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Into the Inferno – The Upper Levels

Into the inferno the upper levels


Estimated reading time — 20 minutes

I don’t know how I’ve lived as long as I have. My lifestyle has been anything but wholesome and most of my existence could be described as chaotic and violent. All of my family died young and – with one exception – I didn’t miss them. I can tell you about my tough upbringing and my difficult life and it would be true, up to a point. My family and peers – they were a fucked-up bunch…this will become evident as I tell my story.

Still, if I’m honest I’d have to admit that I’m the worst of the lot. I’ve been selfish, greedy, violent and deeply sinful, but for some reason I was given a second chance.

My memories of that fateful night are rather hazy. Inevitably, there was a wild party which involved a lot of booze and drugs. I awoke in a strange place, surrounded by the sleeping bodies of people I did not know. This wasn’t a unique situation for me but still, something felt off. My head was pounding and I had a foul taste in my mouth but nevertheless I pulled myself up and explored my surroundings.

I was surprised to find myself in a rather plush penthouse apartment – not the type of establishment I was used to waking in after a weekend-long bender…perhaps I was moving up in the world! I staggered over to the window and looked down upon the darkened city below, soon realising something wasn’t right. When I say the city was shrouded in darkness, I mean literally so. I couldn’t see a single electric light anywhere on the horizon, as the only illumination came from the pale light of the moon and faint glow of far distant stars.

I guessed it could have been a city-wide blackout but I also couldn’t see any cars or headlights on the streets. It was freaky, but I didn’t think too much about it. Clearly this party was at an end and so my priority was getting the hell out of here.

With some difficulty, I stepped over the snoring party guests and eventually found my way to the door, and then the corridor beyond. At first glance there was nothing special about the elevator which would become so crucial to my story and change my life forever. It was just a normal elevator with sliding steel doors and a button lit up to summon the lift. I was on the top floor so there was only one way to go – down.

I hesitated before reaching out to push the button, feeling a cold chill running through me that I couldn’t explain. But nevertheless, I summoned the elevator, experiencing a surge of static electricity as my finger made contact. I was surprised to hear the mechanical ping just a few seconds later as the door swung open. I was even more startled to see the enigmatic and somewhat scary figure standing inside, his finger poised on the button.

To say that this character was strange would be an understatement. He was an elderly man, white haired and wrinkled but surprisingly sturdy looking. I noted how he was dressed up to the nines, wearing a full three-piece suit, waistcoat, bowtie and top hat. The only thing missing was a monocle! I almost laughed out loud at the old man’s almost comical appearance but something held me back. I think it was the look in his eyes which marked him out as a serious and perhaps dangerous individual.

“Good evening sir.” he said, addressing me in a deep raspy voice. “Going down, I take it?”

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“Um yeah,” I answered in confusion, “And who the hell are you, the elevator attendant?”

My tone was ruder than the situation called for, but the man didn’t seem to take offence.
“In a manner of speaking sir. I will be your guide and travelling companion through the journey to come. I look forward to our time together but must warn you that our adventure will be long and arduous.”

“What the fuck are you talking about?” I demanded.

My head was pounding and I’d no patience for these riddles. I just wanted to get out of this place.

Again, the attendant – or whoever the hell he was – didn’t react to my insult.

“Please sir, time is marching on, and we really should be making moves. I’m sure you don’t want to stay here any longer than necessary?”

I didn’t, but at the same time I certainly wasn’t keen to get into a lift with this weirdo. I wondered whether there was another way out – perhaps a staircase or maintenance lift. But, when I turned my head and looked back, I was shocked to see a scene of utter carnage.

The corridor walls were literally dripping with a dark crimson liquid, which I feared was blood. And the penthouse suite I’d just left had been transformed into a fiery inferno, the room now engulfed by flames and the sleeping guests burning – their skin and flesh melting under the intense heat. I told myself it must be a hallucination, but I could feel the flames burning my skin and smell the foul stench from the horrific human barbeque.

“Jesus H Christ!” I swore, “What the hell happened?”

“We really should be going sir.” the attendant repeated, with a degree of urgency now evident in his voice.

“Are you crazy?” I screamed, “We can’t use the lift during a fire! We’ll be burnt alive!”

“There is no other way out sir. You will need to trust me.”

The fire was growing more intense and the smoke was filling up my lungs. I coughed and spluttered as my panicked brain tried to think. I was sure I would die if I stayed here and really didn’t have any other options, and so I darted for the elevator door, jumping inside just before the operator pushed the button to close the door, sealing the smoke and fire on the far side.

“A wise choice sir,” said the attendant, with a sly smile on his crusty lips. “And now we may begin.”

I shuddered when I looked into his dark, emotionless eyes and wondered what this lunatic had in store for me. As it happened, the enigmatic elevator attendant was about to introduce me to a hell I could never have imagined in my worst nightmares.

Once I regained my senses and cleared my lungs, I soon released there was something else wrong with this compact elevator. There were no floor numbers displayed on the control panel and, in fact, I could only see one button, and this had no number. Nevertheless, the lift was descending at a considerable rate, although the trip seemed to last an eternity.

“Isn’t there an emergency phone in here?” I asked, “We need to call the fire brigade!”

The attendant didn’t answer, instead staring straight forward. I had a sudden urge to grab the old man by his shoulders and shake him vigorously, but I didn’t think this would be a good idea.

“Are you listening to me man?” I demanded, whilst struggling to control my anxiety. “We’re in danger here!”

“No harm will come to you whilst we are inside of this vessel. The dangers on the other side will become self-evident. But you should only worry about what lies ahead, and not what we’ve left behind.”

“What the fuck?” I mouthed, as I tried to make some sense of these cryptic words. Instead, I decided to ignore his bizarre ramblings and the many red flags.

“Whatever man. I just want to get the hell out of here and go home.”

“Yes, your home.” the attendant answered thoughtfully, “I will do my best to see you safely returned to your own world, but there are limits to my powers as a guide. You will need to face your own demons and fight for survival. I must warn you sir, your journey shall not be an easy one.”

I shook my head in dismay and no longer tried to make sense of this guy’s bullshit. Clearly, he was either batshit crazy or was deliberately messing with me. In any case, I wanted to get out of the elevator and far away from this nutjob. Therefore, I was very much relieved to hear the ping as the lift came to a sudden stop.

“Level one.” the attendant explained, without elaborating.

“You mean the ground floor?” I asked frantically, “We can get out here?”

“I’m afraid you don’t understand sir.” he answered, “But the truth will become self-evident soon enough.”

I laughed in open mockery at his words, deciding that this man must indeed be mad.
“Whatever buddy,” I sniggered, “I’ll find my own way from here. Good luck, old timer!”

With that I stepped forward just as the elevator door slid open, but then I stopped dead in my tracks. Naturally, I expected to walk out into a well-lit lobby which I could use to access the city street beyond. Instead and inexplicably, I found myself staring into a darkened forest which sat directly outside of the elevator’s doors.

I remember just standing there totally dumbstruck for what seemed like an eternity. I thought this was either a trick or I was suffering from a hallucination. What drugs had I taken last night? This was some trippy shit. But I’d taken psychedelic drugs before and never experienced anything like this. It was all so real, right down to the cold night breeze and smell of pinecones. This was an actual forest, with rows of tall trees as far as the eye could see.

“What the actual fuck?” I muttered, as my exhausted brain tried to make sense of this inexplicable situation.

“Level one.” the attendant repeated, “Otherwise known as Limbo. The entrance to the underworld and home to unfortunate souls trapped between heaven and hell…”

“What are you saying?” I demanded, as the panic rose from the pit of my stomach. “What have you done to me?”

“I’ve done nothing to you sir,” he replied without emotion, “Your decisions, the life you have led. This is what has brought you to this place. I am not here to harm you, merely to guide you through the levels, in the hope you will eventually make it home.”

I shook my head in dismay, not wanting to listen to these crazy words. When I looked out into the woods I was hit by a terrible foreboding, a cold chill of terror as I anticipated the horrors that lay before me. But there was seemingly nowhere else for me to go and so I stepped forward, cautiously walking out onto the cold black soil of the forest floor.

I noted the attendant following after me, keeping a respectable distance, although I could feel his piercing glare on the back of my neck. The forest was unlike any I’d ever encountered before. Woods at night can often evoke a primal fear in the human psyche.

However, there was something very unnatural about this inexplicable forest which I now walked through. As I slowly progressed under the shadowy trees, I heard a faint sound carried through the cold night air, gradually growing louder the farther I walked.

I listened intently to make out the voices – the faint but pained cries of a thousand souls calling out at once. Some of the languages I recognised, others I didn’t…but there was one common denominator – all were crying out in pain and fear. My whole body shivered as I heard those wretched people cry, but yet I could not see them or identify where the sound was originating from.

“Those poor souls,” the attendant stated sympathetically, “in truth, they did little wrong during their mortal lives but are trapped here by circumstances. In time some of them will ascend to a better place…but alas, there is nothing we can do to help.”

I was only half listening to my guide’s explanation, but his words did evoke a memory in the back of my mind, something I’d read or heard of many years previously. My mind was racing in that moment as I tried to come to terms with my hellish situation. How could this be happening? Was I dead? I had never believed in the supernatural or thought there was an afterlife…Surely there must be some kind of rational explanation. In any case, my objective was to escape and make my way home, and so I ignored the pained cries and walked on.
Before long I stumbled upon what I thought was my way out. I reached the bottom of a steep hill and looked up, seeing a bright light shining on top of the mount. I can’t explain why, but I was drawn towards the light, somehow knowing it represented my salvation. I put a confident foot forward and began my ascent up the hillside, but in that moment I felt a firm hand on my shoulder. I turned to see the attendant holding me back, a stern look on his face as he spoke.

“You can’t go that way. Trust me sir.”

“Fuck off!” I shot back angrily, pulling myself free from his cold grasp as I marched forward with determination. But of course, I didn’t get far. I’d taken less than a dozen steps up the hillside before I froze, as my primal instincts kicked in. I heard a sinister rustling in the bushes ahead and looked up in time to see a creature emerge from the shadows – the dark shape of a predator with hungry eyes.

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A moment later another emerged, and then another. To my horror, I witnessed a pack of savage and unnatural wolves emerge on the hillside, their eyes burning with hatred and fangs dripping with blood as they focussed upon me – their prey.

As one, the pack let out a bloodthirsty howl and a moment later they were charging, tearing down the hillside and heading straight for me. I screamed in terror and rapidly retreated, but in my panicked state I tripped and fell down into the dirt. Suddenly I was set upon by the alpha, raising my right arm in a desperate attempt to defend myself. I squealed in agony as the beast bit down, its razor-sharp fangs plunging into my exposed flesh and bone.

I looked into the wolf’s frenzied eyes and was sure it would rip me to shreds, but the attendant came to my rescue, kicking the hell hound back and dragging me away from the kill zone and off the hillside. The alpha had been stunned but not seriously wounded, and the rest of the pack were hot on his heels. I braced myself for a fresh attack, but the pack stopped dead in their tracks at the bottom of the hillside, snarling and pacing but not attacking.

It was like there was an invisible line on the ground which they could not cross. I was astonished by this sudden turn of events, but this wasn’t all. When I looked down at my arm, expecting to see a nasty wound where I’d been bitten, there was nothing. My skin was unblemished and I felt no pain. I looked to the attendant – my saviour – for an explanation.
“They can’t leave the hillside.” he confirmed, “but they will protect their territory with all the force in Hell. We cannot pass…”

I didn’t want to believe it. The light on top of the hill seemed so close and inviting.
“Surely there must be a way…” I pleaded.

“No.” he replied with certainty, “The beasts will not leave this path until the end of time. I told you this journey would not be easy. Alas, there are no shortcuts through the hellscapes.”

I got to my feet with some difficulty, casting a last glance at the bloodthirsty pack before moving on. I couldn’t avoid the obvious any longer – the terrible truth was staring me right in the face.

“I’m dead, aren’t I?” I whimpered, “I’m dead and this is Hell.”

The attendant nodded his head thoughtfully, as if he’d been anticipating this question. “You are in Hell, but you are not dead. Not yet at least. In fact, you have been given a remarkable opportunity. The chance to walk the levels of Hell and learn the truth of the afterlife. Why, I cannot say. As I’ve already explained, I am merely your guide and will do my upmost to keep you alive. But sir, I must insist that you obey my instructions. You were lucky to survive that last encounter, and I can’t protect you from all the threats to come.”
I nodded my head vigorously, suddenly realising that this odd man was my only friend in this hell, and he represented my last chance at salvation. Suddenly something clicked in my confused brain, an old memory brought to life.

“I know this story…The Inferno. The Circles of Hell…”

“Yes.” the attendant confirmed, “Dante’s work, written during the 14th century A.D. He made the same journey as you will all those centuries ago, but what you see and experience will be unique to your own mortal existence. Even I do not know what lies ahead.”

I shuddered, hating the uncertainty and the unenviable situation I’d been placed in. Why me, was the question I asked. It made no logical sense…but throughout my life I had adapted to my often dire circumstances and survived against the odds, and I certainly wasn’t going to give up now. In that moment I decided that I would do whatever it took and would face whatever horrors lay ahead.

“Okay then,” I said, “lead on my friend.”

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The attendant nodded dispassionately before striding back into the forest, and I followed, placing my life in this stranger’s hands.

We walked for what seemed like an eternity through the darkness and under the canopies. My feet ached and I was chilled all the way through. In time the growls of the wolf pack and disembodied cries of the dead faded away to nothing, but I still felt incredibly uneasy, having the distinct impression that we were being watched…that a sinister and unnatural entity was tracking our every move. I definitely had the feeling that we weren’t welcome here – or at least I wasn’t. This wasn’t my world and I didn’t belong here.

We barely spoke during that long march through the dark words. I asked questions of my guide but received few answers.

“Who are you?” I enquired, “Are you alive? And why are you helping me?”

“I am no-one.” was his cryptic response, “The name I had during my mortal existence is no longer relevant. And yes, I am dead. But I find myself in the unique position where I can pass between the levels without interference, and this allows me to act as guide to individuals such as yourself.”

I was almost ready to quit when I heard a new sound – the soft sobbing of a child. A cold chill ran through me as I experienced a chilling deja’vu, a memory of a past trauma which I’d long since tried to bury. We walked into a clearing and I saw the sobbing figure was a little girl – maybe aged 8 or 9, her long dark hair covering her tear-filled face. My heart beat fast in my chest as I approached her, reaching out to gently brush back her hair and look into her eyes.

I gasped in shock and recoiled whenever I saw the face staring back at me. It was my little sister Sarah – the girl who’d died 36 years ago in the most tragic of circumstances.

I guess this is a good opportunity to explain something about my family history. It would be fair to say I didn’t have the easiest start in life. My parents were neglectful and abusive – but I’ll talk more about them later.

My older brother was no good either and so I had to look after myself from a young age. Honestly, I was okay with that, but then there was Sarah…my little sister. For some reason she looked up to me, and I felt responsible for her. No-one else was going to look out for her after all. But I was a dumb teenager doing stupid shit out on the streets.

The night Sarah died is one I’ve tried hard to forget. I’d been out all night and I guess my sister got worried because she left the house and walked the streets looking for me. She got struck by a hit-and-run driver and died on the curb side – alone and afraid. I couldn’t forgive myself for my sister’s death. If only I’d stayed home that night she would have lived. I guess it’s a big part of the reason why I got so fucked up during my teens, but time moved on and I learned to live with the trauma, or at least how to dull the pain with drink and drugs.
But of course, I’d never expected to see my sister again and I wasn’t prepared for this, to encounter Sarah still in her nine-year-old body and forever trapped in a cycle of pain and fear. This was worse than anything I could have imagined. She looked up at me with bloody tears in her eyes – a crimson red dripping down her pale cheeks. And when her pure blood fell, it was fed upon by worms and insects which crawled across the forest floor.

Instinctively, I overcame my fear and reached out to grab her – to hold my sister and never let her go. But, when I took Sarah in my arms, her body literally fell apart, dissolving into ash in my hands. I looked down in horror as her remains blew away in the wind, and even then I could still hear her soft sobbing – a lasting reminder of my failure to save her soul.
I cried out, holding my head in my hands in utter despair as the grief overcame me.

Glancing up, I saw the attendant standing over me, quietly observing my pain.

“Why?” I demanded, “Why are you doing this to her? I get it man, I’m a piece of shit and deserve everything I get. But Sarah, she’s an innocent! She never did anything to anybody. Why punish her? That isn’t fair!”

“Fair?” the attendant replied thoughtfully. “You must know that life isn’t fair, so why would you think death would be any different? As for your sister, she is not being punished as such. She is simply lost. In time she may find her way to a better place, but for now there is nothing you or I can do to help her…alas.”

I shook my head in disbelief. “So, why show me her suffering like this? Why torture me?”
“It is not my role to torture you, nor do I determine what you shall see on each level. This is your journey. I am merely the guide.”

It seemed this was his answer to every question, and perhaps it was the truth. I didn’t know why I’d been put in this unenviable position but guessed I would face many more horrors before the end.

We soon left the clearing as I muttered a final goodbye to Sarah, begging her forgiveness for my failings. We didn’t walk for long until we reached the exit – a second elevator inexplicably standing in the middle of the forest, illuminated by artificial light and with the doors already open. The attendant held out his arm, motioning for me to enter.
“Time to move on.” he said.

“Yes.” I replied with grim resignation, as I stepped inside and the doors slammed shut. We descended for a long time before the elevator came to a stop. I had much to think about after my ghostly encounter with my dead sister, but what really scared me was the thought of what lay ahead.

As my nameless guide had said, ‘Limbo’ was the first level or circle and not even Hell proper, so it seemed my situation would only get worse as I descended. When I questioned the attendant I predictably received the bare minimum of information, merely being told that we must pass through each and every level before I could go home. I pondered this as the lift halted and the door pinged.

“Level Two, Lust. Brace yourself.” the attendant warned.

I planned to ask him what he meant, but as soon as the door opened I was hit by a blast of cold wind, which nearly knocked me off my feet. Looking ahead, I saw a seemingly endless, desolate plain stretching for as far as the eye could see, a wasteland set underneath a pale sun. But worst of all was the gale which swept across the land, a heavy wind which made it difficult to stand let alone walk.

Even the attendant needed to shout to be heard over the mighty gale. “Take my arm. I shall assist you!”

I did as instructed and we slowly marched forward into the wind-swept wasteland, struggling with each and every step. I looked to the horizon and wondered how we would ever advance through this hellish level, but it got worse. As we staggered ahead, suddenly the ground in front of us shook and cracked open, and from beneath the rocky surface emerged a monstrous figure – a giant, easily twenty foot tall, taking the shape of a man but with a grotesque, snake-like tail wrapped around his body.

The giant stood up, blocking our path with his huge frame and making the earth quake under his heavy feet. He looked down upon us with piercing eyes as his snake-tail uncoiled. I was sure this monster would attack us at any moment and so made ready to flee, but my guide held me steady, shouting in my ear.

“Behold Minas, the judge and gatekeeper of the underworld! None may pass without his permission.”

I stood frozen to the spot, fearing what this monster would do to me. I could feel the judgement in his piercing glare and it chilled me to the bone. I watched helplessly as he opened his gaping mouth and spoke in a booming, inhuman voice.

“IT IS NOT YOUR TIME. YOU SHOULD NOT BE HERE.” he proclaimed.

I was left speechless but thankfully my guide had an answer already prepared.

“We are on a mission from God!” he replied confidently, “I must insist that you let us through.”

I could hardly believe how the attendant dared to speak to this monster and thought Minas would either laugh in open mockery or crush us both with his bare hands. But, to my immense surprise, he did neither, instead exclaiming the words – “AND SO IT SHALL BE.”
With that, Minas retreated back into the hole from which he’d emerged. But, before his head disappeared beneath the ground, he offered parting words that I realised were directed towards me – “UNTIL WE MEET AGAIN.”

As soon as the giant left, the gale hit us once again. I don’t think I could have withstood the mighty wind if it had not been for my guide, who somehow stood tall in spite of the sheer force hitting us. We slowly moved forward across the wind-swept plain and in time I saw others trapped in their own struggles – emaciated and half-naked souls trying in vain to stand and walk before the gale knocked them down to the hard rocky ground. There must have been thousands of them, all stuck in the same cruel loop.

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“They have no respite,” the attendant explained, “The wind is relentless and their suffering never ending.”

I felt a lump in my throat as I considered the implications of what I’d been told. This was eternity for these people – to never have shelter or peace and to forever fall victim to the vicious winds of level 2. I wondered what one would have needed to do in their life to end up in this place. I soon got my answer, in a manner of speaking.

I almost stumbled over the man in front of me, a wretched figure who’d curled up in the foetal position in a vain attempt to protect himself from the wind. He looked up and I met his eye, once again reacting with shock as I recognised the tormented soul. It was my father, who’d died 27 years previously.

To be fair, he looked as surprised to see me as I did him. His face screwed up in confusion before there was a spark of recognition in his bloodshot eyes.

“Son, is that really you? Thank God! You’ve got to help me!”

I snarled upon hearing his plea, feeling nothing but resentment and anger. Continuing with the theme of my fucked-up family, you’ll not be surprised to learn that my father wasn’t a good role model. In fact, he spent several years beating my mother, drinking up what little money we had, and screwing anything with a pulse, before he eventually abandoned his family altogether. I was 12 years old when he left and I never did see him again, but I heard how he’d continued his abusive and manipulative behaviour until eventually one of his girlfriends had enough of being used as a human punchbag and unloaded a shotgun into his belly.

I didn’t even attend his funeral and certainly had never imagined I would encounter my father again…but this night had been full of surprises.

He held up his hand, looking for support against the gale, but I slapped it away.

“You want my help, seriously?” I spat angrily, “Why the hell should I do anything for you? The way I see it, you’re right where you belong. Lust…that was your vice, right? Forever chasing tail, treating women like dirt…”

“Hey!” he responded defensively, whilst using the last of his strength to stand up against the high wind.

I was shocked by how pathetic he now looked. No longer was he the imposing and intimidating man I remembered from my youth. This figure was a mere shadow of his former self – a result of his many years of torment. I couldn’t feel sorry for him though – my heart was turned to stone.

“Hey,” he continued meekly, “your mother was no angel. Don’t forget that.”

I couldn’t argue with him on that point, but it was no excuse.

“You left us and never came back! Sarah died you know. Do you even care?”

He lowered his head, seemingly in shame, but he soon recovered to deliver a lame justification.

“Look, I’m sorry okay? What do you want from me? I was a shitty father and an asshole…but I don’t deserve this! You’ve got to get me out of here!”

I shook my head and started to walk away, breaking eye contact with the pathetic old man.
“There’s nothing I can do for you.”

I nodded to the attendant and indicated that I was ready to move on. But, as we fought against the wind I was distracted by a cry from my rear, as my father offered a final insult.
“You son of a bitch! You think you’re better than me? I always knew there was something wrong with you boy! You were a bad one from the day we brought you home…And where the fuck were you when your sister died? You were her big brother, and she trusted you!”

As you can imagine, his accusations touched a nerve and in that moment I saw red, ignoring the attendant and the foul weather as I charged towards my father, carrying a hatred in my heart as I reached out to throttle him. But, as soon as my hands touched his throat, my father’s body disintegrated into ash, and his remains were scattered by the winds.

However, my momentum carried me forwards, and I fell heavily down on the rocks, head first. A sharp pain reverberated through my skull and I lost consciousness, my whole world going black.

I don’t know how long I was out for, but my next memory was being physically dragged across the wind-swept plain by my guide. He really was determined to get me through this hellscape, for whatever reason. I was looking upwards into the sky above, which I noted had turned a sinister shade of blood red. My head was throbbing as I stared into that abyss, and yet I remember what I saw as clear as day.

I could only look on in impotent horror as a horrifying entity emerged from the clouds – a hideous, demonic face adorned with horns and with eyes so red and piercing I could feel them penetrating my very soul. The demon – or whatever it was – was huge, soon dominating the entire skyline. There was an animalistic look to the beast, but also a cruel cunning and intelligence behind its glowing eyes.

It opened its gaping maw and exposed rows of crocodile-like teeth…and then it laughed, emitting a cruel and sadistic cackle which drowned out every other sound. I could tell the demon’s hatred was focussed upon me, its predator-like gaze cutting through me. I imagined the beast sweeping me up and devouring me whole within its mighty jaws. My loyal guide had protected me thus far, but I doubted whether he had any power over this beast.

As if to prove my point, the attendant dragged me along at a faster pace, fighting against the gale and pulling my considerable weight across the rocks. I wanted to get up and run but couldn’t. The horrific din of the demon’s foul cackle filled my ears. It was so loud in my head that I feared my head would explode. And before long, I drifted out of consciousness, and the darkness took me once again.

The next time I awoke I found myself in the relative safety of the elevator. Somehow the attendant had got me back here in one piece, and now he was looking over me dispassionately, offering no sympathy or explanation.

I staggered up to my feet and held my hand up to my forehead, discovering that my wound had miraculously healed itself. I addressed my saviour and asked him the question which was foremost on my mind.

“What was that thing? The monster in the sky?”

I noted the grim look etched upon the attendant’s face, and for the first time I swore I could see fear in his normally emotionless eyes.

“I think you know who that is.” he answered grimly, “He has been following our progress through his domain and will continue to do so. We have a long journey still ahead of us and will face many challenges and perils.”

He wasn’t kidding. My stomach churned as I remembered Dante’s work, recalling that there were nine circles in his description of Hell. So far, we’d been through two. This meant seven more levels, with their severity increasing the lower we got. And in addition to the hellscapes we would cross, it was clear that I would be confronted by many more ghosts from my past, and undoubtedly I would need to face my own demons along the way.
And then there was the beast, who I believed was Satan himself. The Devil was watching my every step and it seemed that my guide was powerless against him. I could only guess at his intentions towards me, but I reckoned the Lord of Darkness didn’t wish me good fortune.
All these terrors were in my mind as I glanced into the attendant’s dark eyes, and my heart sunk when I heard the ominous ping as our lift reached the next level.

Credit: Hell Tourist

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