Welcome to the Doomsward, the first level of Purgatory. In the old days, this area was known as the Elysian Fields, where all souls came to enjoy the afterlife. Then the Christians and Jews and Muslims built their Heaven (or Paradise) to house their god and the righteous, and converted these wonderful fields to become the gates of their Hell. Here the wicked are punished, the unrighteous scourged, and the truly saintly lightly harassed until the Angels upstairs realized they made yet another paperwork mistake and come down to personally pick up the ill-fated saint. That rare moment is always the highlight of any eon as the glowing, white beings glow a wonderful shrimp hue due to the red flush of embarrassment coating their natural whiteness. They are always in a hurry, and often trip on ill-placed tree roots or bang their wings upon the low overhead to the delight of the damned.
The demons watching over the Doomsward are quite friendly, for demons. They pride themselves on their uncanny ability to make one’s stay actually rather unpleasant while appearing to make it a wonderful vacation. And of course, being demons, their paperwork is far less efficient than the red-faced angels they occasionally see. Thus their sloppy work sees dossiers fall into bins, or through the cracks in the floor to be lost in the mud below, or occasionally into the maw of some cellulose-eating creature up for a quick bite. Thus some doomed never leave the Doomsward, and spend all of eternity perusing the place and greeting the newcomers, while those unlucky enough to have their paperwork fully processed are removed to the second level of Purgatory, where the demons employ whips and chains to purge the sins from the sinners. Lately, though, the Second level has been having quite a difficult time with the sexual deviants arriving in droves during these modern times- many of those ending there actually seem to enjoy the battering. Some even beg for more when their session is over. What is a demon to do when the victim asks for further whipping?
Those that make it through the second go to the third level, then the fourth, et cetera until all nine levels have been visited and accredited to their dossiers. Then the poor soul is dumped into Hell, the Lake of Fire and Brimstone, which is duly marked for the newly arrived with the runes “Surfing Prohibited”. It is one of the most ignored rules in all of Hell- the winds blowing the sulfurous scent from the lake to throughout the realm were simply too tempting for the windsurfer to ignore.
It was into this first level of Purgatory that a meek, gentle man was consigned. He arrived as do all new arrivals- as a disembodied soul covering the area where his genitals used to be when he was alive. Souls have no clothes, you see, but they retain their habits and modesty. This man was no exception.
“Ah, a n00b,” cried a passing demon upon seeing the bashful soul. “Come with me.”
He led the newcomer to what appeared to be a four-star hotel. Upon closer inspection, one saw that the flies buzzing about were larger than spiders that tried to trap them in webs, and the pool was not the clear blue it appeared to be from the distance, but rather a sickly yellow. The walls had cracks- good help is hard to find in Hell- and the patrons were mostly obese older women leering at the young male cocktail waiters. The reception desk was manned by a green demon with wild pink hair.
“N00b for you, Hursfitifhr,” the leading demon announced. “He just got in.”
Hursfitfhr nodded and reached for his laptop. “Name?” he asked.
“Bonhomme MacGillicuddy,” the new soul replied.
The demon began typing, then smacked his computer. “Windows Vista,” he explained, then smacked the computer again, harder.
“Let’s try this again,” he said, once he got his app working. In Purgatory, that could take forever. In this case, it was merely an hour before the laptop stopped crashing and came with a cheerful chirp signifying its bugs were neutralized for this iteration and it was ready to operate normally for a short while.
“Bonhomme MacGillicuddy,” the new soul replied, again.
The demon tapped a few strokes then asked, “Place of residence, before coming here?”
The demon typed it in and cackled. “Hey, Ashrath, come check this out!” he cried.
Another demon came and looked at the screen. He too burst out in hideous laughter. “Is this true?”
“So says the system.”
Ashrath scowled. “But is it true?”
Hurf told him to ask the n00b himself, which he did. The reply was an echo of the screen. Both demons giggled hysterically.
“I say, this is most rude,” said Bonhomme. “I have lived a good life, with few if any sins. Yet I arrive here and am immediately harassed and subjected to ridicule. I will not have it, whoever you are. I demand to see your supervisor to report this disreputable behavior!”
Ash laughed harder, while Hurf fell on the floor. The he rose and faced the newcomer. “Welcome to the Doomsward,” he said between cackles. “The entranceway to Hell. You are dead, dude, and have been consigned to us along with a busload of punk rockers.”
“I am most certainly not dead!” Bonhomme assured him.
Ash shrugged. Newbies were all the same- their memories of dying were erased, and only came back after a few years. But there was one way to convince the newly-dead of their status. He lifted an incredibly large Uzi and emptied the clip into the cringing soul. “It didn’t hurt, did it, n00b? That’s because you are a soul- no body, no pain. But this is hell, where you must feel pain. Ash, reach into the wardrobe and pull out a flesh suit for this guy.”
“What is his flavor?”
Hurf shrugged. “It says he was a cat burglar. Find something large.”
“I was no cat burglar!” Bonhomme protested loudly. “I am a librarian, and a damned good one!”
That sent both demons into a cataclysmic fit of laughter.
“This is too good to be true,” they exclaimed in unison.
Ash finally recovered, and brought out a large masculine body that had muscles rippling from every surface, and ham-sized hands with fingers the size of a small girl’s wrist. “This should fit him well.”
Hurf agreed. He breathed in the wide-eyed soul, as if devouring him. The stench of the demon’s breath through which MacGillicuddy passed was horrible. Demon dental hygiene left much to be desired. Then he was blown out, in a sort of demonic Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation, into the mouth of the flesh suit. It was an excruciating process, but Purgatory was not meant to be pleasant, no matter how hard the demons tried. He explained it to the new guy a moment later.
“This is Hell,” he said as if to a child. Hell, for all he knew, this guy probably was a children’s librarian. “In Hell you are supposed to feel pain. As I proved with the Uzi, you are dead, and with no body, you have no pain.” He smacked the man with a horny palm. Bonhomme’s eyes opened wide in horror and he clasped a meaty hand to his suddenly-painful cheek. The force of the impact almost knocked him over. “Now you have a body and can feel pain. Welcome to Hell, Bonan the Carburian.”
“I like Bonan the Librarian better,” laughed Ash.
“My name is Bonhomme! Bonhomme MacGillicuddy!” he protested.
Hurf whipped the laptop around. “Not any more. Nobody here is going to be able to pronounce that, or even care. Here, read here. This is your name. Bonan the Carburian, cat burglar. Get used to it.”
Bonan had a lot more to get used to than simply his miswritten name. When he was alive, he was a very thin, short, and narrow man of sixty eight years. This old and narrow soul was now stuffed into a young, muscular body that had biceps twice the size of his former thighs. And this body was tall- six feet four at the least. He had to learn to duck when entering a room or risk painfully braining himself on the upper doorjamb. His meter-wide shoulders caught on everything, and his long legs took a lot of getting used to- especially near coffee tables and the like. This made him incredibly clumsy, which amused the demons to no end. To them, a cat burglar in an oversized meat suit was hilarity incarnate.
And he was angry. He was a good man, he always thought, and ended up here? Ridiculed, pestered, and abused. And he had hormones raging through his new body that he had not felt in years- and could no longer control.
He discovered in rather short order that things in Purgatory were not as they seemed. He had gone into the bar of the hotel and ordered a Scotch. It was served watered down to one third Scotch, two thirds water, despite the fact he explicitly ordered Scotch and not Scotch and Soda. He began to realize that watering down good Scotch whiskey was indeed a sin worthy of being consigned to the damned.
He glanced about the bar. It looked like a typical bar- a moustached bartender who nodded occasionally and spoke little, two floozies sitting on stools ignoring the catcalls of the three hoodlums in the both to their right, and a solitary man drinking what looked like soda water sitting alone on a stool. A bulge in his waistband signified a pistol, but whether that made the man a cop or a criminal was left unsaid.
A closer look revealed the bartender as an Arab fundamentalist terrorist who had been sought after by fifty nations. The two floozies were playboys above (not bunnies, but the womanizers who preyed upon the bunnies)- now the object of the same unwanted attention they themselves had so often offered above. And the three hoodlums were just that- some things are more punishing left unchanged. Eventually the man with the bulge in his waistband had enough, and called for the hoodlums to keep it down.
A fight started- coming to Hell may change your sex and appearance, but your mental capacity does not change. Nor does your attitude- it is that whole silly ‘free will’ thing. If you choose to be stupid, you may do so. Your choice. So the cop was forced by his morals to confront the hoodlums in order to get peace and quiet in which to enjoy his club soda, served as always with a healthy dose of vodka.
The hoodlums, being hoodlums, taunted the cop in reply, until one of them drew a pistol and fired it at the cop. Being a ‘gangsta from the hood’, he of course, naturally, held the piece parallel to the ground instead of perpendicular as one is supposed to hold a weapon. Thus he missed, and his first bullet pierced the forehead of the barkeeper. His second went wide, and the third tore a painful but minor graze in the massive triceps of Bonan.
The cop returned fire with his own revolver- a Cold 3,57. The revolver had a normal-sized body, but a barrel that expanded to reach a width of 3,75 inches- ten centimeters, making it a small cannon. Being a Cold, it fired carbon dioxide pellets which expanded in the cone-shaped barrel. In expanding, it dumped heat- a lot it. What came out was a much smaller pellet at minus eighty degrees- freezing anything living it touches so quickly and deeply that it locks it instantly. They call it the Statue-Maker. It is also a Statue Breaker, as the gas pellet unfreezes in the victim at an exponential rate as it returns to its natural gaseous form. The victim almost always explodes into shards. Miraculously, he actually hit one hoodlum- in the mouth. The gangsta keeled over, his face frozen and his mouth thankfully still for once until his head could no longer resist the expanding gas and shattered.
The second shot, however, dumped a floozy from her barstool.
The idiot holding his gun parallel to the ground ripped off three more shots. The ejecting brass from the gun spun up and away and about. One of them landed on Bonan’s hand, stinging him. Another landed on the hand of the third hoodlum, who jerked in reaction and sent his own shots into the other floozy.
The cop grunted and fell, as a wild bullet tore into his chest. Two more followed, leaving Bonan and two gangstas alone in the bar. One of the gangstas noticed Bonan- how a six foot four man toting two hundred eighty pounds of muscle could go unnoticed until now is beyond me- but he was no threat. He was cringing, with his one hand massaging the other brass-burnt hand, which itself was trembling to staunch the single droplet of blood that seeped out from the slight graze.
“Yo, Homey, check out this big wimpy dude,” he said to his friend. “Big Boy is all muscle and shit, but no guts. He’s crying over that little scratch. What’s yo name, cracker?”
He wanted to say Bonhomme MacGillicuddy. But this was Hell, and demons were old-school. Everybody in the old days was Someone the Something, and since demons set the rules, that was the rule. So what came out was “Bonan the Carburian.”
The gangsta with the attitude laughed and put his pistol to the head of the former librarian. “Well, Bonan the Carburian, you about to get some R&R.” And he pulled the trigger.
His pistol was a Smut and Weasel 9mm autoloader with a seven-round clip, made right there in the Purgatory Toy Factory three years ago. Activating the trigger should normally slip the catch holding the hammer back, allowing it to fall forward onto the center of the round where the primer was, and start the chain reaction which causes the gases to expand and force the lead bullet down along the barrel and out into the free air. But this was a Hell-made piece, a Smut and Weasel. The feed mechanism did not load that last round properly. The hammer fell but missed the primer, which meant the cartridge and the gun it was in were about as useful as a butter knife in a gunfight.
Bonan heard the click, then nothing. And as stated before the brief gunfight, he was angry. He came here looking for a drink to help settle his nerves. He was served watered-down piss instead, then endured the verbal barrage of the thugs before witnessing the brief but brutal gunfight. Now a thug was holding a gun to his head and actually pulled the trigger.
Enough was enough. Bonan was now thoroughly enraged. He stabbed a meaty fist at the thug’s face. He was not used to the power of this new body yet, so he sent everything he had into the blow. His fist disappeared into the face of the thug, whose body was then propelled through the room to crash through the wall behind and into the room beyond. Then he advanced on the third thug, who was now quivering.
As he did so, he noticed the bodies of the dead shimmering, then vaporizing. The thug before him cringed and cried, “No R&R for me, man! I give!” He held up his hands in surrender to demonstrate the point.
“R&R? I shall give you no Rest and Recovery,” Bonan replied. “I shall give you a reasonable thrashing for the degradation you and your friends have imposed upon me.”
“R&R is Repair and Revive, homey,” the pale face before him uttered. “This be Hell, n00bie- nobody dies here, at least not for real, and not for long. Them demons doing the repair and revive, man, they be thorough but so clumsy; they be playing with yall innards and stuff trying to fix ya up, that hurts bad as they fix you up, then they put your sorry ass back into play. You done punished us enough, homey. I don’t want no R&R.”
Bonan winced at the man’s speech. Not at the various inconsistent concepts he was expounding, but at his utterly horrible verbage and syntax. Never before had he heard such a long and totally grammatically incorrect sentence, not in in all his years. His anger tripled, yet he fought internally to control it. He was a librarian, after all. Bonan the Librarian. And libraries demanded quiet and order.
“I shall not kill you,” he said, winning his internal battle over his raging hormones. “I shall spare you, on the condition that you help me.”
“Sho nuff, man, whatever you say.” It actually sounded sincere.
“This place is a horrid mess,” Bonan said quietly. He picked up the dead officer’s Cold 3,57 and the Smut and Weasel 9 mil as well. Both were indeed from the Purgatory Toy factory. “Gunfights in hotel bars, real guns being made in toy factories, needed repairs being ignored, and above all everything being run by a laptop system using Windows Vista. What this place needs is a thorough cleaning-up, and you and I are going to do it.”
The blonde thug nodded vigorously. “Whateva you say, cracker. But you do know this is Hell, right? Purgatoire, or whatever they call it? Its s’posed to be chaos.”
“Even chaos can have order,” Bonan said primly.
The thug shook his head in wonder. “Man, you must be n00b. But you spared me a trip to R&R, so I’m your man until you dick me over. Then the slate gets wiped, ya dig?”
Bonan ignored him. His steely grey eyes swept over the bar. Already another bartender was coming in to take over. This one was a tee-totaller from the Prohibition, judging by the disdain he oozed while surveying his new assignment.
“Cognac, in a snifter,” Bonan asked politely. When the bartender reached for the soda water, he placed a meaty hand over the bartender’s. “No water, please. Straight.”
“But it is the rule,” complained the bartender. He pointed to a plaque above the bar. Bonan had missed it as he was forced by his new height to duck. It clearly stated that all liquor was required to be served mixed with soda water, except soda water which was to be mixed with vodka.
Bonan saw the sign now. It hung from two thick chains. He exerted his muscles and the chains snapped. He then broke the plaque over his head- something he had seen karate experts do and now dared to try. It hurt, but the plaque was now broken.
“What rule?” he asked sweetly.
The bartender duly poured the cognac into a snifter, and left the water to sit alone in its own stuffy bottle. Bonan took the drink and savored it.
“Now, Friday,” he said to his new assistant, referencing the classic Robinson Crusoe. “Now we shall seek out the Maintenance and Technical department and see if we can have the bullet holes patched. And maybe spackle the cracks, and a nice coat of paint would not hurt either.”
Friday smiled broadly. This cracker (odd he should think this, seeing as how he was now himself whiter than snow) wanted to bring order to Chaos itself. This could be more fun than the time the powers that be tried to outlaw spraypaint. The graffiti still showed through in places. So Friday followed Bonan out into the pool area and pointed out the maintenance shed- a dilapidated structure of corrugated tin held together by chicken wire.
But Bonan was not looking. He was observing the poolside area and trying to determine what liquid was trying to pass itself off as water in the pool. He was also noticing the signs posted around the place. “Run, do not walk” was one, while “Diving into the Deep end is forbidden. Divers shall plunge into the shallow end only.” Another proclaimed the environmentally-friendliness of the pool- no chlorine allowed, and to save water by not flushing, the bathers are asked to please piss in the pool instead of the toilets.
Bonan groaned. There was so much work to do.
“Told you,” said Friday. “Rules, man. Even Hell has rules.”
Bonan turned to face his side-kick. In doing so, he misjudged the width of his new shoulders and knocked a pretty-boy waiter into the pool. The three longdrinks he was carrying to two half-ton women fell in with him.
“Hell has rules?” he asked primly. “Explain them to me.”
Friday did so. Bonan groaned again. This was going to take an eternity.
Beyond the hotel grounds, he saw helicopters flying into the roof before crashing into the ground below, and bungee jumpers dangling in between. There were some shops, where “Thieves will not be prosecuted at all” and others marked “Video surveillance has been banned.” By one building was a large group of youths signing loudly and playing weird music. Inside one could hear the thumping of a killer bass drum as the concert went on. The dead from the bass were thrown out of the window, where they could vaporize to go to the R&R without leaving that awful smell of sulfur that would disrupt the concert. Bonan was aghast to read the sign posting the rules of the building: ”Raucous and Caustic Music at Full Volume Only.” And underneath, in smaller letters, he was shocked to read “Purgatory Public Library.”
This has gone too far. He rolled up what passed for his sleeves and waded through the throng to the library. The youths hardly noticed him, and if they did, they did not care. He walked straight up to the offensive sign and latched onto it. His muscles flexed, them bulged, and when he cried “For the love of peace!”, finally succeeded in ripping the plaque from the building. He then swung it at the curbstone, which shattered, before using his weight to crunch the piece. The rule broke.
The elderly trapped in youthful bodies sighed with blessed relief as they regained control over their bodies. No longer were they compelled to blast irritating hard metal music into their ears and pretend they liked it. Silence returned, blessed silence.
Then Bonan went into the library.
When he came out, the concert was cancelled- the first cancellation outside of the scheduled ones in over a century. Inside, one could hear bookshelves being moved back into their places, and lost books being refiled. Friday was amazed- this cracker was actually doing it. He was breaking the rules, and bringing order to Hell’s chaos.
Naturally, this brought the attention of the demons, who saw their carefully-crafted rules being broken by a n00b of all people. It was time to lay down the law. They gathered their UnPolice SWAT units and pink-clad trusties (these were older souls, from primordial times, who had earned the right by their long existence on this plane to enforce the rules they themselves did not understand). And they converged on the large librarian and his snow-white sidekick who were wrecking all the normal rules and laws of the place.
Bonan and Friday had prepared well. Friday knew how Hell worked, and Bonan was new enough to the place to have original ideas. A lifetime of working in a library and reading the stock helped fill up his Idea Bin, and he now put that to good work. Friday was a hoodlum and a thief- this was now useful as he gave his sidekick his instructions.
The demon army followed their prey- who now took up a defensive position inside the Hotel lobby, conveniently deserted by Hurf and Ash who were off chasing a local hoodlum who had stolen the key to the reception toilet. The thief has also picked off something else, which was handed off to another who handed it to the librarian. Then the thief circled back to the lobby.
The Cold 3,57 and the Smut and Weasel 9 mil were laid aside in order to pick up even more potent weapons. The denizens of the hotel, for once actually enjoying their stay now that the pool was clean and proper drinks were being served, backed them up with makeshift weapons of reams and pens. They awaited the assault of the demon army, quills and ballpoints in hand.
The demons stormed in, preceding their trusties who, being former cavemen, were not very good at frontal assaults. In this case, it was a good thing for them. They met Bonan’s defense head on and stopped cold. The librarian had a pen in hand, and a sheaf of forms underneath, waiting to be signed.
“Stop!” shrieked a demon.
But Bonan had no intention of stopping. He signed the form, then another. Plaques of rules began appearing at each signature. “Show consideration for your fellow beings” said one, “Always show respect” said another. “Be polite” came a third.
A trustee rushed forward. Illiterate as he was, the rules meant nothing to him. He could not read, and ignorance in this case allowed him action. He raised a large wooden club and swung it at the massive book-man.
Friday had trained him well. Bonan merely lifted a form-letter. The club struck the paperwork and disintegrated. Enraged, the caveman threw a burning torch onto the stack of forms.
“This is Hell,” Bonan calmly explained. He threw a couple of forms on the torch, extinguishing it. “Paperwork is Hell, as we say above. Thus here, paperwork is the most damning thing one can do. And it is indestructible- no matter what happens anywhere, the proper paperwork will be demanded and must be competed. It cannot be escaped, or destroyed, and will always be there to haunt you.”
He signed a new rule- “Demons must teach their trustees to read” and dropped the form into the mail slot on his desk. A plaque appeared, and the demons groaned. Two of them began pointing out letters to the cavemen trustees. “This is an A, this is a B.”
Bonan smiled. He loved rules, and now he knew how to enforce them. He simply had to write one, then post it. The people behind him applauded as the demons retreated, still instructing their Cro-Magnons and Neanderthals the letters.
The First Battle of Hell was over, and the victor was Bonan the Carburian.
Further down, the demons driven from the Doomsward were holding a meeting. This could not be allowed to go on. They were demons, dammit, not supposed to be subject to rules- or so they thought. This was Hell! Now they were feeling their own anger and powerlessness. This situation could not be allowed to last- the sinners were to be punished, not granted a vacation! Just think of the influx if word got out. Sin upstairs all you want, and be granted an eternity on the Doomsward, where the dead can swim in clean pools and everybody is polite. Why, the place would be overrun with prim people, not to mention the unmentionable acts being committed above to get them here. The whole system of Heaven and Hell, reward and punishment, would be destroyed. The failure of the demons would bring down the Angels. Armageddon would erupt, bringing the Devil up from his Pit of Fire. He and God would battle, and no matter who won, the demons of the Doomsward would be punished. It was their fault, and they had to act fast before Bonan could write up even more rules that would make them totally powerless to so much as use harsh language.
Thus it was decided. A group of them would journey above, to Heaven, and explain the mess. Another would head down, to Hell itself, and do the same. Maybe, by being honest as the Rules now commanded, they could get intervention from someone to restore the situation to its proper, punishing condition.
Alfred the Angel responded to the demonic cry for help. He came down, bumped his head, but was amazed that nobody laughed. In fact, three old ladies hurried forward to help him up. He recognized two of them as nuns. They had a bit too much to drink a week ago, he remembered, and had thereafter partaken of a spoiled salmon mousse. They died, and were duly rejected from Heaven due to the drinking. He remembered that they had cheerfully taken the elevator down. Now he knew why.
Around him was a festive but proper air. The lawns of the Doomsward were being mowed, and the buildings painted with proper paint. Newcomers were greeted warmly by the nuns, and escorted to the hotel reception where their dossiers were called up on a Linus laptop, properly accredited, and instructed on how to enter the bodies they would require. The body types matched their former bodies- there would be no more Bonan the Librarians, or snow-white gangstas, or womanizer floozies. And especially no more watered Scotch- the most venal of sins. Those truly evil were pushed directly through to the lower levels, while those who had only erred a time or two were led to the Doomsward outside for an eternity of normal, proper living.
Alfred fled, bumping his head and tangling his wings once again. The demons were correct. If word of this new Purgatory got out, the list of sinners above would grow exponentially. It already was, due to the new medical technologies above that staved off death, giving glimpses of life after death. Alfred knew that had been a bad idea then, but the Big Guy insisted that advertising like that was good for business, that the people should hear the truth about the afterlife. Then he added those mediums and others who could talk with the dead, not to mention letting ghosts run about here and there. The word got out, but now that was coming back to bite Heaven in the ass. I’ll bet he did not think this would be the result!
He had to find a way to fix this. But Alfred was an angel, and angels, like demons, follow rules. Very strict rules. So he dug out his Samsung Galaxy and began Googling Bonan the Carburian, the source of the radical changes in Purgatory- the place people now wanted to go- easy to get into, and life just like back home should be. Argh! It was an afterlife nightmare! It was a catastrophe of the highest order! Something must be done and done now!
He checked and checked, even as the population of the Doomsward swelled. Word had indeed gotten out through the mediums and those with near-death experiences. Hell was not as advertised- God had lied. It was actually a fairly pleasant place, with no enforced poverty or strict disciplinary action. None could be cast out of Hell- it was a rule, so unlike Heaven, one could not be kicked out for being less than utterly pious. Polite was good enough!
To make things worse, there were people in Heaven who kept tabs on those in Hell, and they saw the changes. A fight would break out between two saints over a baseball score, and they would be ejected to Purgatory- where they could actually watch a game of baseball and enjoy a pleasant beer while doing so. The soccer fans- both of them- did the same in order to enjoy the match without the crowds of hooligans plaguing the atmosphere.
But rules were rules, and Bonan had the magic pen of Hurf which enabled him to make the rules.
Alfred scratched his balding head- it always itched where the bloody halo burned off what little hair he had left. There had to be a way. And after a while, he found it. He duly received the proper authorization (in the matter of paperwork, Heaven was very much like Hell) and departed on his mission.
He returned to Hell, as ordered. And ducking his head as he entered, approached the reception desk to confront Bonan the Librarian, current administrator of the Doomsward. He even had a plaque that said so.
“Bonhomme MacGillicuddy?” the angel asked politely.
Bonan stood up at the name. His name, and properly pronounced. He nodded.
“I have come to bring thee from this place, to your true reward for eternity,” the angel said penitently. “You were supposed to go to Heaven, but a mistake was made. I have come to correct that mistake, and beg for forgiveness for our error.”
Bonan blinked. “I assure you, there was no error,” he replied. “The system we replaced with one that works named me a cat burglar. As a thief, I am where I belong.”
“Uh, that was the problem,” Alfred stammered. “We had some faulty intelligence on the matter. An elf saw you bearing a cat you did not own from a building, and marked you as a cat burglar. That brought you here.”
The angel nodded. “Santa Claus has the best intelligence network in existence,” he admitted. He even sang a little ditty as evidence:
You better watch out You better not cry Better not pout I'm telling you why Santa Claus is coming to town
He's making a list And checking it twice; Gonna find out Who's naughty and nice Santa Claus is coming to town
He sees you when you're sleeping He knows when you're awake He knows if you've been bad or good So be good for goodness sake!
“Santa has a most extensive network, and knows everything about everyone due to his elves. One elven operative saw you carrying the cat you did not own,” he repeated. “Thus cat burglar.”
“An elf?” Bonan replied. “They really exist?”
Alfred nodded. “And they are usually accurate. But this one did not report the whole story as his attention was drawn to a busload of punk rockers passing by- a lot of names for him to jot down, you see. So he wrote what he saw before dashing off. You were carrying your neighbor’s cat out of his burning apartment.”
“I do not recall any of this. I am a retired librarian, not a cat burglar.”
“You died saving the cat, Mr. Buttons,” Alfred continued. “Memories from directly before Death harvests the soul are often incomplete. But that does not matter, Bonhomme. What does matter is that you gave your life to save Mr. Buttons, and the act of self-sacrifice to save another is always to be rewarded with entrance into Heaven. I have come to bring you home, Bonhomme MacGillicuddy, to where you belong.”
“I am quite happy here,” Bonan replied. “I retired at sixty five, you know, and had absolutely nothing to do, and nobody who needed me. Now I have a decent job, with much satisfaction. Here I am needed. And boy do they need me!”
Alfred explained to the librarian the ramifications of bringing his New England morals and rules to the first level of Hell. The Yankee stood aghast.
“Egad! I had not considered that. I saw only this rampant disorder and filthy poolwater.”
“Then you will come with me? To Heaven?”
MacGillicuddy thought on it for a moment. He was tempted to refuse, but the pleading look on the face of Friday, and the others who recalled Heaven as the ultimate reward, and the unemployed demons who wanted so badly their jobs back, finally persuaded him.
“No,” he said gently. “I do not belong here, as you say. Friday told me this is not the first time a soul has been consigned here due to error. I shall stay here, angel, until Heaven has a proper system that can guarantee no other soul ends up here by accident or error.”
“We now use Linus, Firefox, and will be conducting personal interviews,” the angel promised, having done some overhaul work of his own. “No more half-written elven reports. There may still be errors, but many many less. Good enough?”
“You will also have to change the rules for admission to Heaven,” MacGillicuddy insisted. “Only the pure of heart to enter, and all others to Hell? Egad! Most people I know live virtuous lives, with only a fault or two. And for that they are consigned here? Well my pink friend, you needed a repository between ultimate Reward for the few Pure of Heart, and Eternal Damnation for the wicked. And I have built that Middle Land, here.”
Alfred nodded. “We built it, actually, as a temporary lodging for those good people who have erred a time or two. It is a temporary punishment, for those few sins. It was never meant to be a permanent place.”
“The two soccer fans and four baseball coaches tell me there are no sports in Heaven,” Bonhomme repeated. “And no beer. Sounds rather boring.”
“That should appeal to a stern and upright librarian like yourself,” Alfred countered.
“Allow sports and beer in Heaven,” Bonhomme insisted. “Make the place a worthy afterlife, and I shall consider it.”
Alfred pulled up his Samsung Galaxy and texted quickly. The device bleeped contentedly a few seconds later. He showed the message to the librarian. D’accord, it said.
“God is French?” he gasped.
The angel nodded. “It seems even He is not as perfect as we others would like.”
”All right then, I will go with you.” He handed the mystic pen to the angel, who called forth a demon and passed it on.
“As a bonus,” cried Hurf the chief demon, when the angel handed him the precious pen, “I will write a new rule. Bonhomme MacGillicuddy is never allowed back into either the Doomsward, or Hell below. You will have my signature on that.”
And thus, gentle reader, things were set back to the way they should be. The righteous were in Heaven, the wicked in Hell, and everyone in between would spend a limited time in Purgatory where the pool was filled with a smelly yellow liquid, the grass overgrown, the Scotch was watered, and the Library still cranks out the most kicking concerts on the Doomsward.
'Twas the night befor- 'Twas a time of legend. When Gods and men travelled the land together, when the gods got busy and had lots of babies with many women. 'Twas the time of heroes.
Civil war had gripped the city states in Greece for centuries. Tensions arises as the powerful kings expanded their borders and looked for new lands to conquer. Two great peoples, the intelligent Athenians and muscular Spartans, agreed to live in peace. Over the years, people got older. Too bad for them. Over the years, the Athenians slowly lost strenth as they took comfort in peace, and their lands looked very tempting to the King of Sparta. All that stands in the way is a very small City State called Talwater. Because it is more original and wouldn't have any twists if they just directly attacked the Athenians. Ahem.
"ERGH!" They all chanted. "What is wrong with you? That's disgusting."
"Indeed." Doriex muttered as he wiped his mouth on his clean sleeve.
"You really are a crazy fool aren't you?" Jorpey grinned as his friend threw up into his helmet. "You do realise you have to put that back on as soon as we set off, don't you?" He smurked.
Doriex had never been quite right in the head, and that made him pretty famous. He was well known across Greece for his amazing feats. He led the Athenians and its allies to victory in the Battle of the 27'34 cows, after the strange injury the King got. He won the competition for best savoury pie by default, as his was the only pie tasted before the judge died of some kind of disease.
He became most famous after killing the great Yubtseb Elephant in which he defeated the giant beast with only a pig, some oil, some fire, and a long pointy stick. Nobody knows how he did it. He tried wearing it's skin as armour to look cool, but it was too large, heavy, and awkward to get out of. It also smelt slightly.
He was most loved for the pie winning.
Now he was travelling through Greece searching for more glory and riches with his 3 friends he found along the way. Skunsar thigh, an inventor from Rhodes. Creator of the Anchor (You know. what ships use), and a pretty decent with a bow. Jorpey Peifumen was the captain's guard in Crete, but after a drunken night he woke up missing 2 toes on his left foot, and now leans slightly to the left. He was forced to give up his position as his leaning made him look weird. And last was Chonit Plipe, who just follows the rest around. Nobody knows if he is completely safe to be around...
"Go get me some water would you?" Doriex threw up again.
Skunsar picked up his bow and headed down he steep hill to the nearby stream. Tripping over the shrubbery -Insert joke about monty Python here- on his way down, he slid into the cold water at the bottom. The stream was much deeper than he had expected, reaching up to his knees even in the heat of summer.
Bending down to fill his waterskin, he started thinking about life. He thought about being famous, with his name surviving through the ages next to the likes of Perseus, Theseus, Jason and the great Heracles. ...Great Hercules, with his cruel life and daunting tasks... the 12 quests... Killing the Nemean Lion, the Hydra, the great deer... deer...
Suddenly Skunsar awoke from his daydream. He wiped his greying hair away from his eyes and was surprised to see a dead animal -a fat deer- on the opposite bank, an arrow prodruding from it's arse.
His quick reflexes and reactions made him drop as fast as he could with a splash until he was completely submerged in the water. He held his breath as long as he could, hoping whoever shot the animal would collect his prize then move on without seeing him in his hiding place. He somehow knew if he was seen then it would not be a good thing. But in the end he had to come up for air. He popped his head above the water and what he saw shoked him more than anything could.
All was the same. The deer was still laying there and no hunter came to collect his prize. So diving underwater was pointless.
He sighed, filled the waterskin, secured the top and made his way back up the hill. Obviously as soon as he turned his back a group came to collect their meat, saw Skunsar and chased after him, bandishing their weapons like monkeys. The bandits half walked - half swam across the river as their target panicked and tumbled up the hill. They all struggled up the slope, and when Skunsar reached the camp he saw something he wish he hadn't. Chonit was showing the other two a strangely shaped birthmark on his right buttcheek. Doriex and Jorpey looked very interested in the man's arse, Doriex even touched it.
"Guys! If you had stopped staring at each others naked bodies for a few seconds then you would have seen 10 armed men running after me!" "We have no interest in what you get up to in your spare time, and none of us swing that way so we aren't that bothered how many men are after you." Jorpey grinned. "Nah, seriously, why are they chasing you?"
"Dunno, just normal bandits praying on travelers."
They swiftly armed themselves, and giggled when Doriex put his helmet on. The 3 locked shields as Skunsar knocked an arrow. Doriex lowered his spear, with sick dripping down his neck. Chonit lowered his spear, his trousers not quite pulled up far enough, and Jorpey leaned slightly to the left.
The first man to reach the top died with a look of surprise on his face as an arrow pierced his chest and 2 spears cut through his torso at the same time. An arrow went straight through another's throat, who stood there panicking and gasping for his last moments of life before Jorpey kicked him sqaure in the stomach and the wriggling man fell down into his companions, who were quick to think of putting shields above their heads to block any arrows.
Jorpey limped back to his group, regretting kicking with his left foot. He looked down at his sandal and noticed one of his remaining toes was going dark purple.
"C'mon lads! Let's get them!" Doriex dropped his spear, pulled out his sword and jumped onto the nearest man, the blade sunk deep into the flesh of his neck. The others followed his lead. The remaining bandits locked shields but still stood no chance. The last 3 ran off.
"Should we chase them??" Chonit shouted.
Nobody need answer. Doriex ran after them, Chonit followed with Skunsar quick behind. 2 of the survivors died with quick thrusts of bronze in their backs. The last one was in sight. The 3 men ran as fast as they could, bloodlust in their eyes, they were almost there, 2 metres away.... almost...
The persuers fell to the floor with a bang.
"Wha...?" A big red wall stood in front of them.
"What is this?" Skunsar touched it. It was not exactly solid, nor liquid or gas. It was like an aura.
"Whatever it is, it won't let us pass" He grumbled.
"But I just saw that guy run straight though it!"
"The Gods must have made it so we can't chase down all routed enemies...."
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The next morning, after finding out another of Jorpey's toes fell off during the night, they set off south towards Doriex's hometown, Talwater.
On the way, Doriex did some more disgusting stuff for the amusement of his peers, Jorpey saw two hobbits fighting over something by a lake, but quickly looked away as one strangled the other, Chonit was caught nude again, and a few other jokes the writter had prepared but didn't know how to fit into the story. *cough* Ahem, yes.
Once they reached Talwater and were admitted through the gates, Chonit and Jorpey went off to do some shopping, hoping to find some sandals that are easy to walk in with missing toes. The other two went to the arena to watch some fights.
They got seats right at the front. The first round was a large fight between 14 people. The crowd cheered at heads got cut off and blood splattered the walls. 20 minutes later the red team was victorious with only 2 men left uninjured. The two men had a break then fought against each other in the next round. 1 was a tall man, obviously of african descent. The other was huge, muscular and doriex said he is good friends with him, and he is named Hargrey Rikalite. They both fought naked.
"My bet's on the huge one." Jorpey appeared from nowhere and surprised them. "Let me sit down would ya, I want to show you my new shoes." Jorpey and Chonit sat down and showed Doriex his feet.
"Nice." He muttered without even looking at them. The fighting started. Swords clashed and they all cheered.
Chonit stared at the nude men. Watching as their private parts swung around as they stabbed and jumped around. "C'mon! Kill that negro!!" He shouted loudly.
"Dude. You can't say things like that." Skunsar was getting annoyed. "And why are you so happy that they are naked?
"Why can't I say that?"
"Because it is not nice, and is very insulting to many people. Did you not read the CoC?"
"What's the CoC?" He questioned. Unfortunately he never got a reply. He has no place in the rest of this story because he was being racist. Let this be a lesson to all. It is thought he travelled east, found a man and fell in love, who would have known he was homosexual after all?
"Serves him right. Little racist." The fighting finished as Hargrey left victorious. Doriex then took his 2 companions to meet Hargrey.
They headed down into the corridors of the arena. The huge man was not far away when Doriex stopped. "Did you see that stupid bafoon in the arena? I can't believe that weakling won!" He said very loudly. Hargrey looked round to find whoever was insulting him and saw his friend.
"Doriex, is that you? It is! How have you been? I heard you killed some kind of large elephant since we last talked?"
"Yeah that was a pretty cool day. But what about you? Last thing I heard of you is that you were standed on a desert island. Any truth in that?"
"Yeah. I escaped by waiting in the shallows for 2 days and 2 nights, until all matter of sea creatures swam around me. Then I caught myself some sea turtles, tied them together with my hair to make a raft then escaped."
"Erm... Yeah... Cool... At the moment I am travelling through Greece searching for more quests to complete with 3 friends. Although we ust ditched one because he's racist." He signalled to his companions. "This is Jorpey, and this is Skunsar. Guys, this is Hargey Rikalite, captain of the white pearl and occasional gladiator."
"Nice to meet you" Skunsar shaked his hand. "Hargrey, ey? That's a bit of a strange name isn't it?"
"After my father. He's dead. How do you feel now you little ****?"
"Oh, erm, sorry then. It isn't actually that weird, quite common actually..." Skunsar tried changing the subject. "I invented the anchor by the way, for ships."
"What did you just call me???" He towered over the inventor.
"Noth- Nothing, I was just making conversation..." He was liking the man less and less with each word.
Doriex noticed the tension between the two men and stepped in. "What are you doing here in Talwater anyway?"
"Ah, I heard the Spartans were heading this way, and I would never pass up a chance to make them look stupid as they fall dead at my feet." He boasted.
"I heard about that, what is everyone saying about the spartans marching their armies? I thought this side of Greece had a peace treaty?"
"Nah, the spartans always want more, and are coming to this city then moving on to Athens." He said. He sneezed, then explained the rest to the small group.
"I see, so when are they going to get here?"
"I don't really know, people think it'll be today, some people think it'll be in a week, others say a month... But whenever it is, they won't hang around. They will assault straight away." A man carrying a bag of money called him. "Listen, I have got to go now. If you want to battle against them stay here, if you don't want to see 7000 topless men with fake abs, leave now and get as far away as you can." He left.
The streets were dark as night came to the city. When they left the halls of the arena, the only light was coming from the moon and a tavern close by. They headed to the tavern, the sign above the door said rEd LLoiN, in broken letters. As soon as they opened the door a foul stench left the bar and enveloped them.
"Ugh! What the frick is that??" Skunsar said loudly. A man with a face disfigurement downed the rest of his drink, gave Skunsar an evil look, and left the tavern with teary eyes.
Jorpey looked at his companion. "Dude." He gave him a disaproving look.
"I didn't mean him! I meant the smell!"
"Yeah whatever man. First Hargrey and now a poor stranger, you should be ashamed of yourself."
"But I didn't-" He gave up. "Seriously, what is that smell though?"
Doriex noded over to a peasent covered in dung sat at a nearby table. "You gonna go insult him too?"
Skunsar carried on trying to explain while they ordered drinks and handed over the few silver coins. They sat at stools by the barman, who refilled their dirty tankards each time they emptied them.
A fat man walked into the bar, got a drink and left.
"I need a piss." Jorpey told them.
"Good for you. Thank you for telling us that. We really needed to know that."
He headed off to the lantry, which left 2 of them sitting there watching a man trying to scrape manure of his face. They watched him for about 10 minutes. It was actually pretty funny, and Skunsar let a smile cross his face. The man looked over and saw him sneering at him and left through the door, wind blowing the smell at them on the way out.
Doriex looked at him. "Dude. Seriously, you have to stop doing that. You're gonna get on the wrong side of the wrong people one day."
"Whatever." Downing the rest of his drink. "Where is Jorpey at anyway?"
"I dunno, maybe he has diarrhoea."
"Nice. Great mental picture I have now."
After another 10 minutes or so (Well, it was an exact time, so I could say exactly how long they waited, which is 12 minutes 6 seconds, but it sounds much better rounding it up), they went to look for the diarrhoea-affected Jorpey. Searching for another few minutes (Read above. It was actually 2 minutes 23 seconds, but that doesn't matter.) they found him sitting on a toilet with his head resting on the wall behind him, with his eyes closed. They both entered the room as quiet as they could. Jorpey was oblivious to the new threat. It took all of the two men's will power not to laugh at the noises coming from the seat.
Crap flew everywhere as the liquidy substance hit the inside of the toilet and splashed back up at his ass, and through between his legs into the open air. Jorpey moaned every time this happened. Doriex and Skunsar took all the toilet paper and spongesticks and anything he could clean himself with, tied his sandals in a way that he would fall over if he tried to walk, and slowly left the room.
They sat at the bar laughing at it and continued grinning all the way to the Inn.
That place was the worst they had ever slept in, called "The Fiddle." It really was a vile inn.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
That night Skunsar was woken abruptly. Jorpey was shaking him violently.
"Whaaaaaaa....???" Was the only sound he could make.
"Wake up!" He shouted. With reason. The city was alive with sound and lights and people rushing around.
"Whaaaaaa.... happenin'?" He was still being shaken. "Duuude, stooop iiit, I'm awaaaake."
"This is for earlier. I know what you and DORIEX did." He shouted the name, and the man in the bed next to him fell out to the floor. The audience laughed.
"Get armed and get to the gate. The spartans are here." He said dramatically in the dim light before rushing out.
"I can't be bothered." Doriex yawned and got comfortable again in his bed. Skunsar sighed.
In the end, they did get their armour on, polished 2 spears each, sheathed swords, picked up shields and left the Inn. 'Accidentaly' forgetting to pay for their stay. The streets were chaos. Women were running around with babies in their arms, soldiers were marching towards the walls, a guy called scruffy was running after a goat...
"C'mon, there's Jorpey" Doriex nodded towards the heavily armoured retired captain limping down the street.
"Hey man." The pranksters grinned stupidly at him. "Didn't see you much last night. Did you get lucky or something?"
"**** you. Seriously, **** you." He didn't seem to be in a good mood. "It took me ages to find something to clean myself with, and even then I couldn't get it all off, and my hand stinks. Oh, and that thing you did with my shoes? Very funny. Fell over and before I know it I injure another of my toes and it falls off."
Both men looked down. He was indeed missing yet another toe off his left foot.
"Come with me. We need to see if any of the men in this city can fight." They headed off closer to the walls. In a large town center, many men were wondering around aimlessly, looking at bronze blades in their hands not knowing how to properly hold it.
"My Gods...." Doriex said as he saw a 20 year old stab himself in the foot with his spear. "Jorpey, look, it's you!"
The captain looked at the man and simply gave Doriex an evil look, then limped away. Up onto a raised platform, ready to give a speech. The platform had some fires set around it to make it easier to see him in the darkness. His companions stood right at the front of the crowd.
The noise slowly died down and Jorpey addressed the crowd. "People and citizens of Talwater. Many of you were born in this city, and I am sure many of you wish to die here. But today is not that day! If you fight today, you may be able to die of old age. Leave, and all you will get is poverty and shame!" He signalled towards the large wall. "On the other side of this wall, there are men who wish to take all you have from you. On the other side of this wall, those spartans think you are weak. But how wrong they are! Fight, and we shall have victory! Run, and you will die." The rest of the speech was motivational. The crowd cheered and got excited, which resulted in 3 men getting seriously injured.
Jorpey then went on to show the citizens how to use the weapons they were given. "Hold the sword by the handle, and keep the pointy bit facing the enemy." A few men adjusted their blades accordingly.
Doriex and Hargrey were messing about in front of the platform. Pretending they didn't know how to use their weapons and 'accidentally' dropping them. For a laugh.
Once he had finished and the militia were given their orders, Hargrey made his way through the crowd to his companions. "You two are being very immature tonight, aren't you?" In response, they both pretended to stab each other and fell to the floor. "Please, stop it. This story is being dragged out enough without you two acting up."
The night was getting darker. The three men walked to the front gate and made their way through the gatehouse onto the wall to the left of the door. Through the holes in his helmet, Skunsar could see the battle formations below. There were none. It was more like a big pile of soldiers carrying rams, siege towers and ladders to the walls. "Are they assaulting now then?"
"Looks like it."
Orders were being shouted all along the walls. Torches were passed down the lines so most of them could see. Small rain drops were falling now and then. The militia were shaking slightly, the soldiers were stood completely still and the commanders were running around organising the defences. One ran up to Jorpey. "You! I heard you use to be some kind of captain?"
"I was indeed the cap-" He got cut off.
"Okay, you are in charge of this part of the wall. From the gatehouse to that tower over there" He signalled a large building placed on the wall. "I have decided to keep all archers in towers, and when they get to the walls to shoot at the ground while the spearmen keep the walls. I heard spartans were easily killed with arrows. Now, please tell your men what to do. This will be one of the hardest parts to keep, and if they get through the gate you will be fighting on two sides."
"Yes, sir!" He turned to his men. He had 100-odd men under his command. "Get into rows of three! When ladders get here jab them in their bellies while they are still climbing near the top!" He looked out into the darkness. A dark shape the same height as the wall was nearing them. "Forget that. It seems we have to deal with a tower! Archers, shoot the trolls men pushing the tower and and surrounding men, don't waste arrows on the actual tower!
The men moved around as to their orders. He gave a few more and told his men how they should fight. The noise from the ground was getting louder and louder as the spartans tried to taunt their foe.
Then suddenly all stopped. The night was quiet. A men got closer to the city and addressed the defenders. "I could give a great and impressive speech... but words mean nothing in times of war.... I need no words... Just look down at us and that should be enough to convince you to surrender and let us through... Our King is merciful. We do not wish to kill you, you may become our vassal! Wealth beyond what you have seen before will prosper in this city, and we will have your enemies bowing at your feet. If only you bow to our king's!"
Silence. That is, there was silence until Doriex shouted down to the messenger something about his mum, and something about capes looking stupid and something about superman. In respose the enemy marched forward.
It had begun.
It started raining. Arrows flew from the towers into the darkness, and some flew back up. It stopped raining, because although it makes it look more dramatic, it causes visibility problems and the quality of the battle just isn't the same. Ladders were raised all along the front wall and fighting broke out. By the time the siege tower reached Jorpey's wall (Not facebook-style), some walls were already overrun and some had been defended easily. Jorpey told Skunsar to blockade the door on the opposite side of the left tower. Almost as soon as he shut it the Spartans had taken the wall the other side of it, but were restricted to it and had to way into the city.
The siege tower arrived and the door swung down. Just as the captain told them to, Doriex and Skunsar jumped up into the wooden assault machine and took the spartans by surprise. With their defences down, the two men had already killed 7 spartans by the time some more defenders came to help them. Jorpey limped into it. "Go and get the hay and bring me a torch. Let's set this thing alight!" Some more Spartans tried getting up the top level of the tower. The captain looked at the nearest one and shouted "THIS, IS, TALWATER!" and kicked him square in the chest.
Unfortunately, he kicked with his left foot. He was carried to safety and his bleeding foot now had no toes left. Skunsar took over control of the 100-ish men. "Doriex! Stop any of them from coming up. You don't need to kill them, just keep them from climbing!" He then told a few men to fit hay into the top level. After 2 minutes it was layered all over it. "Now!" Doriex jumped back and in one swift movement locked shields with seven other men, and slowly retreated back onto the wall. The spartans organised and 20 of them had formed a formation and were preparing to move. "NOW!" About 10 torches flew into the tower at once. The spartans got scared as it easily set fire and they were stuck. They jumped onto the wall only to be quickly ridden of by the defenders. The heat and light coming from it was amazing. Someone from inside the city on the ground shuted up to Jorpey. "They have opened the gate! We need you down here!"
"Jorpey is injured! I have taken command." Skunsar got his men off the wall. "Archers! Get down here!"
With a few other groups, Skunsar's men formed a semi-circled around the gate. "Archers, get to the front!" Shoot when I tell you to then head back and get into any buildings you can!"
The spartans rushed through the gate, got shot, then got surrounded by the defenders. The battle dragged on until morning. Just as the defenders thought all was lost, a dragon came down and killed all the spartans! Victory!
* * * * * * *
Then he woke up, and failed his exam. Moral of the story: Don't oversleep when you have exams.
[This message has been edited by Liam_the_Spartan (edited 10-01-2011 @ 08:49 PM).]