This is a continuation of Mata Hari’s tale through Dante’s Hell.
If you have not read part one, please click here.
Four thousand, two hundred and twenty-nine. Mata passed over the familiar sight of Asmodeus’s throne and used this sporadic landmark to mark an arbitrary year. There was no way to actually tell if each time she saw this wolf in rooster’s clothing was an actual year, but there was not much Mata had to look forward to or even look forward at. Suddenly, a gust of wind pushed her backward as she tumbled into a spiral of flips hurtling to the ground. Tears filled her eyes when she saw Asmodeus’ teeth bared and his lustful grin salivating at her presence.
Her speed gained as she approached the demon, and just as she got close enough to feel his heat, he puckered his lips like a kiss but instead blew fiery air in her direction. The red flames enveloped her, but she couldn’t feel it. Fresh tears formed as she was forced higher and higher into the putrid atmosphere. How she longed to feel heat, cold, wind, anything on her skin.
Her heaving sobs managed to slow her path and her form lengthened to float like a cloud in midair. She took a deep breath and sighed, imaging what a tear would feel like falling down her face. Now completely still in the windless air, she looked around her. Too far up to see Asmodeus on his throne, but too far down to see over the massive wall separating her from the next level of Hell, Mata felt helpless.
Off in the distance, Mata spied a small cloud of foul air coming her way. She managed to twist her body so the air would hit her back, and maybe she could float further down. In all her time stuck in the second circle, she has never spoken with another soul. The wind kept everyone apart in a hell of lonely solitude.
She took a deep breath just as the wind hit her, swallowing her in a cloud of retched stink. Keeping her mouth closed, she rode the waves of air as long as she could, passed the dreaded throne, and now, she was on a path through the deep realm the other damned.
Her body slowed as the cloud finally pushed past her, and she finally inhaled a breath of air only to heave out another sob in self-pity. “Why am I here? How is this where I belong? I do not deserve this terrible fate.”
“I hardly think that’s true. Minos is rarely wrong.”
Mata shuddered at the sound of a stranger’s voice. “Who is that? Who are you? Why do you question me?”
Standing before her, a man in a dark cloak waved his arms in swirling motions to catch Mata before him. He crossed his arms and thrust them downward in front of his body, and Mata came to a halt nearly touching his face, if in fact, she could feel his flesh.
“How can you be standing, sir? Are you not damned?”
“I assure you, madam, I am. Just not of this ring. My name is Virgil. I was told of your beauty and that I could find you here.”
Mata sighed. “I am no longer beautiful, sir. I am nothing but the air that surrounds me.”
“Be that as it may, I have heard tales.”
“Well, I thank you, sir, but who are you?”
“I was a poet many, many years ago before my condemnation.”
“I see. But you can stand. You have feeling? How is that so?”
“There are many hells here. My punishment is merely different.”
Mata felt a gust of air come from behind her. With no control, she slowly moved toward Virgil and through his body. She closed her eyes tightly hoping for an inkling of contact, but to no avail. “Wait! Where are you going?”
“The wind is as much out of your control as it is mine. There is no stopping a lack of body, as you can see.”
She heard quick footsteps behind her and tried to look back. Virgil seemed to be following her. “Please, Mata. I just want to speak to you more.”
“Sir, I dare not try. Looking at you only pains me and what I cannot do. You may suffer in your hell, but you are not easing the pain of mine. Please leave me alone.”
“But I thought being alone was one thing you could not bare. Let me ease that pain for just a moment, please.”
Mata thought for a moment. How did he know she ached for companionship? “Do you travel between the rings, sir, or are you merely trespassing?”
“I am a traveler, yes. I have the ability to see beyond the walls and appreciate my form of suffering.”
“What lies beyond here?”
“A world you do not want to know.”
“That is simply not true. There is nothing I wish to know more than how the others suffer so I may know I belong here. Now, sir, I have had enough. Please let me be.”
Suddenly, Asmodeus approached the cloaked man. “Virgil, leave her alone. You are easing her suffering by talking with her. She must know her hell.” With that, Mata felt a gust of hot air on her back and arching back, she was again thrust high in the dark and toxic sky. She did not stop her useless tears.
* * * * *
“You prick. What are you doing here? I see no human with you, so you cannot be in transit. Are you here just to infuriate me?”
Virgil could feel the heat from Asmodeus’ breath on his skin. A feeling, he realized, Mata craved. He tried to not take the sensation for granted, but the stench of rotted meat stuck in plaque covered teeth roiled Virgil’s stomach. “I would never intentionally infuriate you. I merely heard of your acquisition, and I desired to see her.”
“You are in hell. You cannot have desire let alone fulfill it. If I see you down here again, I will consult your master on your liberties.”
“Is it not possible to find a moment of peace in this dark dungeon?” Virgil knew the answer before Asmodeus spat in his face. As he wiped the slime from his skin, he again thought of Mata. No matter how putrid an act, she would trade her world for it. “I will leave, but I just want to ask, how long has Mata Hari been here? She seems to have accepted her demise, but that does not usually happen for centuries. It cannot have been as long since she was killed.”
“How long she has been here is of no consequence to you. She’s been here one year; she’s been here twenty. What does it matter? Go to your realm, and do not return until you must.” Asmodeus turned and disappeared into a cloud of black mist.
Virgil turned back toward the sky and looked in vain for his mistress. “Mata, if you can hear me, all is not lost. Look for me.” When no answer came from the dark clouds above, Virgil hung his head and walked toward the entrance to Limbo. As he passed Asmodeus in his throne with one leg casually laid on the arm, he sneered at him.
Asmodeus chuckled as he exhaled a gust of rancid air blowing a number of other listless souls in a whirlwind for his amusement. The faces on the souls were that of woe and acceptance. Virgil could not make out the citizens to see if he recognized any of the sufferers, but he knew no matter who they were, their punishments were just and clear. It was he who would be more compassionate to the damned.
* * * * *
In the air, Mata heard a very faint voice say, “Look for me.” She tried to force her form to look down toward the ground, but to no avail. A fresh gust of wind pushed her further into the dark realm of hell. She could not concern herself with any cloaked man. He was just like the others. He would leave her just like the other men in her life who put her here.
She did not deserve this hell when her lovers were probably laughing at her expense in less painful rings. She gazed out again toward the walls that surrounded her. How was she to know if she suffered less if she could not see behind the stone?
The next gust of wind crashed into her back and pushed her further upward. It was the first time in as long as she could remember she felt drive and determination. She would see what’s on the other side of that wall if she could only reach the top.
To be continued…
Mata Hari’s story continues. Stay tuned with what happens to her next in the coming weeks.
To read more or start from the beginning of Dreadful Dantes, click here.
(c) Copyright 2016, Alison C. Wroblewski. All rights reserved.