Photo: From author Sarah Beth Durst’s “Sarah’s Journal”, a freaky fresco on the 1879 Hall at Forbes College – Princeton University, Princeton, NJ
Story Title: From Blue 9’s Penal Colony lyrics
Oh, and here’s a cool remix from Cleopatra Enchantments
Green note: Here’s a goof ball tossed in for play on the Sunday Scribblings 2 field. Yes, I’m concerned about my juvenile frame of mind… Perhaps if Kate DiCamillo drops out, I could fill in…
Deth Barbus entered Hell’s library and moved ungainly along the walls, making a final and daring, open-field move to the reference desk.
“Greetings, Sir,” the librarian said.
“I’m not here, Drusilla, understand?” Deth said.
“You’re a little tall and obvious not to be here, Sir,” Drusilla said.
“Keep your voice down, please,” Deth whispered.
Drusilla rolled her eyes and went back about her work. Deth stood off to the side, hunched and dour, alternately checking his watch, wiping his pasty brow, and dabbing at his dripping hooknose.
The instant the postman came through the door, Deth locked his small black eyes on a particular parcel and made ready. As soon as the postman had set the stack of mail on the desk, Deth swooped in, snatched the parcel and loped toward the door with it. Drusilla paid him no mind.
Deth bounded through the many-storied labyrinth of Hell, round the stone stepped towers, up and up, through and around the dark and cobwebbed passageways of the main building until he arrived at The Devil’s quarters. He put his ear to the door, heard the lightning fast and violent scratching of pen on parchment.
“Ah, he is at his writing desk,” Deth thought, “No doubt he is drafting pacts to be signed in blood by those myriad poor souls desperate for a bit of diabolical assistance! He is sure to be pleased with my astute offering and show me favor.”
Deth knocked on The Devil’s door and said, “My Lord, I have come from the law library with the newest edition of Life Contract Statutes.”
The Devil, incensed by the interruption, yelled “Be gone, Barbus!”
“But My Lord, the postman delivered it just now! I thought—” The door sprung open and scared Deth so that he jumped back and dropped the book.
The Devil loomed monstrous over Deth and boomed, “Is ‘be gone’ so complicated a sentence that its meaning eludes you?”
“I thought you might like to be the first to see this book.”
The Devil glowered at Deth. “Are you so daft as to think, with the innumerable powers I possess, that I need to see a book? Again I say be gone!”
Deth acquiesced, bowed from the waist, “As you wish, My Lord,” he said, and retreated. He heard the door slam behind him. He picked up the book and seethed as he began working his way back to the library.
“I am a Hell-born, Level 4 Demon on the rise!” Deth thought. “How dare The Devil humiliate me like that!”
He walked on, whispering the word “humiliate” over and over under his breath until the distasteful rhythm of it spawned an agreeable idea.
“I will cause The Devil a little trouble,” he thought, and he turned from the direction of the library, headed back through the labyrinth of passageways to the south tower and through the wooden galleries north to the keep.
He went down and down to the very bowels of the keep, to the caldarium, where the immense, fiery pool of sulphur was kept raging hot. He would command the Firewatcher there to sweep defiled ash through the portal to Heaven and infect the restored Eden and all its inhabitants with a mild case of malignity, nothing serious or lasting, just enough to annoy God such that he reprimands The Devil, thus humiliating him exceedingly.
Deth punched a code into the keypad and opened the door. The Firewatcher there stood to attention as Deth stepped into the entrance corridor to the caldarium.
“Greetings, Firewatcher,” Deth said. “As you were.”
The Firewatcher relaxed and bowed. “Greetings, Sir Barbus.”
Deth walked through to the caldarium and began to ascend the stairs to the balcony that frames the immense pool of fire. The Firewatcher followed him, and together they walked along the west side to a clipboard hanging on the wall. Deth snatched it off the wall and examined it.
“I see here that approximately 10,000 putrefied souls from Earth were tortured in the eternal flaming pool of sulphur 1.5 hours ago and that the platforms and exedras were swept of defiled ash 45 minutes ago.”
“That is correct, Sir.”
“And yet, Firewatcher, I would like you to do it again now, as Duke Agares, of the eastern zone of Hell, would like to inspect the eternal fires within the hour, and I want not even one defiled ash spore to stick upon the sole of His Highness’ boot.”
The Firewatcher frowned, said, “I was not told about The Duke’s visit.”
“That is because The Duke conveyed his wish to me just 15 minutes ago.”
“With all due respect, Sir,” the Firewatcher said, “I suspect foul play.”
“Well of course there’s foul play, you idiot! We’re in the business of foul play of the highest evil order!”
The Firewatcher scratched his head, thought on those words a moment, then said, “No, Sir, I will not act until I receive direct orders.”
“Yes, well, my instructions are coming to you directly from the Duke via me,” Deth said. “The circumstances that surround this order are not suitable to be disclosed to you, of Low-born, Level 1 status. You are merely to obey the orders.”
The Firewatcher stood his ground. “It will do you no good, Sir,” he said. “I was trained via a controlled systematic indoctrination system.”
“Oh for The Devil’s sake!” Deth yelled. Then he took hold of himself. “No matter,” he said, “I’ll do it myself.”
“You’re Level 4, Sir,” the Firewatcher said. “I cannot control what you do.”
Deth went back down the stairs to the utility room off the entrance corridor and pulled out the cleaning cart. He donned the heavy, heat-resistant suit, and pushed the broom around the platforms directly surrounding the great fiery pool. He swept and swept what little defiled ash remained, swept slower and slower, sweating profusely within the suit, all the while wishing he was allowed to use his powers within the realm of Hell. He persevered, gritted his razor-sharp teeth, and swept the growing pile of ashes toward the arched stone door at the south end of the fiery pool until he was just 10 feet from it.
“No!” the Firewatcher cried. “Sir!”
Deth turned toward the Firewatcher and he said, “You, who refused this task, would now tell me how to go about it?”
“Sir, forgive me, as I’m sure you already know this: behind that stone door is Heaven’s Out-Portal, the portal from whence all the wicked, putrefied souls are spat out into this caldarium.” The Firewatcher swept his arm from one side of the fiery pool to the other. “These being the fires of Hell and all.”
“Of course I know that, you silly yokel!” Deth yelled. “I mean to sweep this ash across this very threshold! I know what I’m doing!” And with that he grasped the huge, black ring on the stone door and pulled it with diminished strength, and the door swung slowly open revealing an undulating gash in the curtain of sky separating Hell from Heaven.
Deth returned to the pile of ash, took up the broom and pushed the ash to the edge of the threshold.
“NO!” the Firewatcher cried out again. “Sir! It’s a one-way portal!”
Deth paid no mind, just gave the ash one last, fierce push toward the portal. He and the Firewatcher watched as the ash sparkled as it entered and was swallowed up by the gash, as if in slow motion. A few moments passed.
The Firewatcher was amazed. “Why, I didn’t think…”
“Ha! You see?” Deth said. He grabbed the door and began to swing it shut when the ash, all compressed into an enormous orb and as hard as a cannon ball, blasted back through the portal and plowed Deth into the pool of burning sulphur, where he will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.
Click here for more on prompt “SS2 #2 – sweeping the threshold” from other Sunday Scribblings participants