Adversary

The Adversary hefted a pitchfork over his shoulder and said, “Follow me.”

He led me to the banks of a river, shrouded in dreary fog.

“Along the shores of the river Acheron reside those who lived and died without either infamy or praise. They have been denied entry, forever, into both Heaven and the Inferno. Their eternity is as empty and meaningless as their lives were.” His gaze rested on me for a few moments, while I remembered.

All of those opportunities missed, a lifetime of risks not taken. I was suddenly and bone-chillingly certain that he intended to leave me here, alone. That the shores of Acheron my final fate.

The Adversary watched, eyes twinkling, as if following my every thought. He laughed, and shook his head at me.

“Oh no, not that easy. Into the boat you go,” he said, prodding me aboard with the pitchfork.

Charon gazed at me, silently.

“He isn’t used to ferrying any but the Shades,” the Adversary explained. “And we’re rowing away from the Court of Minos. Irregular.”

My body relaxed, that had been much closer than I cared to admit. The boat moved silently across the fog and up to a dock. Hovering above the dock I saw the shades of the damned gathered and waiting for Charon’s next pickup, for the return trip.

“Step it up, please,” the Adversary seemed eager to move me along more quickly and again I felt the pitchfork tines.

We came at last upon the Gates of Hell from the inside. Stepping through, onto the road that ended at our feet.

“Observe,” said the Adversary, pointing with his pitchfork. “Observe the road to Hell.”

Beneath my feet and outward to where they vanished at the horizon, were carefully ordered colorful blocks. I recognized a recent book from a friend of mine, and I felt the horror growing within.

“Oh yes,” the Adversary cackled with a great deal of glee. Dancing from hoof to hoof in his merriment. “All of these mortals wished to somehow avoid the ignominy of a pale gray meaningless existence, to escape from the shores of the river Acheron. To gain some fame or at least some notoriety before they passed, through fiction. Churning out just awful novels by the score.” A new novel fell from the sky, and plopped into place on the road as we watched.

“The road to hell is paved with the hubris of writers.”

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