Hell has a prison, and I’ve been one of its inmates for years.
At least, it feels like it has been years. How long exactly is unknown at this point. When your entire life consists of transitioning between punishment and deprivation chambers, the amount of time that’s passed becomes obsolete. Believe me; I’ve tried clinging to those numbers to keep my sanity intact, amongst many, many other mental distractions. But in the end, only a rag doll body and void mind allows one to stay even slightly sane down here.
The stage should be set here, but it takes a lot of preparation. I was, obviously, alive at one time. I was a student at Dalhousie University, studying for an undergraduate degree in kinesiology. Everyone in my family had been pretty excited about my acceptance, even if it meant me moving away to the “big city”. But we managed, and I started off my freshman year with an excitement and energy I’d never felt before. I welcomed it gladly.
The first grades I received back took that rush away though, ruining the confidence in my academics I had been carrying over from high school. Despite having worked very hard, my marks not meeting my own personal standards bothered me greatly, even after reassurance from a few new friends I had made in said classes.
I carried on through the rest of the first semester, but there was this heavy feeling that clung to me throughout. My focus became shot, anxiety would spike at the mention of a quiz or paper that was due - and don’t even get me started on the actual day of the quiz. If there wasn’t a window to gaze out at the admittedly grey winter sky every five minutes to clear my mind and relax over, I felt claustrophobic and tense. Soon, my brain was more interested in guilting me over all the questions I had skipped or probably got wrong, instead of solving the one in front of me.
This led to failure, which led to guilt, which cycled back into a lack of self-confidence and anxiety. My friends started offering to help me out with schoolwork, but I only felt guilty about accepting, as though I would be stealing from them, or mooching off of their work. But with time, I felt as though I was learning the material on my own, and once I was able to return the tutorage, the feeling of guilt subsided.
The reason I bring all of this up is to explain my state of mind come post-midterm season. I had just finished my last exam, and I was damn ready to let loose. Kelsey, probably the closest friend I had made at Dal, was waiting outside of the exam room for me that day. It was a few hours past dinner time, so the two of us headed out and got some fast food. As I was munching down overly salted fries and guzzling a litre of cola, Kelsey drove the car past the university and back to her apartment off campus. I asked her why we were heading there, but the only response I got was a sadistic smirk. I didn’t know whether to feel frightened or excited, so I just watch the concrete pass by in a grey blur.
The fizzy taste of Coke was replaced by the buzz of a cooler within five minutes of entering her front door. Lindsey, Amy, and Sam were all there - the remaining three of our study group and close knit of friends - already shaking their asses semi-drunkenly and laughing from beneath an unhealthy layering of foundation and mascara. Kelsey kept herself from having anything, as she explained that there was going to be plenty at the party.
“What party?” I asked, pushing a rowdy Sam away gently.
“Look, Helena, you’ve been stressing yourself out over nothing. I mean, yeah, sixties ain’t fun, but you came back from that. So, tonight, we’ve organized a little celebration for completing your first set of midterms ev-ah!”
The valley girl voice creeped its way in as Kelsey wrapped an arm around me and pinched my cheek. I couldn’t help smiling; Kelsey was just too kind to me, always helping me with school, offering to buy anything I so much as mentioned in a throwaway comment. I guess being a sophomore, she wanted to help me and the rest of the girls enjoy our first year of university to its fullest. I had never been a massive party person back in high school (I’d been to one or two), but there was no way I was going to skip out on an invitation to one where I wouldn’t have to worry about cops busting me for underage drinking.
The girls clambered into the backseat, Sam already having a hard time in her stilettos, while I took shotgun and Kelsey the reins once again. The sun was already setting when we arrived at a house in Dartmouth, and finding a parking spot took a little longer. Once that deed was done though, all hell broke loose as we tried to exit the vehicle. Sam was trying to hug Amy for some dumb reason, and the two played teeter tag while Lindsey, Kelsey and I strutted up to the front door.
I wasn’t exactly wearing a fancy party dress like the others, but I was comfortable in my sweatpants and t-shirt. After all, why wear tight, restricting crap while sitting for two hours and stressing over some pieces of paper? No thanks. Kelsey introduced me to some more of her sophomore friends, who were surprisingly respectful and open to listening to some random kid she was dragging around. It felt nice to be treated like an adult, rather than expected to carry adult burdens but only be respected as much as a child is.
Drinks were thrusted into my hands, and I worked my way through them over the course of the night. I wasn’t fighting it per se; tonight I celebrated, and getting a bit more than tipsy was not going to be an accident. Five drinks in and more hours later, I was leaning and laughing off of Amy about some stupid shit that wouldn’t matter in the morning. I felt warm and good, and wanted this night to go on.
That’s when Sam asked the question. “Hey, Hela, you’ve slept with anyone before?”
My cheeks met the temperature of my belly, filled with booze. But I laughed and, without an ounce of hesitation, answered. “No? I just got out of high school.”
Her arm wraps around me, and I can smell the hoppy stench of beer stains off her shirt. “Pay ya… whadda I got… I’ve got fifty bucks on me right now.” The Monopoly game bills that was my country’s currency waved in my face like flags in the wind. “You pick any guy here- or girl, I ain’t judging. You, you pick one person, take’em upstairs, and this is yours.”
She snickered to herself and bent over crying as she placed the money in my hand. I hiccupped and looked at the bills. Fifty bucks, that was a pretty good bet. But, just sleeping with anyone? I knew sex was pretty normal, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted my first time to be off of a bet. My eyes began to drift across the party goers, looking for any potential mates should I accept Sam’s challenge. One burly son of a bitch caught my eye - surprisingly, he was just chilling out on a couch, chatting with one friend, not in the kitchen doing beer pong while surrounded by a hoard of women.
Amy, who’d been listening to the bet, shifted away before I could say anything and went up to the guy. My face raised in temperature even more, and I had to turn towards Sam in an attempt to explain how I couldn’t accept her offer. She simply smirked and pointed back to Amy, who had brought the guy over by pulling his wrist, chanting my name the whole way over. The guy’s friend joined him, clapping and chanting his name - Mason - and he scratched his head, offering out a hand. Slowly, more and more voices joined in the serenade of names. I grew dizzy from the drone of their shouts, but through it all, one voice came through clear as glass.
“Go on. Go for it.”
I couldn’t figure it out, but something about that voice filled me with a lustful confidence. My heart resolved, and I took Mason’s hand as he led me upstairs, away from the uproaring applause, trapped in that meaty cage of fingers and my fate sealed. I was still quite nervous about the whole deal once we had entered the bedroom, but the alcohol and fading confidence from that voice allowed me to play it off a little more casually.
“First time, I take it?” Mason asked, tossing his keys and phone on a nearby nightstand.
I nodded, tucking my hair behind my ear. “You..?”
“I’ve got a little experience.” He sat beside me and took my hand gently, giving me a light smile. “I’ll take it easy for ya.”
Nodding again, my eyes became focused on his lips. He noticed this, and made the move. We progressed from base to base with surprising ease. I had made out once in the tenth grade, but I shocked myself as I grabbed at his belt and slowly undid its clasp. I think I surprised him too.
It was… painful, awkward. Nothing like movies or TV make it out to be. I was never athletic, so the tearing made me meekly call for a time out after a few minutes. But like he said, Mason took things pretty slowly - so slow I had almost debated asking him to go harder as time went on, though I bit my tongue in shyness. After a little bit though, the worry disappeared, and my heart no longer beat in anxious fear, but in lustful excitement. Feeling his body against mine, the warmth of skin against skin, the dripping of endless fluids, I embraced it. Words flowed from my lips I’d never dare speak before anyone else, words I’d never thought of but must have kept locked away. My body ached for the most sinful requests, and he reciprocated. The groans really stuck out to me. Neither of us sounded human when we peaked. I wondered if that was the case for everyone else.
It should come as no surprise that we continued to see each other after that party. After making that kind of connection for the first time, I wasn’t so willing to go our separate ways and find someone else. And when we were together, I felt that well of confidence fill back up. It may have been lascivious and dirty, but it filled the hole where my faith in my academic ability once stood. Luckily Mason felt the same way, and both of us being students on campus made the relationship easy to handle.
At least, until I caught him making out with another girl a few months later when I came over to surprise him by staying the night. That pain stung for some time, but with great effort I kept myself together and focused that rage and misery into my schoolwork. I felt compelled to show him up, fuelled by repeated thoughts in my head.
“He never loved you, he only wanted to use you. He got what he wanted, and so he let you go.”
Weeks passed, exams came and went, and I headed home with my head high, supported by the pride in my success. I had scored quite well, and was looking forward to the wintery break. Of course, my family was more than eager to pester me about more than just the marks, asking constantly about any men I may have been with and all of the new friends I had made. And between Christmas dinners and family reunions, there was a building itch in my gut.
It got particularly bad at New Year’s, where I met up with some old high school friends to catch up and have a party naturally. I could barely keep my hands off of Drake, one of my closer friends. I forced them to stay clenched in my lap, fighting my body’s urge to slide one up his thigh, whilst shifting in my seat the entire party next to him. I think my loneliness was finally catching up with me, having been able to push it aside after breaking up with Mason. I just wanted to have access to that kind of closeness again.
Nothing happened between us that night, but the urge grew ten-fold after the party. I moved back to university only two days later, but by then it was almost becoming painful, both physically and emotionally. I broke down once I was alone. The pressure surrounding my heart eased off to push tears down my rosy cheeks, turned from the cold weather. The cry made me feel better about Mason, but I still craved his touch. I wanted something physical.
My self pity was corrected soon after, but the amount of grief I felt only greatened. I recall rushing down the white corridors of the city hospital, too panicked to listen to the nurses trying to show me where Kelsey was. There had been an accident. Her car had hit a patch of black ice and couldn’t stop, smashing into the passenger side of someone else. She was still alive, but did not escape unscathed. I remember her face, swollen and purple around one eye, a cut running down the other side.
She was still intact mentally - well, as intact as one could be after an accident - but her car was another story. The thing was damaged pretty badly, and though being salvageable, it was not something Kelsey could immediately afford. Knowing that the car was ruined struck a chord with me, though it must have been heartwrenching for her. Kelsey was not from the richest family on earth, so she had a part time job on the other side of town to make ends meet, including her apartment rent.
Kelsey’s financial situation was a hard one to solve. We had tried a fundraiser at the school, but with little success. Her family couldn’t afford to help out. Her insurance screwed her over, claiming that she should’ve driven more carefully having known the weather conditions. Online fundraising didn’t work out either.
A smile cracked on my lips for but a fleeting moment while waiting for a date to show up one day, remembering how Kelsey herself joked about why she was even at university if it was such a hassle like this. I remembered her head turning on that sterilized pillow to face me. “Perhaps that’s the reason itself; to get a good job, to get out of the hassle,” she responded. It was hard not to stare at her injuries, but I had nodded in agreement, squeezing her hand.
The boy finally arrived and took a seat, apologizing profusely for being late. He was a little overdressed for just coffee, but judging from the texts we had shared he was really anxious or excited about the arrangement. That itch had been getting persistently annoying, and it wasn’t something any of my girls could fulfill. The consoling Lindsey had given me after hearing about Kelsey’s state wasn’t enough. Her hand stroking through my hair only made me crave another hand in another place so much more. I felt as though I was being teased endlessly. So after hearing the fairy tales and horror stories of online dating, I took my chances in the hopes of finding someone new. Unfortunately, I’d yet to hit gold, getting responses from either incredibly horny or ridiculously restrained guys from the area.
Paul here was of the latter. The conversations were never interesting for either extreme, so I just sat down and gave some tired half-assed answers between breaks of silence, winding down the clock until it felt acceptable to leave. Before I could get up to go, he grasped my hands suddenly. He was shaking a bit, which unnerved me. “Hela, I… I’d love to do this again, some other time,” he finally managed to say, offering me a smile.
“Perhaps,” and a wave were all I gave back before disappearing out of the cafe. My heart drummed in anger, and my gut twisted in discomfort. I needed that connection badly. Misery made a request for alcohol, and so I tiredly stumbled my way to a quiet bar downtown. I cradled my beer for a few hours, watching the television talk about some kind of advancements towards the world’s first space elevator and rising tensions about China and North Korea’s possible alliance, drowning myself out of reality. It didn’t get rid of the itch or voices in my mind screaming and kicking for sexual contact, but it made me care less about them.
A hand clapped the top of my own, and my head whipped to the side to see an older fellow grinning from behind one hell of a beard. His hand was rough and calloused. “Yer a good lookin’ one, lass. What’s yer name?”
I was about ready to put my kinesiology studies to work in reverse when I noticed the itch. It didn’t hurt, but it was profound. My heartbeat was slow yet strong, and the same voice from when I’d done it with Mason boomed throughout my mind: “You know how to answer him.”
A thought occurred. There were other ways I could’ve gone about it, but that voice had given me some sense of hope towards this idea working. “For thirty, it’s Hela. For fifty, it’s whatever you want it to be.”
I’ll be honest; doing it with Curtis was an even weirder start than my first time with Mason. But I grew into it faster, having practiced plenty with Mason in our short time together. Of course, I had to get used to some newer positions and acts on the spot, but I think I did well. I walked out of his apartment that night with a solid fifty dollars. It went in a box labelled “Kelsey” when I got home. Lying in bed that night, my heart ached in guilt, but I couldn’t find tears to spill. I’d found a fantastic solution to my own problem and Kelsey’s, regardless of how “wrong” it was. I had grown bored of conversation; I wanted men of action.
They were easy to find, mostly because I’d already encountered a lot of them when I was dating. Now I had a new service to offer them. I had my preferences and my no-nos, though they weren’t impossible to obtain. Just three hundred dollars, and I’d let you play around in a tighter place. That was on the steeper end of my prices though. Typical jobs paid one to two hundred bucks, plus extra charges depending on the arrangements or props. Before all of this, I never would’ve imagined there were guys willing to pay that much for some tender loving, but there it was.
It wasn’t always for sex, though. During a few jobs, my thighs were just a pillow for introverts to rest their heads on. I listened as they poured their hearts out to a stranger they had paid for, responding with an occasional “I see” or “Mhmm” to comfort them. I felt a little guilty sometimes exploiting these lonely guys, but they were the ones paying for it, and it seemed to make them feel better, so the feeling would subside as quickly as it had came.
When it came to Paul, it was more a feeling of anxiousness than guilt. Whenever he would hire me for an evening, something just seemed off. I treated his nights just like any other guy looking for some comfort instead of loving, but he seemed interested in taking a third path. He always seemed more interested in getting to know more about me. I had a feeling about where this was going, with it becoming evidently clear the last night I spent with him. His hands gripped mine like a vice, refusing to let me go. He was sweating profusely, and his eyes were wide in some paranoid fear. “Hela, please, just give me a chance!” he cried, tears rolling down his cheeks. “I know you’re better than this, sleeping around with other guys… just, please!” I couldn’t see this going anywhere good, so I just left as I had after our first date, leaving the extra five hundred dollars on his nightstand. The size of that bonus alone showed how desperate he’d become.
He tried to obtain my services still after that night, but I blocked his number and would ignore him in public. Once, he showed up at my usual bar and threatened to turn me in to the police, blubbering that it was the last thing he wanted to do, but that he “would have no other choice.” Luckily, Curtis and Dennis were there to take care of him and toss him out. I made sure to give them each a good time for half price.
Turning to my friends for support had become… difficult. It didn’t take long after starting to raise enough money to fix Kelsey’s car, and I presented it to her earnestly. It was hard to make her accept it, especially after she dragged the truth of its source out of me. She seemed a bit concerned when I told her, but I promised her that things were fine.
“I mean, yeah, of course I worried that something could happen. It’s just… I don’t know, it’s just kinda weird,” was her response.
The awkwardness carried over to the rest of the group once they heard about it. Eating lunch together wasn’t the same. Asking me about anything seemed like a chore to them, like a series of stones over a raging river one must carefully step across to avoid being swept up. Amy would ask what the “job” was like sometimes, but I never really had an answer for her. I got less calls to come over and party; probably after having been interrupted while getting a facial from Clark.
But at the time, it didn’t really matter. It just opened up more opportunities for work, and it was satiating my desires: money and sex. Calling it a dream job would be really strange, but it really was. My body craved the connection, and my heart didn’t care for using the same guy over and over. It needed variety. I could use my studies to stretch the right muscles to make myself more flexible, prevent injuries during the jobs, or help treat ones that I happened to get. And the pay was fantastic, of course. At first, I was usually shy until that confidence rush kicked in. But as time wore on, the voice grew quieter and spoke less frequently, until it finally stopped. I guess I didn’t need prompting anymore; I embraced this life.
I guess that’s why he came after me. Shoving that knife’s edge into my back that cold night in mid-March, forcing me to his van. I didn’t need to guess who it was; I had seen him watching me for the past few days from his car, before I’d move elsewhere to get out of his sight. Reaching out to the police wasn’t the most optimal plan; they’d be interested in just what I was up to when he was stalking me.
I had felt a single trickle of blood running down my back, but it could not match the number of my fearful goosebumps. Once inside his van, I figured he would be taking me back to his place, to sit in his bedroom surrounded by good boy Bibles and cheap comic books and listen to his offer once again. That’s why I was surprised when he stopped the car quite suddenly and reached over for me.
Choking usually cost an extra fifty; it was a kink I always concerned myself about. But at least the dirty minded ones knew to be somewhat gentle about it. Paul wasn’t, and that was his intent. Feeling his fingers coil around my neck, the thumbs pressing into the space underneath my larynx. My heart cried out, and I struggled to separate his hands, but they wouldn’t budge. Air raced from my lungs, trying to escape before their only path out was blocked by Paul’s grip. My eyeballs pushed against the edges of their sockets, seeking freedom from the rest of my form. I thought he had tears in his own eyes too as he squeezed harder, making the night grow darker. “I tried to save you, but you wouldn’t let me… I can’t let you go on sinning, Hela…”
After a little while, the lights came back on. I had been unconscious, and everything was just pitch black. But just like that, exactly like a light switch, I could see again. I couldn’t move though. I struggled to flop an arm around, to twitch my leg, to speak, to scream, to breathe. My body was having none of that.
Paul drove to the edge of the harbour and got out. I could make out the glow of the two brilliant bridges in the distance before he yanked my corpse out of the car. Losing his grip, my head was smashed against a stone on the shore. He cursed, then picked me back up as blood oozed from my cracked skull, like amber from a tree. I could feel something being tied around my wrists and ankles while my pale face sat in the mud of the shore. I recall the water’s edge slowly consuming my feet, with the cold of the harbour climbing up my body. The sensation gave me some energy, whatever form of consciousness this was.
The drop into the water made it worse - he put me in face first. Guess I didn’t deserve to observe the stars in his mind. But that didn’t stop me from continuing to feel everything. Water surged through empty passages, quickly entering and filling me up. Though I couldn’t breathe, my mind was petrified even more than before, still trying to make my body breathe or move. I could feel the weight of the liquid in my lungs, my stomach, everywhere it could reach. I didn’t hear anything else from my murderer; I simply drifted down into the murky depths.
And depths they were. As I sank, I could feel this strange consciousness I’d come to recognize as my soul drift apart from my body, until I could clearly see the horrified expression on my face. The horror came not from the bubbles escaping my closed mouth, or the light blood stains that were slowly being washed away. It was in the eyes. Those wide, unblinking, empty eyes spoke so much in their silence. And as my corpse hit the harbour’s floor, I continued downwards, being pulled through the very earth itself. The taste of dirt filled my spirit’s mouth, the rocks left gashes across my arms and legs, and the magma seared everything else. For thousands of kilometers, I slowly sunk into the true depths, burning and screaming the whole way, without a chance to rest or die.
Then I arrived in hell.
I wasn’t the only one falling.
Once the ground gave way to an immeasurable cavern, I was able to discern the forms of other bodies falling from the ceiling as well. All of us were bloodied and burnt, flailing helplessly as we fell down towards the rocky terrain below. The only ground I could see was a mountainous pillar, surrounded by an even larger pit, from which no source of light could be seen. Fires burned viciously across the surface of the highest layer, and magma poured of the sides of the pillar in some areas. Large islands of stone floated freely all around it, some linked back to the mainland by large rusted chains.
This couldn’t be happening. On the way down I was paranoid that this might have been the destination my spirit was being dragged to, but I didn’t want to believe it. I couldn’t, not until I was there. I tried to swim around in the air, but it hurt to move with my body being completely singed. The closer I got to the ground, the more panicked I became. My heart began pounding profusely, and more blood began leaking from some of the cracks in my charred skin.
We finally landed after what seemed like ages. Some of the fallers were pierced by large spires of stone scattered throughout, and joined in the ominous choir of screams that echoed throughout the area. I hit the dust hard, my skin reacting harshly to it being coated in filth. I could feel something inside my left arm splinter and crumble, finally making me scream. I was already beyond terrified on the inside, but the broken bone had finally brought me out of the shock. The dust had entered most of my wounds, making my skin react harshly to it. There were spots of drying blood everywhere, pooling around jagged stones and broken bones alike. The air was hot, and it hurt to breathe in.
I said nothing and stayed where I was, crying in agony. I keep praying that this was just some freakish nightmare, but the physical pain was far too real. Shaking, I slowly raised my head, looking around, and finally caught a glimpse of the realm’s occupants.
The demons looked exactly as one would think of them; bat-like wings, horrific horns adorning their dark red skulls, and monstrous hulking forms that looked capable of snapping every part of my body in two. I was watching another person having a spasm on the ground, writhing in torment like myself, when one appeared. It started out as a smoke slowly pouring out from the person’s back, growing denser with time and not affected by the dusty whirlwinds of the plateau. The smoke began to take shape, and once it had formed a shadowy outline of the creature, it walked out of the smog and grabbed the man around his neck, before dragging him away. I’d eventually learn the truth behind this, but at the time, my eyes were transfixed on the monster, hoping with all my heart that it wouldn’t take me with the other victim.
I followed their movement to where they were headed. It was a massive bridge, built on the bones of some ancient and titanic being. The dark clouds circled around a site on the other side, creating a spiral of grey and red above. I noticed a rock nearby that I could hide behind, so using my good arm and fighting the pain, I dragged the rest of my broken body over. If this was hell, I was going to avoid my eternal punishment for as long as possible.
As I pulled my ruined body across the ash, I noticed something about my arm. There were fewer cracks in the charred skin than earlier, and the bleeding had stopped. Suspicious, I looked different spots on my body. My left arm was still broken, but the skin was one continuous charcoal texture - no gashes, no cuts, nothing. I touched along its surface and winced as my fingers pulled the blackened skin apart, reopening some of the wounds, before taking my hand away and letting it reset.
A metal boot stomped onto the crust of my forearm and I screamed once again, looking up through strained tears to see the perpetrator. My eyes travelled from the heavy foot, up the wispy ash grey cloak, to the shadowy face of this ten foot tall monstrosity. It breathed quietly yet eerily, and it was adorned in rusted armour, giving it the appearance of restraints rather than protection. Tendrils of smoke flowed from its head, concealing any facial features. But the part that irked me the most was what came from its back; there were six large wings, or rather, the stumps of what were once wings, protruding out from behind its body. The tips were seared and black, and only a few feathers could be seen dangling from its limbs, either smouldering or burned up.
I couldn’t help staring in fearful awe, but the feeling was snatched away quickly and replaced with more pain as the fallen angel twisted the heel of its boot into my arm, crushing the black layer of skin into dust. The salty tears cooled just tiny parts of my face, though I imagined they would stop coming soon, and only the screams and feelings would be left. The boot lifted, and the angel lowered it head. Now I could hear it; it hadn’t been breathing, but rapidly whispering a series of dialects, too fast for me to discern what it was saying. It was greatly intrigued by the wound it had just created, and its face jerked upwards to meet mine. I stared into it abyssal mask, forgetting to breathe. The whispering stopped, and in a voice that made my brain rattle it spoke one word.
With its rusted gauntlet, it yanked me by what hair I had left and started taking me across the bridge. I yelped and flailed, trying to escape its grasp while feeling my scalp begin to split. When the chunk of hair came off in its hand, it reached back and caught my neck, continuing onwards while I gasped in desperation for a breath of air. My brain was pounding, constantly asking for more oxygen, but it would not black out. Slowly, I was dragged across that bridge to certain doom through ash and wind, and my body would not go unconscious. Hell certainly lived up to its name.
As my mind continued screaming for a breath of air, my eyes gingerly gazed upon the angel’s wound to see what the stink was about. In that open sore, amongst the peeling skin and seared muscles, were scales. Right at the edge of the wound, just barely glinting in the fire’s light, were a series of small purple scales. The image repeated in my mind as I stared back at my trail in the dust, the same question looping in my brain - what was that? I almost half expected the fallen angel to answer, but it instead continued to whisper eternally in its many tongues.
I lacked any strength to fight back, and so we continued on, deeper into hell. If my body hit a stone, the shockwave of pain would spread throughout my body, waking me for just a moment and making me aware of my surroundings. I saw lines of people, thousands burnt and afraid, being carried by their demons. The angel continued on, ignoring the cries and screams of those poor unfortunate souls.
My throat was only released when the fallen one tossed me to the ground before a different group of demons at the edge of the abyss. I tried to speak, to beg for mercy, but all that came out were wheezes and coughs. The two demons stepped away from a large metal vehicle that sat on the cliff and approached.
“Well then, what’a we got ‘ere, Rakhiel?” the first demon asked. I assumed it was talking to the fallen.
My ability to understand them made my eyes widen in surprise, into which one of them kicked some dust from the ground. I blinked furiously to get as much dust out of my eyes as possible, so I could witness what was going on, with my heart racing at a hundred miles a minute. When my vision cleared, I saw a pair of hoofed feet standing before me, with red fur strangled around it. My back tensed, and I slowly moved my gaze upwards to see the commotion.
The angel said nothing - at least, nothing in response, as its whispering continued - and just pointed down towards me violently. The wing stubs fluttered and spread out for a moment, causing some of the feathers to fall from their spots. From its body language, I couldn’t help but feel that Rakhiel was angered towards them, though I couldn’t understand why.
“Oh, ho! Look at mister big shot there,” demon one replied in a relaxed fashion, while the second stepped back, a fang biting on its lip in… concern? “Just remember your place, fallen, or perhaps you want to join her? You just watch yourself, or you can join the fate of your brethren in the basement, got it?”
The demon was right in front of the angel now, growling and staring him down, despite being half the height and likely a quarter the strength of his adversary. Rakhiel made no movement, before slowly approaching me and pulling a piece of metal off of his armour. He clasped my wrists and ankles in chains, immediately bringing back the panic of drowning. I began to resist and fight against the restraints.
“Take note, unit L-6057 experiences trauma towards bondage at the wrists and ankles,” the second demon said aloud.
“Stop messing around; we gotta get it to A-poll before it turns completely.”
“Don’t worry; if it was a devourer, it would have already happened. It’ll need time before it shows.”
“Just get it in the boat.”
“Rakhiel! Come here,” demon two called out. The angel made its way back over, then tossed me onto the ‘boat’ and turned away, travelling back where I had landed. The demons let out a slew of curses under their breath. Some of their words were unfamiliar, but from the tone they seemed to be to the same effect.
Something moved behind me, kicking me in the butt. I forced my body to roll over and came face to face with a pair of bright white eyes behind a mask of coal coloured skin. They were wide and afraid, with their mouth gagged on top of similar cuffs to mine. I tried to answer back somehow, but I could only nod a little before being yanked back in the other direction, receiving a punch to the gut as punishment.
“No conversation between prisoners!” the annoyed demon from before shouted. His breath hit harder than the punch, and I gagged and heaved, though nothing escaped my lips. A gag was fitted in its place - now I was like everyone else. I felt the ship jostle and bounce, then slowly it began moving across the gaping abyss. Hell creatures patrolled around us, armed with talons and fangs sharper than anything to be found on earth. The shock of just being in hell had very slightly begun to wear off, replaced by the compiling terror of what awaited me down here.
The boat docked with the same kind of roughness as it had left, as though it were crashing into the floating island of rock we were now on. There were only four of us on the boat, and each were carried off by two demons. There was only one structure on the isle, surrounded by an enormous wall. It had to be at least ten stories tall, which seemed excessive, even in this place. One gate existed and opened at our approach. Above it read: Apollyon - Cambion Containment Facility.
A prison? The thought surprised my brain. Why would you need a prison in a place already meant to inflict suffering on the sinful? The purple scales flashed in my mind, and that word the fallen angel had said: cambion. Is that what I was? Was that why I was being taken here? What made me different?
Once past the wall, which took some time to walk through, an ebony castle of sorts await us on the other side. Barbed wire and spiked poles blocked every window. Fire burned in torches and cauldrons surrounding the prison. There were hellspawns flying around the outside, watching over us from on high. One particularly large monster, probably a little taller than the angel from earlier, was coming out of the main gate, escorted by two other fallen ones. Satan immediately came to mind.
“More fusers?” the devil asked, his voice booming towards us.
“Four more, sir.”
“Very well. You know the drill.” He approached and looked down at me. Then, pinching my charred cheek, he ripped off a layer of the torched skin. My muffled cries made him laugh, before gesturing us into the prison. I could feel the blood racing from my face and down my neck.
We were first taken into a large room. The interior walls were old and worn, the spikes driving outwards looking ready to break off at any moment in their rusted states. Several fiends awaited us there, claws unsheathed and an aura of bloodlust exuding from them. They began to claw and kick and scratch at all of us, tearing away our blackened exteriors until only muscle, blood, and pieces of scale remained. After the restraints were taken away, I cradled my bleeding form, hugging myself gently but hurting regardless.
Claws wrapped around my arm, and I yelped as I was forced to my feet and escorted up a stairway to the higher floors. I looked back for a moment, fearful to be separated from my kin, but a free hand forced my head forward. The first thing that surprised me when entering the cell block was the sound - or rather, lack thereof. There wasn’t the shouting of fellows prisoners, no arms reaching out to grab me, no whistling at the naked girl before them. Not that they could, anyways - every cell was locked behind a large steel door, old and browning, with two large chains forming an X across its surface and a padlock in the centre. In place of general prisoner rowdiness, only after a few minutes of walking, all I could hear was the low, guttural growl of something insidious within the prison’s depths.
I swallowed, then turned to my guard. “Wh-what was th-”
My answer came in the form of talons digging into my exposed tissues. “Quiet,” he grumbled.
We continued down the corridor, stopping in front of such a door. Another fallen angel rounded the corner, a hefty sword lacking a hilt strapped to its back. The demon nodded to it, his claws still dug into my muscles. The angel then proceeded to whisper faster than the others I had heard, steadily growing in volume, until I heard a sound like shattering glass. The padlock and chains had been broken, falling to jagged pieces on the ground. I would have been amazed if I wasn’t so terrified of the absolute darkness I saw within the cell.
With a shove, I stumbled forward, cutting the soles of my feet on the shrapnel at the door’s base, before falling onto the floor. Cowering, I looked through the red light at the fallen angel, who stood in front of the door, a shadow covering its body. The creature began to whisper quickly again, and the pieces of the metal began to reform into the door. I managed to crawl over to the door just before the last beam of light disappeared, and I rested there against the wall, finally able to sob in hopeless despair.
. . .
I waited for something to come out of the dark and devour me. Not that I would see it coming - there was no light in this cell. As in, I could not even see my own hands. No crack of light from around the door’s edges, no barred windows (which confused me the most, as I had seen them coming in), nothing but pitch black. So I waited, fearful to venture too far from the door. Waving around blindly for a moment, I placed a shaky hand on its exterior to acknowledge its presence. But in the place of rust crumbling under my gentle touch, all I felt was a continuation of the wall’s surface. I turned and ran both hands over the wall, but there were no bumps or ledges to feel. The door was gone.
I swallowed, barely any saliva left to wet my parched throat. I tried to stay calm, sniffing from my last bout of tears. I continued patting my hands along the walls, even though it stung to touch. I followed along the wall, but there were no changes in the texture anywhere. I also noticed that the width of my cell seemed awfully large. Counting my footsteps, I found myself back where I had believed the door to be originally, then turned around, and stumbled forward with arms outstretched, looking for the back side of the cell. I made sure to count how far I had gone. One hundred six… one hundred seven…
Minutes passed and I hadn’t found the other end of the room. My mind could barely wrap itself around the size of this room, but I was too tired to care. The best option was to just turn around and wait by the door again. So, backwards I stepped, counting down from triple digits, to double, then to single. When I reached the wall, I let my body fall back to rest against the wall.
My head made a sickening crack and my ears rang as yet another pain seared through my body. But the cause had been my own doing; I hit the floor. Dizzied and panicked, I reached around, trying to touch the smooth surface I needed to get my bearings. Now my only reliable knowledge of getting out of this place was useless, and I started to lose my mind. I screamed, I shouted, I pounded on the floor, I demanded to be set free. I rolled around in my own torment, sometimes falling off mysterious ledges and breaking a bone in the process. There was no predictability in this cruel realm, and I was but a slave to its whims.
With every chance to heal, I would feel across my body for changes. Sometimes there were hard bits sticking out of my skin - were they claws, spikes, talons? Or was it just another broken bone jutting outwards? The scales were the easiest to tell. They slowly grew across my back, under the armpits, and down the sides of my torso. As they formed, they grew exceedingly itchy, especially since they didn’t spread all across my body. There were large patches of skin left visible, revealing the more “beautiful” aspects of my body, while the rest turned into a reptilian nightmare. I scratched viciously at the borders between scale and skin, even though it hurt just as much as it relieved. My forearms and thighs were scarred by the scratching, now with a clear transition between muscle and scale. My fingernails had grown larger, causing me to underestimate their position and poke myself in the eyes on many occasions - as well as tear more skin and tissue. I was a child, picking at an unending scab, rivers of blood dividing the two types of my exterior.
It felt as though it had been three days since being introduced to my cell that my head began to hurt. It wasn’t coming from the brain, but rather of the front of my cranium, at the skin, like a painful pimple. It felt swollen in two different spots, and so I was forced to wail and moan while something else pushed its way out of my skull. When the pain grew to be too much, I made use of my new claws and ripped at the skin there too. I remember the taste of blood running down to my mouth as I gingerly touched the spots afterwards - horns. Tiny, pointed horns of bone protruding from my head. To know that I was becoming a freak, but to not be able to see it - I feared what I’d look like if a mirror was placed in front of me. I wouldn’t even be looking at the same person, or a person at all. It would be whatever she-demon monstrosity I had become. When I wasn’t being tossed around by pitfalls and slanting floors, I wept to the truth of my situation.
One day, there was a sound. Aside from my cries of agony, nothing had ever made a noise within my cell. I looked behind me and immediately shielded my eyes as a stream of light quickly took over the cell. I was laying in the exact spot I had landed when the cell was first opened. Once my eyes had adjusted enough to the light, I looked down to see the pile of red and brown ooze I was sitting in. Pieces of skin and bone floating atop a putrid sludge of rotten blood, and only now did the smell hit me. My guts heaved and tossed themselves up into the mess, and as I recovered from the violent spill, an arm hooked itself under mine and yanked me out of the darkness.
They took me to another area of the prison, and for a short while, that escort felt like heaven. Perhaps that’s what they wanted, only to tear that away from me too and plunge me deeper into despair. The trip was not entirely happy though, as I was finally able to get a good look at myself. My heartbeat lost its rhythm as I saw the glint of my scales in the fire light. I turned my palms over and back multiple times, trying to come to terms with my new form. It felt really strange, learning the sensation of the scales scrape over one after being used to the way skin folds. I was going to reach up to feel just how long my horns had grown, but one of the guards just forced my arm back downwards.
Another vicious growl shook the building as I was led to a large pair of double doors. One guard reached forward and knocked on it, to which a familiar voice answered: “Enter!” The doors swung open to reveal a dungeon most medieval; the typical way one would imagine such a place: spike and chains, other humanoid figures like myself hanging limp across the rugged stone walls in awkward positions, and the large demon I had seen upon arrival.
“Greetings, L-6057. It’s time for your first reset.” Satan grinned in only the way a devil could, before snapping his clawed fingers. The guards hurried me over to the wall, towards a series of metal cuffs. The rope around my wrists and ankles, the plunge into the water, the constant fading of reality, the pain of gasping for air. It overwhelmed my mind, destroying any ability to resist the guard’s actions, so by the time I had managed to escape the memory even remotely, I was already tethered down, with the lord of hell raising a rusty mace above his head.
The… ”reset”, as he put it, was nothing less than torture. Simply put, and highly oversimplified, it was just torture. My bones were meticulously broken, as though he were performing surgery. The difference was, this surgery did not aim to heal. One finger bone at a time, my hand became worthless. Sometimes he didn’t even need to use harsh violence to hurt. A grazing claw along my smooth face led to much worse things. Having a broken jaw made things easier for him. At least the dirty minded ones knew to be gentle. At least they paid me well. At least I wanted it with them. I found myself drifting and reflecting on my sins from when I was alive to break free from the situation. It didn’t lessen the pain, but at least I wasn’t concentrating on it. Maybe that’s what they wanted though. It was going to hurt either way; I just chose to let the emotional pain sink in too. I deserved this. I had earned this. This was my eternal reward, the last job and payment.
When the punishment wasn’t ironic in nature, it was cruel and unforgiving. Having my scales plucked off one by one with dirty tweezers; a needle pushed under each fingernail and slowly lifted upwards, pushing the claw out of its place and leaving a raw, bloody tip of meat; having my feet and hands dipped into pools of lava; a red-hot iron pear, covered in spikes, inserted where it could fit. Nothing was off limits to him, and while I tried to distract my mind, the sudden bursts of misery yanked me back into the dungeon, and back into despair. I tried reaching out to God sometimes, asking for him to get me out. I didn’t hear an answer.
I barely remember being dragged back to my cell. All I could feel was the burning hurt and pangs of hunger from my “reset”. My consciousness began to wake up as we approached the cell, and I tried to wrestle my way out of the demon guards’ grasp, but every movement only caused more pain.
“P… pl… please…” was the only word I managed to mutter, tears beginning to form in my eyes once again. One of the guards scowled at me, but ignored my cry. From my one good eye, I could see the same angel open my cell door. My body wanted to struggle, but it was far too battered to do so. I landed in the sludge, immobile and broken, as darkness overcame me once again.
And that became the cycle. Once I had healed enough to the point that I even thought of fighting back or breaking out, it was reset time. I’d be escorted to Satan’s office, the reset would be administered, and then I was tossed back into the dark. To make the cell worse still, a new tier of punishment had been added. The first time it happened, I was terrified that I was really going to die, that they had put something else in the cell with me to finish me off. The shadows began to strike. There was no pattern or reason to their assaults; at entirely random intervals, I would be struck by something in the dark. Sometimes it was just one blow, other times it felt like multiple beings stabbing across my body. I could never sleep or close my eyes; there was no time to rest.
As the years went on, or so I thought it had been years, my soul began to die. Hope was a joke. Resistance was beyond futile. God refused to answer the phone. I became a near shell of a ‘living’ creature, my mind growing dull and quiet, but it was never enough to escape the punishments. I was trapped in a grave of my own design.
My mind was brought back to consciousness the day the shadows stopped striking.
It was growing close to another reset. I was sitting limply in my realm of torment, constantly under the onslaught of what shadow creatures resided here. They clawed and stabbed at me, but my body had grown used to the scratches they made. They healed over more quickly, meaning that resets had become more common than before.
But it stopped. At first they were just slowing down, but soon, one by one, each of the shadows came to a standstill. I could still feel their presence, like breath on the back of my neck, sending shivers down my spine and goosebumps across what skin I had left. Then, they took off, either sprinting away and leaving a small gust of wind in their place, or fading back into the floor of my chamber. This was not normal; typically they’d beat me down until my body was wet with blood, but they’d only left a few marks. The room had stopped shifting as well. I swallowed and pointlessly looked around in the darkness, trying to see what had made them leave.
As I sat there, I could hear something: a whisper. The language of the angels. The rapid shifting of tongues, flipping through multiple dialects in milliseconds, but something about this voice was off. It was distorted at some points, frighteningly deep and gravelly, before shifting to a tone more befitting of the language it spoke in the moment. The voice grew louder, and louder, and I spun around on the spot, trying to figure out where it was coming from. I soon discerned its origin - from within my own head. My heart was pounding hard within my chest, beating violently against the ribcage.
Be not afraid, child. I have chased the shadows away.
The millions of voices had stopped abruptly, leading to this voice of a young man, professional and kind with a hint of malice. It seemed to be trying to cover up an echo of menace that followed every word it spoke. I looked upwards expecting to see a fallen one hovering above me, but there was only more pitch black.
“He… hello?” I whispered to the dark.
Yes, hello child.
“Who’s there? Who are you? Show yourself!”
Hush, now. That’s no way to treat your saviour. Now please, settle down. There is much to speak of, much for you to learn of, and I have little patience for meaningless quarrel.
The room felt colder. I slowly huddled down, keeping my eyes up and alert, watching for anything at all that might appear. “Wh-what is it I need to know…?”
You will be my champion, Hela.
Hearing someone speak my name for the first time in ages brought a tear to my eye. I could feel my heart relax slightly, taking some comfort in the stranger’s words. I even laughed a bit, though this was more at the insanity of the proposition. “Your champion, eh? And what do you expect me to do exactly? And how do you know my name?”
I know many things, Helena. Many things.
“Then t-tell me what has happened to me, what this place is, if you’re so all-knowing.” I continued to whisper; for all I knew, I was finally going mad, and I didn’t need the guards to suddenly hear me and give me an extra reset.
Oh, you humans… if I can even call you that anymore. If I do, you will be my champion. Do we have a deal?
I bit my lip, then nodded to myself. Anything was better than being alone and suffering again - even being this thing’s ‘champion’. “O-okay…”
Contract established. It’s been a pleasure. The voice groaned, as though it were settling into a chair to tell me a bedtime story. Now then - what do you know of cambions?
“One of the angels here… fallen angels, called me that.”
As he should have. Good Rakhiel, making your curiosity blossom. Now when you came to this realm, you saw my minions manifest from your fellow sinners and drag them away. Did you notice, Hela, that no guardian angel spawned from the backs of other sinners? Do you know why that is?
I shook my head by instinct, but somehow the voice noticed this.
You see, child, your God… It paused for a moment here, sounding particularly agitated. Your God crafted humanity in His own image. Yet, He could not have His own creation grow to overthrow Him. Having been born of God and angel, you would be immensely powerful. So, a portion of your soul was stripped from you - a hole in your very being.
When I tempted the first ones with the Fruit of Knowledge, they became aware. Their blissful ignorance towards their incomplete nature was shattered, and thus they began to pursue methods of filling the void.
Humanity today is no different. Booze, drugs, sex, wealth. All of these different powers, you abuse them to fix the void that He left in you. And it’s always wanting more. More food, more money, more sex. It seeks to be whole, child. But as long as you follow His word, His Bible, you resist that urge, and stay weaker than Him.
“Wait a minute,” I spoke out. The voice wasn’t quite the same, but I thought I knew who I was speaking to, and my throat grew tight. The memories of my resets flooded my brain, and the face of the warden was burned into my consciousness. “You’re… y-you’re… the jailer...”
It laughed at me again. Oh, come now! You truly thought that I was that miserable blasphemer, Mephistopheles? Ha! Perhaps you’re too foolish to be my champion…
“N-no! Wait, please!” I got on my knees and clasped my hands together, begging to the ceiling for the devil not to go. “I-I’m sorry… please don’t go… it’s so lonely in here…”
Very well. I forgive you, child. But never confuse me for his kind again; I fell from the heavens above, and he was spawned in this abyss. Understand?
I nodded quickly, keeping silent. I did not want to anger the only company I would ever have in here, even if it was the prince of evil.
And one last note; I prefer Lucifer. It sounds much more majestic than Satan, the devil… and all of those other nonsense nicknames your people have for me.
Now then, where was I… oh yes! The revolt. I did not agree with this - such a large race of creatures being denied their true potential, just so He could play with them as He pleased! So after shattering the illusion that blinded Adam and Eve, I called upon my brethren, and we tried to take control of the throne. We marched on God’s temple, fighting against the foolish angelic collective, stripping away our masks to show our true unique selves. Unfortunately, we…
Lucifer coughed at this point, and with a disgruntled mumble he continued. It sounded as though it pained him to admit defeat. We were... unable, to… succeed, and for that a third of His angels were tossed into the depths. I was thrown especially hard and deep, down here to the darkest, coldest layer of Hell.
An image flashed in my mind. It was a cold, blue cavern, with a floor of ice and bodies stuck within. At the center was a massive figure, as tall as a skyscraper and as wide as one too. Its wings were clipped as well, like the other angels, but they were frozen over, unable to grow any feathers. Chains hung from the stony ceiling and wrapped around every part of the creature’s body. Upon its face sat a metal mask, grey and scratched, with the same wispy smoke spiralling out from the burnt out eye holes and mouth, blackened and rough around the edges. And surrounding the base of the being were multiple fallen angels, bowing in worship or standing and whispering that nauseating beratement of words. When the vision ended, I found myself gasping for air, coughing and choking to breathe. But he spoke on.
Though I was without much of my power, from the second I landed, I was plotting my return to the divine realm. With time and malice, I turned the first sinful ones sent here into monsters - the first demons. Given some degree of power by myself, they would be my army once I broke free of this icy prison and fight on the front lines in my revolution. Until then, they would travel to earth in an ethereal form, lingering over their former kind to drag more of them into the underworld. Now, every person on earth has a demon on their shoulder, from birth to death.
This role was risky, however. The hole in a human’s soul, should it become strong enough, can pull in the very demon that is clinging on and whispering temptations into their ears. Hence why you never see one of His angels coming out of their bodies; He does not want to risk one of His precious warriors being swallowed up in your void, so they stay up in heaven.
Needless to say, when this does happen with a demon, it results in your current disposition, child; the birth of a cambion, the forbidden fusion of demon and man.There are two ways this can happen. The first is when a demon convinces a person into a form of sin so often, that the human incorporates that very sin into their daily life, until committing it becomes no hassle.
I looked down in the dark towards my shaking hands. I could not see them, but I knew what was there anyways. My palm was of pale skin, and the other side of sickly magenta scales, stained in spots of brown. I wasn’t human anymore. Only a cambion, only a monster.
It’s a part of them, and so the void is filled as the demon and the man become one, and a “fuser” like yourself is created, or so the demons have taken to calling you.
Knowing what I had become chilled me to the core. As though I could feel the space he spoke of pulsating from within - the hole in my very being, now filled by a demonic concrete. I covered my ears tightly. I was done listening, I’d heard enough, these were lies. They had to be! “I’m not a monster…” I whispered to myself, over and over again. But no amount of repetition or blocking could shut out the devil’s voice.
The other is something far more interesting… and much more terrifying to Mephisto’s kind. Sometimes, a human is born with an innate malice. A cruelty towards their God, their own species, and even themselves. A desire to sin. Perhaps it comes from a void that can never be filled, but who’s to say? Those who sin for the sole purpose of acting out against God spiritually consume the demon; a morbid end for any hellspawn unlucky enough to be assigned to such a human. These are the “devourers”, and when they arrive, well… let’s just say they’re not nearly as easily contained as you are.
The king of the fallen angels laughed again, this time imitating the growl I’d heard echoing throughout the prison before - the sound of the devourers. My skin crawled trying to imagine the form a person would have to undergo to make a sound like that.
Now then, if we’re done talking about your needs, it’s time that mine were met.
Still struggling to fully come to terms with what was happening, I choked out a reply. “W-wh-what do you mean…”
You know what I mean. Becoming my champion. Unless you really are this dimwitted, in which case I’ll have to find-
“What do I have to do!?” I exclaimed, my voice echoing throughout the void. Sweat dripped down my face; I almost lost him. Even if I didn’t like what was being said, it was still better than before.
Good. Some time ago, Mephisto started to ignore my command. He claimed control over my realm, and being imprisoned here, there was nothing I could do. Ordering my brothers to slaughter the army I had spent so long building up was out of the question, and he took advantage of this. The demons now obey his orders, but in truth, those fallen angels you’ve seen are still loyal to the true lord of this place. There is a structure that your people have been building for years now, one that truly scrapes the sky. Do you know of what I speak?
It had been so long since I’d come down here, it took a moment to recall. I had only heard some mentions of the elevator here and there; a large transportation tunnel that connected to a space platform, where humanity would begin the first attempts at frequent space travel. The last I’d heard was in that bar the night my demon began to merge with me, or so Lucifer claimed.
There was a reason your God knocked down the Tower of Babel - a different reason from the claims of hubris He protested. The only way for a creature of hell to reach heaven is by a physical ladder. A structure of any kind will do, but so long as it goes high enough, we can erupt from the earth and race to paradise. So as you can see, it was not as a punishment for excessive pride, but rather it was out of self preservation.
Mephisto believes he will invade heaven with my army when that structure is completed within the coming days. He is gravely mistaken. You will escape this prison within a prison, and fly off to earth. There, you will cling to any man of your choosing… and bring that tower crashing down. Do this, and I will give you a place in my army.
I swallowed as the devil cackled inside my head, and my heart sunk yet again. “You… want me to... kill innocent people, to stop an invasion of heaven…”
That is correct.
“W… why? Isn’t that what you want?”
Fool! Mephisto cares not for your kind, and should he take that throne, he will lay waste to your world. Hell on earth, as you would say, and that is putting it delicately. I merely wish to change the cruel laws that restrain your people. The word of God is out of date, in need of renewal. I seek that future, one ruled by a truly fair God.
He wanted me to knock down a tower. And kill thousands of innocent people.
Take your own predicament, for example. You didn’t lust for your own sake, to start. You wished to help your friend. But lust is lust, and rules are rules to Him. A sin is a sin, and you were doomed to come here, regardless of intent. Do you see? I understand, child. I see you for who you are.
I couldn’t respond, not right away. Even after being a prisoner of Apollyon for so long, these revelations made me dizzy. Spinning round and round, my brain trying to continue this juggling act between the morally righteous and my own desires. I would be murdering perfectly good people who have lives to lead… but it would mean my freedom from this prison…
Hela. You would be sacrificing a mere few thousand to protect literal billions; whereas Mephisto would see every last one of them burn. You sold your body to heal your friend once before, but now when you are called upon to save humanity itself, you turn your back?
I had no response. No direction seemed correct. So I stayed silent at the crossroads, refusing to choose. “Why me…” I whispered to myself.
Perhaps because your name reminds me of myself… some of your people called me something similar. Lucifer chuckled once again. Call it my Achilles’ heel.
A gurgling in my gut began to spring up. My other half reared its ugly head, lured out by the promise of self-preservation and aiming to smooth out my sense of morality. I could be free. I could escape this hellhole. Just knock down the tower and that’s it. Besides, I had no idea how many people it would actually kill. I was just guessing. I couldn’t humanly know how many people I’d hurt. Maybe no one would get hurt. Probably only a few people. Then humanity would be safe from Mephistopheles. And I’d be free. And it wasn’t like I was walking up and stabbing people in the gut with a knife or chopping their heads off - they’d die by coincidence. They just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. And then I’d be free. I’d only be killing demons. And angels, when I was given a rank in his army. Not in the prison. Free.
“How do I get out of here..?”
The laugh that followed was the cruelest of them all, riddled with victorious overtone. Cracks of light pierced the room, and the devil left with his thousand voices as the door of my cell creaked open. I recognized the looming figure of a fallen angel hovering in the doorframe and slowly crept over, humbled and meek as I had been conditioned to behave when the door is opened. However, I was not throttled by the neck and dragged out of the cell. Instead, the angel simply waited, perhaps scoffing and gesturing for me to hurry up. My eyes reacted to the firelight by shutting immediately, but the many building sounds forced them back open out of curiosity.
All of the doors in the cell block were open.
Slowly, horrific abominations of my kin crawled out. The cell across from me had a sickeningly green man, scrawny and literally gutless, stumble out while cracking and popping one of his many arms back into place. He carried several more, and gave me a beastly stare, as though I would steal his limbs.
To my left, another creature came, but this person was the opposite. Their gut was almost all I could see, with a monstrous scar of jack-o-lantern teeth across its width, with orange skin to match. I stumbled back slightly when the stomach licked its lips. On my other side, a tall, muscular yet nude man was observing the Halloween flock. He appeared human for the most part, but when our eyes met, the cold of a long winter shocked my system. Snorting, he walked past, not paying me any mind as his scales lengthened out into coat tails and a top hat, motioning for the other cambions to follow him.
It was just an illusion of leadership, however. Once the more primal prisoners stopped trying to kill one another, all of the inmates were rushing down the corridor regardless - on foot, wing, or along the walls. I was stuck towards the back of the horde, with the fallen angel following beside me. A prickling sensation touched my neck, and I looked at the angel, whose smokey face was mere inches from my own. Once the thousand voices settled, it spoke clear English in a raspy tone. “I am Thammuel. Our Highest Brother wished to inform you that this ‘exercise’ should remove the fear of your task. His strength is reborn, at long last! Do not let this all be for not, cambion.”
Swallowing, I nodded, then turned my head away and kept running with the group. I didn’t bother asking anything else; this was my shot at freedom, and wasting time with questions would probably make Lucifer shift his favour elsewhere. For all I knew, this could be a competition between us all to see who his ‘champion’ would be.
As I rounded a corner, I could hear the grumbling and howling of fellow cambions. The spikes on the walls had extended out, creating a fence of rust and stone between us and one of the stairwells. A few cambions had been pierced while crossing, growling in agony and yelling at others to get them down. Not many helped, as a new sound caught everyone’s attention; the clambering of claws and feet.
We turned to witness an ensemble of guards come up from behind us. The more ravenous cambions rushed to the front lines and collided with the demons, while us timid few stayed back looking at each other.
“I-I can’t do this,” one girl cried, huddling on the floor and holding her head. “I thought we were just going to be free!”
“I can’t die here! I’m needed elsewhere!” a suit-wearing cambion seconded.
“Argh, enough of this! W-we need to do s-something!” The many-armed green man from before stepped forward. “Y-you! Come help me!” Three of his hands pointed at me.
Before I could fully respond, he grabbed my arm. “Y-you’re going to help m-me!” He wasn’t afraid; rather, he seemed quite angry and just happened to have a stutter.
“Uh.. okay…” I scanned across the fighting to look for any easy targets. I pointed out one of the smaller guards. “What if you distract that guy with your arms, or something, and I-”
“NO!” he shouted, drawing my target’s attention. “I-I-I-I want the kill!”
“Okay, okay, fine.” I looked to the guard, now rushing at me. Biting my lip, my mind raced through ways of slowing him down. Looking down at my figure, I realized the answer.
Taking a deep breath, I stared down the guard and reached back, throwing my hands through my hair. Slowly, the tension in my stomach disappeared as that old confidence poured through my veins once more. I stretched my arms upwards, making sure to keep eye contact with the guard. He was still running at me; I wasn’t influencing him. The energy began to wobble and fade, so I tried a last ditch effort. One hand to the groin, another over my breasts. I was far too afraid of what the guard would do if he reached me to become flustered, but my line of sight stayed focused on his. And with a quiet wish for his lust to come out, I released my breath and watched.
The eyebrow twitched was the first thing to come. Then the stopping of his feet, and the slow approach as the guard reached out to caress my cheek. I forced a fake smile to lure him just a bit closer, but I couldn’t hide my shock as his head was twisted around by a fleet of hands.
The dark blood splattered across my body, and as I tried to wipe the sludge off, I watched the green man pry open the guard’s back. Each hand rushed inside, gripping organs and muscles alike, then plastered them on the man’s body. The green skin began to spread over the bloody body parts, and the man gasped and choked a few times as they were added to his own form. Bones cracked as he snapped off one of the demon’s arms, then reached behind him and shoved it into his spine with a grisly snap. Its red skin slowly join the same shade as his other appendages, before he gave me a look. “W-w-what!? What do you w-want? Y-y-you d-did FINE!”
It wasn’t the green man’s actions that terrified me. It was the screams still coming from the guard’s mouth as he thrashed his head about endlessly, snapping his teeth at the man. Nodding shakily, I returned my gaze to the fight.
Rolling the fingers on each hand, I approached the bloodbath as another guttural scream echoed through the prison. As a mass of bone and hunger, we pushed our way through Apollyon’s halls. I would go to the side and seduce a few guards, inebriating them long enough to be devoured by the stomach monsters, or have their bodies torn to pieces by rugged thorny beasts. They frightened me the most; the idea that they were once human was unfathomable.
On the off chance there was no one there to help, it was up to me to eliminate the demon I’d enchanted. The first time my throat was so tight that I couldn’t breathe in the heated air. I waited and waited, hoping someone would come to my rescue, but it was not to be. His hands slid their way down my arm and around my hip as he mumbled some foul language with equally foul breath.
Then he ran his claws against my neck. The car, the darkness, Paul, the mud, the water, cold like ice, sinking into the depths. My hand had already pierced his neck before I snapped out of the recollection. Black demon blood trickled down my arm as he grabbed it, breaking free of my spell. Now both of us were aware of the situation, and the first to act would win. I made sure that he wouldn’t be able to follow up anytime soon. Clawing out his eyes with my other hand was easy enough. The miserable bastard just lied there as he continued to bleed and grovel on the floor.
Slowly we descended the floors, until we were in the main lobby. The residual pain of having charred skin peeled from my body returned, but it didn’t last long. Shaking a bit of blood off of my claws, I took notice of the many cambions trying to break through the main door and walls. Alas, no matter how many struck against it, or how strong they swung, nothing budged. Many of the more wrathful cambions ignored the spines being driven through their limbs as they bashed their bodies against the walls.
The familiar chill of an angel rushed through my body, and I turned to see the cambions making way for Thammuel to approach the door. He brandished a large chain, clinking as he dragged it across the floor. When he reached the blocked exit, with a lightning fast hand he whipped the chain against the door. Cracks of lights spread over its surface - the door was about to break.
Then they resided. Slowly, the thin lines faded away, and the door was fine once more. I could hear the thousand-voices growing louder, more agitated than before. He whipped the door again, to the same effect. An ear piercing screech erupted from the angel - a pitch so high it made every hybrid in the room flinch.
“Markeas! Zaruel!” Thammuel turned to the back of the crowd. “The false one is blocking our way.”
Two more waves of icy goosebumps rippled through my form, and from the corner of my eye I saw them. Two more fallen ones glided across the room; one with a pitcher in hand, the other with many steel bands around their arm.
“Brother Thammuel, you have my wine,” one of the angels answered in a lighter voice than the others I’d heard - a female.
“Thank you, Zaruel. And of you, Markeas?” Thammuel gestured to the last angel, as he took his chain and straightened it out.
“Let us be done with this lock already,” the third answered, lifting his right forearm to show the bands, now turning and shifting. If one could describe a voice as infernal, this was a prime example; he snorted and huffed with a voice that barely passed grumbling.
Thammuel nodded, then looked to Zaruel. She pressed her smokey face to the pitcher and whispered rapidly, then poured what looked like the blood of demons over the chain. Markeas straightened his arm towards the door, and the bands began to spin faster, rotating in one direction before stopping on a dime and turning the other way.
My spine turned to ice a third time, stronger than the others. But it was the breath on my neck that made me turn to see them. Many more had come, all standing solemnly and still. The collective voices drilled into my mind, and I couldn’t help grabbing my head. Falling to my knees, I saw the rest of the cambions collapse as well. Even the coat tailed ones, once standing tall and proud, bowed their heads to the fallen angels. I tried to stand up as hard as I could, but some force kept me from doing so. Despite staying still, I grew dizzy by the multitude of thousand-voices.
And so, my eyes shifted their gaze to the door. The tip of the solid chain that Thammuel wielded was pushed into the door, and the bands had expanded on Markeas’ arm, with pieces flying off and orbiting around with the circles. And then there were the ghosts. Endlessly, the apparitions of the other angels rushed the door, with fading echoes of their positions following behind. The forms slammed against the large demonic block, and with time, the cracks began to return. Their hue had changed from white to red, and splintered through the surface of the door much more quickly. My conscious started to flicker, with the air being overwhelmed in heat and power, and just before I collapsed for good-
CRACK! The door shattered, just like the cell doors had. Pieces of steel broken like glass rained down, and the aura subsided. Slowly we stood again, shaking our heads and rising to our feet, gazing in horror at the angels that were stepping through the wall. That little demonstration spoke gravities; do not fuck with the devil’s brothers.
But even they had to pause when the growling came. It started low, yet louder than usual, reverberating against the rough interior of Apollyon. Then the sound of crumbling stone followed. The prison wall to the left of the doorway began to lift, just a bit at first, before exploding violently, sending pieces of rock everywhere. One scratched my arm, but other cambions took full chunks to the head or body. Even the angels backed their way into the entrance hall, and once the dust settled I could see why.
The thing stood like a gorilla, about half as tall as the prison itself. Massive veins pumped glowing crimson liquids down its grotesquely muscular appendages, dark as night in colour. The outer layer of its limbs shifted randomly between scales and flesh, like the flickering of flame. Claws and sharp bones were heavily exposed, with blood pouring down its frame like evil waterfalls from where they pierced its flesh. The crusted shackles around its limbs were shattered and loose, their chains broken and whipping around with the beast’s movement.
The insidious roar I’d come to know sounded as the devourer opened its greatly fanged mouth, and I felt a rush of both fear and vigor watching it charge across the large open field that led to our way out. The cambions growled in unison and followed the monster, as the front wall of Apollyon collapsed around us. For the first time in possibly decades, I set foot on the dusty ground outside of the prison. I felt the increased temperature of fire and lava alike, and heard the thunder crackling above. And blocking the final gateway out, the small hole in the towering wall of metal, were the remnants of prison guards, various other demons, and Mephistopheles himself.
Mephisto did not focus on us smaller creatures. Instead, he huddled his body nearly into a sphere, calling on some form of power. Streams of energy flowed through the cracks in the ground towards him, and he began to grow. His deep red complexion grew darker still, until his body matched the hue of a starless night sky, and was the same size as the monstrous devourer that was rushing for him. He grabbed the behemoth by its horns and began throttling around with it.
I ran through the ashes and blood with Markeas and some other inmates. Demons would rush us every few moments. I would lull as many as I could into blissful ignorance, while one coat-tail would humble the rest, exerting an aura of dominance I’d never seen before. I even saw him manage to turn one demon against his own kind a few times. The rest would carve up our foes and toss them to the stomach-mouths, who happily chomped down on the hellspawns, turning them into a slurpy mess of gore and broken bones.
Markeas put his bands to good use, smashing in the face of the guards with rusted knuckles. He’d scrape the metal back and forth sometimes, grinding down the bridge of the nose so it would tear the eyeballs to pieces. And as for myself, I began to rely less on the others. I wasn’t their problem, so why should I expect them to protect me? My claws were the easiest to use, but I tried ripping out throats with the spikes of my scaly forearms. The constantly screaming due to their residual consciousness inside the bodies we broke eventually went from gruesome to annoying, and I even went after the vocal cords on a couple to specifically shut them up.
Just before reaching the gate, one large demon broke free of my charm. With a single backhand, I was sent sprawling back, the air knocked out of my lungs. Just as I’d come to figure out, the others did not bother with me. Not even Markeas cared enough to help, or Thammuel - I was easily replaceable in Lucifer’s eyes. A heaviness landed on my heart, and I looked up to see the demon that hit me, grinning wide and lifting its mace above its head.
“Come here, darlin’.” A tender voice grazed my ear, and the demon immediately turned away from me to stumble towards the source of the voice. I got up and looked as well. It was another cambion, like me, but like the massive devourer, she was much darker in tone. Her scales shimmered against the fire, and she moaned deeply as the hellspawn approached. “What a big boy you are…”
Her slender arms wrapped around him, and he embraced her equally. I could see his head turn to kiss her neck, and as she lifted her head to do the same, I finally saw the difference between us: the wells of midnight malice that stared back at me as she sank her fangs into the demon’s shoulder. What was more terrifying was his reaction, or lack thereof. She scratched the flesh away from his sides and dug into his stomach, while dusty streams of light poured away from his body and up her arms into her own. She knocked him down and reached inside, yanking and pulling until she managed to crack the ribcage open, feasting on his innards while the demon’s soul was absorbed - all the while with the grandest smile on that hellspawn’s face. The smile of that black-stained teeth and abyssal eyes torched their way into my memories, and I found my way to my feet, leaving the devourer to her meal.
I hastened to catch up to the rest of the cambions, but deep down, the furnace had been fuelled. They had abandoned me. They left me behind to be put back into that rotting shithole. Any one of them could have easily taken care of that guy, but no. They only cared about themselves. So if they laid the groundwork, they’d better not be hypocrites.
Two guards tried to stop me from slipping past the door, but they couldn’t do anything once they couldn’t see me. I shook my hands, flicking the gooey spheres off of their claws, then sprinted for the boat, avoiding all of the suffering demons along the way. Markeas and Zaruel were there, and the other cambions had begun to close the gates. I pushed my muscles as hard as I could, and managed to leap into a group of cambions just as the gates were locked. The ones I’d flattened began to yell and cuss me out - if they could still remember a human language - but a flick of the blood-drenched claw and an equally angry look back would halt and defuse those reactions.
The boat slowly began to float away. Most people watched the ongoing battle, the rampaging war between Mephisto and the great devourer. Cambions and demons alike falling from the edges of the isle. Lightning continued to boom across the sky. It hadn’t changed since the day I first arrived - the same swirling clouds, all focused around a point somewhere on the main cylinder land of hell.
Cold struck me, and I turned to face Thammuel. I wasn’t afraid, not fully - I’d gotten used to the chill. “Once off the boat, you are to go where the clouds convene,” he ordered. “That is where you find your way to the surface.” Before I could respond or nod, he turned away and hovered back over to the front of the ship, by the gate we’d be exiting on with Zaruel and Thammuel.
The boat rocked hard as it landed on the main island, making the inch deep puddle of sludge at our feet ripple and lap against our ankles. The two demons on the shore were certainly surprised to see us rushing off the boat, but no one expected the metal blades that were forced through their chests. Dangling about, I watched as a familiar angel tossed the two monsters off of his blades; Rakhiel, and his bladed gauntlets. The gate opened. Cambions flooded the mainland, all running off in different directions. I gave Rakhiel a look as I passed. He only seemed to stare back quietly - even his rapid tongue was silent, like the flapping wings of a hummingbird.
Many of the cambions went back to where we had first fallen into hell; others began terrorizing humans and demons alike. I took the ensuing chaos as an opportunity to avoid as many fights as possible. With my eyes to the sky, I crept my way across the barren torched world, trying to navigate around craters and crevasses alike, hiding behind pillars of darkened stone and cauldrons of flame. On occasion I’d be noticed, but each seduction now only reminded me of those bottomless eyes and bloody smile of the devourer I’d witnessed.
One demon got lucky after breaking free from my spell. My resets at Apollyon usually avoided the eyes directly. This one got his claw stuck in mine, so I returned the favour whilst howling in pain. Though my hand grew wet with our blood and my eye was ruined, that was not what pushed my heart deeper into despair. The bloodstains were black, and I could not tell whose was whose. I couldn’t tell you if there were tears mixed with the sanguine stream from the empty socket, but there were certainly some spilled from the other eye.
Clutching my eyehole, I stumbled over the jagged stones of the umbral plains, trying to work my way to where the clouds converged. With time, I found myself underneath the eye of the spiral. The centre of the sky snaked upwards like a red tunnel, and directly below it was a large set of circular steps to a platform. Demons were lined up and slowly ascending the steps, approaching an altar at the top. A large devil skull was carved into the cliff that loomed over the zone.
Staying behind one of the many stones fencing this strange area, I watched one demon turn and gesture to the others, before stepping onto the final layer. Yet another fallen angel guarded the altar, and held in their hand a large staff. Thorns trickled down its length, sourced from the bronze disc that adorned the top.
The two talked for a moment, the staff was raised, and a sudden wind began to blow all around me. It felt like a vacuum trying to suck me into towards the angel and the demon, and with my one good eye, I could see the hellspawn being carried off by the gale, flailing wildly around as it entered the tunnel in the sky and disappeared from sight.
I knelt back down, deciding to just wait it out until the demons lessened in numbers, if not gone altogether, to get onto the altar. That’s when they came, yet again. Fading in like faulty television screens, I witnessed each demon in that line meet their end by the hand of one angel each - a blade through the torso, blunt force to the head, and other gruesome fates were delivered in that moment. When the body fell into the ashes, the fallen began to spread out, forming a perimeter between the fence of rocks. The ‘gatekeeper’ kept to their post, and one other angel approached me. The blades retracting back into its gauntlets gave away the angel’s identity - Rakhiel. He caught my arm as I stumbled out from behind one of the spires, hurrying me along to the altar.
“We have cleared the path for you to leave this place. The rest is in your hands.” It was the only sentence he ever spoke to me, and it was probably for the best. Where Markeas may have been grueling and devilish, I’d forgotten the coldness of Rakhiel in the only other word he’d spoken. If I hadn’t been so occupied or in so much pain, I would have taken the time to think about the effects these angels’ voices had on other beings, myself included.
I carefully ascended the layers of the altar and arrived before the gatekeeper. She looked upon me from every direction, clearly not used to seeing a cambion. “Champion of our Highest Brother,” she began. “Today you begin a path to bring more members of humanity under the canopy of his six wings. You should know well that though they will be the ones punished for these sins, you will be the root initiator. For our sins, they will suffer. Do you accept this fate?”
To make others sin. That’s what I would be doing. Making others sin to, unknowingly, save the whole. I looked up at the tall cloaked creature and nodded slightly, still holding my bleeding eye. “Y-yes… I understand.”
The angel tilted her head, then pushed away my hand with her staff. The release of pressure brought on the return of pain, and I winced as she inspected it. She then gestured behind me, and before long another familiar being stood by me: Zaruel.
“Sister Zaruel, please heal this one with your waters,” the gatekeeper whispered.
“As you wish, sister Laurentil.” Zaruel raised her pitcher to her face, and just as before her thousand-voices spoke at the speed of light. Its contents were spilling onto my face before I could even react, but by impulse I screamed when the burning began. A black crust formed over the left side of my face, and once the pain has subsided, I felt the gentle yet freezing fingers of Laurentil breaking the charcoal apart and clearing my face. It was very blurry, but I could see the shades of red and brown common to the realm, and a grey mass where the angels stood.
“Know this, cambion,” Laurentil continued, “that should you ever be overwhelmed by guilt for your actions, you will be dragged back down here into the depths for failing to keep your resolve intact, and there shall be retribution to pay for doing so. Corrupt well, and begone.”
Laurentil raised the staff, and a quiet breeze carrying dust across hell turned into another maelstrom. I lost my footing and was swept up in an instant, unable to control my body orientation as I flew up into the storm clouds. It reminded me of the helpless unrest I experienced back in Apollyon, within the shifting cell.
I craned my neck and caught a glimpse of the ground below; swarms of demons were rushing the altar, and the fallen angels were each watching over a separate direction. My gaze went in the other direction, to the dark hole at the end of this spiralling tunnel. The rugged edges of stone began to give way to darkness, and though my eyes were wide open, there was nothing to see as I fell through the sky.
I awoke with water lapping against my head.
For a brief moment, as I opened my eyes, I thought it had all been a dream. Some horribly long freakish nightmare that had never truly happened. I stayed still, staring at the sky above me. I took in the cool air, watching the clouds roll by, patches of blue interrupting the otherwise continuous flow of puffy vapour. I might not have been home, or back on the university grounds, but it was earth. Back to the real world. And if I resisted the urge to ever look at myself, I could have kept the illusion going. Not knowing whether I was back in my old skin or was still infested by scales and teeth, I could stay blissfully ignorant.
Reality set back in once I confirmed the nature of my experiences. Trying to run a sharpened fingernail along my scaled forearm only brought more shock as it passed right through. I flipped my hands over and back again, staring at both sides for an answer. Standing up, I could see the trees of the forest through my hand. Walking ashore, I saw every stone perfectly clear through my foot.
I had been dropped into the middle of nowhere. But at least it was earth.
Turning around, I saw an old asphalt road next to the lake and started walking. It was strange - I’d forgotten what this kind of quietness was like. There obviously wasn’t the ambient screams of humanity’s damned singing in synchronized agony, but it was the empty void of sound from my cell. There was that little whistle of breeze through the pines, the cawing of some bird in the distance, and on that road I felt more alone than I’d ever felt in that prison.
I was so entranced by it all, I’d forgotten that I was free. Free from that dark abyss. Perhaps my unconscious was still weighed down by the task at hand. But anytime I would grow concerned, I simply remember what I was doing it for: the good of mankind. They needed me. I was the only one who could do it. They would thank me if they knew, help even. It wouldn’t be that bad. My heart must’ve become part demon as well, for it swallowed those lies with unquestioned glee.
The sun began to set, and soon after all light vanished. It seemed my time in the dark had come in handy. I didn’t have army goggles level of night vision, but I could certainly see better than I had as a human. Still, all I could make out was the old road beneath my feet, and the shadowy outlines of the first few rows of trees on either side of me. I heard the rustling of night creatures in the bushes, and was startled for a moment by a few sets of eyes looking back in my direction. The trickling flow of water danced on the stones and roots of the forest. The air smelled of greenery. All was calm.
Eventually, the woods began to grow thinner, and the road came to an intersection, with a red blinking light - a sign of nearby civilization. There were no stars or bright full moon in the sky to comfort me this night, so onwards from the light I walked, until it was but an uncanny sight from some distance away. One thing I’d noticed was the lack of feeling in my feet. It didn’t feel as though I were pressing my bare soles and heels against rough, pebble covered asphalt, but just a smooth surface.
Town was first visible when the sky began to glow again, down in the shadow of a little mountain. Even though I had expected it, not being noticed by the townspeople felt odd. I mean, here I was, this scaly she-demon thing, wandering around some town in the middle of nowhere, and not one head turned towards me. No eyes went wide in fear, no shrieking mouths, just people living their normal daily lives.
With demons clinging to their backs. Arms and claws dug into their hosts, the monsters were just as transparent as I was. Most were holding their human with a good grip; some more tightly, others with a more “loving” embrace, and a few were barely hanging on for dear life. The majority of them gave me some dirty stares; they knew something was up if a cambion was wandering about the surface. I rubbed my eyes and tried imagining the people without the creatures on them, but it was just impossible. They were still there, whispering into the ears of passerby, feeding lies to the void.
I was worried they might hop off their humans and hunt me down, or dig down into the earth to alert Mephistopheles about my presence, but instead they stuck to their roles and continued plaguing mankind with their poisoned words. So after a little while, I started trying to figure out how to get to the space elevator - humanity’s second “tower of Babel”. My first thought was to try a bar or something. There was sure to be some kind of information there, and if it was so close to being completed, there’d be some buzz about it there.
It didn’t take too long to find the place, but by natural instinct, when I tried to open the door, my hand simply swept through. Stumbling forward, I found myself floating just above the floor of the bar on my stomach. I was surprised - less about being able to go through the door, but more so that it didn’t feel like anything special at all. No different than walking through an empty room.
Looking around, I saw a different kind of group than I was used to. It was the early birds, the coffee drinkers, the old men who meet every morning in their usual spot in the corner of the building, talking loud enough for everyone else to hear them. There wasn’t the dirty smell of sweaty dudes blended with two cups of hops, the tired laughter that came after the end of another nine-to-five shift.
But this meant their information would be more reliable, and not twisted by the effects of alcohol. I “took a seat” at the bar, and waited. I could hear the demons murmuring quietly to their humans, but on occasion a conversation would arise between themselves, wondering what I was doing here. A glance in their direction, any sign of interest in what they were saying, and they’d go back to their jobs, silent unless corrupting their person.
From the people in the bar, I heard murmurs about the elevator. There was word about a site up north towards Lake Michigan; that made my current location easier to figure out. The TV news offered the most information. There was video footage of the monstrous building, but on the screen it just looked like one large tunnel that disappeared into the clouds. There were many wires supporting the structure, and an entire facility surrounding it. The reporter claimed that the top would function as both a pit stop for space stations to switch out work crews, and as a spaceship assembly location and launch zone. Though some features of the elevator were still in the works, they were attempting to put together their first shuttle on the station.
There were apparently a few other elevators in the works in Russia and the East Asian Alliance as well, but that America’s progress was the furthest by far. A few of the demons beside me snickered.
I got up from my spot and turned to leave. Though they never noticed, their demon cursed me off after I bumped into them. I ignored the being and left. Floating through the door again, I finally noticed a feeling of some kind. It was like holding your breath in the shower when washing your hair; not suffocating, but a slightly startling lapse of oxygen flow.
The ground still felt smooth to walk on, regardless of its texture. I thought more about seeing what was possible in this spirit like form, and hopped off the wooden porch of the bar. My feet never touched the sidewalk. Instead, my toes hovered just an inch or two over its surface. My balance felt off, though I couldn’t fall. I was floating, without the feeling of being suspended or tugged in some direction. Laughing nervously, I moved my leg to step forward.
I stayed on the spot. One bead of ghostly sweat formed on my forehead. I tried to step forward again. Nothing. I tried the other leg. No movement. My mind shifted to why the demons never got off of their humans. Was this why? Did they know about getting stuck like this? Could I break free? I was moving fine earlier - why couldn’t I now?
My breathing quickened and my heart went to fourth gear. I tried to ask passing citizens for help, but of course none could hear me. I tried grabbing onto one to drag me away, but I was swiftly kicked off by their demon, who laughed mockingly as it was steered away. They all laughed. They knew something I didn’t.
Easy, Hela. You’re overreacting. I sucked in a large breath of mountain air and let it go. Whether it actually entered my lungs or not is another question, but the action helped me calm just a bit.
I began stretching and moving my limbs around in strange ways, hoping to find some answer eventually. After swimming through the air wasn’t an option, I found the air when straightening my leg muscles, like walking on tip toe. My body suddenly began to float forward, toes aimed at the ground. I relaxed my legs, then repeated the action. I moved again. Curious, I pulled my toes back towards me, and I started flailing as I was sent backwards. It was a weird system, but one that worked with time.
So they weren’t laughing because I was doomed. I just looked like a complete moron. I glared at one passing by, still smirking rudely at me. I stole the wicked smile from its face and gave a wave before gliding off, leaving the demon behind in a bewildered state.
I had spent enough time in town, and immediately made way for the highway. I followed the signs that led north and around the mountain, floating along the side of the road. Despite being dead already, that old common sense of a human stayed in intact. By leaning forward, I found I could move faster, and so I drifted alongside transfer trucks and cars alike through the forest roads. Each time one would pass, I whisper to them. Even if they couldn’t hear me, I wanted them to know that I was going to save them. They were going to be okay.
Once I was around the mountain I could see it. Last night it had been blocking the elevator, but now it was quite clear to view. It was an odd sight; just a large straight line cutting through the sky, with little orange lights that slowly went on and off. Nothing was as tall as the tower, and the top just blended into the overcast sky above.
Only having to straighten the muscles in my legs meant I required less breaks (it was still strenuous to stay so stiff for so long), so I closed the distance on the elevator quickly. And each day, the structure only appeared more menacing, as if challenging me to topple it over.
. . .
The news report didn’t do the place justice. There wasn’t a single area on pause at the facility. Bodies and trucks were in constant motion, coming and going from many places. And a lot of guards. My human nature came back up for a moment as my buttcheeks clenched seeing them walking around with guns and full body armour. Releasing a held breath, I remembered yet again that I was ghostly, and wandered towards the stronghold.
The tower itself was placed in the centre of the compound, and just one look easily showed that it wasn’t just for carrying people. Its diameter had to be that of three house lengths, and was not cylindrical but rectangular in nature. Each side has a large door, and leading to the door was a steel bridge that travelled over a large crack that surrounded the structure. It seemed odd that they would have such a hole around the elevator, but walking to its edge I saw why. The tower has also been built somewhat into the earth, with a great many support beams keeping it still. Looking down brought on an ugly feeling in my gut, and when I realized why, the feeling grew ever stronger. I backed away from the demon hole slowly, trying to begin my plan to tear this bridge to heaven down. The monstrous height certainly fought against my confidence, standing over me like a god itself. Forests had been clear cut for miles around, offering a wide open space around the complex, empty and quiet.
I walked the facility grounds for the day, watching them continue reinforcing the elevator and sending things up to the station at the top. I saw hundreds of people leaning over desks in the office department, filling out paperwork and taking calls. There were metal workers and contractors and workmen galore in the workshop, putting together pieces of shuttle and tower alike. And every single one of their demons were grinning ear to pointed ear. They knew that the tower almost had enough support to make it stable enough for a demonic invasion, if humanity saw it stable enough to send spaceship parts through.
One day I decided to go up the elevator with a load of parts. A crew of workers surrounded a part of the new shuttle’s fuselage, and armed guards were sent with them. At first I wondered why the guards were there, but I was lucky enough to witness the answer. One of the workers inside the elevator turned towards the tarp covered load and proceeded to scream in a different language - my best guess would be Russian - as he drew a device from his shirt. Before he could activate whatever terrible plot he’d prepared, there were three suits of armor tackling him to the ground and cuffing him before escorting him away. The demons were all arguing with the terrorist’s creature, who screamed back at all of them about how he “tried his hardest”.
The elevator was shut down for a few days after that. Everyone was getting double checked all the time, the tension in the air was palpable, and the lack of work towards further stabilization of the elevator pissed the demons off quite a bit. When they finally decided to use the elevator again, there was no load or object going up, only people. The trip was slow, and at a certain point up the shaft, the lift came to a stop. At this layer, there were suits and helmets ready for them, and each got dressed in preparation for working in space. Once they were ready, the lift started again. As I looked around, I watched the demons shift and groan, as though they were uncomfortable about something.
I learned soon enough where their annoyance came from. Not long after the elevator started again, a searing pain spread from the roots of my hair to the calluses on my feet. I huddled over in pain as flashes of light erupted before my eyes, and I could hear the screams of the other damned souls around me. None of the humans so much as moved, but I was screeching on the floor, begging for the rapid visions of gold and quartz building to stop. Through the piercing wails and the loud noises smashing in my brain, I heard a garbled thousand-voices speak: “Those who failed their Father shall never enter this Kingdom.”
When I came to, the elevator was beginning its descent with a different group of workers - they were swapping out. I braced for the return of heaven’s firewall and managed to stay awake throughout it this time. Dizzied and hurt, I floated off the elevator and let the tears flow for a bit. The snickering of passing demons couldn’t add to the pain of being reminded of my citizenship in hell. Returning to earth had really made me a mess.
After the pain ceased and some more exploring, I finally discovered a flicker of hope for my plans. While searching around one of the warehouses, I came across two guards talking to one another. Their conversation came to a close as a third man approached from down the hall, wearing more of a clean cut uniform than a kevlar suit.
“Good day, sir,” the first guard said. The other nodded quietly in response.
“G’day lads. Kimble, uh… I’m sorry, I don’t think I caught yours?”
The quiet guard seemed to hesitate nervously for a second before answering. “Howard, sir. Ethan Howard.”
“Ah, yes. Well, are either of you on tomorrow’s lift?” The officer pulled out a small piece of glass, the size of a smartphone, and tapped it in a few places before putting it away.
“Just talking about it. We both are,” Kimble responded.
“Well then, safe voyage gentlemen. And if there’s another Russkie spy on it, I’m trusting you two to take care of it, eh?” The higher up tipped his hat before striding off. Kimble looked to his friend, who seemed scared to death what was said.
“Hey, Ethan, there’s no need to worry,” Kimble himself said, shaking his fellow guard’s shoulder. “We’re just transporting the fuel tanks, that’s it. Usually the only explosions that’ve happened involve the shuttle itself when taking off. As long as no one is dicking around on the lift tomorrow, everything will be a piece of cake.”
Fuel tanks? It was almost too good to be true - an easy enough way to do the job. All I had to do now was to follow one of these two up the lift, and somehow corrupt him into destroying it. Before he gets tackled by the other guards. My gaze fell upon the quiet one; he was very evidently worried about tomorrow. If he was emotionally distressed, it could make it easier to manipulate him. Howard just nodded, then looked at his wristwatch. “I’m off the clock. Gonna go get some shut eye.”
“Alright man, sleep well. Tomorrow we become space marines!” Kimble laughed and fake punched Howard, who smiled gingerly and waved as he walked off. I made sure to follow.
Howard did not leave the base. Instead, he made his way over to a barracks for the guards. Inside his cramped little room for six, he sat alone, staring at the floor shirtless. My lustful side grew anxious seeing him strip, but I stayed focused.
“It’ll be alright tomorrow,” his demon whispered, giving me a look ripe with rage. He must have suspected I was up to something. Howard just continued whispering to himself as the demon tried to coax him. I just watched and waited.
Night came, and Howard was already asleep by the time the stars were out. It was so weird, still seeing the top of the elevator disappear into nothing. His demon continued to stare at me from the bedpost it rested on, pretending to run its long sharp fingers through his hair while giving him sultry lullabies to sleep well by.
I was watching the monster as well, eyeing the price beneath its feet. But his demon was going to try as hard as he could to not let me get near him. Nor would he let Howard do anything stupid - at least anything that would hurt the tower. And I had no physical connection to the world either, so there was nothing I could do.
Then I recalled the bar, when I bumped into a customer. No, not the customer…
The hellspawn must’ve noticed that I’d figured it out, because just before my own claws were wrapped around its throat, there was a look of shock and anxiety I’d never seen in one’s eyes before. I dug the tips deep through the soft portion of its neck, slowly pushing through the muscles and tissues, until I felt a hard tube in my hand. With a few yanks, I squeezed my hand around its larynx and pulled the organ from its body, ripping and tearing through the remaining skin to get it out. At first the demon scratched and clawed at me, but soon it could gasp and croak as it fell to the floor. It still struggled and flailed about, like all the others, for the undead cannot die again.
I didn’t stand over the creature and take amusement in its suffering. Instead, I continued with my plan and approached Howard. Now I had dictionaries of honeyed words prepared to turn men on, but to make one commit mass murder? That was a different story. I tried whispering in his ear, but got no response.
Then he rolled over, and the demon behind me began to freak out more. My curiosity was greatly piqued by the sight of a strange hole in Howard’s back, shaped almost like my own nether regions disgustingly enough. It wasn’t actually right on the skin, but rather hovered around the center of his spine, like a portal. Hesitantly, I moved my hand towards the hole, and stopped when it began to open wider. Inside, I saw a blue essence shimmering, and reached forward to touch it. We made contact; my hand did not pass through the entity.
Grabbing the energy, I tried to pull on it, and slowly, with much straining, it began to come out of the body. So I decided to keep pulling. It began to get larger, spreading along the limbs, before popping out in a surprising and swift motion - it was Howard, or his soul rather. Eyes closed, drifting through the room in slumber, before slowly going up, up, up through the ceiling. I turned to the body; it had gone limp. My surprise turned to dread, realizing what I’d done. I’d just killed him.
And created a perfectly good skin suit. The dark side of my soul started to invade my mind again, and as much as I hated it, my inner demon was right. My spirit felt compelled to enter the vessel. This was probably going to be the easiest way for me to take care of the job. Besides, I was going to be killing way more people later. Now wasn’t the time to get upset over one guard.
Breathing in and out, I reached inside the corpse with my left hand. The inside was hollow, and my arm travelled up his like I was putting on a jacket. Then the other sleeve, followed by my head, body and legs. All of them slipped inside smoothly, and the moment everything clicked into place, I was gasping for air. I coughed into the pillow profusely, and sank into the bed. The weight of having a body returned, and I had to grow used to the extra effort required to move. Closing Howard’s - my eyes, I let myself fall into slumber for the first time in years.
The alarm next to Howard’s bed going off awoke me many hours later, forcing me from rest. I found myself sweating rather heavily. I didn’t have any night terrors or such, and the air was still quite cold, so I assumed that Howard had been feeling under the weather before I took over. But stepping into the washroom to take a cold shower to cool down, I saw it in the mirror - the peeling skin on my cheek. I touched it and recoiled in pain; it felt as though it were sunburned. A bit of worry began to broil in my belly. Howard didn’t have any sunburns yesterday when I saw him talking to the other guard.
It felt strange undressing as a man, and even weirder feeling the shaft between my legs. Still, I stepped into the shower and began to wash up. It was no good, as the cold water made me realize. The heat was coming from within, from me. The body was overheating because of me, and I could only wonder how long I had until something bad happened to it. But today was the day. This was the day I would do my job and earn my permanent freedom.
“Howard! Hurry up!”
I whipped my head around to see Kimble standing in the doorway of the washroom. “We have to be at the gate in fifteen! Get dried and dressed, then move your ass!”
“O-on it!” I answered. I should’ve expected the deeper voice of Ethan Howard, but it was still weird to experience. Hurrying out of the water, I did as Kimble said and ran outside, where he was waiting to jog with me to the elevator. The sun was just above the edge of the horizon, but not quite hiding behind it yet.
“You feeling alright, man? You looked bad yesterday but damn…”
I was distracted by his demon glaring me down. “Huh? Oh, yeah, I’m fine. Just a little cold is all…”
Kimble’s demon just kept watching me, then whispered to him. “He’s not looking too great. Keep an eye on him.” The creature then turned to me, his hand just so slightly stuck inside the crack on Kimble’s back.. “Damn… you got devoured overnight, huh? What a shame…”
I almost breathed out in relief. The demon didn’t know about the possession; he just thought that Howard’s soul had devoured his buddy. This was going much better than I’d thought it would, and if I kept the act up then I’d be successful in my mission.
As we were approaching the bridge, another guard stopped us. “Names and badges, gentlemen,” she demanded.
Kimble reached for his and handed it off, while I quickly fumbled around the body armor for mine. I could feel my heart racing unnaturally fast, and it wasn’t just from nervousness about being caught. The guard gave me a look. “You okay, buddy?”
I froze up - I needed an excuse. Now. “Oh… uh, yeah. Just nervous about the trip up. After, the other day, and everything…”
Kimble stepped in to speak for me. “It’s his first time up as well. Ya’ know, just anxious for nothing.”
“Ahh, I see.” The guard smiled at me before returning my badge and gesturing to my forehead. “Explains the sweat. Well, just follow the procedure and everything will be fine.”
I nodded to the guard and thanked Kimble. But deep down, I could see that his demon was beginning to get through to him. I caught a glint of distrust in his eyes before he turned around and stepped onto the bridge. Try as I might, it was getting harder to act natural. The heat had grown exorbitantly, and patches along my arms had grown increasingly itchy. I scratched myself roughly while walking along the bridge, my free hand resting on my holster.
Besides Kimble and myself, there were about ten other guards in the elevator. They had upped the numbers without my noticing, but I was getting more and more anxious by the minute on both fronts. As the doors locked me in with the minimal replacement crew and larger number of guards, I attempted to stay calm as every single demon was watching me.
The lift began to rise, and now there was no turning back. I swallowed, a poor attempt to sooth my parched throat as I watched the sky pass between the cracks of metal, rising constantly. Gazing around, each hellspawn still had an eye on me; it was nerve wracking, trying to analyze the situation while not appearing to be looking straight at the monsters.
“You alright, Howard?” My head whipped back forward to find Kimble giving me a look. I doubted his own human intentions were sinister, but I was still concerned about the rifle slung over his torso, hand on the grip.
“Yeah… I’m alright. Are you sure that this thing is safe…?” I whispered to him. Maybe the best move was to act nervous for a different reason. “I mean, they’re still building onto it.”
“Those are just extra supports. Uncle Sam wants to be number one, so they don’t mind us going up and starting the rocket race while they fix the ladder we’re standing on.” He shifted in his gear, head cocked and looking down on me. “You should know that, Ethan…”
I went too far. My eyes raced around the room once again - the demons were murmuring to one another, pointing towards me and glaring with increasingly angry stares. I glanced to my right, where the load stood. There was no tarp covering it this time, and I could see the two tanks very clearly sitting side by side.
I reached up to scratch my face, but pulling back a part of the hood I felt a familiar texture. A crumbly, crusty texture that left a streak of black across my grey glove. My gaze shot upwards again; Kimble’s other hand was resting on his rifle. My hand stayed dead still on the side of my pistol holster. “Terrax, what are you doing..?” Kimble’s demon demanded, staring me down.
“Terrax? What are you talking about, Furran?” Another guard’s demon stated.
“He got devoured last night by this one. He was just operating this one ‘ere yesterday, and now he’s acting all crazy!”
The other demon whispered quickly in his guard’s ear before pointing at me. “Did you even consider a possession? There were reports of a cambion walking around the facility.”
“A po-” Furran looked at the demon, then slowly returned his line of sight to meet mine. “So, it is you.”
I knew I wouldn’t be able to make the shot from here. I rushed forward and tackled Kimble, who fought back furiously. But though I was on top to start, he quickly pushed back against my weakening form. I could feel the charcoal on my forearms crunching and breaking apart under the pressure of Kimble’s strength. There was only one option, one way to take control of the fight and keep myself from being shot in the back in a few seconds.
My pistol was out of the holster in a second, the barrel pressed to Kimble’s head. He immediately ceased resistance and sat still, a scowl written across his face. I pulled him to his feet and hid behind him, starting backwards towards the load. “Stay back! All of you!” I screamed, my voice becoming hoarse. “I’ll fucking do it, so no one move!” The guards followed, rifles aimed towards me. A slight smirk crossed my face in the heat of the moment - unless they were all perfect shots, they might do my work for me.
“Keep them back!” Furran screamed at the other demons, who were whispering rapidly into their human’s ears. “Don’t let them fire! They might hit the fuel tanks! It’s what she wants!”
“So what ARE we supposed to do?” one demon responded over the shouting of the humans.
Furran growled, then looked back at me. “Take your humans over.” My heart skipped a bit, before starting to go faster than ever.
“Are you insane!?” another protested. “That many possessions on their doorstep, are you crazy? They’ll come swarming like hornets to find out who’s killing His children!”
“It’s better than just letting her destroy the tower!” Furran screamed, giving me a quick look. “Argh, enough of this! You lot can play pansies, but I’m taking care of this!”
In one swift movement, Furran shouted a fierce battle cry as he plunged his arm deep into Kimble’s back and ripped the man’s soul out. As a confused ethereal Kimble drifted upwards, his body collapsed into my grip, the weight throwing me off and nearing knocking me over. But as I replanted my feet and push him back up, the body whipped around with a brutal hook punch. I felt the char of my neck crumble from the blow, and I landed on my side. I struggled to fight out of Furran’s grasp as he grappled my suit, and out of the corner of my eye I saw the confused guard troupe beginning to fall to the floor, only for their blue essence to fly towards the heavens. Their ghastly howls filled the air as their corpses rose from the ground, most already beginning to burn up and blacken.
I looked back at Furran, who hadn’t thrown a punch since. His head was lowered to his chest and shaking, as though he were fighting back against something. In a flash his face met mine, and fire exploded from his eyes and mouth. “Running… out of… time…” he whispered in a gravelly voice, slowly dragging me over towards the others. The rest of the possessed were burning as well, some completely combusting on the spot and falling to the metal floor. A loud bang sounded and I felt a bit of force push against me from my other side, and turning that way I saw the bloody remains of an exploded corpse, some pieces of fabric still burning. I could feel holes puncturing my limbs as the possessed with more control began firing at me and Furran.
Furran was still dragging me towards the railing on the edge of the lift, limping along the way. I swung and flailed against his grip, but my own body was failing me as well. My back slammed against a pole, and Furran took a moment to breathe. I looked around to see the other zombie-like bodies moving towards me to help. There was no time left; losing here meant my mission would be for naught. The demons would never let me near the tower again, and I doubted there’d be any other transports as easy to destroy as this. The burning sensation subsided just long enough for feeling to return to my fingers; the pistol was still in my hand.
Smacking it around did nothing. Furran hoisted me up to my feet, getting ready to push me over the platform’s edge. Grabbing the hand that held me by rigor mortis, I pushed the barrel of the gun against his wrist and fired over and over again. The flesh oozed and popped as the arm separated, and I fell forward as Furran howled in agony. I forced myself to my feet through the waning energy and blazing heat from within my body, and aimed for the load.
As though the entire universe were against this day, there was another explosion - but it was not another corpse. The lift jerked to a stop, and we all were knocked into the air. I could feel the rushing of wind through the elevator shaft, and when I finally hit the floor by the load, I caught a glimpse of what had caused the blast. My blood ran cold.
There, floating outside of the tower, was a massive armored man. In his hand he wielded a great halberd, and his form shimmered in a golden flame. His armor was similar to that I saw in the depths, but where theirs was ruined and ancient, this one’s appeared as though it were fashioned not seconds ago, clean and free of blemish. His great white wings spread out and flapped slowly, maintaining his position in the air and pushing warm winds into the elevator shaft. He even spoke in the same tongue as the rest, but the one thing that stood out was the face. Where the others were unholy smoke and nothing more, this one wore a golden mask to hide the wisps that snuck their way out from time to time. The face on the mask was simplistic and one of indifference - neither joy or woe, but one of a neutral position. A mask of an observer.
“Shit, it’s here!” one demon screamed, raising his rifle with sloppy demeanor and spraying the angel down with bullets galore. Others joined in, trying to kill the invincible being. He entered disgruntled, and with one swift cleave, he struck down six of the guards, their bodies bursting to flame and forcing the demons out. They rocked and moaned on the floor, cradling their bleeding chest cavities, as the angel approached them one by one and push the tip of his weapon through their skulls. Their moans turned to unending gurgles, with bits of brain matter and skull alike spilling out their mouths and ears.
I tried to push myself up yet again, but by now, whatever skin or muscle was left on my arms was minimal, as rods of bone were scraped clean between pieces of bleeding meat. My pistol was gone, but I could see the rifle Kimble had dropped nearby. Pushing my body across the floor with my feet, I looked back and forth between the gun and the angel, hoping it wouldn’t spot me. My heart was beating impossibly fast, like a bomb building up to explode.
I collapsed on top of the rifle, my body barely able to breathe now. The angel was running out of targets, so I had to act fast. I painfully slapped one hand onto the rifle’s frame, then positioned it in my hand and aimed in the position of the load above me. Then I just pulled the trigger.
Though most of the shots missed, a good number pierced both of the tanks. But my relief turned to panic as nothing happened. I could see the liquids leaking out, but there was no reaction as they pooled together. Taking a deep breath, my lungs felt a bit refreshed, and I found the energy to put myself up against one of the tanks. My eyes were throbbing, like they were about to explode out of my head, and had I not already been undead, I likely would have blacked out from heat stroke well before this point.
I met the angel’s gaze. He spun the halberd around, clearing it of blood, and advanced on me. There was only one option, based on seeing the other demons’ endings. I climbed up the tank, struggling to get footing on its curved surface. A sudden pain struck my ankle, and I screamed as I fell back to the floor, my foot missing and one tank’s contents flowing onto me. I opened my eyes to see the tip of the lance, and I rolled to the side just before it struck the ground. I pushed myself back, but was caught up against a wall. My breathing became irregular, and my heartbeat matched it. I could feel my whole body vibrating, and I began to shake. The heat was like fire once again, being burned to a literal crisp. As the angel readied for its final strike, I surrendered to my collapsing form and closed my eyes, both tank’s liquid pooling beneath me.
The explosion destroyed my eardrums, and nearly blinded me as well. With the heat of my body’s mini explosion and the combined liquids beneath me, there was enough to ignite the two tanks. Between that and the collapse, there was nothing. All I recall was a brilliant white light, and the next thing I knew, I was a spirit again.
Falling through the sky. Metal fell upon the earth in a downpour, and the upper half of the elevator tipped over to join its lower part in smashing onto the ground. Shrapnel flew through my body endlessly, yet none of it harmed me. The only pain I felt now came from being forced out of Howard’s body, and the large wound in my side from where the angel has missed its mark. I never knew ghosts could bleed.
The rushing wind in my face carried up the distant screams of all those below. Hundreds of people in the base howling as the end of the world fell upon them, and a second explosion occurred within the facility. Soon after, the screams ended, and I was left alone with the wind once more. I couldn’t spot the angel anywhere in the falling debris, and wondered if he had either returned to heaven, or had fallen to the earth below.
I don’t know what happened after that thought until I was on the ground. My memory was shattered and missing in different places; some pieces would say I hit the ground violently, others show me walking amongst the destruction of the facility. The timeline became consistent again when I was watching the sky. The moon was out, but the sky was still orange on the horizon even though the sun was long gone. I sat up from the pool of water I was in, my mind flickering back to the forest, and then the harbour. I shook my spinning head and looked around.
There were no discernable buildings left. The tower had fallen onto the main complex, crushing it. Pipes and lengths of steel stuck up from the ground everywhere, and where there wasn’t metal, there was either dirt or bodies. Arm and guts flung over fallen power lines, squished torsos resting eternally underneath concrete slabs, puddles of blood diluted by the water that was there first.
And then there were the souls. Across the whole area, countless souls began to fade into view. Most were darker and harder to recognize, and they flailed helplessly as some invisible force sucked their naked bodies down into the ground. Their muffled pleas still wormed their way through the soil, until they were too far down for anyone to hear.
But then there were the others. For the souls that didn’t travel down to hell, they appeared just as foggy and hard to distinguish as the other, but where the sinful seemed to have a translucent shadow cloaked over them, these nude ones had a white flame spawn from their chest. As they began to float upwards, the flame spread, covering their spirit in seconds. They screamed just as loud as those who travelled down, being burned by the cleansing fire of God. The pure flames ascended into the night sky, and looking up with eyes straining to hold back tears, I saw the sky open. A golden crack unfurled over the moon, and I watched with sorrowful envy as the flaming souls were taken into the pearly realm I saw before. The armored angels were there waiting, taking the righteous into their arms and coaxing them with their wings.
My shaky hand extended towards them, the rays of their light shining between my outstretched fingers. “T… take me with you…” I whispered, finally unlocking the restraints of my heart. Now that my mission was done, I could do that. It was easier to call it “my mission” instead of saying what I was really doing. Distancing myself from the truth made it easier to pretend that what I was doing wasn’t horrible, that it was okay to kill hundreds of people for the sake of humanity.
But now with it over, the guilt swept over me. Seeing the destruction I’d brought on these innocent people, watching them joined either the ranks of hell or the choirs of heaven, the responsibility of my actions finally set in. And I could finally admit the truth, my truth. I wanted to join them. I wanted to ascend into the heavens. I deserved to. Everything I did was for other people. I fucked total strangers to help Kelsey. I’d suffered in that prison for years. I had blown up a tower and killed hundreds to save billions.
Tears streamed down my cheeks for the first time in many years, since I was first put in Apollyon. I continued whispering my desires, hoping someone up there would hear me and take me with them. And as I emptied the pain in my heart out onto the bloody dirt of the earth, I felt my feet begin to sink. I looked down, seeing my legs being swallowed by the earth, and I panicked to push myself back up. I wasn’t ready to go back, I didn’t want to, but it was not my choice to make. As the world devoured me, I recalled Laurentil’s final words, before falling through the fires once more, frightened of the doom that awaited me.
The screams of angels echoed through the cavernous realm.
Startled by the noise, I awoke. I was lying on my stomach, now back to my monstrous physical form. The hole in my side was still there, and I wrapped an arm over my stomach to put pressure on the agonizing wound. Slowly, I got myself to my knees, and the first sight I had was one of unbridled violence amidst the fire and chaos of Lucifer’s retaliation.
Two demons were dangling in the air, blades coming out of their mouths and blood pouring like wine along the sides of the metal. When they were flung away, I saw the steel retract into those familiar gauntlets of Rakhiel, and as he turned, he let out a brutal screech. It was like the howl of many wolves, but each with a different and distinct pitch - like the thousand-voices these angels whispered in. And as Rakhiel shouted in glory, I saw wings of blackened light form on his back, shining just for a moment to form the shapes of feathers that surely once lived there.
So, you return to us. His voice rattled through my brain, returning my memories of the dark.
“I-I did it…” I answered. “I did my part.”
That you did. You stopped Mephisto from moving with my army. And for that I congratulate you, child Hela. But…
The “but” sends nervous chills across my body. I looked around anxiously, waiting for Lucifer to finish his statement. There were cambions chomping and slicing demons in half all around me, angels obliterating any that remained, and a great black hand slamming down onto the layer of hell I rested on. The other hand followed with a fist, but it did not strike the area. Instead, I could make out an enlarged Mephisto trapped in its grasp. He seemed incredibly fearful of whatever this monstrosity was, and I completely understood the fear.
You failed to heed the words of my sister Laurentil. And regardless of your being a cambion or a demon, success or failure, you both alerted the angels of your interference and failed to purge your heart of regret.
“No, please! I kept it contained as long as I-”
And worst of all… you prayed to join Him.
The realization of how bad my actions were set in. I was completely screwed; there’s no way in hell, literally, that the devil would forgive worship to his immortal enemy. “I-I’m sorry…” I pleaded, my hands clasped towards the massive pair of hands. Tears escaped my eyes again in fright as I could see the horns and head begin to rise, followed by the hollowed out mask. Its burnt out eyes bore into mine, and I felt exposed before the king of the underworld.
Markeas, if you’d be so kind.
I turned around and found the fallen angel standing hovering me with his brother Rakhiel by his side.
You know where to put her, Lucifer ordered, and my stomach did flip flops.
“Yes, Highest Brother,” Markeas answered. He raised his banded arm, preparing to hit me. I tried to plead for mercy, but the words would not leave my lips. Only squeaks and moans exited before the arm came crashing down, the dials spinning rapidly, and as the punch connected, I felt like I was thrown across the ocean of emptiness. Everything turned to a passing blur of brown and grey, but it quickly grew darker, and within a second I was back in the dark. He had put me back in my cell.
I screamed and thrashed about, but the room counteracted my movements, sending me tumbling up and down, side to side, trying to break every bone in my body. The shadows returned as well, clawing and poking at my wounds to make the pain last as long as they could. And through all of the torture I’d thought was behind me, his voice laughed in my mind.
Still, a deal is a deal. You will have a place in my army when I march upon the pearly gates. Whether that be as a grunt or a commander, only time will tell. For now, I can’t have cambions as dangerous as you wandering around, disrupting the organization of my forces. So you just enjoy yourselves in Apollyon, and I’ll come to collect you when the time comes. You can count on that.
I cursed the name of Lucifer. I cursed the name of God. Neither could be trusted, neither was forgiving. Both only meant to torment, no matter what I did, no matter why I did those actions. This time, the only feeling left was rage towards my oppressors. And even though my mind became a blank void, and my body was that of a rag doll in the wind, deep down my furnace still burned with an intense hatred.
Ages passed. My hatred changed, mutating into a violent desire to join those beautiful souls in heaven. Jealousy would overwhelm my soul, as the image of the crack in the sky and the welcoming angels that awaited those blessed people became my strongest memory. It only grew stronger as I remembered that one day, I would be freed from Apollyon to join Lucifer’s forces in the invasion of that holy world. Until then, I took the beating, waiting in the darkness for that day.
There was a reason my brain took this trip down memory lane. Today the door to my cell was opened. I’ve been informed that I’m “out on parole”, now that the Russians have finished their tower. So across the great void I’ll travel, to the mainland of hell, where millions of rehabilitated demons and torched humans await in formation. Lucifer decided to be generous and give me a position of command. I can see the hole in the sky from here, where the black steel beams are melted and curved to hug the wall of the cavern.
The day of his retribution is nigh. I look forward to finally being able to charge those pearly gates and walk the realm I’ve coveted for so long - the world I deserve to live in.
Written by RedNovaTyrant