A short story: The night I read “Inferno” by Dante

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Yesterday, late at night, I stumbled upon a tale of darkness and despair. It was just over 1  o clock, the moon was up, the stars shone bright and I was utterly and completely mesmerized by the excruciating horror of Dante’s words. Stiff as a stick, I lay there in my bed, turning the pages over. My skin pale as a ghost’s. My body, not being able to move a muscle, blood was flowing through my veins and with eyes wide open, I stared into the darkness as the window-curtains slowly but surely began … to move. Fright shook me at that moment. A black curtain had become a sordid serpent, lurking its way from across the room and into my bed. Was I awake or was I – like Dante – also finding myself in the midst of a vivid nightmare? Had I gone mad? No. I squinted my eyes and began to understand what was happening. It was Dante’s effect on me – from the very beginning of his opening lines; Describing a hell on earth, his galvanizing words had electrified my brain and lured me into a world of hallucinations. I looked over at the snake again. It was closer now, and it moved towards me at a rapid speed until its eyes, only about four centimeters away from my face, stared directly into my soul. A tremendous amount of fear and excitement lurked beneath the surface of my mind, but I did not stop. I could not stop. I had to continue reading. If I looked up from the book, the serpent would move closer. If I looked down on my book, it would stay at its original spot. The situation was clear: I was fighting a battle between my hallucinatory unconsciousness and the distraction of Dante’s story. So the only thing I could possibly do was to continue reading without stop. And that was when it happened; That was when I knew I had gone mad for good. Yes, reader. You heard me right: I was in this moment being dragged into the book. Against my will, Dante himself had fought through the pages with his forceful arm, pushed against my chest, clutched his hand on my nightgown and hauled me into a dark hole that would lead us both into the woods of a spiritual realm of suffering. On hard ground, we landed, in the middle of a surreal landscape that consisted of an inland sea, sepia-colored bushes and heaps of dirt, sheltered by the tallest trees; Everything smeared in blood. With an anxiety that almost amounted to agony, I collected myself up from the ground and stared fearfully into the eyes of Dante Alighieri. Unable to utter a single word, I studied his tall, dark figure, his long, downward nose, and his surprisingly foul gaze. “Do you feel that smell?” he then asked in the deepest and cruelest of voices. What smell, I wondered. But then I knew. And .. I must tell you, it was by far the least pleasant surprise I had ever encountered throughout my twenty years on earth; It was the smell of feces. With a disgust so unbearable, as much for the eyes as for the nostrils, I turned my eye gaze down on my body as I came to realize that it was all covered in human excrement. The stench of it – so insufferable, that no word in any vocabulary could ever seize to compare with such an odor. It was if I allow myself to say it, an experience that could make you gag forever. “That is the body-waste of all the sinners in the second circle of Hell,” Dante spoke. “Those wretched creatures believe they can rid themselves of their wrongdoings if only they release their internal waste matter,” he continued and gave a quick grin. “What they do not know is that the Lord sees their sins as far too critical, ever to be reconciled. In the end … they’ll be drowning in their own excrement.” He pointed to a large bowl far out into the forest where human screams and cries could be heard from a mile’s distance. “It is not “fire” they are drowning in,” Dante said and laughed, as he grabbed my wrist and guided me into the next circle of Hell.”

The next landscape was that of a shore; A gigantic sea had caught our full attention, so dark and so massive that human eyes could not reach to see the end of it. In between the waves, one was able to spot a sinner or two, fighting the sharks that would bite off one limb every time they screamed or hollered a cry for help. This stage of brutality made the whole sea go red with human blood. Over the water, the skies were engaging in a frightful storm. Buckets of rain mixed with chunks of hail pattered dismally on the concrete roads, followed by a lightning-strike every second minute or so. In front was a wooden dock, which would lead the path to a tall, white lighthouse. “Why is it white?” I asked, all baffled. “When the rest of Hell is painted dark …”. Danté answered: “The lighthouse is where all the angels come and visit from heaven. They need a break every now and then in order to grasp the contrast of their situation. You see, they cannot be fully happy in heaven with all the splendor and luxury if they do not get to see a little bit of suffering as well. It eases their minds, as they are reminded of how lucky they are for having been good in life on earth. When they are finished, they fly back home.” Dante said as he then gave me signs to follow his lead onto the wooden dock. “But Dante, where do you belong?” I asked as we had reached the front entrance of the lighthouse. He then took a long look on me – a look I will seize to remember for as long as I live – followed by the most unforgettable words: “After my death in 1321, God sent me here”. Again – words cannot describe what horror swam through my body at that moment. Dante was sent to hell. My ears could not believe the sort of information they had received, so I continued to interrogate him in a desperate sort of manner: “Why would they do such a thing? You were Dante Alighieri! You were one of the big great authors! I live in the 21st millennia and people still continue to praise you and read your work!” Dante looked at me again – and I swear on my mother’s death when I say that no moral reason could support the monstrosity in his current countenance when he uttered: “You just told yourself the reason as to why they sent me here.” At this moment I swear I heard my own heart hammer so rapidly, so much that I could almost feel the palpitation of every single artery inside my body. “What do you mean Dante? They sent you here because you were a genius?” 

“Geniuses …” Dante said “Or as I call them, talented men, will forever bear the weary load of envy and disgust, led on by the mediocracy. The inadequate population always wins in the end. They always have and they always will.” He then turned his back on me as he let his eyes wander into the night sky while uttering the words under his breath: “If you must know … the real reason why they sent me here, is because of the book you’re reading right now. It never should have been published in the first place.” Dante traversed the path around the lighthouse back and forth as he spoke, as if without any clear conception of where he would lead me to next. I, of course, followed his every lead with great anticipation. “Hold on!” I hollered. “So … was it wrong of you to describe Heaven and Hell because … because it was true?” I first dared not say the last words but curiosity killed me and I had already traveled this far … “You need to understand this child,” he said. “Life is not a playground filled with unicorns and sugarcanes. It is cruel. It is dismal. And every good deed you do, no matter how honest, no matter how true, it is inevitable that you’ll have to pay your service in the end. This is mine. I told the people a version of my truth, captured through my imagination. What I failed to realize then, was that the truth I called my own, was a universal one. It was the truth of God. And even if millions of people during the 12th-century already pursued a belief surrounding heaven and hell, mine was told so vividly, so precisely – that I could not escape being punished for it.” Dante said and pointed his finger to his head. “See? Having a brain is that discouraging. I am telling you this now because I know you are a writer and a seeker of the truth. I know you wish to unlock the greatest mysteries of the world. So I am preaching to you now and only now you’ll hear it from me – don’t.” He then pointed to a large, blackened crucifix, standing in the middle of the sea before us. It was the only cross that received the lightning-strikes coming from the sky in a consistent manner, yet, somehow, it did not surrender. “That is Nicolaus Copernicus,” Dante said. “Because of his baffling intelligence about the placements of the sun and the earth in the universe, God has turned him into a cross. Now he is being punished every minute by electrocutions of the lightning strikes. Yet, he never dies. As a cause of his good deeds on earth, God wanted him to have an eternal experience of a chronical state of pain”. Then Dante pointed towards a mountain, swimming in the water on the other side of the sea. There was a naked man climbing it, step by step, his blue skin stained with blood and blemish scars. With his meager arms, he pushed a rock the size of an English cottage with all his remaining strength, only to see the rock roll down again by the time he was two feet away from the top. “That is Socrates,” he told me. “Not only was the brilliant man condemned to death by false charges, but he also has to do the impossible task of pushing a rock up a mountain, again and again, for eternity.” 

“But what is it all good for?!” I cried as I watched all the horror and the wretchedness going on repeat around me.

“God has human characteristics too. Didn’t you know?” 

“But Dante! How can this be human?!” 

“My dear child,” Dante said and patted me on the head. “Envy is a human thing. It comes in all shapes and sizes. God punishes the good because they often exceed himself. Their wit outsmarts him, their humbleness often makes him look like a fool. No one can exceed the excellence of our Lord. If they do, they are punished.”

“But I thought the devil punished?!” I cried again. 

“Oh no. You have been mistaken. See, God rules over Hell, while Lucifer rules over Heaven. It is the very essence of what we call balance.” 

“What does the devil do?”

“The devil gives praise and grandeur to the ones who have obtained nothing in their lives. The people you see walking on the streets, the gentlemen who work, the wives who occupy their days with mundane things, the townsmen who never feel the urge to express creativity, feed their virtue with books and knowledge or offer service to their community – they are the ones who get to live carefree lives in heaven.” 

With this, I trembled down on the ground before him: I could not endure looking at, or far less to allude to, the events of the preceding night. “Oh, mother Jesus!” I howled, my eyes filled with tears. “Why does it have to be so unfair!?! Why can’t I help them?!” 

Dante laughed like never before. The sound of it, evil. His eyes, glimmering with a peculiar form of self-possessed wickedness. “You … you think life is fair?” he laughed again, this time, with even greater delight. “Oh … you have much to learn my dear. Now. I have bestowed you my presence, my current situation in hell and my ultimate guidance to a carefree afterlife. I will, therefore, leave you, as I have finished my duty. An angel who goes by the name “Ignoria” will soon come out of the lighthouse and escort you home. Now remain safe, and remember my words. Farewell.” And in the blink of an eye, he vanished, followed by a dark, musty smoke that disappeared as quickly as it’s arrival. The angel came out from one of the windows of the lighthouse – a beauty she was: Her gown was made of silk that carried shades of light sepia and cream-color, her hair, golden, her eyes, miraculously blue and a face so perfectly symmetrical. On the back of her neck, there were wings. “Come with me,” she whispered gently in my ear and touched my shoulder with her ivory-skin. Then she carried me, almost weightless I was, all the way up towards the moon and the sun. On my way there I went through the skies of Hell: Tornado storms, lightning strikes, gloomy clouds, and a specific kind of coolness that bites you in the neck. Then I entered the skies of heaven: pink-colored clouds made out of sugar, people so beautiful – it would be impossible to depict them – were dancing to the sound of rhythmic church-quire that came from above. Angels kissing, falling in love, reading poetry over candlelight, cherry-wine, and goat cheese, all served on silver platters. Then after a while, we reached the sky of the earth, and soon enough, I was dropped – almost out of nowhere – back to where I belonged: In my bed with the book in my hands. 


 

Aftur S. Nerdrum 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The magic of science – how I went from hating it to loving it

science-illustrations-17th-century-middle-temple-libraryThe noble prize winning Swiss physicist, Heinrich Rohrer said:

“Science means constantly walking a tightrope between blind faith and curiosity; between expertise and creativity; between bias and openness; between experience and epiphany; between ambition and passion; and between arrogance and conviction – in short, between an old today and a new tomorrow.”

I believe what he means by this statement is that science is more than just an intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic structure of the physical world. It’s philosophy, it’s connections, it’s secret codes that need to be unlocked by detectives in long white coats.  

Why didn’t they teach us that in school? 

For years I have loathed everything that’s got to do with science, including the universe, planets, biology, chemistry, physiology, and mathematics. Oh, and science fiction – I was known to talk badly about the books and the movies. I didn’t understand why anyone would be so concerned about what goes on in space. Traveling to Mars, what is it good for? Why not try to fix life down here on earth? In schools, they would present scientific subjects in a much serious way – telling us that if we were interested in science, we’d probably wind up being doctors. Did I want to be a doctor? No. Absolutely not! So I decided to fail it. I studied rarely, I only knew about names such as Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Galileo Galilei, and Nicolaus Copernicus. Little did I know what they stood for, how much of an impact they’ve had on this world – that we can actually thank THEM for all the knowledge we know NOW about the universe, quantum physics and the possibility of time-travel. 

Now you may ask … so how did I end up liking all of this? Can a person actually go from loathing science fiction to … loving it?

The answer to that is yes. Because it happened to me. And here’s why: 

It all started with an innocent movie called “Atlantis: The Lost Empire” from 2001. Yep, you heard me. I began my journey into scientific enlightenment through a Disney-film. Now, as surprising as this may sound, if you take a good look into the production, it actually makes a lot of sense. In short, the story is about a young man, Milo, who decides to unlock the key to unraveling an ancient mystery by looking into both historical, mythical and scientific evidence. This archetypical hero’s journey is not unheard of. In fact, these types of investigations can be found in all of the sciences: When you’re solving a difficult equation in mathematics you’re basically being a detective. The same thing applies to chemistry, physics, and astronomy. Now, this movie has been with me since I was a child, but it wasn’t until three months ago when I decided to see it again, that I found myself lost in complete fascination over the investigation of a lost kingdom, only mentioned in historical, religious and philosophical texts. We have all heard of Atlantis I thought, just like we hear about the stories from the Bible. But how fun would it be to actually take a myth and apply it to real life – see if it actually exists? 

And so I began my research into different conspiracy theories and speculations about Atlantis. I found out that Plato talks about Atlantis (in the Socratic Dialogues) as a miniature utopia that ruled over several other islands and parts of the continents of Africa and Europe. His theory surrounded a mysterious kingdom which was highly advanced and surprisingly technological. Allegedly, the kingdom got destroyed and vanished from the earth’s surface as a result of “The Great Flood” that – according to many philosophical and religious writings – happened in 4004 BCE due to the prior Ice-Age. After this natural catastrophe, the few humans that survived would have to start from scratch – time therefor began from zero again, 200 000 B.C. 

But was this true? To me, it sounded like a fun idea, but very much a false conspiracy-theory, 

So I dug a little deeper: As a somewhat childish attempt at solving the puzzle, I began to mix philosophy with science. I dove into the Greek myths, ancient texts written by the big greats (Aristotle, Socrates, and Plato) and mixed them with contemporary scientists today, such as Michio Kaku and Yuval Noah Harari. 

As a result of this, I discovered the links between the philosophers and the scientists. They were all – somehow – onto the same thing … 

  • In Harari’s new book, “Homo Deus” which came out in 2015, the author suggests that we – Homo Sapiens are slowly evolving into Homo Deus (meaning God Humans). With the technology expanding so rapidly and scientists experimenting with advanced genetical research –  at this very moment – on how to receive eternal life, it is very likely that we will, in the end, become like the Gods in the Greek mythologies. The questions then would be … are we moving forward, or backward? Can it be that humans like us have existed before? Is there a link between Atlantis and the myths inspired by the Greek Gods?
    Michio Kaku (The Tibetian physicist) is onto something similar in this video: 
     

According to this scientist, we’re still in the type 0 status, however, we are transitioning into the type 1 Status, which is the status that will eventually lead to Type 2; SUPERHUMANS. 

All of this led me to think that maybe we might have existed before. In other words, this civilization of technology and us evolving into superhumans could very likely have been a time before The Great Flood after the ice-age, exactly 2.4 million years ago. Does this mean we coexisted with dinosaurs? Maybe. Maybe not. But certain discoveries tell us that we definitely have existed before the official birth of Homo Sapiens, which supposedly would have been 200 000 B.C. That’s right. Not long ago, in 2017, there was a 6 million-year-old footprint discovered in Greece. The footprints are small tracks made by someone walking upright on two legs—there are 29 of them in total, and these tracks are so specific that they can’t possibly stand to comparison with any vertebrate or other living creatures that have existed on this planet. Is it possible that the historical timeline of Homo Sapiens – as we know it today – can be disproved by the next upcoming scientists? 

I don’t know. All I know is that I love science. I love space, I love the universe and I love science fiction – all because of one Disney-movie that inspired a fire in me – an interest I did not know of before about a month ago. 

I guess the conclusion is, anyone can fall in love with science. It just depends on how you present it to the individual. If Schools taught us the whole story behind mathematics and physics – not just the basics – but the whole reason why we do this, I am sure that more students would excel in these subjects. Physicists have superpowers – as they are the key-holders to our society and the future we have yet to experience. They know what we don’t know, they have most likely already predicted extraordinary, otherworldly things in which we have no clue about before we see them happening in the world. Isn’t that insane? 

I truly wish I could write more about my discoveries and more about other scientists, but that will have to wait for another article. I hope you got inspired and remember to let me know what you thought about this article below:) 

 

Love, 

Aftur S. Nerdrum 

 

 

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Email me: afturspildo@gmail.com


 

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Novel Sneak peek​: Chapter 1, page 26

“How funny is it that you paint!” She suddenly burst out, as a desperate attempt to avoid answering the questions he had interrogated her with earlier. “May I ask … why do you prefer calling yourself a painter and not an artist?” Jean shrugged. “Artists don’t interest me in the least. They can throw a painted shoe on a blank canvas and call it art. Anything you do can fall into that category. I paint. That’s what I do. No more, no less.”

Long silence.

Kathy didn’t know what to say next. On their long walk to town, she had already passed by beautiful neoclassical houses with terraces and rose gardens – matters of which she would normally have strong, insightful opinions about. Now, however, she was put into a situation where she was confronted with her utmost weakness: The art-world. Half stunned by the stranger’s bluntness, half ashamed of her own ignorance, she managed to utter a few more words: “I don’t quite understand – so you paint, yet, you’re not an artist?”

“What I do is a craft.” He said firmly, as he put his rugged hands on her shoulders, leading the way to an outdoor café. “It takes years of practice and hard work. The art-world consist of cheaters, liars, and people who’ve been brainwashed with the idea and notion that having no skill at all – means something. I refuse to be a part of that club.”

 

-A S. Nerdrum 

Today I saw something that gave me hope

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And what I mean by that is … what I saw was a reminder of what life is all about. 

 

So what happened exactly?

 A normal Sunday. Around. 1o o clock in the morning. I’m sitting alone in the corner of a cute Italian coffee-shop where they sell the best espressos I’ve ever tasted so far. This is obviously a big part of the reason why I go here every morning. But not entirely. I also go here to eves-drop on conversations. This way I gather inspiration for my work and store them in a notebook for whenever I’m in need of ideas for a written dialogue. What I do is that I carefully note down the person’s words, their gestures, their unique attributes. And let me tell you – each conversation is entirely different and true to its stereotype: 

-The couple on their first date; Nervous voice, shaky hands, awkward questions.

 –The business meeting between the new employé and the boss; Excitement, loud voices, energetic hand-movements. 

-The retired couple on vacation; Relaxed faces, smiles that light up the whole room, mundane conversation topics. 

But today I saw something different – something that put a spark in my eyes and lit a fire to my soul:


A couple who look like they could be around 20 – 21 enters the café and sit down by the table next to me. Immediately, I’m able to spot where they’re from – The boy; Blonde, curly hair, blue shiny eyes, reddened skin, tall. The girl – brunette, brown eyes, fairly light skin. They’re from the States. 

“So, where did we end our conversation earlier?” the boy asks after the waiter has handed them two ice-lattes. 

“How do humans store their memories.” the girl replies and casually puts her iPhone aside.

“Oh right! What would happen if a human cloned themselves? Would they have the same memories or would they start from zero?” 

I stop reading my book and look up to the ceiling as to pretend I’m staring at something while listening to their conversation. For a whole hour, sentences flow out of their mouths without stop: Ideas, patterns, psychological aspects of the human mind, physics. Soon the conversation takes a turn into the more advanced theories about the world, such as Quantum mechanics, alternative universes, the probability of aliens being single-celled organisms, the differences between the brain-state and the mind-state, how human beings only think in algorithms etc. My eyes are glued to the wall and my mind is swimming around in delicious new ideas, facts, statistics, and terminologies. I am their listener, but I am also their student.


That hour of eves-dropping made me think in different ways, contemplate new ideas and form new, interesting conversation topics with my friends later. Not to mention — I regained my hope for our millennial generation. They were only kids. Yet, they were knowledgable, capable of seeing patterns and interested in unlocking the secrets of the world. 

They were interested. Not interesting. And THAT is the kind of youth that we need more of today. 

Before today, I thought they didn’t exist anymore. I thought iPhones and Computer screens had ruined our attention span and altered our ego. But here I was, listening to something which later in time would prove me wrong.

I realized how ignorant I still am and how much there is yet to learn. And this … gave me hope. 

So don’t give up on us. Continue to believe in magic. This couple was more infatuated by each other and their ideas than they were in their iPhones – and THAT is a miracle in itself. 

 

 

Love, 

Aftur S. Nerdrum