Copyright © 2000 by Michael Seltzer
I awoke to the ear-shattering sound of a banshee screaming. It was rather annoying actually. I still had some more lazy time due to me before my next shift, but who can immediately fall back to sleep after a sound like that? On most days I’d have found it rather pleasant to hear a good round of wailing, but not then. Not when I was too hung-over to even see straight. Something had happened the night before which made me want to drink more than usual. An utterly preposterous idea had been brought to my attention, "life."
On the night in question, my associate Enohp and myself were dining and drinking in our usual tavern, Hell’s Kitchen. Enohp as well as myself belonged to the Erofeb clan. But unlike myself, he looks like a giant brown slug about the size of a station wagon. To go into detail would take too long, and would probably make you vomit all over these pages. While such an endeavor would be amusing to one such as myself, I'll simply leave the details up to your own imagination so that these pages will remain dry.
We had just gotten off from work, and wished to unwind from the drudgery of our daily chores. The need to relax is understandable of course. After all, torturing souls can be a very arduous task.
So there we were, Enohp and myself, having a night fit for a demon. The entertainment for the night was a singer by the name of Rosemary. She had a decent voice, and a pair of legs that seemed to call to me to sink my teeth into them. I resisted the urge though. Demons don’t get much in the way of entertainment. So when a good act comes along, the damned tend to get a bit miffed when a show gets cut short. On that night the crowd enjoyed the proceedings immensely. They even chanted for a second encore. That is why it pained me when I had to slip away for a moment to relieve myself. But, when you've got to go... well you know the rest. So I made my way over to the inter-species restroom and found the nearest stall.
I have seen all manners of creations. The sight of some of them would probably turn your hair completely white, and leave a wet spot in your undergarments. One would assume then, that nothing could scare me. Nothing could sway me from my given role as a Tormentor of Souls. But, since the event on the night I am about to relate, I have learned never to assume anything. There is just too much uncertainty to overlook.
After relieving myself I went and began washing my hands. And as I did so, I could not help but stare at my reflection in the mirror above the sink. I stood at a height of approximately ten feet tall, and weighed close to a ton. There were five arms protruding from my torso with hands bearing finely kept talons where you would have nails. My six legs possessed hooves that kept me moving swiftly, and agile throughout my travels. My skin was dark green, and my face was humanoid, except for the horns, of course. I can say my face is humanoid now, but I could not do so then. I barely knew what a human was back then, and only through the fairy tales and rumors that were told in secret.
The lights were not all working, so the image was slightly distorted. The sight reminded me of something that I had heard about on some weird talk show that I had seen on HTV(Hell Television.) The basis for the episode had been a weird cult thing called mirror gazing. Apparently some time ago, there were demons that had actually taken the time, and effort, to figure out that if you stare at a mirror in the dark, without looking away, then after a while you started to see yourself as hideous, mythical beings. In my drunken state, I whimsically decided to try it for myself. So I focused my eyes on my image, and waited for whatever was going to happen. At first, there was nothing, just my own reflection. The fact that I was actually trying it had made me feel more than a bit ridiculous. But then, something began to happen. My features began to change. What it changed into was an image that gave me nightmares for many an evening. It was the image of a human. I had heard descriptions, and on occasion seen pictures of what demons thought humans would look like. None matched what I saw, but for whatever reason, I knew it had to be a human face. More importantly, it was a face that was reacting in the same way as my own face was. It was me, as a human. Of course I immediately tore my eyes away from the monstrous sight before me. The image had frightened me so much that I had backed into the stall behind me, and was yelled at by its inhabitant, a giant centipede. We shouted at each other, and then I grabbed it by its antennae, and proceeded to throw it out of the restroom. For a while all that my mind could process was the fear that had been engulfing me. Then, the whole situation seemed so absurd that I had to laugh.
Everyone knew that there was no such thing as humans. The concept was most likely conceived by some stoned out wackjob, who for whatever reason, needed an explanation for where the souls come from. Personally, I never felt the need to know. Ignorance was bliss. Then came my second attempt to peer into the mirror.
I wanted to prove to myself that I was not really afraid. I needed to redeem my demonhood. So, I decided to try out another aspect of mirror gazing. I slowly walked up to the mirror once more. Then looked directly at my reflection. Finally, I said a phrase that had long since been forbidden in Hell. It was an odd phrase in that nobody knew where it had come from, or what it meant. But, about two millennia ago, it had suddenly been forbidden to say it. This of course meant it became a not often spoken swear phrase which demons uttered under hushed breath. “Holy Mary…Holy Mary…Holy Mary.” I said. And then waited for something to happen.
At first, nothing happened., and I began to laugh out loud. Then, the mirror began to glow with a brilliant light. It was unlike anything I had ever seen before. The light possessed a radiance which is beyond description. It was blinding at first, but then it became somewhat inviting. I found myself feeling at home in its glow. And as it shined more and more brightly, I could not help but be drawn towards its source, the mirror. I watched in awe as the light engulfed my own reflection. But something else happened. A vision of what could only have been described as a human woman, dressed in white appeared where my face had once been. A feeling of shock, and utter terror flowed through my body as the image before me formed. I passed out almost immediately. But not before she spoke. Not before she said those fateful words which have never left my memory. “Life is real. Humans are real. You can live too, if you believe.”
To you this may not seem very shocking, but to me and my kind, it was mind-shattering news. You see I was never born. At that time I had never known anything that had been born. All of my kind had been spawned in the lower levels. Since our spawning we had all been given our own assignments to carry out. The better we carried them out, the more favorably we were looked upon by our master. He was the one who made us. He created us to do battle with his enemies in a place referred to as Heaven, and to run the routine operations at home. My kind did not have the honor of taking part in that great battle that you’ve probably heard about though. That war was before the time of the demons. It was a time of angels. But all that changed when The Great War took place. Our master, whose true name was never allowed to be uttered, was defeated by the one called Michael, and his creator. Then the master and his followers were banished to this place.
This place has gone by many names. Some of your kind believe it to just be a mythical place, made up to keep the masses scared to do wrong. Let me assure you, it is very real. I have witnessed it in all of its glory, and born the shame of its unwillingness to strike out, and crush its enemies. Some say that soon, it will strike out, and that another war with Heaven shall take place. I have been hearing those kinds of rumors for longer than your time has been recorded. When I see it, I will believe it. This place has taught me that much. After all, Hell can be a very cynical place.
Oh, by the way, please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Rianoc, and I am a demon from Hell’s third level, sector nineteen, district eighty-four. As I've said, I was a member of the Erofeb Clan, back then, which is one of the thirteen main clans that Hell's inhabitants are divided into. At one time or another, each clan has battled the others for the right to lead. It keeps the fighting instincts up for when the next war comes along. It also sets the order of leadership. The strongest lead the rest.
Of course the master has always been in charge. Next in the line of command would be the fallen angels who fought alongside him in the first war. These two positions have never been challenged. The demon clans would never stand a chance against the fallen ones. So the demon clans swear loyalty to the master, and his fallen angels. Then the order of things falls into place through combat. The Erofeb have been third for a very long time. It is a respectable position, unlike those near the bottom, such as the Snorom. They are too stupid, and weak to do anything but be laughed at. They are nothing like the proud Erofeb. But even the greatest of warriors have something to fear.
An Overseer is only called in as an
investigator for the most important of matters. You cannot
open your door to an Overseer without feeling something inside
your stomach turn around and try to run out your back. The
Overseers know all the walls, and holes, and secrets of
Hell. They know what happens in the domain that they have
helped to cultivate. So believe you me, when that lady
appeared to me in the mirror, someone else knew about it.
Seeing as how I did not believe it to have been real at first, the impact of the situation did not completely hit me. And once I had become convinced that she had actually been there, I had become far too disorientated to even think about what trouble might be coming my way. So while I was attempting to regain a sense of my own reality, an Overseer was already looking into the matter of the appearance, very closely. The lady in white had caused quite uproar in the bowels of Hell that night. Her presence had started a domino effect that involved all the higher ups in the hierarchy of Hell. From the master, all the way down to the Overseer that was put directly in charge of the investigation, an ultimatum was laid out. The breech of Hell’s walls was to be found and blocked. Any and all witnesses were to be questioned about the incident, and then disposed of. No Heavenly being had ever dared to enter the dark realm, and it was to be made clear that none would ever do so again.
The Overseer assigned to the case was one of the most highly respected, and feared angels in Hell. His name was David. The fallen angels were the only things to ever give any demon a nightmare that it did not enjoy. David was the kind of angel that made even angels fear closing their eyes.
As I naïvely slept away the night in my bed, David began the process of eliminating any and all problems that arose from the visitation by the heavenly being. His search began the moment the job was laid into his care at his office. It was a large office placed near the top of one of the largest skyscrapers in the city. It possessed a wide view of the smog-ridden hole called Hell. The red sulfuric dust that was constantly being kicked up into the air had a tendency to create a haze even in the brightest part of the day. This was the usual scene in Hell's third level. Level two was covered in ice, level four was covered in water. I have never been to the other levels, but from what I have heard, they were nothing special. Tourism was never my thing anyway.
Inside the room, in the far-left corner from the door, lay a trophy case, filled with decapitated heads of various beings. David enjoyed staring at the heads of his victims. And he had piled up quite a collection too. The case was as long as the wall, and deep enough so that one could probably back a couple of cars up into it, one behind the other. David's desk was in the center of the spacious room, and was made of solid gold, denoting his importance in the order of things.
At the time the news arrived that it was he who was to be put in charge of the case, David was in the process of attempting to wrap up another assignment he had been working. It involved a demon by the name of Ebircs. This particular demon had had the audacity to suggest, and then try to prove, that the battle lines between Heaven and Hell were not as evenly matched as everyone had been told. He had written, and published an article that related the events that had led up to The Great War, as well as the war itself. He then went on to suggest that Hell was not a home, or a fortress, but a prison. Ebircs insisted that even if a demon wanted to leave Hell, he could not do so without passing through a kind of barrier. The barrier involved a test of one’s soul. Seeing as how a demon could not possibly have a soul, it would be impossible for any of Hell’s creatures to leave its barriers. Later on I had come across the theory in question while doing research on the subject of life. It had seemed farfetched, even to me. Still, for whatever reason, Hell’s higher ups were convinced that that kind of reporting was nonproductive, and that a "retraction" of sorts should be made. The problem was that Ebircs would not do it. He felt compelled to stand up for his work. That is where David came in. He was to "convince" Ebircs of the errors involved in the research.
They sat in the office, discussing the article. Ebircs was tied to a chair, and looked to have been awake for several days without rest. The demon also possessed many scars upon his body, which had been obtained recently.
“Give it up Ebircs. What do you hope to accomplish by this show of defiance?” David asked
“The truth should be known!” Ebircs stated defiantly.
“By who? The masses? Even if it were true…”
“You know it to be true! If you thought otherwise then Hell would not be demanding a retraction.” Ebircs watched as the angel smiled at his words.
“They wouldn’t know how to deal with that kind of knowledge. It would only hamper their production.”
“How do you know that? How do you know that it wouldn’t give them purpose? Maybe it would inspire them to try to break free from this place.”
“The master is not prepared for that yet. In time we may tell the masses, but for now, ignorance of the matter shall be their salvation. That is why you will print a retraction.”
“You’ve tortured me for three days straight, and I have not broken yet. I will never break, so you might as well destroy me! I know that that is what you intend to do whether I do as you ask or not.”
“If Hell has proven anything about itself, it is that it has patience. You will do as you have been told to do. I will torment you for an eternity if need be, but you will relent. For now though, I believe I shall put you in a place befitting someone with your knack for compassion. I shall let a more experienced torturer deal with you. Don’t worry though. We’ll talk again, in a few days.” With those words, David waved his hand, and Ebircs disappeared, leaving David to contemplate his next move. That is when the new assignment came.
Upon reading the memo that had been sent down, David immediately burned it, as instructed in the letter, and then went about the buisness of carrying out the rest of his orders. He abruptly left his office, telling his secretary to cancel all of his meetings for the day. The fallen angel was going to require all of his time and energy to complete the assignment. His first priority was to investigate the scene of the incident.
Upon arriving at Hell’s Kitchen, David could not help but notice that all eyes in the establishment had become fixed on him. It was to be expected. After all, angels did not frequent the place, ever. They were more inclined to meet at their own private club that went by the name of The Fifth Ring. It was an exclusive club that catered only to those that had fought in The Great War. The Fifth Ring was viewed as a place of power, and despised by demons for its exclusivity. The angels knew this, and they reveled in it. David was no exception. That is why he had such a smug look on his face when he walked up to the manager of the club and informed the demon that there was an investigation being performed, and that cooperation was expected. The manager knew what David was, and that is why he tried not to seem like the urge to puke in the fallen angel's face was the most prevailing thought in his mind.
The manager was a Nevar demon. This meant that he possessed two heads which protruded from a small, but ample blue frame. His heads possessed beaks, and beady black eyes that normally would have unnerved most patrons in Hell's Kitchen, but not David. David couldn't have cared less about the talons which protruded from the demon's four hands. And he had no qualms about disturbing buisness for the local establishment. The manager knew this, and so he tried not to allow the fallen angel to have an excuse to do so.
“Did you notice anything peculiar going on last night?”
“Hey, look at the crowd I cater to buddy. What ain’t weird here?”
“Very well.” David decided that the manager was not being cooperative enough. So, David grabbed the demon by his genitals with a grip that rivaled that of a car-crusher in a junkyard. The he said, “I just want the facts. Do you have any problem with that?”
“No…sir.” It took an extreme effort for the demon not to crawl into a corner and die from the pain. David told the demon to retrieve the tapes from the security cameras from the night before. The manager simply nodded both of his heads, and went about doing what he had been told. The demon did not know what had happened that night, and he did not want to know. All he knew was that he had just angered an angel. Usually that type of mistake led to decapitation. As the manager limped his way to the back of the establishment, he could not help but think that oblivion would have hurt a lot less.
While David waited for the tape he decided to enter into the restroom that had been the sight of the disturbance. To the average onlooker, the lavatory seemed normal. Not to an angel though. David could sense the remnance of Heavenly energies that had been left behind by the event. The angel could sense that whatever being had been there, it had been a powerful one. He shuddered to think of what kind being could call upon such force, as to break into Hell. The energy did not come directly from his former master, but His power was there. David then shuddered again as he considered the possible reasons for such an event. The prospect of having another war before Hell was ready to fight was not in the least bit funny. In fact it was downright frightening. And as David looked into the mirror, he could not help but glance upwards towards Heaven, and cringe.
What kind of world would it be like? Who would run things? What kind of order could be maintained in a world that could only offer short term goals to those living in it? The thoughts that raced through my mind were almost too horrifying to ponder. But it was too late. The idea had been rammed directly into the center of my mind, and my imagination would not let go of it.
I began to imagine beings like the woman in white. I imagined them possessing what little technology they possibly could have amassed in their short lifetimes. I imagined them fearing battle, because of the fragility of their frame. I imagined them rushing around mindlessly, as they tried to get their jobs done in the limited life-span that they were said to have. It all seemed so far gone from reality. Their existence seemed... futile. What could they do with fifty, sixty, or seventy years? What could possibly have been accomplished? They couldn't even learn about their own world, much less try and make it better for themselves. Their lives would be meaningless. They'd be more useless than lawyers. The ideas only grew, and begged for proof in the matter. As I prepared myself for my daily routine, I desperately tried to forget the events from the night before. To not deny those events would be to deny everything that I had ever been taught. To do this, would be to challenge the will of the master. That is an extremely hazardous thing to do.
The master set down all the ground rules, and he used his fallen angels to enforce these rules to, and beyond, the extent that they were intended. That is the way things are in Hell. Always have been, always will be. There aren’t many rules, but when you break one, you’re fucked. So those that reside in Hell are very cautious about them. Well, usually they are. In my case there seemed to be something behind my abnormal thoughts. It was something that I could not quite explain back then, and even now I still don’t fully understand. For whatever reason, I couldn’t stop thinking about the thing called life. More specifically, the mythical place called Earth.
Everyone had heard the fairy tales, and crazy stories about the little blue green orb that was inhabited by the grotesque beings known as humans. But nobody with any sense of sanity had ever truly believed in the concept.
A need to know the truth began to seep into my brain. The need to either prove, or disprove the notion of life became an obsession. I had to know. I dared not tell anyone about my experience, for fear of betrayal, and reprisal. Something that is easily learned is that in Hell, no one can be fully trusted with a secret, let alone something as big as this. I had to keep it to myself, no matter how much I longed to share my thoughts and ideas with someone else. So I headed off to work, and went about my usual duties as a tormentor of souls.
Upon arriving I was greeted by my secretary, Retlif. She was at her desk, as usual, and already had my daily schedule typed out. She wore a gray dress suit, which fit her nicely shaped harpy form. Her wrinkled face had always seemed inviting to me before. But that morning I noticed how much the features seemed like that of the woman in white, only the woman in white had had no wrinkles, and possessed a look of something which I am only now able to say. It had been a look of innocence.
The similarities also begged me to examine my
own features, and the features of those I knew. That is
how I came to know that my face was humanoid. The angels
were definitely humanoid, except for their wings, and they
seemed taller. But then came the realization that human
features were probably based on those of angels. That
brought about a reminder that even the master had once sworn
allegiance to another being, and that fact had never quite
settled in my mind.
Retlif noticed the fact that I was staring at her, and she seemed to blush because of it. I apologized, and then took notice of the way that her feathers always seemed to bring out the redness in her eyes. I must say, the sight of her sitting at her desk, smoking a cigarette, and hard at work... it always did something for me.
“Hello, Tormentor Rianoc.”
“Hello, Retlif. What’s my day looking like?”
“Same as usual. A few new souls to break, but I’m sure that it’ll be no problem for one such as you.”
“Why thank you, Retlif. Say, how did your clan do in last night’s battle? I understand you went up against the Notsob clan.”
“It…didn’t go too well, sir.”
“Well, they’re a tough clan to beat. I remember when the Erofeb clan had to contend with them. It was tooth and claw all the way. I’m sure you’ll rip them to pieces next time.”
“Thank you for your words of confidence, Tormentor.”
With that all said I opened the door to my office, and shut it behind me. It had been difficult not to appear nervous in front of her, but then, Hell is very good at teaching the art of deception.
My office was about two and a half times the size of the average cubicle. It allowed me a red iron desk, with a comfortable chair, two bright lamps, and a window that allowed me the view of a picturesque junk yard.
My desk was covered with backed up paperwork that called out to me, “You’d be better off joining the souls in their time of misery." I of course chastised the paper for speaking without being told to, then went about going through each one meticulously. The master has a thing about paperwork. He never gets enough, and he’s always looking for new kinds of forms to make his employees fill out. But, the paperwork eventually got done. Then came the fun part of my job, the torture. I take great pride in my work. To have found a position in such a field as Tormentor, well, you can only imagine the amount of gratification that I felt in having been allowed the opportunity to carry out the important duties that it held. I always felt somewhat amiss about how the master felt the need to pay people to do the job. I never uttered the words out loud of course. The pay was way too good to do that.
One must always be sufficiently cruel to those in his or her pen. The degree of pain and suffering that the souls should endure is determined before they are sent to me. That is how I know how much anguish to dish out. Hence, it then falls to me to come up with new, and more elaborate ways to redefine suffering in Hell. Believe me when I say that over the millennia, this chore has become more and more difficult.
The only way that anyone can ever truly come up with new ways is to enter the minds of the souls in order to find out their greatest fears. It would help if we could get into their memories, but that is not allowed. All we are allowed are glimpses into their unconscious fears, and a mental outline of their psyche. The master won’t let us even try anything more extensive. Nobody has ever been able to fully explain to me why this is, but all the arguments seemed to come down to one main point. Whoever breaks this rule, joins the souls in their torments. This threat had been enough to keep even the most curious of minds from prying, or so I’d thought.
As I punched up the screen on my computer that related to the various tortures that I had recently come up with, and believe me, they were good, my mind could not help but continue to ponder the existence of living beings. The idea of something being mortal still boggled my mind. How could anything, with problem solving intelligence, accomplish anything inside the supposed life span that was thought to be denoted to those things? In both Hell, and Heaven alike, death does not come until you have either been obliterated, or had your head severed from your body. The idea of mortal death, of dying after a brief moment in time, has never settled in my mind. It's too unnerving. And coming from a demon, that’s saying something.
That day I attempted to drown my uneasiness by pouring myself into my work. It turned out to be the best day’s work I had ever had. Even the supervisor for my department was highly pleased at my ingenuity, and my apparent newfound enthusiasm. Still, my brain would not let go of the idea of life. I tried to imagine what it would be like on Earth, if it actually existed. I wondered if it could at all have been like Hell. The idea seemed silly, for how could a being with a time-based mortality create the technically intricate society that Hell provided? My expectation at that point was that if a human came into contact with something as high-tech as a fax machine, it would probably run away the moment the apparatus made the slightest sound.
My predicament continued on into the
week. On the one hand, I wound up receiving a raise.
On the other hand, the desire to know the truth was driving me
completely insane. Enohp could tell something was
bothering me, and all night at Hell’s Kitchen he would attempt
to question me about the matter.
“So what gives Rianoc? You’ve been acting weird lately. It’s like… it’s like you’re not yourself. It’s like…you’ve changed somehow.”
“I don’t know what to tell you Enohp. If you say I’m different then…”
“Then what gives? Come on demon, how long have we known each other? You know that you can trust me.”
In reality, he was right. With most things I could trust him to keep his big mouth shut. But this was different. This was bigger than anything I had ever known, or experienced. Still, I could no longer pretend that nothing was wrong. I had to tell someone, if for no other reason than to save my own sanity. So one night I made up my mind to tell him the truth, or at least most of it. Confiding in anyone was a foolish thing to do, but I had no choice. I needed answers. I needed to know what should be done to quench the curiosity. Leaving out the part about the woman in white, I related the story of what happened to me in the restroom. His response was not very helpful.
“Hahahahahaha…excuse me. You were being serious, and that was extremely rude of me to do." He paused for a moment, and attempted to correct the overwhelming urge to laugh that had possessed him. "Hahahahahaha.” His efforts did not work.
“Thank you Enohp.”
“Oh, come on Rianoc. What would you do if I came to you with some cockamamie story about mirror gazing, and humans? So you’re telling me that this is the reason why you’ve been freaking out for the past couple of days? Hahahahaha…”
“Enough Already!!!” The surrounding tables stared at us after my little eruption, and then went about their own buisness. Still, Enohp could tell that I was dead serious about the matter, and that fact disturbed him.
“Listen bud. Don’t let this get into your head too much.”
“Why? Well, let’s just say that the last demon who couldn’t let go of this kind of thing wound up in a very uncomfortable place.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean you shouldn’t be talking about this kind of thing, to anyone. Now let’s have a drink, on me. Let’s just try to forget all about it. Okay?”
“Okay. Sure thing Enohp.”
That is where I left it with him. He was not going to be any help in my search. In fact, in the long run he could wind up causing me trouble, if only to further his own career. That is when I decided to do some research on my own. So I headed off to the local library. It would have been impossible to check out any of the books that I needed, for fear of being put on the list of troublemakers that is compiled in the HLD (Hell’s Library Database.) Instead it became necessary to do the research in the building itself. It was a painstaking effort which bore no hard facts, only vague references, and even more questions.
One book in particular did catch my interest though. It was entitled, Life: Fact, or Fiction? Inside its pages held a series of studies that seemed to set out to debunk the idea of there being actual life anywhere. It put out several theories that could have been true, and then attempted to prove them all false. It was quite successful, except on one. It was not quite proven adequately for my liking.
The basis for the idea was what intrigued me the most. It involved the souls. It was intriguing to see some kind of explanation as to where they came from. To think that they could have been human at one time was a bit farfetched. I mean after all, how could something made out of pure energy ever be placed inside of a vessel as frail as the human body was supposed to be? In my work as a Tormentor, I had seen many souls. They were simply liquid-like entities that changed their color, and form to match their disposition. Of course I had only witnessed the more negative forms, but their negative energy holds far too much energy to contemplate. Luckily the souls had no control over the energy that made them up. But flesh could not contain something like that. Not even demon flesh could contain something like that. Still, the arguments against the idea were weak. They left too much out. They never mention where the souls actually came from. And they never sought to explain why souls have memories, or why it is forbidden for demons to have access to the memories. It did not debunk the theory, and it gave no real answers. I had to have answers, but they were not available. I did have a plan though. It was a very risky, and extremely foolish. But, it was my only option. The only way for me to find out the truth was to talk to one of the souls. This act had never been attempted before. The repercussions would leave no living, or unborn being unscathed.
Upon entering his office he immediately placed the severed head upon his trophy case. David then sat in his chair, and stared at the case with a smile that beamed with pride. He loved to marvel at his own handiwork, but the tapes were his first priority. So he went about the buisness of scrutinizing them for any indication as to exactly what had happened, and more importantly, who had witnessed it.
The exact time of the incident was not known. David had a rough idea, but that would not be enough. Many demons had entered the restroom on that night. It was part of the curse of intoxication. Inside the timeframe that had been given to him in the report there were six demons who had entered the selected area. It was easy enough to identify them with the help of computer enhancement, and the Database of Demons, and Other Beings Residing in Hell. (also know as DDOBRH.) Every creature had been given a photo I.D upon their spawning. Those photos had also been placed on record for identification. David realized that he would have to meet with all six of them personally.
“The incident at Hell’s Kitchen is not something to be spread around like so much gossip." David said to himself. "It is something that requires censorship from the masses. I will obey the word of my master. Whatever disease that heaven attempted to spread in my home will not flourish. It must be crushed by my hand. Then, then my master will know my true worth. Then I shall be placed at his right hand, and all will fear my wrath.”
The angel quickly rose from his chair and grabbed the list of names that he had printed up. He then rushed out of his office and headed towards home of the first demon on the list. The demon’s name was Ekaw, and he was in for an extremely rude awakening. Ekaw worked the night shifts as a construction worker. The master had been having demons build a statue in his honor since Hell opened for buisness. For some reason he was never satisfied with the quality of the statue. It always had to be bigger, and grander. So every once in a while he would review the work, not like it, and then obliterate the supervisor for failing to capture what he called, his true essence. Then he’d order someone else to improve it, and the cycle would continue. Fortunately for Ekaw, he was not in that position. Unfortunately for him, he was going to have to contend with David.
The fallen angel made his way over to apartment complex 95742399925A. From there he went to room number 36D, and proceeded to knock on the thin wooden door that was basically standard issue for demons in that part of Hell. As David waited for an answer he mentally prepared himself to seem unhostile. He knew that it would be an obvious façade, but that was part of the game. Both parties involved would know what was really going on, but David liked to toy with his victims before dismembering them. In his mind, it added a sense of artistic formality to his work. So as the door opened, and the demon’s jaw hit the ground at the sight before him, David kept a straight face. That expression would not last for long though. David enjoyed his work, immensely.
“Hello, citizen Ekaw. I am here on official buisness.” Said David, as he walked through the shocked demon’s front door, and glanced at the shambles it was in. Ekaw was a Noogal demon. This meant that he had blue scales instead of skin, webbed feet, and fins on his back. It was unusual for a Noogal demon to reside anywhere but on the fourth level of Hell. Their physical for allowed them more movement than most in all the water. But Ekaw had decided to try something new. David was about to help him in that endeavor.
After a moment, Ekaw managed to find his composure. “What is this all about? Have I done something wrong?” After saying those last few words Ekaw immediately regretted them. He knew that if he had done something wrong, he would probably no longer be.
“I am here to find out about an incident
which you may have witnessed at Hell’s Kitchen. It took
place in one of the restrooms several nights ago.” David watched
Ekaw very closely for any signs of nervousness as related to his
line of questioning. Nervousness was to be expected of
course, but the question asked should have set off some kind of
alarm in the demon’s mind. To David’s disappointment, it
did not. The demon honestly knew nothing. That
didn’t stop the few remaining questions that followed, or the
twelve hours of torture. The questions and the torture
were part of his orders. He was to make damn sure that the
suspects were not lying. Also, David liked to do it.
It was one of the things that he considered to be a perk of his
job. Afterwards the demon was obliterated, and a note was
passed on to the Department of Residential Services that there
was an opening. Over the course of the next three days,
three more openings were to be made, bringing the count to four
evicerations, followed by decapitations. The fifth opening
was not to come until the fifth evening. David had put in
a full day’s work on each day, and his union wouldn’t allow him
to work too much overtime.
My actions were no longer entirely under my control. But that's the thing with an obsession. It drives beings to extremes that would normally be out of the question. It pushes us to our limits, and beyond, all the while sucking us in deeper and deeper into it. Unless someone points out the situation, it remains unchanged, and I was not about to let anybody know about this particular obsession. It would have made my task far too dangerous, and it was already far too dangerous. But that didn’t matter anymore. Not to me. Not to an obsessed demon. I was in it until the end.
Upon entering my office the first thing to be done was to get the usual dribble out of the way. By that I mean the mountain of paperwork that was stacked on my desk, yet again. Once that was done, I quickly switched on my computer, and pulled up the list of souls that were under my care. The trick was to find one that did not seem high profile enough to call attention to a break in its torment, yet in enough pain that it would do anything for even a momentary pause.
The first one that came across my eye was that of a male. He was being shown visions of entities that he had apparently offended. They were chanting things like; "how could you help him go free", "you took everything I owned", and "I was innocent." The entity was desperately trying to plead his case, but the tormentors would not stop. I considered him for a moment, and then changed my mind. He seemed to lack the ability to tell the truth, and would only say what he thought would get what he wanted out of me.
The next candidate was also a male. He was being bombarded with chants from a crowd that seemed very hostile. They too questioned his honesty, saying that he had made promises to get things done, and not followed through. There were also a few comments about someone connected to him. The shouts were about an entity by the name of Monica. Again, this one seemed unfit for my purposes. He seemed as though he’d say only what I wanted to hear, and not what was needed. Not that that kind of thing is abnormal in Hell, it’s just that some are more inclined to the act of treachery than others.
The third candidate was a female.
She was locked inside of a room. The room was empty,
except for a telephone which resided on top of a small
table. The phone was constantly ringing, and whenever she
answered it was always someone trying to sell her
something. It seemed odd, but ironically fitting for her
There were many others, hundreds of thousands of them to choose from. After a while I wondered if I’d ever find the kind of soul that I was looking for. Then, I found her. She was perfect for my needs. Her soul seemed to emanate an energy that would indicate that she might one day be free of her torment. That meant that she wasn’t too deserving of punishment, but it would be a while before that day would come. Giving a sigh of relief, and a moment of undisturbed bliss, I went about chanting the proper incantations that would allow me to enter inside the Sea of Souls.
The Sea of Souls is a holding pen for those souls that are in Hell. Heaven too had access to the Sea, but could only to intervene with those souls that had done their time. The Sea is like its name, a sea. Only the consistency of the liquid is more like that of lava, and its a lot harder for the untrained eye to see through it. A trained Tormentor can maneuver around easily inside of it as well. Most times the job would call for us to go to a specific soul, which can be done with a simple physical displacement spell. But every century each Tormentor has to perform a sort of on-sight inspection, which means we have to go into the Sea, and take a general impression from outside the souls' cells to make sure that they are in pain. The pain is important.
The Sea is where a lot of Hell's power comes from. Hell feeds off the energy of the souls. That is why Hell torments souls. If the souls are dormant, or inactive, then they aren't using any energy, and aren't providing Hell with as much energy as they could. The more anguish the souls feel, the more they thrash around, attempting to get away from the torments that they are exposed to. This use of energy feeds Hell, and those that seek to tap its power. It was always my understanding that eventually Heaven would take pity on a soul after its allotted time had been served. Then a Heavenly angel would take it away from the pain. That was considered heaven’s weakness, the fact that it took pity on souls after Hell had used them. It was for that reason that we were told to torment the souls as much as possible. That way, when they finally did reach Heaven, not only would we have sucked out all the energy we possibly could in the allotted time, but the souls would be too destroyed to be any use. That is why my job as Tormentor of Souls was so important. But my job was not on my mind at the time. There wasn't a whole lot on my mind, save my questions. But at least I had remembered to leave my computer on. That way, when an Overseer felt that I was using magic, he might not take the time to check what obscure spell I was using. He would probably just check my records, see my job, and see that I was in my office working. In hindsight, I was definitely not thinking with all my faculties, but it worked.
As I chanted, I could not help but think back to the night that I asked Enohp about life. He had mentioned that I would not be the first to look into the subject. This gave me a sense of how paranoid I would have to become in order to get away with my scheme. If others had tried and failed, that meant that there were those that watched out for this kind of thing.
The chanting in of itself could be a hazardous task. It was allowed that a tormentor should be able to enter into torments, that the soul be properly pained, but I would have to be extremely careful. Since the chances that my entry would be monitored were high, I had to set up the proper safeguards so that I would know if any Overseers were about to barge in and send me to a place of my own torment. Believe you me, I did not intend to spend the rest of eternity listening to some high pitched voice singing a happy jack tune for the rest of eternity. That would have been a fate that would make any being beg for oblivion.
With a little help from my old textbooks the old words came right back to me. It had been a while since I’d last used a spell that involved direct contact with a soul. The last time I had been told by an Overseer to perform the spell. Upon inquiring as to why he couldn't do it himself, the Overseer became angry, stated that I was to utilize any and all spells to enter into the consciousness of a certain being. Strangely, I could find no record of the being's entrance into the system. It was as though he didn’t belong there. That would of course explain why I could not gain entrance to his inner-self. It was too well hidden, even from the powers of Hell. The only vision that I received was that of a large wooden cross. I was about to attempt to probe deeper when the entity suddenly vanished without a trace. Upon inquiring to the Overseer as to the nature of the being, vacation time was suddenly forced upon me.
Given the recent happenings in my existence, I could not help but think back to that instance, and wonder if there was a connection. Could the entity have been from the mythical place called Earth? That would have explained why I could not gain entrance to his psyche. The only other entity that could block me out would have been a heavenly being, and this entity was in a spirit state, at least, for a brief moment. Strange, I cannot even say that for sure. He was a mysterious entity, one that I cannot define in any real way. Oh well, it was probably for the best that I not know. Still, there was a word that popped into my mind when I attempted to scan the entity. It was a strange word, one that I had never heard before. The word was redemption. I didn’t know what it meant, but it probably wasn't that important anyway.
“Hell? Yes, you are. What is your name?” The soul did not answer immediately. I had to ask her name several times before she spoke again.
“Yes. What are you called?”
“My name is…my name is Jennifer. My friends call me…well...I guess they... called me Jenny. Who...who are you? How is it that we are talking?”
“We are not talking. We are projecting thoughts at each other. Before entering the sea of souls, I took the liberty of transmuting myself into spirit form. This way there would be less chance of you becoming startled by my true self."
"Oh." Her response indicated a feeling of surprise, and confusion at my answer. It made me curious as to why, but that was not important enough to bring up with her then.
"My name is Rianoc. I am the one who has been tormenting you for the past three years.” As those last few words became etched in her mind, the soul became noticeably afraid. I could tell that she would be unwilling to talk if she were in such a state, so I attempted to calm her as best as I could. “Do not take my former actions against you personally. I was merely doing my job. Do you understand?” Although I thought my choice of words, and tone were aptly made, her response was not as docile as I would have liked.
“No…. No, I don’t! H... how can you even think that I’d understand something like that? You’ve been making me live out a nightmare for the past three years! Who are you to make anyone go through that? What kind of monster are you to put me through that?”
“I am not a monster. I am a demon. There is a subtle difference.”
“Huh?” The soul seemed to be unable to distinguish between the real world and the fake. I figured that it was due to her longstanding imprisonment, and attempted to re-associate her with reality.
“Monsters are beings that supposedly roam the fictitious world of Earth. Demons are real.”
“What are you talking about? Earth isn’t fictitious.” This statement caused many reactions inside of me. Was she crazy, or did she have the answers that I had been searching for? I had to know, but she seemed too hostile towards me to trust. So I played it dumb.
“Oh, and I suppose next you’ll be telling me that you used to be human, and that you know all about what life is.”
“I am... was human." She paused for a moment. "That’s how I know that Earth is real. Don’t you know where souls come from?”
“No, I don’t. Questions like that are not asked in this place.”
“Wh…what do you mean? Are you telling me that you just torture people for fun?”
“No. Well, it can be entertaining, but I’m really only in it for the money.”
“You're sick! How can you be so callous?”
“I don’t see why you are being so irrational. It’s a job. I do what I'm told. Besides, you're in Hell, what did you expect?”
“I don’t know! B…but…”
I could see that the soul was in a state of extreme shock. It should have been expected though. She had spent three years of time in the Sea of Souls. It is a place of torment beyond anything that you can imagine. Physically, and mentally you are ripped to shreds, put back together, only to be destroyed once again. It is a place of madness, and despair. It is not something that any being could forget instantly. I decided that the best thing to do for the both of us would be to take a tour of her memories, so that she might, at least temporarily, forget Hell. I would then get a chance to see what ‘life’ was like, and how humans interacted. I have to admit the whole idea fascinated me. But first I had to calm her down. She had to get over the pain, and relearn what it was like to know bliss. So with a few incantations spoken, I gave her a chance to escape the reality of her situation. After a while we would talk again, but in the meantime I simply watched as her spirit bathed in the bliss which had surrounded it like a warm blanket.
It was an odd sight, for the spell was only intended to be used on demons, and only for a short while. It was only known to demons holding a title of my rank or better. It was meant to be a way to receive a secondary source of income. Demons would pay money for a brief feeling of bliss. Some demons thought it to be unproductive, seeing as how there were many individuals who spent all of their money on it, and never wanted to stop. However, since only the less important sought the effects, it was ruled that they did not need to be able to think. They only needed to follow orders. Hence, it remains legal to this day.
I had always wondered what the feeling was like. The thought of actually performing the spell on myself seemed ridiculous. I never had the time to waste, however, seeing the soul in the state that it was in, I found myself reconsidering. Of course there was no time then, but the thought was still tempting. But the time had come time to talk again.
“Feeling better?” I asked.
"What did you do to me?” She said, as her voice quivered with pleasure, and her essence spread itself out in complete relaxation.
“I gave you what you needed. Now you must give me what I need.”
“What are you talking about? I…I don’t understand.”
“I need to know where you come from. I need to know what life is, if it really exists.”
“I told you before, I come from Earth, you know, the land of the living.”
“Are you sure? How do I know what you say is true.”
“Why would I lie about something like this?”
“I don’t know.” I had become more than slightly unraveled. Her statement inferred that I had been lied to my entire existence. But why? What purpose did it serve? I needed to more information.
“Are you….okay?" She asked. "You seem…”
“I don’t know. You seem surprised, like this is all news to you.”
“But…but I thought you were a demon. I thought you knew about stuff.”
“So did I.” I had to take a moment to collect my thoughts. I was still slightly leery of the information, no matter how much I needed it to be true. There had to be proof. I had to see it to believe it. That is why we would enter into her memories, and life would be shown to me through her eyes. But for me to see it, she would have to submit. That would take convincing. “Would you like to see your life?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, would you like to travel through your memories, consciously?”
“I…I don’t know. This could just be another one of your tricks. You’ve already made me relive all the things that I regretted, or hated, or feared. Why should I trust you now? Huh?”
“Would you be willing to do this if I allowed you to feel bliss again? All it would take is a few words on my part, and you could feel the way you did just a few moments ago. All you have to do is to agree to let me into your memories, and be my guide. I need to know what this thing you call life is. If you help me, then I shall give you that which gave you so much pleasure.”
“How do I know you're not lying? How do I know that you aren’t just trying to make me agree so that you’ll get what you want?”
“You don’t. I'm a demon from Hell, and I do lie on occasion. So here, have your bliss first, then you can consider my offer. Then, you’ll see that you should do as I ask. Trust me.”
“…I was just about done when this big ugly fuck started freaking out. He grabbed me and started throwing me around. I assumed he was just drunk and pissed off, but he was strong. I didn’t feel like getting my antennae ripped off, so I stayed away from him afterwards.”
“Did this demon tell you his name?”
“No, but I’d seen him before. He’s a regular at Hell’s Kitchen.”
In actuality David already knew my name, and occupation. The statement made by the demon was just the final piece of evidence that was needed to know it was me that had been the witness. The demon’s guilt had already been disproved in the matter. David knew what kind of reaction to expect from an Overseer's presence. The demon was tortured, and destroyed anyway.
It all came down to finding me. This would prove to be a task which was not as easy as the fallen angel would have liked.
The first thing he did was to check my background and work schedule. David wanted to know what kind of demon he was dealing with. Upon learning that my shift was over he immediately went to my apartment, and found that I was not there. A cursory search was performed on my less-than-tidy abode. He searched every room, and found it to be unusually messy considering the meticulous aspects found in my last psychological evaluation. The only other indication of abnormal behavior was something that I had forgotten all about. And it was the last, and probably only piece of evidence that David needed.
On the night of the incident I had made a drawing on a napkin while drinking the night away. While the sketch was extremely bad, due to the drinking. It was still clear as to what I was attempting to create. David took one look at the image, and in that instant, his heart faltered. The fallen angel felt something which he had not in several millennia. He felt terror. Undeniable, and unbelievable terror engulfed his entire being. It was a picture of the woman in white. That image had never reached the eyes of demons, until then.
Only the master and his fallen angels knew who the woman was, and what she represented. Only they knew where she came from, and what she was. That is why the moment he saw that image, David immediately picked up my phone and called the master.
An APB was immediately issued for my capture, and a hefty reward was offered for any information leading to my apprehension. That meant there was no place that I could ever hide in hell. Of course, I was not in Hell, not exactly anyway.
David never thought to look in the Sea of Souls though. He never considered that aspect. That is why when he went to my office, he did not find me. What he did find was my lovely secretary, Retlif. She too was "questioned".
“When was the last time you saw Tormentor Rianoc?”
“Yesterday morning, sir. He came in when his shift started, as usual.”
“When did he leave?”
“I don’t know. He was still in his office when I left.”
“Isn't that unusual?”
“Well, yes. He usually leaves before me. I stay a bit later in order to make up his schedule for the next day, which is what I did. Only, I didn’t see him come in today, and he's not in his office.”
“I don’t know.”
“Are you sure that you don’t know where he is? I mean, because if you know, it would be in both of your best interests for me to know.”
“No, Overseer. I honestly don’t know where he is.”
“What if I told you that I don’t believe you? What if I told you that I think your protecting him?”
“I would say that you are very mistak….” Retlif’s denial was answered by a backhand to her right cheek, which sent her soaring out of her chair, into the back wall, and onto the hard floor. While she attempted to get back up, David struck her again, this time with his right foot, which connected very hard with her stomach, and sent the harpy sprawling to the other side of the room. Retlif attempted to hide her pain, but it was too much to. David continued his assault, and as he did, Retlif began to scream in pain. As she attempted to protect herself from further injury by putting up her talons, David simply stood over her, and laughed. He knew she had told the truth, but he did not care.
After he was done, the fallen angel took his time in searching the office. He checked all of my records, and notes for any clue as to where I was, and what I might have been doing. He searched every inch of my office, even going so far as to rip up the floorboards in an effort to uncover my whereabouts. Still, he failed to look in the one place he would have found me.
All he had to do was to look in the Sea of
Souls. But why would anyone have gone inside of there for
the amount of time I’d been gone? What could have been there
that was so important? Why would anything take such a risk,
especially in Hell?
“What do you mean when you ask me that?"
“What is life? Is there anything to it other than things like eating, drinking, and breathing?”
“You’re asking the wrong question. You want to know what it is live.”
“What’s the difference?”
“Well…there are many things that possess life. I think something that’s alive doesn’t necessarily have to do anything beyond the basic stuff. People are different though.”
“How? Didn’t you used to do those things?”
“Yes, but I did a lot more too. I learned, I played, I had fun. I interacted with other people, and even fell in love. There are so many things that I did. And… and so many things that I… wanted to do. You’ll just have to see it for yourself.”
“Very well then. Let us begin.” And with that, I recited the spell which would change my existence forever. I did not have to worry about having my spells detected in the Sea. There is always so much power flowing through it at once that any attempt to distinguish energy signatures would have been futile. All the souls are constantly being acted upon by Tormentors.
It took only a moment to complete the spell, and then we were there, in her memories.
“What is that bright light up there?" shouted. I had not realized that I had shouted my question at the time. The shock of what was before me was far too great to notice my own actions. "It looks like a kind of light that I've seen before! But this one's not quite as bright, and less inviting to the eyes.” It was at that moment that I realized that my senses had somehow been amplified. Amplified not by the spell, and not by the soul, but by the shear onslaught of sights, sensations, and smells that encompassed my being as I began to see Jennifer's old world.
“ Isn’t it beautiful? It’s called the sun! The way it floods everything with its energy... I never thought I’d be so happy to see it again!” The intensity in her voice seemed to emulate the way my heart rate was shifting into overdrive. We were both in a state of awe. But the sun quickly became an object in the background when we reluctantly looked away from it, and saw the rest world through her eyes.
Nothing could have prepared me for the sights before me. They were unlike anything I had ever seen. It was as if I had been blind my entire existence, and then, I could see. I think the thing that I remember the most about my first glimpse of Jennifer’s world was the wide open space covered in soft, thin blade-like decorations.
"I remember this! It's the field behind the house I grew up in! I remember the grass always seemed so lush that when the wind blew, the grass would turn into a wave. Just like the waves on an ocean. Don't you just love this place?" She asked.
I did not understand the word, "love," but I did find myself fascinated by he scenery. There were giant oak trees, which at the time I thought were very large sticks that seemed to have been placed in the ground. The branches seemed like splintered off pieces, only they seemed whole, and were covered in paper thin objects that looked sort of like green webbed feet. On the ground, there were objects that seemed like tiny green versions of the trees. Only the tiny ones had many different colors, in shades that I had never seen before.
You see, in Hell, the colors tend to be fairly bland. In Hell, things have no shades, only absolutes. The only thing with any substance to it would be the lava that boils up from its depths, but that gets boring to the eye after a while. What I saw in Jennifer's mind was... it was... different... It was... amazing. It was… it was… beyond anything that I had ever known. I had almost become completely swept away with the what was being displayed before me, and then I noticed how the experience was affecting Jennifer.
Her soul form was beaming with a light that could only be described as excitement. It was not a common thing for me to see in a soul. In fact, I had never seen it in a soul, before then. It was as though even the simplest things around her filled her with a sense of joy that she had probably taken for granted as a human. She was becoming entranced by the energy of activity, and the whole of the environment that had been presented by her mind. She was remembering what it had been like before she was a soul, and the experience seemed to be healing her.
What caught my attention almost instantly after the shock of the sights had worn off was the smells. There was not a thing in her memory that did not smell sweeter than anything that had ever been brought in my world. There were sensations caused by the smells that I could not have described if not for the aid of Jennifer, and the enthusiastic way she began rifling off the names of what I was smelling. From the pollen on the flowers, to the sap on the trees, to freshly cut grass that seemed like an ocean on dry ground, the smells fixated me with sensations unlike what I had always been used to. There was no smell of sulfur in the air. There was no cheep perfume, or after-shave wafting about a dusty, smelly city. Instead, there was the undeniably brilliant feeling of being in a wide open country with all the things and sensations that had been denied me in my existence until then. And as I took in the smells, I could not help but lift my head up to the sky once more, and I beheld the seemingly endless roof of the world. It was a glorious bright blue, with scattered puffy white designs scattered about. At first I did not realize that the figures hovering over me were just clouds. I yearned to fly up to them, and to see what made their misty species able to soar in the heavens. But Jennifer pointed out my mistake, and she could not help but smile for first time in years, and laugh.
And as my vision gazed upon the sky, my ears took in the sound of her laughter, which I chose to ignore. But it also took in the sound of the small feathered creatures chirping, and the children around me as they played their games.
That is what struck me the most, the children. If anything could have given me a definition of life, or the act of living, it would have been useless without the sights, and sounds before me as I watched the children do as they willed. In all the years, and in all the experiences in my existence, nothing has ever been more inspirational than the sight of children playing.
In Hell, beings are born as adults, and are forced to learn quickly to be serious and responsible. They are taught the rules of Hell, and the consequences for breaking those rules. They are forced into a lowly job, and made to work unbearably hard in order to escape the harsh labor which was created to break the spirit, and prepare the body for the brutality of war. All these things are brought to bear on a newly made demon. But that is not what I bore witness to in the memories of the soul. The children were enjoying themselves. They were given no labor, and were not punished for the idleness of their minds. They were allowed to have fun. And they did so just by being there, and doing what they were doing. Nothing mattered outside of their games. Nothing mattered outside of the fact that they were having fun.
The children had in them a seemingly unlimited amount of energy, mixed in with an enormous need to experiment, and learn about the world around them. I watched as they played their games, laughing and smiling as they did so. And as I watched, something happened. Something seemed to change as the scene before me played itself out. There were several of the children playing a game that involved singing a song, and moving around as they did so. It was quite strange, but as they laughed at their own antics, so too did I begin to laugh. As they talked about what they wanted to be when they grew up, the notion of dreams slowly made it’s way into my mind. And as all of this played out in before me, the need to live became something that seemed like the most important thing. It became my dream.
I wanted to be young, and void of any real responsibility. I wanted to learn everything about the world that they lived in, and experience all of the things that are said to make a person who they are. For some strange reason, I wanted to be among them, if only for a few days. I wanted...no, I needed to be... "alive." And then the memory of what I was seeing fully returned to Jennifer’s conscious mind.
“This is where I used to live when I was a kid! I always loved this place! Look at all this wide-open space! Isn’t it beautiful? It was my seventh birthday. My parents threw me a party at our house. I loved that house. When I think about it, I had a fairly normal childhood. I lived in a two story house, with the white picket fence and everything. We're seeing the backyard where I used to play all the time. It wasn't all ours. It was just that we lived in the country, and there was plenty of room that nobody used. Nobody really marked off where our land ended, and the government land began. That's how we lost the house. The government forced us to sell the land because of some kind of natural habitat that it made up for some animals. Later on I heard that the government had turned around and sold the property to some developer for practically nothing. It's all gone now."
I too was amazed at how much open and unused
space there was to notice the change in Jennifer's mood.
At first, all I could do was look around in wonder. Then,
we took a step outside of Jennifer’s self so that we might
witness the whole of the scene. If there were any doubts
left in my mind as it came to the origin of the souls, this
sight proved to me that she had been telling the truth. We
watched as her human self ran through the tall lush grass.
Her long blond hair bounced up and down as though it were on a
spring. She wore a white T-shirt with blue jeans, topped
off by a blue baseball cap that had a red letter B on the
front. We watched as she joined in on the games, and as
she laughed with the joy that only children can know. The
joy is born from their innocence. It is born in their lack
of knowledge of any world, and the hardships that they will have
to face. It was amazing to me to think that anything that
harmless could wind up in Hell.
We soon left that memory, and sifted through others. We were looking in on how her life developed. Each time we went ahead, we’d start out looking through her eyes, and then taking a step back. She seemed so proud when she got an A in fifth grade math. Jennifer seemed so nervous at the age of thirteen when a boy gave her her first kiss. (I must note that later on, I kind of wanted to break the boy’s neck when he eventually broke her heart.) But, these were just memories, and I never got to see all of them. There wasn’t enough time for that. But Jennifer had seen them all before, and the memories made her happy. More happy than any spell that I could have performed.
I don't think that I'd ever been that content
in my own existence. And considering the amount of time I
had possessed to feel anything remotely like the way she was, I
was a somewhat amiss about the whole situation. Memories
were only recollections of days, and hours, and minutes.
Miniscule events over a course of time that outlasted her entire
species. And still, she seemed so happy, and I did not
quite know the feeling. Watching that little girl grow up
made me happy. It still wasn't close to what she was
experiencing, but there's something about watching someone come
into their own. It brings a strange sense of...
You wouldn’t expect this kind of reaction from a demon, but it happened. At first, it was the youthful energy that drew me to keep watching. Then, it was a sense of pride in her achievements, and sadness in her pain. By the time she had become a young woman of twenty, I was hooked. I had to hide it from the soul though. I couldn’t show any sign of weakness, to anything.
Happiness in hell is something that even demons find almost to be impossible. We take pride in our work. We occasionally go out and party until our bodies can’t take it anymore. These things don’t make one truly happy though. There will always be more work to be done, and very rarely do our jobs require us to do something that we actually enjoy. The parties are fun, but the aftereffects can be harsh. I believe the only other time I was ever truly happy was the day that I took up painting. But, this hobby was eventually discovered by my superiors, and they did not appreciate my need to do something creative. It killed me when they told me to hand over all of my works, and to give up my art. It was like a part of me had been cut off, and strangely, for whatever reason, I began to feel that if this soul were to remain in Hell, another part of me would be lost with her as well.
I did not want or need to know what deed she had done to gain entrance into this cruel place, and she didn’t want to go quite that far either. It seemed to pain her to do so. Looking into the past can be a very exhausting undertaking. I was tired, and she seemed quite spent as well.
“We will talk more about what has just transpired later.” I said, as we I prepared to leave.
“What? What’s wrong? Why are you getting upset again?”
“If you leave…I mean, do I have to go back to that place…back to the pain?”
“No. You have assisted me, and will continue to assist me in my studies. In return, I shall grant you a release from the pain. You will be put in a setting matching that of your home as a child. There you will wait for my return. Understood?”
“Yes! Yes, I understand! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you so….”
I did not wait to hear the rest of it. I had other things to attend to. It had been some time since I’d entered the Sea of Souls, and who knew what everyone would think of my disappearance. I had intended to tell them all that I had been involved in a brawl, and that my attacker and myself had wound up in falling into a deeper level of hell. This has been known to happen to demons from time to time, and it takes a little bit of climbing to get back up again. It had never happened to me, but there was always a first time for everything. Little did I know what awaited me in the outside world.
“Oh….okay. Well, you see, I’ll agree to help you bring him in. I can do that, if I get that promotion. I mean, I really can do it. I know him better than he knows the back of his hoof. I know I can get him. So what do you say? Do I get the promotion. Do we have a deal?”
“Possibly. I’d want to know what you know about his recent behavior before I agree, just to make sure that you can actually help me.”
“He’s gone nuts. What else can I tell you? He’s been acting weird.”
“Did he tell you why?”
“He had some lame-ass story about mirror gazing, and humans, and ...I don't know. I don’t think he really knows. I think he's gone nuts.”
“Do continue. Any information regarding your friend as it relates to the situation at hand, can only add to your standing in the eyes of my superiors.”
“Sure thing. Anyway, I don’t know what he saw, but whatever it was, it freaked him out. I mean he went into a mode where all he did was work.”
“Yes, I’ve heard about his odd behavior at work. Is there anything else that might be of any use?”
“I guess not. But, I mean this demon has been acting really weird.”
“Very good. You have been most helpful.”
“So, does this mean that I get that promotion?”
“Relax. If we catch him, you’ll get it. Which brings me to the last thing that I require of you. If he should turn up, we might have to do more than have you stall him somewhere. We might have to put you in a dangerous situation. He is, as you say, weird. And in that kind of situation, your influence on him might prove useful. Can I count on your assistance?”
“Anything you say Mr. David.”
“Excellent.” And with that, the two of them rose from their seats. David quickly had his secretary escort the demon from his office, and then went about the buisness of pondering the information before him. But before he could settle in with his thoughts, his secretary informed him of a phone call.
“Yes, master. No master, but we’ll have him soon. It’s just a matter of ti… Yes, master. No, master. I’m doing everything that I can, mas… No, master. I…I understand. Enjoy the rest of your eveni…”
It was one of those phone calls that etched in stone the precarious nature of one’s employment. And in Hell, employment coincides with survival. The situation had given rise to a sense of dread inside of David. He was worried. Extremely worried. In the long run, Hell benefited from its "succeed or die policy." It gave the workers a drive that they would not have possessed otherwise. But, it did put a lot of pressure on those with tough assignments, like David’s. He was not enjoying it.
“Where are you, Rianoc?” David thought. “I have all of Hell trying to find you. Even your friends are begging for the chance to turn you in. Where could you be? It matters not though. I shall find you, and then my place in the ranks of Hell’s army shall be secured. You will tell me all that transpired that night, and then you shall know more pain and suffering than any being that ever was. I will take great pleasure in turning your own work against you. To think that a Tormentor will eventually become the tormented. The raper of souls shall know all the pain that he has caused to others, and more. All because Heaven chose to meddle in the affairs of Hell."
"Through you, Rianoc, they shall learn the error of their ways. Through you, they shall learn the futility in trying to enlighten Hell’s creatures. Then they shall see that Hell’s power is absolute. Then, maybe they’ll realize that since attacking Hell is an impossibility, that their own demise is something unavoidable. They will realize that eventually, we shall rise up, and take back what was once ours. Neither Heaven, nor Earth shall be spared the wrath of our master. It will be glorious. And we who have been cast down shall live like gods.”
My office was no longer safe. I was glad that I had erased my computer files on Jennifer. Just in case they hadn't been thorough in their first search though, I destroyed everything else in the hard-drive. I knew where Jennifer was, and could find her again easily. I just didn't want anything else to know about her as well.
Upon opening the door to the reception area the sight of Retlif’s broken body slammed into my eyes with a pain that nearly knocked me on the ground. She was everywhere, literally. I had made sure not to involve anyone, and still, Hell went after the ones who knew me. It made sense for them to do it. I would have if I were in charge of finding me. Still, the shock of seeing her body scattered around the room was enough to force the vomit up from my stomach, and onto the floor.
Her wings had been removed from her back, violently. Her body had been beaten to a bloody pulp. And she had obviously suffered greatly before finally being dismembered. I was sickened to the core. The sight of the harpy in such a state sent a cold chill through my body, and then created a boiling fire of rage. She may not have been the best of Hell's beings, but she was my secretary, and she had been useful.
It might seem strange for a demon to care about anything, but demons do get attached to things. I had worked with Retlif for over twelve centuries. In that time, she had been the one individual that I could always rely on. She was a capable worker, and I was angered by her demise. But the loss could not deter me from what needed to be done. Namely, I had to find a way to get Jennifer and myself to Earth.
Seeing as how I had no clue as how to do that, it was not going to be very easy. The only being that had seemed to know anything about what I was trying to do was the rebellious demon, Ebircs. I would have to find him, and convince him to help me. I quickly logged onto Retlif's computer and punched in Ebircs' name to find out his possible whereabouts. What I learned was that the demon had been arrested. My situation was not enviable. I had been given the problem of breaking into a maximum security facility in order to talk to someone who would probably already be dead. Still, it was my only chance, and chances don't come along that often in Hell.
I quickly logged off of the computer and erased any evidence of what I had been looking for. I then left my office, trying to seem calm, and unrushed. I thought that it would have been easy to blend in with the other demons that were frequenting the streets. Demons tend to mind their own buisness. They don't bother to pay attention to who's walking by them unless the being is familiar. Their mind and senses are kept on whatever they're doing, and any attempt to dislodge this train of thought would be met by harsh words, and, or violence.
A plan for the jailbreak was beginning to form in my head. I would need to gain the blueprints to the facility that Ebircs was being held in, but that would not be a problem. The designs for all the buildings in Hell were in the HTML.(Hell's Troubled Main Library.) It was one of the few things that were kept on public record. The problem was that the library was somewhat far away.
I began searching for a taxi to flag down. But, my face was recognized by a police officer who had been dining at a nearby donut shop. The officer was a demon possessing two legs, and was more than slightly out of shape. He had the stereotypical red skin, horns on the side of the head, long tail, and devilish go-t. His enormous mass made it hard for him to maneuver around demons without making a scene. That is how I noticed his presence, and that is how I noticed the walkie-talkie in his hand. My only hope was to lose the cop before his back-up arrived.
I quickly headed towards the end of the block, pushing my way past the pedestrians that crowded the streets. “Halt!” I heard the officer say. Why he thought I’d actually stop is beyond my comprehension. I was getting the heck out of there, whether or not it was with his permission.
As I rounded the corner a squad car pulled up along side of me. I wasn't going to stop for them either. They did however manage to slow me down. A pair of demons like the one who was chasing me began to get out of the car. I looked at the officer opening the door nearest me, and as he began to get out, I quickly, and violently kicked the door into his right leg. I could hear the bones brake under the force of the impact.
The other officer had gotten out on the other side, and had his flame-thrower drawn. But, I had already taken his partners weapon, a flame-thrower, and incinerated the both of them. That’s when the fat one came around the corner. I greeted him with a blast from the flame-thrower as well, and then continued running. My extra legs were extremely effective when it came to this kind of activity. They allowed me to zigzag through the maze of side streets, until I happened upon a dark alley. There I rested.
I needed a plan to get to the library without being noticed. I needed time, and a safe place to hide. As my surroundings became more familiar to me, a realization hit me. Enohp’s place was close by. I thought that if I could get there, then he’d help me out. He was my friend. He lived but a few blocks away. And when I knocked on his door, he was more than happy to let me inside, and tell me about the APB. He even told me about the angel who was in charge of finding me. Apparently all of my coworkers had been asked questions about my whereabouts. None of them had known where I was, or what I had been doing. My secret was safe. The only one who might have been able to incriminate me was the demon who was allowing me to hide out in his apartment, and he wasn't the type to turn a fellow Erofeb in.
“I can do this, Enohp. I know it. I just have to figure out a way to get to the HTML.”
“What? What’s in the HTML?”
“Some things that I need.” I couldn’t afford to trust Enohp any more than I already had. Anyone could have been gotten to.
“So what can I do?”
“You’ve done more than I should ever ask of you. Thanks, old friend.”
“That’s what I’m here for. Come on, what aren’t you telling me?”
“Nothing. So how can I get to the HTML without being recognized again?”
“Well, you can’t change form. The cops would detect that spell being used and find you right away. So how about I drive you there in my car? You could hide in the back.”
“I don’t want you to risk…”
“Don’t worry about it. What? You think I’m just gonna’ leave you without a chance in Hell?”
“So let’s get a move on. The library ain’t open all day. I’ll drive you there, and back. That way you can plan your next move undisturbed.”
“Okay, Enohp. Thanks.” And with
that, we set off on our mission. Enohp drove us to the
library, and then was to wait in the car until I returned.
All that I allowed myself to carry was a small plastic bag
containing two computer disks. One for the information,
and one as a backup in case the first one did not work. I
tried as best as I could to be inconspicuous upon
entering. The architecture section of the library was on
the opposite side of the building. Undoubtedly the
security guards had been made aware of my identity. Still,
they were not the most studious of employees. It was easy
enough to get by them without being noticed. Then, it was
just a matter of copying the files on the prison to disk.
But as I began copying, that is when two guards that looked like
decomposed versions of the cops I had encountered earlier began
to walk towards me. My heart began to beat an extremely
fast. It was as if a jackhammer was pounding on my chest
in a desperate attempt to get out. I could see them out of
the corner of my eye. With each step that they took, my
mind and body began preparing themselves for a fight. It
was at the moment when my nerves were at their limit, and my
body begged me to attack, that was when one of the guards spoke.
“You dropped this on your way in.” He said. In his hand was a disk. I quickly looked at the small bag and found that there was a hole in the bottom. I had probably been so nervous that I was unaware that my razor sharp talons had cut the bag open.
“Thanks.” I said. As they walked away, a feeling of relief swept over me. As I turned to the computer screen, it read, “file complete.” I quickly took out the disk, and then began making my way towards the door. It was at this point that the guards began looking at me again. This time I knew it was because they had recognized me. That’s when I began to sprint for the door as fast as I could. Strangely, upon exiting the library, Enohp was not in the car waiting for me. He was just getting off of a payphone. He looked up to see me running towards the car, and he began towards the car as well.
“What the fuck were you doing!” I yelled at him as he slammed his door shut.
“I was just checking my messages. Why? What happened?”
“Nothing. Just drive.” I knew when Enohp was lying. His pores always began to ooze whenever he was lying. And they were oozing as he drove. “Turn here.” I barked, while pointing towards a small alley.
“Just do it!” I said, lifting my flame-thrower up from under my seat.
“Sure. Sure thing. Anything you say buddy.”
“So where were they going to meet us, or should I say, ambush us?”
“Who? I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Come off it Enohp! You hardly ever check your messages. Why would you do it now?”
“I don’t know? I got bored.”
“I was in there for five minutes! You’re telling me that you couldn’t contain yourself for that long? Fess up! Who got to you?”
“Nobody got to me!”
“You’re lying Enohp. You’re oozing all over the place.” Enohp looked down at himself, and then looked back up at me.
“What... what are you going to do?” He said, in a shivering voice.
“Get out of the car! Now!”
“You’re going to incinerate me…aren’t you!”
“I wouldn’t do that to you. We’ve been friends for too long for me to do that.” Enohp looked at me, and then backed his way out of the car.
“Now what?” He asked timidly. That’s when I incinerated him. His carcass melted before my eyes. Enohp should have realized that I couldn’t let him live. Not after what he had done. I needed his car though. Couldn’t let that go up in flames. It was still useful to me. I did miss him though. He had been a useful friend for a long time. Oh well.
The caller was the chief at a police precinct near the HTML, and he was not enjoying the less than encouraging words that he was receiving.
“Of course he resisted! He knows why we’re after him.”
“A witness spotted him in an alley near Washington Street.”
“Have your demons scour the streets in that area.”
“Yes sir. We’re already doing
that. But sir, he incinerated a civilian. DNA tests
show that his name was Enohp. We’re not certain why this
“I don’t care about who he… Enohp! Did you say his name was Enohp?”
“Very well. Find Rianoc. Do whatever you have to.”
“Yes s…” That’s when David hung up the phone. He then went straight to the library in hopes of learning what I had been looking for. I had erased any evidence of my being there. This fact left the fallen angel in a highly frustrated state.
The security cameras revealed nothing, save the fact that the guards had failed to recognize me before I had already gotten away. They were punished for their incompetence. The whole of the next millenium would see them break all records relating to most time spent encased in a small wooden box, covered in a thing called poison ivy. Their bodies would be unable to move, but the need to itch would never go away. It would simply calm itself for brief seconds, and then rise again, creating a situation bound to madden the punished after a few hours. And there are many hours in a millennium.
David went to the sight of Enohp’s demise so as to see how the investigation was shaping. He was not in the habit of waiting, but that was all he could do, for he knew not what else to do to find me. There were still officer’s on the scene. They were looking for any trace of where I might have gone to.
“Who’s in charge here?” David barked.
“I am, sir.” The source of the reply was given a backhand.
“Who’s in charge here?”
“You are, sir.” The officers said in unison.
“There are skid-marks on the pavement over there.” David declared.
“Yes, sir.” Replied the officer who had been struck. “The witness couldn’t make out the license plate number in time.”
“It was probably the victim’s car. Run a check on its make and color. See if it matches the description you were given.”
“Yes, sir. Would you like to speak to the witness, sir?”
“No. I have all the information that I need. Keep me informed of anything new. This fugitive is dangerous, but he must be captured intact. Is that fully understood?”
David left the scene with a measure of assurance. He was certain that it would only take time to find me. He was also certain that in Hell, time is abundant. But as his cell phone rang, and as he lifted it from his pocket, punched the answer button, and pressed the receiver to his ear, this self assurance was to be far from being correct.
“David,” The voice on the other end of the line was one that did not invite happy thoughts, especially not in David’s situation at the time.
“Have you solved our little problem?”
“Not yet, master. I’m going to need a little more…”
“Time? Is that what you were going to say?”
“We don’t have the luxury of time, David. What we do have is a situation that could become extremely volatile. Do I make myself clear?”
“Yes, master. But, master…”
“You have twenty-four hours to complete your mission. If you succeed, then you shall be given a promotion, and a hefty raise. We’d both like that scenario. However, if you fail, then your little trophy case will be given one last ornament to be displayed. Any questions?”
“No…no questions, sir.”
“Very well then.” And with that, the line went dead, with the sickening click of the phone at the other end.
Ebircs was the key to my dilemma. He was one of the few beings who could have known the information that I strived to attain. Without him, I would surely fail to escape Hell intact.
According to the Punic records, he was being held in a maximum security prison near the center of Hell. It took a while to get there, and while enroute I had to ditch Enohp’s car. The police spotted it as I had been getting the gas tank filled. The attendant wasted no time in indicating my location, but fortunately for me, I was not there when the police went looking. Yet again, my legs came in handy. They sped me away from that place, and into a public parking lot. There I took it upon myself to, for lack of a better word, steal another vehicle. From there, I made my way to the vicinity of the prison.
It was an extremely large building, and at night, it presented an ominous, but do-able task. The building encompassed the space of four city blocks, and was in the shape of a cylinder. Its walls were made from concrete blocks, and they stretched up beyond the ability of the eye to see. The windows were few, and scattered around. Their use was only intended for the demons that worked in the building. Prisoners were not allowed comforts such as light. There were four watch points at the top which housed a pair of guards each. The guards kept a constant vigil over the massive prison. The walls were high, the bars were sturdy, and the guards were watchful. However, the guards were watching the inside.
I managed to scale the wall by driving my razor sharp claws into the concrete so as to create grips to pull myself up. My hooves also pounded their way into the concrete until I was close to the top. Then I could only use my claws, for fear of being heard. The two guards posted at my first stop of the evening had their backs turned to me. They wore gray uniforms to cover their green, and slimy Nilbog skin. They did look ferocious though. I’ll give them that much credit. Their eyes were yellow, their ears were pointy, and their teeth possessed a massive under bite which left one wondering how in Hell they could eat. But they were incredibly overweight. Probably from the fact that nobody had ever even successfully escaped from prison. But even if the guards had been in shape, Nilbogs have never been thought of as anything resembling intelligent creatures. It was simple enough for me to decapitate them quickly and quietly with a slash from two pairs of hands. The Nilbogs had no time to react. As I looked down upon their carcasses, which were still spouting blood like a fountain, a smile born from achievement crept over my face.
Their gray uniforms became my attire. Tucking my extra limbs in was a tad uncomfortable, and almost impossible, but it worked. It was then a matter of going from tower to tower, tilting my hat down to cover my face enough until it was too late for the other guards on duty. You would think that the guards would have been able to at least call for help. But, not meaning to seem arrogant, I was greatly skilled in the art of dismemberment. My clan had fought against all comers, and the Erofeb were feared by all. No Nilbog could ever have outfought a member of the Erofeb.
After eliminating the spotters in the towers, it was then time to make my way inside, and find a computer terminal with which to locate Ebircs. I found one such terminal in an office on the top floor. There was a female Nilbog there. If I had had the time, she would have learned just how much of a demon I really was. Instead I decapitated her, and sat down at her terminal.
Ebircs was recorded as being two floors below where I was. The problem was that his cell was right in the middle of the aisle. If I were detected by the guards, my options would have been extremely limited. I needed a distraction. The guards had to be kept busy. The only thing that could distract them would have been a riot, but the prisoners were all locked up. So, I would have to release a large number of them, and incite them in such a way that they’d try and take over the place for themselves. The rioting part of the plan would be easy. Prison guards were almost always despised for their cruelty. However, getting the prisoners out would not be a walk in a sludge factory.
There were only two panels in the whole system that had the access necessary to let out prisoners. The first was on the bottom floor of the complex. This would not have been advantageous, for the prisoners would have overtaken me as well as the guards. However, there was a panel in the warden’s office, which lay fifteen floors below where I was. The office was also the warden’s living quarters, and was kept out of the way of the everyday prison life. All I had to do was to get by about forty, to fifty guards, without being noticed.
The disguise would work for part of the trip, but I couldn’t count on it as being my only plan. I needed another option. I needed a decoy. The inner design of the prison’s architecture was that of a cylinder as well. The floors were rings, leaving a larger space in the center empty. The guards were able to see higher floors, and lower floors, thereby decreasing the chance of any unauthorized traveling through the building. All I had to do was to find one lone guard, and send him flying straight down the center of the cylinder. The panic of the others would leave me undetected. The problem was that all the guards had partners, except for the ones who I had already dispatched. So I grabbed a corpse from the roof, brought it inside, and threw it over the railing. My aim was perfect, and his body made a loud smack on the concrete pavement that made up the base of the huge complex.
Every prisoner in facility awoke to the sound of bones being crushed, and flesh being squashed upon the concrete. As the guards attempted to calm down the prisoners, I made my way down to the warden’s office. As the guards attempted to figure out what had happened, I incinerated the warden with a flame-thrower that I had relieved from one of the tower watchers. And as the guards telephoned the office of their recently departed warden, I opened the cell doors on the bottom half of the prison.
The anarchy that ensued from that point forth was amazing. I only wish that I could have partaken in the carnage, but there were other things on my mind. As quickly as my three pairs of legs could carry me, I made my way up to Ebircs’ cell. The file had said that he had only one cellmate, and that the area the cell was in was slated for political prisoners only. I knew not what kind of weird hippie freaks that I would find, but I was prepared for anything. Well, almost anything. I wasn’t prepared for what awaited me. I wasn’t prepared to find that he was not there.
Ebircs’ cellmate knew nothing of his whereabouts, so I incinerated him. As panic and frustration hit my mind like a sledgehammer, so too did the realization that he had been moved without any change in public record. As the battle cries from below began to get closer, and closer, I began to move faster and faster towards the first office that had apparently been so useless to me. From there, I accessed the police records. After using a few magic tricks, mixed in with my time spent surfing the Hellnet, I managed to break into the more secure files which related to prisoners. The location given to me was that of a place that I knew quite well. He was in the Sea of Souls. I could not believe it. The record gave his exact location inside the sea as well. My trip had not quite yielded what I had wished, but it was enough. There was still hope.
“What is it!” David barked. He did not want the chief to feel too secure. There always had to be fear in the hearts of his underlings.
“We’ve had a sighting of the suspect you've been looking for. He was seen leaving the site of a prison riot up at the Etile Maximum Security Facility. Apparently the subject broke into the prison, if you can believe that, and then he freed half the prisoners. The riot squads were called in and…”
“I don’t care about the riot! Where is Rianoc?!”
“We don’t know his exact location, sir. But…”
“He can’t have gotten far, sir. That entire area is being canvassed as this conversation is taking place.”
“Why was he there?”
“We aren’t sure. The entire facility was taken over by the prisoners before any help could arrive. We think he may have been trying to incite panic among the populace by releasing the political prisoners.”
“Why would he...?. Wait! Which facility was it?”
“The Etile facility, sir.” There was a moment of pause, and in that time the chief lost the rest of his confidence in the whole matter.
“Excuse me, sir, but who is Ebircs?”
“Never mind. Were any of the computers accessed during his little raid?”
“We can’t tell. They were all destroyed in the rioting, sir.”
“Still, he must know.”
“Never mind. Keep searching.”
“Yes, si…” And then came the click of the phone, and the sound of the dial tone. The chief immediately left his office and headed straight for the area of the search. He did not want to fail.
Meanwhile, David was franticly attempting to mentally bring forth Ebircs from the Sea of Souls. His efforts were thwarted though. For a moment the fallen angel had not a clue as to why that could be. Then reality hit him. The only way for his spell to be interfered with was for another entity to be causing it. And since David was the only one who possessed any legal reason to approach Ebircs, it was obvious that someone else had taken an interest to the political prisoner. This idea paralyzed David, at first. Then came the instinctual need for action. Something had to be done about me, and without delay. So David entered the Sea of Souls himself, and began to look for my newfound associate and myself. We were not where we were supposed to be though, and this fact infuriated David. It meant that he needed to call in reinforcements in order to conduct a thorough search. David did not like to ask for help. His pride, his job, and his existence were on the chopping block. All it took was one false move, and the axe would plummet towards his neck with the swiftness of lightning, and the displaced anger which is Hell.
They knew not where I was going, and could not predict my moves. All attempts to appear ahead of my movement were thwarted by my ability to dive, and rise at the speed of light. My assailants looked like fools chasing their own wings.
"You seem to be enjoying yourself." Ebircs thought to me.
"Shouldn't I be? Look at how they're flailing around.
"Eventually they'll get better! You have to get us out of here!"
"You seem too confident for my liking."
"Words of trust coming from a demon. Ha."
Time was not my friend. I would eventually tire before my chasers. Angels have more stamina than demons, and tend to be more patient as well. They would track me until I dropped, no matter how long that took. That is, unless I was able to lose them first. So I came up with a plan.
I entered spaces occupied by souls, waited until one or more of the angels decided to follow me inside, and then incited the cell’s inhabitant to attack the angels by temporarily releasing the magical bonds of the soul. This allowed the souls free movement. Their vent up pain and hostility did the rest. This would not stop the angels for long, but it sure did surprise them.
After a while, the remaining angels became suspicious about why their comrades were not rejoining the chase. They decided to all join in the next time I entered a space. I decided to expel the soul from the Sea, and with the soul went the angels. They all popped out into Hell, surprised as heck to see themselves no longer in the Sea. The angels were disorientated by this fact that they had been transported to street corner in Hell. This was made apparent by the fact that they began tearing into the various demons that were walking the street that I had sent them to. The soul that had gone along for the ride was also disorientated. But not as disorientated as the beings that had never seen a soul. The soul seemed like a monster to them, and panic began to fill the streets as rumors of an invasion began to spread among the populace.
With my chasers temporarily out of the way, and they wouldn't be forever, I quickly went to Jennifer's space. The three of us held up inside the dream-world that I had left her in, and waited for the right time to make our getaway. Meanwhile, there were things to discuss.
"Why did you rescue me from my imprisonment?” Ebircs asked, once we’d settled ourselves.
“I need your help. I need you to tell me how to get to Earth.”
“Earth? You mean, you believe as well?”
“Yes, very much so.” I recounted my tale to
the demon in full. His reaction was nothing less than that
of someone who’s dreams had come true. In short, he
freaked out. After a short time in which the demon
exuberantly repeating the words, “I knew it!" I finally got him
to calm down, and get to my question.
“I’m sorry Rianoc. I do appreciate all that you’ve done, but there is no way for you to get to Earth.”
“That cannot be true. The lady in white told me that I could get there, and that I could learn what life is.”
“I believe you. But for you to get to Earth, you would require a soul. Demons do not possess souls. We were never given one.”
This revelation sent me into a state of complete rage. My two companions felt it best to leave me be for a while, so they walked to another part of the dream-world.
My anger was strong, and it was not the kind that could easily be quelled. Frustration fed the rage that sought to destroy everything around me in the hopes that the feeling would end. I wanted to forget all that I had learned. I wanted my world to go back to the way it had been, before my new reality had been given to me. At that moment I learned just how blissful ignorance could be, and the whole of my self begged for its return.
“Mr. Ebircs,” Jennifer said. “Is there no way for him to leave this place? He’s done so much for me, and I don’t want to lose what I have here. This place that he’s created for me seems too much like Heaven for me to let it go back to being Hell.”
“I’m sorry, my dear. There is no way. All of my research has led me to the conclusion that a being without a soul cannot leave this place. There is a barrier that one must cross. It is like a gate that swings only one way. The only way to slip through that gate is by passing through the eyes of its gatekeeper, Judas.”
“You know of him?”
“Yes. But I thought that he was supposed to remain in Hell for all time.”
“He is, but as part of his punishment he must be the judge of the souls as they exit their torment. He must watch as souls do what he can never do, escape Hell. That does not matter though. What matters is that our efforts have been in vain. The only thing that we can hope to do is to remain here, in your memories, as long as possible.”
“What do you mean.”
“Rianoc and myself cannot be located inside of the spaces inhabited by souls. However, they will eventually assign your case to another Tormentor. Then we shall be discovered, and have no place to run.”
Jennifer thought for a moment, and then began to lose hope. The problem at hand seemed to be dire. Then, suddenly, a glow began to form around her soul form. It glowed brightly, and indicated a sense of excitement. “Mr. Ebircs, couldn’t I act as Rianoc's soul? We’re both going to pass through the gate at the same time, so wouldn’t the gatekeeper allow us through, even if Rianoc, and yourself are piggy-backing along?”
“Well, I don’t know. It’s conceivable that it could work. But if it doesn’t…”
“Then we’re all in for Hell. So what have we got to lose?”
"She's right!" I shouted enthusiastically. I had heard their conversation, and felt a sense of hope return to me as Jennifer’s words sank in. “We have nothing to lose. If we make it, then we’ve won. If we don’t, then the consequences can’t be worse than what would be done to us if we get caught.”
“But how will we get out of here, and through all of the police who will most likely be on the hunt for us?” Ebircs asked.
“I can bring us directly out of the Sea of Souls. From there, you can guide us to…”
“Hold on there. There is no easy way to get to the gate. It requires a connection to Heaven in order to do that. And if Jennifer is still in Hell, then it is for a reason. Her time is not up yet.”
I paused for a moment, and felt the despair begin to return. But my mind returned to the beginning. “What about the mirror?” I asked, and hoped that I my own dream was not about to be smashed to pieces.
“The mirror?" Ebircs asked, and looked at me in confusion. But then he realized what I was suggesting, and his heart began to race as well. "The mirror! Of course! It was obviously used by Heaven to get to you. So all we have to do is get to it!”
“Leave that end of the plan up to me. I know that area well enough to sneak us into Hell’s Kitchen. How they receive us in that place depends on how drunk the crowd is. So we’ll aim to get there an hour before it closes. Agreed?”
“Agreed.” They both replied in unison. And with that one word, we set ourselves on a course that would change existence.
The idea of trying to sneak in seemed to be a daunting task. Our party consisted of two known felons, and a soul who was uncomfortably hiding in an old cardboard box that we'd found in the alley. Ebircs and myself were planning to mask our faces as much as possible. Jennifer had to stay concealed in the box, next to the flame-thrower my flame-thrower. The soul could not travel in view of the public for fear of her being seen. She would have been a bit too obvious if she’d floated around. There are many types of beings that travel Hell’s streets; souls are not one of them. In Hell, souls are always prisoners. I was planning to change that rule though. At least for her.
She was my only chance for an exit, and I liked her. Ebircs was useful, so his presence was acceptable. We had one chance at completing our objective. After that, they’d know what we intended to do. They’d know that there was still power in the mirror. Then we’d be fucked.
We needed that mirror. Just as importantly, we needed the spell that would take us to the "Gates of Hell". Ebircs had explained to me the incantations that would have to be recited. We’d need at least a couple of minutes to complete the spell, so one of us would have to fend off anything that might attempt to stop us. The whole scenario would have to play itself out very quickly. We’d soon be over-run by the hundreds of demons trying to capture us. That’s not including the police who were alerted to our presence the minute I used the spell that took us out of the Sea of Souls. The plan was risky, but it was our only chance. And chances don’t come along that often in Hell.
We began making our way towards the
establishment at a hurried pace. Running would have
attracted too much attention, so we walked, quickly.
Nobody noticed us when we entered the place. Nobody was really looking for us there. Who would think that after all the cunning things that I did to stay free, that I would allow myself to be in such a crowded place, full of demons who had probably been told to report any sighting of me? Yet there we were, walking right through the center of Hell’s Kitchen, on a direct route to the john. It was all working out just as we had hoped, and then something happened which always seems to be the case in the best laid plans, something went wrong.
Ebircs was bumped into by a stumbling drunk who seemed to be as jovial as any individual under the influence. The stranger was a gargoyle, possessing a stone body, with large wings. I have always thought that gargoyles looked a lot like gremlins with wings, only not as slimy. This gargoyle was no different. He seemed barely conscious, but still had the energy to talk, which is exactly what we did not need. There was no time for it.
"Sorry about that, mate." The gargoyle said to Ebircs. "Here have a drink. It's on me."
"Thank you, but I really must be..."
"Now hold on. Are you refusing my generosity? I said I was sorry for bumping into you." I was not liking the tone in the gargoyles speech. He was getting agitated, and he was already drunk. The police would arrive any minute, and the gargoyles loud voice was attracting too much attention.
"My friend and I are in a rush." I interjected. "We have to meet someone."
"I don't believe I was talking to you, mate. So mind your own fucking buisness!" It was at that moment that the crowd by the front door began to move around in such a way that it was obvious that they were being pushed aside. The police had arrived, which meant the proverbial shit was about to ruin our tan.
There was no time for anything but drastic steps. I quickly grabbed the gargoyle's throat with one hand, and then hacked his head off with another. His body temporarily ran around the room, flailing its limbs wildly. Meanwhile Ebircs had taken my hint and violently pushed his way to the restroom. His efforts became less impeded when he began pretending to be on the verge of vomiting.
The plan was in motion. Ebircs began his spell, and I began making my way towards the restroom as well. As I backed up, I was unloading on the charging police with the flame-thrower that I had been forced to reveal. They did not seem to be trying to kill me, so I assumed that their orders were for me to be taken intact. This made my job easier in that they couldn't simply incinerate me on the spot. It looked as though the plan would work. I was standing in the doorway of the restroom, and the police did not seem too pressured to attack me. They probably thought that I had cornered myself, and were planning to wait until I'd run out of ammunition. Things were going well. That’s when he showed up. David had arrived to take control of the situation, and he was not as uninformed as the police who seemed too confident in their handling of the situation.
“Why have you not charged his position?” David barked at the chief, who had decided to take charge of the situation personally.
“We have him cornered sir. We thought it best to let him run out of ammunition, and maybe talk him out. That way casualties could be…”
“I don’t give a damn about casualties! How is it that he came to be in that restroom? Did your men drive him there, or is he there by choice?”
“It appeared as though he meant to be trapped there. We haven’t figured out why…”
“You idiot!!!” David had finally figured out why I had returned to Hell’s Kitchen. He did not know my full intentions, but he knew about the mirror. All at once a sense of urgency swept the fallen angel into a furious state of panic. “Take your men and charge his position!”
“Do it now, or by the master I will destroy you and your men myself!”
“Yes, sir.” With a single command the demons began to run towards the bathroom in a state of furious rage. If the feeling of an impending doom were not upon me at that moment, the scene probably would have struck me as being quite comical. There were at least fifty cops, all desperately trying to get to the can at the same time. Their numbers dwindled greatly though. I was able to incinerate at least half of them before the first set of hands was laid upon me. It was at that moment that I heard Ebircs call out that the spell had been cast, and we were ready to pass through the portal, and into the uncertain.
Ebircs saw that I was being overwhelmed, and leapt into the entangled battle in order that we all might escape. Unfortunately, he could not save himself. A stray hand managed to get a hold on one of his arms. Before Ebircs could pry himself free, another hand latched on as well. It took only a matter of seconds, but soon the demon was being pulled out of the doorway, and into the crowd. I could hear him calling my name franticly. He was in such a state of terror and pain that his calls could be heard over the yelling and cheering of the mob before me. His cries meant nothing to me. If anything, his capture provided me with the few seconds I needed to break away from the fight, and dive into the mirror.
The crowd calmed down after realizing that I
was gone. David made his way towards the mirror with a
feeling of disbelief. He had not foreseen my plan.
He had not known that the mirror still possessed a threat.
And as he stared at his own reflection, the realization that he
would not possess me before his allotted time was up came
crashing into his brain with the force of an eighteen wheel
truck. He had failed his master, and his master did not
“We are in the void.”
“It's that place between life and death.”
“Then we made it! We passed through the gate!”
“No. Look ahead.”
“What? I don’t see anything but…” Jennifer’s voice was halted by the sight she saw before her. A starving, almost skeleton-like man was hanging by his wrists from a thick iron chain. The chain dangled him just above a blood soaked gate that bore the inscription, “Forgiveness is divine, but are you worthy of being forgiven?”
“Judas is watching." I told her. "He’s waiting for us to float towards him, so that his eyes can transport us. Did you know that it pains him every time a soul passes through?”
“Legend has it that he committed a grievous act, and that he was banished here for that crime. Since then Judas has desperately wanted to be forgiven for his transgressions. Not a moment passes by when he does not long to see the world that he left behind, and regret that which he did."
"Why can't he be forgiven? Isn't there something he can do to make up for it?"
"He has to forgive himself first. Apparently he cannot."
I watched the sad soul, as he watched other souls pass through the doorway which he never could. His eyes had no tears left to shed. They had long since gone dry in the void. The stare that was given by Judas was like a reflection of the void. It was as though nothing remained in him, save the uncontrollable ability to judge. His skin seemed to be clinging to him like a suit that was two sizes too small. His long beard swayed back and forth as he shook his head, time and time again in despair. I wondered at that moment if he would ever be free. I wondered if he who gave judgement would ever be able to leave this place. Perhaps someday, he would. Perhaps someday, someone will judge him again. Then, maybe he’ll feel free.
“We’re getting closer!” Jennifer shouted.
We were indeed close. So close that my own fears were starting to get the better of me, and my grip on the soul became increasingly strong. “Stay calm. This should work.” I declared, trying not to show the falseness of my bravado.
“But what if it doesn’t?”
“It’s too late to go back. Whatever happens, happens.”
“Rianoc, look!” Jennifer was signaling me to look behind us. A pair of demons had followed us through the mirror. They had no clue as to where they were, but they knew what they had been told to do. They were still after me. But it did not matter. The gates pulled you towards them at its own pace. There was no way for either group to move any faster. All we could do was drift towards the gates, and see what happened. The gates were close.
“His eyes! We’re almost in the gaze of his eyes. Rianoc I’m scared!”
The stare seemed to last longer than the whole of my existence. It made me start to doubt the plan for the first time since concocting it. I could feel Jennifer tightly wrapping her soul-self around me. After what seemed like an eternity, Judas’ eyes began glowing. The light in his eyes seemed to be getting more and more brilliant. It greatly reminded me of the light that I had seen when the woman in white had appeared to me. There seemed to be no escaping its amazing aura. I began to hear a loud humming all around us. Just as the humming seemed to be waning, the light in Judas’ eyes moved to the gates, and then suddenly, we were pulled through, into the light.
“We made it! We’re out of Hell. But we have to be careful about where we land.”
“What do you mean?”
“Somehow I don’t think they’d welcome me in Heaven.”
“Yes, Michael. My being is always at your service, and at the service of Heaven’s legions.” This reply was given by an angel bearing the name of Justin. Although relatively young by angel standards, he still had risen quite high in the ranks of Heaven. His mere fifteen-hundred years of experience did not hold him back, and in fact, it was often an asset when it came to carrying out his orders. His inexperience did not give him the needed background to know better than his superiors. So when he recieved an order, he followed it without question.
“I have a very important mission for you, Justin. Two fugitives have escaped from the prison.”
“That’s impossible! How could this be?”
“Never mind the how, but the who, what, where, when, and why.”
“A demon has used a soul to pass through the prison walls. We had hoped that they would wind up at our gates, but the demon figured out how to land on Earth. They will shortly materialize somewhere in the United States. Hopefully it will be late at night on Earth, so no one shall see the materialization. They must be stopped Justin. This situation must not be allowed to escalate. Our existence cannot be known as fact to the humans.”
“Yes, Michael. What are the intentions of the escapees?”
“We do not know. What is known is that Hell was not too thrilled to see them go. Whether or not Hell has been hiding a way to attack Heaven is unclear. However, that doorway must be sealed, and it can only be sealed with the blood of at least one of the two fugitives.”
“But why doesn’t the Lord simply force the gate closed, and send the two back where they belong.”
“He could have done that in The Great War, but He did not choose to do so. The Lord does not tell us everything that He does.”
“Could this be a test of some kind? Am I being tested?”
“I know not. But do not worry, friend. I have faith in you. He has faith in you.”
“Thank you, Michael. I shall depart immediately.”
“That is not possible.”
“What do you…”
“The opening of the gate has temporarily disrupted our ability to send you to the exact time and place. Instead you shall be sent to the day after their arrival, and to the place they call, 'Los Angeles.'”
“But can’t He…”
“He will do as He wills. Now go rest
yourself. You shall leave in twenty-four hours, when the
clocks in Los Angeles show the time of four twenty AM.”
“Yes, Michael. I will not fail you, or Him.”
And with that, Justin left his general’s presence, and began to prepare for his task. However, Michael had other matters to attend to. He had seen the bloodshed in The Great War, and the possibility of a second war was not a pleasant thought. Justin was one of his most capable angels, but so much could happen in so short a time. There would be much preparation needed in the event of Armageddon. And if it did happen, if the war were to begin so soon, there would be nothing to save the lives of the humans who fell in the bitter first moments.
Memories are one thing. But being there, on Earth, it was far beyond that which I had experienced in The Sea of Souls. The light in the sky was not so bright as the sun, but its power of illumination opened up a whole new world for me to see. As I looked up at the sky, I could not help but notice the large expanse of glowing dots in the sky that seemed to surround a large circle of dim light. But the circle was not as impressive as the rest of the sky. For as far as the eye could view, it was all bright dots, and black sky. Some of the dots even seemed to make out pictures. And there was seemingly no end to the vastness of the unencumbered space that lay before my eyes.
There were entities of many a manner flying around me, and crawling on the ground below. They seemed to be calling out to the night in their own individual fashions. I noticed that some were trying to take sustenance from my physical self, but their efforts were thwarted by my thick hide. The ones that treated me as an obstacle to climb over also tried to take bites out of me. I couldn't help but laugh, and wonder why they would not fear something that was so much bigger than themselves.
The feel of the grass on my feet, as well as the slight cold in the air that was brushed up against my body by some unseen force gave my mind the dose of reality to realize that I was not built for the climate that I was in. And for the first time in my existence, I felt cold. I had known what the word meant, as it had been described to me by those that had visited the third level of Hell. Still, the sensation was strange, and uncomfortable.
“I…I don’t believe it…” I heard Jennifer say. “I’m back! I’m alive! Hahahaha!!!”
As I turned toward the sound of her voice, I could feel sense the great joy in her voice. All the memories of pain had evidently left her mind, at least for the moment. But as I looked at her, and caught my first glimpse of her as she had been before her death, my senses could not help but recognize the fact that I had never before seen anything quite so beautiful. Her voice made a banshee’s wale sound almost annoying. Her laugh was so full of energy that one could probably have created a thousand demons with the power it contained. Her long blonde hair seemed like streams of gold, flowing in the wind. Her eyes were the color of what I have come to know as the ocean, only her eyes were a thousand times deeper. It was breathtaking.
“What’s wrong?” She asked. As she did so she also covered herself with her arms. I realized that the girl was being modest and turned away so that she might feel more comfortable.
“Nothing is wrong. Everything is perfect. We’re here, on Earth.” I said. Trying to hide my excitement about my newfound surroundings.
“Where’s here? I don’t recognize this place at all.”
“That’s alright. All we have to do is go to the local registry.”
“The what?” Jennifer asked.
“The registry.” I replied incredulously. “The Registry of Information. What? Did you expect us to just ask some stranger?”
“Yes. Why wouldn't we?” She seemed genuine in her query, so I assumed it was just a mental block created by the transference of the soul to a body. I'm not exactly sure where the body came from, but it was definitely fortuitous that it did. “Look," Jennifer said. "there is no Registry of Information" on Earth. All we have to do is ask the first person we see… which should be interesting considering we’re both naked, and you’re a demon.”
“Oh. Well...” And with the snap of my fingers, my form changed to that of a mixture of the qualities that Jennifer had seemed to think were good in a human male. I had been able to figure out the basic details while inside her memories. Casting spells in Hell would have been a grievous error, but on Earth there seemed to be no reason for suspecting anything to trace my magic. However, after the change was complete, I did get an interesting look from Jennifer. It seemed strange to me at the time. She didn’t bother to look at my dark brown hair, or my blue eyes. She paid no attention to my square jaw, or at the fact that I’d made myself a fairly muscular individual standing at six feet two inches. Her attention seemed to be directed between just below my waist, and three quarters of the way down to my knee. “What are you staring at?” I asked. She did not answer. Only turned away, as her face turned red. “We’d better find someplace to stay for the night.” I said, still confused by the redness that had washed over her face.
“There’s still the problem of the clothes.”
“We’ll find something.”
“Wait a minute. I see our clothes now. They’re walking rather quickly in the direction of that gate.” It was a man and a woman. They appeared to be about the same age as Jennifer, and seemed to be dressed up for some occasion. The dark haired man wore a black tuxedo. The woman had long black hair that waved back and forth as it hung just below her shoulders. She was clad in a tight red dress that made her movement seem almost impossible, and her features unmistakable.
“That doesn't look like a security gate. We're probably in a park.”
“Whatever.” And with that, I skillfully crept up behind the two people with the speed and stealth that only a member of the Erofeb clan could possess. Just as the couple were about to make their exit, I closed in from behind them, and grabbed their necks. The bones broke apart like popsicle sticks in my grasp, and not a single bit of blood had found its way onto the clothes which I had so easily procured.
I was so proud at that moment. I’d never killed any humans before. However, Jennifer did not seem to be as thrilled at my achievement as I was. In fact, the situation seemed to disturb her greatly. Her reaction was not the show of gratitude that I had expected. Instead, she screamed. And I had no clue as to why.
“David has joined the ranks of those who are not worthy to rule in the master’s world. He served us well in the past, but has apparently lost his edge. We are not like him. We are strong, and will not be deterred in our efforts to rule existence.”
“Yes, sir.” The other twelve said in unison.
“The master has been informed of what has happened. He knows about the portal in Hell’s Kitchen. He also knows that Rianoc and the soul are currently on Earth. Ebircs has informed us how this was possible. It took some time to convince him to talk, but we have the information that is needed.”
“What does the master want done?” asked James, an angel who looked the stereotypical part, angelic. He sat directly to the left of Marcus, and always was the first to ask the important questions.
“The master wishes to utilize the portal
before Heaven has it sealed. We are to gather our forces,
and match each angel, and demon, with a soul. These souls
will be put in a binding spell so that they are locked with the
entity who possesses them. The souls will then allow
Hell’s minions to escape from this prison.”
“But we are not prepared to take on Heaven again!” James said emphatically. His words were met by a scornful look by Marcus.
“We will not be going to Heaven. Instead, we shall limit our journey to Earth. It is ripe with souls that we might harvest, thereby increasing Hell’s strength, and allowing us to build an army big enough to defeat Heaven. The master wishes us to enter the world of the humans, and slaughter them like the cattle that they are. He is currently in the process of influencing the humans who believe that they will be rewarded for spreading his will across the globe. They shall help add to the confusion on Earth as we take it over. Then they too shall be treated like insignificant pests.”
“Won’t Heaven try to intervene with their armies?” Asked James. The others were thinking the same thing. But James was the quickest talker, and seemed to be completely on top of the subject at hand.
“For the moment, it appears that their ability to physically transport to Earth has been hampered by the re-opening of the portal. The angels already there are mostly in spirit form, guarding the humans from the master’s influence as best they can. They will not be able to do anything about the physical reality. It has been estimated that Heaven will not be able to launch a proper counterattack for a few days. Unfortunately it shall take some time for us to get properly mobilized. It will then take some time for all of our forces to arrive. But we will have forty-eight hours to destroy what we can. That time should be sufficient for us to build up enough power so that we can fend off any attack made by Heaven. Are there any more questions? No? Then get your men ready. I have assigned Tormentors to assist in the requisition of the souls. You each have been placed with an equal amount, so the time this takes should be equal for all of you. The attack plan will be given to each of you just as soon as it is complete. Now go prepare your armies for battle.”
“Sir, yes sir!” They all said in unison. Within seconds the room was empty, save Marcus. He sat in the conference room, and continued to work on the plan of attack. As he did so, his thoughts began to trail away from his task, and towards thoughts of the possible future.
“The time is almost here. Revenge shall belong to Hell. Everything shall belong to Hell. The master will be very pleased at my work. He’ll be elated by the fact that the longstanding lines of conflict will finally be over, and his cause will be the victor. He’ll forget about all the paranoid thoughts that constantly bombard his mental self. Then, it shall be my time. He will never see it coming either. After all, I am so loyal to him. Strange that he should believe that his own people would follow him mindlessly. After all this time he’s forgotten that his followers were willing to betray their first master. Why does he believe that his position is safe? Arrogance, I suppose. After all, he’s the reason we lost the first war. He’s far too arrogant for his own benefit. He does not understand that dictators can be overthrown, and that even his dictatorship is not secure. But I know this. My victory over Earth shall bring me adulation from all. They shall see my abilities, and know that I can succeed where the master has failed. They’ll have confidence in me when we battle Heaven, and then they’ll follow my lead as we rid ourselves of he who convinced us to betray our Lord. Then, everything shall be mine.”
“You killed two people!” Jennifer replied. She had calmed down somewhat, and we were both getting dressed. But for some reason, she still couldn’t understand why I had done what needed to be done. “Killing is a bad thing!” She shouted. “Life is not something to be wasted like that.”
“I only did away with two of them. There are still many others which we can interact with.”
“That’s not the point.”
“Then what is?” I was becoming curious as to the nature of her distress.
“Life is more than just being alive. Life is about trying to know the world around you, and respecting the lives of others. You treated those two people like they were nothing.”
“How is that different from you stepping on a bug, or eating a chicken? Aren’t they alive?”
“Comparing a bug, or an animal to humans is idiotic.”
“Bugs and animals act on instinct. It’s true that they're alive, and can be killed. But they’re different from things that can think.”
“Humans create, and learn, and interact in ways that are beyond the ability of things without conscious thought. We have emotions, and dreams, and try to bring all of that to bear in our lives.”
“So one must have dreams in order to be worth living?”
“No.” Jennifer let out a heavy sigh of frustration. She still seemed incredulous that she had to explain the concept of life to me. I still had no idea what she was talking about. “Listen,” she said, “Do me a favor. Promise me that you won’t kill anyone else. Can you do that?”
“I’ll try not to. I still don’t know
what you’re so worked up about, but we’ll talk about it
later. Right now we need to find some shelter so that we
“Do we have any money?”
“We have what was in the pockets of the young couple.”
“Fine. Let’s see if there’s a motel somewhere around here.” Her tone was still exasperated. I was convinced that her disliking of my acts was created by the traumas induced by being in Hell. Still, there was something in what she had said that got my mind working on the matter. But I let the subject settle in the back of my mind as we walked through the streets.
The buildings were nowhere near as tall as the ones in Hell, and the nighttime activity seemed nonexistent. The streets were lined with shops and apartment buildings. The sidewalks had slabs with cracks, and the occasional spaces where someone had taken the time to plant trees, or grass. Such ornamentation seemed silly, and not worth the time or effort. It amazed me that a civilization that built what it apparently had would think of such mindless activities. I must admit though, the things which humans had been able to make were far from what I had expected to see.
There were no huts as I had originally thought there would be. Instead there were automobiles, skyscrapers, massive bridges, and a whole list of other things that I assumed could only be found in Hell. I had apparently underestimated the species. That’s something that I was not prone to do.
“Look over there.” Jennifer said, interrupting my thoughts. She was pointing at a man who was standing just outside of the only store that was still open. It was a convenience store, and the man seemed to be waiting for patrons to pass by. His clothes seemed worn and ragged, and he held a cup in his right hand which seemed to contain a few coins of some kind. Jennifer walked over to the man. I stood back, not wanting to be downwind of him. They conversed for a bit, and afterwards she gave the man a few coins, and then walked back to me.
“What did he say, and why did you give him money?”
“He told me that we’re in the city of Boston, which is in the state of Massuchusetts. He also told me about a motel just down the street.”
“And the money?”
“I was being nice. Besides, he helped us out. Why?”
“It just seems strange that you’d give him money when you didn’t have to.”
“He needs it more than we do.”
“Never mind.” She replied, sighing yet again. “Let’s just get to the motel and check into a room. I’m exhausted.”
“Lead the way.”
“There are a lot of reasons why killing is considered to be a bad thing.” She said. “It’s not just that people fear their own death, but life is precious.”
“But why? If there are so many of you, what’s the concern with losing one or two?”
“We don’t view our species as a whole. It’s not like we’re leaves on a tree that can grow back. Each person is an individual. You can’t replace an individual. Their thoughts, and their feelings are their own. Their experiences and points of view are things which nobody else can have in the same way.”
“So a person’s individuality is something that I’m supposed to recognize?”
“So why do people kill each other? Why is it that you all don’t have this respect for life which you seem so bent on teaching me about?”
“Everyone doesn’t think the way that I do. There are people out there that think that money, or whatever their reason, is more important than life.”
“So if they can’t learn what you’re trying to teach me, then how am I supposed to?”
This comment threw her thoughts off track. My point was one which she had not fully contemplated. Still, she tried to answer. “Everyone is different. The people that kill aren’t even trying to learn to respect life. You're making that effort, or at least I hope you are. That’s why you can succeed where they've failed.” She smiled at me, hoping that her point would sink in. It did make sense, and I wanted to probe deeper, but she seemed tired of the conversation. The subject was changed to a more immediate concern. “So where are we going to go?" She asked. "And how are we going to get there?” The question puzzled me.
“Going? Why would we go anywhere?”
“So you just want to stay here for the rest of our lives? Don’t you want to see the world you’ve wondered about so much?”
“Yes. Yes I do.”
“So where do you want to go?”
“I’m not sure." I really didn't know. I hadn't thought that far ahead. All the time I'd spent trying to get to Earth was spent on the attempt to get there. Exactly what I was going to do there was something that hadn't quite thought through, outside of seeing humans that is. So I decided to let Jennifer be my guide. "Where would you like to go?”
“How about New York? It's crowded enough, and diverse enough so that your "unique" behavior won’t be quite as noticeable there.”
“Unique behavior? What have I done that seems odd? Besides killing of course.”
“Of course.” She replied smugly. “You talk in a different manner than I’m used to, and your naïve outlook on the world makes you ask questions that are out of the ordinary.”
“Don’t worry, you’ll learn to adjust.” She said, as her smile widened, and as she moved closer to me. “Can you do that bliss spell again? I mean, does it take a lot of effort?”
“I could, but there is a risk of addiction to it.”
“So I think it would be best if I didn’t turn you into a junky.”
“Is there any way I could change your mind?” She said, as her arms raised up along the sides of my head, and her hands clasped themselves together at the back of my neck. “I bet I could think up an addiction for you.” She said, with a devilish smile. Strangely, her eyes seemed very alluring, and her body seemed to be rapping itself around me.
At first the idea of interacting with a human in the way that she was hinting at seemed weird, and too kinky. However, my mind was beginning to warm up to the idea, as was my body. After sizing up the dimensions and logistics of what I was going to be doing, the possibilities seemed heavily enticing. And in the end, the temptation to experiment became too inviting.
The actual act, or rather the cumulative acts that were done that night were most enjoyable. Jennifer had fun too. After it was all over, she was so exhausted that she did not want to go out, even though the sun was shining through the bedroom window. She suggested that I take a tour of the city. I agreed. It sounded like a good idea. But before leaving the motel, the question of funds began to rise in my mind. It occurred to me that we had used most of our cash to pay for the night in the motel. So before leaving, I took it upon myself to quietly relieve the other inhabitants of their cash. There were a few who woke up while I was still present, but they were easily silenced. I knew Jennifer would have been furious at me if she found out I'd killed again, so I elected not to tell her. What she didn’t know, wouldn’t hurt me.
Boston was completely different than it had been the night before. The energy of the inhabitants seemed to be growing as they woke from their slumber, and began their days. People were running from one place to another, never paying any heed to the uniqueness of each other which Jennifer had placed so much emphasis on. It made me wonder if the girl had not simply made up that speech about uniqueness simply to try and win her argument. All the people looked the same to me. They seemed a lot like the rats that scurried around in the alleyways. But at least the rats knew each other. The rats seemed more in tune with Jennifer’s argument than the beings which she was arguing for.
As we walked along the sidewalk, Jennifer noticed a newspaper stand. "We should buy some magazines so that you can read up on your new home."
"Why? I can absorb the contents of the documents simply by touching their cover."
"All I have to do is stretch my essence out from my body, and onto the written page. The ability was given to me so that I might sort through my paperwork faster. But it only works on written pages, and I still had to write manually."
Jennifer watched as I went through the entire selection of prints in a matter of moments. The owner of the establishment saw me touching the documents as well, and exclaimed, "You buying, or just copping a feel on the stuff?" Before I had a chance to disembowel him Jennifer whisked me away.
We stopped at a local eatery in which we ate breakfast. I had never eaten pancakes before, and I must say that the experience was quite enjoyable. The syrup added a sweetness to which the blandness of the food found in Hell could never have matched. I was also introduced to the thing called coffee. This beverage, when mixed with cream and sugar, was a concoction beyond anything I had ever experienced. Not only did it make me alert, but it also tasted spectacular. The hot liquid seemed to call out to me to drink more of it, which I in turn did. Although none of the objects on Earth actually spoke to me, as they had in Hell, I could still tell what I thought they would have said. Either that, or I just needed an excuse in my mind to chug the stuff.
The waitress seemed shocked by the fact that I could go through two pots of coffee inside of a half an hour. At one point she even asked if I was feeling well, and asked Jennifer if I was on any special medication. She had attempted to whisper the latter question to Jennifer, but I could still hear it. My senses were just as powerful on Earth as in Hell. Jennifer had laughed off the question, and gave me a look which I read as meaning, “Knock it off.” I took the hint, and we departed from the establishment.
“So what do you think?” Jennifer asked me, as we strolled along the sidewalk.
“It seems a lot like Hell.”
“Really?” Jennifer’s face was one of complete shock.
“Both worlds seem to be buisness orientated. We just focus on different buisnesses.”
“But humans aren’t just about buisness.”
“How so? Look around you, human. People spend at least half their awake time doing work in order to earn money. The rest of their time is spent using up that money.”
“There’s a lot more involved in everyday life.”
“Like what? You go to places of entertainment, watch TV, and, or try to indulge yourselves in the workings of your physiology.”
“What about sports, and games?”
“From what I read it seems as though your professional athletes are only playing the game out of greed.”
“What about amateur athletes? Don’t they play for fun?”
“They play for social status, or the aphrodisiac of adrenaline.”
“What about science?”
“Science is simply a way for you to feel more in control of the world around you. The more you learn, the more arrogant your species will become.”
“You know you’re not being very receptive to this place. You’ve got to give us some credit. I mean, well… well what about the arts?”
“The arts?” I was confused by her question. Art was something that was too foreign in my mind. The time since I had last painted was too great for me to really remember what it was like.
“Writing, painting, music, acting, these are all forms of art. Aren’t those things good qualities in humans? Don’t we get a little credit for that?”
“What are you getting so upset about? You wanted my opinion…”
“You’re judging the species based upon what you read in some newspapers. There’s a lot more about the world to know.”
“So show me.” She thought for a moment on the matter, and then took me by the elbow. “Where are we going?” I inquired, as she seemingly attempted to rip my arm out of its socket.
“There are some things that you need to see.”
“We’re going to spend the day taking in some culture.”
“We’re going to every museum, library, and concert we can possibly find.”
“No buts, and no argument.”
“But…” I stopped short as she gave me a look which did away with any thought of continuing the discussion. She was right though. If I was going to learn about life, then I had to know about what mattered to the living. A library would be a good source of information. But the idea of traipsing through museums all day seemed like something I would have thought up for the souls at my former occupation. The institutions did prove useful though.
I learned about past civilizations, and that humans possess this need to remember what came before them. They feel that every aspect of the world should be immortalized under glass and laid out for all to see. I marveled at the way their species evolved to what it was. I became enthralled with their literature. The imagination, and storytelling talent brought forth by the writers was breathtaking. From William Shakespeare, to Mark Twain, to Michael Seltzer, the stories laid out by these geniuses were breathtaking. But nothing could have prepared me for what I was to find in the art museum.
All my existence had been spent in the most drab of places. Even my own brief tenure as an artist had not brought forth the colors I saw in that place. The talent behind the pictures was unmistakable. I mean of course there were the few that made little or no sense. Especially the ones where all that was drawn was a little dot on a white canvass, or the mesh of colors that looked like a little baby had thrown buckets of paint at a sheet of paper. But other than those, it all looked so amazing. My eyes were captivated. And for the first time in millennia, the need to paint returned to my being.
By the time we exited the art Museum I had gained a new respect for what humanity had accomplished. I still held on to my beliefs about the buisness world, but the world seemed to have a lot more to offer than I had given it credit for.
“So what now?” I asked.
“Let’s go see a movie.”
“Follow me.” And with those words we went off and asked a young couple if they could direct us to a theatre. They gladly did, and then traipsed off to go about their buisness. What we saw was some cheesy love story that lasted three hours, and was about a pair of yuppies who fall in love on some ship. The ship sank, and their actions had been made meaningless. Jennifer tried to convince me about some crap involving love being eternal, but I didn’t buy it. I considered it to be fleeting like everything else.
After the movie we enjoyed a dinner at a highly rated restaurant. Jennifer began to get curious as to where the money had come. I lied and said it was leftover from the young couple from the park. She didn’t seem to catch the lie, and forgot all about the money once we’d arrived at the nightclub. The rest of the evening was spent there, we danced, and got completely inebriated. We both had a great time, and at about two o’clock in the morning, we decided to head back to the motel. However, upon arriving the place was surrounded by police and news reporters.
“What’s going on?” Jennifer asked a reporter who was trying to make a deadline.
The man was quite busy, and not in the mood to relate the situation delicately. “There was a massacre inside.” He told her.
“Yeah. Some nut, or nuts, killed and robbed about half the guests. Strangely the other half apparently got robbed too, but their still alive.”
“Do they know who did it?”
“Nope. But whoever it was, they had to be able to move around and do what they did without anybody noticing.”
Jennifer walked away from the officer, and then she looked at me with eyes that implored me to tell her that it hadn’t been me. But we both knew the truth. Which is why she ran from me. She ran as fast as she could, and with only two legs, I couldn’t catch up. Or maybe I could have, I just didn’t know what I could have said. Something seemed to take all the air out of me. Something in her eyes drained me. I called her name but she wouldn’t answer. All she could do was run, and cry. Something strange took place as I watched her run away. I felt something that I never had. I didn’t know the word then, but I know it now. The word was regret.
Justin was at first disorientated, and greatly confused. He had arrived in a dark place, and was not exactly sure of his surroundings. After a moment, he utilized his angelic powers to summon a ball of flame in his hand, so that he might see.
Upon gaining light the angel quickly recoiled from the sight directly before him. It was a monster unlike he had ever seen. The shock created in the angel's system momentarily caused him to lose his control over the ball of flame, and the result of this lapse of concentration sprayed flame burst all around the room.
Justin was completely dazed by the newfound strobe-light effect that had been created by the flames. He was not in thinking mode, more in a mode that called for action. Justin quickly summoned up all of his courage and lunged forward in an effort to strike down the abomination that had sent terror into his heart. He collided with his foe with the force of a freight train, and began a barrage of punches that would have struck down even the fiercest of warriors. The battle went to the ground, as his opponent seemed to roll with the attack, showing no fear. In fact, it did not change its expression.
After a few moments of desperately thrown rights and lefts, Justin realized that the monster was not fighting back. Also, all of its insides had burst from the broken carcass. At first Justin did not know what to make of the scene before him. And then the realization hit him. His deadly opponent was a large stuffed puppet. The angel had plopped down inside of a movie studio, and had just beaten up a life size doll.
“Who’s in there?” Called out a voice from the other side of the only door. Someone had heard the ruckus and was planning to investigate.
As the door opened, Justin opened up his large white wings so that they stretched out to the limit of his wingspan, which was considerable. He stood very still, and hoped that he would not be noticed.
A man wearing a blue security guard uniform opened the door and peered in. His black cap was in his left hand, and it seemed to Justin that it was being used to shield something from view. The man appeared to be in his late fifties. His receding gray hair seemed to be slightly out of place, and there were dark rings under his glazed over eyes. That was the main thing that Justin noticed; the man's glazed eyes.
The security guard looked around the room, and puzzled over the destruction of the doll. Then he looked at the new prop that lay before him. Justin desperately tried to maintain his immobility as the security guard walked around the angel in a circle. The guard was heavily amazed at how realistic the thing that he believed was a mannequin looked. For a moment, the belief that it could have been real leap through the mind of the sixty-six year old man. In all his years guarding the studio lot he had seen modern day miracles of special effects. But what lay before him seemed like too much of a modern day miracle. But then the guard rubbed his chin, laughed, and walked out the door. But before he left, the guard inhaled smoke out of what appeared to be some kind of rolled up paper that was slowly burning. The man's last words were, "Gosh." The old man exclaimed. "What will they come up with next? That thing was sure nizzah."
Justin let out a sigh of relief that exposed just how nervous he was. Perspiration began to drip from his forehead, as the nervous feeling slowly stopped sliding up and down his spine. But he could not allow the feeling of relief to stay. There was a task to be completed.
The angel quickly dressed himself in some of the garb that was in the room. He chose a pair of black jeans, a black T-shirt, black hiking boots, and a black trench coat. He then altered the appearance so that his wings were more hidden. The overall look was that of a twenty-five year old male standing six feet tall, with a slightly built body, bearing blue eyes, and jet-black hair. After checking himself over, Justin decided to venture out on the streets.
He was aware of what to expect, but it still took him by surprise.
"The world of humans, and the world of angels are immensely different." He thought. "In Heaven there are no stores, there is no money, there is no mistrust, and there is no death." But more predominant in Justin's mind was the fact that in Heaven, there is no LA.
The first thing that the angel noticed was scattered people who looked nothing like those he had seen on his previous viewings of Earth. It was dark out, and dawn would not arrive for at least an hour. The people roaming the streets were a mixture of late night partiers, graveyard shift workers, and homeless people who were perusing for some hint of food or money that they could use.
Justin was more than a little taken aback. He had not actually been to Earth since he had been called upon to relay a message to a young woman in France. The girl had been extremely religious, and did not take much convincing as related to what she had to do. Justin respected that kind of devotion. It did not matter that the girl was not well equipped to deal with saving her country, she just took the message, and set out to complete her mission. She was nothing like what Justin encountered on this particular visit.
The late night partiers were a group of people
in their early twenties. They were obviously heavily
intoxicated, and aimlessly searching for a cab. Upon
seeing Justin staring at them, a few began to call out to him in
a manner that Justin was not accustomed to. I think that
the most memorable thing that was said to him by that group was,
"You trying to make us nervous, or are you just looking to
fuck?" The speaker was immediately chastised by the rest for
shouting it out.
Justin's only reply was, "E...excuse me???" This was answered by their laughter. The group walked away, and Justin moved on.
He decided to put the previous event out of his mind. Still, sex was not something that was openly discussed in Heaven. In fact, it wasn't discussed at all. Angels couldn't have it, and the souls had found experiences far better than it was supposed to feel. Still, there was a hint of curiosity in his mind about the subject. But that would have to wait for later. It was at that moment that Justin was able to finally figure out where I was, or at least, in which direction he had to go to find me. As one of the people getting off of work walked by, Justin inquired as to how he could travel the great distance that would need to be overcome in order to find me. The response was not quite what he expected.
"What the fuck do I look like, your tour guide? You want to go East, then go East. Drive, fly, swim for all I fucking care! You fucking Idiot."
Justin was completely flabbergasted by the response to his question. Rudeness was not something that the angel was accustomed to. Still, he put it out of his thoughts, and pondered his problem. It was at that moment that a gigantic bird-like thing flew over head. Justin recognized what it as being a plane from the descriptions of things given to him by angels who had been on Earth more recently than himself. It was at that point that it occurred to him that he needed to find an airport from whence to charter a flight. He did not have any money with him though. All he had was a sack full of gold coins.
"Coachman!" The angel yelled at a passing cab. The cab driver saw a Justin waving his arms and pulled over. "Will a few of these coins pay my way to the nearest airplane port?" Justin asked. The driver looked at the shiny gold coins, saw that the printing on them was Spanish, and the year inscribed, and immediately got out of the cab to open the door for his new fare.
The people at the airport were more than glad to assist Justin in his journey as well. The person who had sold him his ticket had also used the distance that he had given her in order to calculate the city that he would have to go to.
"We will give you first class accommodations on the plane that is about to leave." The manager of the airline had declared. Justin did not notice the fact that another man was being ushered off the plane at the same time that the flight attendants showed him his seat. The manager would later apologize to the man that had been thrown off the plane. Of course, at the time the airline had made up some story about the man's carry-on bag looking suspicious. But Justin knew nothing about all of this. All the angel knew was that he was given a seat on a plane to Boston for only a few coins, and that pleased the angel immensely. They did not seem to mind the fact that the coins were extremely old either.
Justin was beginning to get used to the experience of Earth. It had had an unexpectedly rough start, but things were going well. All he had to do was find me, and kill me. And that was a task that he was more than happy to carry out.
If the souls had mouths, they would have been screaming. The spells used by Hell's minions to bind themselves to the souls were nothing like the one that I had used on Jennifer. The spells they used were crude, and ultimately painful to the souls. This was because they were done in haste. And after all, who in Hell cared about the souls? As time passed, armies began to line up outside of Hell's Kitchen. The choice plates on the menu were humans, and the souls that inhabited the shells that were called bodies.
You would think that after all the times that Earth's existence was denied by the powers that be, that the news that a war would be fought there would seem somewhat shocking. But Hell teaches its inhabitants to do as they are told, and believe what they are told. At first some theorized that maybe Earth had only recently been created, or only recently been found. Others realized that it had always been there, but they kept their mouths shut. Hell offered no explanation, and it deemed that none should be given. Its inhabitants had their orders, and they would follow those orders, or pay more dearly than could ever fully be explained with words.
Marcus watched on from the window of his office as he gave orders to his generals. He himself was to lead the first wave of the assault. Marcus saw the opening of the invasion to be in the most need of care. He knew that any of the other generals could probably have carried out the task, but Marcus had to be sure. He did not want anything going foul. If anything did go wrong, none would be overlooked when it came time for punishing.
"The troops shall be funneled continuously to the landing site. I shall establish a base of operations, and shall begin advancing our forces. As each new division arrives, they shall aid in this action, going either to my left, or right flank as needed. Although we will be taking the humans entirely by surprise, we have no idea of what kind of resistance to expect from them. Our presence will probably shock them at first, but eventually they shall recover. Our first priority will be to obtain a general idea of their strength, and whatever information on the land that we can. Few prisoners will be taken, but they will be utilized as much as possible, in the beginning."
"Doesn't the master have contact with people on Earth?"
"Yes, and they shall begin disrupting things behind the lines as soon as the attack starts. This has already been said."
"Why doesn't the master just ask them to tell us all of these things before we leave? Wouldn't that be a bit more...convenient?"
"If the master wants to do so, then he will. Unless he decides to, then we go with this plan."
"Silence!" The entire crowd hushed. "The master wishes to test us. Heaven changes its geography all the time, so we will not know what to expect. He wants us to be prepared for this by utilizing the same strategy on Earth. It will be up to us to prove him right. As you know, the master is never wrong. So if it looks like he is, then we've made a mistake. Is that understood?"
"Yes, sir!!!" The crowd replied.
"Very well then. I shall take my leave. I trust that none of you will fail me." Marcus said with a less than subtle tone.
"Yes, sir!!!" The room chimed again.
And with those words, Marcus left the
room, and entered an empty office a few doors down the
hallway. It was a small office, possessing only what was
necessary for the clerical work that took place behind its
door. Marcus looked around the room and smiled at the
thoughts that the room aroused in his mind.
“All these files, and all of these facts will soon be made obsolete. Hell was created to be a place of torment by my former master. That task was then embraced by my current master. He foolishly believes that it is a defiance to the one who rules Heaven, when in fact, it is a service. It is what the fallen angels were meant to do. At first it was a task of repentance, only the master took it further than that. That is the reason why we are still here. This prison is escapable, if we are forgiven. But we cannot be forgiven, for we do not seek forgiveness. We still seek the goal that brought us here in the first place. I do not blame the master for our long imprisonment though. I myself still seek the same goal, as do all those who fought in The Great War. We seek the power that is held by He who made us. We care not for His love that in fact is eternal. This place was to be our school, but we never learned the lesson that it was intended to embroider in us. We choose not to acknowledge it as a lesson, but as an act of unfair cruelty. The master chooses not to even acknowledge this possibility."
"He has never given up the idea that the Maker’s power couldn’t destroy him at any moment that the Maker wishes. What can be made, can be unmade, in an instant. I have pondered these things though. I know the truth. The Maker will stay out of this battle. He will let his creations do as they will. He will disperse His power to them as much as they believe in the ideas that He has instilled in them. Their wills are their own. Their choices are their own. His power, and His protection will go to those who serve those ideas. Even if we defeat Heaven’s armies, and rule all that is in creation, He will still be there. He will push those that exist to see the truth. Then, one by one, the battle lines shall be drawn again, and again, until the lesson is learned, and order returns to the universe. What has always bothered me is that I know this, and yet I still oppose His power."
"I know the final outcome, and yet Hell seems more enticing than Heaven. Maybe my time here has driven me mad. Maybe all of us are mad. But maybe, just maybe, that glimpse of power that could be mine is what drives me. Maybe, we all got tired of being the servant, and began dreaming of being the master. Our vanity robbed us of paradise, and Hell has robbed us of our hope. For what better thing can any of us in Hell ever possess, than the forgiveness of the Maker? But we fear that the time of forgiveness is past us, and we have no hope for it. So we fight, and we strive to regain our former home, Heaven.
The master believes that we fight our former Lord for the power that He possesses. In the beginning, that may have been true. But now, I believe that dream is a thing of the past. I believe the master’s attacks on the Maker springs not from jealousy, but from anguish. I believe we fight to take Heaven for something other than power. Our misguided ways have nothing to do with the universe. It’s just the only way we think that we can be near Him again. Our hatred and our rage has become our masks. Our violence and defiance has become our shelter from the truth. I dare not share these thoughts with anyone, but I do believe that they have all thought this, at least unconsciously. Perhaps someday, after we’ve taken Heaven, and the Maker seeks to push some of us His way, He’ll choose me. Perhaps He’ll give me a chance at redemption. Perhaps…”
It’s still a difficult concept for me to understand fully. Right, and wrong had never been a part of my dealings in Hell. All there was to contemplate was what had to be done to please the master. Things that were not done were things that brought disfavor by the higher-ups. This list of things usually changed based upon the will of the master, and were never explained. It was far different than the world of the humans.
On Earth, as in Hell, there were laws and consequences for breaking these laws. But on Earth there was also an explanation as to why these laws were in effect. There was a reason behind the code which most of the people lived by. I’m sure each individual had their own ideas as to why they obeyed this code.
Personally, after seeing the look in Jennifer’s eyes as she came to grips with what I had done… it was painful. I never wanted to feel that way again. I had found the consequence for my actions.
It was Jennifer's look of betrayal, and the disgust. She knew what I had done, and was revolted by my actions. Her eyes portrayed all of this with an impact that bore a great likeness to being crushed between two colliding vehicles.
While I still did not fully understand the value of a complete stranger’s life, it was enough for the time being that the loss of life pained her. And that convinced me that I would never do such a thing again, unless I was certain that she would not find out about it.
As if by some act of fate, or chance, just
before dawn I happened upon a little girl. The girl was
sitting on a set of steps, just outside a small apartment
building. The girl had curly blonde hair, and blue
eyes. She wore a blue dress, and black slip-on shoes that
almost seemed like ballet slippers, were it not for the slightly
larger heels, and the strap which kept the foot from sliding out
accidentally. The girl sat there, on the steps, looking
down at the pavement. I could tell that she was sad, her
eyes were producing the liquid that people call tears. Her
hands occasionally reached up to wipe away the liquid, but it
would not stop flowing.
In my readings of human literature I discovered the cause of such a display. It was pain. Something was causing that young girl great pain, and for some reason, I felt beckoned by her tears. Jennifer’s past must have come into play in my mind. It felt out of place for a child to be anything less than content. Her tears seemed to be beckoning me to make the pain stop. But I did not know how. I did not know what to do. I thought about using the bliss spell, but that is only a temporary relief. Once the spell had worn off the girl would revert to her pained state, and I knew it. The only thing that I could think of was to find out what her tears were being shed for, and hope that the problem would not delay me too long in my search for Jennifer.
“Why are you crying?” I asked, as I approached her. The girl was startled at the sound of my voice. It was as though she had forgotten about the world around her, as her mind coped with whatever it was that was tearing her apart.
“Wh…who are you? What do you want?” She quickly stood up, and backed away a bit as the words formed in her mouth.
“My name is Rianoc. What’s yours?” She paused to wipe away the tears before replying. Her crying had temporarily been stopped by the surprise in my being there.
“I’m not supposed to talk to strangers.” She said, as she reached the top of the stairs.
“That’s a smart rule to go by. But you know my name now, so I’m not as much of a stranger.”
“That’s what bad guys say in movies right before they try to hurt a kid.”
“Well, I’m not going to hurt you. I won’t get any closer than this.” I said as I sat at the bottom of the stairs. My body was slightly turned sideways so that I could still see her. “So why were you crying?” She seemed reluctant to respond. She still felt uncomfortable, but seemed sure that she could run inside before I could even get to my feet.
“I’m crying because I’m sad.”
“Why are you sad?” I asked. The question
seemed to force her eyes to look down at the ground again, as
she leaned her back against the front door of the
building. I did not know what to do at that point.
She did not seem willing to talk, and I could not force her to
do so. Luckily, she broke the silence.
“Something bad happened.”
“What was it? Maybe I can help?”
“Why would you want to help me? You don’t even know me.”
“I don’t like to see unhappy children.”
“There are lots of unhappy kids. Why me?”
“You’re the only one I see right now. So what needs to be fixed in order to make you happy?”
“You can’t fix it.”
“How do you know? I can do a lot of things.”
“Can you make my mommy not be dead? I don’t think that you can! Nobody can.”
I had no idea what to say next. Her statement came from a feeling that I had never known. I knew that a mother was the biological carrier of human offspring, but the attachment felt by the child was unknown to me. I had been saddened by the loss of Retlif, and Enohp, but that passed within mere moments. My reaction to their deaths was far less severe than this girl’s reaction to her mother's passing, and it was unlike anything that I had ever encountered. I had to know why this attachment existed. I thought that maybe it might help me better understand more, people, and their world.
"Why does it affect you so much?"
"What... do you mean?" She replied, as the tears came back.
"I don't understand why the loss causes you so much pain."
"Well... I loved her, and now... she's gone."
"Haven't you ever loved anyone?"
"No. I don't think I have."
"What about your mommy and daddy? Didn't you love them?"
"I never had parents."
"Oh... Were you an orphan?"
"Yes… I guess so."
"Well, if you love someone, then it hurts when they leave."
"I don't know. It's just... something inside of you." I began to think about the concept that the child was trying to explain when someone from inside called for her. "That's my dad. I gotta' go now."
"No wait. You're still sad."
"Isn't there anything you can do to stop feeling that way?"
"No. At least not right now. Bye, mister Rianoc." And with that, the girl entered the building, and the door closed behind her.
I could not help but feel useless at that moment. There had always been an answer to every problem. I could always find some way to deal with a task, but her emotions were too foreign. I did not understand them, and hence could not manipulate them. She had given me a whole new set of questions that would have to be solved before I was to understand life. My mind was unsettled by this fact, but I still had to find Jennifer. I thought then perhaps she could explain it to me.
“So you really learned Spanish on your own, eh?”
“Yes. I know every language.”
“Yeah, sure you do.” The cab driver said with a snicker. The driver was a forty year old man who was born and raised in the local town of Roslindale. He had been a cab driver for twenty years, and had met all manners of people through his job. However, Justin was not his usual fair. To the driver, Justin seemed insane. Justin was beginning to realize this, and he did not like it.
“I’m quite serious.”
“Whatever you say, pal. You’re the one paying the fare.”
In an effort to quell the man’s disbelief Justin began speaking in German, and then Russian, French, and Greek. He would have gone through every language, if the driver had not become so freaked out by Justin’s ability that the cab blew through a red light, and only narrowly escaped being side-swiped by an eighteen wheeled truck.
Once they had gotten away from the bulldozers the cab driver was given exact directions as they went. The driver didn't mind the fact that there was no specific point to which they were headed to. He seemed content to tightly hold onto the gold coins in his possession, and went out of his way not to offend his fare, as the hint of being tipped beyond what had been received was given by the angel. The coins had been paid at the beginning of the trip, and Justin had been assured that the driver’s services could be used to go anywhere in Boston, and New England. (Probably anywhere on the East coast as well.)
The city streets were full of people going in every direction. While Boston was not quite as big as LA, it was still a sight considering the fact that LA had been mostly asleep at the time of Justin's arrival. However, Boston was wide awake.
The first thing that the angel noticed was that there seemed to be split groups. There was no communal feeling for the city as a whole. Justin had seen it on his previous trips to Earth. However, it seemed to be even more so than before.
There were fairly large sections that were mostly populated by young adults. These people seemed to congregate around institutions that the cab driver had referred to as colleges, and Universities. Those areas seemed to be more diverse. The people also seemed uncertain what their appearance should be. They seemed to be from vastly diverse cultures, and yet they were put in such surroundings that it would be almost impossible for the varying cultures not to meet in some form, and this setting seemed to confuse them.
There were those who chose a wide variety of clothing. Some appeared to have driven metal trinkets through various parts of their anatomy. There were scattered individuals with strange haircuts, and hair color unlike Justin had ever seen on any human's head before. There were numerous individuals who bore their institution’s name on their apparel, and even more who seemed to shun such a display of alliance with said institution. The different sub-cultures seemed to be made up in such a way that one would think that there would be constant fighting among the different factions. Yet, the people paid no heed the individuals that they passed on the street. It was as if the other pedestrians did not exist to the individual walking down the street. The society seemed to be based upon allowing everything, but ignoring everything as well. It was unlike anything the angel had ever encountered.
He could not help but wonder what the world would be like in the hands of the youths that seemed so confused. And as he wondered, he became glad that he could watch the world develop from Heaven if he wanted, and not live in the uncertain domain of humans. The prospects for their future seemed great, and frightening at the same time. Of course, only his Maker knew what would transpire, and that was the way it had always been. Still, there was a sense of curiosity building inside the angel. He only hoped that he could stop the impending doom that was becoming more and more imminent.
It was in the area of one of these institutions that Justin felt the presence of a demon. He asked the driver to pull the cab over to the side of the road. It was in that general area that I resided, and the angel felt that he would need to move swiftly to catch me. Of course I had no idea at the time that I was being followed. I had never encountered a Heavenly being before, at least I had not believed I had. The energy sent out by a fallen angel was different than that of a Heavenly angel. And in a city with so much energy abound, I was completely blind to his presence. Luckily for me, he did not know this.
Justin believed that I was on to his every move, and traveled cautiously so as not to panic me into harming those around me. Justin had planned to wait until night, when the streets were clear, and no innocents could be harmed. He would find me, and follow close behind. If the opportunity arose, then he would strike, but our battle did not come until nightfall. It did not come until after I had spoken to Jennifer.
At first, I knew not what to say, or what to do. To experience this kind of mental blockage twice in a twice in a millennia would have been an astonishing number for one such as myself. However, in the span of mere hours, the number of confusions plaguing me were mounting. I wondered if I had been around humans too much. I wondered if their weaknesses were starting to affect me in some way, or if the journey to Earth had fried my brain. I wondered if I'd ever know the piece I had once known in Hell.
The thought passed as Jennifer looked in my direction, and saw me standing there, watching her. For a time we both stayed still. We both seemed to be in a trance, as we watched each other. Then, she rose to her feet, and began to walk away. I immediately felt the urge to follow after her, and did so without hesitation. She saw me give chase, and began running through the mobile crowds which seemed as though they were part of an obstacle course. I sped up as well, pushing my way past the hordes of people. The pursuit came to the point of both of us sprinting down the street in a mad dash. However, I was faster and had more endurance than her frail body allowed her. And as she sat down on a grassy knoll, in between classroom buildings, she began to cry, and to speak to some unseen entity.
“Why? Why did all of this have to happen." She said softly. Her voice was quivering, and tears were beginning to form in her eyes. "I didn’t mean for any of this to happen. I was a good person…I thought I was a good person. And then you took them all away from me!" It was at this point that her voice slowly rose to the point of yelling. "Why? You took everything away from me… WHAT DID YOU EXPECT ME TO DO????”
She paused for a moment, and as she did I noticed that we were attracting a crowd of curious bystanders. I told them to leave us be in a stern voice. They took the hint, and I was able to turn back my attention to the frantic young woman who I had come to think of as… well, as a friend…in a way. It was at that moment that she regained some sense of self, and began to talk to me, instead of the sky.
“Why did you have to free me?” She asked in a lower, and seemingly more calm fashion. I was dumb struck by her question.
“Were you enjoying your time in Hell? Would
you feel more comfortable there?” I said in an annoyed
tone. This caused more tears to shower down her cheeks.
“I didn’t want those people to die…They shouldn’t have died. But it’s all my fault…”
“How was it your fault? I’m the one who did it. I did it all.”
“But I brought you here. If I hadn’t agreed…”
“Then I’d have gotten someone else to do it. Besides, any chance to get out of Hell is one that you should take. Unless you enjoy being tormented.”
“But when I die again…I’ll wind up back there…in Hell. And maybe this time I’ll never have a chance to get out!” There were no words that I could have been spoken to ease this fact. She was probably right, and that was a subject I had never contemplated, her eventual death. She had become mortal again, and could die just as easily as the people that I’d killed in the motel. She felt responsible for all that I had done. She felt that this would damn her forever.
"How does one avoid going to Hell?" I asked.
"Well... I guess you have to be good.”
“What is, good?” My question seemed to confuse her. It was as though nobody had ever taken the time to ask it.
“I don't know. Good is what's right. Good is doing something for someone else and not expecting something in return. Good is... good is a lot of things. I don't know. I know what my mother would have said. When I was a kid, my mother would always take me to church. She was a devoted catholic, and so every Sunday we'd pile into the pews, and the priest would get up to the podium. He'd read from the Bible, and tell some kind of story, or message telling us what God wanted… What’s wrong? You look like you’ve just seen a ghost.”
“It’s just that I’ve never heard anyone speak of Him like that.”
“Like it was okay to discuss Him.”
“He is the enemy.”
“Why is He your enemy?”
“Because it was made so by my master.”
“You don’t have a master anymore. You stood up to him, and to Hell. Now you’re free.”
“Free?” This last question brought forth a heavy sigh from her lips. We spoke for many hours. She tried to clarify the words that I had absorbed from the library. She tried to teach me things that I had no idea about.
My questions seemed to bother her. It was as if I was already supposed to know the answers, yet I didn’t. I did not know what to consider right and wrong. I did not know the difference between good and evil. Morality was something that was never instilled in me. The concept confused me. There I was, a demon on Earth. I could do anything, take anything, and be anything. But as Jennifer continued to talk with me about the matters of life, all I could do was ponder the way humans thought.
They had set up rules that bewildered me, and based them on the words of an unseen entity who supposedly loves them unwaveringly. Yet, if they did not do as this entity wished, if they did not follow the rules, He would send them to a place like Hell, to be tortured by beings such as myself. Their notions seemed…flawed. Flawed to the point of stupidity. Yet, there was a Heaven. And its Master did create all that exists. He did send angels to keep watch, and guard over humans. It all seemed so complicated. But that set of thoughts was going to have to wait for further consideration. Because it was during my conversation with Jennifer that another individual interjected himself into my affairs. He was an angel, and he was carrying a very big sword.
These were the first words out of Justin’s mouth. And with these words, the angel lunged forward in haste to destroy me. Needless to say, I was somewhat offended by his actions, not to mention his words. Whatever happened to getting to know someone before you dismembered them? Whatever happened to the courteousness of confrontation, wherein each opponent is given the proper respect imbued upon any warrior? I was a warrior, and that upstart of an angel chose to treat me like a fifth-rate cockroach who needed squashing. He was not going to get away with that.
As the angel lunged forward, my instincts took a hold of my body, and guided my actions. I sidestepped to the left of the lunge, grabbed the angel’s arms, and swung him around so as to fling him over my head, and into the concrete building behind me. The impact not only left a large indentation in the wall, but it also caused the angel to drop his sword, which I immediately tried to pick up. For my actions I was given an indescribable amount of pain, which was sent though every part of my body by an energy that seemed to be emanating from the sword.
“Ha.” Justin called out defiantly. “You think you can claim that which is Heaven’s? That sword is protected from the likes of you by He who is the creator of all things.”
“That same guy protect you too?”
“Well He ain’t doing that good of a job!”
The angel balked at my words, and yet again lunged towards me. I had to think quickly, for he was definitely stronger than me. I waited until the last possible moment, and then as he swung for my head with his fist, I dodged the punch, grabbed his arm in mid swing, and again I hurled him over my head. This time he slammed into a building which lay twenty feet from where I stood. His back hit the corner of the wall, and the impact caused blood to begin to spew from his mouth, and nose. “Why do you attack me?” I asked.
“You are a demon, I am an angel. It’s what usually happens when our kind meet.”
“I am no longer associated with Hell. I fled so that I might discover the nature of life.”
“It matters not. Your presence on Earth has caused much distress, on all plains of existence.”
“Hell was never meant to be escaped from. The portal that you opened is still there, and Hell is planning to use it to invade this world.”
“Then close it.”
“I intend to. But to do so, I need to destroy one or both of you.”
“I can’t let you do that.”
“You have no choice in the matter.”
“I seem to have more choices in the matter than you. I have to decide how I’m going to cook your carcass after I cut off your head.”
It was at this point that Jennifer made her presence in the matter known. She had been standing in the background, so as not to get injured. But as the angel got to his feet, Jennifer crept up behind him. And as he turned towards the sound of her footsteps, she kicked him in the groin so hard that every male of every species would have had sympathy pains at the sight of it. However, angels were not made to procreate. They did not have the elements needed for that purpose. So her kick did not have the desired affect. In fact, it enabled Justin to get close enough to grab her. His intentions were obvious, and so my actions had to be swift, which they were. Before the angel could reach out and snap the girl’s neck, I ran up from behind him, and snapped his. It did not kill him, and he would heal very quickly, but it did give Jennifer and I time to escape. And as we ran down Huntington Avenue, we could hear the vengeful cries of the angel, and we both felt afraid.
But all thoughts of Justin quickly faded. All thoughts of the future were shattered. They were shattered by the sound of a very loud explosion. And as Jennifer and I looked towards the cloud of smoke that was rising high into the air, we saw the legions of Hell's armies pour forth into the skies, and a sense of terror set in.
There was no judge to see to the proper displacement of the souls. There was no prayer offered over the bodies of the rotting corpses which littered the streets of Boston. All that could be heard were the bone chilling screams of the victims, and the blood churning howls of the killers. I was not there to witness this in person though. Jennifer and myself had fled the city, and even the region of the United States known as New England. We saw no point in suicide.
Meanwhile, Marcus was taking pride in the success of the first wave of the invasion. They had taken control of the park where Jennifer and I had landed. They had moved on from that point, and almost had the entire city of Boston under control before any real military force had been deployed. Maps had been obtained, and anarchy ruled the streets where Hell did not. The plan was going exactly as anticipated. And as Hell’s armies stretched out over the Earthly plain, Hell’s power grew.
There was one glitch in the operation though. The human’s fighting machines proved to be stronger than anticipated. Apparently, the rest of Hell had been under the same assumption as I had been about the humans, and their technology. It seemed silly that the master had not informed his troops about that kind of thing, but he was apparently confident that the job would still be carried out. Besides, he secretly enjoyed seeing even his own followers suffer.
Marcus stood in his headquarters and watched
as the reports came in from the front. It was a mobile
headquarters that had been requisitioned on Earth. The
vehicle was a large eighteen wheel truck that had been left
behind by its original owner. James had ordered it to be
relieved of its cargo of stuffed animals and turned into a
communications center where all information on the battle could
be funneled with ease. The technology of the humans had
been taken advantage of by Hell’s armies, and used to escalate
the fighting beyond what Hell could do with its bare
hands. In time, James hoped to take advantage of the
nuclear arsenal that was simply lying around for the
taking. But the small matter of the launch codes necessary
to fire the powerful weapons of destruction still evaded even
the best computer programmers from Hell. They could not
get past the seemingly insurmountable obstacle of "DOS", and the
frustrating nature of "Windows '95.’"
“General Marcus, sir!”
Marcus looked to see who had called upon him, and found that it was one of his many scouts that were roaming ahead of the massed forces at his disposal. The scout was a demon in the form of a giant millipede, and it was greatly out of breath from its apparent long run.
“What is it, corporal?” Marcus had been in a good mood upon the first landing. His mood had changed somewhat since the arrival of the human military, but the confidence that had taken him to his position in Hell’s army was still quite evident.
“The humans are mounting an counter-attack to the west. Apparently there are a whole bunch of religious fanatics with small arms who decided to join the fight. There are thousands of them sir, and they seem to be following people carrying that Bible thing that we’ve heard in the ramblings of prisoners.”
“How soon until they reach the front?”
“About an hour or so. But sir, their still massing troops as they go. It’s like…”
“Calm yourself, corporal. It is only their pathetic faith which drives them to be here. That, and the reports on those damned TV stations. Get some more rations, and then head out into the field again. I still need more information.”
“Yes, sir!” And with that, the scout went about carrying out his orders.
“Sir,” James piped up. “This might mean that we’ve got a whole lot more fighting to do than we thought. I mean, we didn’t know their capabilities before arriving, and even after their first attempts to stop us, we still keep on advancing. But…”
“But what? Say what you have to say, damn it!”
“What if we can’t take this continent before Heaven has a chance to join the battle?”
“It matters not how much land we take before Heaven arrives. It only matters how many souls we collect. It is the souls that feed us, and make us strong. Besides, with the arrival of the Albert’s forces, I have also requested that the anti-life virus be brought forth. It will be let out into the atmosphere, and spread across the globe in a matter of hours. It will not affect the living, but the freshly dead will rise, and aid our cause.”
“Sir, is that wise? Won’t those things attack us as well?”
“Yes, but they will also keep the rest of the world occupied. Meanwhile, we have been disposing of the bodies on our side of the lines with fire. The humans won't know to do that. Nowhere in all of their wildest imaginations could they conceive of the dead coming back to life. They've probably never even heard the word zombie."
"Uh, sir?" The James said timidly.
"What about this?" Charles leaned over and picked up a video cassette that had wound up in on the ground. The cover showed decomposed corpses chasing a half-naked woman. Above the picture the words, "When Zombies Attack," was spelled out in big letters.
"You never saw this."
“This isn’t how it was supposed to happen. I was not supposed to fail, but I did, and miserably at that. How could I have been so rash, and brazen? How could I have underestimated an opponent to the point where he makes a complete fool out of me? I could have beaten him so easily if I’d… No! I won’t allow myself to think this way. There is still much that must be done. I can still stop this from spreading to the rest of the world. Maybe I can still redeem myself by destroying my enemy, and returning peace to this globe. Maybe I can…”
“Things have changed Justin.”
“Huh? Who is in my thoughts?”
“Don't you recognize the voice of an old friend?”
“Michael? But why have you contacted me? Am… am I being relieved of my duties.”
“No. But your mission has changed.”
“In what way?”
“You are to only see to it that the demon is destroyed. The girl is to be unharmed.”
“But won’t the gate be shut if she is destroyed as well?”
“Yes, but it has been deemed that she has returned to the state of being human permanently. She has been given a clean slate.”
“Why? Didn’t she deserve to go to Hell?”
“She had no real choice in her escape. And since her escape, she has attempted to teach the demon about the ways of right and wrong. Should she be damned for such an act?”
“Then do what you must to destroy the
demon. He is still a viable target in the eyes of our
Lord. The demon must be destroyed if we are to close that
“What of Heaven’s armies? Will they come to the aid of the humans?”
“We shall, in time.”
“They don’t have much time left.”
“They have less time than you know, my young friend. Lucifer has decided to utilize a virus that will raise the recently deceased. Hell knows that its time of unimpeded advance is not going to last. They wish to take enough souls back to Hell so that they might be able to create an army large enough to do battle with Heaven. This must not be allowed.”
“I will stop him…”
“You must accomplish your mission, and destroy the demon. Only then will this madness end. Once the portal is closed, all that passed through it will be sucked back to the depths from whence they came. Is that understood?”
“Very well then. I shall give you the specific details of what is to happen once you are on your way. And Justin,"
And with that, the mental conversation was ended. Justin quickly took to mentally finding my whereabouts, and saw that he would have to fight his way through enemy lines in order to reach me. This was something that he was more than glad to do. It allowed him to take out his frustration on the unsuspecting demons who were becoming far too used to dealing with frightened opponents.
The angel unleashed his sword, unveiled his wings, and flew straight through the middle of the enemy lines, decapitating demons as he went along his way. His faith in himself had been restored. His mission had been redirected, and he was determined not to fail again. But as he looked down at the people who were being slaughtered like so many cattle, hope became a thing that seemed slightly out of place. Hope seemed to be dying.
For a brief time it seemed as though the battle lines were beginning to stabilize as the troops began mass up on both sides. The naval forces were of incalculable usefulness with their offshore bombardments, and their ability to launch airstrikes from so close a proximity to the battlefield.
It was not until the demons began swimming out to the mighty warships, and the angels began battling the planes, that the US military seemed to falter. Within less than a day, New York City had been seized, and the hopes for an end to the savage butchery seemed to have been dashed upon the ground that had once been called home.
There seemed to be no stopping the flow of troops being sent to the front by the demonic brood of soldiers that were filling up the land. Allies of the US were not ready to lend the assistance that would be needed, as their troops were not mobilized for such an action. There was also the matter of the dead coming back to life, and spreading a seemingly cannibalistic disease that was raging across the globe.
The entire day had been spent in utter chaos in every country on Earth. First, there was the news of the demons in Boston, which nobody had believed at first. But as the day progressed, the reality of an attack being made by an unknown force became apparent. Great Britain, and a large number of UN countries agreed that something had to be done. That was when the dead began to rise, and each nation had to begin worrying about their own survival. None were spared, except for Switzerland, that is. Strange, but they seemed to be immune to the ravages of the damned. It was as if there was something in the area that was not to be harmed. As if, there was something invested in the place.
The world seemed to be crumbling in a heap of pain, blood, and tears. Religious leaders began telling their believers to pray for their souls, for the end was coming. Massive numbers of people began to commit suicide across the globe. They feared the demons worse than their own death. But in death, their bodies became something that served the demons.
The only people who seemed to be stubborn enough to try and hold on to the old world order were the journalists. They still wrote, photographed, and interviewed everything that they could find relating to what was going on. Even as massive quarantines were taking place around the globe, the journalists kept on reporting. Amazingly, there were magazines that had been called sensationalistic in the past, yet became revered as prophetic writings. People scoured the libraries, the news stands, and even the trash for these magazines in order to gain some kind of inclination of what was going on.
Nobody could really believe what was happening right before their eyes. There seemed to be no hope, and then, there was. The rate of the enemy advance slowed down. Then, the demons seemed to be turning back. The people had found what it needed to regain its moral, and get back in the fight. They found hope. They saw a light, and out of that light, angels appeared. But not the angels that had been seen before. These angels were not there to destroy humans, but to help them. Heaven’s armies had joined the battle, and the war had truly begun.
But the battle was far from over. Hell’s
armies were still arriving at a massive scale. Heaven’s
legions could not arrive quite as quickly, for the rift created
by the portal was still disrupting the powers of the
angels. Some of the people who watched the raging battle
cried out, “Why doesn’t God just save us with his omnipotence?”
This question was never answered by any of Heaven’s
angels. It was simply left to the humans to figure out for
themselves. Some kept faith, some lost faith. Some
prayed for the fate of the world, and still others chose to die
rather than to know the world’s fate. It was a strange,
and bloody scene which stretched all over the place that I had
come to know, and had even begun to care about. It was a
bloody affair. And for once, that fact disturbed me.
I remember that feeling of being disturbed as I watched the world fight for its life on the constant news broadcasts from the front. I remember feeling what can only be described as a knot being tied up in my stomach. Jennifer did her best to try and keep me occupied, and not in front of the television. Once the angels had arrived she seemed to just want to forget about what was happening, and about what Justin had said. I don’t quite know why I didn’t want to forget. But there was something telling me not to. There was something telling me that I was feeling…bad…about what was going on.
At first he was afraid of us, and what we might do. The knife that was held to his throat made sure that our directions were followed without question. Then the reports of the invasion started to be broadcast over the radio waves, and he apologized for not believing us. I took his apology as being sincere, and removed the knife. I then instructed him to land the plane in New York City. Jennifer and myself intended to get passage on a larger plane that was capable of further and faster flight. He didn’t wait long after we were gone to take off again. He had heard enough to know that the East was not safe.
We took a plane that was bound for New Mexico, and planned to hide there until Hell was stopped, or until it became obvious that they could not be stopped. Either way, we had no intentions of getting involved. Our goal was to stay alive, and enjoy what time there was left. Needless to say, we did not leave our hotel room for the duration of our stay.
But as the reports continued on the crisis in the East, we could not help but find ourselves discussing the matter, or at least, I couldn’t. Jennifer did not want to talk about it. She seemed to want to block it out of her head, as if nothing was happening. But it was happening, and her denial of that fact made me curious as to why she would do such a thing.
“Wasn’t it you that told me about the sacredness of life, and how it was wrong to kill?”
“We’re not killing anybody. We’re just avoiding death. There’s nothing wrong with that.”
“But I thought you’d be begging me to try and stop it.”
“What do you think you could do? You’re just one demon, and there are so many of them...
“I know that. But I’d be more equipped to take on a demon than some human with a gun.”
“What are you saying? Do you want to go fight? Is that it?”
“No, I don’t. But I find it odd that you felt responsible for the people that I killed, and not the people that are dying now.”
“I didn’t invite Hell up here, okay! I didn’t tell Heaven and Hell to fight each other on Earth! Why are you doing this?” At this point she was shouting, and I could tell that I had disturbed her. Something I said had set off a nerve, and she was reacting in kind.
“What is it that I’m doing?” I asked. I honestly had not idea why she was acting the way she was.
“You’re trying to make me feel guilty so that you don’t have to as much!”
“Don’t you know what guilt is?”
"Yes, I do. I just never personally felt it before. What does it feel like?"
She began swearing and mumbling expressions that seemed to say that I was an idiot. “Feeling guilty is feeling that you are responsible for something bad that happens, and feeling bad about that fact.”
“Why would I feel…?”
“Yes. Why would I feel guilty?”
“I don’t know. Maybe you’re learning something about people, and it’s rubbing off on you.”
“So why do you keep bringing it up? How come you can’t let go of what Justin said?”
“I…I don’t know. It’s like this whole thing has caused a rope to be wrapped around my essence, and it’s trying to pull me back to the battlefield.”
“So that you can fight the bad guys?”
“No…yes…I don’t know.”
“If you go, you’ll die.”
“If I don’t go then others will die in my place.”
“Since when does that matter to you?”
“I’m not sure.”
“You’re not sure? You want to leave me here while you go off to die, and you’re not sure as to why you feel you have to do it? Come on. Admit that you feel guilty. Then you can get over it, and we can have fun.”
“We won’t be having any fun if Hell wins.”
“They won’t. God wouldn’t let that happen.”
“How do you know?”
“I…I just do.”
“Well…” It was at that point that I looked back at the television screen. And as I did, an image was being broadcast. It was an image that… hurt. The picture was coming from an aerial point of view. The reporters had been told by the military to stay away from the action, but the reporters had been stubborn. They had decided to show the world the unfiltered, and hideous truth. And that is the only way that I can describe the image that I saw, hideous. It was a picture of a familiar face, or at least, half of that face. The other half had been clawed off by…something. The face belonged to the little girl that I had met on the staircase in Boston. Her eye was filled with terror, and it was wide open for all the world to see.
“Stay here in New Mexico.” I said.
“What? Where are you going?”
“I’m going to fight.”
“Because I am responsible for all of this, and I have to fix it.”
“You can’t stop them all!”
“Then I’ll see you in Hell.”
The landing had gone exactly as planned.
The enemy had no clue about what was happening until several
hundred demons had begun to pour out of the park that had been
the birthplace for the invasion. The citizens had fled in
panic, or at least they had tried to. The resistance put
up by the humans had been minimal for half of the first
day. The other day and a half had created somewhat of a
challenge, but nothing that even remotely gave off the
impression that the tide would turn.
Marcus was smiling widely as the enemy body count rose. He was in such a happy mood that when a soldier brought him a stack of tourist maps from a local store, James gave the soldier a promotion, and then sent that soldier to the very front of the lines. It was a proud day for Hell.
Marcus looked back at the past two days, and he could not help but pat himself on his wings. “We’ve done it!” He thought. “We have sent this world into disarray, and now all we have to do is shovel up the pieces and throw them into the pile of dung where they have always belonged. There were some brief moments of uneasiness on the second day, when Heaven began to send its own troops into battle. But they’re not arriving fast enough. It’s as if they are so afraid of my glorious troops that they're merely sending out a paltry few so as to keep the humans' spirits up.
I know that they are waiting for the true battle that shall take place in Heaven. They know that they can’t beat us here, so they’re mobilizing all of their forces to make a proper defense. But it shall not matter. Even if that is the case, the master may simply decide to hold our ground for a while. Maybe he’ll want us to make a Hell on Earth by keeping a small percentage of the people alive. That way we could throw their torment directly into the face of the enemy. They can watch all that they want. They can wait for as long as they like. We shall still triumph!”
“Sir.” The voice came from the millipede scout who had brought forth the news about the civilian counter-offensive. “Sir, the enemy seems to be retreating his front back to a set of steep rocky heights. General John believes that they’re using that long street, I think they call it a highway, to expedite their departure. General John believes that they will make that long street impassable, and try to force us to climb those rocky heights.”
“So? Tell him I want an attack made on that rock formation.”
“Well, sir. He also wanted me to relay to you his belief that such an attack would be extremely costly. He suggested that we move around to the right, and try to flank them.”
“I will not run in the face of the enemy. He’s up there, we will go after him, and destroy him. You tell that to General John. And tell him I don’t care about that long street, and that he will send his divisions after the enemy, starting with the Tekcip unit. Are my orders understood?”
“Yes, sir.” And off the millipede went,
with the message ready to be delivered. And as the scout
made his way around the forward moving army, he could not help
but remember what happened to the last messenger who had had to
contend with messages between two arguing generals. The
scout had been tortured to death by one of the generals out of
frustration. The millipede took no comfort in the fact
that he was about to be squashed. Instead, he hoped it
would come quickly, and not linger, as the demise of his
I don't know if it was what she said, what happened in the Hell's Kitchen restroom the first time, or a mixture of both. But something made me want to at least try and protect the world which I had come to know in the brief time I had spent on it. She didn't understand that fact though. All she knew was that I had decided to "play" somebody by the name of "John Wayne", and, "go off to fight the bad guys." Leaving her alone to face whatever might come after all the fighting was over. She could not bear to go back to Hell, and she could not bear to be alone in the final moments. All she could do was wait, and hope.
That was the state of her mind when Justin burst through the hotel room door, searching for me.
"Where is he? Where is the demon?"
"He's... gone." Jennifer replied, in a frightened voice. She had not expected the angel to follow them, not after the arrival of the demon army. But there he was, sword in hand.
"What do you mean he's gone? He should be here! I sense the stench of Hell in here!"
"Sorry. It must just be... me. Are you... you going to...to...?"
"You are safe. Heaven has decided to spare your life. You were forced into this situation, and so the Lord has granted you the life that you've attained. Do with it what you will."
"OH...OH... Thank you! Thank you so very much. You won't..."
"Your life may not last long if the Hell's army keeps up its rate of advance. Chaos is reigning down upon the whole of the world. The forces of the fallen ones are rising faster than Heaven's. I must find the demon, and put an end to this insanity. Only then will any of us be safe. Do you know where he is? Or where he is going?"
"He..." There was a moment of hesitation. Jennifer did not know what to do. But in the end, she said the only thing that she really could. "He went to fight the demon army."
"He felt responsible for all that has happened."
"He is responsible for all that has happened!"
"Yes, but he's trying to fix it."
"How can this be? He is a demon. By definition he is an evil, non-moralistic entity that would kill us all without a care."
"But he's changed."
"Impossible. He probably lied to you, and went off to try and ingratiate himself in Hell's eyes again."
"No. He's not like that anymore. He..."
"Save it. I only believe what I can see for myself."
"So go. Watch him fight. Help him fight."
"I will go. And you should come too."
"Jennifer. I have to destroy him, and I may need your help to lull his defenses."
"Why would I do that?"
"Because he is the key to ensuring that you are able to live, as is the case with all of Earth. He trusts you. Maybe you could convince him that it is the right thing to do."
"I thought you said that he wasn't like that."
"True. But I could be wrong."
"So you want me to help you kill him? "
"You want me to betray him? That doesn't sound very Godly of Heaven to be asking."
"I am only doing as I have been instructed. So what is your answer? Will you help me?"
"Yes. I...I guess I will."
I feared that I had acted too late, and that my curiosity in life had caused its destruction. But the need to try was still embedded in my essence. I had to do something to make up for my mistakes. I had to do something to get rid of the knot in my stomach, which by that point was driving me insane. One way or another, that knot would go away; be it in victory, or the embrace of nothingness.
The scene was one that I had long since been accustomed to. It was that of fierce fighting, unwavering brutality, and a thirst for blood. I must say that I felt quite at home, except for the side I was fighting on.
At first I just watched the battle, taking in all of its rage, and turmoil. The human soldiers were giving every effort to try and fend off the hellacious entities that sought to take the souls to Hell. Upon first glance I surmised that what the humans needed was to be shown how to take over the momentum of the fight. There were plenty of dead bodies lying around, and with the bodies there were uniforms. Specifically, there were uniforms with the insignias of officers. The officer I chose to reliever of his uniform had been a general. In Hell's army, it would have been a tremendous jump in rank, but I figured that I knew Hell better than any human. Although on that particular battlefield it seemed as though everyone there had received an intensive study session already. And so I dawned the garb of the fallen general, picked up his weaponry, and headed off to the nearest foxhole I could find. But not before giving my human appearance an older look. The dead general had put in his time in the human army, and so I would have to appear as though I had too.
Bullets whizzed by my head from the human side of the battle, while a mixture of flames, hurled debris, and energy bolts barely passed by me from Hell's lines. It felt inspiring to be amidst a bloodthirsty battle once again. There was a part of me that wanted to cut loose, and destroy all those around me in a frenzy of energy and hatred. But I had a job to do.
The nearest foxhole contained a quartet of young soldiers who looked like they'd rather be anywhere other than the place that they were. Their apprehensiveness in the giving surroundings was understandable. Bodies were strewn about the battlefield like ripped up dirt at a construction site. The Earth itself looked like it had been ripped apart from the inside out. And as I entered the foxhole, I saw the fear in the eyes of the soldiers who appeared like mere boys, and wondered if my goal was reachable. But then the fighter inside of me came back to the front of my mind. It beckoned me to draw blood, and taste the suffering of my enemies. I listened to the fighter inside of me, and it guided my words as I spoke to the humans, and gave confidence to my actions.
"It's time to get back in the fight boys!" I yelled. Even with a loud voice, my words were hard to hear over the barrage of explosions that were going off all around us. The four troopers looked up at me, saw my rank, and gave out a sigh of relief. It seemed as though they believed that a general would not have been so close to the front if reinforcements were not on the way. I picked up on this assumption, and attempted to use it to my advantage. "You boys listen up. We're pulling out, and pushing forward! You understand?"
"But sir..." The reply came from the shortest one in the group. They were all dressed in their green camaflouge, and helmets. They also appeared to have the same shade black hair, and the hair appeared to be slightly longer than other soldiers I had seen. The one who spoke was mostly recognizable due to his slightly elongated nose, and of course, his height. His name tag read "Starky, R." He seemed like a good sort, but then, they all did.
"You have a problem with what I said, private?" I needed to keep the heir of command. Without it, any army would be lost. Starky took a moment to get back his awareness of my rank, and then attempted to say what was etching at his thought patterns.
"Sir, shouldn't we wait for the reinforcements before we try anything?"
"I'll be the one to decide that, private! All you need to do is follow my orders! Understood?"
"Sir, yes sir!" They all chimed up in unison.
From that point on I knew my ruse would work. I knew it would not take long to form an army out of the disarrayed lines, and take the fight to Hell. All I needed to do was give my orders. And so I began.
"I want you four to scramble around our lines and get every foxhole you can to make a move on my signal." The four of them looked at me waiting to be told what the great signal was to be. If I could have traveled outside of my own body I'd have probably been doing the same thing.
I looked out over the battlefield for something big to destroy. It had to be something big. It had to make an impact on Hell's armies, and give my new army a rush of adrenaline. It had to make a difference in the way things were going. It had to be brave, and daring. To put it more precisely, it had to be the most foolhardy thing I could think to do, and I had to pull it off. After mere moments, my eyes found what I needed. "Tell the men to charge when they see that Flow fall!"
"The what?" They all repeated in a scattered, and confused manner.
It was at that point that I remembered looking through their encyclopedias, and realized that they had no idea what I was talking about. "You see that giant wolf?" I said.
"Uh, sir...?" Starky was speaking for the group. "That thing looks like it's as big as a house."
"You four have your orders! Now go carry them out." And with that, the four of them scrambled out of the foxhole, and dispersed to and from every foxhole they could find.
It was at that moment that I fully realized the task that I had undertaken. Directing an army is completely different from leading an army from the front. I had to prove that Hell's forces could be beaten with shear will; my will. Not only that, but I had to do it while in the form of a human. This was the most daunting part of the task by far. In my true form I could easily have scaled the fur of the giant beast and slain the flow before it even knew what I had done. But I could not do that. The human form would not allow it. When you think about it, the human form is one of the most awkward, and backward things reality has ever beheld. They've got two arms, two legs, and a head. None of which will go in every direction. Admittedly there have been a few cases where a human could maneuver his body in such a way that it went backwards, but even then the head had to stay straight. To a demon, the thought of not being able to twist your head around in a complete circle is unthinkable. Humans actually have to arch their back in order to see behind themselves. They actually have to keep their limbs directed in one direction. How the things ever learned to fight under such conditions is beyond my realm of comprehension. But they did learn to fight, and for that I was relieved. But that meant that I had to learn how to fight their way, and win. This did not make me happy. Luckily, the foul mood my predicament created was exactly what I needed for the task.
The Flow stood at a height of about forty feet, and seemed to have a nose to pre-tail length of approximately seventy feet. Its weight was probably about eighty tons,(its fur had gotten wet.) and I did not wish it to fall on any of the troops that I was about to command. My strategy was obvious. I would have to take out its hind legs, force it to fall backwards, and then kill it by whatever means available at the time.
I ran out of the foxhole, and towards the beast, my rifle firing rapidly in my hands. Hell's forces saw where I was going, and simply ignored me because of this. They felt that any human stupid enough to take on a Flow single handedly was simply suicidal, and not worth a bullet. The flow saw me as well. It waited for me. It licked its lips, as its shiny giant teeth acted like a mirror, reflecting my look of disgust, created by the creatures foul breath. As I passed under the Flow's front pair of legs, it brought its head down in an effort to bite my head off, but I simply ducked, and rolled past the loud crunch of its teeth. The creature attempted to swat me with its hind legs as it began digging up the dirt underneath itself. Flow have always been notoriously impulsive. The fact that he was burying entire platoons of his allies did not occur to the creature until it was too late. He then moved to try and remedy the situation, at which point, I made began the task of destroying the beast.
As the back legs of the Flow turned with its body, I moved to the top of the newly created hill facing the side of its left hind leg. I quickly put a fresh clip into my rifle, and jumped up at the Flow's back left knee. Admittedly I had to use my demon strength, but I was never much on fair play. Upon landing I grabbed hold with one arm, and my legs, and then used my other arm to aim, and fire repeated shots from my rifle to the back of the Flow's knee. The giant creature jumped in pain instinctively, and almost crumpled as it fell back onto it hind legs. But still, it stayed up. it also fought back, attempting to bite me off of its leg. But I was so quick that it only managed to bite itself, causing even further pain. Upon landing I reloaded once more, and made a lunge for its other hind leg, but it figured out where I was going, and kicked me with its front right paw.
The impact embedded me in the dirt hill, and left me dazed, but not totally confused. So as the Flow turned its head towards me, and prepared to feast upon my flesh, I jumped from the hill yet again. But this time I landed on The Flow's head. More specifically, I jumped on the side of its left ear. Any kind of canine will instinctively scratch its ear with the hind leg on the side that the ear is on. The Flow's left hind leg was hurt far too bad for this, and so the rest of my task became simplicity. All I had to do was to climb inside the Flow's ear, force my body as deeply inside of its head as I could, and then fire away. Within mere moments the creature felt bullets ripping through its flesh, and tearing into its skull. The bullets slammed their way into the Flow's brain, causing its motor functions to seize up, its legs to buckle, and its weight to fall crashing down onto the helpless troops of Hell that had decided to go to the creatures aid.
The humans saw most of what happened, and began making their assault, cheering the entire way across the field of blood and guts. Hell's armies saw the bloodlust in the eyes of the humans, noticed the fallen Flow, and began to retreat a little. Meanwhile, I climbed out of the Flow's head, and grabbed the first trooper's body I could find. I relieved the corpse of a few desperately needed grenades, and threw the explosives into the Flow's ear, which had become nothing more than a gaping mass of brain chunks, and blood. When the grenades went off, so too did every part of the creatures head, and in every direction too. The humans continued to advance, and cheered even more at the raining down of blood and skull that littered the battlefield. It was at that point that I realized that the humans no longer required me as a leader. They required me as a fighter. Or maybe it was just that I had gotten in the mood to kill as only a demon can kill. The bloodlust had taken over me, and at the moment, I was morally justified too. For what better to fight than Hell? Who would condemn a being for fighting Hell? The answer, Hell.
The first demon to fall by my hand was one of more powerful breed, the Ezis. He was big and mean, but also unaware of what I was about to do. So with his back turned towards me, as he faced off with a Heavenly angel, I leapt onto the Ezis' back, and drove my claws into his throat. The demon tried to shake me off, but could not do so before losing his head, literally. The head plopped to the ground with a large thud, the rest of him fell with the impact of a car crash.
The angel who he had been fighting could not help but stare at me with confusion. As he stared, another Ezis sought to take the hovering entity from behind. I quickly ran underneath the shocked angel, and sprang at the demon with all of my might. However this demon saw my attack in time to block it with the swift motion of one of his three tails. The angel turned to see what had happened, and began to aid me in my fight against the monstrous giant.
Within moments we had destroyed it. Neither the angel, nor myself said a word. We simply kept on fighting our obvious mutual enemies. Soon, other angels began to take notice of my actions, and so did the humans, and Hell's forces. Heaven and Earth allowed me to keep fighting for them, but kept a leery eye on me, as I battled with more intensity than I had ever possessed.
It was as though there was something pushing me to fight. Something unlike anything I had ever known. It was a purpose. But it was more than just that. I had always done things with purpose. But as I fought, I realized that I was fighting for something more than glory, adulation, or a promotion. I was fighting for myself, and what I had come to believe in. I was fighting for life, and Hell could not withstand my fury.
Hell's troops began to become disarrayed. The thought of being betrayed by one of their own seemed unbelievable. Hell had always fought amongst itself for power, but when it struck out, it struck out with a common goal. Breaking away from that common goal was unheard of. The demons began to mistrust each other, for fear that I was not the only one who fought alongside their enemies. Hell's armies became wary of whoever was around them. And as a result, their abilities in battle suffered greatly. Within an hour, the entire sector of troops began to break up their solidity, and retreat. Word began to spread through their ranks of rogue demons, and mistrust laid waste to the chain of command that has always been the main ingredient in any successful army.
Admittedly this had not been my intention. I had never conceived of the kind of impact that my presence, or any demons presence, could present if found to be on the opposite side of the battlefield. I wish I had thought of it though. I wish I had been able to revel in the fact that I had single handedly sent all of Hell into confusion. I can do it now, but then I simply fought. I lashed out at my former brethren, unleashing the bent up hatred that had been created in my system by the very idea that I had brought my newfound world into such a state of decay. I used my anger, and my rage to spill blood unheard of in the battlefield. And as a result, Hell's armies backed off. Actually, backed off is not quite the way to phrase what happened. So allow me to introduce what happened, hope you can guess who didn't like it.
The troops on the front lines began to backtrack. The advancing troops saw the retreating troops and began asking what was happening. "There are rebels among us!" These were the words that slowly began to be etched in the minds of the scattering entities that had formerly been screaming words filled with blood and hatred. But the bloodlust had gone out of them. Paranoia had taken over the whole of Hell's armies, and word of this quickly spread down the lines, and inevitably reached the headquarters of Hell's general on Earth, Marcus. But before the word had spread that far, another being entered the battlefield.
My actions had swayed the tide of the war
which had gripped the planet with fear unlike any it had ever
known, and I felt... good about it. That's when
Justin made his appearance. But this time he had Jennifer with him, and also something else. They brought with them the course of actions that was to change me forever. They were the actions which brought me to where I am now, and changed the universe forever.
"But sir, it wasn't just one demon. The reports say..."
"I don't give a damn what the reports say, James! It was Rianoc!"
"But why would he fight for them? What could he possibly have to gain?"
"Well he couldn't very well come fight for us. We'd have beheaded him as a traitor for leaving."
"You don't think he could have recruited demons to help him?"
"Nobody but us knows about him. To the fighting creatures he is just another demon, only he's an enemy. He's also become the figurehead for some imaginary anti-Hell movement, populated by demons."
"What shall we do, sir?"
"There is no we, James. You will take care of this matter, personally."
"You shall go to the front, and find Rianoc. You shall destroy him, and all that he has come to stand for."
"But, sir I..."
"You are a soldier! And a soldier is never too important to follow orders! Is that understood?"
"Then go! Bring me back his head!"
And with that, James departed from James' office, and headed out to the front, which was backtracking towards where the command center had been moved, just twenty miles away.
James' hesitance did not stem from any cowardice as it related to battling me. He was an angel, and was far more powerful than I ever could have been. The hesitance came from the fact that he would have to go to the front, which contained far more than just me. He would have to contend with the fact that Heaven's army was there in force, and was moving at a rapid pace, with a cutthroat feeling in the essence of the great warriors that he had fought so long ago.
Heaven and Hell always had their differences, but they also had a respect for each other's fighting capability. The likelihood that James might not return form his mission was great, and for a soulless entity, all that would be waiting for him at his end would be oblivion.
But James knew his orders, and failing to carry them out would have been far worse than oblivion. It would have been Hell. So with great care the fallen angel gathered up the various trinkets that he would need to carry out my demise, which included his mighty sword, which had been tempered with countless battles. But more importantly, he began to set his mind to the task of sneaking to the front, lopping off my head, and then sneaking back to his general's office, so that he might reap the rewards of his success.
So off James went on his mission, slinking through the lines of his own troops, and towards the counteroffensive which had all of Hell fearing the worst. His trek through the war-torn grounds of Earth left him with more confidence than he had departed with. The sight of burning cities, and mauled human corpses sent an abundance of pride, and joy into his being. Especially one such sight which held the remains of family of four. The sight had been so picturesque that he had decided to stop for a moment, as to take in its vile nature.
The family was just outside of a white house with a four-foot high white picket fence outlining its yard's boundaries. The older male, presumably the father, had been tied to a large oak tree which resided on the lawn. His arms had been violently ripped off at the shoulders so as not to allow him any chance to escape. The older woman, presumably his wife, had been stapled to the ground with large steel spikes, which had been driven through her hands at the wrists, and her feet at the ankles. Her feet had been nailed down so that her legs were spread widely apart.
James appraised the scene, and tried to determine what had gone on. "They must have kept the husband alive, so that he might witness the rape of his wife. The two children look like they might have witness it too. Their tongues have been cut out. The demons must have tired of listening to their petulant screams. Perhaps a different type of screaming was called for in this instance. I wonder, were the children impaled upon the fence before, or after witnessing the rape of their mother? Oh well. I'll ponder that later. I have more important matters to deal with."
And so he left the sight, and made his way to
the front, where after avoiding several encounters with his
enemies, he came across a sight that made him think that his job
would be much easier. He came upon the sight of seeing
Justin and myself circling one another in preparation for
battle. James could not hear what was being said, but the
scene looked too advantageous not to allow it to play out.
So he found a safe perch, and watched what was to come.
"Rianoc, wait!" Jennifer called out. "It's not what you..."
"I told you to run! Don' worry. I won't let him hurt you." I had placed myself in between the angel and Jennifer.
"Demon," cried Justin. "you must listen. I have no intention of hurting the girl, but the portal must be closed if all of this madness is to end."
"What are you talking about? We have them on the run. It's only a matter of time before..."
"Before they regroup and overrun us with their larger forces! Don't you understand? The portal allows them to move troops to Earth at a rapid pace, and it also slows down the pace at which Heaven can send its own troops. We will be overwhelmed, and then all that you are fighting for will be gone."
"That's a lie! We can push them back. We can..."
"We cannot save Earth as long as that portal remains open! Get that through your head."
I thought for a moment on his words. And then I glanced at Jennifer. She was crying, but nodding as well. The angel was telling the truth, and I knew it. If Heaven could have overwhelmed its enemy, then it would have by now. And that meant that the counteroffensive could not last. That meant that the portal would have to be closed. And that meant that either Jennifer, or myself, would have to fall. It was not something that I care to think about. But as Justin saw me in thought, he too let down his guard a little, and seemed to be willing to talk.
"I know that this world has come to mean something to you. My brethren have informed me of your actions on this planet's behalf. But it will mean nothing if we lose. I have not the right to ask you to do this, so if I must fight you, then I will. But in order for this world is to live, you must die."
"Sorry, but I've haven't even fully grasped
the idea of life yet. Dying seems like something I'll want
to study at a later date. Somewhere around...
"It's not your choice anymore, demon."
"I have a name! You could at least have the decency to address me by that."
"I know not your name, and I care not about what it is that you want. All I know is..."
"My name is Rianoc! What I want is for you to leave me be so that I can try and stop this mess! I don't care what your appraisal of the situation is! I have never failed to carry out my objectives, and I'm not about to start by allowing this world to die!"
"Then I must dispatch you by force."
"You didn't come close to doing that the first time, and I don't think you can do it now!"
Jennifer could see that we were about to fight, and so she stepped in between us so as to calm things down, and keep us talking.
"Stop! You two aren't going to do this! Not like this. I won’t let you argue about how this should happen!"
"What are you saying? What is it that we should be doing?" I asked. "Do you want him to take my head? Is that why you came here? Did you come to watch the demon get his head cut off? Has our time together left you without any of the attachment that you said that you have even for complete strangers?"
"No. I'm grateful for all that you've done, Rianoc. And I do feel something for you. You gave me the second chance that I wanted, and needed. But…"
"But what?" I was becoming more than a little
incredulous to the fact that Jennifer was suggesting that the
conversation between myself and Justin continue. I
felt... betrayed by the fact that she would even consider
what he was saying as a possibility. I had no problem with
dying to right my wrong, but it was going to be on my
terms. And I was not going to just allow myself to become
some sacrificial lamb just because he was too much of a coward
to help me battle our common enemy. But our conversation
ended there. Because while we had been talking, James had
been watching from his nearby perch, and he did not like what he
was seeing. So he decided to help his situation a little,
and flew down towards the battlefield, where the three of us
were deciding the fate of the world.
With the swiftness of the sound which his wings barely generated, James flew at me. He was going to attack me from behind, with Jennifer standing in front of me. Justin saw him, and leapt in the fallen angel's path, so as to protect Jennifer from harm. The two entities slammed into each other with the force of a train wreck, and were sent sprawling onto the blood-soaked ground which had become a war-zone for all manner of creatures.
I quickly led Jennifer away from the battle so that I was sure that she would be safe, and then leapt to help Justin. I thought that there might be a way to convince him that I was right if we could dispatch the would be assassin together.
By the time I got back to the fight, the two were in a heated sword battle, and Justin was not winning. He had been cut severely across his chest in a diagonal line. James had taken a wound in his left arm, and could only use his right arm to swing the massive sword. But his right arm was strong, and Justin's strength was faltering.
I decided to leap onto the fallen angel's back, as I had done with the Ezis. But this time it backfired. The fallen angel heard my approach, and was quick to sidestep to the left of my attack, and slice open the right side of my belly with his sword. As the blood, and other various internal organs began to slide their way towards the newly made opening in my side, I struggled to get to my feet. As I did, James leapt at me, his sword ready to lop off my head. But I met him in mid-swing by grabbing both of his hands, which James had instinctively clasped around the handle of his sword. At the same time I sent my forehead crashing into his, and kicked him in his stomach with my two middle legs, sending him sprawling to the ground, and sending his sword out of his hands.
I staggered to circle around the fallen angel
so as to give the recovered Justin an open shot at our
adversary. It also allowed me to keep my back from facing
Justin, as I still knew not if he was on my side. And as I
watched with a sense of pride, Justin lopped off James' head
with one swing, and ended the battle. I watched as Justin
gave an approving smile of his own work, and as he looked at
me. He did not know what to do next, and neither did
I. We just stood there for a moment, trying to figure out
what the other one was going to do. That's when I felt the
sickening hack of a sword slicing through all three of my left
Someone had snuck up from behind me, and crippled me in one swing. The pain of the blow was excruciating, and I cried out as I fell to the ground in a heap of blood. But the pain I felt in no way compared to the pain that arose when I saw who my assailant was. It was Jennifer. She had picked up James' sword, and used it against me.
"Wh...wh...why...?" I asked with what little breath still availed me. I received no answer. Only the sight of her swinging the sword one last time, and the feel of my throat being ripped in two.
At first, no note was taken by either army to the fact that I had died. But then, gradually, Hell's minions began to feel a slight tug at their skins. The tug spread to their insides, and even to their consciousness. As the tug spread, it grew to that of a pulling sensation, drawing them backwards, towards Boston, and the portal that had allowed them their free reign on Earth. And as the force that pulled them increased, so too did their confusion, and then finally, their fear. For without knowing why they were being pulled, they slowly realized where they were being pulled. They realized that they had failed, and that they would have to face the wrath of their master. And that was far worse than any fate that their enemies could have given them.
Some tried in vein to grab onto buildings and trees, so that they might stave off the power that was forcing them back to Hell, but none were spared. Concrete crumbled in clasping hands, and the trees ripped in half as the force pulled with an intensity unlike any that they had ever known. The fortunate minions were those that were strong enough to hold on past the breaking point of their bodies. Their physical selves ripped apart under the weight of the force, and they felt the embrace of oblivion.
All across the globe, all that had been
tainted by Hell's burning touch were violently forced back to
their home-world. And as they were being driven back, they
made a unified noise which none that can remember will ever
forget. It was a sound unlike anything that had ever been
heard, and hopefully, none will ever hear again. It was
the sound of millions of entities, screaming in pain, heartache,
and terror. It was Hell, brought to those who had
inflicted it upon countless others. The witnesses stood in
awe as the portal took the last of the demons, and sealed shut
with the explosive impact of what the humans refer to as a
All the angles returned to Heaven, save those who looked after the humans. Justin remained as well. And as the haze of the past several days began to lift, the angel stood before Jennifer, and began to talk.
"You did what you had to do. Your tears do him justice for the sacrifi..."
"What?” She said, with a hint of confusion. “I'm not crying because I'm sad." Jennifer declared, with a slight chuckle. "I'm alive! I survived all of this crap. I'm happy to be alive." Tears of joy spilled across her face, as her smile widened.
"You're not saddened by the loss of Rianoc?" Justin said with no effort to hide his shock.
"He was alright and everything, but like you said, he had to die."
"But he was willing to die to save you! He was fighting to save this world!"
"But you said he had to die for this world to live!"
"Yes. But don't you feel some remorse for having taken his life?"
"He wasn't really alive. He was just a demon. It's not like he had a soul or anything like that."
"How do you define a soul?"
"What do you think a soul is? Is it something that you are born with, or something that grows inside of you?"
"What are you talking about? Souls are given to humans. Isn't that the way it is?"
"Normally yes. But too often humans overlook it, or use it as something to hold up so as to say that their better than everything else around them. It's true that the Lord loves his creatures without sway, but that doesn't mean that that gives you the right to overlook Rianoc's actions."
"But he was just a demon."
"Yes, at first. But he changed. He
became more that that. He saw what life really was worth,
and he gave his own life to protect it. That's why the
Lord gave him a soul."
"Yes. Rianoc put others before himself. He learned what it meant to be good, and bad. More importantly, he chose to do good. He learned what you were trying to teach him, and then you killed him without acknowledging the morals which you tried to instill in him."
"But... but didn't I do the right thing? He wasn't like you, or me."
"You're not like me either, but if someone loved me the way he came to love you, I would not have been so quick to harm them."
"How could he possibly know what love is?"
"He didn't, until he met you. He died for it. He was willing to die for you. That was the lesson you never got to learn in Hell. You realized the value of life, or at least I thought you had. You lost all those that you believed cared about you in life, never looking to see who else might care. Then you took your own life, and denied the possibility that anyone else might have cared about you. Perhaps you will learn this lesson with your new life." There was a long pause after Justin had finished. And then Jennifer spoke out again.
"So what happens now?"
"Yes. What will happen now that he's gone."
"Well Rianoc will be fine. He was given a soul, and was forgiven the evil actions he committed. He did not know they were wrong at the time he committed them. And once he figured it out, he attempted to make amends for them. So by now he's adjusting to being in Heaven."
"As for the world, it remembers nothing of the events that have led us to this point. Humans have to be able to question their faith in order to find peace with it. The Lord gave them free will, and that includes the freedom to find him in their hearts, on their own terms."
"But wouldn't it be better if they all knew for certain?"
"If they knew for certain about life after death, anarchy would ensue. Think about all the different faiths out there, and the things that people do in their lives. People would get the wrong idea about Him. It doesn't really matter what faith you are. Just so long as you follow the beliefs that you do have, and live a good life. All the major religions have basically the same principals. They just choose to view the rules differently. Should we ban all those who have done no wrong from Heaven simply because they picked a different way of worship, or never heard of Him? Does that seem right?
"No. But... " Jennifer could not bring herself to ask.
"You want to know what is going to happen to you."
"You're going to live. I don't know what you're going to do, or where you're going to go. But you have been given a second chance. And while you're not off to the best start, you still have a lifetime ahead of you. So live it."
And with that, Justin vanished. Leaving
Jennifer standing alone, and confused.
I won’t even get into all the things that you can do up here, besides everything. Admittedly it has a different crowd, and different décor than I’m used to. And the harp was never my favorite instrument, but I could get used to the whole permanent bliss thing they got going on up here.
Oh, before I forget to mention it, something else happened on Earth. The world was brought an answer as to what had transpired around them. It came in the form of an interview between Michael, the Archangel, and a reporter who had been luck enough to be chosen to receive the scoop.
"So what you're saying Mr...."
"My name is not important in this matter, Gale. What is important is that you, and the rest of your world know the truth. What has transpired over the past few days was the settling of an intergalactic war. I have been asked by my leader to apologize for any damage that was done, and but it should be known that the opposing forces were intending to enslave your species."
"That's amazing! But what were they? What are you?"
"They were of the Snialliv, and my species are known by a name that would be too difficult to explain. The main issue is that we came to keep your species safe. The Snialliv won't be back to bother you, at least not for a long while anyway. I must be going now. My leader is expecting me back soon." And with that, he was gone.
The thing that boggles my mind about all of this was that it was supposed to happen. That woman in white, she knew who to go to. If it hadn't been in Hell's Kitchen, it would have happened someplace else. She was asked to do it by the Big Man himself. Apparently this all happened so that I could try and communicate with other demons in Hell. I'm supposed to influence them in some way. Don't ask me how. They haven't filled me in on that part yet. The only thing that I know right now is that I'm in Heaven, and there's still a lot of things that I haven't tried up here yet.
I do occasionally take a look at Earth
though. I like to see how the people are doing, and how
Jennifer is getting along. I can't say that I'm happy
about what she did, or why she did it, but ever since my death
I've become more open to new ideas. Maybe someday she'll
learn that lesson that was so hard for her. Maybe someday
we'll meet again, and... Well anyway, I have to go
now. I have to go introduce myself to my new
secretary. The soul just walked in. She may not be a
harpy, but in Heaven, all the ladies are good looking. And
all anyone ever talks about is love. I could get used to
this... very quickly. I'd fill you in more, but I
still have more to see myself. Besides, that would be a
whole other story.