Caption: Hell, the Pool of Fire, Lucien's Lair. Sunday 11 May 1980. 7:34pm GST.
<Rose is alone. She wanders slowly around the room, past the throne of obsidian and skulls, past the volcanic rock topped bar with its row of crystal decanters filled with blood- and adrenaline-based liquors, finally stopping in front of The Mirror. "The Mirror," because it is the only one she has seen in her admittedly limited tour of Hell. The Mirror is irregular in shape, the outline of some monstrous creature that Rose does not want to imagine. It rests on a platform of glass containers, each one holding the head of a damned soul. The necks were ragged, having been ripped, not cut, from their bodies. The left eye has been savagely ripped from each one. The heads are still "alive," the mouths working soundlessly and the remaining eyes blinking. Rose knows that the missing eyes are scattered around Lucien's half of Hell and, with a touch, The Mirror can display what any of those eyes is seeing. Supposedly, it responds only to Lucien's touch, but Rose is reluctant to test this theory. She looked admiringly at herself in The Mirror. Lucien had provided her with a closet full of clothes, all of which fit perfectly. Today, she'd selected a tight, black lace, halter-top that gave her excellent cleavage and hid nothing, and an artfully shredded black leather skirt whose strips hung lower on one side than the other. She turned looking at herself from different angles.>
Rose: Live fast, die you, and leave behind a beautiful corpse. Damn, girl, you are fine. At least that bitch aimed low. It would have been a shame for this <She runs her hands down her breasts, her stomach, her hips.> to be in a closed casket.
<Turning, Rose looks over her shoulder at her ass.>
Rose: Hot, hot, hot!
<Rose looks around the room. At the opposite end from where she stands, nearly lost in the smoke that hangs in the air, is the double-wide doorway filled with flames that leads, she's been told, out into the area of Hell known as the Pool of Fire. The 'pool' is actually a series of interconnected shallow lakes whose acidic waters burn ceaselessly. A quarter of all souls damned to Hell are thrown into the pool where their bodies burn in perpetual agony. Even without Lucien's admonition, she is reluctant to go out there where the screams are surely more than the white noise that they are within this suite. To her right is Lucien's bed chamber where she had begun to learn that there are perversions that even her own twisted childhood had not touched upon. To her left are several other doors. One of them leads to Hellfire Hall, where Lucien's staff wrestles with the issues of identifying and locating the lost souls. Having not been instructed otherwise, she decides to see where the others lead, picks one at random, and walks over slamming the door open.>
Rose: What the...
Julee: You must be the new girl.
<Rose just stares. The woman in the room, naked, in her early twenties, has a chain embedded in her spine, securing her to the ceiling. The center of the room is filled with beds, couches, tables, and pillows, while the walls are lined with shelves holding whips, leather garments, sex toys, and instruments of torture. The woman laughs hysterically. Rose continues to stare.>
Julee: Take a good long look. This will be your fate when Lucien tires of you: chained here for the sick pleasure of any of his staff. The longer you're here, the worse the treatment gets, believe me. <A crazed look passed her face and she laughed again.> Eventually you'll lose your mind.
Rose: Lucien wouldn't--
Julee: <Interrupting.> Of course he will. He's done it to every woman he's taken into his bed since he was cast into Hell and discovered his precious Kesabel was not here waiting for him.
Rose: But, I'm useful to him.
Julee: In bed.
Rose: Not just there.
Julee: In the end, it won't matter. He has a thing for novelty that no one woman can supply for long.
<Julee starts to laugh hysterically again. There is no mirth in the sound. Rose begins to back out of the room. Julee begins to sing.>
Julee: Soon, soon, soon...
<Rose turns and runs out of the room, slamming the door behind her. She runs to the bar, grabs a tumbler and a decanter at random, pours a double shot and downs it in one gulp. In the liquor, she tastes the fear of someone who's been tortured for a thousand years and yet knows that the next day will be worse than any that came before it. It tastes delicious. She smiles. She pours herself another, walks over and sits on the floor beside the throne.>
Rose: OK, Rose, you are NOT ending up in that room. There's always a way out.
<Rose takes a sip of her drink, enjoying the flavor of another, less fortunate, damned soul. On the other side of the room, Gadrel steps through the flaming double doorway.>
Gadrel: Enjoying your drink?
Rose: Very much so.
Gadrel: Not many damned enjoy the flavors of Sheol.
Rose: I'm not like most damned.
Rose: Most people are evil because they're too stupid or lazy to be good. Not me. I'm evil because it's fun.
Gadrel: Indeed it is. Pour me a drink.
<Rose returns to the bar, fills another tumbler and tops off her own. Already feeling the intoxicating effects of the liquor, she walks back over and hands Gadrel his drink. They raise their tumblers in a silent toast.>
Gadrel: Did Lucien tell you where he was going?
Rose: He said some dictator from Earth Negative H085, I believe, had died and he wanted to be there when the soul arrived. Lucien said that he had ordered the crucifixion deaths of over one and a quarter billion people during his reign which made him, like, number eight on the all-time list of mass murderers.
Gadrel: Ah, yes, Tawaka Wasogo. He had a gold-plated nail gun that he'd use to personally nail people to crosses on state holidays. How a bastard like that lives to a hundred and two is beyond me. Lucien's been looking forward to this, but he's going to like my news even better.
Rose: Mind sharing?
Gadrel: We've identified a lost soul. Darvin Coglin. E+H892. He burned down his own home to kill his uncle. I'm sure with your experiences, you can guess why he wanted his uncle dead. The uncle said the kid wasn't even trying to get out of the house, but now there's no trace that he even existed.
Rose: So with my sister and Sandy Hamburgh, that makes three we know of.
Gadrel: Of course, three needles in a haystack still seems like a thankless task.
Rose: But you're not doing this for thanks.
Gadrel: No? What do you think I'm doing it for then?
Gadrel: Hmm, good answer, but why?
Rose: Power precedes everything else worth having. Prower precedes freedom. Power precedes pleasure. The more power you have, the more freedom you have. The more powerful you are, the more pleasures are available to you.
Gadrel: And that's what you want too? Power?
Rose: Yes. I know that by sharing the information I got in Davide'el, and by sharing Lucien's bed, I've gained some small amount of temporary power. But I want more.
Gadrel: And what would you sacrifice to get it?
Rose: Power always comes with a price. And I've yet to see a price I wouldn't pay.
Gadrel: I could talk to Lucien. Make sure he knows that you're more... interesting... than usual. Provided you pass one little test.
Rose: Name it.
Gadrel: Come with me.
<Gadrel strides towards the flaming doorway.>
Rose: Lucien said I shouldn't go out there.
Gadrel: I'll cover for you.
<Rose considers for a moment, wondering if this potential act of defiance is actually the test. Deciding it isn't, she walks through the flames. She feels the heat but is not burned. She emerges on the other side and the screams and cries of the damned hits her like a wall. She staggers for a beat, then clenches her jaw, hold her head up high, and steps to the edge of the pool. Gadrel watches her for a moment.>
Gadrel: This way.
<He leads her along the edge of the pool. The damned, burned by the acidic water, the leaping flames, and the caustic air, reach for them but are unable to actually touch them. Ahead, from out of the smoke, appears a devil whom Rose does not know, standing over a cowering child, a boy about four years old.>
Gadrel: Rose, this is Divulvien. Divulvien, this is Lucien's latest, Rose.
<Divulvien looks at Rose with naked lust.>
Divulvien: Mmm, mmm. I can't wait.
Gadrel: Don't count on it. I'm here to find out if she's got what it takes to not end up in the cast-off room. Take a walk. We'll watch the boy.
<Divulvien looks Rose up and down again, licking his lips and slipping a hand inside his pants, before turning and walking away. Within a few steps, he's swallowed by the swirling smoke.>
Gadrel: Rose, do you know this boy?
<Rose looks at the weeping child. Recognition dawns.>
Rose: Yes. He lives, or rather lived, in my neighborhood.
Gadrel: Yes. The shotgun blast that killed you wasn't a great shot. Part of the blast went wide. He was right inside the window. A pellet went through his eye and into his brain. He was dead before he even blinked.
Rose: Isn't he a little young for Hell?
Gadrel: Ordinarily, yes. But when the SRS crashed, a lot of souls were cast adrift in the Midlands. The Shining Band rounded up almost all of them, including you.
Gadrel: A few souls that were bound for Heaven got grabbed by our forces. That hasn't happened since the SRS went online right after the Rebellion. I imagine the Ancient of Days is going all Old Testament on someone's ass right about now. So...
Gadrel: <Whispering.> Toss him in the pool.
Rose: That's my test?
<Rose walks over to the child.>
Rose: Hi, uh, ... I don't remember your name.
<The boy looks up, tears streaming down his face. Without a word, he throws himself at her. As she lifts him, he wraps his arms around her neck and his legs around her waist and buries his face against her chest, sobbing. Rose hesitates for a moment, then steps carefully to the edge of the pool. She tries, gently at first, then forcefully, to disengage his limbs. Finally overpowering him, she flings the small body as far out into the pool as she can. His screams of agony are drown out as he slips beneath the flaming surface.>
Gadrel: Well done.
Rose: Thank you.
<Rose stays standing at the edge of the pool, eyes locked on the spot where the boy disappeared, keeping her back to Gadrel. She stays there until the never ending flames have dried the tears running down her face.>
© Copyright 2001-2009 Michael J. Ahlers. All Rights Reserved.
and © Copyright 1980-2009 Michael J. Ahlers. All Rights Reserved.