Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Fiction: Storming the Gates of Hell

He hit the ground and the world went dark. Eerie silence filled his ears. A curious sense of lightness filled him and he couldn't feel his body. He was fairly sure that he was dead. He found himself standing on a road.

A pile of weapons laid in the road. It was a staggering array. Ever the warrior, he knew the tools of his trade from most every era. He also knew that his most effective tool was himself. Thus, he left the guns, bombs, knives, and spears lay on the ground on that blood red path.

He walked down the road and saw a fork in it. One went to a path that angled upwards. The other moved over uneven ground, ever farther downward at an increasingly steep rate. He could hear cries of anguish at a distance from that downhill path. Offended wasn't exactly the right word, but he couldn't define his wrath at the people who had come from the rough world in deeper agony in death.

Thus, he turned his face towards the left hand path. The road was difficult. He was darkly amused by the perversity of this fact after all the years of his father telling him that the road to Hell was broad, smooth, and well trodden. He came around an outcropping of tumbled stone to find himself facing a massive wall.

An iron gate stood across the road. It did not stand open, as his father insisted it would when he came to it. He didn't care. He walked up to the gate and a figure emerged from the gatehouse. A human like form walked towards him. They towered over him, easily eight feet tall, if not nine. "Your place is not here, puny creature," the gatekeeper said.

The man looked up at the gatekeeper. He made a point of adjusting his footing to a more solid stance. "Move me," the man answered. The gatekeeper reached for him. The man grasped the gatekeeper's wrist and, with a grunt, threw the gatekeeper to the ground. The gatekeeper's eyes flickered with some emotion. The man didn't care if it was anger, humor, or annoyance. The gatekeeper rose to their feet and reached for the man again.

Again, the man grappled the gatekeeper and threw them down. The gatekeeper's mouth opened wide, revealing needle-like teeth as it made a sound that could be a laugh, if rending metal was laughter. The gatekeeper moved to knock the man off his feet and the man took hold of their arm. The man twisted it back into a hard lock, forcing the gatekeeper down to their knees.

The gatekeeper gave a cry that made the man's eyes water and his head feel like it was filled with a thousand angry wasps. Still, the man twisted the lock harder. The gatekeeper's cry grew louder, making the man's teeth ache. The man put the full force of his strength into twisting the gatekeeper's arm out of its socket. As he did so, figures came to the gate and watched.

The gatekeeper swore in some language the man did not know, one that was perhaps long forgotten or perhaps yet to be born. And then the gatekeeper's voice turned into a hoarse, raw scream of agony. The gatekeeper's shoulder deformed as the arm popped out of the socket and continued to move in unnatural ways. The gatekeeper wrenched itself away from him, wailing. As it did so, a noise like cords snapping came.

It was now that the man lifted his right foot. He put his boot hard on the gatekeeper's side and pushed. The gatekeeper's screams of pain did not manage to cover the awful, wet tearing noise as the arm separated from its shoulder. The gatekeeper crawled away from the man with a look of terror. Most men fell before them effortlessly. But this man not only withstood the gatekeeper's assaults but thrown them aside. And now, he had managed something not accomplished in over a millennia.

Somewhere within the damned halls of the citadel, Grendel shuddered. The wound of his right side began to weep fresh gore as pain wracked him. His mother looked over at the injury in horror. Another had come. Another had bested one of their number. She silently hoped that the gory icicle that had torn her life from her breast was not reforged, unsure where she may be banished to if she was slain again in this cold place.

The man standing at the gate raised the gatekeeper's bloody arm over his head. "Release the nonbelievers, the innocent, and unbaptized," he bellowed to the throng looking at him, "I will leave you in peace. Fail and I will release them." At his cries, many of the shades looked between themselves in confusion and awe. A disturbance came at the back of the crowd.

Grendel and his mother walked at the heels of their liege lord. The throng parted. Some moved away with reverence for the one who passed among them. Others did so with dread. Still, they stepped aside and according the man with slender build, dark hair, and fey beauty the honors due to him as ruler of that realm. When he came to the gate, he looked at the man who had come.

It was as though looking in a mirror. The warrior who upheld the arm he tore off of the gatekeeper aloft as a trophy and a warning looked identical to the one who ruled the cold halls. The prince of the domain turned. He said quietly, "Open the gate. Let him pass."

As the great iron gate opened, the arm burst into flame and became a torch. The victims of technical damnation timidly stepped towards their liberation. As they did so, Lucifer walked into Hell, bearing the illumination that was stolen away from them so long ago and the prince who had preceded him faded away like a shadow before that light.


Musical inspiration from Au4: Just Hang on Beautiful One (off of the album And Down Goes the Sky)

Yep, there is a homage to Beowulf. It's all I can come up with right now. Long, tiring day.

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