Straight to Hell
“Ummm. Lucy?” Ashliel stepped in beside me, electronic clipboard in hand.
“Yes, Ash?” I knew she had a long list of requests, meetings, messages. As CEO of Hell, my days were busy. I’d built my torturous dimension to great heights over the last few hundred millennia. In the last two hundred years alone, attendance of lost souls entering Hell has risen over two hundred percent, and that number looked to be on the rise.
“There’s a man who wants his punishment of having a buzzard constantly pecking his eyes out to be lessened, a man whose memories have been wiped and he wants to know who he was, and a woman who wants to warn her sister on Earth about the afterlife.” She spoke fast, knowing my time was limited.
“Buzzard man, no can do. This isn’t a negotiation. His punishment was set when he entered Hell. He knows this. Deny future requests. Memory man…good point, how can he atone for his sins if he can’t remember them? See to it that his sinful memories are returned. Only his sins, mind you. And no to the woman who wants to warn her sister—they get plenty of warnings. It’s not like this place is a secret.”
Ashliel’s fingers flew across her clipboard. By the time we reached my offices, she was done. Before stepping out of the glass box I looked down, into the fiery pit where the most heinous of sinners resided. It was eerily beautiful from this vantage point. Sighing, I turned my back on the bubbling pit of fire and exited the elevator, stepping into the opulence of Hell HQ.
I greatly admired the skyscrapers on Earth and had modeled Hell HQ on them. Over two hundred floors, soaring high into the red and orange sky, built from gleaming black marble. My offices took up ten floors alone; the very top floor was my penthouse. Yes, I lived in luxury, but I damn well earned it. Running Hell was hard work, never a moment’s peace. And now this. A breach. It niggled me. Security was tight. It couldn’t have come from the pit; I was just there. Had it come from one of the cell blocks housed on the other side of Hell HQ?
I crossed to the floor-to-ceiling windows and looked out on the cells. Row upon row of fifty- story skyscrapers, all housing sinners. They spanned as far as the eye could see, each one providing different levels of punishment. Wingless Demons patrolled the streets, their black skin and red eyes clearly identifying them. Their winged counterparts took to the skies, massive wings spanning over twenty feet, soaring around and around the buildings. Who could escape this? That is if the breach had even come from Hell in the first place. Earth was my brothers’ responsibility. They were charged with watching over the humans. I was annoyed I was being dragged into it, yet I liked the humans. I didn’t want to see them destroyed by some other dimension creature. Not if I could stop it.
A ding on Ashliel’s clipboard caught my attention. I arched a dark brow at her.
“You have a delivery.”
“Probably from my brothers.” I sighed. Had they heard the news and were already poking fun?
“They might have sent something nice,” Ashliel suggested, ever hopeful.
“Knowing my brothers, I doubt it.”
Stepping through the glass doors into my office, I spy a huge gift-wrapped parcel on my sleek black desk. Here we go.
“Thank you, Ashliel. That will be all.” I waited for Ash to leave the room, then approached my desk cautiously. What were they up to? Gabriel and Michael were archangels like me, but when Father chose me over them to head up the Hell Division, to say the boys were a little prickly was an understatement. We hadn’t spoken in over a hundred years. Why now? Today? Were they connected to the breach? Did they instigate it? I wouldn’t put it past them. They’d do anything to see me fail.
Hoping I was wrong, and that maybe, just maybe, the box on my desk was an olive branch, I tore open the wrapping and cautiously opened the lid. Inside was a single piece of paper. On it was written the name, “Emily Barlow.” Who the hell was Emily Barlow? Was she a lost soul? I reached to pull the paper from the box, but the whole thing went up in flames. Great.
With a wave of my hand I put out the flames and cleaned the debris from my desk before crossing to the giant screen across the room, one so big that I had to stand in front of it, or if I preferred, recline on the leather couch a few feet away. I could split the screen into hundreds of smaller screens and monitor Earth and Hell at the same time if I so chose. This time I raised my hand and halved the screen, keeping an eye on my own dimension on the left, and scanning through files searching for Emily Barlow on the right. There were several humans with that name and I flicked through until one caught my eye.
There. Emily Barlow. Human. Alive. Her dossier flashed across the screen, a mini movie of her life so far. She was young, a teenager, seventeen and a high school student, blonde hair, blue eyes, pretty. She was a bossy little thing, liked to be involved in community events and social activities at school. She wanted a career in Public Relations or the Media. As I watched, the screen glitched, froze, then resumed. Emily was in a graveyard. Something was there with her. Something dark. I leaned forward, watching intently as Emily was clasped in a tight embrace, held for a matter of seconds, then let go. Glowing red eyes looked up, directly at me. Then it was gone, leaving Emily’s body on the ground drained of life.
The screen flickered, a brief moment of static, before settling again. This time I no longer saw Emily, but a man. He was sitting at a table, one hand resting on the table, palm up, and in the center of his palm a deep azure blue rock. He sent the message. Did he mean to send it to me I wonder? His eyes sprang open and he flopped back in his seat as if exhausted. I looked into his eyes, magnified the screen so it focused on his face. A very handsome face: strong jaw covered in a light beard, full lips that held my attention for slightly too long. I wondered what they looked like when he smiled.
Then I wondered…why am I wondering about his lips? Okay, seriously, he’s a human, I scolded myself. But it had been a long time since I’d…you know. Had any fun in that department. Maybe a dalliance with a human would take my mind off the stresses of running Hell. As much as I loved my job, I’d yet to have a vacation. I shifted my attention from his kissable lips to his eyes. A combination of hazel and gold, they were striking with their dark lashes. And the way he was looking directly into the screen, it was as if he were looking right at me.