We rode the cable car through the Department of Torture toward sector 248. Wyver rode in dispassionate silence. I rode in awestruck, nauseated silence.
Torture was everywhere.
At first, we just passed some rows of what looked like doctors' exam rooms. The doors were labeled similarly to those in the hallway outside my office, but from behind these doors came horrible, unbelievable screams and more than a little ragged begging. But as we traveled further into the depths of the Department of Torture, the methods of inflicting pain became more elaborate and more public.
We passed a cavity in the rock (what I guess you'd call a clearing if we'd been in a forest) in which carefully guarded humans were being forced to watch some poor man getting his limbs hacked off with what looked like screwdrivers. Two of the demons were performing disgusting sexual acts on various bleeding parts of the man's body. Each of the spectators had some kind of spear inserted into one of their ears. It also appeared that their feet were on fire. One of them tried to bolt, but he was tackled by a demon who promptly held him down, produced a long dagger, and proceeded to peel a six-inch strip of flesh from the back of the man's neck.
One of the women watching vomited on herself. The demons guarding her bristled warily in case she was about to run, but she dutifully continued watching the man being dismembered in a very non-surgical manner.
I didn't look away. I knew that if I did, I'd only see something just as bad--or possibly worse--somewhere else. And I didn't dare shut my eyes for fear that Wyver would throw up his hands in disgust, proclaim me an incurable wimp, and then wander off and leave me stranded as soon as the cable car stopped.
So I took it in. I surveyed the torture. I watched. It was a long ride and there were a lot of unspeakable things to witness.
This was what I ruled over? This was my purpose after death, to reign over a bureaucratic machine that systematically breaks billions upon billions of souls by relentlessly perpetrating terrible physical, mental and emotional cruelty?
I began to wonder if any of my predecessors had experienced any kind of change of heart after witnessing the fruits of their dominion.