The Devine Tragedy, Episode II

river

Go To Hell
J.T. Hilltop

Real horrors? Is he telling me this is the bright side of town and things get worse from here? Really? There is a hazy stench rising of the ground that’s filled with disease ridden rats and bugs, the walking dead are wandering aimlessly, and I’m negotiating my way ankle deep through a swampy slush of what I can only assume is a mixture of vomit and defecation. I really don’t think I’m gonna enjoy this you’re dead now go to Hell thing very much. I’ve always believed that when I died it would just be over, a big nothing like a never-ending nap or something. Now it seems I’m being taken on a tour of never-ending disgust and pain. Virgil grabbed my hand and led me through the throngs of the lost souls, swatting away all the bugs and kicking the deadly vermin as we walked. “We are about to go through Hells gates to the river Styx where we will take the ferry to the Rings Of Hell Proper and begin our journey. There are nine levels of Hell, each worse than the one before it and as we descend we will either be allowed passage or our journey will end on whichever level we are denied entrance. If we make it to the bottom you will meet your final judgment by Lucifer. It would be best for you to do as little speaking as possible, we will encounter many tricksters who will try and use your soul for trading.” I was about to ask him traded for what when we approached the iron gate. In a firm and deliberate voice Virgil bellowed “Aperi portam Hades” and the gate slowly opened inwards. Virgil looked at me with the first glimpse of compassion I’d seen since dying, “its time JT, lets go.”
We entered a sort of vestibule of stones with billows of smoke or something rising from the ground, but it was too dark to see real clear. It was cold and musty smelling of earth or moss. It had the feel of what I imagine a rainforest would be like, cool but humid with an omnipresent sense of danger. I didn’t see any snakes but I could hear hissing and sense their slithering movement. They paid little or no attention to us but my fear trembles assured me something was out there and I was aware of every movement . We walked for five minutes until we reached a riverbank. “We wait here for the ferryman then we will cross to the first circle. That’s when your final journey will truly begin.” I took Virgil’s advice and said nothing. After ten minutes of hearing or imagining spooky noises while trembling from the slithering of unseen snakes a boat arrived.
Standing on the boat with a long stick in his hand was a huge figure, all of ten foot tall. He had powerful muscular legs, and an upper body that made Hulk Hogan look like a wimp. Even his head was huge, but it wasn’t exactly human. The skull was the size of a beach ball with long pointed ears, as long as a rabbits but the look of a mythical elf, and enormous bulging red eyes. He looked to Virgil and with a mocking arrogant tone stated, “The dead one can come along but you must remain here, at least until you die.” His voice was deep and raspy, laced with sarcastic anger, “Choron, I am this dead ones guide, I must take him across to his judgment. As the prince states, ‘So it is wanted where the power lies’, I am on divine mission. Take this obolus as payment for your trouble.” Virgil handed the ferryman a coin and with a shrug of his shoulders he motioned for us both to get in, “Sit there amongst the blasphemes and keep your peace. Only a lunatic would cross this river without being dead.” Virgil sat next to me and whispered, “Say nothing, don’t be alarmed, its not the most pleasant ride but it‘s quick.”
Not the most pleasant ride? I’m dead, just trudged through a marsh of grossness with bugs and snakes everywhere and he’s warning me about the unpleasantness of a boat ride. The irony caused me to smile until the rocking began. Did I say rocking? The boat was going up and down and sideways at such a vigorous rough pace that nearly everyone in the boat tossed their cookies. The bottom of the boat filled up quickly with vomit as it got unbearably hot causing me to sweat profusely. The stench coming from off the water was beyond repugnant. Willows of decayed manure and stale urine sprayed up off the water and settled in on my head slowly trickling down my face. The smell was not just vile, it was thick, filling my nostrils with a smoke like substance that reeked of rotted old fish wrapped in decayed cabbage leaves. The air was literally thick of sweat, flatulence, and vomit and just as quickly as it got unbearably hot it turned to a freezing cold solidifying the sweat and whatever remnants of vile liquids covered my body. I gagged for two minutes before passing out completely.
I came to for the third time since dying laying on the opposite side of the River Styx. “What the Hell is going on here Virgil, you tell me I’m dead yet three time now I have passed out. Be honest man, is this a bad dream or a bad reaction to drugs?” Virgil stared at me like I was an idiot, “Passed out? Is that what you think is happening to you? My son each time you pass out as you say is another death, and each time you die on this voyage you come closer to your final death, the death that will be your final judgment. The fact you have gotten this far is amazing given your past. You must negotiate your way to Satan’s pit getting past him if you want to escape everlasting pain, torture, and ultimate discomfort. Now when we get to Limbo you will meet Minos who will tell you which levels of Hell Proper you’ll be allowed passage. If we survive all the rings and reach the pit we may be able to climb the mountain of salvation. Its conceivable you may very well earn entry into Paradiso, which believe me is far better than any of the alternatives here. But don’t get yourself too excited, very few ever get that far. I can tell you this my boy, you will not awaken any more times, the next death you enter will bring you to your eternal destiny. You must use all your wiles and skills if you have any hopes escape the horrors of Hell. Be prepared JT, there will be tricksters around every corner attempting to use you to gain their own freedom.” For a moment I honestly thought it was my own father speaking to me, giving me the advice in my death he was never able to in life. Use my skills, he said. What skills? I’m a gifted chef and story teller, I’ve gained some street smarts, but that’s about it. What kind of food do demons like? I began to worry for the first time since I died.
“I’m just curious Virgil, why are you taking this voyage with me? I mean what’s in it for you?” Virgil handed me some bread an a cup of honey flavored liquid, “This will give you sustenance, finish it all. I was assigned to you an have no idea why. Normally I am assigned to poets of grand scale. Perhaps it’s a mix up or perhaps you‘ve been chosen to tell of the story to reach the people of your era. You are living in a complicate epoch in a world that seems bent on self destruction. Maybe he has chosen an average story teller such as yourself to bring the message.” I pondered his words, “What o you mean average story teller? I’m just kidding Virgil, I understand what you’re saying, who were some of your other assignments?” Virgil was smiling now, I won him over, “I knew you were kidding JT, you forget I know everything. I have traveled with many great poets, authors, an artists. I’ve been at this a long time. No more talk, eat an gain strength, you will most certainly need it for the trials ahead.” I ate and drank in silence preparing myself for what lay ahead.
Virgil started walking down a path that descended towards a cave. I stood up following behind him as we entered the mouth of the cave. “This is Limbo JT, the first ring of Hell. It’s not really even part of Hell, its kin of a waiting room. The cave is filled with non Christians, the anabaptized, the moral less souls. They do nothing but are tortured by their own minds, having eternal insomnia with nothing to divert their minds. But believe me, that’s the easiest torturing of all Hell. It’s here in Limbo that the dead are given the levels of Hell that they shall either suffer in or pass through. The Assigners name is Minos, who will be your first test. If you impress him with your virtues and good deeds he may assign you to only one or two levels, and perhaps not anything too horrible. Anger him and he will send you to the depths of disgust and despair. Be on your toes son.” I took a long deep breath, “I’m ready, I will put my best foot forward.” With that we entered into vast open cavern.
It became clear enough to see everything in the cave, and the most striking thing was a giant of a man sitting perched upon a large flat boulder about ten feet above the ground. The man was about twelve foot tall wearing nothing but a dirty tattered cloth wrap which allowed his huge muscular frame to stand out. Long brownish hair in tight curls cascaded across his shoulders down to his chest. He donned a crown of thorns that seemed to mock Jesus. Time to work my charm, “Good afternoon Minos, my name is Justin, I was just telling Virgil here…” In a booming thunderous voice he cut me off, “I know exactly who you are you ignorant piece of shit. You dare to approach me calling me as a friend? You have always been a self centered sneaky conniving little shit too often drunk or stoned to have completed anything worthwhile in life. You are nothing but a fraud, a liar, a cheat, and a blaspheme. You deserve severe punishment you syphilis of a human being. You deny God so you shall spend your eternity with the other Atheist wastes in ring seven, the ring of violence. Have fun getting there JT, I’ll have fun watching you struggle you worthless shithole.” I began to protest but before I could even get a word out Virgil had grabbed me by my shoulder and firmly pulled me away, “Do you not know when to shut up JT? Take your assignment and get out before you get an even worse level.” I thought about what Virgil was saying. Worse? I don’t like the sound of that!

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