Wednesday, October 30, 2013

In the Thick of Things

I wasn’t right in the thick of things, but things were still pretty thick from where I was standing.  The cacophonous heat of frenzied combat was stifling.  There were no lines or columns—this was an all-out melee.  It consumed my immediate environment so completely that I couldn’t tell by the use of any of my senses if the entire battlefront was just like this or if I’d simply happened to appear in the Bloody Angle of this subterranean conflict.

No sooner had I arrived than one of Halkkor’s freaky-looking soldiers pierced some lanky yellow-skinned demon in front of me right through her heart.  As the demon crumpled into a lifeless heap, the soldier stepped over her and moved directly towards me, the blood-stained bonelike spikes protruding from his wrists slicing the air menacingly.

Gavsot’s voice at my elbow grunted, “This would be a good time to test your new weapon.”

Hoping to take the Lucifer’s Firstborn by surprise, I lurched forward, gripped him by the ankle, and transported us to my go-to spot:  the wilderness beside the edge of the lake of fire.

I was used to the mechanics of instantaneous telekinetic transit by now, so I managed to execute a perfect somersault upon our arrival to gracefully complete the lunge I’d started before we left.  My foe, on the other hand, seemed disoriented by our trip, and stumbled like a drunk in an effort to keep his balance.

Back on my feet behind my adversary, I held my new anti-Firstborn knife in both hands, and plunged it forcefully through the rough skin of his back directly into where his heart probably was.  It hadn’t occurred to me until that precise moment that I didn’t know where the heart was in the anatomy of Lucifer’s Firstborn.  If he’d been human, though, it would have been a direct hit.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Next on the Agenda

I reappeared in my office, where Sylnie had been joined by Gus, Torvin and Jaelin. 

“How’d it go, Boss-Man?” Gus asked hopefully.

I held up the steaming dagger triumphant.  “This thing should be one hundred percent Firstborn-lethal,” I replied.  “She’s all ready to go.”

“So what’s the plan then?” Sylnie asked.

I’d been working on that.  “I’m on it,” I said as coolly as I could, flashing her a roguish grin.  She smiled and pressed a hand to her soft bosom like a swooning groupie.  “I’m going to give this little baby a test run,” I announced.  “I’ll be back in a minute, hopefully with a Firstborn’s corpse in tow.”  Pausing to briefly indulge my ongoing fantasy of being Sylnie’s knight in shining armor crossed with James Bond, I winked at her, opened my phone, and dialed General Gavsot.

He answered on the fourth ring.  “Yes?” he said.  He sounded like he was out of breath.  Again.  There was lots of chaotic background noise.

“General,” I greeted him.  “How are those reinforcements treating you?”

He didn’t answer right away.  “Many of them are dead,” he said evenly.  “But we have managed to slow Halkkor’s advance for the time being.”

“I guess that’s…kind of good news,” I replied halfheartedly.  “Listen, I need a favor.  I need to get to your location as soon as possible so I can test out this weapon.  Can you send someone to pick me up and teleport me back?”

“Where are you?” he responded instantly.

“My office,” I said. 

“Let’s go,” he replied, but I heard his voice behind me before I heard it through the phone.


“Jesus, you’re in a hurry,” I yelped.  I was surrounded by the sounds of battle before I’d even finished my sentence.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Solitude

I teleported to the Realm of the Living and arrived at the edge of a lake about an hour’s drive from my old house.  I’d chosen this spot because it was the first body of water on Earth that I could actually remember the physical location of.  Before I’d quit the Boy Scouts, I’d gone to a summer camp near this lake.  I’d spent most of my time either giving the younger boys hell or skipping merit badge classes to skip stones in these waters.

The camp was abandoned now, because, judging by the temperature, spring hadn’t even set in yet.  But the still water and the crisp air and the mossy, picturesque banks of such a nostalgic scene suddenly gave me a realization that should have occurred to me much, much sooner:  I was dead.

I’d never really been a sentimental guy to begin with.  But when I died, I was so swiftly caught up in such macrocosmic events that I don’t think I really had time to adjust. There was no process of acceptance.  I didn’t mourn the permanent separation from my friends or my parents.  I just suddenly found myself in a completely foreign environment with all these urgent objectives thrust upon me.  It wasn’t until now that the full understanding of my mortal expiration dawned on me.

I’d never see my friends again.  I’d never taste my mom’s potato salad again.  I’d never graduate from high school.  I didn’t know what I was going to do with the rest of my life before, but I felt cheated that I didn’t get to have a rest of my life to do anything with.  I’d never be the guy I was going to be.  And even though I felt I’d been robbed of all that by a few kids who’d beaten me to death, I realized now—and almost immediately after I’d died—that I kind of pushed them into it.  I’d indirectly robbed myself of all those things by being such a heartless, arrogant bully.  That persona seemed strange to me now, considering that I’d spent most of my time in Hell barely hanging on to power instead of exercising it impudently and imprudently the way I had while I was still alive. 

I missed being alive.  I missed being Jason Giles.

But perhaps the most important thing I’d learned since my death was that when there was work to do, I needed to hunker down and do it.  I used to waste my time figuring ways to immaturely torture my classmates.  Now I was in danger of wasting my time dwelling on what I’d lost.

I stepped up to the edge of the lake and dipped the still red-hot blade into the cool water.  I pulled it out as soon as it stopped sizzling and bubbling. 


Then I took a deep breath and teleported back to my new home.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Stunt Work

I stowed my phone in my pocket, pulled out the crimson-stained dagger, took a running start toward the ledge, and launched myself into the air.  I figured jumping off the cliff would help me better judge the distance to the surface of the lava than blindly teleporting into the abyss.

The air rushing around me was already warm, but it grew hotter and hotter as I fell.  I held the dagger in front of me as I plummeted face first into what would probably be a source of incredible pain.  As the bubbling molten surface rushed up to meet me, I stuck my arm out as far as I could, focused on the moment the blade entered the liquid, and teleported away.

I appeared in the waiting room a few yards away from where Gus, Jaelin and Torvin were awaiting my return.  I held the blade up in front of me and saw it covered from tip to hilt in quickly cooling lava.  The hand that held it was unharmed.  For once, I’d executed my plan to absolute perfection.

“Woo hoo!” I shouted exultantly, waving the knife in the air as the damned souls stared at me in befuddlement and my comrades hurried over to congratulate me.

“Wow,” Gus said, admiring my handiwork.  “It’s like the work of a surgeon.”

“I’m so awesome,” I told him.  Anticipating his reply, I quickly added, “Anyway, now I’m off to dip this in the waters of Earth.”


And I teleported away again.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Conscription

Gavsot seemed hesitant to come out and say it, but I think he was asking me for help.

“Do you want me to send you some more demons?” I asked.

“I do,” he said.  “But I do not think it is wise to send many.  Have you finished making your weapon?”

“I’m still working on it,” I said.

“I would appreciate any reinforcements you can send,” Gavsot said.  “But you will be sending them to their deaths if we still do not have a method for killing Lucifer’s Firstborn.  We need to save our heaviest forces for a final push once we can kill them.”

“That’s a good idea,” I replied.  “I’ll send you a few more demons and I’ll let you know if the weapon works.  What’s your location?”

“Sector 198 in the Department of Torture,” he said.  “But send reinforcements to Sector 197.  I do not want them to accidentally teleport into the middle of the wrong army.”

“Okay, General,” I said.  “Good luck down there.  And do me a favor—make sure you stay alive.  I know you’re a badass, but don’t do too much fighting yourself.  We need you more than anybody else.”

“Yes, sir,” he said, though I sensed he was agreeing hesitantly. 

I hung up and immediately called my Department Directors to request reinforcements.  Unsurprisingly, Kivra was the least helpful.  Although it was easier for me to assert myself over the phone, I only managed to get a donation of ten demons from her.  Jorge was the most helpful, offering fifty.  I got another thirty from Wakka and twenty from Winston, although he whined that his demons weren’t trained for combat and their absence in his department would lead to a backlog of unassigned souls in the waiting room.

In total, I was sending Gavsot only ninety more soldiers, increasing his army by a small fraction.  But if things were as dire as he claimed, he might only have a small fraction of his army left anyway.  I hoped ninety would be enough to at least help Gavsot slow Halkkor’s progress. 


In the meantime, however, I needed to finish making this weapon.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Status Update

I’d left Gus, Torvin and Jaelin in the waiting room and transported myself to the edge of the lava-filled chasm alone.  I needed to dip the knife I’d used to stab Quinn and the nurse into the furnace below and that wasn’t a job that called for any assistance.  I was about to attempt a series of precision teleportations and, for all Gus’s loyalty, Jaelin’s ability and Torvin’s expendability, none of them would be of any use here.

I stared over the cliff at the bubbling lava.  The last time I’d intentionally flung myself into that fiery pit, I’d been trying to shake loose Halkkor, who’d stubbornly clung to me despite my repeated attempts to teleport away from him.  I’d finally managed to shake him loose, but I’d dipped my leg into the lava and burnt it so bad that it didn’t heal until my miraculous and mysterious return from my second death.  I wasn’t exactly anxious to reacquire that particular injury.

As I stood there psyching myself for my close and probably painful encounter with the flaming seas of Hell, my phone rang.  It was General Gavsot.

“General,” I said.  “How’s the war effort going?”

“Not well,” came a breathless response.  “We are losing ground faster and faster.  We just lost the Department of Manufacturing.”

“We have a Department of Manufacturing?” I asked.

“Where did you think all the devices used for the torture came from?” he asked.  He sounded surprisingly irritable.  The usually collected general seemed to be losing his cool.  “Or your office furniture or your computer or the phone you are using right now?”

“Right, sorry, of course they have to come from somewhere,” I said quickly.


“Every warehouse and factory that is not a pile of rubble is up in flames,” he said.  “Halkkor’s army seems to be moving back toward the Department of Torture.  I do not have enough demons left to slow them down anymore.  I cannot stop them.”

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

More Stabbing

I rushed over to her.  She was probably frightened to begin with, but the way I charged across the room and almost tackled Torvin in the process made her cower against her seat. 

“Are you a doctor?” I asked excitedly.

“I’m a nurse,” she responded hesitantly.

“You work in an ER or something, right?” I said.

“Trauma center at Saint Anne’s,” she replied.  “Where am I?”

“You died!” I said happily.  “Welcome to Hell!  I’m the Devil—I just need a little blood from you!”  She blanched and opened her mouth to ask me a question, but then I pulled out my bloody dagger and sunk it into the flesh of her thigh.  After a few seconds and a shrill scream from the nurse, I pulled it back out.

“Thanks,” I said.  “You did great.”

“Oh my God, why would you do that?” she shrieked hysterically, pressing her hand over the wound in an effort to stop the bleeding.

I grinned.  “Because I’m the Devil,” I reminded her.  “Generally my reputation is that I’m not such a nice guy.”  I couldn't deny that, in some situations, I relished my role as an embodiment of evil.  I glanced down at the blood seeping between her fingers.  “You don’t need to do that,” I said.  “You’re not going to die.  You’re already dead.”

She shot me a sarcastic grin.  “Thanks, that’s very reassuring.”

Gus tapped me on the shoulder.  “We should probably stay on point here, bro,” he whispered.  “Hellish warlords to assassinate, armies to defeat.  You know.  We have a to-do list.”

I nodded.  “Right.”  To the wounded nurse, I said, “Nice stabbing you.”


Then I teleported to the lake of fire.

Monday, October 21, 2013

A Doctor in the House

The waiting room was drastically better populated than it had been upon my first visit, but it appeared that none of its occupants was a doctor.  I turned around just to make sure somebody behind me wasn’t patiently raising a hand or anything.

Nope.

With a noiseless puff of invisible smoke, a balding man appeared in one of the chairs a few feet away from me.  “You!” I barked out before he could get his bearings.  “Are you a doctor?”

Clearly intimidated, the man stammered, “Actuary.”

“Actuary?” I replied thunderously.  “What the hell is an actuary?”

Nervously, the man began, “Well, what I do is I take—”

“He’s not a doctor,” Gus interrupted.  “Let’s move on.”  The man breathed a sigh of relief as Gus steered me away from him.  “You might need to work on your people skills,” Gus whispered.

“I’m beginning to think that this may not be the best place to find a doctor,” I muttered.  A kid who couldn’t be more than twelve appeared a few seats away.  I frowned.  “Somehow I don’t think he’s one either.”

Jaelin and Torvin had wandered a bit and were quietly speaking with an attractive blonde woman.  I couldn’t hear any part of their conversation over “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” playing from the speakers above us until Jaelin turned and called out, “Does a dermatologist count?”

I shook my head dejectedly.  “Close, but I’d feel better if it was more an emergency room kind of doctor.”


And just like magic, a woman in scrubs appeared on the opposite side of the room.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Stabbing

Quinn screamed openly.  He was surrounded by other people who were suffering, so I doubt he felt much shame in screaming.  I made sure to twist the knife clockwise and counterclockwise once I had it deep in his intestinal tract.  Then I rocked it a little bit, letting the tip of the blade slide up toward his ribs and then down toward his crotch.

He wept.  I imagined that, because he knew he was already dead, there could be no escape from the pain.  His voice went ragged and salty trails ran from the corners of his eyes back to his ears.  He looked absolutely miserable in every way, but it still didn’t feel like enough.

But it also didn’t feel as good as I’d hoped.  Despite the pleasure I felt from eliciting so much suffering from the one who’d prematurely ended my mortal existence, I didn’t get the sense of closure and justice that I’d wanted.  My goal was to avenge my death, but all I’d really done was stab somebody.  My hope was to take an eye for an eye, but all I did was increase the amount of pain in the universe.  I was consumed with a self-righteous rage in that moment, but in the back of my mind was this tiny understanding that I’d achieved nothing useful. 

I ripped the dagger out of his stomach.  “Have a nice day,” I snarled before stepping over the rope and gesturing toward the pit guards for them to resume their duties. 

“Okay,” Gus said, eying me warily.  “That was…dark.  What’s next?”

“Now we need the blood of a healer,” I said.  I turned to the Misery Master.  “Doorknob, thanks for your help.  Best of luck with your promotion.”  Doorknob visibly swelled with pride.

Moments later, the four of us appeared in the waiting room in the Department of Assignment.  I looked around at the silent collection of confused, recently damned souls.

I cleared my throat.  “Is there a doctor in the house?” I shouted.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Quinn Madsen

“Here we are, sir,” Doorknob announced, approaching one of the many wooden stands that lined the grid arrangement.  On the stand was what appeared to be similar to a hospital patient’s chart.  Glancing at it briefly, he said, “Quinn Madsen.  Days one through nine, removal of all body hair with tweezers.  Day ten, three hours of having to sneeze without being able to do so.  This is your boy.”

A few feet behind the wooden platform, Quinn Madsen was chained to the ground.  Three pit guards, armed with tweezers, were busily plucking hairs from various parts of his body.  It seemed like such an inadequate punishment for someone who’d helped bludgeon me to death.  The square space for his torture was designated by four short stakes, which had ropes tied between them a few inches off the ground. 

I stepped over the rope.  “Guards, I’m going to need to talk to him.  Take five.”  Slightly confused, the pit guards backed away from him but remained standing at the edges of the square, anxious to resume their torture as soon as I was finished.

I stood over Quinn, as he struggled, whimpering and naked, against his restraints.  “Do you know who I am?” I asked him, holding my dagger above him ominously.

“What?” he asked.

“Do you remember me?” I thundered.  “The kid you beat to death?  The kid whose skull you split open with a hoe?  Do you remember me?”

Horrified and confused, he squinted at me.  “Jason?” he asked incredulously.

“Yep,” I said.  “Jason. The new fucking king of Hell.”  Gripping the dagger above my head with both hands, and summoning all my anger over my sudden and unwarranted demise, I lunged down at him and plunged the dagger into his stomach with all of my enhanced strength.


I wanted to make it hurt as much as it possibly could.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Misery Master

Doorknob chattered happily (or perhaps nervously) as he led us through the rows of screaming people.

“The Department of Construction recently expanded this sector by twenty-five percent,” he informed us.  “It used to be that not much changed here because it had been at maximum capacity for so long.  The last few weeks have been really exciting as we’ve been filling newly opened slots for torturing.  We just reached maximum capacity again a few days ago.”

A group of pit guards who seemed to be sending a man back to the cable car stepped aside in the aisle to let us pass.  Based on the man’s appearance, I guessed that his torture had something to do with severe razor burn.  He scratched absentmindedly at his raw neck and winced.

“I used to be the assistant Misery Master of this sector,” Doorknob explained excitedly.  “But just as the renovations were being finished, Kivra promoted my boss into her cabinet.  She made me the master in his stead.”

Gus and I stared in bewilderment at a woman who was being pinned down by four pit guards while a fifth rubbed a dead fish all over her.  “That is some kinky shit,” Gus whispered.  Torvin shuddered as he walked past.  Jaelin, the least affected of us, patted his shoulder reassuringly.

“As far as I know, I’m the youngest Misery Master in the whole Department,” Doorknob continued proudly.  “I’m only fourteen, you know.  And considering that I assumed my position during a time of transition, I’m hoping my performance will catch Kivra’s eye.  I hope to rise to be her second in command someday.”

“Sounds like you have it all planned out,” I murmured, not really listening.  It was truly astonishing how bizarre some of these methods of torture were.

“Although I wouldn’t mind some help, sir,” the demon added in a confidential tone.  “A recommendation from the Devil himself would go a long way.”


I smiled wryly at him.  “I doubt Kivra places much value on my opinion,” I said.  “I think you’re better off without a recommendation from me.”

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Man in Charge

I walked up to one of the pit guards who was disinterestedly cracking his toes to torment the poor man who writhed under a swarm of white feathers.  “Hey,” I barked.  “I need to talk to whoever’s in charge.”

The pit guard gave his pinky toe a nice crisp pop and nodded in the direction of a woman whose punishment appeared to be eternally trying on shoes that were two sizes too small.  Behind her strutted a dark purple demon with a long bullwhip wrapped around his muscular torso.  He gazed importantly at his surroundings and occasionally leaned over to mutter instructions to the torturers under his command. 

I led my recently shrunken posse over to him.  He saw us approaching and stepped out to greet us, looking excited but mildly confused.  “Sir!” he exulted.  Apparently he recognized my Devilish aura.

“You in charge here?” I asked.  I was playing the part of the gruff, terse military commander from every war movie ever and I was enjoying t.

The demon nodded eagerly.  “Doorknob at your service, sir,” he said.

Gus snickered.  Eyebrows raised, I asked, “Did you just say your name is Doorknob?”

He hung his head.  “It’s not what it sounds like, sir,” he mumbled miserably.  “It means beacon of depravity in the ancient demonic tongue.”

I nodded.  “Right.  Well, that’s an unfortunate linguistic coincidence.”  Gus snorted, still struggling to keep from open laughter.  He was ruining the role I was trying to play, too.  Trying not to smile, I said, “I’m looking for Quinn Madsen.  He’s in this sector, correct?”

“Yes, sir,” Doorknob said.  “Would you like me to take you to him?”

“Yeah, that would be great,” I replied, finding his helpfulness a little surprising.


“Right this way,” he said pleasantly and he hurried off further into the crowd of tortured souls.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Sector 38

I felt much more comfortable on the cable car than I had last time.  Since my frantic struggle with Halkkor, I was more confident in my ability to teleport to safety if I fell out of the car.  And it was also fun to see Torvin’s unease as he stared out into the pit of lava.  Last time, Wyver had scoffed at my fearfulness, but this time I got to scoff at someone else’s.  As Torvin cowered in a corner of the speeding car, Jaelin knelt beside him and put a comforting hand on his shoulder.  It was a strangely touching moment shared between two demons. 

After a few minutes of rocketing through the air and after more than a few tight turns taken at precariously intense speeds, the driver applied the brakes and our car coasted into a station.  “This is sector 38?” I asked him as we came to a stop.

He nodded.

I clapped him appreciatively on the shoulder.  “Thanks for the ride,” I said.  “Just don’t talk my ear off next time.”  He rolled his eyes.

The four of us got off and looked around.  We were in an enclosed cavern, but it seemed to house an artificial North American desert, complete with rough sand, tumbleweeds, and the occasional cactus.  Tortured souls were arranged in an approximate grid pattern across the expansive desert, each accompanied by various torturers and torturing implements.  There were no bone saws or needles or chains or carving knives, however—none of this torture seemed to be of the typical variety.  The soul directly in front of us had half a dozen pit guards tickling his naked body with large feathers while another group of pit guards continuously cracked their knuckles.


“Wow,” I commented dryly.  “This torturing stuff is serious business.  These guys go hard.”

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

On Board

The four of us teleported to the cable car station at the edge of the lake of fire.  It took us a few minutes of shoving our way through the milling crowd of tormented souls before we managed to board a car.  Gus slid the door shut and the Low-Order Demon who was driving the thing led us out of the station. 

I stood behind the driver.  “We need to get to the First Circle,” I told him.  “Sector 38.  You know where that is?”

The driver nodded wordlessly.

“Great,” I said, shouting over the rush of wind.  “Can you take us there?”

The driver nodded again.

“How long will it take us to get there?” I asked.

The driver shrugged.

“I bet you’re loads of fun at parties,” I said.  He gave me a long, droll glance before turning to face forward again.

“So I just want to review the plan real quick,” Gus said when I returned to the rear of the car.  “We find this Quinn guy, you stab him, and then what?”

“Then we find a doctor,” I said.

“What, and stab him too?” Gus asked.

I shrugged.  “He’s already dead.  How much damage can we do?”

Gus considered that for a moment.  “Good point,” he admitted.  “In the meantime, though, Halkkor is steamrolling across the lower sections of the Department of Torture.  What do we do if this doesn’t work?”

I shook my head.  “I have no idea.  I don’t even know where to begin looking for more information on how to kill those things.”


“Then it had damn well better work,” Gus said grimly.

Monday, October 7, 2013

A Parting of Ways

“With your permission, sir,” Gavsot said, “I would like to return to my Department.  I have been away longer than I would like and I need to ensure it is still in order.  And then I would like to return to the battlefield.”

I nodded.  “Okay.  That’s fine.  Uh…you’re excused.”

“I’d like to do the same,” Jorge said.  “Of course you can call me if you require my assistance, but I think I’ve been away from my responsibilities for too long as well.”

I’d gotten used to travelling around with a posse.  Gavsot was a badass and Jorge was levelheaded and reliable.  I felt more capable to live up to my fearsome job description with them at my side, but I realized that they had other things to do than follow me around. 

“Sure, no problem,” I said.

Gavsot stuck out his elbow like a tuxedoed gentleman waiting for his date to take his arm.  “I can drop you off at your office if you wish,” he offered. 

“Thanks,” Jorge said.  He gripped General Gavsot’s forearm and the two of them disappeared.

“Me too,” Torvin said hopefully.  “I should go back with Gavsot and help.”

“Nope,” I said.  “If you expect to skip class, you need a note from your mother.”  He seemed a little confused but he got the gist of it.  “Torvin, you’ll be my meat shield.  Jaelin, I need you to accompany us as backup in case something goes wrong and Torvin just pisses himself.  Gus, you’re my right hand man, buddy, I need you too.”

“What about me?” Sylnie asked.

“Well, you’re supposed to be the receptionist,” I said lamely.  “Um, you can stay here and, uh…recept.”  I paused.  “What exactly do you do when I’m not here, anyway?”

She smiled.  “Lots of things.  I tidy the place up a little.  Sometimes I assist with the waiting room stuff, even though that’s technically under the Department of Assignment.  And I’ve politely turned away a few damned souls who managed to find their way to your office.”

I raised my eyebrows.  “Cool.  Then keep doing that.  And do me a favor and explore more of those rooms back there by the armory and stuff.  It might be nice to know what useful things I have hidden away.”

“Of course, sir,” she said.  She looked happy to have an official assignment.


I turned to Gus, Jaelin and Torvin.  “Let’s go stab a murderer,” I said.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

The Armory

The armory was only a few doors down from the staff wardrobe storage room.  It wasn’t too far of a walk and it wasn’t too difficult to find, but it did present us with an unusual problem.

We were standing around the door in a semi-circle, staring at it in confusion, when Torvin stupidly voiced what we were all thinking:  “Where’s the handle?”

I glared at him.  “It’s right where it is on every other door,” I snapped.  “Which is exactly why we’re all standing around trying to figure out how to get in.”

“Should we break it down?” Jaelin suggested.

“Gus?” I asked.  “You knew this was here.  Any thoughts?”

He shook his head.  “Sorry, Boss-Man, I’ve walked past the door a hundred times, but I’ve never actually had to use it until now.”

Jorge pushed on various spots on the door like he was testing it for a weakness.  “I don’t see any hinges,” he said.  “And it doesn’t feel like any part of it is designed to move.”

“Well, maybe there’s a trick to it,” I theorized.  “It contains weapons, so maybe it’s designed to not be easily accessible.”  I reached out to press on the door in the same way Jorge had.  As soon as I touched the smooth faux-wood surface, the door swung open.

We all stared dumbly at the open door for a moment.  “Maybe it only opens at the Devil’s touch so that the rest of us can’t grab a cache of weapons and stage a revolt,” Gus said.

“Well, that would make me feel a lot better,” I said, stepping inside and looking around, “considering how big this particular cache of weapons is.”

The room looked as big as a Wal-Mart and it was glistening with steel.  There were racks and tubs and bins and shelves of swords, daggers, scimitars and cutlasses.  There were spears, lances, pikes and javelins.  I saw hatchets, axes, halberds and tomahawks.  The room was filled with every kind of close combat weapon I could think of and plenty of weapons that I’d never seen before.  There was, however, a conspicuous lack of guns.  Hell used computers and mobile phones but seemed to eschew firearms.


That didn’t really matter, though.  What I needed was a blade, not a gun.  After a few minutes of gawking and dilly-dallying, I selected a rather ordinary-looking dagger and announced my intention of travelling to the Department of Torture. 

Friday, October 4, 2013

Weaponry

Everybody looked at each other.  But nobody produced a weapon.

“Come on!” I whined.  “Half of you guys are demons!  You’re not exactly pacifists or anything!”  I turned to Gavsot.  “You run a police force and lead an army!  How do you not have some kind of weapon?”

“Our usual form of fighting involves a mixture of hand-to-hand combat and the clashing of telekinetic powers,” he explained.

“You can still use knives in hand-to-hand combat,” I said irritably.  “I hear they’re actually pretty useful.”

“You could check the armory,” Sylnie suggested.

I turned to stare at her in awe.  “The what?”

Gus smacked himself in the forehead with his open palm.  “That’s the kind of thing I was supposed to think of,” he mumbled.

“When you had me find something to wear, I passed a door near the staff wardrobe storage room that said Armory on it,” she said.

“Fantastic,” I replied, my foul mood starting to lift.  “Show us where it is.”

As we headed toward the back door of my office, I heard Azraal’s head chuckling softly from its perch on my desk.  “What exactly is so funny?” I snapped.

“I just find it terribly amusing,” he explained with a cheeky grin, “That you made your sexy, busty secretary put some clothes on.”  He let out a brief cackle.  “Too excited to get any work done?  No wonder Kivra keeps making you her bitch.”

Frowning, I yanked open a drawer at the bottom of my desk, tossed a protesting Azraal inside, and slammed it shut. Then I hurried after Sylnie.


My foul mood wasn’t lifting anymore.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Circular Logic

I returned to my office.  Everyone who’d been there when I left had apparently awaited my return.

“Do you have a target?” Gavsot asked.

I nodded.  “The Department of Torture, First Circle, sector 38,” I said.  “Incidentally, are there actually circles of Hell?  Because I from my travels down here I never really got the sense of any kind of geometric pattern to the layout.”

“That’s kind of an informal title, Boss-Man,” Gus said.  “There used to be nine circles of Hell and they used to be comparable to the ones from Dante’s Inferno, although they didn’t line up perfectly.  But that was a long time ago.  As the world above us evolved, Hell’s needs changed and we had to adapt our facilities to accommodate more people and an ever-expanding variety of sins.  The Department of Torture hasn’t had rings in centuries.  But we still tend to group certain sectors together and identify them as circles.  The First Circle is for the smallest offenses and the Ninth Circle is for the biggest offenses.”

“So what is a murderer doing in the First Circle?” I asked.

“How do you know he’s a murderer?” Sylnie piped up.

“Because I was there.  He murdered me,” I said.  I was getting angry, maybe out of confusion more than anything else.  I tried to take a few deep breaths.  “Whatever.  Whether he’s in the right circle or not, we need to find him and get his blood.”

“You need a blade first,” Jorge reminded me.


I nodded.  “Right, right,” I said distractedly.  “Anybody got a knife or something?”

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Getting a Location

“Quinn Wade Madsen,” Winston read from the screen.  “Birth, June 16th, 1994.  Death by demonic mauling, March 11th, 2012.”

“That sounds right,” I said, walking around the desk so I could look over Winston’s shoulder.  I squinted.  “Is that a mug shot?”

“We have fingerprints and hair samples somewhere, too, if you’re interested,” Winston said blandly.  I couldn’t tell if he was joking.  It didn’t matter, though, because the photo on his computer screen was definitely of one of the kids who’d murdered me.

“So where do I find him?” I asked.

“First Circle,” Winston replied.  “He’s in sector 38.  But that’s just when he’s being tortured.  If you want to know where he lives, you’d have to talk to Yannu, the Barracks Master.”

“If I know Kivra,” I said grimly, “She won’t be letting him spend much time in the Barracks.  So I guess I’ll look for him in the First Circle, sector 38.  See you later, Winston.”

I turned to Dramien.  “And you should ease up on the pathetic human scum.  People are people too, you know.”

He smiled humorlessly.  “That’s funny,” he lied.


I teleported away wordlessly.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Anti-Humanism

Winston began typing at his outdated, boxy computer, staring at it myopically.  I waited impatiently.

“What was it like being human?” Dramien asked suddenly.

I had no idea what to say to such an abrupt, bizarre question.  So I said, “What?”

Dramien was walking around me like he was sizing me up.  Apparently I was a rare specimen and an exciting study in humanity.  “How did it feel to carry all that weakness and frailty with you all the time?”

I was a middle class white kid from a middle class, overwhelmingly white suburban area.  I hadn’t dealt with racism much as either victim or perpetrator, but I was starting to think that I was being unfairly judged based on inborn characteristics that were beyond my control.  I was surprised at how unpleasant it was. 

“I can’t imagine existing with all that pent-up capacity for failure looming over me,” Dramien continued.  “It’s no wonder so many of you kill yourselves.” 

“Yes, because demons are so perfect, aren’t they?” I replied with a sarcastic grin. 

“Maybe not,” he admitted.  “But you’ve got to admit we kick your sorry asses all over this pit.  Demons have strength.  Humans are sloppy piles of worry and pain and misery and they’re too weak to get past any of it.”

I glanced over at Winston.  “How do you work with this guy?” I asked him.

Winston, still looking at his computer screen way too closely, shrugged.  “I’ve learned to ignore his anti-human tirades,” he said. 

“I’ve also cut back on them in his presence out of respect,” Dramien added.

“Respect?” I said incredulously.  “You hate humans, but you have respect for Winston, of all people?”

“Oh, great, now you’re both making fun of me,” Winston said quietly.

“Mr. Phelps is more enlightened than the rest of you,” Dramien explained.  “He understands his limitations as a human and has accepted them.  Even though his entire species is despicable, I respect him for being able to come to terms with that.”


“We enjoy a unique working relationship,” Winston summarized dryly.  “I think I found your guy,” he added, tapping the monitor.