The second circle of hell was smaller than the first, something to do with a funnel shape. After taking two steps, a huge figure blocked their path.
“HALT!” a booming voice said. “I’m Minos. State your sins so I can judge you harder than a teenage girl.”
“Erm, we’re not here for that,” Virgil said.
Minos curled his serpentine tail around his half bull, half human figure. He was the manifestation of inner sin, apparently.
“Then I’ll have to kill you.”
“But we’re on a mission from God!” Virgil protested.
“And....?” Minos asked. “I AM THE GHOST KING.”
Virgil set his jaw in a hard line. “No. Beatrice told me I was,” he said petulantly.
“Only on days Nico isn’t around,” Dante added, but, as usual, everyone ignored him.
“Fine, whatever, go on through.”
And they did go on through, though they immediately wished they hadn’t. It was the circle of the lustful. Dante surveyed the place and the people in it, being blown around by the wind while...
“Er, this is awkward,” he said.
“I have an idea,” Dante said, “How about we flag down a couple and talk to them?”
Virgil looked at him. “I haven’t a clue why you’d want to do that, but whatever. Go for it.”
Dante started jumping up and down and waving wildly until two people were blown over.
“Hey, I’m Dante, this is Virgil.”
“We’re Francesca and Paolo.”
“Neat. What are you here for?” Dante said.
Paolo gave him a look. “Lust. What do you think?”
“It’s a really sweet story, though,” Francesca said. “Want to hear?” Before he could reply, she continued. “So I was forced into this terrible political marriage, righ-”
“Erm, I’ll pass, thanks,” Dante said. “But I feel terrible for you. Like so bad that, oh no, a faint’s coming on,” he lied, letting his eyes drift half closed. “Virgil....take me...out of here....”
He pretended to faint to get away from the awkward couple, then he really did fall asleep. When he woke up, he was facing an annoyed Virgil. What else was new?
“You were the one who wanted to talk to them,” Virgil pointed out.
“I didn’t know it was going to be the summary of a chick flick,” Dante said defensively.
“What did you think? It was the circle of lust.”
Dante shrugged and sat up. “God, Virgil, excuse yourself.”
Virgil scowled. “For what?”
“That stench. Was that you?” he asked. “Certainly wasn’t me.”
Virgil glared. “It’s the mud in this circle, you idiot. Aw, crap,” he said, looking over Dante’s shoulder. Dante turned. A tremendous three headed dog came bounding up, his heads bouncing as menacingly as something can bounce. Slobber dripped from his teeth.
“Uhhhhh,” Dante droned as Cerberus growled at them.
“Uhhhhh,” Virgil joined in.
“You don’t happen to have a red rubber ball, do you?” Dante asked. “I heard he likes those.”
“Uhhhh,” Virgil replied. Cerberus took a step forward.
“Oh, um, right. No, I don’t have a ball, but...” he scooped down and formed a ball out of mud, hurling it at Cerberus. The dog ate it with one of his heads which was both gross and symbolic of the gluttony of the third circle.
They ran past the dog and came to a muddy area where it was raining. Virgil pulled out his umbrell- oh, wait, he didn’t have one. That sucks. The rain was smelly and gross, too, as was the mud in which the sinners writhed. They turned over and over, trying to keep dry and clean, but that was obviously impossible.
“They’re gluttons,” Virgil explained. “Best stuff in life, worst stuff in death. Basically sucks to be them.”
“Hey, who’s that fat one?” Dante asked.
“Ciacco,” Virgil replied.
At the mention of his name, Ciacco sat up. “Hey, Dante! Come on, Dante, you know me!”
“But I’m a Florentine,” Ciacco replied.
“I saw the future of Florence, you know,” he said proudly. “There’s gonna be some scuffles between the whites and blacks and then Pope Boniface VIII is going to lead the Blacks to exile a bunch of whites. Like you.”
“Yeah, been there, done that,” Dante said dismissively. He started to walk away. “See ya!”
“Wait, wait!” Ciacco called. “Remember me, won’t you? In the upper world?”
“Yeah, yeah!” Dante tossed back. “Yeah, I’ll remember you on judgement day!” he snickered. He turned to Virgil. “What’ll happen to them on judgement day, anyway? Will the suffering be better or worse?”
“Their souls will reunite with their bodies so that they can both be tortured.”
“Oh, how fun,” Dante muttered. And so they continued to the fourth circle.
Unsurprisingly, the fourth circle was even less fun than the previous two. Virgil and Dante found themselves standing on the edge of this gigantic ditch. Ditches are generally less than glamorous, but what WAS glamorous was the huge figure of Plutus, lounging on his solid gold throne. It didn’t look very comfortable, but hey, whatever floats your boat. He had huge rings that adorned his hands, and gold and diamond chains hung from his neck. He was the Greek god of wealth, and he liked his bling.
“WHY DO YOU HOARD?” came the shout that broke the silence as one army of people rolled a rock towards another.
The other army responded, “WHY DO YOU WASTE?”
“Who are they?” Dante asked.
“You really are dense, you know that?” Virgil replied. “They’re the hoarders and the wasters. They waste their energy by rolling the rocks into each other repeatedly with no reward, because they didn’t focus on the spiritual rewards of God in life.”
“Hell is really deep,” Dante nodded appreciatively.
“Yeah, there are nine circles.”
“No, I meant metaphorically.”
The rocks crashed into and bounced off of each other, rolling over a few unfortunate souls in the process. One man clutched his shoulder. “Ah, ah! I think I pulled a muscle.”
“Again!” Plutus shouted. A woman stood at the base of his throne, arms crossed. “Hey, babe, go get me some liquid gold, will you? I’m parched.”
“Not a chance.”
“Aw come on.”
“You’re out of luck,” she replied, crossing her arms.
“Who’s she?” Dante asked Virgil.
“Dame Fortune. She really controls wealth - she distributes it equally around. These fools thought they could control her, but they can’t. How can you control chance? Idiots.”
“Hey! You!” Plutus called, pointing at them.
“Hi! Us!” Virgil replied, waving. “We’re on a mission from God!”
“Yeah, okay, whatever. Just get a move on! You’re ruining the show!”
“You can’t just let them go like that,” Dame Fortune grumbled. “They didn’t even get a chance to gamble.”
“Oh, come on, take your coin tosses somewhere else,” Plutus said, rolling his eyes. “Nobody likes you.”
Fortune’s eyes narrowed. “You’ll be sorry you said that.”
Virgil whispered to Dante, “Let’s go, while they’re arguing.”
And so they walked into the fifth circle of Hell.
“It’s Good Friday now,” Virgil said.
“How do you know?” Dante asked.
“The stars that marked our starting have fallen away.”
Dante raised a brow. “Whatever, dude.” He looked around at the marshy pit in which they were standing. “Where are we anyway?”
“The marsh of the Styx, where the wrathful sinners fight each other. Watch,” Virgil said, pointing.
Dante watched as two sinners growled with anger and attempted to tear each other limb from limb. “Wow. It’s like female mud wrestling only...scarier. Oh, who am I kidding, there’s not much scarier than female mud wrestling.” His nose turned up in disgust, Dante added, “Let’s get out of here.”
A creepy and ominous laugh sounded from behind him. “Oh, there’ll be no getting out of here. No one escapes my swamp!”
The creature was human, but looked disturbingly like Shrek and was sitting on a boat.
“I am Phylegas!” he proclaimed.
Dante blinked. “Am I supposed to know you?”
Phylegas fumed. “I’m a son of Ares, punk. I’ll rip you to shreds or burn you like I burned Apollo’s temple.”
Dante gulped. “Um... I’ll pass, thanks.”
“You can’t pass, what didn’t you get about that?”
Virgil pulled some black shades from his pocket reluctantly, as if he had been saving them for the right moment. He put them on and adopted a serious look. “You see, Mr. Phylegas, we’re on a mission from God.”
Phylegas blinked. “So?”
Virgil hesitated. “So you have to let us through?”
“No, I don’t.”
“Yes, you don’t don’t have to let us through.”
“No, I don’t don’t don’t have to let you through.”
“Exactly, you don’t don’t don’t don’t have to let us through.”
Phylegas looked confused. “Isn’t that what I just said?”
“You admit it, then? Excellent, take us across the river.”
He was so confused that he did let them on the boat. “Smooth, Virgy,” Dante muttered.
“Don’t call me that.”
Dante scowled and stepped onto the boat. It sunk a little under his weight. Phylegas snickered. “Best cut down on the sweets, eh?”
Dante glared at him. A sinner reached up towards the boat, but Virgil gave him a sandal in the face and he sunk beneath the murk.
“And stay down!” Dante added.
Virgil looked at Dante and soft music started to play. “I’m so proud. You’re...you’re changing. You hate the sinners like everyone else! Congratulations! Oh, my little Dante is proving himself a dynamic character...” He couldn’t take the emotions. He hugged Dante.
“Um....Virgil? Why are you hugging me?”
Virgil sniffled and let go.
“HEY, HEY, DANTE!” a voice came up from the swamp.
Dante turned towards the voice and recognized who it belonged to. “Fillipo Argenti. What a surprise to find you here. Well, not really, since I put you here. What do you want?”
“Just to, you know, say hi.”
“Our families are bitter political enemies, Argenti. You really just want to say hi?” Dante asked.
“Well, and I thought that maybe you could get me out of here.”
Dante laughed. “Fat chance.”
Dame Fortune appeared, looking indignant. “I am NOT fat,” she said, before vanishing once more.
“I’ll fight you!” Fillipo screamed.
Dante shook his head. “Some things never change. Like the fact that you’re an annoying little slime. I hope you go to hell. Oh, wait. Fine, I hope you’re ripped apart in hell.”
The other sinners heard this and perked up. “Will do, boss!”
“Get right on it!” another said.
And so they viciously and cruelly ripped him to pieces. Dante, meanwhile, was continuing on, fascinated with the bubbles. “Why’s it bubbling?”
“Those are just the complaints of the sullen under the marsh. Both they and the wrathful turned from God’s light in life, so mow they’re hidden from it. See the symbolism?”
“Yep. Contrapasso and whatnot.”
“Hey, what are those giant flaming towers in the distance?” Dante asked.
“That’s the City of Dis, named after Satan. The rest of Hell is in there.”
“I thought the rest of hell was beneath us because of the funnel thing and whatever,” Dante protested.
Virgil scowled. “I didn’t make the thing, don’t ask me how it works. All I know is that separates upper hell from lower hell proper. It’s like the capital.”
Suddenly the towers weren’t so close. There were fallen angels keeping watch on the walls, and one of them flew down to eat Virgil. Oh crap.