With an exception of a few paths, fire was everywhere, burning at least several miles high.
Yep, so I’ve reached the fire and brimstone part of the depths. The heat didn’t differ from the surface. You burn in Hell the same way. I guess the only plus I had was the lack of wind.
The downside: I felt large presences—only a few—of powerful demons lurking. Well, most were probably miles away. There was no telling how far this plane of fire stretched, but at least the paths I noticed were stony, fireless. Not that the walls of fire would allow a traveler any comfort. I assumed some demons probably made them out of frustration. How, will remain a mystery.
I chose the path in front of me, not wanting to waste any time, and moved at a brisk pace. There was no exhaustion like the trail of pain. No tentacles either which is a plus in my book. I did hear the screams of souls that were burning far away. Some were probably miles and miles deep, forced to feel it again and again. Respawning in this place would pretty much mean an eternity in fire. I was pretty sure not all wandering souls had rags—those were the luckier ones.
I shoved the thought out of my head, speeding up until I came across a large clearing without fire.
Further ahead were five fireless paths. I noticed a giant blood-red demon with pointy ears and two small white horns on its head, lying on its side at the center of the clearing. It wore a large brown loincloth, that must’ve been fireproof. I thought I’d either be turning around or sneaking past it, but the demon opened one eye, that turned into a glare at me.
“I’ll be going,” I told it. “Sorry for disturbing you.”
The demon shrugged and then closed its eyes. Before I had the chance to jump for joy and name it the “cool one,” it opened both of its eyes as if realizing something.
“You’ll fetch me a pretty penny if I sell you to the Infinite Prison,” it said, standing up. “I’ve never seen a soul down here without a chain.” The giant chuckled as it stood up to a staggering fifteen feet of height. “And to think I was about to just let you go.” He said in a deep voice.
“You can still let me go,” I said.
The demon laughed.
“You’re a funny one, I’ll give you that, but all too valuable, unchained soul.”
With that, it lurched at me. I dodged his first giant punch, which dented the ground. The backhand, well, that was too fast for my eyes to catch. Flying about thirty feet, I skid across the stony clearing, coming to a stop right in front of the fire.
“Hmm, why am I giving you a fighting chance?” the demon said. “Suppose lacking battle in a thousand years made me trigger happy. Let’s just make this easy. Come with me and you can skip the pain.”
“I don’t want to be stuck in some prison,” I said. “With the twisted shit I’ve seen in this place—I can hardly imagine what kind of truly horrible fuckery you bastards are putting captured souls through for your sick amusement.”
The demon sighed.
“The rules of this place, not mine. But.” He stretched. “You don’t get a saying in where you’re going, shit-meat. If you’re down here, you’re a mass-murderer.” He stepped toward me, a red aura emerging around his body like fire. “While personally, I could careless, your judges still deemed you, dickhead of the year and tossed you not on the surface but into the real Hell.” He grinned. “And now you’re my product. No chain—I’ll have the moola to finally live in that stupid city. Don’t think you’ll be ruining it for me.”
The mass blurred in front of me. I dove to the side, narrowly evading his grab, then unleashed a barrage of force. To my dismay, the attacks had no effect on him whatsoever.
In fact, the demon…I believe an Oni, a very rare demon outside of Japanese folklore, looked amused. Fuck. Mythical beings were much trickier to fight. I also didn’t have any experience against this type of power. Who would? The only people who dealt with them are long dead.
Just then, the Oni fucking teleported in front of me—or at least moved faster than I could perceive. An iron club covered in spikes manifested from nowhere in its grasps. I got my arms up just in time to block. A whirlwind of pain struck me as I fell to the ground.
“I am a tormentor, mortal,” said the demon. “A lazy one, but if you want, I can waste a few of your days peeling your skin off inch by inch. Or maybe bath you in some of that amazing orange stuff over there.”
A spiky-toed foot kicked me dangerously close to the fire. Shit, if only I had power. I wouldn’t be taking punishments like this. I’d take no one’s shit—not the elite’s, the demons, nor the House’s. I stood up and did the least expected thing—that is, made a run for it. “You stubborn fool!” the Oni yelled before me and then roared.
I gave it my all, running through the path, for what felt like fifteen minutes. I thought I lost him…but when the demon made himself visible, standing tall, whistling nonchalantly, I knew I lost. Still, I didn’t plan to go down without a fight.
To think that out of all the things to run into, I’d encounter a fucking Oni. At least he matched the description I remembered with the overwhelming strength and height. I shot a blast of force at the demon’s face, causing it to roar then followed up with a strong punch right into solid steel-like gut. Before I could pull back to yell from the pain, a giant red fist collided with the entirety of my body. The blackness came afterwards.
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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 (It's a joke. These are among my favorite authors) , 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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