This is hell:
Standing in front of a statue with a belly like a hole into nothing, seeing it pull your lover into darkness, hoping, holding your breath.
Seeing that the hole still grows. Understanding, in the depths of your bones, that it is hungry.
How much do you have to sacrifice? How much must you still lose?
Too much. Always.
Hell is beyond this statue, beyond this gate, and you step into it knowingly because nothing but your blood will sate its hunger. One life for six billion. It doesn’t seem fair.
Your name is Buffy Anne Summers. Today, you die.
This is also hell:
Fire. Heat. Darkness. Something moving. Terror. Pain. Skin peeling back, bones breaking, lungs bursting, flesh rending, heart torn from its place, spirit shattered, soul shredded.
Stop. Inhale. Heal. Almost forget. Almost convince yourself it was all a trick, all a nightmare.
But then something moves and it starts again and you forget that it was ever different.
You are everyone and this is your eternity.
This is the deepest, darkest part of hell:
A room, empty, dark. The ceiling is beyond reach of even the most powerful of wings, and the floor is smooth glass, burned from sand and hate. Through the walls, you feel fire.
There are no corners. The room is perfectly circular. Smooth, faceless, blank. No escape.
Not now, not until the end of the world.
But this is hell, remember. And what would hell be if there were no hope?
So there is a door. A gateway, really. A hole in the wall, a break in the black glass. Beyond it is a corridor. Beyond that corridor, fire and screams and brimstone and freedom wait.
You spend your centuries sitting cross-legged in front of that gateway, staring at what lies so close, just beyond the threshold. A threshold you can never cross. Father’s power rings in the archway even now, even ten thousand years after its creation.
This far, no further.
You sit in your circular room, you watch, you wait. Sometimes you go mad. Sometimes you get better. You watch. You wait.
Your name is Lucifer MorningStar and you were once the most beautiful of all angels.
This is the road through hell:
It’s broad and steep, paved with skulls, framed in thighbones. Fire burns in ribcages hung from rock outcroppings. It’s perverse. It’s a lie. There are no bodies in hell, no physical shells.
In hell, soulflesh is the only flesh you have and it’s soft all the way through, squishy and made for cutting. The better to rend you to pieces, my dear. The bones are only another trick. Tricksy!
You giggle, press a hand to your soulfleshmouth and keep walking. You have been here for a very long time.
Sometimes you lose your way.
Sometimes grasping hands pull you astray.
Sometimes black eyes beckon you from the darkness. You used to resist them, but you can’t quite remember why. They offer play and blood, pain and delicious release. You kill them when you’re done playing, rip them to shreds and scatter them on the fiery, dry winds rising from below.
They scream nicely as their souls turn to ashes and their conscious flickers and dies. You like to watch that moment, when black turns to some long forgotten color and then goes out. Like a candle flame. Snuff, gone.
Vaguely you know that you should be disgusted with yourself. With what you do. You’re meant to protect, to keep safe. Funny how it always looked like killing from where you were standing. Not so different now, is it?
The skulls crunch under your boots as you walk and you sing quietly to yourself. Where you’re going? You’re not quite sure anymore. But why stop?
Your name was Buffy Anne Summers once. That seems important.
This, too, is hell:
You scream in agony on the rack, feel the razorblade cut through skin and flesh and sinew, right down to the bone. It grinds into your marrow and it bites into your soul and you scream and scream and scream.
The pain stops. Your wounds heal. Your skin reseals itself.
On the outside. Inside, you still rot.
Inside, you still die.
A flash catches your eye, sudden, abrupt. Brightness. Something like light. It’s hair, catching the fires below your feet. A girl spins on her heel and buries a knife in another demon’s neck.
She pulls it back, blood sprays. She coos.
Your name is Dean Winchester. You’ve only been here twenty years.
This is something that has never happened before in hell:
There is a corridor that leads from a circular room of black glass into the endless reaches of hell. In theory, every corridor leads in two directions. Except this one. Except for you.
You have only ever walked this corridor in one direction and until the world ends you never will.
Others could walk it either way. Could come and go.
But even among your so called people, you are feared. Revered. And feared. You are the MorningStar and you still burn with your Father’s fire. They fear you, these paltry black-eyed children. As they should. If you could, you would burn them all to ashes.
But the corridor. This is about the corridor. Listen. Focus. The corridor. No-one ever walks this corridor.
She is a tiny thing, blonde under grime and blood, golden once, like you. Her garments are nothing you have seen since the days you walked free, but you recognize the slope of her shoulders, the sway of her hips, the glint of metal in her hands.
Blades. Danger. She moves like you and your brothers once moved across the battlefield, full of violence, full of glory.
Something roars beyond the corridor’s end and she spins, kicks, slashes, kills. She laughs. The souls that attacked her shatter with agonizing screams, into pieces so small it will take them an age to gather themselves again.
She wipes soulblood off her knives and turns. Slowly, she makes her way toward you, down this corridor no-one ever walks.
She smells of blood and sweat and death but not of fear.
Closer, closer and you lean back on your hands to watch, challenging her, who rivals your brightness, who walks toward you with her head held high.
She stops just beyond the threshold, a smile twisting her lips, a glint catching on a drop of blood on her cheek.
You meet her gaze and find her eyes not black but green.
You stand to better look at her, your wings flaring at your back. She repays the favor, inspects you as you inspect her. Her smile never wavers.
“So this is the bottom of hell,” she finally says. Her voice sounds like you remember daylight feels like.
“Yes,” you say, the first word in ten thousand years that is heard by ears other than your own. You were starting to think your voice was only in your head.
You step to the left and motion her forward with a gesture of arm and wing. She enters.
You are Lucifer MorningStar. You are the Devil. For the first time since the Fall, you are not alone in your cage.
This is hope in hell:
“So what are you going to do? When the cage opens, I mean?”
You frown at him – the Devil – and wait. He sits with his back against the wall, his wings spread wide. You itch to pin them to the wall with your knives, to spread him open like a butterfly.
You remember butterflies.
He cocks his head and smirks at you, twisted and dark except that he is golden all over. God’s golden boy. You giggle.
“I will burn it to the ground.”
Golden boy. Golden fire. Burn, burn, burn. Why is hell always about fire?
She scrunches up her nose. “Really? I mean, you’ve been down here how long? And you wanna burn Above too?”
He spreads his hands, long, nimble fingers. You like his fingers. “What else is there?”
“Ice-cream,” you answer instantly and then close your eyes and remember. “Sunshine. The ocean. The smell of vanilla. Music. Dancing. Pleasure without pain. Sanity. Trees. Beds. Freedom.”
When you open your eyes, he’s looming over you, wings blotting out what little light there is. His gaze burns.
Pleasure without pain. You know it exists, somewhere, Above. But you can’t remember how. So you pull him down and bite his lip until you taste blood and his fingers dig into the skin of your waist like claws.
You are this moment, stretched into infinity between two bodies in hell, like the memory of sunlight that never quite dies.
This is hell in decades:
The first time you take her up against the wall, hard and biting and angry, because you crave anything that is not smooth, black glass.
Later, you lose some of your urgency when touching her because you understand that she doesn’t mean to leave. You ask her why and she shrugs and says that there is nothing else to do.
Time moves strangely outside your cage, she says. She’s been here for a very long time.
Later still, she leaves. She comes back, bringing black-eyed children to play with, bringing what little comfort hell offers. Bringing news.
Something stirs, she says.
She dreams aloud of what she misses from Above and you listen.
Eventually, you hunger for the same things. You want to see her world. You want to feel it.
“Something’s stirring,” she tells you, later, before, after, laid bare in the center of the room, arms spread in imitation of your wings, which fascinate her endlessly. “Above.”
She’s been here for more than a blink and less than forever.
Anything before her does not bear remembering.
You are the Devil, and your time has almost come.
This is another kind of hell entirely:
Ruby dead at your feet, Lilith bleeding out, her blood swirling like it has a life of its own, your brother standing behind you, his eyes hollow and his expression gutted.
Because he was right and you were wrong and you both wish it had been the other way around.
Because you punched him in the face and walked out and believed a demon over him and ended the world.
Because the blood is moving and spinning and twisting, forming a circle, like a summoning and what it will summon…
Your name is Sam Winchester and you just set the Devil free.
This is not hell:
Nick is dull, blinded, blunted. He’s human, flesh and blood and no soul anymore. You sang to him, in his dead child’s nursery, quiet, half-remembered lullabies of a mostly-forgotten life. You held him as he burned and now you hold his body with your lover inside. The Devil inside.
You’re lying naked in the woods, sunlight and shadow painting on your skin, soaking up the warmth, the breeze, the air. There is no fire here, no heat, no death.
You’ll get bored with it in a while, probably, but there are more things to see, to do. There’s the ocean, the mountains, dancing, drugs, Las Vegas. So many things you want to see.
So many things this world owes you. You died for it. Didn’t seem fair. So you’ll make it fair.
There are two dead hunters a few miles east, old, angry men, who thought they could kill you. Who thought they were good enough. You licked their blood off your blades and then kissed Lucifer, leaving his mouth candy red.
Candy. You remember candy. Sugar was good, you think.
“I want candy cotton,” you say.
He rouses beside you, rolling on top of you and pressing you down, his grin wide and open. There is skin flaking above his left temple as Nick burns from the inside out.
Soon, you’ll have to worry about this pesky vessel business.
“What’s that?” he asks.
“Fun,” you say and drag your nails down his chest.
You’ve forgotten your name, but the world is yours because your lover will give it to you and that’s alright.
This is afterwards:
You don’t know how this happened.
You’re walking your Father’s world in a flesh suit, experiencing all it has to offer, spoiling it, defiling it. Enjoying it.
One day, you’ll burn it all to the ground. You’ll take your vessel and you’ll tip the entirety of creation into hell and you’ll do it because she’ll be gone. She was mortal once. She isn’t anymore, not quite, not since she fought her way through hell, all the way to the bottom, just because she wanted to see what was there, but you’re forever and she isn’t. One day she’ll die and that is the day you’ll burn this world to the ground.
For now, you let her lead you around by the hand, let her point and laugh and show you all the things you’ve never known before.
You are the apocalypse come to earth, but you let her distract you from fire.