“Trust me, I’ll get the scoop” it was the last thing she said as she left the office, notepad and pen in hand. It was literally the scoop of a lifetime, and she would not back away from it. She did not back away from stories full stop, but on this occasion it was the chance to document and see something that nobody had documented for around eight hundred years. Bollocks to the reports and deadlines that flashed on her computer at home, this was a chance she would not miss.
Bus stop to the bus. Bus to train station, station to the train and finally train station on foot to the docks. She had arrived with half an hour to spare. She would trample over anyone for a story. She would stab, figuratively, anyone in the back for a story. If she thought she could have got away with it, well, that could probably be literal too. She would always be early for a story. Everything else could, pardon the pun, go to hell.
The Intro – Take 2
Shit! Bugger! Arse! Writing fail, I’ve skipped a little, haven’t I. Cock it, okay. Let’s take a step back. Two weeks ago. Our lady was sitting at her desk at home just jotting down ideas, rounding a few literal corners as she finished things off. Nothing exciting, the usual shite. An affair of a politician, cronyism, outing somebody as being gay and finally the one she was going to enjoy the most. A bit of online rabble rousing to cause some trouble for a teacher she had once had. She was a professional. VPN, new account and then something that could have been true, but may not have been, but, hey! It could have been!
It was at that moment just as she was about to push send. A message that would have alleged that her secondary school PE teacher had abused children that her inbox flashed. Ignoring it, checking her spelling and typing, she wanted to make sure that there was nothing that they could use against her by a stylometry examination. Paranoid, maybe. Staying safe, definitely. Denial is not just a river in Africa, it has also gotten her out of many a scrape over the years. Ping! Inbox again. She rolled her eyes and minimised the browser and clicked on the mailbox icon. Chuntering away to itself for what felt like forever. The program loaded, finally, but her mailbox was empty. Tapping repeatedly at the check mail button, she sat and waited, and waited, and waited. Nothing. She checked the settings and the logs, expecting to see an error, but everything was as it should be. It was then that the voice behind her said “Hello”.
There are a lot of words that can describe what she felt. We can start at the mild end and say that it surprised her. We could say she it had startled her or it had shocked her. They all feel a little mild. She jumped as only someone can when they have had someone or something sneak up upon them. Sneak up in somewhere that they considered safe. She leaped from the chair she was sitting upon, banging her knees on the desk and almost shat herself. If she had had slightly worse bowel control that almost could have become a did. She saved herself, just. “What the fu” was as far as she got as she turned around. She was not usually one who could keep her mouth shut. But when you see a floating fairy, smoking a cigar, looking at you, you really have to take pause and rethink things.
Thoughts raced through her mind, taking the corners at speed and crashing into a barrier. Drugs? Not recently. Drink? Not recently. Acid flashback? Possible. “I am not a drink, drug or anything else side effect” the fairy says.
“Yeah, well, you would say that wouldn’t you!” she replies. The fairy sighs and saunters down, relaxing finally on the sofa below. “Okay” it says, “How can I prove I am really here?”. This is a good question. You can’t ask it to tell you something that only you would know, it is a vision drawn into the world by a broken mind. It knows everything you know! You can’t ask it to take you somewhere far away because honestly if you are crazy enough to see a fairy then how would you know what is real and what is not. She does what everyone would do in this situation, eventually. She rolls her tongue in her mouth, thinks for a moment, and then completely misses the fact that she has dribbled a little. She now looks crazy and feels it. Had she been thinking quicker, and being a slow thinker was not something that anyone would have accused her of being, she would have said “Take me to Paris”. It may have been a hallucination, but sod it. Free holiday to Paris!. Instead, she dribbled.
“Okay” the fairy said. It was talking slowly now, making every word stand out. Like it was talking to someone who had been dropped once too on their head as a child, or a holidaymaker abroad trying to order a full English. “I can see this is difficult for you”. She nods, it is all she can manage. “When I leave” it continued, “Do not post that message, wait until tomorrow and read the headlines first”. Nodding once again, “I shall leave this here” an envelope appears on the sofa. It is pink and tied with a pink heart-shaped bow. “read it when you feel you can”. With that the fairy vanishes, as it pops back to where it came, she passes out, banging her head on the base of her chair for good measure.
The papers dropped through the letterbox, waking her with a start. What a strange dream. She promised herself she would keep away from narcotics, both legal and illegal, for a while. She stumbled up off the floor. It had been a while since she had collapsed from drink and made her way to the door. Something was niggling at her, chipping away at her brain. Chip by chip, something flighty. Something, something. She bent over and picked up the newspapers, something smokey. The first paper she looked at was the low rent, cheap, cheerful and often scandalous redtop that she worked for. She saw the headline, stopped for a moment. Looked again, then it hit her. Like being teabagged by someone with a hairy and smelly set, it smashed into her face and once it did she suddenly wanted to escape. The newspaper headline reported that they had arrested her old PE teacher on charges of sexual abuse.
Fairies, Envelopes and messages unsent, wait. She was drunk; she had to have been drunk; she didn’t send them message, did she? She rushed over to the computer and moved the mouse. Oh god, please say she had used virtual protection. The screen flicked to life. She entered her password and clicked the browser. No, it was still waiting to post. She sighed. Then she remembered the sofa, turning the envelope sat there. She studied it from afar before deciding to open it. If the sender, or the deliverer, had wanted her harmed, they could have done it. Besides, she liked risk. What was life without risk? She pulled on the ribbon until the heart fell away; the ribbon hanging from her fingers as it came away from the envelope. She let it flutter to the floor, her mind now fully occupied with the contents that lay within.
Peeling the envelope open, she held her breath. It was too late now, but it was instinctive. It contained just a single red piece of card, scented and with calligraphic writing.
“We invite you to come and review Lust, the second circle of hell,”
It took her about thirty seconds to decide that she was going to do it. Once again her reasoning was that they could have done anything to her on the pervious evening. If it wasn’t real, well that is what they had invented tasors and pepper spray for. She flipped the card over, read the instructions and….
So where were we? That’s right, excuse the pun. See, do you get it now? Go to hell? Oh, I give up. She is half an hour early; it seems though that they are already waiting for her. A man, a tall man, stands on the water’s edge with a cardboard sign that has her name written upon it. She need not be a graphologist to see that the handwriting is the same as the one that had written the note. She walks over to the man. He seems blissfully unaware of her. He stands, picking his nose. Just as he is about to eat ‘something’ she asks “Hello”. He was in a world of his own and as she is short, he looks right over her, having to bow his head down to see her. “alright” he says, wiping his hand down his trouser leg. “You are waiting for me” she says, pointing at the sign.
“Oh, okay” he replies. He does not give her a moment to think, quick as a flash he has raised his hand and he touches her forehead. Everything goes bright and then pink. Very, very pink.
“Darling, I am so glad you could make it,” a voice says from beside her, a hand placed gently on her shoulder. “This is lust and we are so glad you are here. I am Lilith, you can call me L. So what would you like to know?”.
“How did I get here?” it was the first of many questions that came to mind.
“Charon” he brings people here. He used to use a boat. It is quicker these days to just zap you here.
“I can go in to the ins and outs of interdimensional travel if you’d like. It is all rather boring, but if that is what you want to know”. She didn’t, she wanted to know more about this place. She looked around, everything looked so friendly. She had expected cages, whips and lashings. Dare she say something, evil. “This is not what I expected” she says.
“Hah, we get that a lot. I suppose you expected body parts hanging from the sky. Balls and chains, bondage, S&M and all that jazz? We’ve changed down here, the rules have changed!”.
“The rules have changed?” she asks “I was not aware there were rules, I thought you were bad, you came here”. Lilith sighs, she liked the old ways better. “It used to be that way, sweetheart. Then it all changed. Up there, well it is actually through there, you’d do something bad. Then you ended up down here in a place that suited your crime. So you steal loads of money, you might end up with greed, you rape someone, you end up here. You get the idea, but there are just so many of you now!”
“To many of us for.. hell?”
“Well, not that. It is that we don’t have the demons. Demons are hard work, trust me, I made them, you don’t want to many. These days you are all so,” she searched for the word “amoral I suppose, although that is not right”. Lilith takes her by the hand, leading her to the side. “Come, lets drink”. they wander down a side street and stop at a cafe called Big Dees. “Not very subtle is it, it is a branding I suppose. What do you want to drink?” Lilith asks.
“Coffee, please” she answers. They sit at a table outside and wait. A figure appears. It has pins for legs and each one clicks as it walks along the floor. Click, click. She takes her time, trying to work out just what it is. Pins for legs, a human.. well, humanish torso, with two normal arms. It is wearing an apron with “Swallow it all at Big Dees” written on it. Its head is in the shape of a butt plug. Lilith orders two coffees and he wanders back the way he came. “He was one of mine, made especially for here”.
“So what changed?” she asks.
“It all went to shit years ago. It used to be simple, as I have said, but then you took liberties,” the demon comes back over, places the two coffees on the table “Remember, nothing will fill you up like Big Dees,” it says, turns and walks away. “Urgh. It is so corny”. Lilith says, “I used to love being here, but now… this is not my lust,” she sips the coffee. It is still far too hot for any human mouth, but the heat does not bother demonic mouths. “So,” she continues, “So, you went and took liberties. At first it was minor, we could turn a blind eye. Then you got worse. Hindsight, I suppose, we should have had you smited. You started getting the church to absolve you. Someone goes out, does something hideous. Cries in a church, bible basher does his thing, and the person thinks praise the lord, I am forgiven. Then they do the same thing again”.
“So the Church can’t forgive us?”
“Sure it can, but you need to feel that you deserve it. Be remorseful, want forgiveness. You can’t just ask for it if you do not feel it in your heart”.
“So we abused the system? Cheated it?”
Lilith takes another sip “Pretty much, it became that we were overflowing. I am not creating more demons. Look how miserable my babies are!” she looks at the demons going about their tasks. “They used to be so happy, but that is what life is for us now”.
“Can I ask…” she pauses for just a moment, looking over her hostess. Lilith has visibly lost some of her shine. She has gone from bubbly and radiant to quite a sad figure. The talk of her ‘babies’ and the lives they now lead draining her. “Sure, fire away” she sighs.
“Why me? Why invite me down here?”
“Well, it is still hell, duh. When you lot went all loopholey, we had to do something. So what we decided was that you had to come here of your own free will. You used the rules to find loopholes, so we thought we’d turn the free will stuff against you. Somewhat poetic we thought”.
“Okay,” she takes a sip of her coffee. It is good. Just the right temperature now. It’s not just good, it is damn good. That early morning hungover coffee that just tastes exquisite. “But it is still hell” Lillith continues, “You may think it’s all dildos and dongs, fleshlights and thongs but lust takes lots of different forms. People lust for power, they lust for money. In your case, you lust for the story. So we invite you down here, and we give you what you want. Then we feed on you. When you sleep, when you relax and when you have had everything you had ever wanted we feed. Then when you are empty, we discard you like the rubbish that you are”
“But” she hesitates, should she ask? “But, why me?”
“Dear, we need you to run the PR side, why do you think?”
“What if I refuse?”
Lillith smiles, a true demonic smile stretching from ear to ear. “Darling, what made you think you have a choice?”
I think we shall leave them there. Sitting drinking coffee. Lillith has had her fun, she enjoys making them come willingly. They soon lose the lust that they once had. The only thing left to see is this. We can look back at the apartment, we can see the newspapers thrown to one side. The only thing that seems different is the headline on the paper. It is not about a PE teacher; it is a story about a missing reporter, the star reporter of that very newspaper. It seems she has been missing and nobody has any idea where she is…