www.hell.org (Part 5)



 


Light came from inside the room furthest across from where they stood. A bright dot struggling in the dark mists, sometimes yellow, sometimes white. Curious, Brian drew closer. As he tried to make out what could be forming inside, the view ignited in a red blaze that shattered the walls and flung him off his feet. The flames completely covered him in velvety softness, and stopped glowing. He laid there for a while, listening, before pushing back the blankets.

He was inside a bedroom. A motel's bedroom. There was someone on the floor behind the bed, but Brian could not focus on who it was, although he knew it was a man, and that he was in great pain. Great ecstasy.
In front of him, between the bed and the man, stood a naked woman with her short, rather plump back to him, down which thick brown hair ran, torn loose. She used to wear it in braids. She was tearing it out, while hysterically yelling at the man. Her words hit him like bricks.

'I didn't mean it! Any of it! You were a toy! A nothing! I used you! Used you! You were…'

With every shrieked syllable Brian convulsed. This was impossible. This was…

'Give me back my…' the woman started to scream, turning round to a cowering and shaking Brian. Her shrill words twisted into one long screech, and everything just started to melt: the walls, the man, the bed, the floor, the very flesh on his sister Rosa, as if the agony of their recognition was dissolving Hell itself.


Rosie.

Bunu looked up at the brightness.

'What have you done?' he asked, quietly, and paused. The serenity of his surroundings remained undisturbed.

'There was to be no interference. This is a clear breach of contract: the Trinity has agreed…' he started, growing very angry very rapidly, when he sensed a change in the light. A smugness settled lightly into the atmosphere. For a minute, Bunu was speechless.

'She wouldn't.'

'Brian.' Rosie spoke with a voice that was not hers, a voice too nasal, too deep. Yet under that thick blue cloak of light, he could vaguely see her nakedness, her untouched appearance that had haunted his dreams ever since her death. Her accident. It had been an accident.

'Brian.' He was standing where the man had lain, a mere two feet away from the woman. The motel room was now painted white and gold. Softly, voices sang in the background.

'Rosie?'

'Do you know what is happening, Brian?' the apparition asked. 'Do you know who I am?' She smiled at him reassuringly, but he had never felt so afraid. Not in grade school, when that fat kid had charged him, not in junior high when he'd just slipped a note into that cute girl's jacket, not even in the strange lands outside the Gate when Bunu had just taken him away, where he'd still had resolution, courage, and a sense of direction where there clearly existed none. Yet now, with answers being handed to him on a silver plate, he could not speak or think from sheer terror from… from…

'She died a happy person, Brian. She died thinking of you. Of what you would think.'

He could no longer hold back the tears, which trickled silently over his cheeks.

'What do you think, Brian?'

'They told me… told me you… she died in a fire… at a friend's… she… we were devastated… what…' He had to restrain himself from touching her, from grabbing hold of her and hugging her and just never letting go again. He had to keep telling himself where he was. Who he was. Who she…

'Who are you?'

Rosie smiled again. A knowing, loving smile. She lowered her eyes, and turned her head.

'No!' Brian yelled, no longer able to constrain himself, as she turned away. 'No!' He lunged for her arm, and fell into emptiness.

'Brian.' He tried to get his bearings, but he could just as well have been truly blind. He couldn't see his own body, or even hear his own feet as he shuffled about.

'Brian. You have been tricked. Come towards me.' Bunu's voice was pulling at him from somewhere to the left. Or maybe from behind.

You have to trust me, Brian.'

Pressing his lips together, his eyes firmly closed, and his arms stretched out before him, Brian tried to turn into the direction he thought he could sense the Demon. He was waiting for Bunu to speak up again, when he gingerly opened his eyes and found himself in the small hallway outside the second circle. He couldn't see Bunu, but then again, he wouldn't be able see much besides a blur of the walls and the floor, bending towards the exit, until he rubbed the tears from his eyes.

'Tricked? Was that my sister, Bunu? Was that Rosie? Is she…' Brian asked, wiping his nose and face clean with his sleeve, 'Is she in Hell?'

'The soul you witnessed died in her sleep with her lover, when the covers of their bed caught fire from a smouldering cigarette he had lit after their communion. At the moment of that transgression, their first and their last, she was betrothed to her boyfriend of 7 years, and her lover had been married for 13 years to the mother of his two children. Yes, Brian. She is in Hell.'

'She… she came to me… she told me she died happily.'

'I never said sin was without rewards. Let me assure you though: it is her unhappiness that now serves her as punishment. For all the enjoyment she had sought, and all the satisfaction she thought to have achieved, she did not die a happy woman.'

'Rosie… poor Rosie… I had no…' Brian's thoughts trailed.


'I think there is someone you need to talk to,' Bunu interrupted his reflections after some time. 'He has a better understanding of these matters than I. Come.' The wall further down the hallway quietly split like huge curtain being drawn, leaving an opening just wide enough for a child to pass through. Dazed and confused, Brian stared at it, then hunched a little, and stepped once again into the void. Behind him, just as silently, the wall closed up again, and the circle was left to its unimaginable time-old activities in its broody, muffled silence.

"Please, have a seat. I will be right with you." a voice said. It was a man's voice, rough and coarse, a smoker's and a drinker's voice, yet pleasant to listen to. It sounded as if it came from down a hallway. Brian looked around, and found a chair.

He had entered what looked like an office. It was all very elegant: a polished wooden floor, a dark oak desk with a masterfully ornamented satin-covered chair behind it, and several less decorated yet very comfortable chairs in front of it. There was an unmarked, sullen looking door in the back of the room, and a large gap in the left wall, with a couple of wide stairs leading down into another area. It was all brightly lit, without there being a proper source for the light—there was a lampshade with a red cap on the right corner of the desk, but it was obviously not lit, nor was it large enough to possibly illumine the whole room, and there were no windows as far as Brian could see. There were transparent walls a couple of yards beyond the stairs, but as far as he could make out there was only that familiar darkness beyond them, so any light present had to come from the inside.

"Do you still not get it, Brian? You are the light." The voice said, now so close it almost seemed next to his ears. Brain swiveled in his chair, and came face to face with… a… man. He was dressed in a stylish grey suit, torn in places where his… body… pierced through it, and ripped to accommodate his length and width, which greatly exceeded that of its original owner. The man was… smirking.


"Hello," Brian ventured.

"Oh, indeed, my manners," the man said, and walked over to the chair behind the desk. "I'm afraid I haven't been in contact with a living soul for so long, I've forgotten all those little habits that keep you happy. And as you might have guessed, I'm not exactly in the business of making souls happy, either."

"That's ok." Brian said, trying not to stare.

"You can look," the man said, not impressed with Brian's politeness. "It is who I am." So Brian looked.

Before him sat a rather suave looking elderly man, with a long, sharp nose and deeply set eyes. His stature was tall and proud, and his grey hair made him look distinguished, almost dignified. His large sinewy hands rested upon the desktop, touching each other only lightly at the fingertips. There was an air of calmness, of patience about him that made it easy to forget he was there at all, and only see the Demon that occupied the same space.

This was the type of red, scaly Demon Brian always imagined a devil looked like, minus the tail, and the hooves. He was much larger than the man, almost double his size, yet the chair and the desk fitted him just as well. There were horns on his head, on his shoulders and breast, and possibly on more locations Brian could fortunately not to see. His grin bared sharp, neatly fitting teeth, and his eyes were brightly green - the same green the man's eyes were, come to think of it. His hair, if it was hair, was a flat black mass, leaving his pointy ears uncovered, and stopping short of his muscular neck. He was all muscle, it seemed, and had the intensity of a predator about him, ready to leap.

For a minute or two, Brian tried not to see the Demon, and only the human, but the harder he tried, the more prominent the Demon became. Focusing on the Demon in hopes of achieving the opposite was out of the question—this was not the place for reverse psychology. After a short struggle, Brian settled for a mix of the two which looked mostly human: the suit covered all of the Demon's body, except for the horns on his shoulders piercing through, and the red scales on one side of the man's face and the back of his hands were, though unnerving, an acceptable reminder of the beast that hid there.

"Shouldn't you be a 'we'," Brian asked, content that he had found a bearable median that allowed him to look straight at the… creatures… something which he so far had not been able to do with Bunu.

"Just because you cannot see the whole, does not mean there are only the parts, my dear boy." The mandevil said, in unison. The shock of the dismaying voice of the Demon mixed with that of the man made Brian lose his concentration, and found them morphing from one to the other so disturbingly he had to avert his eyes.

"Anyway, introductions are in order. I am Bunu's superior. You are in the seventh circle of hell, Head Monitor's Office. You may address me as Bill."

"Bill," Brian said, gripping the arms of his chair, "could you do the voice in my head thing Bunu does?"
"Unfortunately, no," the mandevil replied, "but I can talk like this," lowering his voice to merely that of the man.

"Will that do?"

"Yes," Brian swallowed, and tried to force his hands to let go of the chair. "That will do nicely. Thanks."

"Good. Good."

Not knowing what to expect next, Brian kept silent and waited, while avoiding a direct look at Bill. There was no noise in the room, but a gentle patter came from the next, as if a very small person were busily walking to and fro. Abruptly, the pattering ceased, only to recommence seconds later.

"So," Brian said, "nice place you have. Bill."

"It's an exact replica of the office I had when I was merely human," Bill replied "Go ahead, have a look around.

"Oh," said Brian, getting up to inspect the room, "what happened."

"I guess a job opportunity come along that I just couldn't resist."

"You were recruited?"

"Not exactly. Old Enkin here was hunting souls on the surface, and found an easy prey in mine: a man of business, with a heart of ice and a complete lack of scruple. He thought to use my greed and my vanity to lure me into opening myself up to him, so that he might possess me. I think that hunting souls in the Dark Ages for so long had made him overconfident."

"You… you possessed him?"

The room was completely void of any sign of character - no paintings, no pictures on the desk, no carpets on the floor. This must have been a very lonely person, Brian thought.

"In a way. We were equally strong willed, as it turned out, so I struck a deal: instead of resisting the other, and destroying us both, we opted to cooperate, and become the one being you see before you. Or would, if your mind would allow you to."

"Oh. So why did you go with 'Bill'?"

"I didn't. I said you could address me as such. I've always liked 'Bill', and I feel that in adopting it I dispel much of the distance between myself as a superior and my workforce. My real name, my complete name, would seriously unsettle you."

"I'll take your word for it."

"Good." Bill said, and fell silent, staring at Brian as if trying to figure something out. "It seems, young man, that you have been causing my employee some trouble."

"You mean Bunu?" Brian said, surprised.

"Yes, Bunu." Bill replied, gravely. "Would you mind describing to me who you saw in Adultry after you disappeared?"

"I saw Rosie. My sister." Brian mumbled.

"Ah."

"Where is Bunu now?" Brian said, walking back towards to the desk.

"He has some business to attend to. It shouldn't take him long."

"Have I really caused trouble?" Brian wanted to know.

"Yes and no. You were in trouble, but not the cause of it. Let's just say there was a misunderstanding between the powers that be."

"I think she was trying to rescue me."

"Rescue you? What from? You were perfectly safe. The agreement saw to that, and still does. No, my boy, you were being cheated. False promises are the trademark of the Higher Up."

"Are you suggesting that God was lying to me?"

"Not Him, but one of His… close associates. For a monotheistic deity, he sure has a lot of staff, in my opinion. She was trying to confuse you."

"I don't get it."

"I know. Do you want to?"

"I think I'd be more comfortable knowing what this is about, yes."

"If you say so. I'll put it to you as simple as I can. You were chosen to judge."

"Uh… judge?"

"Yes. Don't worry, your judgment is not required. What we need from you is your faith, or rather, lack thereof.

You see, there are some who think there is no need for Hell anymore."

"Agnostics, you mean? Scientists? People of reason and intellect?"

"Not people, my boy. Demons."

"So I'm here as a guinea pig? Is the faith of mankind to be measured by my reactions?"

"Does that disturb you?"

"Uh, yes? So what does all that have to do with my sister?"

"Apparently, someone Up There thought you were being shown a too one-sided story, and decided to throw in some much misplaced mercy, even though there is a clear agreement between the Highest and the Keeper that there would be no such interference. They are worried you will lead the Council to decide against a continuation of Hell's services."

"Why would… 'they'… be worried about Hell disappearing? I mean, without evil…"

"Without evil, my dear boy, without Hell, 'they' would be out of a job real quick. Heaven is, after all, the fear of Hell."

"Oh dear." Brian fretted, letting himself fall into the chair again.


Back to Part 4

To be continued . . .

 

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