Jim and Greg Screw Up

{The following conversation took place approximately 7,200 years ago, between Squints-His-Eyes-A-Lot and his brother, Running-Down-His-Leg, as they explored a cave. The only reason we have this record is due to a rather peculiar bird who lived just outside the cave. This bird, long since rendered extinct, was sort of a cross between a woodpecker and a mockingbird, and could carve into a tree near-perfect digital representations of sounds it heard. This particular tree was cut down three years ago to make gourmet toothpicks for cheese-tastings, but the digital impressions were discovered prior to it’s shredding and preserved.}

Running-Down-His-Leg: Uh…Yees-Ghin.

Squints-His-Eyes-A-Lot: “Yees-Ghin”? Gloe-Ih-A-Hsi-Tlon Yees-Ghin, Di-Giss-Tso?

{Translator’s Note: Since this won’t make for the most interesting of stories, we’ve translated their conversation into modern-day English. And we’ve abbreviated their names with just the sounds of their respective first syllables, which interestingly sound like “Jim” and “Greg”.}

Greg: Uh…Oops.

Jim: “Oops”? What do you mean ‘oops’?

Greg: Well, Squints-His-Eyes-A-Lot, I think I just opened a doorway to Hell.

Jim: Huh.

Greg: “Huh”? That’s some reaction there, Squints-His-Eyes-A-Lot.

Jim: Okay, how about, “What the heck is ‘Hell’?” and how do you know it’s a doorway to it?

Greg: Well, because the black rock from which the doorway is hewn causes me a great disquiet, deep in my inmost being, as if I could feel beyond it the crying out of a million tortured souls, begging to be released from perpetual torment. And ’cause it kinda says so on the doorjamb.

{Translator’s Note: Interestingly, while “hewn”, “souls”, and “torment” were easy to translate, it took three different dictionaries and an adjunct professor to come up with “doorjamb”.}

Jim: What, those scratches? You can hardly call that proper writing.

Greg: Regardless of whether or not it’s ‘proper’, it says it right there: “Doorway to Hell.”

Jim: What about those scratches down there?

Greg: “Do not open.”

Jim: Heh. Kinda screwed that one up, didn’t ya, Running-Down-His-Leg?

Greg: Yeah, great. Thanks for reminding me.

Jim: And those scratches there?

Greg: I think those are just scratches.

Jim: Huh. Wait. Since when can you read other languages? You can barely read our language!

Greg: I dunno. Maybe a side-effect of opening the door?

Jim: That side-effect also fill you in on what this whole “Hell” thing is, too?

Greg: Um. Not really, but I kind of get the general impression that… it’s, um, bad?

Jim: Brilliant piece of analysis there, Brother. I mean, what’s the basis? You tell me you’ve opened this magical, mystery door to a place called “Hell”, which means absolutely nothing to us, but you somehow instinctively know it’s, and I quote here, “bad”? I need some solid evidence to base this on!

{Translator’s Note: In a remarkable bit of trivial coincidence, the phrase “magical, mystery door” in their native language sounded remarkably like the English words, “Paul is dead”.}

Greg: Okay, okay. I got it. Um. Hell: It’s really bad.

Jim: Heck of a marketing slogan right there.

Greg: Well, there is that wailing-of-a-million-tortured-souls thing.

Jim: Right! Now, we’re getting somewhere. See? It’s not just a whim; you’ve got some basis for that feeling!

Greg: So, (pause) ’cause Hell sounds like it’s a really unhappy place…

Jim: Yes, yes?

Greg: Then it must be bad?

Jim: That’s it! We’ll get you thinking critically yet, you Neanderthal, you.

{Translator’s Note: Here, Jim actually called Greg, “You member of the opposite political party with whom I disagree wholeheartedly, and so you appear to be evolved from dumber ancestors”. We’ve shortened that, here.}

Greg: Thanks, Squints-His-Eyes-A-Lot. Couldn’t’ve done it without you.

Jim: Now, let’s see what’s down there!

Greg: Whoa, hey, hang on, Squints-His-Eyes-A-Lot. I don’t think that’s a great idea.

Jim: Oh, you don’t think, huh? At least you admit it.

Greg: Hey, no need to get personal, Bro.

Jim: That was pushing a little bit too much, huh? Sorry about that. So, why not?

Greg: I did just say Hell was bad.

Jim: You are correct, you did. However, that’s just one man’s opinion. Granted, it’s based on that million-tortured-souls bit, but again, that’s a feeling you had. I don’t actually hear wailing and gnashing of teeth. Do you?

{Translator’s Note: Neither did the woodpecker.}

Greg: Um. I guess not.

Jim: Of course you don’t. So the only way we can actually, empirically determine whether or not Hell is bad is to go on down this previously unknown tunnel behind this door and find out.

Greg: Ah, wait. Wait, Squints-His-Eyes-A-Lot! What about intuition? Oh! Even better – inference!

Jim (sighing): Okay, what about inference?

Greg: Given that, prior to us discovering this door–

Jim: And you opening it. Don’t forget that.

Greg: Yeah, yeah. Prior to us discovering this door, and me opening it, I didn’t feel as if my very flesh and bones were crawling in dread. Upon opening it, I did feel that. Couldn’t we then infer, ipso ergo facto, that what’s behind the door could then potentially be very bad?

Jim: “Ipso ergo…?” What the heck does that mean?

{Translator’s Note: The Latin remains untranslated. If you’re not sure what it means, look it up.}

Greg: Dunno.

Jim: Hmm. Well, I think we can definitely infer one bad thing about this door.

Greg: What’s that?

Jim: You’re saying more and more stuff that’s just gibberish and nutso-sounding. Izzo eggo farto, opening the door might not have been very good for you.

Greg: Okay, okay. I have one other idea for why I can deduce that Hell is bad without actually going there.

Jim: Oh, do share this secret knowledge with me, O Enlightened One.

Greg: ‘Cause she said so.

{Translator’s Note: The “she” mentioned here is named Lilith. Why? Because that’s her name.}

Jim: Well, normally, I wouldn’t necessarily accept a secondary source, like you saying that she said it’s a bad place.

Lilith: It is a bad place. I’ve been there for millenia. You don’t want to be there; trust me.

Jim: And there we go – A primary source of knowledge! See, Running-Down-His-Leg, this is all we needed to confirm it.

Lilith: I should thank you both for releasing me. But I won’t.

Jim: That’s logistically problematic! Given that this Hell place of yours is supposed to be bad, one would presume – sorry, Running-Down-His-Leg, infer – that one would be quite pleased to have been released from it. If you’re not grateful for that, then it calls into question our initial hypothesis, doesn’t it?

Greg: Uh, Squints-His-Eyes-A-Lot? I don’t think she’s really in the mood for one of your philosophical rants.

Jim: Ha! There you go, little brother, once again making assumptions about things with no actual evidence or proof!

Greg: Squints-His-Eyes-A-Lot! There are flames building up around her! I think she’s angry!

{Translator’s Note: Here, the woodpecker carved in the sounds of feet running out of the cave and towards the tree. There’s a pause, and then Running-Down-His-Leg evidently reveals the reason for his name. It then sounds as if he runs off, in a somewhat northerly direction.}

“Acorn Woodpecker (Melanerpes formicivorus)” by Kevin Cole from flickr.com

Jim: Where are you–? Come back here, you coward! I haven’t finished investigating this pathway that should eventually lead me to solipsism!

Lilith: You talk too much.

Jim: Oh, yeah? Where’s your basis–?

{Translator’s Note: The next sound is the unmistakable sound of a primitive caveman being vaporized. If you’re not certain of what that sound might be like, trust me: You’d know it if you heard it.}

Lilith: I’m not going to like it here.

{Biologist’s Note: It’s estimated that approximately 47 seconds later, the woodpecker’s species ceased to exist.}

Author: Jeff Burkholder

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