Hell on Wheels - Part 1 of 3
Welcome to Hell.
Far below the mortal world, where the souls of the damned are tortured for all eternity the kingdom of Hell lies. In this place of unspeakable evil all of mankind’s deepest, darkest nightmares are brought to life in terrifying, gut wrenching reality. There is no escape from the horrors that lurk within this flame-drenched pit of despair and there is no use praying. If you had thought of that earlier you would not be here. However, Hell is not all bad, at least not for the people who actually work there. For those dedicated few who keep the infernal wheels turning, usually by cracking large whips, Hell is just another place, no different from any other city in existence. Also, like any other city in existence there is the inevitable social hierarchy, with the people at the top and the people at the bottom. However, the people at the bottom, though more numerous than those at the top, are not the emphasis here. It is that select crowd who occupy the upper echelons for whom we are interested in. As a matter of fact, it is the very peak of the social order for which we will be turning our attentions to. The Dark Lord Himself, the crowned prince of evil, the original fallen angel, Satan, or Lucifer, or the Devil, or Beelzebub, he has many names, but Satan is as good as any.
Since being ejected from the holy splendour of Heaven by God and forced to rule the Underworld Satan has made quite a name for Himself and ironically He has the “good” religions to thank for that. Ask any evangelist to talk about their beliefs and he or she will devote half of their time to praising the name of God and Jesus Christ and the other half condemning the foul machinations of the malevolent Prince of Darkness. Satan Himself could not have wished for a better publicity campaign. The people of earth were regularly reminded of Satan’s evil ways and He does not have to lift a talon. However, at the time we join the behoved one He was doing more than lift a talon, he was lifting an entire hand, raising his glass.
‘To evil!’ He boomed.
‘To evil,’ chorused the small group of friends Satan had gathered for this little impromptu drinking binge. Sitting around the small table, which was loaded with numerous and varied alcoholic beverages, ashtrays and tobacco tins were Lillith, Adam’s ex wife and co founder of the Vampire race, Azrael, the artist whose conscientious objection during the Holy Wars earned him an eternity of Damnation and Gerald, Satan’s assistant. The reason for their presence was simple; to drink copious amounts of alcohol, smoke inordinate amounts of hash and listen to Satan’s drunken bragging. If there was one thing Satan loved more than causing destruction and mayhem on a biblical scale it was boasting about it afterwards, preferably over a goblet of something very strong and extremely alcoholic. He was a colossal show off and loved nothing more than regaling His underlings with tales of His self confessed greatness and this is exactly what He was currently doing.
‘Hah!’ He boomed, His voice having a very boomy quality. ‘Remember the time when I appeared to a couple of simple farm girls and caused all that hysteria?’
‘Yes Satan,’ replied Lillith. ‘Salem, Massachusetts, right?’
‘Right! Caused all sorts of bother I did,’ said Satan proudly.
‘The Salem Witch Hunt they called it didn’t they?’ continued Lillith.
‘Yes, ha hah! Got many a young strumpet sent My way I can tell you,’ as He was saying this Satan rubbed His hands together in memory induced relish, thinking about all the young souls He had the opportunity of corrupting. His talons sounded like demonic maracas, clicking along with the movement of His hands.
‘Fascinating,’ said Lillith, who was absentmindedly stirring her drink with her index finger. The only drawback to being invited over for drinks by Satan Himself was that you were almost certainly going to be subjected to the same tired old stories that His Demonic Majesty always spun out at these functions. It was almost like being bored to death by an over zealous uncle who believed that as he found his stories interesting then everyone else would. This also meant that it was rather hard to let Him know that He was spinning the same yarn for the umpteenth thousandth time, eternity can be a dangerous thing. However, while Lillith and Azrael were reluctant to inform Satan that He was boring them senseless, his assistant Gerald obviously felt stronger about the issue.
‘Err; I do believe that you have regaled us with that tale before Master.’
‘Have I?’ asked Satan, temporarily removed from His nostalgic storytelling.
‘Frequently,’ replied Gerald.
‘Oh, well. What about the time when I was summoned by those…’
‘I fear that we have heard that one as well Master,’ interrupted Gerald.
‘I’m afraid so.’
‘Oh,’ Satan looked decidedly crestfallen. He always assumed that His subjects enjoyed hearing about His unholy exploits, He certainly did. Looking around the table He realised for the first time that no one seemed to be paying attention to Him; Lillith was staring into nothing with her finger in her drink and Azrael was doodling on a napkin. Gerald was paying Him attention but it was not the kind of attention that He enjoyed. Satan did not like being corrected, interrupted or told He was wrong and the more He thought about Gerald’s insolence the angrier He became. This, coupled with the vast amounts of evil smelling alcohol He had consumed did not make for one happy Prince of Darkness. In one swift movement Satan swung His large muscular arm around in an arc until it connected with Gerald’s head. There were two loud thumping noises; Satan’s fist hitting Gerald on the head and Gerald’s head hitting the table. If this was not enough to rouse both Lillith and Azrael from their respective states of boredom then Satan raising His voice certainly was.
‘Insolent demon!’ He roared. ‘Have you no respect? I am your Lord and Master and you will not speak to Me in such tones.’
‘Forgive me Master,’ said Gerald, rubbing his recently walloped head. ‘I was merely…’
‘You were merely forgetting yourself Gerald.’ interrupted Satan. ‘Don’t let it happen again.’
‘Of course Master. Although I was merely pointing out that you do not seem to have any new stories to tell us.’
‘What did you say?’ growled Satan, His fist raised, ready to coach Gerald some more in the fine art of humility.
‘It’s true Satan,’ said Lillith. ‘We’ve all heard your stories of corrupting the innocent and possessing the weak.’
‘Many times,’ nodded Lillith.
‘Well why didn’t anyone tell Me?’ whined Satan.
‘You know how hard it is to tell you some things. We just didn’t want to upset you.’
‘So you’re all bored of My stories?’ said Satan petulantly.
‘Well you have been telling the same tales since the Holy Wars.’
‘That’s true Satan,’ agreed Azrael.
‘Oh how would you know Mr artist?’ scoffed Satan. ‘You spent the entire Holy Wars hiding out at your place painting.’
‘Well we’re only trying to help,’ said Azrael sulkily, who was burdened with the fragile sensitivities of your average artist. Not exactly a useful factor when you have been banished to live in Hell for all eternity.
‘Well, what would you rather I talk about then?’ said Satan, nursing His wounded pride.
‘Something new and exciting Master,’ suggested Gerald. ‘Preferably something that we have not heard thousands of times before,’ he added under his breath.
‘What?’ demanded Satan.
‘Nothing,’ said Gerald.
‘I don’t have to prove Myself to you people,’ snorted Satan.
‘Of course not,’ agreed Gerald slimily.
‘I’m as powerful as I ever was.’
‘I’m sure you are.’
‘I am!’ shouted Satan, going red in the face. Well, redder in the face.
‘I do not doubt it Master.’
‘I could possess anyone I wanted whenever I wanted.’
‘Right you are Sire.’
‘I’ll prove it you right now,’ boasted Satan.
‘That really won’t be necessary.’
‘Don’t you think I can do it?’
‘It’s not that Master…’
‘So you don’t think I can do it? Right!’ Satan pounded His enormous fists on the heavily laden table, making several bottles rattle against each other, got up and stormed across the room. He stopped by a large, ornate mirror and beckoned His guests to join Him.
‘Right, I’m going to prove to you all that I am as powerful and as evil as I always have been. Pick a soul in the Scrying Mirror and I’ll possess it, no problem.’
‘Any soul at all?’ asked Gerald.
‘Any soul at all,’ bragged Satan.
‘This is stupid,’ said Lillith, who went back to the table for another drink.
‘Never mind her Master,’ oozed Gerald. ‘I shall pick a suitable soul to challenge Your Highness.’
‘Good, and make it a hard one. I love a challenge.’
‘Oh I assure you Master, it will be a hard one, a very hard one indeed.’
When Satan awoke He had the royal family of hangovers putting up residence inside His skull, which was very odd indeed considering He never usually got hangovers. One of the benefits of living in Hell is that agonising pain is not really an issue, not if you happen to be the crowned prince of Evil that is. However, now that Satan was currently inhabiting a body that was not His own He was completely susceptible to the normal, human physicality’s. Consequently, His head was throbbing, a lot.
‘Ggrrngh,’ said Satan, uttering the classic noise used by people the world over when they realise how much their head is pounding after a night of heavy drinking.
‘Urrrrr, where am I?’ slurred Satan, who was playing up to every cliché in the Morning After Handbook. As His conscious mind swam back into line He began to remember choice segments of the previous evening. He remembered planning a sophisticated soiree with a select group of His closest friends but settling for a boozy night of boastful revelry with His mates. He also remembered chewing over old times and He remembered…
Oh bugger, thought Satan. I didn’t? Did I? But He knew all to well that He had.
‘Oh bugger!’ said Satan aloud, then He stopped. Something was different; something was not quite right and when He next spoke it became all too clear what was wrong.
‘My voice,’ said Satan to Himself. ‘What’s happened to My voice?’
Satan was starting to get worried, especially as His memory of the previous evening was returning in ever more rapid clarity. He now remembered boasting that He could possess anyone He wanted and he remembered that Gerald…
‘RRRAAAGH!’ screamed Satan, His voice momentarily returning to its former glory, something He was not expecting. Once the shock of that had vanished Satan’s suspicions began to grow in number, multiplying exponentially. Why had Gerald been so interested in Satan proving Himself? Why had he been so quick to suggest a random possession? And how did he choose so quickly? All these factors pointed towards a conspiracy, with Gerald at the epicentre, although Satan could not be completely certain. However, if He knew that at that moment Gerald was watching Satan via the Scrying Mirror with malevolent relish and Machiavellian delight His suspicions would be one hundred percent confirmed.
Sure enough, Gerald was indeed watching events unfold and he was loving every minute of it. This was his form of sweet revenge for countless years of abuse and humiliation. Satan was not a good boss, not even by Hell’s standards, and although He may have been an effective and powerful Prince of Darkness this did not mean He had people skills. Choosing a career where your basic daily duties involved torturing and punishing the souls of the damned did not usually come with pamphlets entitled “Improving Your Bedside Manner.” Consequently, Gerald had been subjected to incessant verbal and physical abuse during his tenure of employment under the Infernal Lord and needless to say it was beginning to get a tad irritating. This is why for months now Gerald had been secretly plotting the overthrow of Satan with the intent of replacing Him with himself, a crucial element in any power shift conspiracy.
Gerald had left nothing to chance, he had thought of everything. He had been planning this grand scheme of exquisite revenge for far too long to let something foul it up now. He had ensured that Satan would be easily manipulated, plying Him with drink and narcotics and he had fixed it so that Satan could not get back into Hell, bribing the gatekeepers and boat drivers of the River Styx. He had also slipped something rather special into one of Satan’s many, many drinks. It was a small but extremely potent concoction that Gerald had acquired from one of Hell’s numerous magical practitioners, which when ingested disabled that person, no matter how Satanic, of all magical activities, including the simple Return To Hell incantation that Satan was now cursing the absence of.
Gerald cackled maniacally as he watched his former employer try every trick and incantation that He could think of but nothing was working, nothing would work. The only way that Satan could get back to Hell was for the spell to be reversed and the only person who could do that was either Gerald or the shopkeeper who he had purchased said spell from but that was not very likely. Somewhere down a grubby looking alley deep within the infernal twists and turns of Hell was a small shop that was closed for the foreseeable future. Inside was a small brown stain on the floor that had once been the shopkeeper; Gerald had left nothing to chance.
‘Go ahead you blundering oaf!’ he snorted derisively, as he took his glass of brandy from the table next to him and gave it a self-satisfied swirl. ‘It will do you no good.’
- January 2003
- To be continued...