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twentysix26
April 16th, 2013, 10:34 PM
Here's the beginning to a story I wrote a while ago. It's about a man who dies young and goes to hell, but hell is not what he was expecting.
I apologize if the writing is poor, I did this in the middle of the night and edited the same time the next day.

Updated version below.


My name is Daniel, I was twenty-one when I died.

I had been an atheist all my life, never really understood how it all worked or how one person could create the universe on his own. I guess I shouldn't have given it so much thought, I turned out to be dead wrong.

You may be wondering why I'm telling you all of this, and to be honest I am too, but I have nothing to lose, so on with the story.

I was, like I said, twenty-one when I died, I had been drinking in a bar downtown that night. The bar was a pretty small one and it smelled something terrible but the drinks were strong and cheap so why not? It got to be around one in the morning and I decided it was time to go home. I had been responsible, I gave my keys to the bartender and walked out of the bar to a nearby bus stop. The bus stop was what you would expect I suppose, dirty, covered in graffiti and reeking of urine.

I sat for a while, watching the traffic go by until the night bus arrived. When I staggered up the steps into the bus the driver gave me a nasty look, which I could understand, I probably looked like had gone to hell and back. “Don't vomit on my bus,” the driver said and held out his hand for the fare, so I passed him a bill and took my seat near the back.

The bus didn't smell much better than the bus stop had but it was a little bit of an improvement. I sat in the bus and stared out the window for a time. I watched the cars we passed until I fell asleep and was woken by the driver at the end of the line.

I cursed as I stood up and stumbled out of the bus, my stop had been two stops ago. I had a long way to walk, made even longer by the fact that I was drunk. I walked down the road toward my house, knowing it would take some time I sighed and started to let my mind wander. I began to think that I wasn't doing anything with my life other than getting drunk in the middle of the night and stumbling home, I didn't even have a real job, I just sold junk I bought online.

I walked for what was probably about half an hour. I had almost fallen into the road a few times but I always managed to stay upright, barely. I eventually ran into an older man who simply smiled at me and asked if I needed help getting home, I turned him down, it wasn't too much farther. I turned to cross the street, so I stopped, looked both ways like you're supposed to, the streets were empty, and stepped out into the road.

That was a big mistake.

As I stepped out onto the road a drunk driver sped around the corner, almost flipping his own car as it slid around the corner. Then his car hit me. Hard. As it turns out I would have been safer if I had driven drunk myself. At the moment of impact I didn't feel anything, it didn't hurt. I found myself flipping through the air and I had lost a shoe, but I wasn't thinking “Oh god, I'm going to die” or anything like that, it was more along the lines of “This is actually kind of fun” then I hit the ground headfirst and the world turned black.

Then I did something I never thought I would again. I opened my eyes.

It was bright and I was laying down, on a hospital bed I figured. As my eyes adjusted to the brilliant white I raised a hand to shield my eyes and I could see blurs walking around me. That's when I realized I was laying on the ground, the really soft ground. Was it grass? I rubbed the ground with my hand and it was soft, but it wasn't grass, it felt more like silk but it dissolved under my fingers like nothing I had ever felt before.

Once I felt that I could see I sat up to get my bearings. The sky was blue, cloudless, and the sun was massive, like it was right there next to me. There was nothing for as far as I could see, just people milling about like a bar with nothing to do.

I stood and stumbled slightly but I feel drunk either, I was completely sober in fact. When I turned around I saw what I was hoping I wouldn't. Right there before my eyes was a huge golden gate. I was dead, and wrong as it turns out.

Sitting next to the gate was a man behind a desk who looked as old as time, he had long white hair and a longer white beard. He looked up from his desk right at me and said, “Haverston, Daniel.” I was surprised to hear this old man say my name, I figured he would have at some point but just to be sure I had heard right I pointed at myself and he nodded and motioned for me to sit, so I did.

“Welcome to the gates of Heaven Mr. Haverston, I am Saint Peter,” he said smiling at me kindly before opening a large book he had in front of him. He began flipping through it's pages, looking for something until he said “Ah, here we are,” and turning the book around, pushing it across the desk so I could see it.

I look at the page he had turned it to, it was me, well, it was about me anyway. “What is that?” I asked him as I stared at the book. The page showed my birth date, hair color, eye color, everything down to my favorite fast food and, most frightening of all, my death date, right down to the minute.

`“It's your life Daniel, everything you have ever done is recorded here.” he said as he began flipping through it, and damn it all he was right, as he flipped through it I saw a newspaper clipping from when I had been the wrestling champion in high school, a hand written paragraph about the time I had stolen a pack of cigarettes from my father when I was eleven, everything up until the moment I died.

“So what does all this mean? Am I going to heaven?” I asked as I looked between the book and Saint Peter. he looked thoughtful for a moment as he flipped through the book, reading as he went even though all I could catch were individual words, I suppose spending an eternity reading books you learned to do it quickly.

He shook his head as he looked at me as he shut the book slowly. “No Daniel, I'm afraid that you were a good man, but atheists are not allowed past the gates.” he said as he just looked at me, he didn't care, he didn't give a damn where I went.

“Look here, you just said I was a good man, why should what I believe matter? I was wrong but so what? I was a good guy.” I was outraged, if I had been a good man why shouldn't I get in?

“I'm afraid those are the rules Daniel.” Peter said

I stood quickly, knocking my chair over as I did. “You don't know me, all you know is what's written in that book, and clearly, if I was a good person but I'm still not getting in it's wrong.” I said with a growl.

“Calm down Mr. Haverston,” he said as calmly as he could, “You can still get in, you just need to climb Mt. Purgatory and pass it's tests and you will be welcome,” he seemed to be telling the truth, so I calmed. “Just be warned Daniel, do not listen to the heresy of Lucifer.”

“How do I get to Mt. Purgatory?” I asked him, relieved that I could still enter heaven, even though I hadn't believed in it until a few minutes ago. Peter ignored me and called up another person, Isabelle something, and waved for me to leave.

I tried some more to get him to talk but he wouldn't even look at me, I was getting angrier with every unanswered question, I wanted my answers and I wanted them now. I was about to lose my temper and throw a few punches when I felt a tap on my shoulder.

When I turned around to see who was there I was surprised to see a man smiling at me, I guess the afterlife is full of surprises, that or I was just in shock. He was attractive, very attractive, he was tall, skinny and had short white hair and pale skin with piercing pale blue eyes. Great, one more reason for Saint Peter to tell me no, I thought this man was stunning. “Are you Daniel?” he asked without dropping his smile.

I could feel my face redden as I stared at him and opened and closed my mouth like a fish. “Yeah,” I finally managed to say after an awkwardly long silence. The man hadn't dropped his smile for a moment while he waited for my answer, in fact the silence seemed to make him smile wider.

“Well, it's nice to meet you Daniel, I'm Lucifer,” The man said and held out his hand for me to shake. Brilliant, just as I was getting over this weird man's appearance he dropped a bigger bomb on me. The devil shall assume a pleasing shape I suppose.

“He--” I pointed absently at Saint Peter as I searched for the words, “Saint Peter told me not to listen to you,” I said, not wanting to touch him just in case he stole my soul or something daft like that.

“Don't worry about that old fart, he's just telling you what he's being told to tell to people.” Lucifer said to me with that damned smile of his. “Besides, I'm here to bring you to Purgatory.”

“You are?” I asked, trying to avoid eye contact with him, not wanting to be denied my entry to heaven because I was being hypnotized by the bloody devil.

“Yeah, come along, it's this way,” He said and motioned for me to follow him as he began to walk away. Despite my better judgment and the voice in my head screaming “No, just wait here for an angel or a guiding light or something, anything else,” I followed him.

Lucifer guided me away from the gates to the edge of the horizon and then he looked at me with his infuriatingly handsome smile and held out his hand, “Go on, take it, you can't reach purgatory without some help, I won't hurt you, I promise,” he said and just kept smiling.

I don't know what I was thinking but I took it. I was half expecting him to become some big nasty demon and kidnap me away to some kind of dungeon or torture chamber, but he didn't he just patted me on the shoulder with his other hand and guided me off the edge.

There was nothing below us, just empty air, but it felt solid to the touch. Like a bridge of glass. We walked for what felt like hours, but I didn't feel hungry or tired. It felt weird to be holding hands with another man, especially since the other man was the devil. I had tried to shake my hand free a few times but he had a grip like iron, and whenever I tried he told me that if he let go I would fall, so I swallowed my pride and got used to it.

I kept expecting him to push me off the edge into the nothingness where I would fall forever or take me off to hell, but that never happened either. He was actually very nice and we talked as we went, it was awkward at first but just like the hand holding thing I got used to it. He explained to me that everything I had heard about him was actually propaganda. “Like in world war II when the Nazis slandered the Jews so nobody would argue when they started doing the screwed up stuff they did,” was how he had explained it.

“So basically,” Lucifer, or Luke as he liked to be called now, “I just wanted to unify heaven and earth, make it one big place open to everyone, not just the select few like the big guy was already doing. I shouldn't have to tell you that it pissed him off beyond belief and he kicked me out of the gates.

“That didn't stop me though, there were a few angels that agreed with me and followed me out,” Luke said, “So, basically we started our own heaven for everyone, not just a few. The big guy didn't like that either, but he couldn't do anything to stop us since we weren't in heaven anymore, so had Gabriel, his messenger, come up with all that fire and brimstone stuff so that people would avoid Dis, that's what hell is really called by the way.” What Luke was saying made sense, but I had a weird feeling about him still, like something wasn't quite right.

Soon after we left I saw a mountain in the distance. It was huge, probably bigger than Everest, and it's peak glowed like the sun sat on top. “That,” Luke told me, “is Purgatory and in order to get into heaven you will have to atone for all of you sins, pass a series of trials on the way up to the peak, and then you can get in to heaven.”

As we walked the nothingness below is soon became water which soon became a beach and Luke let go of my hand once we were on solid ground. As embarrassing as it is to admit I actually found myself feeling sad at this, my hand felt cold without his there. “Daniel,” he said to me and for once his hypnotic smile was gone. I had thought that if he stopped smiling he would become a demon or his spell or whatever it was he was doing would be broken or something, neither turned out to be true.

“Yeah?” I said as I looked at him and stuffed my hand in my pocket, finding myself not so put off by who I was talking to anymore, he was just a man to me now that we had spoken and I felt sad that his smile was gone. It was as if the sight of Purgatory saddened him, reminding him of the life he once had with his father.

“I want you to come to Dis,” He said, and I saw what he was talking about. Behind Luke stood the huge stone walls, a pair giant iron doors splitting the wall in half, “I offer this choice to all who come to Purgatory. I'll understand if you say no,” his smile was back now, that made me happy, I didn't like it when Luke was sad, it was the kind of pure sadness that makes you sad too just by seeing it.

I was about to say yes to his offer when Saint Peter's words echoed in my mind and I paused and looked at the glow coming from the peak of Mt. Purgatory behind me and then at Luke and I finally made up my mind turned my back on Luke and sighed.

“I guess I'll never get into heaven, but Dis will have to do,” I said and turned back to Luke with a smile that matched his own.

“That's fantastic news Daniel,” He said and gripped me in a hug that threatened to snap my spine, he was strong for such a skinny guy. He let me go and I groaned as I straightened my back and felt a sickening a pop that made me shudder. I think he really had broken my back. “I'll give you the tour myself,” he said with a smile.

I let him lead me to the city's moat where we were met by a large man with a thick beard and a bald head on a boat and Luke said “This is Charon, one of the angels who followed me, he runs the ferry in and out of the city,” Charon nodded at the introduction but didn't say anything back.

We boarded Charon's boat using a plank that he had lowered to the shore. The ferry seemed to have a mind of it's own, adjusting it's sails at Charon's command. Once we were across the moat I was led to the gates, which slid open slowly, noisily grinding against the stone beneath them until they were open wide enough to permit us and when we were inside the walls they slid shut behind us with a loud bang that shook the ground. From the gates I could see that Dis really was a city, Luke hadn't been lying.

“Our first stop,” Luke said, barely giving me time to take in the view, “is what they call Limbo.” According to the stories this was a sad place where all of the unbaptized and the virtuous Pagans were sent. What I saw though was a huge property filled with buildings and a beautiful courtyard. Luke told me this was really a school where all the greatest minds who were turned away from heaven taught. He led me inside and said he had somebody he wanted me to meet, so I followed him inside.

What I saw was a shock, it looked like any college I had ever seen. It was perfectly kept up and painted a brilliant white inside. Luke led me through a series of hallways and into a classroom that was empty except for a man who was cleaning up the professor's desk and Luke led me over to him and said “Daniel, I would like to introduce you to the department head of science, Professor Da Vinci, Leonardo this is my friend Daniel.”

“Wait, this is Leonardo Da Vinci?” I said as I stared at the man dumbfounded.

“The one and only,” he said with a polite bow and a smile.

“But why would Leonardo Da Vinci be in hell? He was a great man,” I said as I looked at Luke.

Luke was about to answer me when Leonardo cut in and said, “I was gay, so I was turned away and Luke brought me here to teach.”

When he first said Leonardo Da Vinci I didn't believe him, he looked just like any other college professor. He was dressed in a dress shirt and tie with a flannel jacket over that, had the patches on his elbows and everything.

Luke and I sat and talked with Leonardo for quite some time, about science, philosophy, art and just life in general and what all this was that Luke had built for everyone, but soon enough Luke said we had to go and there was more to see, and I let him lead me out of the school and closer to the center of town.

Next he led me into what looked like the downtown area of any town. It was full of stores and bars and gyms and there were even a few parks, it was absolutely fantastic. “The restaurants here”, he told me, “have the greatest culinary minds in history cooking for them,” According to Luke's unending history lesson about the town the downtown area was four of the nine circles of hell all in one, the red light district was lust, the largest restaurant, called Cerberus, was gluttony, the stores in general were greed and the gyms and parks, places where people could take out their aggression on anything other than others, were wrath.

Luke brought me to Cerberus for dinner, it was very nice, very expensive and better decorated than most. We sat down to a meal, Luke had a salad, which I thought was odd, I never dreamed that the devil would be a vegetarian. I had a steak, but Luke didn't seem to mind it like most vegetarians would have.

After our meal he took me back to meet the head chef. “Daniel, I would like you to meet Guillaume Tirel,” Luke said, “he wrote a famous book on cookery and cookery technique called Le Viandier, it is thought to be one of the first professional treatises written in France and upon which the French gastronomic tradition was founded.”

Guillaume accepted the introduction with a theatrical bow and shook my hand saying, “It is a pleasure to meet you monsieur Daniel.”

Guillaume's accent was so thick I almost couldn't understand him but I smiled and said, “The pleasure is all mine Mr. Tirel.”

After our dinner in Guillaume Tirel's restaurant Luke brought me deeper into Dis where he showed me where most of the citizens of Dis lived, some actually lived in apartments downtown. There were a variety of homes in a variety of sizes and styles, ranging from apartment buildings to trailers to two or three bedroom houses in styles from all throughout history.

To the west of the residences was a fantastic park. “This is the forest of suicide according to the Divine Comedy,” Luke told me that the forest of suicide was where all those who committed suicide are sent to be brutally punished for their sins, no purgatory for them.

This park wasn't like that at all though, it was gorgeous and perfectly kept. The grass was green and soft, the shrubs and bushes were sculpted into shapes and figures and beautiful scenes and to top it off the forest had trees that were always flowering and bearing fruit.

Believe it or not the park was actually taken care of by centaurs, yeah, it's weird but true. They walked around all day cutting shrubs, mowing grass, watering plants and picking fruit for the children who couldn't reach.

It was all too unreal.

“It's not over yet,” Luke told me “we had two more stops to see.”

We went further north first, crossing a bridge over a lovely brook with the clearest water I had ever seen. There were children playing below the bridge, splashing around in the waters or fishing, but that wasn't our stop.

Once we were across the bridge he took me up a road to a huge hospital, bigger than any I had ever seen. “This is Malebolge Hospital,” he said, giving me a moment to take it in. Malebolge hospital was beautiful, like all things seemed to be here. It was architecturally perfect and had a lounging area outside with benches and a large fountain as it's center piece.

He brought me inside to take a tour and I saw that even the waiting room was magnificent. As we walked about we saw doctors dressed in white coats, who, as Luke told me, “are all former plague doctors from the Italian renaissance, considered to be some of the best doctors in history who would often experiment on themselves before allowing a patient to die on them.”

For our last stop Luke led me from the hospital to a place he called Cocytus.

Cocytus was magnificent, it was a huge medieval castle that was filled to the brim with works of art, “all painted or sculpted by the citizens of Dis,” he had said with one of his wonderful smiles. “We also hold grand parties here once a month and everybody is invited, the parties are loads of fun with food and dancing and costumes.” he told me with a proud smile and I must admit, after seeing all of this I was beginning to like hell, or should I say Dis. I wanted to stay here.

After the long but purely amazing tour of Cocytus Luke and I sat in the castle's courtyard under a tree watching clouds and relaxing, we had been walking and talking for what felt like hours and the relaxation was more than welcome.

“Luke I want to stay here,” I said as I smiled and looked at him to see that my smile was being returned ten fold.

“Daniel, that is wonderful news,” he said and locked me in a hug that lasted slightly too long, but wasn't at all awkward though, it was more warm than anything and I realized that Luke's spell, or whatever it was, was broken on me. Or at least I think so because after our hug I wasn't so attracted to him, but I still thought of him as a close friend now.

I realized then that Luke wasn't the devil. I think he was actually more human than anyone else I had ever met.

He had done more for me than I could ever repay. I never really had a home or a family when I was alive, and now I had both. I had Dis and I had Luke and I think that is all I really ever wanted.

Folcro
April 17th, 2013, 12:18 AM
Very interesting.

I'm not sure where you're going with it obviously, which is good. Leave the reader wondering if Luke is going to turn out to be good or bad. If Heaven really is an elitist state and Lucifer may well be an ill-sung hero.

A few things about your prose...

Every sentence and every word, especially your adjectives, should be a red flag. Every word in every sentence and every sentence in every paragraph should be asked a question--- "Do I need you?" You may be surprised how many of your words should be denied entry into paradise.

Here's an example of your opening lines, how I might alter them. Note that I am changing very little, mostly just removing certain words. Things encased in these--- <> --- are things I have changed, sometimes with explanation. Here goes...
------------------------------------------------
My name is Daniel.<period, not comma> I was twenty-one when I died.

<I had talked myself into atheism at an early age--- I changed this because I feel his rational should be more generalized--- atheism is more complex than simply not believing one being can create the universe, but this is purely my opinion.> I guess I shouldn't have given it so much thought, I turned out to be dead wrong.

You may be wondering why I'm telling you this. I am too, but I have nothing to lose.

I had been drinking in a small bar downtown that night. It <reeked>, but the drinks were strong and cheap. It <came to> one in the morning <when> I decided it was time to go home. <I removed "I had been responsible" because the reader will figure it out on their own by Daniel's giving the keys to the bartender> I gave my keys to the bartender and walked to a nearby bus stop. Dirty, covered in graffiti, <stinking> of urine.
------------------------------------------------

Avoid the use of words like "and" when you simply don't need them (a lesson I personally learned from Frank Herbert, author of Dune).

Your reader is more than smart enough to carry the burden of most of the details, have faith in their imagination. You'd be happy to learn just how little writing you have to do to produce a great story.

Moving on to the content...

Loved it. I felt a disturbance in myself as I started to wonder if "Luke" may have actually been sincere. After all, what do I know about the workings of the diving world? Who am I to say the Devil is evil? I am only a human. Brilliant. (One line hinders this effect, and I'll get to that in a bit).

A few suggestions on content though, if I may be so bold...

When your protagonist approached Peter, Peter offered Daniel's name (in the secular last name, first name format, no less). I wonder if it might interest you to, instead of giving a name for the flesh, offer Daniel a new name, the name of his soul, symbolically changing Daniel's identity as he comes into this new discovery. What I mean is, his soul had a name all along, one that sounds alien to him now.

Perhaps I' not up to snuff on my Bible, but did the name "Isabelle" (spoken by Peter) bare any significance? If not, perhaps it should.

Finally, you employ a line in your story as Daniel is getting to know Luke, that "something is still not quite right" with him.

I cannot stress this to you enough: remove this line.

As a writer, you are a magician. This line gives your trick away. It reveals that Lucifer is going to turn out to be a villain. The reader should not know this yet. You need to leave them guessing. This line takes that magic away.

Great work. Edit it. I look forward to learning in what direction you go with this.

P.S. I apologize if this comes across as ignorant, but is Daniel gay, or...?

twentysix26
April 17th, 2013, 03:26 AM
Thank you for your advice, I plan on taking all of it. Isabelle wasn't actually in the bible as far as I know, but I haven't read the bible since I was a kid, but the name means consecrated to god and she will be significant later on.

And to answer your question Daniel is not gay, he struggles with it because William Shakespeare once said "the devil has the power to assume a pleasing shape" which was a statement about the appeals of evil, so he is just struggling with the appealing nature of Luke and what he offers opposed to what he has been told to believe all of his life in the form of a crisis involving his sexual orientation.

Folcro
April 17th, 2013, 03:55 AM
You should put an emphasis on that aspect then, though I assume you already had planned on doing that. I think there is a lot of room for character development here before you dive straight into Hell. The premise definitely gives room for a phenomenal character. Maybe a bit of a smart ass, rebellious, Han Solo kind of guy (got the impression you were almost going in that direction).

Speaking of direction, would you care to shed some light on where you are going with this?

twentysix26
April 17th, 2013, 04:32 AM
Actually that is pretty much where I was going with it and I think I will go back and emphasize it, I threw in a reference to it, but that was more for myself than for the reader

Well, I don't want to reveal too much because I want to post it in parts on here and on Deviantart but Daniel becomes suspicious that Luke is not quite as nice as he seems and that he has a sinister plot that involves the people of Dis and Daniel needs to decide whether he trusts his friend or Isabelle.

Folcro
April 17th, 2013, 04:35 AM
Well, I for one will definitely be reading more as you post these. It's a shame not as many people are on these forums as I would have expected.

twentysix26
April 17th, 2013, 04:45 AM
Well I'm glad someone likes it, my writing doesn't usually get a lot of attention. I definitely hope to see more critiques from you, it was very helpful.

twentysix26
April 19th, 2013, 03:32 AM
Part One: Welcome to Hell

My name is Daniel. I was twenty-one when I died.

I had talked myself into atheism at an early age. I guess it just never really made sense to me. I shouldn't have given it as much thought as I did, I was dead wrong.

You may be wondering why I'm telling you all of this, and to be honest I am too, but I have nothing to lose, so on with the story.

I had been drinking in a bar downtown that night. It reeked but the drinks were strong and cheap so why not? It came to one in the morning when I decided it was time to go home. I gave my keys to the bartender and walked to a nearby bus stop. Dirty, covered in graffiti, stinking of urine.

I sat for a while, watching the traffic go by until the night bus arrived. Tthe bus the driver gave me a nasty look, which I could understand, I probably looked like had gone to hell and back. “Don't vomit on my bus,” the driver said, holding out his hand for the fare.

The bus didn't smell much better than the bus stop had but it was a little bit of an improvement. I sat in the bus and stared out the window for a time, watching the cars we passed until I fell asleep. I was woken a while later by the driver. "We're at the end of the line buddy, go home."

I cursed as I stumbled out of the bus, I had a long way to walk made even longer by the fact that I was drunk. I started to let my mind wander during the walk and began to think about my life. I wasn't doing anything, other than getting drunk in the middle of the night and stumbling home, I didn't even have a real job, I just sold junk I bought online.

I walked for what felt like forever. I had almost fallen into the road a few times but I always managed to stay upright, barely. Down the block from my building I bumped into an older man who simply smiled at me and asked if I needed help getting home but I turned him down, it wasn't too much farther. I had to turn to cross the street, so I stopped, looked both ways like you're supposed to. The streets were empty so I stepped out into the road.

That was a big mistake.

I barely had my foot on the road when a drunk driver sped around the corner, almost flipping his own car as it slid. His car hit me, hard. As it turns out I would have been safer if I had driven drunk myself.

I was expecting pain but it didn't come, I didn't feel anything. I found myself flipping through the air and I had lost a shoe, but I wasn't thinking “Oh god, I'm going to die” or anything like that, it was more along the lines of “This is actually kind of fun.” Then my head hit the ground and the world turned black.

After that I did something I never thought I would again. I opened my eyes.

It was bright and I was laying down. I figured I was in the hospital, thank god. As my eyes adjusted to the brilliant white I could see the legs of faceless blurs walking around me. That's when I realized I was laying on the ground, the really soft ground. Was it grass? I rubbed the ground with my hand and it was soft, but it wasn't grass, it felt more like silk but it dissolved under my fingers like nothing I had ever felt before.

Once I could see I sat up to get my bearings. The sky was blue, cloudless, and the sun was massive, like it was right there next to me. There was nothing for as far as I could see, just people milling about like a bar with nothing to do.

I stood and stumbled slightly but I didn't feel drunk. When I turned around I saw what I was hoping I wouldn't. Right there before my eyes was a huge golden gate. I was dead, and wrong as it turns out.

Sitting next to the gate was a man behind a desk who looked as old as time, he had long white hair and a longer white beard. He looked up from his desk and in my direction and calling up Michael.

I turned around to see who he was talking to but nobody was paying any attention to him. I looked back to the old man and pointed to myself. "Me?" I asked him as I slowly walked my way to his desk, "look, my name isn't Michael, It's Daniel. There's been a mix up"

“Welcome to the gates of Heaven, Michael, I am Saint Peter,” he said, smiling at me kindly before opening a large book he had in front of him. He began flipping through it's pages, looking for something until he said “Ah, here we are,” and turning the book around, pushing it across the desk so I could see it.

I look at the page he had turned it to, it was me, well, it was about me anyway. “What is that?” I asked him as I stared at the book. The page showed my birth date, hair color, eye color, everything down to my favorite fast food and, most frightening of all, my death date, right down to the minute. But the name was wrong.

“It's your life Michael, everything you have ever done is recorded here.” he said as he began flipping through it, and damn it all he was right, as he flipped through it I saw a newspaper clipping from when I had been the wrestling champion in high school, the name was right in that, a hand written paragraph about the time I had stolen a pack of cigarettes from my father when I was eleven, everything up until the moment I died.

“So what does all this mean? Why do you keep calling me Michael? Am I going to heaven?” I asked as I looked between the book and Saint Peter. he looked thoughtful for a moment as he flipped through the book, reading as he went even though all I could catch were individual words, I suppose spending an eternity reading books you learned to do it quickly.

He shook his head as he looked at me as he shut the book slowly. “So many questions for such a young man. Your name was Daniel, it was the name your parents gave you but not the name we gave you," he said and shook his head "and I'm afraid that you were a good man, but atheists are not allowed past the gates.” he said as he just looked at me, he didn't care, he didn't give a damn where I went.

“Look here, you just said I was a good man, why should what I believe matter? I was wrong but so what? I was a good guy.” I was outraged, if I had been a good man why shouldn't I get in? I didn't even care what he called me at this point, I just wanted in.

“I'm afraid those are the rules.” Peter said

I stood quickly, knocking my chair over as I did. “You don't know me, you can't even get my name right!" I was yelling now, drawing stares from the groups behind me but I didn't care, they could stare all they wanted.

“Calm down Michael,” he said as calmly as he could, still ignoring the name issue, “You can still get in, you just need to climb Mt. Purgatory and pass it's tests and you will be welcome,” he seemed to be telling the truth, but I was still pissed off. “Just be warned Michael, do not listen to the heresy of Lucifer.”

“How do I get to Mt. Purgatory?” I asked him, feeling relieved that I could still enter heaven even though I hadn't even believed in it until a few minutes ago. Peter ignored me and called up another person, Isabelle something, and waved for me to leave.

I tried some more to get him to talk but he wouldn't even look at me, I was getting angrier with every unanswered question, I wanted my answers and I wanted them now. I was about to lose my temper and throw a few punches when I felt a tap on my shoulder.

I turned around to yell at whoever was trying to keep me from my answers. I was surprised to see a man smiling at me, I was expecting an angel or something. He was attractive, very attractive. He was tall and skinny with short white hair and pale skin with piercing pale blue eyes. Great, one more reason for Saint Peter to tell me no, I thought this man was stunning. “Are you Daniel?” he asked without dropping his smile.

I could feel my face redden as I stared at him and opened and closed my mouth like a fish. “Apparently,” I finally managed to say after an awkwardly long silence. The man hadn't dropped his smile for a moment while he waited for my answer.

“Well, it's nice to meet you Daniel, I'm Lucifer,” The man said and held out his hand for me to shake. Brilliant, just as I was getting over my gay crisis he dropped a bigger bomb on me. The devil has the power to assume a pleasing shape I suppose.

“He--” I pointed absently at Saint Peter as I searched for the words, “Saint Peter told me not to listen to you,”

“Don't worry about that old fart, he's just telling you what he's being told to tell to people.” Lucifer said to me with that damned smile of his. “Besides, I'm here to bring you to Purgatory.”

“You are?” I asked, trying to avoid eye contact with him, not wanting to be denied my entry to heaven because I was being hypnotized by the bloody devil.

“Yeah, come along, it's this way,” He said and motioned for me to follow him as he began to walk away. Despite my better judgment and the voice in my head screaming “No, just wait here for an angel or a guiding light or something, anything else,” I followed him.

Lucifer guided me away from the gates to the edge of the horizon and then he looked at me and held out his hand, “Go on, take it, you can't reach purgatory without some help, I won't hurt you, I promise,” he said and just kept smiling.

I don't know what I was thinking but I took it. I was expecting him to become some big nasty demon and kidnap me away to some kind of dungeon or torture chamber, but he didn't he just patted me on the shoulder with his other hand like he knew what I had been thinking and guided me off the edge.

There was nothing below us, just empty air, but it felt solid to the touch. Like a bridge of glass. We walked for what felt like hours, but I didn't feel hungry or tired. It felt weird to be holding hands with another man, especially since the other man was the devil. I had tried to shake my hand free a few times but he had a grip like iron, and whenever I tried he told me that if he let go I would fall, so I swallowed my pride and got used to it.

I kept expecting him to push me off the edge into the nothingness where I would fall forever or take me off to hell, but that never happened either. He was actually very nice and we talked as we went, it was awkward at first but just like the hand holding thing I got used to it. He explained to me that everything I had heard about him was actually propaganda. “Like in world war II when the Nazis slandered the Jews so nobody would argue when they started doing the screwed up stuff they did,” was how he had explained it.

“So basically,” Lucifer, or Luke as he liked to be called now, “I just wanted to unify heaven and earth, make it one big place open to everyone, not just the select few like the big guy was already doing. I shouldn't have to tell you that it pissed him off beyond belief and he kicked me out and built the gates to keep me and the other riff-raff out.

“That didn't stop me though, there were a few angels that agreed with me and followed me out,” Luke said, “So, basically we started our own heaven for everyone, not just a few. The big guy didn't like that either, but he couldn't do anything to stop us since we weren't in heaven anymore so he had Gabriel, his messenger, come up with all that fire and brimstone stuff so that people would avoid Dis, that's what hell is really called by the way.” What Luke was saying made sense in a twisted way.

Soon after we left I saw a mountain in the distance. It was probably bigger than Everest, and it's peak glowed like the sun sat on top. “That,” Luke told me, “is Purgatory and in order to get into heaven you will have to atone for all of you sins, pass a series of trials on the way up to the peak, and then you can get in to heaven.”

As we walked the nothingness below is soon became water which soon became a beach and Luke let go of my hand once we were on solid ground. “Daniel,” he said to me and for once his smile was gone.

“Yeah?” I said as I looked at him and stuffed my hand in my pocket, finding myself not so put off by who I was talking to anymore, he was just a man to me now that we had spoken and I felt sad that his smile was gone. I think it was the sight of Purgatory saddened him, reminding him of the life he once had with his father.

“I want you to come to Dis,” He said, and I saw what he was talking about. Behind Luke were sixty foot tall stone walls, a pair giant iron doors splitting the wall nearest us in half, “I offer this choice to all who come to Purgatory. I'll understand if you say no,” his smile was back now, that made me happy, I didn't like it when Luke was sad, it was the kind of pure sadness that makes you sad too just seeing it.

I was about to say yes to his offer when Saint Peter's words echoed in my mind and I paused and looked at the glow coming from the peak of Mt. Purgatory behind me and then at Luke and I made up my mind.

I turned my back on Luke and sighed. “I guess I'll never get into heaven, but Dis will have to do,”

“That's fantastic news Daniel,” He said and gripped me in a hug that threatened to snap my spine, he was strong for such a skinny guy. He let me go and I groaned as I straightened my back and felt a pop that made me shudder.

I let him lead me to the city's moat where we were met by a large man with a thick beard and a bald head on a boat and Luke said “This is Charon, one of the angels who followed me, he runs the ferry in and out of the city,” Charon nodded with a grunt at the introduction.

We boarded Charon's boat using a plank that he had lowered to the shore. The ferry seemed to have a mind of it's own, adjusting it's sails at Charon's command and taking us from the shore to the boardwalk outside the city's gate.

Luke led me through the gate, which slid open slowly, noisily grinding against the stone beneath them until they were open wide enough to permit us and when we were inside the walls they slid shut behind us with a loud bang that shook the ground. From the gates I could see that Dis really was a city, Luke hadn't been lying.

“Our first stop,” Luke said, barely giving me time to take in the view, “is what they call Limbo.” According to the stories this was a sad place where all of the unbaptized and the virtuous Pagans were sent. What I saw though was a huge property filled with buildings and a beautiful courtyard. Luke told me this was really a school where all the greatest minds who were turned away from heaven taught. He led me inside, saying he had somebody he wanted me to meet.

Inside it looked like any college I had ever seen. Luke led me through a series of hallways and into a lecture room that was empty except for a man who was cleaning up the professor's desk. Luke led me over to the lone man and said “Daniel, I would like to introduce you to our science department's head, Professor Da Vinci, Leonardo this is my friend Daniel.”

“Wait, this is Leonardo Da Vinci?” I asked as I stared at the man, dumbfounded.

“The one and only,” he said with a polite bow and a smile.

“But why would Leonardo Da Vinci be in hell? He was a great man,”

Luke was about to answer me when Leonardo held his hand up to quiet him and said, “I was gay, so I was turned away and Luke brought me here to teach.”

Luke and I sat and talked with Leonardo for quite some time, about science, philosophy, art and just life in general. Soon enough though Luke said we had to go and there was more to see, and I let him lead me out of the school and closer to the center of town.

Next he led me into what looked like the downtown area of any town. It was full of stores and bars and gyms and there were even a few parks, it was absolutely fantastic. “The restaurants here,” he told me, “have the greatest culinary minds in history cooking for them,” According to Luke's unending history lesson about the town the downtown area was four of the nine circles of hell all in one, the red light district was lust, the largest restaurant, called Cerberus, was gluttony, the stores in general were greed and the gyms and parks, places where people could take out their aggression on anything other than others, were wrath.

Luke brought me to Cerberus for dinner, it was very nice, very expensive, better decorated than most places. We sat down to a meal, Luke had a salad, which I thought was odd. I never dreamed that the devil would be a vegetarian. I had a steak, but Luke didn't seem to mind it like most vegetarians I knew would have.

After our meal he took me back to meet the head chef. “Daniel, I would like you to meet Guillaume Tirel,” Luke said, “he wrote a famous book on cookery and cookery technique called Le Viandier, it is thought to be one of the first professional treatises written in France and upon which the French gastronomic tradition was founded.”

Guillaume accepted the introduction with a theatrical bow and shook my hand saying, “It is a pleasure to meet you monsieur Daniel.”

Guillaume's accent was so thick I almost couldn't understand him but I smiled and said, “The pleasure is all mine Mr. Tirel.”

After our dinner in Guillaume Tirel's restaurant Luke brought me deeper into Dis where he showed me where most of the citizens lived, some actually lived in apartments downtown. There were a variety of homes in a variety of sizes and styles, ranging from apartment buildings to trailers to two or three bedroom houses in styles from all throughout history.

To the west of the residences was a fantastic park. “This is the forest of suicide according to the Divine Comedy,” Luke told me that the forest of suicide was where all those who committed suicide are sent to be brutally punished for their sins, no purgatory for them.

This park wasn't like that at all though, it was gorgeous and perfectly kept. The grass was green and soft, the shrubs and bushes were sculpted into shapes and figures and beautiful scenes and to top it off the forest had trees that were always flowering and bearing fruit.

Believe it or not the park was actually taken care of by centaurs, yeah, it's weird but true. They walked around all day cutting shrubs, mowing grass, watering plants and picking fruit for the children who couldn't reach.

“It's not over yet,” Luke told me “we have two more stops to see.”

We went further north first, crossing a bridge over a lovely brook with the clearest water I had ever seen. There were children playing below the bridge, splashing around in the waters or fishing, but that wasn't our stop.

Once we were across the bridge he took me up a road to a huge hospital, bigger than any I had ever seen. “This is Malebolge Hospital,” he said, giving me a moment to take it in. Malebolge hospital was beautiful, like all things seemed to be here. It had a lounging area outside with benches and a large fountain as it's center piece.

He brought me inside to take a tour and I saw that even the waiting room was magnificent. As we walked about we saw doctors dressed in white coats, who, as Luke told me, “are all former plague doctors from the Italian renaissance, considered to be some of the best doctors in history who would often experiment on themselves before allowing a patient to die on them.”

For our last stop Luke led me from the hospital to a place he called Cocytus.

Cocytus was magnificent, it was a huge medieval castle that was filled to the brim with works of art, “all painted or sculpted by the citizens of Dis,” he had said with one of his wonderful smiles. “We also hold grand parties here once a month and everybody is invited, the parties are loads of fun with food, dancing and costumes.” he told me with a proud smile and I must admit, after seeing all of this I was beginning to like hell, or should I say Dis. I wanted to stay here.

After the long but purely amazing tour of Cocytus Luke and I sat in the castle's courtyard under a tree watching clouds and relaxing, we had been walking and talking for what felt like hours and the relaxation was more than welcome.

“Luke I want to stay here,” I said as I smiled and looked at him to see that my smile was being returned ten fold.

“Daniel, that is wonderful news,” he said and locked me in a hug. Before I probably would have been red in the face, but it wasn't awkward this time, it was more warm than anything and I knew that Luke hadn't put me under a spell, I had. Being attracted to him was my mind's way of telling me to listen to him and go with him, or at least that's what I think because after our hug I wasn't so attracted to him.

I realized then that Luke definitely wasn't the devil. No he was actually more human than anyone else I had ever met.

He had done more for me than I could ever repay, I never really had a home or a family when I was alive, and now I had both. I had Dis and I had Luke and I think that is all I really ever wanted.

Folcro
April 19th, 2013, 09:36 PM
Getting much better--- one suggestion, this came to me right away---

I think Luke should call him Daniel... It's his secular name. The devil wants to bind him to his earthly self. I'll go over this again and see what else I can find.

twentysix26
April 19th, 2013, 10:39 PM
Thank you, that's a really good idea, I hadn't thought of that.

esynnaj
April 21st, 2013, 08:04 PM
I'm a new member just looking around when I found this and enjoyed it. I like your beginning and liked it better after you made the improvements suggested by Folcro. If a novel isn't interesting to me in the first three or four paragraphs, I'll flip to the last three or four pages to get a sense of whether the middle is worth my time and trouble. If the end doesn't interest me either, I'll stop reading. Well, you got me from the start. I'm curious to know more, which is good. So I'll be back for that more. You are appreciated.

twentysix26
April 22nd, 2013, 07:58 PM
Thank you very much esynnaj, I appreciate the feedback and I am working on the second part now, I'm about a quarter of the way done so I should be finished soon if I can get over my writer's block.

Folcro
April 29th, 2013, 12:03 AM
So where's my sequel?

twentysix26
May 2nd, 2013, 09:44 PM
On its way, I have just been busy recently with school and work, so on top of my writers block a little while ago I have been swamped.

Oh, and I have found out recently that there is actually a novel called Daniel's Inferno. I don't plan on changing the title and his novel is not about the same thing, just the same title.

Folcro
May 3rd, 2013, 11:25 PM
Definitely don't worry about things like that. You can't copyright a book title. Unless it's really popular (which it isn't) you shouldn't have a problem. Another thing to consider is that, when you finish the story, you may decide on a different title.