Luthor Doyle dizzily picked himself up off the rocky ground. A small beam of light shone down on him from where he had fallen before rocks crashed down and landed next to him, sealing the hole. The twenty-seven year old scanned for his pickaxe, but was unable to locate it. It was either still up above in the mines or buried underneath the rocks.
“Dammit,” he screamed in frustration as he removed his mining helmet and spiked it into the rocky ground. The helmet made a clattering noise before bouncing back onto its side and rolling deeper into the cavern. Luthor let out a sigh as he slapped his forehead with the palm of his gloved left hand.
“So damned annoying. It's doubtful that anymore rocks will fall, but still...” he trailed off as he muttered to himself.
As he started to follow in his helmet's footsteps, a wooshing noise shot passed his right ear. Whatever had flown by had done so at such a proximity that he had felt a strong gust of wind off it. A deafening crash hit the wall behind him and the sound of rockfall could be heard. Luthor quickly glanced behind himself and saw his mining helmet embedded in the cave wall.
“The h-” he began, but stopped as he processed how much danger he was in. Chills went down his spine as he snapped his head back toward the darkness.
Pressure materialized on his left shoulder which caused him to look out of the corner of his eye; Luthor observed a pale human hand. Luthor gasped, reflexively jumping forward and nearly out of his skin as he wet his pants in terror.
“Woah there, buddy. I'm sorry, I didn't mean to startle you,” replied the owner of the hand's voice.
“Oh god, man. Oh, god,” Luthor stammered as he turned around and faced the owner of the male voice.
The man that stood before Doyle was wearing a blue mining uniform and helmet which were identical to what he had. The Caucasian man had dark black hair, blue eyes, a full black beard, and a thin frown.
“That was one hell of an accident, huh?” the mystery man spoke, while looking up at where Luthor had fallen through.
“How did you get here?”
“I too fell.”
“That's not possible! I searched this room and you weren't here. It was just me and... “ Luthor paused as he thought about the helmet embedding itself in the wall. “...and that darkness!”
“Look, you must have taken a bump to the head when you fell. You must've overlooked me. Just because you don't see something doesn't mean it isn't there. Heck, sometimes the reverse is true as well.”
“I'm sorry, man. I don't even know you.”
“Ned Hogore. A Swedish name if you ever heard one, right?”
“Well, Luthor. What are we standing here for? There's an exit over there,” he said enthusiastically while pointing at the darkness for effect.
“Did you not see the helmet?”
“Sure I did. I'm sure the explosions are done now.”
“Well, yeah. We're underneath a mine that just collapsed. I'm not a scientist, but I'm sure that some sort of gas got pressurized as a result of the cave-in and it caused some explosions down here. It hasn't happened again, so I bet it's safe.”
“Look, Ned, I'm not going anywhere. That... I just don't think that was an explosion.”
“How about this? I'll go on a ways and then come back and give you the all clear.”
“Do what you want.”
“Then, I'll be back. I'm not afraid of no explosions!” Ned exclaimed, puffing out his chest and hitting it with a balled-up fist before departing into the darkness.
It was not long after Ned had waltzed out of view before he made himself known again.
“No! Argh, my legs! Ah, my legs! Make it stop!” Each word sounded more pained, labored, and louder than the last. The words became replaced by unintelligible cries of pain, weeping and then, finally, silence.
Luthor Doyle responded by covering his own mouth with his left hand out of shock. His heartbeat and breaths became erratic. Luthor's worry about them being audible to whatever was in the darkness did not help. He quietly walked over to the pile of rubble, sat cross-legged with his elbows touching his legs, his fingers touching his forehead and partially covering his eyes, while he rocked his torso back and forth. The endless abyss of a full-on mental breakdown was approaching the poor man, but somehow he managed to gather the resolve to bounce back.
A boulder. Yes, a boulder. That's what it was, what fell on Ned and killed him. That or another explosion, he thought to himself as he stood up and faced the dark entryway, half an hour after sitting.
The darkness wrapped itself around Luthor as he ventured deeper and endlessly repeated that it was a rock or an explosion. Inexplicably, the cave became brighter as he proceeded, despite there being no lighting. A trail of red goo leaked out from around the corner- Ned's blood. A lump caught in Luthor's throat and he tried to swallow it down to no avail. He shakily rounded the corner expecting the worst, but to his confusion saw no body. Just a horizontal white line and a door- a large, solid, golden door.
Luthor didn't know why or how, but the area radiated out a feeling of strong malice and danger. An intense wave of heat, a burning sensation, traveled down his spine as he stood there eying the door. Before Luthor could move as he had intended, a large, hulking figure dropped down from the cave rocks above and landed on the other side of the white line, putting itself between Luthor and the door. The head of a bull, the arms and torso of a bodybuilder, and the legs of a steed were the parts that made up this beast. Try to move as he might, Doyle's legs were frozen in place. His every fiber screamed in fear; they would have disassembled from his body to run if they could.
It spoke in the deepest of voices, yet an elegance was to be had in its tone. “You reek of urine. Dare you try to cross the line as well?”
It can talk.
Luthor opened his mouth and tried to speak, but no sound came out. Surprisingly, this was not due to fear, though it did play a part, but rather his mind drew a blank. What could possibly be an appropriate response to that? In fact, how could one respond upon the shattering of their perception of reality? The dark void of the Minotaur's eyes stared into Luthor's sockets and beyond, to his soul.
“Whatever. Should you wish to cross the line and open the door, you will have to get me to cross it. I'll destroy you as I did the last should you cross the line beforehand, understood?”
Luthor's head creaked as he nodded. The condescension was high with this one.
After a moment's thought Luthor spoke, “Yeah, it's just as well that you stay over there. I'd kick your ass.”
The creature laughed and stated in a sneering tone, “As if someone who pissed themself could kick my ass. What a runt you are.”
Dammit. I never was good with insults and this thing is pissing me off. I wonder...
Luthor went back to where he had first landed in the cave and shortly returned with decent-sized rocks in his arms. Upon being struck with a rock, the Minotaur grinned, stooped over and picked up the rock. What a mistake he had made. The beast wound up its arm and threw the rock with such ferocity that, for all Luthor knew, it broke the sound barrier. Luthor dropped his rocks and hit the floor just as the death stone sailed inches above his head; had it connected, Luthor's head would likely have disintegrated from the sheer force.
“Oh my god,” he stated in response to his near destruction and own stupidity.
“What?!” Smoke all but flew from the Minotaur’s nostrils as it screamed in an uneven voice.
Realization dawned on Mr. Doyle, the Minotaur had become triggered upon hearing the word 'God'. A fan of God the Minotaur was not, perhaps it wasn't even religious.
“I said: Oh my God, thank You and Jesus for seeing me through.”
The Minotaur let out a roar and charged; its composure was gone. As it ran with its horns lowered in a manner so that they could gore Luthor and it crossed the line, a thought crossed his mind. It was a simple thought, but something he should have considered before nonetheless, What is stopping it from killing me once it crosses the line?
The question was answered ever so casually after the Minotaur had crossed the line and it came in the form of its body dematerializing starting from the legs up. The particles of the Minotaur turned into what could best be described as small white stars which lifted up into the air of the cave and disappeared from existence; the Minotaur had fully dissipated before it could reach Luthor Doyle.
The miner gazed silently at the golden door for a couple of minutes as if waiting for an invitation. As he reached his hand out to touch the golden door, the sound of two objects hitting each other became audible from the other side. Despite jerking his gloved hand back, he reached forward and touched the golden door, which opened on its own. The door opened to reveal a black void with a man, Ned, at the center of it and he was clapping.
“What the he-”
“Congratulations! You opened the door at great risk to yourself and without knowing what was on the other side, might I add!” Ned shouted cutting Luthor off in an enthusiastic tone as he stood up.
“Ned, how? Tell me what the hell is going on here!”
“You already have all the relevant information, Mr. Doyle,” he responded with a sharp grin. Luthor swore he saw fangs for a fraction of a second as Ned continued his approach and talked. “I already told you that just because you don't see something doesn't mean it isn't there. Likewise, just because you see something doesn't mean it is the truth.”
“Who the hell are you? What are you playing at?!” He shouted as he backed away from the approaching man.
“Oh, Luthor. You never were the sharpest. All the hints, so many, and you couldn't figure it out? I'll tell you this much; I am not Ned Hogore, which is an anagram for 'no god here', I might add. Perhaps this'll help.” Not Ned shifted into a red-scaled, yellow-eyed, black suit wearing creature with horns adorning its head.
Luthor stumbled over a rock and fell as he was backing up. “Sa-Satan,” he managed to stammer from his spot on the ground.
The Devil frowned. “No, not Satan. Ah-ba-don. Abaddon,” he replied with more than a hint of sarcasm as he stressed each syllable.
Luthor gulped and shook his head vigorously as he used his arms and legs to continue moving himself backwards while still on the ground. The room suddenly became filled with an immense heat which caused Luthor's energy to drain; he could no longer move.
“Why?” he managed in a meek voice.
“Why, what? Why are you here? Why am I screwing with you? Why does the sun set? It all revolves around one simple fact! Well, okay, the sun setting doesn't. You are dead.”
The words bounced around inside of Luthor's skull in that they were there, but unreachable, ungraspable.
“No. That's not true! I'm alive!”
Abaddon smirked revealing his sharp and filed teeth as he reached down and pulled up Luthor's left arm to the man's eye level and removed the glove- bone. Luthor gazed at his skinless and muscleless left hand in silence. Deciding that it wasn't quite the effect that he had wanted, Abaddon materialized a mirror out of thin air and held it up to Luthor's face which was identical to his left hand- just a skull.
“It's a trick. You said that everything here might not be true,” he offered weakly.
“There are three constants here: me, Hell, and you being dead. Everything else is a manifestation of my will. You died when you fell during that terrible mining accident,” Abaddon responded putting extra emphasis on the words terrible and accident.
“Why? Why the disguise, the Minotaur and the door?”
The Devil's black suit shifted into robes and a smoke pipe formed in his mouth.
“Entertainment, my dear and foolish Doyle. It was so very entertaining to give you hope, turn it into fear, partially restore your hope and then to utterly crush it. You struggled so hard just to open a door and you didn't even know what was behind it! I'll grant you that there wasn't any other way to go, but still...”
“Why a skeleton of all things?”
“The last guy that I put through something similar had the gall to wizz on the Minotaur.”
“This can't be; it is all a dream. It has to be. I've said some hurtful things, sure, but I've never harmed anybody in my life.”
“Haven't you? Think back to the accident when the mines were collapsing and back to how you knocked over and stepped on two of your coworkers. You helped trample one to death, while the other one died because they couldn't stand up in time to run from the sinking ground and that was when you crossed the line, well, before the one at the golden door... Hilarious! You killed two people in a bid to save your life thus damning your eternal soul and you didn't even make it out!” The Devil struggled to finish as he burst into a cackling fit.
The Devil soon lifted Luthor who in turn hung his head down in defeat. The environment responded in kind by turning into a fiery, lava-filled landscape that consisted of various kinds of monsters and people being chased by them. Abaddon set Luthor on his feet and the two watched from a chunk of rock that floated above all else as the people would run in an attempt to escape only to get caught and eaten. The terror would not end there for they would respawn in a pool of lava moments later. The damned souls could either stay in the lava and suffer the everlasting burning sensation or they could make way for the land with the Demons and monsters and be pain free while they ran, but eventually tire and experience the pain of being chewed up. It was truly a never ending and vicious cycle.
No sooner had Luthor finished observing the scene had his dark skin and muscle been restored. The sense of elation that he felt was short lived as Abaddon's pitchfork poked into his back causing him to fall from the cliff and into the lava pool below.
“Enjoy your stay, hot stuff!” The Devil shouted from above before erupting into laughter over his own pun.
Written by Doom Vroom