The 7th Circle

Jim and Roger live in the 7th circle of hell. It's hot. It's dismal. It's dreary... and they're being invaded.

The skies above faded in and out, stained with reddish hues, a hint of sulfurous clouds rising above the western horizon. Not to mention the ominously overcast eastern horizon. Acid rain and phosphorus storms dominated the forecast. But then again, acid raid was on every day's forecast, as the weatherman so loved to cheerfully announce. He couldn't get over the fact that they even had a weatherman. If this weren't already Hell, the weatherman and his bloody forecast could go right to...

He spat, more from habit than from having any kind of spittle to actually emit from his... lips. Bah, who was he kidding? There was nowhere else to go from here.

The weather was atrocious, as usual. What else was new? At that thought, a light drizzle dusted his forehead and shoulders, sizzling and etching tiny grooves where his skin formerly resided. Now, of course, it was just bone; the sinews, flesh and hair having worn off centuries ago. He was lucky to be able to move, really. He'd seen others in his general vicinity missing limbs, appendages, heads. Worse off than he was, in any case. Hell, there was that torso he saw drag itself past towards the mines last week... yes, things could be worse.

Jim wiped unsuccessfully at a trickle of sweat from the nape of his neck with one withered arm. The act of sweating still astonished him, considering his rather dire situation. The droplet fizzled against his unprotected spine and evaporated seconds later. Unbeknownst to new guests of the region, even if your skin and muscle had dissolved into a soggy pile of goo decades ago, you still felt pain. It was unfortunate, but it was a fact of (un-)life around these parts. He let out a loud, overly dramatic sigh, which always surprised him since his throat, vocal cords, and tongue had long since gone the way of the dodo.

"What's eating you, Jimbo?"

"Aside from the ringworm?"

Jim glanced over at his partner for the majority of the current decade — not by choice, mind you — and grunted noncommittally. Roger was always the chipper one, the literal eternal optimist, which was surprising in light of their miserable, equally eternal circumstances.

"I dunno, Rog. Something seems off today... I can't really place it."

"You sure it's not just lunch passing through? Bad case of heartburn?" Roger jerked a dessicated thumb in the direction of the canteen. "The food's pretty disgusting at the best of times. And I think I can count the "best" of times on my three remaining fingers."

"The fact that we still get heartburn at this point is rather depressing, don't you think? Anyhow, no. It's not heartburn. Something in the air, is all."

Roger lifted his boney prominences upwards, examining their surroundings. The landscape didn't change much, down here in the 7th Circle. But he had to admit that something did seem out of place. Again, he couldn't quite figure what it was.

"We had better get back to work... or there'll be hell to pay." A snort at the overused pun followed.

Jim glanced around casually, trying not to attract undue attention. One never knew what might be crawling around, looking for a tasty — if a little withered — snack. His well-worn pickaxe lay beside him as he tried to enjoy the last two-thirds of his weekly fifteen-minute break.

Little did they realize that those ten meager minutes were all that separated them from complete and utter obliteration. Worse than that, annihilation.

And even here in the lower rung of Hell, things were bad enough. Annihilation was not a word you wanted to hear.

The End

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