The Devine Ride


Every end has a start
Every beat has a heart
Every ghost has a past
Every first has a last
Every tale has a middle
Every answer a riddle
Every wound has to mend
Everything dies in the end

His search saw him travel across the great sea
Flaming oars in his eyes as he rowed to meet me
Wherever shall we venture I wondered inside
He said come on board so I went for the ride

So stealth was his smirk I mistook it a grin
In voice quite unpleasant he begged me come in
I’ve waited many an hour to take you abroad
Tears in my ears as nefarious laughter he roared

Battered and bruised my ghost took a deep breath
I objected to the rowing if it was meant for my death
But we entered the river where no sailor dare tread
I sensed from the beginning the boatman was dead

Every end has a beginning
Every savior’s done sinning
Every ghost has its story
Every angel seeks glory
Every tale has a reason
Every faith suffers treason
Every rule has to bend
Everything dies in the end

My destination arrived it came upon time to depart
The redeemer on shore still laughing pulling a cart
The hearse rolled so easy full of clay, flesh, and bone
I rowed up to the rivers bank where I got off alone

The redeemer then pointed motioning my path
I was sure it was leading to flames of his wrath
I asked can’t I stay to take just one more ride
He answered my query spraying formaldehyde

This time he just pointed to the number six six six
That’s when I knew I’d rowed across river Styx
Abandon all hope ye who enter with breath
Closed my eyes to spiraling nine rings of death

Every last has a first
Every quenching has thirst
Every ride a destination
Every grunt has frustration
Every life leaves its mark
Every fire looses its spark
Everyone has a hand they can lend
But still everything dies in the end

The Devine Tragedy, Episode II


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!

The Devine Tragedy

dante 1

By J. T. Hilltop

This is my homage to one of the greatest poets and creative minds that has ever existed, Dante Alighieri. Its not meant to mock his incredible work but rather celebrate it in my own dark way taking my own creative liberties. I don’t profess to have an iota of Dante’s talent but the best way to honor an artist is to allow their inspiration to flow through your own soul, which is what I hope I did .

Part 1 (The Inferno)
Out Of The Frying Pan Into The Fire
One more for the road. Unfortunately for me that was my mantra, my raison d’etre. My mission statement was to always have one more to bring me closer to total oblivion. One more toke, one more beer, another shot another pill another tab, everything to excess. Maybe it was a design of mine to dull my mind and make my life seem more livable, or maybe I just couldn’t say no, but no matter, over indulging and sinning have always been concentric to my world. I enjoyed living on the edge, and I took Mr. Joel’s advice to heart, I laughed with the sinners instead of crying with the saints. But I am a storyteller and ever aware that every story has an end. Dying is something we all do, both sinner and saint, so I guess that’s why this ex sinner is here now, to relay my story of the afterlife according to JT, as interpreted by the poems of Dante Alighieri. Truth is I didn’t even realize I was dead at first, I thought I had passed out from my many over-indulgences on that night. I mean I truly believed I was only halfway along life’s path when I had woken from a stoned and drunken stupor in the dark wood. I mean really, a lion, leopard, and wolf in Crab Hollow? Please. However, when the three beasts began howling, growling and coming for me like I was an all you can eat buffet I decided they were not delirium tremors or hallucinations but something I better run like the wind to escape.
Shaking off a hangover is not an easy task it normally involves some coffee, a water splashing, and a few aspirin just to start but I had to make do with a quick self slap, intense head shake back an fourth and feets don’t fail me now attitude. I ran deeper into the wood with three mean ugly beasts hot on my trail.To the best of my recollection there was a charging hungry lion, a mouth licking fast leopard, an a bug eyed howling wolf with sharks teeth. They were coming fast si I had to act quickly. I needed to choose which path to take, hope that my choice was one of the paths would lead to salvation. But I was never known for my smart choices so its no surprise the path I took was not the straight way, but rather the twisted path along which the sun becomes silent. With each rapid lurch forward my lungs pounded and burned in shorter and shorter spurts. The muscles in my legs protested to the extreme work out and threatened to form a sit in but my mind overruled their objection so the running continued driven by primal fear. The path was littered with obstacles, logs, small boulders, and thickets but I negotiated them with the grace of a wildebeest. When my foot hit an unseen tequila bottle the pain shot up my shin, cracked my knee joint, making my entire lower right side numb. I remembered back to all the nature shows I’d ever seen realizing the wildebeest, graceful though it is, never fare very well but was more often the fodder of every predatory animal around. What else is gnu? At any rate it seemed appropriate that it would be a tequila bottle that ended my last hope of escape. I normally took things with a grain of salt an tequila was no exception. A kind of Karmic retribution. As I crashed to the ground my shoulder bravely led the foray into the next wave of pain that would likely precede the final pain of being torn to shreds by a trio of very strong jaws fitted with sturdy and sharp incisors. Mercifully the smashing of my cranium into a large stone put my lights out just as the hot anxious breath of the three beasts sprayed a layer of soft anticipatory saliva across my body.
To say I was confused when I woke up a second time is an understatement. I was downright flabbergasted. Did I die twice? Am I hallucinating about a hallucination? And the most perplexing question I pondered out loud, “Where the hell am I?” Believing I had asked myself a rhetorical question I was taken aback when a reply came, “No, you’re not in Hell yet JT.” I squeezed my temples together expecting some clarity to pop out but it was an unsuccessful attempt at sorting things out. Before answering this foreign voice I needed to apprise my situation by rubbing my eyes and taking a big long breath. Well the fact that I was able to take that breath was encouraging, but the voice was still a bit perplexing. I looked in the direction of the diction and sitting cross legged by a small fire was a skinny Buddha or something. At second glance he looked more like a short thin Roman wearing traditional robes if one is headed out to the local Roman bathhouse or perhaps a geeks orgy. “How do you know who I am, and who are you?” He sneered at me condescendingly, “I know who you are because I’m your guide. My name is Publius Vergilious Maro, but you can call me Virgil. I’m here to lead through the paths of death and salvation, and trust me JT, I didn’t ask for you. Your history seems somewhat self indulgent and self destructive if you ask me and I believe my time would be better spent with a plethora of other dead people.” His biting remarks were overshadowed only by the fact he called me a dead people. “Wait, what? I- I’m dead? So what are you saying Virgil, you’re my hell master? Damn man, do I need a safe word or something” I was sorry I had placed such a sarcastic inflection on his name the moment it slipped past my vocal chords. “Look JT, you showed little regard for life while you were living so don’t act so surprised to find out no one cares you’re dead. Deal with it. I could have left you with the three beasts to get chewed to death but I didn’t, I literally snatched you from the jaws of massive pain to take you through to the next stage. We have a lot to see so I suggest we get started. First things first, we will begin at the gates of Hell.”
A lot for me to digest. This Virgil dude said we were going to the gates of hell and I’m a bit concerned that’s where I’ll be left. Is that what he meant by the next stage? Am I doomed to spend all eternity with a major sunburn up to my ears in a world of defecation and rotting meat? I made the decision at that moment that hallucination or not I will apologize to Virgil and be cool with him from here on in. If there’s any possibility I can skate past Hell that’s the way to do it. But to skate, Hell will have to freeze over. “Hey Virgil, I’m sorry man, I’m a bit confused. Its not everyday you die and its taking me a while to shake off all this crazy stuff happening to me. You lead and I’ll follow, just try to keep me in the loop, okay?” Virgil smiled as though he had won some rappers beef battle or something, “No worries JT, in fact once we enter the gates there are nine loops I’ll keep you in.” His smirk left me uneasy.
I followed this scrawny Roman cynic along a dark twisted path deeper in the wood until we reached a clearing, the path leading to a huge mountain with ebony black smoke flowing out the top and fire red lava-like ooze dripping out like hot strawberry sauce cascading down a vanilla ice cream mountain. It caused my stomach to growl with envious hunger pains until I saw what was at the end of our path. A huge cave with heavy ornate wrought iron gates straight out of Transylvania. An emo’s dream come true, there were little sculpted ogres and gargoyles across both doors with hideously adorned door handles. Etchings of death heads, skeletons, monsters of all types were literally everywhere I looked on the gates. Just inside the gate was a huge statue of a three headed half man half goat kind of creature with blood dripping from all three mouths. I shivered at the sight. The stench coming from the mouth of the cave was of rotted flesh and spoiled milk. There was a pulsing dull red glow surrounding the doors. Above the doors was a plaque held by the ugliest monster any child could have imagined from under their bed. The plaque read “Lasciate ogne speranza, voi Ch’intrate” I looked to Virgil, “What’s that say, lactate on sperm you chinstrap? Is that some kind of weird Satan punishment or something?” Virgil showed his first sign of accepting me as he chuckled lightly, “No JT, that’s not what it says. You need to start taking this more serious son, the plaque reads “Abandon all hope, Ye who enter here”. This my boy is the gates of Hell where we are about to begin our voyage. Look around the outside here, see all those people?” I looked around, everywhere around the cave were people wandering aimlessly, swatting at the air and wincing in pain. They all looked confused and purposeless, with vacant eyes. Some had their heads on backwards unable to see where they were going, other had their eyes plucked clean out of their heads, an many were carrying their tongues in the hands in front of them. All of them looked lost and hideous, “Who are they, the ones that abandoned all hope?” Virgil wasn’t smiling now, he was very serious, “No JT, those are the ones stuck neither in heaven or hell. They are the souls of those who chose to do nothing when they were faced with a moral crisis, ones who could have made a difference but chose not to lift a finger, or say a word. Rumor has it that Pontius Pilate is among those souls as well as those who did not fight on the side of the angels during the Rebellion Of Angels Conflict. These souls turned their backs when asked for assistance, or guidance. Pontius could very well have kept Jesus away from Caesar but disregarded the dream sent to him into damnation from the Romans. He and all the others are assigned the punishment of an endless quest to find and save their souls, while constantly being stung by wasps an hornets. Maggots, ticks and mosquitoes eternally suck the blood and tears of their consciences. They gaze upon their faces all swollen and welt ridden to constantly remind them of the repugnance of their actions, or inactions. And these guys aren’t even in Hell, this is merely the outskirts of Hell my boy. You and I are about to descend down the nine levels of Hell. That’s where the real horrors exist.” TBC