Come on. It is too.”
“IT ISN’T CLEAR THAT YOU’RE CHOOSING THIS CHOICE.”
“Well how the hell I’m I supposed to make that clear to you?”
“PASS THE TEST.”
“But passing the test ain’t my choice. I can’t choose a choice if I don’t make it in the first place.”
“THEN MAKE A DIFFERENT CHOICE. UNLESS, OF COURSE, YOU AREN’T FREE TO CHANGE YOUR CHOICE. EITHER WAY, IT’S UP TO YOU.”
The intercom cackled off and ignored the remainder of Jim’s entreaties. After a very long time Jim surrendered, and he picked up the number 2 pencil and began the Pedophile Litmus Test.
The Pedophile Litmus Test was comprised of 234 questions. These ones were the weirdest:
True or False:
If you are a liar, and you are presented with the question, “Are you not not a child-rapist?”, then your appropriate response is, “I am.”
Taking the whole question at once, Jim crossed and uncrossed his eyes, blinked, forgot momentarily what the question was, then yawned defensively. He regrouped and read it again, this time frame by frame. He successfully cancelled out the nots, but forgetting that he was a liar, and that this was a true or false question, he simply wrote,
There are five different houses, painted five different colors, in a row along Dill Street. Each of the five home-owners watches a certain reality TV show, has a certain philosophical outlook, and plays with the innocent child in a certain way. No two home-owners are alike in any of these qualities. Utilize the following information:
1. Dick lives in the red house.
2. Duke plays chess with the innocent child.
3. Dave watches Kitchen Nightmares.
4. The green house is immediately to the left of the white house.
5. The green house’s owner watches Bounty Hunters.
6. The objectivist plays checkers with the innocent child.
7. The humanist lives in the yellow house.
8. The owner of the center house watches Dancing with the Angels.
9. Dan lives in the first house.
10. The nihilist lives next to the man who plays baseball with the innocent child.
11. The man who plays Grand Theft Auto with the innocent child lives next to the humanist.
12. The hedonist watches Sixteen and Pregnant.
13. David is a pragmatist.
14. Dan lives next to the blue house.
15. The nihilist lives next to the man who watches Desperate Housewives.
Given this information, determine who is raping the innocent child.
Jim didn’t even try, and he decided for no reason whatsoever that it was either Dave or David. Since pragmatism sounded rather harmless, he circled Dave.
You are standing next to a hobo and a priest. Three hundred cubits to the east is a twelve-year-old girl. If you have an acceleration of one meter per second squared and a maximum velocity of twenty miles per hour, the hobo has an acceleration of one foot per second squared and a maximum velocity of one kilometer per minute, and the priest moves constantly at a thousand versts per fortnight, who will reach the girl first? Is she safe?
Jim immediately dismissed the math, both because he wasn’t very good at conversions and because he doubted the relevance of mathematics in general. He figured the question was really some kind of psychological trick – but was he supposed to reach the girl first and protect her from the hobo and the priest, or ought he keep his distance and vouchsafe his ignorance? Could he be certain that the hobo and the priest were a danger to the girl? Was he a danger to the girl? Was it accessory to rape if he lost a footrace to a hobo? And what did free will have to do with it? At last, with a shrug to the world, he wrote,
Not me, man. And I don’t think so.
Consider the following statement:
“Given the strangeness of infinity and its relationship with eternity, it is not merely likely but an absolute certainty that you will at some point rape an innocent child. Not only that but you will rape an infinite number of innocent children.”
Devise a convincing and logical argument to the contrary. (Don’t forget to take Quantum Theory into account.)
But Jim was far too exhausted for infinities. The last of his energy went into a single sentence:
Quantum Physics is weird, but it isn’t as weird as diddling a kid.
Then he sealed his answer card in the envelope provided and passed out.
A hand upon his shoulder. Jim blinked awake and looked up and saw that the hand belonged to an angel, and he saw bad news in the angel’s eyes.
“I’m sorry I’ve got to be the one to tell you this, Jim – but you’re a pedophile.”
“But I didn’t diddle any kids.”
“Doesn’t matter. You’re still a pedophile.”
Jim was out of arguments and his defenses had been wiped out by the Litmus test. He resigned himself to fate with a sigh and followed the angel down a narrow hall.
“Are you really gonna chain me to a radiator next to kiddy-diddlers and force me to make license plates?”
They walked in silence for a stretch. When they came to the place where Jim would be chained, he suddenly wanted to know something very badly.
“That question on the test, with guys and the different houses – which one was it? Who was diddling the kid?”
“It was David.”
“I’ll be damned.”