Justice isn’t blind. If she cannot see, then it’s simply because she doesn’t care enough to look. She turned away that dark night my sister was attacked, where even the moon and stars must have hidden their faces in shame. From all accounts it was an anonymous act of brutality: an impulsive flight, a brief struggle, the humiliation of rape, and then the lifetime of silent nightmares that must surely follow such depraved violence.
I’ve heard it’s a common story where the lonely roads meet beyond the protective halo of street lamps. For all the virtues we profess, there is a savagery dormant in us waiting only for our fellow man to blink. It is easy to be noble while someone is watching and the fear of judgement may yet steady our course. In solitude the moral compass will lose its bearing, replaced by whichever base instinct can scream louder than our pounding blood.
It is some consolation that I found the one who valued his greed over human dignity. Through the course of these confessions you will see that I am no better than the animal I hunted, so I will waste no time professing my merit now. I buy substances from a man who knew everything that happened in his neighborhood, and like anyone who seeks profit from another’s misfortune, he was willing to sell me the name I required.
I found the rapist where he returned to the street my sister suffered upon: pacing and circling like a hungry animal haunting the doorstep of his last meal. He didn’t see me coming, and I made no sound nor spoke no word save for the poetry my bullet inscribed in his skull. I should have departed at once, but the satisfaction that his last throes of life promised lured me into complacent voyeurism. I stayed to tell him that my sister sent her love, hoping to purchase her closure with the death rattle rising in his throat. I wasn’t expecting repentance, nor did I receive it.
“It wasn’t the first time, and it won’t be the last,” were his final words to reach living ears.
I have no-one to blame but myself and my zealous retribution for failing to notice that he didn’t work alone. They were on top of me in moments, wrestling me to the ground and stomping my gun away from my shattered hand. Knives punctured my back and neck, leaving great sucking wounds which inhaled the night air; wounds breathing in place of my my lungs which were swiftly filled with blood. There weren’t any magnanimous thoughts or profound revelations as the light went out. One moment there was simply light and pain and noise…
And then nothing.
And then nothing.
I opened my eyes to find I was no longer of this world. I knew at once, despite the fact that I was sitting at a quite ordinary wooden desk in a room no larger than janitorial closet. On the desk was a piece of paper, and on the paper was a question, and in that question was written my fate for eternity:
Welcome to Hell. Would you like to:
1) Remain Human. You will be tortured by those who became Demons.
2) Become a Demon. You will torture those who remained Human.
P.S. If there aren’t enough people to volunteer to remain Human, they will be chosen randomly.
I do not believe it is within my nature to torture anyone. Even my sister’s abuser received death as fast as an executioner’s axe. But no more could it be said it is within my nature to receive torture: as unnatural a human construct as can be imagined. But if I had to choose – as I’m sure many of you would have done so far removed from the judgement of both man and God – then I choose to accept my new home and dawn the mantle of Hell I was offered.
I steeled myself against the horrendous transformation I pictured, imagining razor talons growing from my bones to rip holes in the flesh or an entropic decay to wrack my body until my skin ran down my face like candle-wax. No physical transformation came over me though, a phenomenon which I can only account to the Devil’s ironic sense of humor. I knew it from the first moment the floor dropped underneath to fling me down into the charnel realm however; I was a Demon now.
And it was Heaven to me. I expected the first time to be harder. The woman was presented to me in perfect physical health. I haven’t noticed any discrepancies in age since I’ve arrived – everyone looks to be their mid 20s here. The room sealed and I was given an hour to work on her. I find it distasteful to dwell on exactly what I did, but I remember rationalizing it cleanly with the knowledge that she was only here because she deserved it. Never mind that I was here too – never mind that it could have been me randomly chosen – never mind that she could have volunteered to suffer like this to spare another. She was in Hell, and it was my job to make sure she knew it.
It wasn’t until I’d finished that I learned the second rule to this infernal game. Once the hour of punishment had been completed, the human is offered a choice: they can get revenge on me, or they can accept their pain and continue their journey. Those who refuse the chance to retaliate shall be incrementally elevated, until at last their soul is cleansed and they are set to be reborn on Earth. If however they choose to turn the torture on me instead, I will be nourished by the pain and descend further along the dark road I have chosen. For each blow inflicted upon me, my skin hardens, my muscles tighten, and my power will flourish.
It didn’t take long for me to realize how to properly play. The only way for me to progress was to inflict a punishment so foul and induce a hatred so deep in my victim that they choose revenge over the quality of their immortal soul. And progress I must, for untold centuries of this game repeated has refined some Demons into legendary masters of their craft. Those Demons have carved out kingdoms for themselves in this infernal domain, and through their countless successes have transformed themselves into towering behemoths of apocalyptic ability, shattering the landscape with their tread and sending their lessers into groveling servitude. Since the moment I chose to become a Demon the gates of absolution have been closed to me forever. It may be my fate to dwell in this realm, but it was my choice to rule it.
And so I went to work honing my skill. It wasn’t enough to simply batter the humans into submission; if I was to force their hand against me I had to get inside their mind, caressing and nurturing their spirit into one of mindless wrath. I learned to expose the subconscious dread lying dormant that even the bravest dare not shed light on. I mastered the art of wetting my brush in nightmares to repaint their memories until all they once knew of life was corrupted by my influence. I promised false salvation, or deceived them into thinking they had escaped, or spoiled their loved ones until they could not contain the anger I imbued within them.
But I didn’t stop there. I studied the ancient texts of Demonic lore recounting the torment of dying stars from the beginning of time. I served under the foulest creatures I could find, watching their methods and improving upon their design. Experimentation, research, and endless practice refined my mastery over the subtle art until I could induce a pain so exquisite that Angels would shed their wings for the chance to smite me down. And ever I grew stronger, building a devoted following of my own to gather more humans, ever inventing and facilitating the process of extracting unbearable anguish. My human form twisted into a sentient shadow to reflect the pervasive nature of my approach, each victory making it that much easier to dismantle my prey.
And I loved every second of it. I relished in my progression and thought I could live here until the end of time, prospering and expanding my reign to all corners of the nether realm. Perhaps one day I would supplant the Devil himself, designing my own games to watch the universe fold and decay beneath my guiding hand. And perhaps I would have continued this road forever, had it not been for the fateful encounter where I finally met my match.
A human was pushed into the room with me and the door closed behind. I had an hour to play, but I wanted more. It was the man who murdered my sister: infuriatingly smug and dismissive of my ability to break his spirit. I thought I would enjoy this more than anything, but to my mounting dismay he stubbornly resisted my influence. He remained passive through the acid wash of his nerves. His mind did not falter as I summoned the image of his father’s lamentations against him. Every trick, every torment, every mental ravaging left him smirking, until with exasperation I resigned myself to simply goad him into action.
“You must feel cheated. Forced to remain human at the mercy of every lowly criminal who cares to punish you.”
“I wasn’t forced,” he replied. “I made the choice.”
“Then you’re an idiot who deserves what he gets.”
“And what I’ll get is freedom. I told you this wasn’t the first time, and that it won’t be the last,” he said. “I’ve been to Hell so many times that it bores me.”
So that was his secret. He had gotten out before. He knew how to play the game. But it didn’t matter, because no-one played it like I did.
“So you won’t retaliate?” I asked. “No matter what I do?”
He shook his head, the smirk unaltered. “I’m going back to Earth. And when I do, I’m going to remember this like I always do. I’m going to wait until I’ve grown strong again. And just for this, I’m going to find your sister and I’m going to do it again.”
I had almost forgotten about my sister. About the world above, filled with its myriad of joys and sorrows. I missed her in that moment; I missed being alive. And as much as I enjoyed the role I had carved for myself here, I wanted to be back again. The thought that this monster would patiently wait out his trials, cheating the system over and over to return to his life of sin; it made me sick. The tables had turned, and all the hatred I sought to pour into him was rushing into me instead. I wanted nothing more than to flay him down to the core of being and set such a fire in what remained to burn for all of time. But even if somehow I could force his hand against me; even if I broke him so badly that he never escaped; I would still be here forever. And I hated him, and I hated myself, and it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done to hold onto that hatred and turn it aside.
And harder still to let him walk away. To bide my time, sending the weakest demons in my possession so that he might easily resist their influence. Watching, and waiting, and even helping my sister’s attacker elevate through the Hell until the time of his salvation was at hand. It was hard, but it was worth it, because that is when I chose to strike.
I had already learned to infiltrate the mind in my pursuit of torture, and through my mastery I infiltrated the spirit as well. I hid within his soul when his judgement was passed, concealing my hatred within his hatred, tempering my fire with his calculating patience. And when that soul was whisked away, I traveled with it, sleeping so softly within his dreams that even he did not know he bore me as his silent passenger. Until the day when he was born again on Earth, and I with him.
The struggle was violent but brief. It is easy to wrestle an infant’s mind from them, and when the child’s eyes opened it was I who looked out. He may resist me yet, but I bear with me all the subtle crafts I have honed in Hell, carrying them to Earth where they can be put to better use.
You see Hell is Heaven for the Demons, but all the worst of us have found our way back home.