Monday, October 30, 2006

The Fifth Level of Hell

Private Hudson was abducted by the minions of Hell and Jon the Intergalactic Gladiator is determined to rescue the shanghaied marine. Join him now as he travels to the Fifth Circle of Hell.

I stepped out onto the level and looked at my surroundings. Before me there was a great, swampy river. Many souls in the river were angrily attacking each other, though as I peered into the waters, there were more souls sitting quietly in the water.
Wrathful and Sullen by Vellutello
“The wrathful and the sullen are punished here,” the ancient poet Virgil spoke up as he appeared next to me. “Those who cannot control their anger must forever thrash about in the River Styx. Those who turn their anger inward must forever sit at the bottom.”

“Stewing in their own anger, huh?” I said to him. “How do we get across?”

“I have a friend who will aid us here,” Virgil answered. “There he is.”

A boat appeared out of the mist, a man stood in the back of it with a pole pushing it towards us.

“Phlegyas, this is Jon the Intergalactic Gladiator, Jon the Intergalactic Gladiator, this is Phlegyas,” Virgil introduced us. “He can ferry us across the Styx.”

“No, I don’t think so,” Phlegyas announced irritably. “I don’t want to take him across. What am I some taxi service for any living guy you bring around here, huh?”

“Oh don’t be so snippy,” Virgil snapped back. “This is only the second that I’ve brought here in what, 700 years or so? You should be grateful that I even bring you company.”
Phlegyas by Suloni Robertson
“Well look at him,” Phlegyas sniffed. “He looks ridiculous… I don’t want him riding in my boat.”

“Just give us a ride, I swear…” Virgil pleaded.

“Would it help if I sang?” I asked.

“What?” Phlegyas looked at me.

“You know, I could entertain you with a song in exchange for a ride:

“Lady, when you’re with me I’m smiling
Give me all your love
Your hands build me up when I’m sinking
Touch me and my troubles all fade.
Lady from the moment I saw you
Standing all alone
You gave all the love that I needed
So shy like a child who had grown.”

“Stop it, stop it,” Phlegyas grabbed his ears. “I don’t want to hear that song again.”

“Well, how about this?” I started to do the robot as I sang.

“You're wondering who I am (Secret secret, I've got a secret)
Machine or mannequin (Secret secret, I've got a secret)
With parts made in Japan (Secret secret, I've got a secret)
I am the modern man

I've got a secret I've been hiding under my skin
My heart is human, my blood is boiling, my brain IBM
So if you see me acting strangely, don't be surprised
I'm just a man who needed someone and somewhere to hide
To keep me alive, just keep me alive
Somewhere to hide to keep me alive!”

“Argh, stop it,” he screamed. “Why must everyone sing these damnable songs to me when they come here? It was funny once, I get it. You are definitely, definitely not riding on my boat if you keep this up.”

“He is a little sensitive to the Styx joke,” Virgil whispered to me. “Plus, I think the Simpsons did this already, didn’t they?”

“Well, if I’m going to rip off someone’s joke, might as well be them,” I answered. “Are we going to be here a while? I’m getting kind of hungry.”

I pulled a Snickers bar out of my cargo pocket and tore open the wrapper.

“Say, what is that?” Phlegyas interrupted my bite, pointing to the candy bar.

“What this? It’s just a candy bar,” I shrugged. “You know, chocolate, peanuts, creamy nougat.”

“We don’t get those things around here,” Phlegyas leered at the chocolate bar. “May I have a bite?”

“Well… I don’t know…”

“Come on, just a teeny, tiny little bite.” Phlegyas pinched his fingers together, squinted and smiled at me in an emulation of a tiny bite.

“Alright,” I sighed. “I’ll tell you what. You ferry us across and you can have the whole thing.”

“Done and done!” Phlegyas greedily gobbled up his sweet prize as Virgil and I boarded the boat.

The boatman steered us across the swampy waters as those who dwelled in the water angrily thrashed about. As we approached the other side, I saw figures moving about high in the cliffs. They began to take shape as they swooped down upon us.
Suloni Robertson Fallen Angels
“The Fallen!” Virgil yelled. “They will surely keep us from getting to the other side!”

“Not if I stop them first!” I exclaimed as action hero-ey as I could.

I quickly drew my pistols and fired them at the flying imps. One by one, blaster bolts struck the creatures and they tumbled out of the sky. Still others flew in, and I shot them as well. Eventually things quieted down enough and we reached the far side of the Styx.

“I thought that you said these would do me no good here,” I hefted my pistols in front of Virgil. “They definitely worked against the Cerebrus and these creatures.”

“Eh, so I was wrong,” he answered. “What do I know of your modern weapons of war?”

The boat hit the shore and I leaped out onto the ground. I looked up and saw a great, gated wall in front of me. It certainly didn’t look like the previous doors.

“I must warn you that the remaining levels are the most dangerous of all,” Virgil cautioned. “Beyond these walls is the city of Dis, and it is brimming with violence and evil.”

“Great, I go through Dis,” I answered. “Welcome to the next Circle, same as the last Circle.”

I hauled open the door and leapt inside.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

The Fourth Level of Hell

Jon the Intergalactic Gladiator is traveling through Hell to rescue an abducted Private Hudson. Our hero already encountered the First, Second, and Third Level and is preparing to negotiate the Fourth.

I opened the door to the Fourth Circle and took a look. The souls inside were pushing rocks around, driving them into one another.

“This is the level were those who were only concerned for material goods are punished,” said Virgil as he appeared beside me. “These souls are forever cursed to push these boulders into one another for all eternity. Thus is the penalty for the squanderers, the hoarders, the prodigals…”

“Yeah, looks like it’s a real gas here,” I muttered. “So all I have to do is dodge a bunch of naked guys rolling rocks around here?”
The Avaricious by Gustave Dore
(Rolling rocks? Man, I could go for a Rolling Rock right now.)

“’Twill not be that easy, my friend,” Virgil answered. “You must face Plutus as well.”

“Plutus? You mean like a duck-billed plutuspus or something?”

“No,” Virgil replied dryly. “Plutus is the god of wealth and money.”

“I gotta take on a god, eh?” I replied. “Well, let’s do it.”

I crept into the level, carefully picking my way past the tortured souls. I was halfway through and I thought that I’d just about make it when I heard a booming voice echo through the realm.

“Who dares cross my domain?” Plutus demanded.

“Uh, nobody,” I replied, trying to sound as meek as possible. “I’m uh… ungh.. just pushing this here boulder… yeah…”

“You cannot fool me,” Plutus roared from his cragged throne. “Come closer and be judged!”
Plutus by Suloni Robertson
I peered around a boulder and looked at the ruler of this Circle. He sat slouched over in a seat, the corpulent flesh of his soft belly poured out of his cloak. His eyes had a certain vacancy to them.

“Wow, you should spend a little time in Circle Three,” I jerked my thumb back towards the door that I entered through.

“How dare you!” the ancient god roared. “You will pay for your insolence, mortal!”

“He’s blind,” Virgil whispered in my ear. “Lame as well, though he is winged and may leave faster than he came.”

“That’s crazy,” I whispered back. “Who would make up something like that?”

“Don’t look at me,” Virgil murmured. “It was the ancient Greeks.”

“Aren’t you Greek?” I replied softly.

“No,” the dead poet hissed in a hushed tone. “I’m Roman.”

“Oh,” I said (whispering). “OK.”

“These hushed tones will not protect you from my wrath!” Plutus howled. “Say your name so that I may know who I destroy”

“I’m Jon the Intergalactic Gladiator!” I announced with my arms akimbo. “And don’t you forget it.”

The sightless spirit howled in rage as his wings unfurled from behind him. They flapped with a thunderous crash and he hurled himself thirty feet into the air, turned and dove straight at me.

I narrowly dodged the attack and rolled away as he crashed into the ground.

“Wow, you may be blind as a bat, Bluto,” I yelled at him. “But it looks like you’ve got their radar, too!”

Plutus wailed in rage once again and hurled himself at me. I dodged once again myself and unholstered one of my pistols. Running away from him once more, I shot a boulder. It exploded and the soul who was pushing it jumped up and cheered.

Plutus swooped towards me, I ran as fast as my legs could carry me, firing at the big rocks along the way. They exploded as well, the bearers cheered and the god howled. His anger rose as the events continued.

I ran towards the general direction of the exit, but in my haste to dodge the swollen celestial, I wasn’t running close enough to it. Even if I got to the door, I would still have to avoid his attack as I opened it. My options became more limited as I ran up to the barrier that the door is built into. As far as the eye could see, there was an unclimbable wall.

Plutus howled and aimed straight for me. I looked back up at him with my back to the wall, unable to move. Then, just as he bore down on me, I dove out of the way again.

He crashed into the palisades and slumped to the ground.

“Well, that was some nice echolocation you got there,” I said as I pulled the door open. “Hopefully you can echolocate yourself back to your chair.”

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Third Level of Hell

When last we were with Jon the Intergalactic Gladiator, he was traveling through Hell to rescue an abducted Private Hudson. Our hero already traveled through the First and Second Circle and was now about to confront the Third.

I heaved open the massive door and peered out into the level.

“Eww,” I said out loud.

As far as the eye could see fat, immense, corpulent people littered the landscape. They were everywhere lying in the mud, rolling and churning. Oh it was disgusting.

“Eww,” I said again as I looked around.

“This is where the gluttonous are punished,” Virgil appeared next to me.

“I imagine,” I replied. “Eww.”

“Those with voracious, uncontrollable appetites are sent here,” Virgil continued.

“I hear you, and I say again ‘eww.’ These fat hogs are probably the most disgusting thing that I’ve seen in my life, and I’ve seen a party of orcs on a drinking binge.”

“I must warn you,” Virgil continued. “These porcine, portly people are not the only denizens of this level… You must be on guard for the Cerberus.”

I heard a growling off in the distance.

“Cerberus? You mean like the three-headed dog?” I asked.

“Well yes,” Virgil said. “But you should know that—”

“No problem,” I dismissed him. “I’m really good with animals, especially dogs. Here doggy doggy, uh, doggy.”

I started to walk out slowly, holding my hand out for the creature to sniff it.

“Here doggy doggy doggy.”

Suddenly, something leaped on top of me. The Cerberus had me pinned to the ground with his massive front paws. He growled at me then leaned his three heads back in anticipation of a strike.

“I tried to tell you,” Virgil called out to me. “The Cerberus may look like a dog, but it is in fact a demon. You would not be able to befriend it just as you would not be able to gain allegiance from any other blighted beast of this realm!”

“I see that,” I yelled back. “…now.”

Beneath the dog there was a bright flash. The three heads howled in pain and leaped back. I stood up, the smoking barrel of my blaster pistol still pointed at the creature.

“Bad doggie!” I yelled at it. “No treat for you.”

Cerberus howled and leaped at me again. I dove out of the way and the creature slid across the mud. It looked back and me and howled once more before rushing me a third time.

Dodging the cursed canine, I ran towards the exit door, leaping and running around the suety sinners along the way. The monster crashed through them, tossing them aside and howling all the while.

I dashed to the door and hauled it open. I pulled it shut just as the pitiless pooch slammed into it.

“Whew.” I leaned against the door for a minute to catch my breath. “Fat lady almost sang for me...”

Friday, October 20, 2006

Once More Unto the Summer of Compliments

Today I finished my version of the Complimenting Commenter's Summer of Compliments.

The goal of this was to compliment 100 people over the summer and now that I have completed it, I wanted to share a few thoughts that I thought along that way.

I wanted to concentrate most of the compliments on my blog friends (or as I like to call them my Jr. Intergalactic Gladiators) but I also wanted to get many of the real world people out there that I have contact with.

I complimented a few minor celebrities along the way, mostly Internet columnists from places that I like to go to. I also complimented a few newspaper columnists, most notably Quick Takes from the Chicago Sun Times. He, in turn, published it in his column on a Sunday. Honestly, I was hoping he would do that, but I would have been OK with it if he didn't. Another Sun Times columnist who I sent a compliment to was Robert Feder who writes a great column about local (and sometimes national) radio and media. He emailed me back that night and said "Thanks. Who are you?" I thought that was funny and I replied with more background on myself, including my interests in radio.

Here is my list of complimentees:

1. Complimenting Commenter (I figure since it's his idea, he gets one first)
2. My wife Patricia
3. My daughter Kiera
4. My dog Shamrock (I can compliment my dog, right?)
5. Fluke Starbucker
6. Master Yoda
7. Captain Picard
8. General Grievous
9. Movie critic Peter Sobczynski
10. Professor Xavier
11. JawaJuice
12. Local henchman
13. Lt. Commander Oneida
14. Simon
15. Carmi
16. Padme
17. Novi
18. Michele Agnew
19. Army of Clone
20. Local Henchman
21. Captain Typho
22. Qui-Gon Jinn
23. Wedge Antillies
24. Sun Times columnist Zay Smith
25. Erifia Apoc
26. Yo También Te Mando Besos
27. Anthony at Carmax
28. Chris Ryall from Comics101.
29. Scott Tipton from Comics101.
30. Scott Bowden from Comics101.
31. Joshua Jabcuga from Comics101.
32. Mark Engblom from Comics101.
33. My sister Laurie.
34. Jango Fett
35. Gaia
36. Dan Savage
37. The clerk from Petsmart.
38. Gyrobo
39. Karnov
40. Captain Koma
41. The Martian Manhunter
42. Phoenix
43. Useless Advice from Useless Men
44. Flying Booger
45. Question of the Day
46. Vegeta
47. Jaina Solo
48. Gregg Easterbrook
49. Dave's Longbox
50. My mom.
51. E) None of The Above
52. Barriss Offee
53. My friend Jim
54. Lori's World
55. Senor Cheeseburger
56. Dark Jedi Kriss
57. Deadpool
58. My friend Dennis
59. Lady, that's my skull
60. j00{z
61. My friend Dave
62. My friend Lance.
63. JabaFatboy
64. Aayla Secura
65. Aayla Secura
66. Chancelor Palpatine
67. Anakin Skywalker
68. NandeHi
69. Blockade Boy
70. Fred the Fox
71. Military Jake
72. Noel
73. Dance of the Puppets
74. Cardbored knight
75. Spider-Man
76. My sister Nancy
77. Larry Mayer
78. Richard Roeper
79. Robert Feder
80. Epsilon 775
81. Iceman
82. Beast
83. Dr. Doom
84. The Incredible Hulk
85. Emma Frost
86. Tech Tips
87. Jerry Markbreit
88. The Absorbascon
89. Jonathon Brandmeier
90. I Watch Stuff
91. The Superficial
92. The O'Ciardha Clan
93. Jinx Miakoda
94. Mike Mulligan
95. My brother-in-law Paul
96. Phobia
97. David Haugh
98. Roger Ebert
99. Kristi Roth
100. My dad

For 99, I wanted to express my thanks to Kristi for hanging out at my site like she does. Kristi has a website somewhere, I remember seeing it, but I don't know where it is. It also didn't have a place to leave comments, so I'll have to do it here. Kristi, I really appreciate your visits and I would love to return the favor.

For 100, I don't want to get maudlin but my father hasn't been around since my sophomore year in high school. Still, I learned right from wrong and developed my sense of humor because of him and I will always appreciate that. I feel that he is watching and I hope that he's proud of me.

My last few thoughts are these, at first it was pretty easy handing out these compliments to everyone, there was a bit of a stretch about 2/3's of the way through where I slowed down quite a bit, but I also complimented several people a day in a few instances. On one hand, giving out 100 compliments seems a little tough, but when you think about all of the people that you come in contact with, you could give a sincere thanks to that many people easily.

You can give it (compliments) to your family, friends, coworkers, clerks at stores, the waiters and waitresses, the policeman on the street, the mailman, and anybody else who you might encounter during your normal day. There are actually plenty of people who I missed who deserve compliments such as my neighbors, most of my in-laws, and people who I work with. I am grateful for them all, though I didn’t express it here.

Will I do it again next year? Maybe. Will you do it next year? I hope so.

Thank you.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Second Level of Hell

I heaved open the heavy door leading to the Second Circle of Hell and immediately, my ears were assailed by roaring winds. Just before I stepped into the level, Virgil (the poet, not the other ones mentioned previously) appeared next to me.
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“Kind of windy here, huh?” I yelled above the howl.

“This is the level where those who are overcome by lust are punished,” Virgil yelled back to me. “The wanton, the libidinous, the lecherous, lewd, debauched, the oscene—”

“Yeah, I might like this level,” I interrupted him. “If it weren’t for all the wind, you know.”

“Those punished here are forever damned to blow about in this storm without hope for reprieve,” Virgil replied.

I looked around at the souls being blown about.

“Hey, I think I recognize some of these guys!” I yelled. “Isn’t that—”

“Yes, that is,” Virgil nodded.

“And isn’t that…”

“Yes, that is her,” the dead poet affirmed.

“Yeah, I knew it!” I looked around some more. “So how do I get through?”

“You must simply make your way to the other side,” Virgil pointed across the expanse.

“And you’ll meet me there?” I asked.

“Of course,” he replied.

“Of course,” I repeated.

Dante Faints by William BlakeI hurled myself into the tempest and carefully made my way past the damned denizens. As I came closer to the other end, the wind picked up. I struggled as it nearly blew me off my feet, but I pressed on.

Souls howled as they rushed past me, but they did not grab me or hit me.

“You guys look great,” I said. “I mean that.”

I almost had the door within reach when a gust threw me back and off my feet. I clutched the ground as the wind howled louder and blew stronger still.

“What a way to go,” I muttered to myself.

Holding tight with my right arm, I threw my left towards the door and fired the harpoon from my Wristomm at the door. It stuck fast and I wound myself towards the portal. Reaching it, I threw it open and heaved myself inside. It was another staircase winding down, of course. I looked back at all the souls flailing about in the winds.

“See you all later,” I called out to them, then to myself I added “Actually, I hope not…”

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Hell is for Flashbacks

I was descending the staircase into Level Two and I let my mind wander to a time shortly after I saved Queen Galacta from some space zombies and she was going to award me for it. Now as I am sure all of you know, I don’t do this for the reward, but when the Queen of the Galaxy wants to award you something, you go accept it.

I was at her court on Throneworld and I was dressed for the occasion. I thought that I looked pretty dashing in my distinctive Blockade Boy-created uniform. I had my helmet, too, because it’s cold in space, you know.

A big thanks to Blockade Boy for the fabulous uniform.

“…For your continued service to the Throne and the Galaxy,” Queen Galacta announced. “It is my distinguished honor to present you with the Galactic Medal of Honor.”

The members of the court and the diplomats present all clapped politely. News teams were there from Galactic Network News and G-Span, so I thought that was pretty cool. I was on bended knee for the honor as I expected a medal to be placed around my neck or something. When that didn’t happen, I stole a glance up and saw the Queen holding something in her hand.

A chocolate Queen figure? I certainly didn’t expect that. She just stood there smiling and holding it towards me, so I kind of shrugged to myself and reached up for the confection. When I grabbed it, the applause reached a crescendo and some people cheered.

“Thank you, Gladiator,” she said as I looked at my new treat. “You are a credit to Queen and Galaxy.”

“Thank you, Your Majesty,” I returned. “It is an honor.”

Later, as the guests were enjoying drinks, I saw Major Rocksun looking at me from a corner of the room. He strode up to me smoothly and with precision.

Rocksun is the Queen’s official bodyguard and military liaison. As far as I can tell, this guy is always on duty and is always on. He takes his job seriously and I don’t think I’ve ever seen him smile. He’s certainly earned my respect and admiration, despite the fact that I don’t believe we’ve said more than a few words to each other.

“Congratulations,” Rocksun nodded towards the chocolated award. “Getting that is quite and honor.”

“Thanks,” I grinned just a bit. His words mean a lot to me.

“I’ve never been awarded one of those,” he stated flatly.

“Yeah, well, maybe someday,” I said to him. “You certainly do enough around here to deserve it.”

“Yeah, you’re right,” he answered. “Still… What are you going to do with the award?”

“I’m not sure,” I replied. “It looks delicious but I’ve never been awarded anything like this before. What’s the normal custom for something like this?”

“Well, you can eat it right away,” he shrugged slightly. “Though it is a lot of chocolate. Or you can save it in a cold storage device. You can eat part of it, too, or you could… give some of it to a buddy.”

“OK. I’ll think about what I want to do with it.”

“Come on,” he leaned forward. “Just give me a taste. I want to try some of that chocolate Queen.”

“No way, man,” I held my prize away from him.

Yeah, that was a fun day, I thought as I moved down the long staircase. The winding steps soon gave way to a short landing and a heavy wooden door.

“Looks like I’m at Level Two,” I said to myself.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Minos... The Freshmaker!

Minos by Gustave DoreI was in Limbo, at the gates of Hell and to gain admittance I had to get past Minos, the mythical king of Crete. My mission was to rescue Private Hudson, and I had only my wits and my weapons with me, though guiding me was Virgil (Virgil the ancient poet, not Virgil that crappy wrestler, Virgil the old west lawman, Virgil the astronaut, or Virgil the stiff-legged pilot from International Rescue).

I entered the castle and saw Minos sitting on a great throne. Behind him were several doors in numbered sequence. I watched as the king was delivering judgment to a new arrival.

“You lied, cheated, stole all your life!” he roared. “You killed for greed and you hurt others for pleasure. Do you have anything to say in your defense?”

The man stood at rigid attention. Tense seconds ticked by when suddenly he threw his right arm out in a salute.

“All hail mighty Cobra!” the trooper yelled.

A tail snapped out from behind the ancient king. It whipped out and wrapped around the man seven times.

“It is the Seventh Level for you!” Minos howled and threw the Cobra trooper through a door marked VII.

“Amazing…” I said in wonder.

“That this man is responsible for delivering out punishments?” Virgil asked.

“No, that a Cobra Viper actually died,” I answered. “Don’t they all just jump out of the tank right before it explodes or parachute out of the helicopter in the nick of time?”

“Not all the time, one could imagine,” Virgil answered. “You must get past Minos to Level Two.”

“What about Level One?” I asked.

“This is Level One,” the poet gestured broadly. “This Limbo, oblivion, the Isle of Nothingness, nowhere –”

“OK, I get it,” I said. “You coming with?”

“I will meet you there,” he nodded, then pointed towards the door marked Level II.

“Great,” I muttered. “Well, I’ll see you on the other side.”

I walked along the wall towards the door. I had no doubt that I would be noticed, but maybe I could get close enough before Minos detected me to make a dash for the door. I certainly didn’t want to meet the business end of that tail.

“Who is there?” the ancient ruler bellowed. “Show yourself!”

“I am here.” I stepped forward. He found me, time for plan B, or is it C?

“You do not belong here!” Minos announced harshly.

“Because I am so righteous?” I beamed.

“No because you are still among the living, fool!” he howled. “Turn back now and save yourself.”

“I’m afraid I can’t do that, Stingeree,” I said. “I have to get in there to save someone.”

The tail slid out and hovered between the doors and me.

“Minos, the Tail of Fate,” I chuckled.

“You shall not pass.” He said coldly.

“So you used to rule Crete, huh?” I asked.

“Not that I see any point to this, but yes,” he answered.

“But you’re not there anymore,” I pressed.

“Obviously not, mortal,” he rumbled. “What sort of foolishness is this?”

“If you’re not there, then you must be an Ex-Cretian!” I laughed. “Get it?”

Minos howled and swung his tail at me. I did a sweet combat roll, dodging the attack. I popped to my feet and rushed to Door II.

“Let’s see what’s behind Door Number Two!” I threw it open and dove in. Minos continued to howl so I popped just my head out. “Thanks for the fun, fella,” I saluted then ducked back in. The door shuddered as the tail struck it with a resounding thud.

I was at the top of a long staircase the descended into darkness. I took several steps down and it didn’t seem like I was any closer so I looked back up at the door. It was there alright.

“Why did I have to go through Two?” I thought out loud. “Wouldn’t it be easier to just go through Nine to get to the end?”

I took a couple steps back up towards the castle, but the door didn’t move any closer to me. I took two more steps up and it again remained stuck the same distance away. I took two steps back and the door retreated two steps.

“Trippy,” I said to myself.

I took two more steps up, then several steps back, then several steps up. Each time I moved away from the door the door appeared further away, but each time I stepped closer the door did not move any closer.

“Looks like this staircase is one way only,” I said and continued down towards Level II.

Friday, October 13, 2006

The First Circle

Virgil (the ancient Greek poet, not the crappy wrestler, the old west gunman, or the astronaut) and I walked through the cave and into the depths of the underworld. We soon leveled off and were heading towards something I didn’t quite expect.
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“So this is hell, huh?” I asked while surveying the sight. “Looks more like wine country.”

“This is not hell, my friend,” Virgil replied. “This is limbo, or perhaps you would call it purgatory.”

“I never really believed purgatory existed,” I contemplated. “Didn’t one of the popes say that there wasn’t one?”

“Come on Jon, just because one mortal says something doesn’t exist, that doesn’t make all of this disappear.” Virgil gestured towards across the fields and towards the villa.
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“Right,” I said. “So where do we go from here?”

“We must travel through limbo to the other side,” the dead poet answered. “There we gain entrance into the first level of hell.”

“So how many levels are there?”

“There are nine,” he nodded.

“OK, I see where this is going,” I answered. “Anyone here going to give us a hand?”

“I am afraid not,” he replied. “And I must warn you not to interact with the denizens of this place. Their penalty is the loss of Hope and it is a strong punishment indeed. Coming close to them would certainly poison your spirit, something that needs to remain strong on this journey.”
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We passed through the villa and I saw many figures of history as well as people who seemed or almost seemed familiar to me. They all appeared fine, save for their obvious looks of disappointment. They walked around, talked to each other, and went on their lives coasting on automatic. They had no dreams, no love, and nothing to yearn for.

“We shall journey this way,” Virgil lead me to the end of the road. I looked up and all I could see was wall.

“Up the wall?” I asked. “That’s pretty far.”

“Of course it is,” he affirmed. “At the crest, you will encounter the Palace of Minos and the Seven Gates. You must make your way up this wall and past Minos.”
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I shrugged and started climbing. It was easy at first, as rock and brick jutted out for me to gain hand and foothold. As I climbed further, exhaustion took hold of me; the climb became more and more tiring. At the start of my climb, I dared not look down. As I grew weary though, I first stole a glance, then I looked more. The distance seemed so great that I could not even see the ground. As my muscles ached, I thought that one slip and my journey would surely be over.

I felt for a crevice to gain hold and hoist myself higher but then my arm gave out. I nearly fell, but I was able to hold tight with my other arm. An unnatural despair began to fill me.

“You are almost there,” Virgil urged. “Just a bit further.”

Heaving, I crawled over to the top of the wall and hauled myself onto it. I rolled away from the edge and laid there for several minutes to catch my breath.

“There, that wasn’t too bad was it?” I heard Virgil’s voice above me. “Are you ready to continue your journey?”

“Yeah… just give me a minute here…” I then sat up and looked at him. “Wait a minute… You didn’t climb the wall. How did you get here?”

“I am a poet,” he answered. “I did it poetically.”

“That doesn’t make sense,” I said to him.

“I am not of your realm now,” he continued. “I am not subject to the same physical laws that bind you.”

“So I’m going to have to work my way through all these levels and you’re just coming along for the ride?”

“Essentially, yes,” he responded.


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

"I am Virgil," he said.

“You mean, like the crappy wrestler from the 80’s?”

“No,” he answered.

“Or like Virgil Earp?”

“No,” he sighed. “Not Virgil Earp.”

“Astronaut Virgil ‘Gus’ Grissom?”

“No I am not the astronaut or the gunslinger or the crappy wrestler!” he said exasperatedly. “I am the poet from ancient Rome. Don’t you know me at all?”

“Well sure,” I answered. “I’ve heard of you.”

“So you know my work?”

“Well… I know of your work,” I replied. “Don’t know your work inasmuch, per se….”

“Oh, you modern people with your action movies and Internet,” he said dryly. “You are all going to Hell, you know.”

“We’re all going to Hell because of the Internet?” I asked.

“From what I can see, yes.”

“And not Planet Hel, formerly the site of Galactor the Evil Galactic Overlord’s Citadel of Evil, now the home of affordable luxury condos?”

“No.” he gestured towards the cave. “That Hell. The extradimensional realm of evil. The place where the fallen have been banished. Hades, the abyss, the underworld kingdom of suffering.”

“Yeah, I figured,” I muttered. “I was just hoping it would be someplace a little nicer.”

“Oh this place is not nice at all,” Virgil announced. “It is fire and brimstone. It is anguish and despair. It is suffering incarnate.”

“OK OK, I get it.” Jeez, this guy sure can talk. “So why would Hudson have been swept up and taken down there?”

“That I do not know,” he answered. “Who knows what dark thoughts fill the evil mind of Lucifer, the Lord of Lies, Mephistopheles, El Diab—”

“OK, so I have to go get him back,” I interrupted. “And you’re going to lead me to them.”

“That is correct,” the ancient poet nodded. “We will need to—”

“Let’s go,” I said. As I moved towards the entrance, I charged my two pistols.

“Your weapons,” he said. “You will not need them where we are going.”

“And yet I’ll feel a little bit more comfortable bringing them with.”

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The crowd was cheering; I was facing off against my old nemesis Baron Roughhausen. It had been a long match and we were both worn down from physical punishment delivered. Sometimes I wonder when I can retire.

“Give it up, Earthman!” Roughhausen growled. “I’d hate to have to really hurt you.”

“But you’ve been doing so well at it all along,” I retorted. “You should keep up the good work of really hurting me.”

Roughhausen howled and threw himself at me; with little grace, I tossed him over my shoulder. He landed on his hands and knees and slowly started picking himself up while huffing and puffing.

I moved in to end the match when he threw dirt in my face. The oldest trick in the book!

“Argh, my eyes!” I clasped the palm of my hands into my face and stumbled back.

“Ha ha, your end is near!” my opponent gleefully charged me again.

I flipped him over my shoulder. As he landed on the ground, I cradled his arms and head in a submission hold.

“Faking being hurt by dirt in the face is the second oldest trick in the book,” I said to him as he passed out.

I stood up and pumped my fists into the air as the announcer called me the winner. With the crowd cheering, I made my way out of the arena.

“Game over for the Baron, huh Jon?” Hudson smiled as he greeted me in the corridor.

“Yeah,” I answered. “That was… fun…”

“Well, I got something pretty cool to tell you.” Hudson looked like he was about to burst with joy. “Something cool.”


“Yeah,” he stopped and leaned against the wall near a set of doors. “You won’t believe it when you hear it.”

“Well, are you going to tell me?” I asked. Why’s he dragging this out like this?

“Of course,” he answered. “I –”

Suddenly, the doors burst open and a legion of creatures poured through chattering and howling. Hudson yelled as they scooped him up and carried him off. I quickly weighed my options and ran to get my weapons.

I threw open my locker and pulled out my gun belt. I snapped it to my waist and ran back out the door. As I was running, I pulled Betsy and Winona out of their holsters and checked their charges. My two blaster pistols whistled to life as I thumbed their activators.

Throwing myself through the demolished doors to outside, I saw the last of the howling creatures off in the distance. I quickly sprinted after them. Fortunate for me, it was easy to follow their trail.

I quickly closed the distance between myself and my quarry when I saw that the monsters were all moving en masse into a cavern.

That’s interesting, I thought. I don’t remember seeing that cave before.

I fired at the retreating troglodytes, but my shots hit rock surrounding the cave. I made it to the entrance just after the last of the creatures disappeared into the depths, their noise dissipating into the echoes.

With my weapons drawn, I peered into the darkness.

“Well, I guess I gotta do what I gotta do,” I muttered out loud. Of course I didn’t know what those things were or why they took Hudson. Maybe I should let them keep him… they’ll soon beg me to take him back. Nah, I’m the hero, I have to go do the hero thing.

“I shall lead you into the depths,” said a calm voice. “That is, if you want to go.”

I whirled around and looked at the owner of the voice.

“Who are you?” I asked.

“I am Virgil.”

Monday, October 09, 2006

Return of the Hudson

Good morning, this is Hudson and I've got a little story to tell you.

Now you all know that Private Hudson sometimes goes by the handle H-Man and the reasons why should be pretty obvious. If you have trouble with the concept though and need me to explain it in simple terms, I will. I am called the H-Man because I am the walking, talking, breathing, running, gunning, fighting, shooting, stabbing personification of a true Colonial Marine. You know it, I know it, all the troops know it, the Lieutenant knows it and the General knows it. They know that in a tough situation, all they have to do is wind me up and let me loose. I'll tear through the enemy like the proverbial Helbat out of Hel. Game over for them. Ha ha.

This might surprise you though, but I wasn't always known as the H-Man. Yep, growing up in Texas, I had a different nickname. This nickname inspired fear and awe in all who dared stand near me.

They called me "The Rock."

Yeah, I know there are other "the Rocks" out there, be it some wanna-be actor or some dusty old prison in San Francisco, but I am the man who made being called "The Rock" what it is today.

In high school, all the hot cheerleaders would twitter when they called my name and all the jocks would be so frightened that they could hardly contain their nervous laughter. One time this really hot cheerleader walked up to me and said "Oh, 'The Rock' Hudson, you are such a man, I can hardly stand it!" Then she swooned right then and there, and all of her friends laughed nervously as I walked away with a cocky stride.

That's right, the guys did it, too. They would all call me by my nickname then cower in fear as I walked the hallways. They knew that they were in the company of greatness when "The Rock" Hudson was there.

So the next time you think of the H-Man, think of "The Rock" Hudson and the manly man that he is. "The Rock" Hudson is the man that women want and the man that men want to be.

Game over.
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Friday, October 06, 2006

Kids, don't try this at home

Another True Story of Jon The Intergalactic Gladiator's Past

Several years ago, I worked in downtown Chicago and lived way out in the suburbs. Way, way out. Fortunately, I lived pretty close to a train station and was able to take the train to and from work every day. Riding the express during rush hour was usually just over an hour, but if I took a train that made all the stops, it would take 40 minutes more.

Every year, the Waukesha (or Brew City) Hash House Harriers hold an event on Pearl Harbor Day weekend. Hashers from all over the Midwest would trek to Milwaukee to run, drink beer, and throw flour bombs at each other just like in WWII. Many Chicago hashers went and so we typically accommodated that weekend by having a hash before or after for anyone passing through. This particular year, we had a prelude (or pre-lube) the night before. Fortunate for me, the venue was fairly close to one of the train stops on my route so my plan was to hash, have a few beers, then take the train home. I would get up the next morning and drive to Wisconsin for their event, of course.

Oh yes, for those who don't know, hashing is a social group who typically consider themselves “drinkers with a running problem.” It's a hare and hounds-type game with beer and socializing afterwards. I got started when I was stationed overseas back in 1990 and I still participate, though not as frequently as I used to, what with being an Intergalactic Gladiator and all.

The trail was fun and the beer after was pretty good. My friend (I’ll call him “Jim”) was the hare and he found some nice alleys and urban crud to run the hashers through. After that, we drank a few beers, had some food, sang a few songs, and hung out. In short order, I had to run to catch my train.

I got on the train and because of the fatigue of running 5 miles, plus the several beers, plus the fact that it was a Friday night and I had a long week, I immediately dozed off. I actually snoozed past my stop and when I woke up, I was all alone in the train car with the train stopped somewhere that wasn’t familiar too me at all.

I stopped a conductor walking past and explained that I missed my stop. He replied that the train was heading back and that I could just ride it to my town. I thought cool, no problem, and I sat down and waited for the train to head back.

The next thing I knew, I looked up out of the train window and saw the corrugated roof of Northwest Station’s train yard. I stopped the conductor (I think it was the same guy) and told him that I missed my stop. He essentially told me that I was out of luck, that the station was closing and there were no more trains running that night.

The conductors on Metra are all really nice people. They deal with a lot of stuff throughout their day and yet they always have a smile and/or a joke. That being said, it’s not their job to wake up some idiot who’s asleep on their train. I sure wish they would have, though.

I had few options. I didn’t have a lot of cash, I didn’t know the El system very well, and I needed to find a place to crash so I could get home the next morning. Taking a taxi to my hometown was definitely out of the question.

So I hopped a cab and took it to my friend Jim’s apartment. The cab got to his street and turned the wrong way. Frustrated and low on money, I gave him my cash and hoofed it the last couple blocks to the building. I rang the doorbell for a couple minutes and eventually Jim came down to open the door and give me a “what the heck are you doing here?” kind of look.

“I fell asleep on the train and missed my stop and fell asleep on the train again and went back downtown and now there’s no more trains and I have no place to go!” I quickly wailed. I made it sound a bit more desperate than I actually was, but it did sound funny. If nothing else, I still had my sense of humor.

Jim kind of shrugged and led me upstairs to crash on his couch. When I got there, I saw that one of the harriettes was in his apartment as well. They were in the process of “hooking up” and I had unintentionally spoiled the mood. Jim later thanked me for it though, so I guess all’s well that ends well, right?

Kind of, I got ribbed for my blunder the next day in Milwaukee and pretty much every weekend after that for a couple years. I still enjoy telling the story though, as it was one unusual night.

Of course, the next time I fell asleep and missed my stop, I was sure to get off at the next stop and take a cab back. I wasn’t taking any chances, that’s for sure.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

A Message From the Queen

Ladies and gentlemen, citizens of the Galaxy, members of the Galactic Senate, it is My unfortunate duty to speak of the deplorable actions of one of our own.

One of the biggest assets of this Senate, the thing that holds the governmental process together for an entire galaxy is the intergrity and honesty of its members. When a being becomes a Galactic Senator, this individual chooses to act in the Galaxy's best interest above all else. Above personal desires and above personal gain. He, she, or it must follow the strictest personal code in order for this Galaxy to function as it does.

Unfortunately, there occasionally comes a time when one individual acts in self interest. It is My duty to report that this is indeed one of those times.

Senator Smark Ken-Deigh used his position of authority for his own selfish reasons and has earned the distrust of this Senate as well as the peoples of the Galaxy.

Senator Ken-Deigh's behavior was deplorable and inexcusable. Because of this, he will certainly be censured for his actions. His deeds on that fateful night shall now serve as a reminder of the oath that all senators must take when entering office. While that oath swears loyalty to the Crown it also assures a senator's honesty and integrity above all else.

When Senator Ken-Deigh stole the cookie from the cookie jar, he created a fissure. He compromised not only his principles, but he also cracked the dam of the Galactic Senate. With that dam fissured, the entire Galaxy is in danger of being swept away in a flood of fear and distrust. I shall plug the hole of that dike with my own finger and assure the Galaxy's citizens that their loyalty and trust are not something easily taken for granted.

Thank you and good night.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

I think I wasted my money

You know how there are those movies that come out right around the time a studio blockbuster is released to try to get a little bit of the audience from that big movie? You know the ones, they usually go straight to home video, or maybe you'll see it on HBO or the Sci Fi channel, movies like Pirates.

Seems pretty obvious to me that they're trying to cash in on Pirates of the Caribbean.

Or perhaps you would like to see Snakes on a Train.

Who wouldn't? It's got snakes, it's got trains. If my mind were any more perverted, I could make some sort of innuendo about that. That's me, master of the single entendre.

This past weekend, I was at my local Giant Video Conglomerate and I quickly grabbed a movie that I wanted to rent, I paid for it and rushed home to watch it. Only then did I discover that I grabbed the wrong movie.

V for Vidalia? What the heck kind of a movie was that? It was all about onions!