Contest #124 shortlist ⭐️

The 10th Circle of Hell

Submitted into Contest #124 in response to: Set your story in a labyrinth that holds a secret.... view prompt

64 comments

Funny Contemporary American

“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 eight 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.”

December 16, 2021 18:09

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64 comments

K. Antonio
20:30 Dec 17, 2021

This was hilarious. 🤣😂 I'm reading Good Omens and this could give Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett a run for their money. If I were to condense hell into a series of things, this phrase: “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.” ---- this would basically be my hell. Such a fun read, the humor was on point!

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Deidra Lovegren
21:09 Dec 17, 2021

Tis the season to be snarky. Mwah ha ha Enjoy Enjoy Enjoy your break from all those students...!!

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Ruth Porritt
06:21 Dec 22, 2021

Dear Deidra and K., I randomly read this conversation and want to say 'yes'! :) I teach middle school students and had them after lunch on the last day before winter break--I was sat right in the center of them during a school Christmas performance--and I can testify that "A middle school classroom right after lunch, just before holiday break" is my exact definition of personal hell. Thanks to both of you for a laugh that I sincerely needed. Yes, tis the season to be snarky! :) Ruth

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Deidra Lovegren
18:05 Dec 22, 2021

I knew I loved you before, Ruth. But teaching middle school? Now I completely IDOLIZE you. You are heroic. Enjoy the brief respite from the unwashed masses...

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Ruth Porritt
10:12 Dec 23, 2021

Thank you so much, Deidra. :) Once, an elementary student wrote (in a cartoon) that I was 'just trying to be a secret princess and teacher". Isn't that true of all of us in the teaching profession? :) I have taught (mainly) elementary school students for the past 14 years. This past year (teaching L.A. in middle school) has helped me to quickly learn why my husband used to come home with a stern, angry expression on his face. (He had been teaching middle school students for the past 6 years.) Now, he is teaching high school students. :) H...

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K. Antonio
01:48 Dec 25, 2021

CONGRATS ON THE SHORTLIST DEIDRA! Happy holidays to both you and Ruth!

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Austin Seaver
07:44 Dec 17, 2021

The humor of this piece was phenomenal!!! Probably the greatest remake of Dante's Inferno I have read. Awesome job!

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Deidra Lovegren
21:20 Dec 17, 2021

That is high praise and I will gleefully TAKE ALL OF IT, like the Grinch dragged all that Whoville Merch back to Mt. Crumpit. I always felt bad for Max. He seemed like a decent dog. Welcome to Reedsy :)

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Susannah Meghans
05:41 Mar 16, 2022

I love it the ending…Tictok the tenth circle of hell!

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Deidra Lovegren
13:57 Mar 16, 2022

Facebook might be the eleventh...

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Deidra Lovegren
13:58 Mar 16, 2022

Thanks for reading some of my old stuff. Those stories all feel like my children, some are definitely worth saving, some need to be dropped off at an orphanage. :)

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04:31 Mar 08, 2022

Pfft- TikTok's the tenth circle of hell? I love that. Another amazing one, Deidra.

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Deidra Lovegren
14:27 Mar 08, 2022

Leo, you make my day. Thanks for the continued support. :)

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15:49 Mar 08, 2022

I'm glad I could do such. You deserve it.

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17:32 Feb 18, 2022

this is beautiful. I was so intrigued to discover what the 10th circle was, and you did NOT disappoint! VERY well done!

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Deidra Lovegren
18:06 Feb 18, 2022

CONGRATS on your shortlist! Wooo hooo Very impressive and well done. So....my friend Russell Norman (from Australia) and I have a very chill podcast where we discuss writers' reading and writing journeys. How about taking a listen and then maybe coming on the show? https://www.readlotswritelots.com/previous/ Or perhaps, you'd like to read your own story, and share it with the world? https://bluemarblestorytellers.com/promo/ It's a hobby of ours and we have a ton of fun :) Again -- congrats on the win. Onward!

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18:12 Feb 18, 2022

Oh my goodness, that would be amazing! I would be honored! I will go give your podcast a listen :) and thanks so much, I appreciate all the support! <3

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Deidra Lovegren
18:15 Feb 18, 2022

Contact me at lovegren.deidra@gmail.com

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Keya Jadav
11:43 Jan 03, 2022

Damn, this is good. What can be better than reading the arguments of two great poets especially in hell? I loved the humour and the way it has been fed to the readers. Congratulations on the shortlist, Deidra!

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Deidra Lovegren
16:28 Jan 03, 2022

Thanks, Keya! :) I was surprised at the shortlist -- it's kind of silly and shallow, but tis the season for sugary sweet nothings. We finished The Inferno in school and I guess Virgil and Dante had a little more to say (to my very cluttered skull.) :)

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Kevin Broccoli
19:15 Dec 27, 2021

I love this structure for a story! I could hear the voices so clearly.

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Deidra Lovegren
23:21 Dec 27, 2021

I'm bringing 14th c. Italian literature back. It seems appropriate in YEAR TWO of the pandemic that ate democracy. Dante was such a WEAK character, fainting at the end of every Canto. I really wanted Virgil to slap him "midway through his life's journey."

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Laur 818
21:17 Dec 24, 2021

I freaking LOVE this! I personally like TickTock but I do also make sure I stay a million feet away from all the toxic shit. That being said I loved the journey to the 10th circle. Not expecting TickTock to be the 10th circle but SUUUPER funny! Humor was on point!

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Deidra Lovegren
22:02 Dec 24, 2021

Huzzah :) Thanks for the morale boost -- always glad to know the jokes don't implode. All the best to you

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Nora K.
18:16 Dec 24, 2021

HELL YEAH, Deidra! Six shortlisted. That's freaking bodacious. My cousin's nephew has TikTok, it's corrupted his brain. So I needed to see some lines like these: “TikTok. Tiktok is the tenth circle of hell.” “That seems fair.” I concur. Six shortlisted, with more to come. Huzzah!

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Deidra Lovegren
18:18 Dec 24, 2021

10th levels of HELL YEAH (It's a theme! Like the 12th days of Christmas...) Thanks, Nora. Onward :)

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Rachel Smith
17:43 Dec 24, 2021

Check you out! Gathering up those shortlists like a crazed squirrel. Well done!

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Deidra Lovegren
18:00 Dec 24, 2021

Crazed squirrel is accurate. This kooky story was the weirdest wild card... WTH <--all nine levels of them! The Reedsy judges giveth and taketh away. I am grateful for those on the panel with a sense of humor about 14th c. Italian literature.

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Rachel Smith
18:02 Dec 24, 2021

Hey, it's a great story, I enjoyed it! It made me laugh.

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Deidra Lovegren
18:17 Dec 24, 2021

That's all matters :) YAY

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Mohamed Sarfan
14:28 Dec 24, 2021

It's Valuable Content. All The Best My Dear Friend; Write More Congratulations

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Deidra Lovegren
16:27 Dec 24, 2021

This was a surprise. Wow. Thanks for the lovely comment. Much love.

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Graham Kinross
12:42 Dec 24, 2021

If Tik Tok is the ninth circle of hell, Twitter was presumably circle 9and3/4. “I had the best apple today.” That’s nice George, write it in your journal then burn it.

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Deidra Lovegren
12:58 Dec 24, 2021

And don’t get me started on Facebook

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Graham Kinross
13:24 Dec 24, 2021

I was going to write Facebook, it’s hard to know which is the worst. I think what Facebook started, Twitter took to the next level.

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Dustin Gillham
20:32 Dec 22, 2021

Hello amazing writers. My name is Dustin and I am wanting to start a small writing circle where we are able to really critique and focus on one another’s work for the week. I’ve sent six invitations to various individuals but we can certainly add more if you like. This is just a general invite to see if any of you are interested. Please post a comment on my latest feed if you this is something you’d like to do and I will give you details on the structure and meeting times. Since it’s the holidays I thought we’d start in January.

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Deidra Lovegren
20:36 Dec 22, 2021

I am totally in. Thanks for the invite! lovegren.deidra@gmail.com

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Dustin Gillham
20:38 Dec 22, 2021

Great! Got your e-mail and I’m excited to become a better writer with you.

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Deidra Lovegren
20:45 Dec 22, 2021

Same :)

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Deidra Lovegren
14:45 Jan 01, 2022

If you are looking for others for the group, Jon Casper would be fantastic. Kevin B and I were talking yesterday on the phone and we're excited about this prospect. Let me know if I can help out the cause. Happy New Year 🥳

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Ruth Porritt
06:26 Dec 22, 2021

I also love: "TikTok is the 10th circle of hell." I additionally love: "That seems fair." :) As always, thank you for writing, and have a wonderful holiday, :) Ruth

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Suma Jayachandar
17:08 Dec 20, 2021

Scaling new heights in being hilarious with every passing week😂

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Deidra Lovegren
17:59 Dec 20, 2021

Sometimes even intentionally haha Belated congratulations on the shortlist! Quite a feat. Someone should interview you on a podcast about your amazing success :) :) :) Asking for a friend.

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Suma Jayachandar
01:11 Dec 21, 2021

Thank you😊 I wasn't expecting it, but of course was thrilled. As I confided in you earlier I feel I have not yet earned a place on a podcast. It is very generous of you to make me believe I have💙

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Astrid Szell
10:30 Dec 20, 2021

this has to be one of the best stories I've read! the humour, sarcasm and illumination was on point

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Deidra Lovegren
13:00 Dec 20, 2021

😀 What a great comment. You’ve definitely made my day. Cheers🥂

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Delia Tomkus
01:06 Dec 18, 2021

I wasn't entirely sure what was happening... but it definitely made me laugh!

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Deidra Lovegren
15:33 Dec 18, 2021

You've succinctly stated my philosophy of life. Well said! :)

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Delia Tomkus
20:37 Dec 19, 2021

haha

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Daniel Hayes
17:21 Dec 17, 2021

Another fun story Deidra! You are the master of dialogue, and I thought this was super-funny!! It all flowed so naturally and I loved the title. At first, I thought it was going to be a horror story and then I was pleasantly surprised by the witty humor. Well... I guess for the politicians and sinners it is a horror story... hahahaha! A lot of great lines here, but I loved this one: "I wrote about the founding of Rome, not the founding of your overtaxed libido." I loved this story!!! Keep em' coming... lol :) :)

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Deidra Lovegren
19:09 Dec 17, 2021

Always love your comments. You keep me going -- woo hoo!

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Jon Casper
11:19 Dec 17, 2021

“Have you been on It’s a Small World? There are similarities." Thanks, now I have to clean the coffee off my keyboard. :D Great stuff, as always.

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Deidra Lovegren
13:37 Dec 17, 2021

I still can't get that song out of my head. :)

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Russell Norman
13:56 Dec 17, 2021

I went to Disney World in 1991, and I still have that song in my head, the Disney corporation has a lot to answer for.

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Shea West
05:09 Dec 17, 2021

Where the dadbods and thirst traps get ya every time. I love a story that's all talk...as in dialogue😂 My favorite line: It smells like sulfur, burnt hair, llama breath, and ass. The way you played with all the synonyms for the same thing really added to the humor of this piece and I loved it!!!

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Deidra Lovegren
10:04 Dec 19, 2021

Shea! Happy holidays — 🎄🎁 to you and yours. I must have drawn the Italian literature judge this week. This is a Recommended story — hahaha 🤪 Didn’t see this going on the longlist.

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Shea West
15:05 Dec 24, 2021

Yassss! This was certainly shortlist worthy 😍😍

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Deidra Lovegren
16:28 Dec 24, 2021

It was the "llama breath and ass" line. Truly noteworthy. Hugs from Florida.

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