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In 1307 a political exile by the name of Dante Alighieri wrote a poetic verse of a metaphorical journey into the three domains of the afterlife – known to scholars as the Divine Comedy, Dante’s work was established as an important analysis of the christian mind, a contemplation and interpretation of the metaphysical within the realms of realism.
He wrote the poem years after the early death of his lover Beatrice, and his political exile from Florence. He was a gaunt and tired man, punished by his own self loathing yet in an effort of rehabilitation – began to write again.
Dante’s mental state was never questioned, despite the passion and fervent use of imagery that shaped our understanding of these posthumous realms.
In 1799, in the town of Ravenna, the place of Dantes death and subsequent burial, a small tremor had shifted the site of an unmarked family mausoleum, the local government had deemed it necessary to reconstruct the ornate marble edifice and workmen were commissioned to sure up the ground. Work began and soon haulted when a hidden vault, built under the tomb itself was unearthed. Within this sealed chamber was found a series of large wooden barrels, fortified with tar. the entrance to the space also sealed accordingly. The gaping hole in the sealing beside this allowed enough light in to establish that the room was for storage.
A group of Italian archeologists were called in to identify the find, among them an english Gentlemen, Charles Guilder. He was on a sabbatical from the University at Gower street, london. Little was expected to be found but it intrigued the young archeologist.
The barrels had been left undisturbed, presumably by the superstitious workmen. They believed the barrels to be poor mans coffins, yet this was soon confirmed to be false. They cracked open the barrels and found a series of huge rolled, steadily crumbling calico sheets, daubed with black paint. Once spread on the floor, images could be seen in the miasma of morbid colours.
There were faces in the dark, blackened charred faces. screaming hellish images that even Charles found hard to digest. Yet what Baffled them all was the signature. It was one word – Dante.
A second chamber was soon discovered within the mausoleum, built lower in the foundations. Within this, a great ossified table, four metres in diameter, gnarled unidentifiable objects coated its surface. Within bound rolls of cloth a series of macabre illustrations on parchment. It was indeed the work of a man named Dante. They assumed collectively that this might indeed be the hidden residence of the great poet and politician, but no one dared say it out loud.
Strewn on the floor were disintegrating texts, written in scrawled Italian. It made numerous references to the Inferno, his first movement of a trinity- odd and harrowing first person accounts of the creatures emblazoned on each page. They sat for many hours piecing through the catalog of information pertaining to his work on the inferno.
The final and overwhelming discovery of that day was yet another antechamber – hollowed within the far wall. in the centre of which was a large stone plinth, atop of this a creature, an entity that defied logic yet found the recess in all their minds – its leathery wings held out almost in defense -
a demon of the pit.
they talked for many hours, seated on the dust covered floor, brandishing various other artifacts that cast shadows within their minds. What were they to now believe? that Dante had indeed visited the lower vestiges of the Stygian wastes with his pier Virgil, or was this all a clever ruse of a man battling defeat?
The men took with them all that they could carry, and shipped much of it to the University of Bologna. Much of the research was published and dismissed as both religious and literary heresy, and forgotten by the academia. Charles Guilder However did not forget. He returned to England in 1812, now a Professor of esoteric antiquities. Within his study at Gower Street he held the demon within a cabinet. He had obtained a number of other objects along with the foreboding artifact – a petrified hand made of wood, presumably taken from the forest of the suicides, and a bone trident, unfortunately broken. There were also a number of illustrations, the largest of which depicted a three faced winged beast, written on the back of which, “lucifero”. Perhaps the most disturbing, a piece of human hide, tattooed with eldritch runes.
500 years had passed since Dante had put pen to parchment and written his ode to the underworld, and yet Charles could not forget these items that defied his humanistic work. Until the summer of 1852, Charles now in his 70s, a man approached his Faculty in search of the items within his collection. He presented himself as Henry O’malley, a physicist. they began a conversation regarding the publication of the thesis regarding Dante’s hell as reality. Henry said very little of his own experience, but explained that it was indeed possible, and quite feasible that Dante had indeed encountered something that resembled the classical Hell. Yet whether it had any footing in our own reality was debatable. They spoke of the existence of extra dimensional realities – the result of human collective consciousness – “2000 years of guilt taking form in the minds of all the faithful, you cannot question the unfailing fear of the reality of hell to followers of god- all that energy has to go somewhere!”
Charles scoffed at the idea of such an absurd explanation, but thanked Henry for the reassurance. Before Henry left he took Charles’ hand and said “there may not be a hellish place that we go if we have wronged one of the many gods, yet perhaps its good to know that if we can conjure a hell, perhaps we, as thinking creatures, can conjure a heaven too”