This chapter's pretty short, but I wanted it to stand alone rather than be tacked on to another. Since it's a shorty (barely 1,000 words), I figured I'd throw it in as an extra chapter this week. Enjoy.
Hell on Five Dollars a Day
A Novel By Greg Bulmash
© MMVIII - Greg Bulmash - All Rights Reserved
"He sees you now," a yattering imp said, bouncing up and down on its spindly legs while it held the door for Nybras. "Oh, he's not pleased, not pleased at all," the imp's voice was high pitched and raspy, a heavy note of derision in it. As Nybras walked through, it jumped up on his shoulder and took hold of one of his large pointed ears between two bony fingers, digging its sharp nails into the flesh and bending the ear towards its mouth. "You're fucked. Oh you are so fucked. They're going to sing songs about how fucked you are."
Nybras ventured slowly into the darkness, a circle of light ahead of him, his neck itching like crazy as the imp sang in his ear. "There once was a demon named Nybras, Nybras, who screwed up so royally. They cut off his head and put shit in his neck, then washed it all down with some pee. There once was a demon named Ny... urrrk."
The imp's song was cut off by Nybras' hand wrapping around its throat and yanking it off his shoulder. With a grunt, he threw it off into the darkness, taking pleasure in hearing the thud of its small body impacting against an unseen wall. His gloating was quickly cut off as the circle of light ran across the floor and surrounded him, placing him in its center. "Ny-bras," a booming, deep voice said. It was an awful, flatulent voice, like a chorus of a thousand tubas made flesh.
A ring of fire sprung up on the border of the circle, keeping Nybras from moving more than a few inches in any direction unless he wished to get burned. If he was mortal and this was the world, the flames might have been a welcome exit, but the flames would only char the suit from his body and singe his skin. A lost cherub, warped by the world in which he lived, Nybras had been created of stronger stuff than mere flesh. Even the damned souls might have some respite as they slowly healed their wounds, their pseudo nerve endings going numb with the shock their minds so mercifully allowed, but for Nybras, pain was a concept that had meaning beyond anything men could imagine. Pain could become his life; neverending pain, constant and in full bloom, like the sting of salt rubbed into a wound that was forever new. Nybras shrank into himself, hunching his shoulders and moving as much of his body away from the flames as possible.
"You... ummm... wanted to see me, sir," Nybras asked, stuttering out the words, his voice breaking and pausing abruptly, making obvious his knowledge that this wasn't just a casual meeting with the boss.
"You will do penance," the unseen voice said.
"But -- " Nybras wanted to defend himself. He hadn't been privy to the knowledge of the vampire and the two mortals gaining entry to Hell. He had no way of knowing that the man's name was Beaudreaux and not Stark, and the concept of a vampire with zero kills was such an unlikelihood that it was easy for him to be convinced that the computer was malfunctioning. How was he to know that the real Avery Stark actually did have zero kills? It wasn't fair.
"You will do penance."
Nybras braced himself for what would come next. The shackles that would wrap around his body and carry him off to a special pit in Pandaemonium exclusively reserved for disobedient denizens, a place where all the tortures in Hell combined into a storm of pains, into a rage of anguish so terrible the suffering could not even catch their breath long enough to scream. "You know of the wager?" the voice asked, the shackles hovering into view just beyond the circle but not venturing past the flames.
Nybras had heard. He'd watched the pre-fight show on a monitor in one of the Pandaemonium bars. "Yes," he said meekly.
"You will see to it that they lose."
Nybras shook his head in disbelief. "B-but... how?"
"Are you not hellspawn? Are you not a demon?"
Nybras wanted direly to shout no! He was spawned in Heaven, as were they all, all the major players. He'd been a cherub, good with numbers, and one day Satan had come upon him walking the halls of the celestial palace. Oh, Satan was beautiful then, such light, such wonder. Nybras' fall had come from eventually loving him more than God. He had been so beautiful... "I... am."
"Then be it," the voice rumbled, the reverberations making Nybras shudder. That had been the downfall. Satan, oh, he'd been beautiful, and cunning, and sly. But the rest; big brutes with more muscle than brains who all fawned upon him, praised his beauty, convinced him that they could gather their strength and defeat the holy host. And Nybras, lucky Nybras who was so in love with that beauty that he was blind to anything else, let himself be stuck with keeping books for Azmodeus, the morale officer of the new armies.
The flames rose up with ferocity, closing over his head like a dome. "You are hellspawn," the voice reminded him, "serve for the love of your master." And in the flames, for a moment, he could swear he saw Satan as he'd once been — the brightest angel in Heaven. Then the floor opened up to swallow him and he fell.
[To Be Continued March 5, 2009]
Hell on $5 a Day is a work of fiction, serialized by its author on Brainhandles.com. Excerpts may be used for blog posts or articles about the novel. The length limit on excerpts is 4 paragraphs. Any more extensive usage requires permission.