The sun dipped below the horizon as I approached the base of Mount University. Pausing for a breath, I dared a terrified backward glance. The thick, dark forest spread out behind me; although I had a penchant for nature, I knew this was a different beast. Several chthonic creatures had chased me through the forest: the SAT, scholarships, and my parents. The peak would be the safest place to hide, but light was running out fast.
The dusk was darkening, and I finally decided to climb into a tree to hide out for the night. My climb would continue next morning. I shuddered as I encountered the terrifying acorn, symbol of the Devil himself. As I curled up in the corner of the alcove, I drifted into sleep.
Suddenly, I was aware of a shining light in my alcove; perhaps morning had come sooner than expected. Getting up, I realized I was no longer in my little nook in the tree. I was, in fact, sitting on the edge of a great precipice, which seemed to extend forever into the darkness. A voice came from behind me while I was leaning over the edge.
“Welcome,” started the mystery voice. “I’ll be your guide through High School.”
I stood up to look at my apparent guide. It turned out to be a short boy of strangely Roman features. In fact, he looked uncannily similar to a marble bust. Hiding my discomfort I replied, “I’m sorry? First, who are you? Guide? I don’t need someone to guide me through a school, I’m not a child, thank you very much.” His eyes glistened knowingly, and the corners of his mouth quirked up in a grin.
“Ah,” he replied, feigning embarrassment, flourishing his hands. “I should have known from your stature as a senior that you were beyond guidance.” He bowed overdramatically. “But seriously, friend, I need to show you around the block. We’ll start descending down the Hallways of Punishment, and then proceed to the Staircase of Redemption, and finally the Auditorium of Success.”
Before I could complain any further, ask to see identification, or even clarify that my AP exam would be starting soon, he grabbed my hand and jumped down into the abyss.
I can neither confirm nor deny the possibility that I cried when we landed.
When we landed, which I thoroughly believed would not happen, we appeared to be in some misty, soggy embankment. Walking through the mist, we approached what appeared to be a muddy river, but something seemed strange. A single boat went between the two sides of the river as people massed along the edges.
“Welcome,” announced my “guide,” startling me. “To the River Styx. All those poor fools trying to catch a ride between the two sides can never get on that boat. Both of them forgot to submit their course verification forms, and as such, cannot be punished properly until then. Careful, don’t touch any of the water around here— it’s from water fountains.” He pulled me along onto the boat which was moored by us now.
Well, no turning back now, at least not until I can get away from…
“Sorry but,” I asked. “What was your name again?”
“Well, that’s strange. I never told you my name, I was sure of it.” He paused to think about my question. “Alright, for now, you can call me Virgil. By the way, this fellow here ferrying us across the river is Hope. We won’t see much of him on the other side.”
As we stepped off the boat, I felt it was my last chance to escape. But I was intrigued. Let’s see where this goes.
And thus ends the first part of the Erudite Comedy, or otherwise known as, The Commedia Erudita!