Dante was lost. He was hopelessly, utterly lost. The woods around him were dark and cold, despite the fact that it was nearing sunrise. He stumbled along, wishing there was a path.
The Virgin Mary saw all of this from up above on her comfy lazy boy in heaven. She watched Dante as he wandered, as he staggered and looked confused and sad. Hm....Ok, fine. She’d do something.
“Hey, Lucia?” she called. Lucia came bustling in, a tray of cookies in her hand.
“Want a cookie?”
“No thanks,” Mary replied. “But, hey, Dante down there’s pretty lost. Could you maybe go help him?”
Lucia looked down at him with disdain. “Urgh, fine. But you know how much I hate helping humans. They’re so...dirty. And they make the worst cookies.”
Lucia put a hand on her hip. “I said I’d do it, didn’t I?”
She left the room purposefully, though Lucia had no intention of going down to the mortal world. That was so far beneath her that is was just - ugh. But luckily, Lucia was pro at avoiding her chores. She stalked to the other side of the heavenly castle.
“Beatrice? Where are you Beatrice?” she called up to the balcony.
After a few seconds, Beatrice came out of one of the rooms with a sigh. “What do you want, Lucia?” she said, looking bored. “Want me to take the trash out? To wash your clothes even though nothing in heaven gets dirty?”
Lucia pouted, “What can I say, I’m a germaphobe.”
“Germs don’t go to heaven.”
“Oh, shush. I came to tell you that your buddy Dante’s in trouble.”
Beatrice straightened. “What do you mean in trouble?”
“He’s strayed from the righteous path and is now in the dark woods of sin or whatever they call it these days,” Lucia said flatly. “Anyway, you might want to go do something about it. See ya!” With a wave, she randomly disappeared.
Beatrice frowned. She liked Dante. He was a cool dude. With no prior warning, she disappeared as well, headed down to Hell. She stood amongst the sea of hopeless, sad looking people in Limbo and shivered. These people gave her the creeps. Beatrice looked around and picked someone dressed in a fetching Roman toga.
“Hey, you!” she cried, pointing.
He looked over with a sad, hopeless face. “Me?” he said sadly and hopelessly.
“Yeah, you. What’s your name?”
“Virgil,” he replied with a sad and hopeless expression on his face.
“Cool. Nice to meet you Virgil. Hey, wanna do me a favor?”
He rolled his sad and hopeless eyes. “Does it involve going down deeper into Hell?” he asked. Beatrice nodded. Virgil groaned, “Why is it that the pretty ladies only come to me when they want me to go to hell for them? Can’t you come visit for, like, a nice glass of wine?”
“Sorry, no,” Beatrice replied. “His name’s Dante. The one you’re escorting.”
Virgil groaned again. “Aw, come ON. It’s a guy? You couldn’t even let me escort some beautiful maiden.”
Beatrice crossed her arms. “Will you do it, or no?”
“Fine, I’ll do it. Only because you’re hot. And because you’re nice. Although you are starting to sound a little snappy.”
“Great,” Beatrice said, then promptly disappeared.
And, back to Dante. Dante was wandering through the woods, as stated, when he came across the edge where he could see a mountain with the sun shining on the other side. It was so pretty, the mountain, that it just stirred his little heart with joy. He wanted to climb it. He wanted to climb it like kids climbed dirt mounds. Then he’d be able to lay in the light and soak it in, maybe get a tan. Dante took another step forward-
-and was set upon by a ferocious leopard! OH NO! The leopard was all, “I’m here to represent sins of incontinence. You know, like self indulgent stuff. That’s why I went out and got myself this beautiful spa makeover. See how my coat just gleams? Pretty, huh? And my nails, they’re so perf!”
Dante blinked. “Are you supposed to be scary?”
The leopard shrugged as only a leopard could. “Idk. Oh, and I’m also sins of youth. Hence the teen lingo, cuz u no yolo.”
“That’s probably the scariest thing about you.”
And, suddenly, there was a lion! OH NO! It growled, “I’m a talking lion! FEAR ME!”
Dante took a step back.
The lion let out a laugh as only a lion could. “You know what I am, don’t you?”
“A lion?” Dante ventured.
The lion rolled his eyes. “I meant what I symbolize.”
“No. You humans are really stupid. I’m beastiality and sins of manhood and malice and whatnot.”
“Yeah, but if lions are beasts and I said lion-ness, I was technically right.”
The lion scowled. “Shut up.”
And then, a she-wolf appeared! OH NO! She growled and snapped at Dante and he wet his pants. She was scaaaaarrrryyyyyy.
“I am the magnificent symbolic representation of the sins of age and other malicious sins like pride and treason!” she proclaimed.
“My entrance was better,” the lion muttered.
“Shut up,” the she-wolf snapped. She turned back to Dante. “You shall not pass.”
“But....I wanna climb the mountain,” he said petulantly.
“But the light’s so pretty.”
“Tough. I’m going to eat you now.”
Dante thought about arguing, then changed his mind. “Okay.”
“WOAH, WOAH, WOAH,” Virgil said, coming onto the scene. “There’ll be no eating of my bro Dante today.”
“Phew,” Dante muttered.
“The greyhound of justice is coming to get you,” Virgil said to the wolf in a spooky voice, his form wavering.
“Look at me, I’m so scared,” she said sarcastically.
“Watch out for the second coming of You-Know-Who.”
“Voldemort?” Dante asked.
“No, I mean the son of the high one. You know. Hung on the cross and whatever. I can’t say his name.”
“Why, you can’t pronounce it? It’s not that hard.”
Virgil looked annoyed. “No, you can’t say it anywhere in Hell. And since I’m from hell, I don’t know where that puts me, but I’d rather not risk being turned into a pile of goo, thank you very much.”
“Oh.” Dante paused. “Wait, who are you, anyway?”
Virgil looked surprised. “Oh! Silly me. Introductions. I’m the awesome Roman poet Virgil who wrote the Aeneid.”
Dante’s jaw dropped. “OMG. NO WAY. I’M, LIKE, YOUR BIGGEST FAN. Honestly, dude, I’ve read, like, everything you’ve ever written. You’re soooooo cool. Hey, since you’re so cool and all, you just want to banish this wolf thing and we can get outta here and climb that mountain?”
“No can do, brotha,” Virgil replied. “We have to go a different way to get up the mountain. Come on.”
They set off walking in the woods.
“Beatrice sent me,” Virgil told Dante as they walked.
Dante swooned. “NO WAY. She really does like me!”
“I’m like a drooping flower that has re-straightened towards the light,” Dante said dreamily.
“I’m ready for my journey.”
Virgil perked up. “Good! Good, good, because that’s where we’re going! First we gotta get you through hell, then through purgatory and then you’re on your own for heaven, buddy.”
“Ok, you ready?” Virgil asked.
“Ready for wha- AHHHHHHHHHHH!”
Virgil had snapped his fingers and they were in hell. (I really don’t know how they got down there. When I don’t know something, they’re going to teleport). Dante was out of breath and panting, even though that took no physical effort on his part. “Woah...man...a little warning next time.” He looked up and found a gate with a huge inscription on it. “Darn. That’s creepy.”
“Welcome to hell,” Virgil said flatly.
Dante gave him a sideways look. “Dude, this is not the time.”
“No, I was just summarizing the inscription,” Virgil replied. “It pretty much says, welcome to this terrible place of hell, I’ll be here for you forever, abandon hope now.”
Dante gulped. “Well isn’t that jolly.”
“Very. In we go, right?”
And in they went. They came to the shores of a river that sounded like it was crying.
“What’s this? The Wailing Waters? The Sobbing Stream?” Dante snickered.
“The Acheron,” Virgil said sadly and a bit hopelessly. “The river of sorrow, the river of woe.”
Dante shut up. “Oh. Things are really depressing down here, aren’t they?”
Virgil gave him such a look that Dante took a step back. “It’s hell.”
“I see that.”
Virgil turned away and flagged down a guy in a boat like he was flagging down a taxi. “Charon! Over here!”
Charon came over with a scowl on his face. “What?”
“We need you to take us across.”
Charon studied Dante. “That one’s alive.”
“Yeah, he is.”
“I don’t take the live ones,” he said, straightening his fine italian suit.
Dante waved Virgil away. “I got this one.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a handful of golden drachmas. “How’s the suit collection these days?” he asked Charon with a grin.
Charon gave a slow smile. “Could use a little ramping up.”
“Have this gold, then,” Dante said, giving him the drachmas. “Will you take us now?”
“We’re also on a mission from God,” Virgil threw in, Blues Brothers style.
“Hm...Just this much gold, huh,” he said, bouncing it in his hands.
“Well, and the command of God,” Virgil added. Dante added a few more coins.
“Yeah, I guess the gold will do,” Charon agreed.
“Shut up,” Dante said, elbowing him. Virgil scowled as they boarded the boat. On their way across, Virgil pointed out a big group of people on the other shore.
“See them?” he asked. Dante nodded. “Those are the Opportunists. They lived life without making moral decisions, so now they’ve got to chase that blank banner while being stung by wasps and running in a puddle of their own bodily fluids. That’s a breeding ground for ebola if there ever was one.”
“Why’s it blank?”
“Because they’re blank. You know, never choosing one thing to fight for. Just thinking about themselves, going with the flow. Any way the wind blows, as Mr. Mercury would say.” Virgil paused. “Oh, and their faces are also blank too. No remembering them in the upper world, nope.”
“Huh,” Dante replied, an appropriate a response as any. The boat docked.
“Well, here we are. Bye! Have fun in hell! Enjoy your stay! And if you’ve ever got anymore gold to blow, come see me, I’ll give you the ride of your life. Or death. Or whatever,” Charon said cheerily.
Dante got off the boat with a grin. “See the things gold can get you? Ferry rides and italian suits.”
“Well, gold and God’s grace,” Virgil added.
Dante looked at him. “You’re annoying.” Then, he made the mistake of looking over Virgil’s shoulder at the hell behind him. He promptly fainted.
Virgil, still stinging with the insult, didn’t bother to catch him. Instead, he cast his eyes to the sky and muttered, “You owe me one, Beatrice.”
In a few minutes, Dante came around. He sat up with a jolt and saw the blood red sky and shrieked like a little girl. “AH!! WHERE AM I?”
“Hell,” Virgil replied calmly.
“We’re off to Limbo now, my hometown.”
Dante and Virgil went off, wandering through the very sad and hopeless limbo.
“So what’s this place, exactly?”
“It’s where all of the people who didn’t know about and therefore had NO FREAKING OPPORTUNITY,” Virgil shouted, “to believe in God go. Because it’s totally our fault that he waited so long to send his son down. Because there was so much we could do to affect the era in which we were born,” he said bitterly.
“Wow. You’re a little bitter.”
“Just a tad,” Virgil muttered.
“Can these people ever leave?”
“Only if God likes you. Like Abraham and Moses and them. They got to leave because he liked them. He didn’t even get to know us. If I’d have known about him I might’ve become, like, his BFF, but nooooooo,” Virgil whined.
Dante looked around and saw a whole bunch of Greek and Roman people like Homer, Horace, Euclid, Plato, Socrates, Lucretia, Camilla, Orpheus and, interestingly, Saladin. Why that’s interesting, the narrator has no idea.
“Oh, look! There are my homies!” Virgil said. “Come say hi.”
"Are they all poets?" Dante asked.
"So this is what, the Dead Poets Society?" he snickered.
Virgil gave him a sideways glance. "I don't understand that reference," he stated, as he led the way over to a bunch of poets. Dante sighed. Truth was, he didn't understand the reference either. Robin Williams hadn't even been born in his day. All he wanted was to fit in. He wiped away an imaginary tear.
“Hey, Virgil! Where ya been, man?” Homer asked, greeting Virgil.
“Yeah, we were starting to worry,” Horace added.
Virgil clapped him on the back. “Oh, ya know. Just picking up my friend Dante here for a little trip through hell and back. The usual. Walk with us?”
Ovid trotted up next to Dante. “Poet too, huh?”
“You can be like the sixth one of us. Like the sixth wheel in a totally endearing way,” he said.
Dante was touched. He teared up. “I-I’d like that.”
Lucan scowled. “I don’t want him here.”
“Shut up, Lucan,” Horace said.
“You shut up.”
“Both of you shut up,” Homer chimed in.
“Ooh, look, we’re here!” Ovid said. “The entrance to the first circle of hell. Have fun!”
“Why does everyone keep saying that?” Dante muttered.
Virgil looked at Dante. “Ready for this?”
“Eh, why not?”
And they descended into the second circle of Hell.