Dante's Inferno in a (New and Improved But Still Very) Cracked Nutshell

[Battle of the Fandoms: Classics] A mostly accurate, much more entertaining, slightly modernized version of Dante's Inferno for those readers who are interested in the story, but don't fancy reading it in 14th century terza rima.

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1. Dante gets himself lost, and is then approached by several wild animals and a shade sent by a celestial being with a taste for cookies

Dante was hopelessly, utterly lost. His 14th Century Peaceful Writer’s Handbook hadn’t prepared him for this. When Dante wrote himself into his own story, he didn’t expect it to be this hard to navigate the dark and desolate woods in which he found himself. He wished there was a path. Or at least, you know, some sign posts. A map would be good. At the very least, a general sense of direction sounded helpful. So, to put it simply, Dante was lost.

    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. It was entertaining for a little while, but eventually, she did begin to feel sorry for him. Hm…she thought.Ok, fine. She’d do something. The Virgin Mary glanced around her castle up in heaven, wondering whom she should send to help Dante. Then, suddenly, it came to her. Why not kill two birds with one stone? Er, maybe that wasn’t the best analogy. Why not help two people with one… person? Well, it would do.

    “Hey, Lucia?” she called. Lucia came bustling in, a tray of cookies in her hand. 

    “Want a cookie?”

    “No, thanks. I’m trying to cut down,” Mary replied, glancing down at her soft midsection in contempt. “But, hey, Dante down there’s pretty lost. Could you maybe go help him?”
    Lucia looked down at him with disdain. “But you know how much I hate helping humans.”

    “You could take him some cookies,” Mary told her. Might as well let Dante suffer the side effects of Lucia’s baking addiction.

    “Why can’t he make his own cookies?”

    Mary sighed. “Please?”
    Lucia put a hand on her hip. “ Urgh, fine. Only for you, Mary.”

    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. Once someone ventured onto earth even for a few minutes, they got a stink to them that no amount of bathing in tomato juice could wash off. It took years to recover, and Lucia didn’t want that. She prided herself on constantly smelling like fresh-baked cookies. But luckily, Lucia was pro at avoiding her chores.  She stalked to the other side of the heavenly castle, knocking on the door of one of her sisters - the gullible one.

    “Beatrice? Where are you, Beatrice?” she called through the door.

    After a few seconds, Beatrice came out of the room 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? To braid your hair or scrub your turtle’s shell?”

    Lucia pouted, “What can I say, I’m a germaphobe. And leave Francis out of this.” 

    “Germs don’t go to heaven. Didn’t you pay attention in school?” Beatrice asked. She snapped her fingers. “Oh, that’s right. You didn’t.”

    “Oh, shush. Maybe I shouldn’t tell you what I came to tell you, then,” Lucia said haughtily.

    Sighing, Beatrice asked, “Fine. What did you come to tell me?”

    “Oh, just that your buddy Dante’s in trouble.”

    Beatrice straightened. She and Dante shared a special and mysterious bond. “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. “It’s not like I paid attention in geography. Anyway, you might want to go do something about it. Toodles!” With a wave, she randomly disappeared.

    Beatrice frowned. She liked Dante. He was a cool dude, as far as dudes went. Beatrice usually preferred women, as a general rule, but Dante was an exception. 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.

    “Nice to meet you, Virgil. Hey, would you like to do me a favor?” she asked, giving him a winning smile. 

    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 I heard you were nice. Although you are starting to sound a little snappy.”

    “Great,” Beatrice said, then promptly disappeared. Virgil sighed. Was this the real afterlife, or was this just fantasy? He wasn’t sure anymore. If he thought his life sucked, it turned out death was worse. Who knew. 

 

 

    And, back to Dante. Dante was wandering through the woods, as stated, when he came upon the edge of the trees 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. He yelped once, jumping back. 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 as the leopard sauntered over to a puddle and stared at its reflection. “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.”

    Dante could hear the spelling errors in the leopard’s speech, and his little writer’s heart nearly stopped. He winced. “That’s probably the scariest thing about you.”

    “Gee, thanks.”

    And, suddenly, there was a lion. Dante yelped again. It growled, “I’m a talking lion! FEAR ME!” 

    Dante took a step back. Then several more steps back. 

    The lion let out a laugh as only a lion could. “You know what I am, don’t you?”

    “A talking lion?” Dante ventured.

    The lion rolled his eyes. “I meant what I symbolize.”

    “Um...lion-ness?”

    “No.  Is that even a word? 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.” Only Dante would try logic with a talking lion. What even was his life? 

    The lion scowled. “Shut up.”

    “Ok.”

    And then a she-wolf appeared. This time, Dante screamed like a little girl. 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 wolfishly

    “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. 

    “Tough.”

    “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. They all looked at him. Dante cleared his throat and said, “Uh, yeah. What he said.” His heart was pounding so loudly in his ears that he could hardly make out their words.

    “The greyhound of justice is coming to get you,” Virgil said to the wolf in a spooky voice, his form wavering. “Be afraid, be very afraid.”

    “Look at me, I’m so scared,” she said sarcastically. “I’m a wolf. I eat Greyhounds for breakfast.”

    “What, the buses?” Dante asked, rejoining the conversation. “Where do you put it all?” He looked curiously at her sleek body. 

    Everyone ignored him for good reason.

    “Watch out for the second coming of You-Know-Who,” Virgil added.

    “Voldemort?” Dante asked. This time, Virgil turned to give him a look.

    “Who? 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.” Dante looked at Virgil like he was the thick one. 

    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. Can I get your autograph?”

    “Uh, I can’t really hold a pen, but I appreciate the sentiment.”

    “That’s too bad,” Dante said with a frown. “But, hey, since you’re so cool and all, you just want to banish this wolf thing and we can go 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, leaving the leopard fixing her make up, the lion flexing his muscles, and the she-wolf looking threatening.

    “Thanks for coming to save me, dude,” Dante said.

    “Beatrice sent me,” Virgil told Dante as they walked.

    Dante swooned. “No way! She really does like me!”

    “Yep.”

    “I’m like a drooping flower that has re-straightened towards the light,” Dante said dreamily.

    “That’s....sappy.”

    “I’m ready for my journey,” Dante said with fresh vigor.

    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.”

    “Sweet.”

    “Ok, you ready?” Virgil asked.

    “Ready for wha- AHHHHHHHHHHH!” 

    Virgil had snapped his fingers, and suddenly they were in hell. The best Dante could figure, Virgil could teleport. That was pretty darn useful, he figured.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, pointing up at the huge, looming black gates. “Per me si va ne la città dolente…blah, blah, blah… Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’entrate.”Virgil shrugged. “It pretty much says, welcome to this terrible place of hell, there’ll be lots of pain and lost souls,  I’ll be here for you forever, abandon hope now.”

    Dante gulped. “Well isn’t that reassuring.”

    “Very. In we go, right?” 

    And in they went. 

    They came to the shores of a river that sounded like it was crying. Dante wouldn’t have blamed it.

    “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 his mouth. “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?” he snapped, clearly not in the mood.

    “We need you to take us across.”

    Charon studied Dante. “That one’s alive,” he said as if he was doing everyone a great favor by informing them.

    “I know that,” Virgil said.    

    “I don’t take the live ones,” he said, straightening his fine Italian suit.

    “But-”

    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 surveyed the gold, then 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.

    “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. 

    “And God-”

    “Shut up,” Dante said, elbowing him. Virgil scowled as they boarded the boat. 

    “Where’d you get that gold, anyway?” Virgil asked. 

    “Stole it,” Dante whispered back. 

    “From whom?”

    Dante shrugged. “Some random kids. One of them had goat legs. Doesn’t really matter, does it?” 

    “I guess not.” 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.  “What’s the food like down here in Hell?”

    “You don’t eat in Hell.”

    “But, then, where does the excrement come from?” Dante asked. 

    Virgil frowned at him, stumped. Dante felt oddly proud of himself. 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. “God, you’re so annoying.” 

    “You shouldn’t speak to God that way.” 

    On his way to roll his eyes, Dante made the mistake of looking over Virgil’s shoulder at the hell behind him. He promptly fainted, crashing unceremoniously into the dirt

    Virgil, still stinging with the insult which he suspected was directed towards him, not God, didn’t bother to catch him. Instead, he cast his eyes to the sky and muttered, “You owe me one, Beatrice.”

    After a few minutes of Virgil repeatedly kicking him in the side, Dante came around. He sat up with a jolt and saw the blood red sky and shrieked like a little girl. Again. “AH! WHERE AM I?”
    “Hell,” Virgil replied calmly.

    “Oh, right.”

    “We’re off to Limbo now, my hometown.”

    “Oh, right.”

    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 towards the sky, “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, Dante had no idea.

    “Oh, look! There are my homies!” Virgil said. “Come say hi.”

    “Are they all poets?” Dante asked.

    “Yeah.”

    “So, this is, what, the literal 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 that 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. 

    Virgil led the way over to the bunch of poets. “Hey, Virgil! Where ya been, man?” Homer asked.

    “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?”

    Dante nodded.

    “You can be like the sixth one of us. Like the sixth wheel in a totally endearing way,” Ovid offered.

    Dante was touched. He teared up and pressed a hand to his heart “I-I’d like that.”

    Lucan scowled, crossing his arms. “I don’t want him here.”

    “Shut up, Lucan, nobody asked you,” 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.

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