SCENE 1: THE FIRST HELL
Major-General Jaggedone stood, as ever, at the very perimeter of the parameters of civilisation, or what passed for civilisation in his embattled experience. That is, he stood at the portal of the strange vessel that had borne him, along with his motley band of followers, to this, their latest bourne. It was as if they had been prematurely born, delivered as they were unto a wierd and incomprehensible wilderness.
Major-General Jaggedone stood at the edge of the known world, and beheld a vista of drear and deadly desert. A darkling plain was spread before them, lifeless and grim. In the near distance, mists swirled, in circling convolvulus clouds. Far off, hulks that may have been barren mountains loomed through the sea of fog. Nothing was seen of a sky. All was gloam, subfusc, dusk.
Major-General Jaggedone called out. "I'faith, good Captain Morse, once more thy antic ways have vouchsafed us a shipwreck! Nay, as thou speakest from out thine own base fundament, so thou bringst thine comrades to the very arsehole of the world!"
"Weren't my idea t'fly in a friggin' phone box lootenant", came the cry from the bridge. "I'm a ff'n sailor y'know...not a freak'n COSMONAUT...Why not try giv'n some of us a hand back here with the friggin charts..'stead of posin' like a pansy with a flagpole up his ass...JUST SAYIN' LOOTENANT...What's with the Elizabethan dialogue clap-trap laddie anyroad...got yer buckskins in a knot?"
Before Major-General Jaggedone could offer a retort, Colonel Juan, who had been penning a dozen short squibs on the likes of Robert Pattinson, Wayne Rooney and Cher Lloyd, because he could do no other, it was the curse of his art, rose and spoke. "Gentlemen...space travel's kinda like democracy...you get what you vote for...what you deserve...I sympathise with you...spoofing is all about the laws of supply and demand...you pays yer money, you takes yer choice...Personally, I'm an artist, I mix the pop and the classic, though I do miss Lynton and Erskin...we all need our audience...but write and ye shall have written...the ways of the Spoof are a mystery...and all who sail in her...must dash, I've a sea of merlot to navigate..."
"Me, I just talk bollocks. But it seems to work. Not in a gay way of course. Just sayin'. Regards", said Skoob1999, from somewhere that seemed like everywhere. "It's mad, this, but there you go."
SCENE 2: THE SECOND HELL
Imagination undead imagine. Of air and angels. Insubstantial as water, empty as ether, endless as an unborn universe. The whorled whoredoms of wondering utter three beings. Enfolded, engendered, embryonic. Pulsating, patterned pixels pulse, course and conjure a trio. The dreams of lonely spoofers, keyboard-bound, conjoin in coldest cyberspace, create a triple Demi-God that drives their scribbling, an Unholy Trinity that governs their striving.
Circling ever above and beyond them, forever ineffable, hover the Three.
Jesus Budda, profane, inscrutable, elusive;
Fergus McCarthy, abusive, atavistic, terrifying;
Mark Lowton, the Sleeping God of Lancaster whose unknowable machinations are the subject of a myriad myths;
Forever ineffable, above and beyond them, circling ever,
Hover the Three,
SCENE 3: THE THIRD HELL
"This is it Cap'n!!! This fuckin' time is it!!! I can feel it in me water! Lookin' good! Victor knows his stuff, should've had him navigating before. Captain Morse, this time I salute you. Let battle commence!!!"
Morse looked at Major-General Jaggedone, with narrowed eyes, and turned to Victor Nicholas, who was poring over his charts and instruments. "What's with Admiral Nelson, eh, Doc?...reverting to type now, eh?...run out of Shakespearean verbiage...swearin' like a bosun. We on course, Doc?"
Victor answered, langorous, laconic, his gaze fixed on the charts. "I certainly believe we are, Captain. If you follow these coordinates, then we are certainly bound for Lancaster, without a doubt."
"Them charts are accurate though, eh, Doc? Look a bit out of date to me."
"Oh, I'm sure they are fine", Victor answered, hastily placing his sextant over that portion of the map that said 'Terra Incognita' and 'Here Be Dragons'. "We can't go wrong. Can I get back to my salamanders now?"
"Sure, Doc...whatever floats yer boat ol' bean...give those babies a kiss from ol' Uncle Morse...an' mind yer suspenders don't bust, we be goin' ter land any minute now!"
And so it was that an antique English Police-Box descended from the sky, and settled, softly, amid a cloud of yellow dust, in a lane, in the midst of flat green agricultural land.
The portal opened, and, once again, Major-General Jaggedone stood and looked out across this, the latest vista to which the Captainship of Captain Morse had brought them.
This time, for once, Jaggedone was silent. So silent that Morse came a-running. To stand too, open-mouthed, at the sight of a crowd of sun-burned people in 19th-century costume, who were returning the vacant gaze of the astronauts.
Charpa93, emerging from the fetid interior, her hands full of shredded fishnets, was the first to speak, as a horse and cart laden with hay and bearded men went past.
"Well, guys, you hit the jackpot this time! It's Lancaster all right. Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, home of the Amish! Well worth a pair of fishnets!"
SCENE FOUR: BEYOND THE HELLS
Erskin Quint closed the morocco-bound copy of 'The Cloud of Unknowing', drew upon his ochre meerschaum, drank deeply from his glass of Miltons Old Malmsey 1924, and sighed. He loved his creature comforts, but something disturbed his sensual bliss. "I like to think of myself as an artist", he thought. "Hmm. I think that I like to think of myself as an artist. I think", he thought. He began to think that, though he thought that he thought that he liked to think of himself as an artist, he was beginning to lose track of what it was that he thought he had been thinking that he thought he had been thinking. Perhaps it was the Old Malmsey. Perhaps it was too much solitude, perhaps it was the sequestration of being secreted safely away at his secret safe place of sequestration.
He began again. No. Yes. That was it. He was an artist. Had not Colonel Juan said so? And Colonel Juan was not one for facile hyperbole at the drop of a hat, was he? Hang on...
No. What it was, was this. Quint might call himself an artist, but there was no getting away from the poor quality of this his latest work, 'The Circles of Hell'. Why, it was mere journey-work. Chuckling at the weak pun, Quint nonetheless felt empty. He was a mere shell of the creator he had once been.
But soft! A fresh draught of Miltons Old Malmsey brought new optimism. After all, this was the first thing he had written in a long time. Perhaps it was not so bad after all.
And there was the supreme satisfaction of knowing that all these characters, and the Unholy Trinity who governed them - all these beings he had created and depicted - why, they were all mere figments of his imagination, all doomed to wander forever among the Circles of Hell.
Quint smiled, sardonically, as the rain beat against the ancient mullions. "I wonder where these pilgrims will end up next, in their futile search for the mythical Mark Lowton", he thought. "Now, where shall I send the poor fools?"