Unworthy of Hell
Seeking deeper still
Let us show you the underworld, they had told him. Although what he’d seen had impressed him, it hadn’t totally blown him away. He suspected it had to do with interference, that what he’d been allowed to see thus far was preset. It was like a program intended to net him one way or the other, three groups they’d hoped would attract him, only none of them did.
“Could we go deeper still?” he asked hopefully. “I’ve got to meet Satan! Or Wrath, someone of that stature!”
This they would not guarantee, but if he wanted to see something really ugly and was willing to go that deep, a despicable and probably extremely horrifying and painful experience would be assured. Deep down there, he was told, there was nothing but the absolute decay and rot. Sure, that would be available if that was what he really wanted. No return tickets were issued, however, his homecoming was by no means assured. No more talk, no more leveling, this would be the endpoint. They would have taken him there directly, only they thought it polite to show him the available alternatives first.
These had not yet been exhausted. An influential group of occultists wanted to speak with him to explore what magic might do for him. The Christian establishment had laid out a detailed plan for saving his soul. If he accepted neither of these alternatives and did not want to go deeper, they would abandon him here and now, leave him to his own devices, in which case he would drift through life like so many a sadistic serial killer before him. At the endpoint of torment stands isolation. One comes to understand that in certain matters there are no allies, homicidal maniacs do not tend to attract many friends, nor do they easily surround themselves with peers. Deeply suspicious they must remain of one another.
The homicidal maniac label did not suit him well. A nobleman of esoteric taste, that was how he saw himself. Someone in search of inner peace and harmony, a bit long in the making perhaps, leaning slightly towards the draconian, but all was principled and pure as those who understood him would appreciate. His record showed that he had never laid hands on another nobleman or woman of their class, nor would he ever do so. Not once had he permitted himself to break the bonds of decency. All he needed was to find a palace where fellow noblemen would be willing to share his joys and passions, hunting prey amongst commoners, which were in any event far too many, enriching themselves while cleaning up the world. None would have to fear his brutality. If all went well, their wives would even be able to live on property, albeit in a separate wing, and they’d all prosper. The dungeons would gain worldwide repute, attracting funding from sympathetic eccentrics abroad, a place of relief and joy for a select few at the expense of the dispensable masses.
The ultimate punishment
The elevator came to a shrieking halt the moment he said this. If they had understood him correctly, he was not self-destructive as they’d been assuming, but full of hope actually, someone in search of a Utopia suiting his preferences. Once he found it, chances were that he’d be settled. If he had had his way, Camelot could well have been transformed into exactly such a place, only his father and tradition wouldn’t allow it. Now he was without substantial means and in a hurry to find a foothold. He wanted to see Satan, sure, but not as an endpoint as much as a forum for presenting his visions. Surely he expected that such visions of torment and mass reduction would appeal to Lord Satan, in whom he might well find a valuable sponsor. Only their talk of no return being assured had frightened him, presumably because he knew full well that his plans were only at the idea stage, that his crimes however horrid did not amount to much in such a setting. In Hades, bewildered noblemen might well form part of the dispensable masses, not what he had in mind as the end station for a joyride, ticket master oh please!
He stepped to the edge of the tram, held on tight, and looked down. “Don’t look down!” they immediately shouted, and how many times before had they not warned him similarly. The tram was swaying slowly from side to side, it was a dizzying experience. Down there were the flames of hell, black smoke coming out from the bottom. But from the sides multiple hands were stretching out, flagging down anybody who would be willing to stop, only to be dragged in. Suddenly, he recognized the sounds from Camelot, the “jiiihhhiahhhaiahhhhahhha” and the “hhhheuuuhhheuushhhushhh.”
“If you look down you must go down!” they cautioned. “We’re approaching the gates of hell, those arms and legs belong to the masses that are waiting to enter, some of them have been in limbo for centuries. They’re lonely and bored, they seek company, and they’re deeply envious of anybody whose entry into Hell is all but assured. Going down is a privilege, not something to be abused. Look down once more and you must go down!”
“Can you take me back up?” he begged. “Show me a palace with similar-minded noblemen, even a petit chateau will do.”
The cart was trembling violently under the collective laughter of the demons. Dozens of the doomed had overheard their conversation and now they joined in, no heads visible, arms waving, “huh-huh-huh-huh-huh.”
There was a time when the underground had grown too dangerous, when it was trembling with furor, which reverberated throughout tunnels, pipes, staircases, tramways, and much more. Better take him above ground while the underworld sorted matters out, it was thought, his continuing presence in these environs under the circumstances could be seen as provocative.
There is this odd silence after they've loaded him off the cart.