In the midst of the beginning of the journey of life, I found myself in a dark wood, where the direct path was lost. I cannot rightly say how I entered it, for my mind was filled with the particular numbness which occurs after an extended period of complacent activity. However, as a man who has escaped the crashing sea crawls upon the shore and turns to stare at the waters, so do I turn to stare upon the events that led me to that most fascinating place.
Within the dark wood I was assailed by beasts and, fleeing for my life, came upon a xanthous man standing atop the crest of a hill. I pleaded for assistance from the figure, who raised his hand and commanded the creatures to depart. Thus they did, slinking away beneath the boughs of the trees, but for one being, an enormous snarling she-wolf.
The man made a tremendous and mighty list of obscenities to which the she-wolf growled, and slunk away, muttering (much to my surprise) about sexism.
"That beast, amongst the others, was it the worst of it's kind?" I asked the man, whom I could see by the light of the moon, was possessed of a singular eye, the emptiness of the opposite socket occluded by a patch wound about his head.
"Yea." he proclaimed, staring at the spot where the virulent beast had retreated.
"It's name is Kotaku, and it is amongst the foulest of it's ilk." Then he turned to me, and spoke these words. "One day she will grow starved, and she will devour herself, or be devoured in turn by her own kind. Come now, follow me and I will escort you to the demesne." As I hesitated he said, "Do not behave as does a whimpering bitch, you bitch."
Then he departed and I followed behind.
As we journeyed he told me of himself, that his name was Phil, and that he would gladly be my guide through this place, and that which lay beyond. When I questioned the purpose of such a journey, he told me to, "Shut the fuck up so we can proceed with the narrative."
Thus I did, and remained silent until we came upon a great maw in the earth. I proclaimed, frightened, "Must we journey into such depths?" and Phil replied, "we have not yet reached the beginning of our descent. Make haste." He paused, then muttered,
"Damn sissy-boy." We delved deep into the caverns, before we came to a great gate.
It resembled a face, but for it's rectangular features and verdant hue. Upon that visage two great eyes came alight with brilliant crimson, and a mechanical voice boomed,
THROUGH ME THE WAY TO THE AWESOME CITY,
THROUGH ME THE WAY TO ETERNAL LOLS,
THROUGH ME THE WAY TO THE COOL PEOPLE.
PASSION MOVED MY SUPREME MAKER:
I WAS SHAPED BY ELECTRONIC POWER,
BY COMPUTER WISDOM, AND BY LOVE OF GAMES.
BEFORE ME, NOTHING WAS CREATED
THAT IS NOT LAME, AND ETERNALLY MY GREATNESS SHALL ENDURE.
ABANDON ALL PRETENSION, YOU THAT ENTER HERE.
The ground shook such that I am filled with terror to recall it. The red light flashed, overcoming my senses, and I fell to the ground and fainted, as a man overcome by sleep, as the voice boomed, "ALSO DICKS."
Through a long darkness I awoke suddenly into light. An enormous field was laid before me, filled with men and women meandering about in groups, and alone. Upon every shoulder was draped a snake with many mouths and ears, rising from the multitudes into the clouds that rested far above, beyond my sight. These creatures disturbed me, and sensing my apprehension, my guide explained, "That being is the Disqus, it connects all who dwell here with one another. It speaks wisdom and truth, insanity and inanity, in equal measure." Here, a tendril lay itself across the nape of my neck, to rest over my heart, and I was paralyzed. My guide slapped the wriggling thing away. "You do not yet reside here, nor do we have the time to be wasted in gaining acceptance from the creature. Let us depart."
We walked for some time, across grass, and over flowing water, which was as solid as the ground. As we traversed the waters, I could see the disc-like form of a great sunfish basking just below the surface. We passed many of the denizens of that place. I saw a man, enrobed in pink, sifting through manuscripts and commanding great legions of resident shades in various activities. My guide stated, "He is Dixon, who organizes the masses here, sending them to their appropriate destinations, and selecting the finest of writings for our pleasure." We passed many more before we came upon a particular pair; a woman, sword in hand, and a man, felines clinging to his face, in such a fashion that their coats appeared to form a beard. The woman spoke with wisdom and passion and the man spoke both reason and madness in a gentle manner. They were delightful companions, but soon we departed, much to my dismay.
"They are compatriots of mine, of most excellent caliber," my guide claimed.
Once again, some time passed before we came to a sheer cliff, with but the barest of winding paths to indicate the possibility of descent. My guide's face paled. He said, "Prepare for the storm to come, for it is strong and foul. Hold to my shoulder." I did, with my other hand pressed against the cliff to steady myself further.
At a point, he said, "We have descended halfway, brace yourself, as the vapors may overcome you." Soon after, a most horrible stench blew into my nostrils on a sudden gale. It reeked of carnal passion, rot, and beans. I tried to persevere, but was overwhelmed and succumbed, falling as a dead man falls.
I woke amidst the roar of passing wind and a stench akin to sulfur. Phil had seated himself upon a protruding rock, looming over me. The air here was so vile that it burned my lungs, but with the help of the benevolent spirit, I managed to come to my feet and issue forth. "You have acclimated to this potent miasma, but let us observe those who are here and leave, elsewise you shall surely perish." Having said such, he brought me to a ledge, overlooking a yawning chasm and had I not been supported by my companion, I would have been blown away by the winds. All throughout the air, bodies were tossed about like dead leaves in the strong gusts of Autumn. Moaning, they drifted along the powerful currents, spiraling into one another and the cliffs below and afar. Flying demons, heads encased in the visage borne upon that dread gate, beat and savaged all within reach of their weapons, great purple phalli, longer than they were tall. I gazed at this display of brutality in terror and awe for a long while, before my companion said, "Let us now be gone from here." When I made no motion to move, he then exclaimed, "Lest thou art a total fag, and wish to spend the rest of eternity beaten senseless by enormous cocks, you had best get to steppin' with me, NOW." I snapped out of my doldrums, and nodded assent. Thus did we depart from that place.
We descended further, where the air was not so foul with malodor, before I had thought to ask, "From whence does such a flurry come, which tosses those souls with such violence?" "A region where nothing shines," I received in reply.
Leading us ever downward, I was further answered, " If you were to descend those barren cliffs amidst the tumult, you will find deep with that gaping blackness an immeasurable sphincter, belonging to the being known as Holmes, who is imprisoned within the stone. It is from there that the squall issues forth, as well as the fetor accompanying it."
I then said, "Such as storm... I do not truly believe I can imagine something so large that it may produce a force so great."
"It is said that amongst all creations, the sphincter of Holmes is amongst the largest, and most terrible."
Hereupon we came to the entrance of the third circle. I was warned to stay close, and heed all commands given, lest I be devoured by the guardian beast, Sterling. I agreed, and we moved silently along the roughly hewn path, until we came to an open expanse.
Within the third circle, we were subject to eternal, accursed heavy rain. Tainted water poured down from the shadows, and was swallowed by the putrid earth. Sterling, the fierce and strange monster, triple-chinned, barked horribly over the people submerged in it. His eyes were blazing red, his hair foul and black, his belly vast, and his limbs clawed.
The miserable wretches who caught his attention were flayed and quartered.
Soon, Sterling, the great worm, spotted us, and he opened his jaws and showed his fangs. My guide, stretching out his arms, scooped up mud, and making a motion as if to throw it, tricked Sterling into chasing after a non-existent toss. "CHUNGUS!" he bellowed, chasing after nothing, so loudly that were I any closer to him I would have been driven deaf. We proceeded quickly through the mire.
We passed over the shades, subdued by the downpour, so densely laid that all empty ground seemed a chill corpse. All were lying upon the ground except one, who sat up as we passed near. He said to me: "O you who are led through this cold realm, dost though recognize me? I believe we are acquainted." And I to him: "The anguish that you suffer conceals you from my memory, so I cannot claim to recognize you. Please tell me who you are, enduring such unpleasant lodging." And he to me: "I was called Kris, but I was known by a moniker- useless now, but ingrained into my being. Consisting of both the chimp who swings from branch to branch and the humble spud, was my person known." His name was brought to my mind, and I grew wide-eyed in acknowledgment. "My good fellow," I proclaimed, "My friend! Why do you languish here, in such misery?"
"My consumption of spirits was to an excess, such as may have killed another man. I lay here thus, face upward, unto the deluge, until such a time as I do not know." He sighed wearily. "But my head falls heavy, and my body grows weak, and I needs supplant my place among the prone." He bent his head then, and lowered himself, and it, amongst the blind multitude.
My guide said to me then, "He will not stir again until his time is done; then he may seek another world, above or below, and find his true place, as all of us do, or have done, or yearn to do." We passed onto a deeper plain with slow steps, where the suffering were drowned beneath the seething flood. We spoke at length of the future, and I made mention of my fellow, "In the other world, will he know peace?" I was answered, "None that dwell within these lands, above us, or below, may know true peace, but when he has found his place, he may be closer to it than before." Trudging through that shallow sea we came to our next descent near a great waterfall. Continuing through the misty dark, speaking of more than I can recount, we came unto the realm below, and Hamza, who controls wealth.
"Pape Niero, pape Niero aleppe," that creature began to croak, gesturing all around him toward the merchandise on the floor, and walls, all emblazoned with strange symbols and letters, and the emerald device borne upon the entrance to this pit. "Leave us be, beast!" my guide shouted. "We have no intent of purchase, nor money with which to procure your wares!" With a groan full of contempt and disappointment, the gilded being withdrew into the ground, and thus did his goods retreat with him as well. We proceeded unhindered until we came to the shores of a river, which seemed to boil.
It was awash with voices and cries of anger. He who led me explained that the bubbles rising from the river contained the words of those who would wish to incite rage, and have been punished below the river with all of their kith, ever fighting, ever cursing one another. Below the surface I could barely see, but I strained my eyes and beheld figures ravaging one another with fist and foot and hand and tooth. Then my attention was diverted by a flashing signal far away, along the horizon. "What is that light, and what it's purpose?" I asked. He said, "Patience, for it comes for us even now."
The light solidified, and there was revealed a small boat, traveling more quickly than any projectile produced in the waking world, careening over the waves of the river of wrath.
The violent ones attempted to escape from its path, but instead were thrust aside by the prow, and blasted away by the wake. I asked as it neared, out of worry, "Should we step aside?" In response, I was given a head-shake: no. The craft was upon us, and jolted suddenly to a stop where the waves lapped the shore, as I stepped backward, startled.
The steersman, face enshrouded with stubble, and possessed of the features of a Scot, brusquely gestured for us to climb aboard. I turned toward Phil, hesitant. He said, "He is one of two, the counterpart of a German. In the everyday world, he was a Legend, but his belligerence brought him here, where he interrogates-" The steersman grunted angrily, and made the gesture again, more forcefully. My guide stated, "Don't be an ass, we're coming." He motioned with his head for me to board. I did, then so did he, and we departed much more slowly than he had come toward us. My knowledgeable companion whispered, "Be wary of your answers, and do not venture upon insult, as he is prone to harangues in his wroth."
I did as was suggested, and was treated to a pleasant and intelligent conversation with the dour-faced boatman, until we reached our destination.
We arrived in the steep ditch which forms the moat to the deep city; the walls seemed alive with flowing text and phantom images. We made a wide circuit, until we reached a stretch of beach beneath a towering bridge. "Disembark, I'm done with you." the ferryman barked, all gentility now gone. We climbed a winding stair that led to the top of the bridge, whereupon I witnessed the gates of that city. Engraved upon those obsidian monoliths were great flaming letters. They were: C, B, L, O, G, and an S. Their meaning was lost upon me. My leader came toward that gate, upon which was a throng; roaring long speeches, crying gibberish, and gratifying themselves.
He called for entreaty, and was denied.
He demanded entrance, and was denied.
He professed carnal knowledge of their mothers, yet, he was still denied.
Sighing wearily, he walked toward the side of the bridge opposite the barrier, and sat cross-legged on the ground. "Was our journey all for naught?" I questioned.
"No, child. It will be completed, for one comes to our aid who cannot be denied. We need only wait." He patted the ground beside him, and I lowered myself. We sat in silence, listening to the pandemonium of the city, until my guide turned his head and, seeing something which pleased him greatly, stood up with a smile. I looked back, and beheld what appeared to be a comet. Nearer it came, and I saw then that it was a woman, armored; a she-bear emblazoned upon her surcoat. She glowed radiantly white, like a star, and pale wings brought her before the gate. The reverie atop took no notice. She raised her hand high, and conjured from the air a massive blade of shifting colors, alike unto a rainbow. With this, she smote the gate, which burst inward, sending those atop it tumbling to the ground and ravine below. That heavenly being left without a word; only a small smile as she past us by, and she was gone, as the stars at the dusk. We entered the city.
Within, a thousand thousand tombs formed the streets, all of them aglow with fire of many unnatural colors, and the sounds of pain. Bodies leaned out of their sarcophagi, spouting their thoughts and feelings at any who would hear. We did not listen to the bleating, and hurried down the alleyways, as we dared not halt there. "Who are they who reside within these walls?" I asked, being escorted lower and lower into the bowels of the vibrant city of tombs. "Many and more, so that I could never tell you, but they all believe they need be heard, and shout at one another. Some have great talent, others are mindless. Above, you saw Dixon, who peruses the writings, searching for the best. He is one of the few who come here, for the way is difficult, and not clear." We traversed a long and winding tunnel, lit brightly by the fires of the resident coffins which composed it, it seemed a veritable festival so brilliantly was our path lit. "The path here was difficult, yes. But then, what of the path beyond here?" I asked my rushing docent.
"For us alone, it would be impossible. We will needs take advantage of the denizens of the lower tiers." We came then to a street lined with solid stones, not burning tombs. Heading ever deeper, there opened up to us: a river of boiling blood, a forest of tormented screams, and a burning desert, far beyond the others.
"Must we traverse all these lands?" I said to him who is my shepherd.
"No." he answered, for I know of quicker path.
He led me down amongst the crags below us as if he were a goat, and his dexterity was granted to me by his presence.
Upon reaching the river, within which were many souls, gazing dumbstruck at the sky, wherein were innumerable moving images, we walked along the blistering shore. Among ruins of some primordial structure, we were approached by a shade of light, with eyes of phantom azure. This ghost led us to a high point amongst the remnants, and stood still atop the crumbling architecture. "Be unafraid, you. Cling to him as I do." Then Phil grasped the shade, arm across his shoulder and beneath his underarm to lock hands on the chest of the spirit. I proceeded to do the same with the opposite side. Then we drifted upward in the sky. From there, I could see the twisting red river, and the dense forest. Those within who were not hung from trees or impaled upon bushes, forced to watch the images across the sky all around us, were chased through the briars by packs of wild corgis, sped on by a creature with an implacable look to his eye and, seemingly lusting after his own hounds, he came bounding after them. Soon, we came across the desert, all blazing. The light was so bright that to not squint was to be blind, and all those wandering the sands had all their heads tilted ever upward, so that their eyes were not but sun-charred pits. My compatriot explained, "All who reside in these lands are ever watching that which is not present, even those ones down there, whose eyes are burned away, believe they see, and are entertained. Those who break the illusion are hunted by the Dale, and his rabid packs." However, the shade had begun to descend near an opening in the sands, which was lined with long streaks of color. He let us down gently, then departed.
"Behold the beast with the pointed tail, who pollutes with color." Thus crawling along the walls of the pit a creature revealed itself. It's upper body was that of a man, but at the waist, it narrowed, and formed a long writhing tail, ending in a point, like a scorpion's. It dragged this point along the walls of the chasm, and from it sprung a thick ink of varying hues. None had ever been witness to such a variety of colors, as that which lined the home of that beast. "That is Turvey, the one who spreads his ink as far as the city of tombs, drawing all which he sees. He will be our vessel to the lowest of places." Saying this he approached Turvey and began climbing onto his flank. Trusting my leader implicitly, I did the same. "Move now, Turvey!" he who supported me at all other times cried out. "Go in wide circles! Let your descent be gentle!"
We flew through the air then, downward, into the blackest of any abyss.
As he felt himself free, the monster roared with delight, and swaying his tail like a cat, left a wavey stream of pigment behind him.
Never was any more afraid than I, when I saw nothing but the air around me, and the beast beneath me. Soon however, the giant thing had clambered his way to a gap in the wall, and my guide ushered me down. Turvey, the staining chimera, ascended the sheerness with alacrity, and was gone from sight.
The final passage was traversed quickly; through it were pitiable ones immersed in great pools of excrement, snakes, and many other such torments, and demons waylaid us, led by Conrad, a great mustachioed one, who tried to divert us from the proper path, so that we would suffer there amongst the others. I was led truly through that place, and we arrived where it is bitter cold, where it is farthest from the sun.
"Do you see those there?" my guide said to me, pointing toward a mountain. I nodded affirmation. "Wait a moment and watch." Doing so, I saw the mountain move. Stunned, my guide elaborated, "That is a giant, one of those who moderates this place. His name is Mxy, and he, along with the Great Mother, devour the worthless here, while the worst among the worst are brought before... well, you shall see soon enough." A great time passed as we trudged through the snow, witnessing all those who dwelt here in, "The Basement of the World," as my exemplar decreed it. "See here, buried up to the neck, once a knight, now none other than the head of a legend. See there," he said pointing to a figure encased in ice, " a terrible brown-eyed one lies there. There," he said, pointing toward a glacial cliff, "is a king, who in life was so fond of raw fish. He pointed them all out to me; a renowned fencer, a great nihilist, a man possessed of primordial scales who had lived in the land of the gods, a revolutionary, one used up and thrown away as a broken table is, one who had once bathed in the blood spraying from his enemies, one who was named Marche and had lived to one hundred, they were beyond count. Finally, after much time had passed, and many condemned ones were seen, we passed through an arch carved from the ice of that darkest of places, into the deepest point. "Here is needed courage, above all else, art thou prepared?" I answered yes, and my guide shook his head and muttered, "Pissing himself every other step, yeah right."
"Here broods Niero, he who created this place, and is bound to it by pride and blood and passion." The Emperor of that terrible realm was encased in the ice at his waste, a demon of unimaginable size, great wings stuck painfully to the borders of his dwelling, coated with ice. Within his mouth was a body, legs flailing as bloody fume spewed from between his lips. His eyes were a great and piercing red, and his face and body black as onyx. Do not ask how chill and hoarse I became, for words cannot suffice to tell it.
"Whom does he chew, as if his mouth were a meat-grinder?" I asked. "One who is infamous." I was answered. Thereupon my leader, who so valiantly guided me, led me down to the Dark Master's waist, so covered in coarse hair. "Here you may descend to ascend, and I will show you the way one final time." Thus gripping that coarseness we climbed down, and once we passed below the ice, reoriented ourselves, as we were facing downward, where we had been facing upward. Past the Demon King's Leviathan, which was stuck to the ice below us, and that appeared so painful I could not help but feel sympathy, we climbed ever upward along the hirsute legs of Niero. Finally, we came to his foot, which rested along a ledge where we could get off. A narrow passage, which we traversed for a short while, led us to the outside world, where once more, after the suffocating darkness of the underworld, I was greeted by the beautiful things the sky holds, and we issued out from there to see again the stars.
"Here my guide left me, walking out amongst the trees surrounding us, and said, "You have borne witness to all which lies beneath, when it is your time to come, you will be prepared." He turned to leave, but paused and turning back to face me included, "Try not to be such a cunt when you return." Then he left with a wave, and I was all alone beneath the vault of the sky. Much later, I have found my place amongst those who called that gloomy kingdom home. I dwell among them, and though the stars in heaven are not lost to me, as I was afraid, I am still there, to this very day.