Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Further down the bolgia where grafters drown in a river of brewing pitch and tar and resuscitated only to drown yet again, I and the poet Virgil are stopped from our shadowy tracks by the evil-clawed horde of demons, ready to use to us the barbed clubs with which escaping extortionists, blackmailers and unprincipled tradesmen are torn to bits.
“Pray tell your purpose for coming hereabouts,” warns the leader of the Malebranche, his hooked weapon dangerously poised for action. Terror spins a web around my heart, for I cannot imagine being thrown into the repulsive company of swimming sinners who amassed corrupted wealth. My wise guide is quick to dispel the anger of the mistaken tormentors with his disarming clarification.
“We are bound for the noble Chiron, the nurse of Achilles,” replies the poet, adding, “It is to him we are answerable. Kindly withdraw your arms, for my ward here with me gets frightened to his bones.” The demons comply, clearing the smoking hot path leading to the fifth-and-a-half bolgia. The poet’s and my feet carefully step, for our limbs’ very motions cause the edges on either side of the ravine trail to break off, sending rocky debris down the swirling liquid heavy with boiling tar and pitch. Shrieking grafters swim agonizingly toward the plunged soil, swallowing them teary-eyed because they are the only available alternative to their eternal meal of tarry soup.
And lo, the fifth-and-a-half ditch is an eyesore to behold, a place where previously living mortals belatedly promise never to commit again their karmic sin. Virgil steels himself from the urges of horror and weeping and proceeds to tell me: “These sinners here were guilty of opportunism while still walking the earth where you actually belong. They shamelessly abandon their principles once opportunities of whatever sort happen along.” With the eerie light of the dancing flames, whenever smog clears up to reveal the hidden torture, I witness the sufferers scrambling in a river of dismembered bodies.
The penalized opportunists try to piece themselves together after having been mutilated by demons who are sickened by their misdeeds in their wasted lifetimes. Someone who in his lifetime installed cronies in his government as an official reciprocation fumbles for his wristbanded left hand under the pile of plucked eyes, cut-off ears, bloody entrails and chopped off limbs. Another who danced like a harlot after an incriminating evidence against the wristbanded opportunist and appeared only years later on her previously opposed side of the political fence gropes for her screaming head beneath mounds of gory arteries, bony fingers, torsos that are bloating in fats fed by greed. Yet another who was infamous for using her husband president’s power to quench her poor childhood’s insecurities tearfully frisks for her lost foot wearing one of her thousands of fancy shoes underneath pools of saliva, mucus, fecal matter, urine and blood. Finally, I see my generation’s most notorious opportunist who was unashamed in practicing a powerplay by providing offices to those who secured her position. Below the heap of missing noses, scattered brains, numb elbows and broken ribs, she is ceaselessly searching for her moled cheek. There are other opportunists coming from my country, as there are others of various races, genders and colors from different states, but I lose count of them because they are too numerous. When alive, they must have been senators, representatives, governors, mayors, some other officials or they are related to government offices in one way or another. What is common to them despite their dissimilar backgrounds is their sin on earth for which they pay a price in hell at present: opportunism. Their selfish goal then was to widen their political influence no matter what the cost and to seize any opportunity to wield this political influence whenever these opportunities present themselves. They capitalized much from these opportunities during their lifetimes, enriching and empowering themselves at the expense of the impoverished, marginalized people they were suspiciously elected and officially sworn to improve the lives of. Their current residence in hell is the opportunity for payback time. Hence, I see all of them stitching their jigsaw puzzle of bodies after painstakingly finding them in the dizzying mass of corporal pieces, only to be seized again by their punishing demons in order to hack anew, bits after bloody bits, and thrown back into that river of disfigured body parts we see from above the narrow strip of earth leading to the circle of lead-robed hypocrites. Seeing the billions of disgusting skins, muscles, bones and hairs, I feel nauseated and almost throw up.
Virgil assists me, afraid that I make a fatal mistake of plummeting into that afterlife destination of political sinners. He taps me in my shoulder, prodding me to move on and grieve this time over the castigated opportunists of the religious sort.