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Comedy Stories

The 10th Circle of Hell

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“Virgil?”

“Yes, Dante.”

“Um, what’s going on here? I was told there were only nine circles of hell.”

“There were only nine circles of hell in the 20th century. But for the 21st century? We needed to expand.”

“You needed to . . . expand. Hell.”

“Yes. We’ve added a whole new circle. Well, truthfully, it’s more oblong than circular. It’s been that sort of millennium.”

“Virgil. In all seriousness, I’m not sure I can walk through another realm of the damned. It’s hella depressing.”

“Well, you don’t have much of a choice do you? You read the sign before you got here: Abandon all hope, ye who enter here. Did that sound like a joke to you?”

“No.”

“Then maybe you should remember why you are here . . .”

“Yes. Beatrice! Beatrice!”

“Exactly. Beatrice, the love of your life—whom you’ve seen exactly twice. That seems a little on the obsessive side, don’t you think? Yet, it is true. Beatrice is waiting for you in paradise.”

“Oh my lady love, wait for me! Lead on, Virgil. Take me to paradise to see my dearest once more! Third time’s the charm.”

“If you insist.”

“Of course I insist. And are you getting snarky with me?”

“Who, me?”

“Yes, Virgil. What’s your problem?”

“You want to see Beatrice. Great, I get that. But how about your own wife, Dante? Would you like to see her, too?”

“Leave Gemma out of this.”

“Just so you know, Gemma Donati has an apartment just down the cloud from Beatrice. You can see both of your lady friends when we get to paradise, I suppose.”

“Virgil—”

“And I guess that arranged marriage didn’t work out as well as your parents planned? They’re in paradise, too. You can ask your mom when you see her who she likes better.”

“Virgil—”

“That’s assuming you even make it to paradise. Seriously, with your slinky link? You’re lucky you didn’t end up in a second circle whirlwind with the rest of the lotharios. And Helen of Troy.”

“Virgil, I don’t need your judgement.”

“I know you don’t need my judgement. That’s what we have King Minos for.”

“Ugh, I hate that guy.”

“You hate the king of Hell proper—the place where no thing gleams? Dante, it’s hell. It’s not Disney World.”

“Have you been on It’s a Small World? There are similarities.”

“Dante . . .”

“C’mon, Virgil. You have to admit that a justice system dependent on a serpentine man wrapping his tail around dead human carcasses a corresponding number of times to assign them their circles of hell seems a little—subjective.”

“It’s worked for thousands of years. You know what we say in Rome, if it ain’t broke . . .”

“Conquer it?”

“Ha. Colonizer humor. I like it.”

“Just take me to Beatrice. I don’t care how long it takes! I love her!”

“Sure, Dante. I’m sure you do.”

“You wouldn’t understand.”

“Dude, I’m Rome’s greatest poet. I understand everything.”

“Let’s just keep going. Please.”

“We have just a few more stops to make before then, Dante. There’s the rest of hell to go through, and then purgatory . . .”

“ARE YOU SERIOUS.”

“Yes, I’m serious. Stop pouting like a little bitch or I’ll take you back to the 5th circle of hell where you belong, Mr. Sullen.”

“Sullen? I’m not sullen. I’m upset.”

“Wrathful. Sullen. Disappointed. Upset. All the same circle of hell, fella. Numero Cinco.”

“Ugh. I’m exhausted! This is a lot of walking, spiraling down into one horror show after another. I get it. Hell sucks. When are we getting to purgatory? I mean, aren’t you tired?”

“I’m a ghost, Dante. We don’t get tired. We just get annoyed.”

“Ugh. I hate this place! It smells like sulfur, burnt hair, llama breath, and ass.”

“Well, it is hell, Dante. The netherworld. The Inferno. Gehenna, Tophet, Abaddon. Sheol, Hades, Tartarus . . .”

“A T.J. Maxx dressing room on a Saturday afternoon. A tinder date. A middle school classroom right after lunch just before holiday break. Wet woolen socks. A M. Night Shyamalan movie.”

“Yep. All hellscapes.”

“Can we just leave?”

“No we can’t just leave. The love of your life, Beatrice, sent me to drag your sorry ass through all of hell and purgatory.”

“Beatrice, I’m coming!”

“Seriously, man. Maybe rethink your attachment disorders.”

“You will love Beatrice, Virgil. Just one look, and you will write another epic poem—one as great as the Aeneid!”

“I wrote about the founding of Rome, not the founding of your overtaxed libido. Give it a rest. Besides, I’ll never meet her.”

“Why not?”

“You know the rules, Dante. Everyone born before the birth of our lord and savior gets tossed into Limbo. No baptism? No passing Go. No collecting $200. Virtuous pagans, all.”

“Even Moses? Abraham?”

“Yep. Even Julius F – – – ing Caesar.”

“Look, I saw the first circle of hell. It isn’t that bad, is it?”

“It’s like a Starbucks with a broken espresso machine.”

“So where are we now?”

“Let me get the map. Hmm.”

“Do we have to cross any more icky rivers?”

“Not really, but the Acheron, Styx, and Phlegethon all freeze together into a cesspool in the ninth circle.”

“Lake Cocytus?”

“Exactly.”

“Some politicians I know have a summer home there.”

“Actually, that’s a requirement when they sell their soul. But it’s more of a timeshare arrangement, to be honest. Not the best investment, but illiquid assets usually aren’t.”

“I think we are here.”

“Nope. We’re done with the eighth circle. What a shitshow that place is.”

“Who knew fraud came in so many flavors?”

“Well, we have ten evil ditches to sort them all into . . . It’s awfully hard to tell a hypocrite from a panderer from a United States Congressional representative.”

“That’s a lot of blue suits and flag pins!”

“The bigger the flag pin, the bigger the crook.”

“All right. So we’ve been through limbo, lust, gluttony, greed, anger, heresy, violence, fraud, and treachery. That seems like it should cover everything. So what’s the new tenth circle of hell?”

“You know. How could you not know?”

“I can’t fathom what is worse than all of those other sins and evils of mankind.”

“TikTok. TikTok is the tenth circle of hell.”

“That seems fair.”

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