The day after his capture by supposed pirates, The Dwarf awoke tripping his brains out in Heaven.
It was The Garden Of Earthly Delights version, as opposed to the more ambiguous Judaic or Christian versions, but since he had virtually no interest in religion, this was quite lost on him.
His shipmates were also there, as were numerous amorous young women, a few young men thrown in for the mix, fine wine, gardens, exquisite beauty with all the stops pulled out, all heightened by the hallucinogen they were spellbound under.
Heaven was designed to be enjoyed for only a few days, before the delight could become mundane. And it was very expensive to maintain. By the third day a few of the crew members were experiencing some psychological side effects of being in a constant drugged state mixed with such an intense state of bliss, and they began to become delirious and lose their minds. There were always a few immediate casualties and they were quietly removed in the night.
It was at noon on the 4th day that the great voice sounded out across the Gardens announcing that the blissful had not actually completed their earthly tasks satisfactorily and that they could not stay. The fog moved in and with it the beasts of The Great Chase. The crew was driven from the Grounds through a great stone gate and out into the next part of the island, the 7 purgatories.
Thus began the long, progressively more and more painful trek across the island. None of the crew knew of course they were on an island at all and as the days and trials increased, their minds, already strained by the drug began to degrade and one by one they broke and went mad.
Purgatory was designed to be a long repetitious two week trek through a landscape that grew more barren and then more cruel as the days passed. The initial lack of excitement would force one to reflect which would make the test subjects particularly vulnerable by the time they reached the Hell section.
During the first few days the crew stuck close together and moved more or less as a group. But as the days, the fatigue, and the dementia wore on they grew more scattered. Some crew members wandered off or tried to go back, but the Beasts lurking on the periphery of the desired travel path insured they went back on track.
A few sat and eventually refused to get up. Unless another member of the crew persuaded them to carry on, they were left alone by the silent observers. Eventually hunger and boredom would motivate them, and if not, especially if they too succumbed to sheer madness, they were a valuable learning tool.
By the time the dwarf reached the yawning gates of hell, over half the crew had succumbed to insanity. Some were dead. There had been a few suicides, a couple accidents and a few murders. There was little reason to expect much from the remaining survivors as the general level of sanity was razor thin and unraveling with each hour, yet the dwarf strangely remained aloof and steady. Each day he resumed the walk, his pace never wavering much, just stoically carrying on, seemingly unbothered by the madness surrounding him and the mental breakdown that must surely be occurring in his own head. Indeed, although many past test subjects had made it farther, no subject thus far had held up quite so well.
Finally, one night, the silent observers began to see signs of degradation. The dwarf would sit at night talking to himself. In actuality he was speaking with Faeries who recognized him as a fellow kinsmen of Scottish ancestry, and who had followed their sacred livestock, the toads, to the island.
(Note: This little writing experiment will only have 5 chapters. It is not related to the actual opera except in one, tiny, tiny way which is actually irrelevant. It’s just a little exercise. )