It's only an illusion
, Damiel told himself, knowing that his feet were still firmly planted on the rock. Even so, he felt his own blood freeze as the mouth of the Queen expanded around him. The throat-rings were so much closer now, the nearest wrapping around his vision like a mountain valley. He could now observe the chaotic motions on its surface with unnerving clarity. Each and every one of the tiny "bristles" on the surface was a living being, and each and every one was flailing in agony. Damiel could hear their chorus of cries and pleas like the crashings of countless overlapping waves. Damiel wanted to close his eyes and cover his ears, but he could not. He wanted to step back from the edge of Hell's chasm, but he could not. He could only stand and whisper a silent prayer for the Damned.
Further and further down his vision sank, past hundreds of flying demons, past throat-rings ever more chaotic than those that preceded them. One Blood Angel grew in his vision, until Damiel could discern a tiny, struggling human figure being carried in its tentacles. Damiel closely followed the demon and its passenger against his will, until it approached one of the middle throat-rings. Evidently, the immense donut-shaped landscape the demon soared over was the middle throat-ring - the fifth from the top -, and its surface rippled with a more colourful chaos than the ones above. Far below, amidst horrid writhing shapes like a dancing orgy of internal organs, a crater opened up in the surface. The crater deepened into a pit, and the demon slowed to a halt over its opening, then let go of its human passenger to let him fall into its glistening red depths. As the demon swerved and flew away, Damiel's vision approached the wretched human at the bottom of the pit within the Pit ...
As the smaller pit filled Damiel's view, Damiel recognised Hell's new victim. Lean, solid, his facial features harsh and chiselled, his silver hair clipped into a flat-topped crew cut, his tattoos depicting serpents and chains and thorns. It was Milon Takvid. The man who had threatened to torture him. The man who had murdered his friends before his eyes. The man who had murdered his parents.
Damiel recalled how much he had once feared this man, how much others had feared him. He recalled how fearless and ruthless this underworld icon had seemed to all he ever encountered. And now, here he was, stripped of all clothes and dignity, huddled as if freezing yet glistening with sweat, glistening like the walls of meat that surrounded him. He was shivering, not with cold, but with terror.
"Please!" he shouted, his voice uncharacteristically high and wavering. "Please give me another chance! I will make a good servant! I have experience! I could be so valuable to you!" He slipped on the red meat floor, falling over with a sickening squelch. His limbs flailed and scrambled as he desperately tried to lift himself, revolted by his contact with the Queen's own flesh.
Somewhere deep inside him, Damiel felt an emotion he never thought he would ever feel for this sadistic, mass-murdering monster. He felt the slightest twinge of pity. You are no doubt familiar with this new denizen of Hell. Milon Takvid, a man who revelled in torture, rape and murder. How dearly he begged and pleaded for release! There was no way he could have conceived of the peaks and riches of pain I had prepared for him! I looked deep into his mind, and saw the object of his horror. Oh, what a wonderful surprise he would have when confronted with his greatest phobia! To not just see it, but to be embraced by it! To have it smear its slippery lust all over every millimetre of his skin! To feel it wriggling within every cavity of his body, burrowing through every single organ! To alleviate his doubt, to reassure him of my dedication to his absolute horror and unending agony, I told him the story of "The Little Worm who Led."
Takvid's face convulsed, as if hearing the last sentence that Damiel had heard, as if terrified by the mere mention of worms.Once upon a time, deep inside my body, there lived a kingdom of a million worms. They were all very hungry, but could find no living sinners to feast upon. One day, a Little Worm had an idea. He turned to his brothers and sisters and said: "Let us explore the tunnels and caverns of the Queen's body. Soon, we should be able to reach the part of Her where She keeps the new sinners. Then we could find a new, fresh sinner all to ourselves, and feast upon his flesh for ever and ever!"
A faint whimper rose from Takvid's quivering lips. "Please, oh please! I'll do anything for you! Anything!" "What a wonderful idea!" said the other worms. "Will you lead us, Little Worm? Will you lead us to this luscious, delectable sinner, whose quivering flesh awaits our million ravenous little mouths?"
Takvid burst into tears, wailing like a child. He dropped to his knees as he wrapped his arms more tightly around his chest.
It was only now that Damiel felt the tears streaming down his cheeks. For years he had imagined how Milon Takvid would react when he finally found himself in Hell. He had imagined, many times, how he would whimper and beg and plead for mercy, for release; and, more than a few times, Damiel derived a secret pleasure from imagining his torment.
Now, seeing Takvid huddled pathetically before him, convulsing and whining as he listened to the Queen's mocking story, Damiel felt no pleasure. None at all. All he felt was a sickness, deep in the pit of his stomach. He felt sick that he had ever wished such a fate upon another living creature. "I will!" said the Little Worm. "I will lead you to the place under the Red Sky! Follow me, and we shall all follow the sound of the sinner's weeping and pleading! We should be able to hear him from far away, for he is most terribly afraid, and he knows that we are going to do everything to him that he has ever imagined in his deepest, darkest nightmares, and far far more besides!"
"OH GOD!" screamed Takvid. "PLEASE HELP MEEEEEEEE!!" He keeled over, retching and sobbing. "Do you hear that?" said the Little Worm. "The sinner is not far away! And he is filled with such delicious fear! Who shall follow me to our Eternal Feast! Who shall join me in the Everlasting Orgy inside and all around the sinner's body?"
"We shall!" said the Red Worms.
"We shall!" said the Purple Worms.
And so, all as one, the worms followed their new leader. They squirmed and slithered and slipped over one another as they all followed the sinner's plaintive weeping and pleading. Their million little mouths gasped and gaped with delight, as they smelled the sweet scent of the sinner's intense and absolute horror of the countless eons he was going to spend with them when they finally found him!
Takvid rocked back and forth as a pitiful keening rose from his throat.
"Enough!" shouted Damiel. "You've scared him enough! Just let him rest. He's imprisoned. He can't escape. Let that be his punishment. That's all the punishment he will ever need. You don't have to do anything else. Just leave him alone."
Yet the Queen continued her story, heedless of the pleas of either victim or observer. "Look!" cried the Little Worm. "Do you see the red light up ahead?"
All around Takvid, in the walls of meat that towered far above him, huge orifices stretched open.
Takvid raised his head to view this new development. His voice trembled as he whined wordlessly. "We can!" the million worms cried as one. "The sinner is near! Our feast is near!"
"Please, Your Majesty," said Damiel, trying to suppress his sobs. "Please don't do it. He doesn't deserve this. Not this. It won't serve any purpose. Surely you can understand that? You are so wise and powerful! Surely you understand that this punishment does not suit his crime?" Up toward the red light the worms wriggled. The windows into the outer world grew larger and larger, and the cries of the terrified sinner echoed throughout the ever-shortening tunnel. After much gleeful wriggling and squirming, the Little Worm turned to his brothers and sisters.
"Stop!" said the Little Worm.
Damiel held his breath. Was the Queen finally heeding his pleas for mercy? "Wait right there," said the Little Worm, "and I shall go on ahead to see if this is, indeed, the sinner that we seek."
So the brave Little Worm wriggled on ahead to the end of the tunnel, to see what lay under the red light beyond.
Suddenly, the tiniest of movements caught Damiel's eye. He turned to one of the gaping orifices in the walls of the pit. Sitting in the entrance, its tiny head raised toward the wretched man huddled in the centre of the pit, was a glowing red worm, as long as a man's shoe and as thick as a man's thumb.
"Your Majesty," sobbed Damiel, "I'm not angry at him any more. I forgive him. Please let him go. Please Your Majesty. I beg you." "He's here!" the Little Worm shouted with glee. "Milon Takvid is here! Let us all gush forth and feast upon his flesh, and revel forever in his horror and revulsion and agony!"
And all as one, the million worms cheered a joyful cheer, and sprang forward, slipping and sliding and slithering towards the red light, where the sinner Milon Takvid sat screaming.
From every orifice in the red wall came a sound like slurping, squelching mud, mixed with the inane gibbering of a million tiny voices.
Then, the worms gushed out.
"No!" screamed Damiel, but his cry was drowned out by the hysterical, unintelligible noises issuing from Takvid's throat. The criminal's body spasmed, every muscle trying to escape, every muscle flinching away in the opposite direction as the worms gushed forth and squirmed towards him in their phosphorescent reds and purples, piled atop one another as high as a man's knees, gibbering and twittering their gleeful hunger.
"Stop them!" Damiel screamed. "Stop them!"
The first wave of worms finally reached their trembling victim. They slipped and squirmed and crawled all over him, dancing on his contorted face, then proceeded to enter every single orifice on his body.
Damiel screamed wordlessly. Far away, he felt his own body retch and heave and vomit, and still he screamed and screamed and screamed.
Takvid's moans and whimpers were muffled around the thick knots of worms that pushed and shoved their way into his mouth and nostrils. More waves of hungry, lustful, gibbering worms converged upon their writhing victim, smothering him from head to toe, creating new orifices as they burrowed their way into every part of his flesh. The writhing, bloating human wretch sank beneath the surface of the sea of worms; yet they all continued to slip and slide towards him, creating a great mound in the centre of the pit as they converged upon the object of their lust. And the Little Worm, and all his brothers and sisters, red and purple alike, all enjoyed every little bit of their tasty new meal; the sinner who would never die, never run out of meat, never run out of horror and revulsion.
And they all lived happily ever after. The end.
"STOP!" Damiel screamed. "STOP THIS ABOMINATION!" Why, Damiel, even your tiny little brain should be able to work out what is happening here! All this happened five years ago. We are much further along the line now! Would you like to see what the worms are doing to him now? Would you? You would not even recognize him as your own species! Oh, the millions and billions and trillions of years they have at their disposal to play with his flesh and bone! Such a wonderful work of art he has become! Such beautiful symmetry! Writhing in a pit within a Pit, squirming deep inside me as the worms squirm inside him! Even the gods will smile upon my genius!
"You're SICK!" Damiel screamed. "You're EVIL! You are nothing but a continent of filth! You are a vile stain on God's Creation! You're not even fit to be Satan's vomit! I hope the archailects find you! I hope they fry you like an ant under a magnifying glass! You and your entire stinking world should be expunged from existence! You, your planet, your sun, every planet in your entire fucking system! Every single atom, every single particle! And your sick and heartless Master that lets you get away with all this shit should be torn to pieces with a million black holes! I want to live to see it! I want to be there to watch it, you vile disgusting BITCH!!!" So say they all. They all scream and curse me at first. Who could blame them? They do not share the Language of Pain. They don't need to. They all serve me in the end.
"I will NEVER serve you! I would rather be damned and tortured forever than serve you!" You have always believed in Hell, Damiel. Yet if the reality of Hell is so repulsive to you, what does that say about your beliefs? Whatever the case, your beliefs are of no consequence to me. Your place is not to be tortured. Your place is to serve me. And you WILL serve me, whether you like it or not.
"I will not be a slave to a coward. You've had it too easy. You have no idea what it is like to be so small and helpless." YES I DO!
The Queen's roar was deafening; her pain unmistakable. Your personal opinions are nothing to me, but do NOT make assumptions about my past! You know NOTHING!
Damiel could sense a desperate new gravitas in the Queen's tone. It cut him deeper than any mere actor's forgery; yet Damiel remembered that he was arguing with a transapient, who could toy with mortal minds the way he could with wet sand. That did not change the fact that the Queen herself was just another speck in this universe. Damiel answered only to a much higher authority.
"Heavenly Father, please take pity upon these, Your children, who suffer in this place of darkness. May You deliver them unto Your Court of True Justice to see Your Heavenly Glory, and vanquish this evil place and all the false angels that rule here." Your "Heavenly Father" has not delivered a single sinner from my embrace! Not in five thousand years! Do you think He will bother to intervene in another five thousand years? Five million? Five billion? These sinners belong to ME! All of them; the torturers, the tyrants, the rapists, the molesters, they ALL belong to ME! They are MINE to toy with! MINE to cherish! MINE to hold FOREVER!!
"No living creature belongs to you. You deserve nothing. You are nothing." Your beliefs are nothing to me. The beliefs of mortals are flimsy things that shrivel and burn like tissue paper before the blaze of Reality. I am Reality. These sinners belong to me. They always have belonged to me. They always will belong to me. No prayers, no spells, no fairytale magic wishes are ever going to change that. And you, Damiel, my Lamb of Justice, you too belong to me. You WILL serve me. You WILL love me. I will make sure of that.
Through his tears, Damiel saw the Queen's raw red interior fade from view, to be replaced by an endless starlit void. Towering before him, silhouetted against the glorious backdrop of the Milky Way galaxy, was a colossal cat. Dozens of eyes opened up on her dark, world-sized head, all burning with wisdom and cruelty and madness. I will show you my secrets. I will show you what is in my mind. My history, my thoughts, my dreams. I will show you my art, my poetry, my music. You will learn. You will understand. You will remember. Not all the time, for your conscious mind will not contain it; but in dreams, you will remember everything.
Damiel's very soul began to sink with exhaustion. He had read about Perfect Art, the art of transapients. Through its true art, a transapient could make a lesser being feel exactly what it wants one to feel. One glimpse of a transapient's true artwork, and there was no turning back. Even now, there was nowhere to run. He was already inside the Queen's sick mind, utterly at her mercy.
In the midst of his anguish, Damiel recalled just one more obscure legend, clutching for it as if for a tiny talisman of hope. It was said that the Queen had a Secret Name, and on the day a mortal told it to her, she would die. As instantly as the thought had surfaced, Damiel once again sunk into despair. Even if this legend was true, such a heroic task was not for him, nor for any mortal. The Queen was a high transapient, and her "Secret Name" - if there was such a thing - could not possibly be guessed at by a mere human, let alone pronounced.
The power of words, of images, of ideas, was something the transapients would always have over lesser beings. Mortals had nothing but prayer.
"Heavenly Father," Damiel whispered weakly, "please don't let this beast brand my soul." You have already sold your soul to me. I am merely granting what you have freely chosen. Do not fight. Do not resist. A glorious new life awaits you. Accept it with gratitude. Accept it with love.
Everything darkened. Even the stars winked out, followed by the constellation of burning eyes.
In the midst of oblivion, a new reality bloomed, writhing, screaming, rejoicing.
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