Purgatory

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It Was Real?

The dream was captivating and Merilee couldn’t let it go. She just had to share it. Luckily it was Saturday, and every Saturday morning she met with several friends from her high school volleyball team. All fitness buffs, they hiked, biked and worked out together when they could. When they couldn’t, they got together for coffee at a local bistro and traded stories about their week. Other than a few stories about Dante, Merilee was a better listener than a raconteur. This time she had an intriguing tale to tell, even if it was only about a dream.

Merilee couldn’t remember everything, but she recalled the training field and the warriors, some practicing with different weapons, others doing strenuous workout drills. Her friends were wide eyed as she told them about the handsome giant and fist pumped when she mentioned the knockout gorgeous woman training the lot of them. She was the one responsible for Dante buffing up. “Oh lord,” said one of the ladies, “That sounds fabulous. I’d love to train with a super-hot warrior queen.”

The others around the table nodded in agreement and raised their coffee cups in a toast, “To super-hot warrior queens.”

One closest to Merilee grabbed her sleeve, “Too bad it was a dream. It sounds so interesting and intense.”

“Why can’t I have great dreams like that,” said another in a wistful voice.

“I know,” smiled Merilee, “it seemed so real. Funny thing is still seems to be real.”

“Well,” giggled the one who had grabbed her arm, “If it is real, I’m in.”

“What sort of place was it, anyway?” asked one.

“In the dream, Dante said it was purgatory.”

“I heard of it in school. I went to a catholic school. It’s a place where you go when you die, to make up for your sins before going to heaven.”

“Yes,” nodded Merilee, “and they’re there, but living people can go there and its made up of many different domains, like, there are so many groups of beings, many not human, but all, I think the word the warrior queen used was, sentient.”

“That’s a pretty detailed dream you had, Merilee. It almost sounds like an actual place. Or are you plotting out a novel? Whatever it is, put me in it.”

“Me too!”

“And me.”

They all agreed this was the kind of place where they’d like to spend some time. If Merilee was writing a novel about this place, then they wanted to be included among the warriors. Little did they know it, but they were about to become some of Dante’s first recruits for his army. At the moment they were enjoying each other’s company and discussing a potential camping trip, and Merilee’s dream slipped back into the background until her cell phone rang. It was Dante.

“Hi Merilee, I just called to see how you were doing after yesterday’s visit to purgatory. What did you think?”

“Is that you, Dante?” Merilee asked.

“Yes, am I interrupting something. I’ll let you go. I just wanted to ask you what you thought about yesterday and I’ll let you go.”

“Yesterday was great,”

“Ok, great, ready to go back?”

“Huuh?” Merilee was puzzled, “back?”

“Yeah, to purgatory. Hey, you seem distracted. I guess you’re busy. I’ll call you later. Bye.”

“Dante, Dante, don’t hang up,” but it was too late, he was gone.

Merilee turned to her fellows at the table. “Did my phone just ring?”

“Yeah, it did, and you answered it,” responded one of the women.

“Did you know who I was taking to?” Merilee asked this as if she was wasn’t quite sure what the answer would be.

“You said the name Dante, so I’m making a wild guess that’s who it was,” said another of her friends.

Merilee clicked to her recent calls and held the screen of her phone up for the others to see, “So, according to this, who did I get my last call from?”

“Dante,” they all chimed in in unison while one of them leaned over the table for a closer look and added, “And, less than a minute ago, so what’s going on with you?”

“I don’t know,” said an anxious sounding Merilee, “but you have to come with me.”

She got to her feet, pushed her cup back from the edge of the table, and stood up. The others stood up with her, their expressions as confused as hers, only for a different reason. “What’s up? Where are we going?” asked one of them.

The others nodded their heads to show they agreed with those questions. “To Dante’s place,” said Merilee.

“Hmm,” said the one who had spoken earlier, “yeah, let’s gang up on him. He won’t stand a chance,” she hesitated, then with a perplexed look added, “for whatever it is.”

The former volleyballers picked up their gym bags and followed Merilee out to the street. “Let’s take my car since it’s the closest.”

Moments later they were in Merilee’s car. As she pulled out onto the street, one of her friends groaned. “I think we’d have been better in my car. It’s an SUV.”

“There you go, Carol,” laughed the one beside her, “thinking of your own creature comforts. I think this is sort of cozy.”

“Why are we all going to your almost boyfriend’s place, anyway?” asked the one sitting in the passenger seat next to Merilee.

“So, you can tell me if he’s crazy and if I’m crazy, too, and should find me a shrink.”

“I love a good mystery,” said one woman in the back seat, and moments later they were all chattering and occasionally offering a gentle tease Merilee’s way.

Answering the door and finding Merilee and her four friends there surprised Dante, and he immediately began apologizing for the state of his apartment. “Seen worst,” said one of the women.

“Yeah, Joan, I believe that was your place,” laughed another.

“Hi Dante, by the way,” Carol smiled at his look of confusion, “I’m Carol, that’s Joan behind Merilee, the blond is Tiffany and the one coming through the door is Mai Ling. You’re looking at five-sixths of the starting line-up of a high school silver medal volleyball team. You may have heard of us, although I realize it’s ancient history now. Number six isn’t here because she’s out on the west coast practicing with the Nats for the Pan American Games.”

“Yeah, h-hi,” stuttered Dante, “Nice to meet you….”

Before he could add another word, Merilee demanded, “Take us to purgatory. We want to see if it’s real.”

“Yeah,” said the one called Carol, “It sounds pretty cool.”

Before Dante could reply, Merilee pushed past him and made her way to his bedroom, the others following. She led them to the closet door. As she opened it, Carol turned to Dante and grinned, “Nice room you have here. I especially like what you’ve done with the chair and the way the various articles of clothing hang on it. It shouts bachelor, or,” glancing at her friend, Joan, beside her, “bachelorette.”

“Oh, good one,” said the other, “You’re no Henrietta housekeeper either, as I recall.”

They were both laughing as Merilee disappeared into the closet.

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