In the vast expanse of blackness, I felt my soul form. It was weird. Kind of like a jigsaw puzzle of myself clunking together. Oh well. What? Expected me to express a monologue of tireless depression. Yeah, no, I knew this would eventually happen. I’m just surprised I lasted so long against all odds. I made them bring out the elites. If only I could enjoy the feeling of victory, but knowing the balance has broken…well, fuck.
The blackness suddenly vanished and I found myself standing on top of a floating wooden platform, as wide as an SUV, miles above a bottomless pit. I took in my surroundings. Mountains surrounded me on all sides. Above was as black as the deepest void. Selina appeared to my side.
“Hey Epex,” she said.
“Please tell me you’re here to fly me back out,” I said.
To my dismay, the reaperess gave me a sad smile.
“I’m afraid not.” Selina folded her arms. “This entire thing was arranged very hastily by some representative of the House, so there will be no fanfare of judgment nor is there any time to chain you to the depths.” The death goddess looked at me. “You didn’t hear this from me, but at the center of the depths, there is a dimensional distortion. Very big, very bright, impossible to miss. That may be your way out. You have no chain, soooo.” She winked.
“Which way should I go when I get there.”
“I don’t know,” Selina said, “but it’s a large mass of distorted power. Since you’ve lucked out, you should be able to sense it. Follow it, Epex. I don’t want you down there longer than you have to.” The goddess rose into the air. “Well, this is it. I’m sorry to do this.”
The platform underneath my feet vanished and I fell. Also blacked out.
When I woke up, a surge of extreme pain blasted through me. I clenched my teeth, not wanting to attract any sadistic demon.
Upon observation, I stood on a very long and narrow stony trail that led…somewhere. E very second on it, felt like someone piledrove spikes into every part of my body. I figured if I were chained, the path would be a lot worse, possibly inescapable.
Fiery drips of blood fell from the sky like twisted snow, though never reaching anywhere close to the ground. I peeked to the side, off the path and regretted it. It was a chasm of infinite chomping teeth and nightmarish bloody tentacle-like demons slithering about. Just what kind of sick fuck designed this place anyway. I didn’t think it could get worse than standard Hell—the surface.
“Hello, hey you—you’re stuck here too… can you help?” someone said in… Vietnamese.
I turned around to see a wandering chained soul, a weary Asian woman, dressed in rags, walking toward me. I could say she looked as if she’d been through Hell, but that’d be too soon.
The woman never made it to me. She somehow slipped. I couldn’t turn away as I watched a tentacle shoot out at her with impossible speed, wrap around the poor woman, and dragged her into an eternity of hellish torture and pain. Her fading scream of absolute agony made me flinch. I felt a little bad, but couldn’t spare much pity. You’d have to be an incredibly shitty person to get sent to the depths. Mass serial killers and genocide-coordinators are just the start.
I pulled myself together and starting walking. Fuck, did it seriously hurt! This is probably the trail of pain or something like that. This path seemed to exhaust its victims too. Great…I’d be more likely to slow down or collapse, accidentally falling off. The sneaky bastards.
Walking went on for hours. With each step, the pain threatened to make me stumble. There wasn’t any heat, just emptiness. Replacing the Hell’s famous temperature was a feeling of sorrow, sadness, regret, and failure. So much failure—all of it palpable.
With each step, I’d get just a tiny bit more exhausted. I had a feeling that if I collapsed, it’d be off to the side and experience the same fate as that woman. A few times, I tried to ascend but nothing happened. Of course, there’d be no easy escape from here.
Well, at least I wasn’t chained, which all pointed to a setup. Why? Who knows—maybe it could be some stupid ploy for power. Because of the plot, I’m rotting in the depths of Hell.
I let out a breath, fighting the intense exhausting, refusing to give in to this giant torture chamber. And a torture chamber it was with its infinitely bloody sky, pungent smell of sulfur and iron poisoning the air, if one could call it air—didn’t exactly breath properly in “soul” form. The eerie silence made it so much worse. The teeth below looked like a combination of human teeth, shark teeth, and some others I didn’t recognize. Maybe it’s a pit of mouths.
The fear of being lost forever fueled the determination inside. I grabbed the edge of the trail and pulled myself up. A hissing sound from somewhere grabbed my attention. A bloody tentacle snaked its way toward me. Oh fuck—it probably felt cheated out of its meal. What to do… I ran as fast as possible, surprised that the exhaustion within somehow reset. That or my fear got the better of me. Something as cold as ice wrapped itself around leg and pulled. I yelled, desperately trying to pull the disgusting thing off me. No use, it slowly dragged me backward. It even kept me on the path as if to tenderize me more with intense pain and climbing exhaustion. After everything that I went through, from hunters, misthangers, angels, demons, a Fallen, and the elite, was I really going to suffer an infinite end like this. This isn’t something one could be rescued from—it’s game over, for good.
Fuck that. I’d go out fighting and screaming before I’d let whatever that thing was make me its breakfast. This was a long shot, but I charged essence, aimed my hand at the tentacle and released force.
Force actually manifested from my soul then smashed against the monster. It squealed, releasing me to retrieve back to whatever hole it emerged from. Thanks to the absence of a chain, I could still use some of my powers.
The designers of this shithole either saw no need to commit to the negating effect of the surface or simply forgot. On the contrary, there is a chance that I’d probably have to thank Selina for this. Maybe she did something before sending me to the plummet of doom.
After another few hours or perhaps days of running, I finally saw a scenery change ahead. A forest. Anything would be better than this painful path. It only worsened, infinitely. A truly sadistic design.
I thought I was out of the loop, but three tentacles burst out of the chasm and blocked the entrance to the forest.
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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.
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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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