Conus’s presence made Hell’s heat in this area subside. Now instead of feeling like the surface of the sun, it felt like a cool afternoon after a rainy morning. Maybe freezing. Good thing it didn’t rain, or else the humidity would probably feel like lava. And trust me folks, humidity sucks.
“Holy shit, Conus. Did Hell just freeze over? You’ve got to let the humans know that, that saying is real,” I said.
“Foolish son of mine, an adult has he become, do you not wish to see the light again?” Conus said. “With no sign of remorse for what you’ve done, how can you expect to finish your sentence? Instead of begging for your life back, pleading with an apology and sincerity, you inflict disrespect with each of my visits. Should I just give up on you and send you to the depths of Hell?”
“Hmm, is Ghost like trapped in the depths? Is that why he hadn’t come for me?” I said, with mock innocence. “Ah, never mind that, who cares? Let me tell you how great the surface is: you know, with heat that puts the sun to shame. But hey, at least it’s not so lonely.” I wagged a finger. “Demons visit me every month. They’re a little rough on the edges but not so bad once you get to know them, rest in peace, the bunch. At least I’ve got some water here, courtesy of the corpse tree over there.” I pointed at it.
He frowned. I frowned too, my voice darkening but not into full-blown anger. “Back then, I pleaded for a year straight. If you wanted an obedient tool, that would’ve been your moment. Too bad. I can only give you the award of being the greatest asshole in existence.”
Conus sighed. “You’re missing the point of punishment, foolish boy. You were warned, yet you still threw a tantrum, eradicating humanity, not once but twice. The first time I let you off the hook with a long lecture, turned a blind eye to your disgrace, even covered it up. You sealed your fate when you disobeyed me again and let hatred take over.”
“Uh, hello, I’ve tried countless times to get you to take away some of that power,” I snarled. “It was fucking hard to control and you knew it. Learn to control them, you said— never showed me how—just expected me to adapt.” I flipped him off. “You gave me no chance—just threw me in this dump to rot. Newsflash, you didn’t break me.”
Conus shook his head. “It’s not that easy, boy. And for a prince chosen to directly succeed me, was but another trial. After all of this time, you still cannot see what is to be seen. You cannot see the point. You still understand nothing.”
“Pssh—whatever, Great Yoda—are you serious? You expected me to learn your so-called lesson while being tortured non-stop?” I said, and then laughed. “That’s it, I’ve had enough, Conus.” I sat down. “Please leave. See you in two years.”
“If I leave this time, you’re going to the depths. You who will never learn anything will experience what it means to truly rot in Hell. You will be eaten alive by maggots, tortured by demons, longing to be with me again, to be my son but in the depths, there is no hope, no more chances, no more ways out. Nothing but chains, pain, despair, and fear. Here is your chance to leave this place, and you cannot even humble yourself, nor mature.”
I grabbed my cup of leftover filthy water. Normally it would be boiling after being left out for more than a minute, but I had timed it with the arrival of Mr. Hell-freeze there. Cold water, woo! Tasted like a shit-cone. Conus turned as I gulped it down, oh so satisfying. “Epex, it’s time to let go of your hatred and grow up. You are capable. I can see the light inside. Come, learn the ways of wha—”
I interrupted him with a loud burp. “Conus, look at me. Look at this place. Look what you’ve done to me. You want to talk about maggots. Well, if it weren’t for a certain power leak, I’d still have them crawling inside of me.”
I beamed at him. He was standing in a sweet spot. I made the symbols of the deity-trapper visible. Think of Egyptian hieroglyphics, maybe a bit more sophisticated due to the years of having nothing better to do but make them look cool. They glowed a light-blue upon activation. The truly shocked, fearful face—I felt it—of Conus made me feel like a happy little kid on Christmas day.
“Epex, where did you learn this forbidden use—agh!” He breathed a little heavy. “If you do this, you’ll be chained to the depths, in a cage soldered to Ghost’s throne. You’ll be condemned to become Ghost or even Lucifer’s stool for an eternity. Possibly worse.”
“Conus, your threats were empty from the beginning,” I said. I walked over to him. The deity-trapper had little effect on me, as it was charged with my own power. I poked the geezer in the chest. His wrinkles showed pretty well as a result of his frantic glare. Wrinkles that weren’t there before. His short beard began to smoke. “What’s the matter, can’t handle this without holy protection?” I heard his pale skin fizzle like the sound of a freshly opened soda pop. “Scream for me, Conus. You know the heat hurts.” I laughed.
“Epex, you’ve made a big mistake and an enemy out of Paradise Realm. Trapping me here to be your torture tool will serve no purpose and just—”
“Shut up!” I yelled. “You think what you’re feeling is Hell’s heat?” I spat next to his shoe. “My deity-trapper is a little different.”
His eyes widened, realizing the situation. “No—no that can’t be possible! That’s impossible.” Conus was panicking the way I wanted him to. The trapper was sure to explode from eradicating someone of his stature, killing me too. I’d rather rest in peace while reincarnating, than be stuck in Hell. Screw that. Hell sucks.
“With you dead, the lock on my powers will be undone,” I said. “Not that it matters anyway. The explosion should kill me too. I will have no regrets, knowing that I took you with me, asshole. If you can communicate with Paradise Realm, tell them that the first god-slayer has been born. Short lived, he served his purpose. Give them the finger while you’re at it.”
“Epex…what happened to you?”
I wagged a finger. “Bat shit insane. See you on the other side. Oh wait, I won’t.”
Then it happened.
The ground shook as if Yellowstone super volcano itself was here, ready to erupt in a spectacular explosion. I felt the pressure hit its limits, with Conus’s raw power being the catalyst.
My vision was suddenly gorged with reds, oranges, whites, and dust. But…for some reason, I felt nothing. What should’ve been my body ripping to shreds instead propelled me upward into the sky, alive. Everything around me blurred, brightened, and turned into stars.
That’s when I realized I was ascending to another realm, not dying. I felt hands grab my throat. “Screw you! I won’t let you throw me into the depths,” I yelled, throwing strong punches until the hands let go. The brightness, blurriness, and stars cleared seconds later. I found myself lying stomach-first on the middle of a paved road, gasping for breath.
I slowly stood up, nearly stumbling, as if I was adjusting to gravity for the first time. I looked around but didn’t see Conus.
Amazing cool winds complimented the perfect temperature. The blue skies felt like eye candy. The sound of real animals and insects soothed my ear— I appreciated it more than hungry demons. The smell of sulfur and brimstone no longer drowned my nostril. My body almost convulsed at the intake of untainted oxygen.
There was a town up ahead, but for the most part this place looked like it partially belonged to a national forest.
I couldn’t believe it. Somehow, I ascended to the human world. I had escaped Hell!
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- The Enlightener
Alvin Atwater is a man of humor, a starving author. With a unique writing style that can outshine even Jim Butcher, Patria Briggs, or Kevin Hearne, he is a character-driven lovable lump of mass. Born in Florida, he's on a mission to defeat his arch nemesis, Florida Man, once and for all.
Don't be shy. Give him a wave. A read. And maybe whisper, "waffles," because the man loves his waffles. It's a miracle his keyboard doesn't have maple syrup all over it.
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Author of the Blood for Soul series and a secret coming-of-the-age epic fantasy. Lover of anime and manga: so yeah, weeb shit? Fun. Sue me haha.
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