Full Moon Story: The Loudest Place in Hell

Here’s this month’s Full Moon Story.

The Loudest Place in Hell

            “You are summoned,” a sepulchral voice rings through my open door. I feel everything inside my gut clench.

            “Tony, that’s incredible. Are you taking summoning this semester?” I yell to be heard over the noise. Perhaps unsurprisingly the loudest place in Hell is the library.  

            Tony blushes through his inflamed warts. “I took it this summer. I got an A.” One bright spot of working at a Hellish university is working with the young demons. Yes, they are Hellspawn. Yes, they are part of the demonic horde training to ultimately annihilate all humankind. But mostly they’re good kids with uncertain futures and eager to learn.

            “Terrific. It really shows. You literally made everything clench.” I wave my hand around my belly. “Does the director really want to see me?”

            His smile vanishes, and he nods his warty head. “I’m afraid so.”

            It’s unusual for an ex-human to be in a position of responsibility at a Hellish institution. I’m the Head of Rare Books at the University of Hell Downtown Campus. My earthly notoriety preceded me, and some anonymous Hellish clerk assigned me this job upon arrival. Because of my position I’m occasionally summoned into the lair of the Director of Libraries. Not often. Every few decades or so.

            The Library Director at the University of Hell Downtown Campus is a fallen angel, their once angelic beauty hideously transformed into a cruel mockery. Their flesh oozes thin, runny pus through cracked flesh held together by thick scars. Pieces drop off as the demon continually deteriorates and regenerates.

            It’s always a challenge to find the Director’s office. Their office is a living creature (ok, an ex-living creature), shaped by torturous magic, so hideously distorted as to be unrecognizable; a sort of living stone, shuffling slowly around the library. The library is at least one hundred floors, above ground and below ground, and extended by erratic and unexpected additions. I can usually track down the director’s office by the peculiar horrific stench it emits, a stench distinctly different from the other horrific stenches of Hell. I find it today near the children’s section. 

            “Hi Gyat. You summoned?” I shout. I’ve worked in the library for three thousand years and I still don’t know what makes the constant horrific noise. It sounds like an avalanche of freight cars continuously crashing just above each ceiling. 

            Despite the horror of their appearance, and the nightmare existence we all suffer through, Demons are surprisingly chipper. One might even say unnervingly enthusiastic. And Gyat is more enthusiastic than most. Older demons, especially the original fallen, deeply sincerely love Hell and their work here. I believe this madness is their way of coping with what they lost.

            Gyat’s booming growl easily rises above the library’s noise. “We’ve received an interlibrary loan request. I want you to locate a book.” Gyat hands me a card with title, author, subject, and a brief description. I recognize the title. I remember holding it in my hands and feeling the cold gold cover just before I fed it to Claude the shredder. One of my earthly gifts that survived my transition to Hell is my remarkable memory. 

            “I destroyed this last week,” I try to hand back the card, but Gyat doesn’t move to take it. Part of my ongoing torture is that I have to destroy rare books rather than maintain them. 

            “Did you?” Gyat smirks. “Check again. I think there’s another edition in the collection. Pull it and bring it back here.”

            There is no ILL request I realize. This is another form of torture. I’ll look for the book, not find it, and be summarily tortured for my failure. Gyat’s grin widens as if they are reading my mind. 

#

            Life in Hell is a continuous desperate search for a moment’s respite. If this wasn’t Hell my office might provide an occasional spark of joy. My position allows me a generous corner office with one clear wall overlooking the River Cocytus. The banks of the river beyond my office are the land of the vain. Even dead they remain astonishingly beautiful, but they can’t see it. When they look at their reflection they see the monstrosity of their partially formed soul. Thousands of equally beautiful people surround them, and they can’t help but compare their monstrosity to the other’s beauty. For them, that’s Hell. For me, looking out the window, over the smoldering river, at the acres of the beautiful and dead, is sometimes a moment of escape.

            And, since I know you’re wondering, Hell turns out to be every Hell. All human and other-than-human cultures get a glimpse of the real Hell. But the real Hell is worse and weirder than all those cultural visions combined.

            I had just decided there was no use in delaying Gyat’s assigned task, regardless of the consequences, when Betz pounds on my door and shouts, “How was your meeting with Gyat?”

            I shake my head and point at my ears, the universal sign for I can’t hear a fucking thing. “Do you want to get some coffee?” I mime drinking from a cup, pursing my lips and extending my pinky. Hell has wretched coffee, and I drink probably a dozen cups a day. The only thing worse than Hell coffee is not having coffee. The next worst thing about drinking coffee in Hell is there’s no good place to drink it. The library is too loud, so we seek out some claustrophobic cavern where the noise is dampened a little.

            If it weren’t for my work friends Betz and Fabulosa (i.e., my only friends) life in Hell would have broken me centuries ago.

            I pluck lumps out of my coffee and tell Betz about the meeting. “It feels like a set-up to torture,” she says. Torture is a common occurrence in Hell, but we’re never sure exactly when it’s going to happen or what form it will take. The uncertainty is part of the torture. To be fair the torture is often lackadaisical. Even the demonic horde experience job burnout. Honestly, since Hell got the internet and became obsessed with internet porn the demonic torture staff can barely be bothered to care.

            “Did you ask Fabulosa to look for it?” Every librarian in Hell recognizes Fabulosa’s supernatural gift for locating lost items. 

            “You’re right. No reason to give up yet,” I shout glumly. I take a drink of coffee, and chew thoughtfully on a mysterious lump.

#

            It takes us a while to find Fabulosa. We finally find her napping in one of the reading alcoves. How she manages to sleep through the noise is a mystery. But everything about Fabulosa is mysterious.

            Fabulosa isn’t affected by the horror of Hell. She thrives here. She is ex-human but took to Hell like a demon. On occasion she can be bored or melancholy, but mostly loves her job and appears sincerely happy. Fabulosa was a reference librarian in life helping university students and loved it. She does the same thing in Hell.

            Fabulosa agrees to help with the search and we begin looking for the Grimoire of Spellmaster Dru-Gru eFlii.

            In addition to the unyielding cacophony, the library is also surprisingly crowded. Gyat needs thousands of clerks to constantly shift the items from one location to another as they implement each new scheme. Every few months Gyat conjures up a new classification scheme and the whole library is re-organized. Memos detailing new schemes don’t find their way to all the staff, which leads to constant squabbling about where items are supposed to be shelved or not supposed to be shelved. Failure to perform your job correctly results in torture. Additionally, we have quite a few patrons, some being tortured by looking for books they’ll never find, but also students and the public.

            While the staff (many of whom are ex-human librarians who ended up in Hell) shift books to new locations another army of technical workers rip off stickers and attachments on the spine and inside the book covers, and apply new attachments for the new scheme. The result of innumerable systems being partially implemented and then dis-implemented have led to the collection being more or less randomly ordered. Organizational chaos at its finest. Nonetheless, I persist in seeking the order in the chaos. Locating lost books is one of those spark-of-joy things.

            I work through lunch, but by mid-afternoon I’m ready to abandon hope. I return to my office and find Betz and Fabulosa chatting (by signing) and picking lumps out of their afternoon coffee.

            “You didn’t get me a coffee?” I sign. I silently curse my fingers for their whiny ways but I feel self-conscious and sad. Here they are, hanging out and enjoying each other’s company, and I don’t have the book, don’t have any coffee, and am facing imminent torture.

            “We couldn’t find you,” shouts Fabulosa.

            “Before you start bawling, you big baby, we brought you something else.” Betz points to my desk. Sitting there, the cover encased in thin beaten gold, is the Grimoire, nearly as wide as my chest and as thick as my head.

            I sign, “Where did you find it?” Joy. Sparked. I want to hug it.

            “It was in repairs,” says Fabulosa, sipping carefully from her bronze mug.

            The malevolent demon who oversees book repairs demands a horrific self-harm to inspect the books on her shelf. I give Fabulosa’s shoulder a quick and grateful squeeze.

            “Thank you so much!” I hug the book to my chest, slightly embarrassed by the tears filling my eyes. I guess I dreaded the torture more than I realized. You’d think after three thousand years I’d be used to it, but even lackadaisical torture can still ruin your day. 

            “Do you mind?” I point to the door, still holding the book tightly to my chest. I turn my head to wipe the tears on the fabric of my rough shirt.

            “Good luck,” Betz and Fabulosa shout simultaneously, both knowing that completing the assigned task might not be enough to avoid a painful outcome. I know this too, but still maintain hope. After three millennia I can still hope. I carry the Grimoire to Gyat’s office, sniffing out the new location.

#

            “Wonderful! I knew you could do it.” They hold out their hand, fingers capped with long shiny talons, and I deliver the book.

            The creature serving as their office extrudes a platform on which Gyat rests the book. They open the book gingerly with a razor-sharp talon and compare the contents to the catalog record. After a lengthy inspection Gyat announces, “This is the one.”

            They hand the book back to me, still grinning maniacally. “Now, I need you to deliver it.”

            ‘This is the twist,’ I think. ‘They will ensure I fail in the delivery, and then the torture.’

            I don’t want to, but I take the book. “Of course. Where should I deliver it?”

            “It’s interlibrary loan, but outside our usual service, at least these days.” They hand me the slip of parchment. “I need you to take this to the University of South Heaven special collections librarian. You’ll meet your counterpart.” Their smile never wavers.

            “I…I don’t know how to get to heaven.” An understatement.

            “Oh, of course. Hold out your hand.”

            I extend my right hand. I hold the book and parchment in my left hand. I can’t imagine what I expected. A map of some sort, or a talisman placed into my hand alongside the parchment. What I don’t expect is for them to grab my wrist and shove my entire hand into their mouth. It feels like submerging my hand into a vat of freezing acid.

            I scream. My evident pain broadens Gyat’s grin as they do something nightmarish.

            In the moment before I lose consciousness they let go and I jerk my hand to my chest alongside the book. It glistens with demon saliva. 

            “What’s did you do?”

            “It’s a map,” they say cheerfully. They take firm hold of my wrist and open my hand. A complicated rune is etched on my palm. A taloned finger points to a red dot near the base of my thumb. “You are here,” and carves a thin line in a complicated pathway to the base of my pinky, “and you want to arrive here,” and draws a tiny X. “Also, this will permit you through the necessary gates and guards.”

            I look at the palm of my hand. “I don’t know how to read this map.”

            “You’ll figure it out. I would advise, however, not to lose your hand. The consequences could be catastrophic,” Gyat laughs. I don’t want to ask what might be more catastrophic than an eternity in Hell. A small drip of acidic saliva drips from their lip and burns a hole in the desk. The office moans. Maybe Hell is actually some gigantic creature being continually tortured. Could that account for the noise? Hell itself is being tortured. Maybe things could get worse.

            “Move along, you won’t want to be tardy.”

            Staring at my right palm, I stumble out of Gyat’s office. There is a barely perceptible movement of the red dot.

            I turn to my office to give Betz and Fabulosa the news, and the dot moves off the track. I feel a tingling in my hand that grows more painful each step away from the assigned route. I turn away from my office and start walking. The tingling subsides when the dot aligns with its tiny path. I guess my journey starts now.

            I’m in Hell because I caught the blame for torching the library at Alexandria. The punishment is disproportionate to the crime. First, I didn’t do it. I didn’t set anything on fire. What I’m guilty of is not stopping it. Caesar Julius sent some of his goons to torch the place and I made a calculated decision to save my own skin rather than the library. In retrospect, maybe not the best decision. 

            People have this vision of the library of Alexandria as the greatest library ever in the history of the world. Perhaps it was at some point, but by the time I worked there it was little more than a regional branch. There was nothing in that library that couldn’t be found somewhere else. Protecting it did not seem worth sacrificing my life.

            Would I have decided differently if I knew I was going to spend eternity in Hell? Yes. Without a doubt. Absolutely. 100 percent. On the other hand, one of the lessons you learn in Hell is the assignations to Heaven and Hell are inscrutably capricious. The logic is ineffable. Even if I’d saved the library, I still might have landed in Hell. 

            Soon I don’t need to look at my hand. I know if I’m on the right path by the tingling sensation alone. This allows me to look around and see parts of Hell I haven’t seen in a long time. I am moving directly to Old Town, the oldest and most dire portion in Hell, situated in the center of the city.

            Old Town is older than humanity. The architectural style is wildly distorted and the population grotesquely bizarre. The forms of torture, however, are pretty much the same: excrement, bodily harm, fire, acrid gas, torture pits, etc. 

            Not everyone in Hell is continuously tortured. Part of what makes Hell so Hellish is the randomness and lack of accountability. There’s a lunatic bureaucratic structure affecting everything, but most are confident that whoever once sat at the top of the bureaucracy vanished millennia ago. Now it’s an overly complicated machine, more patchwork than original structure, and is always grossly malfunctioning. Surprisingly, this bureaucracy also keeps the place chugging along, and anyone who challenges it is quickly crushed by the authoritarian types who thrive in Hell. In addition to a dozen or so species serving as administrative staff, a multitude of species all co-exist. Apparently, it’s a big universe out there and a large part of it ends up in Hell.

            I wish I could talk to Betz and Fabulosa before I leave. Not that they can help, but I don’t want them to worry. Or, I want them to worry for the right reasons. 

            Betz was already in Hell when I arrived and helped me adapt. The single shred of sanity I have I owe to her caring about what happened to me. Fabulosa showed up a few hundred years ago and connected with us immediately as if we’d already been friends for eternity. They know the absolute worst about me and still love me.

            As I walk, a part of me fantasizes that once out of Hell, I’ll be allowed to stay in Heaven. Am I really going to get a glimpse of Heaven? What is Heaven like? What is my counterpart like? Might we become friends? Colleagues? Did residents of Hell move to Heaven and we just didn’t hear those stories? Was I being rewarded?

            At the very center of Hell is a towering wall rumored to surround a giant pit. It’s hard to tell how high the wall is. Miles maybe? The top vanishes into the sickly yellow clouds floating across Hell’s skies. Hell has no sun, but the sky flickers and glows. And much of the landscape is burning. The clouds are phlegm colored and burn your flesh upon contact.

            My hand map leads me around the wall to a gate. Slouching in front of the gate are two oversized bulls with misshapen crow heads and human arms and hands. They doze peacefully, despite the otherworldly shrieks of horror coming from a nearby torture pit.

            As I approach the gate, one eye of one guard pops open. I hold out my hand, palm forward. They grunt a weird caw-grunt, poke their companion in the ribs and straighten to their full height.

            The other guard stretches, looks befuddled, and reaches around to scratch their back with the tip of a rusty, corroded blade. They yawn, revealing rows of broken teeth tucked inside their beak, and stand slowly. The first guard looks at my hand, their beak clicking rapidly, which creates a sort of tsk tsk tsk sound. “Hrrm,” they growl. “It’s been some time since we’ve seen one of these. What’s your business in Heaven, human?”

            “I’m delivering a book. I’m a librarian.” I jostle the book I’m holding close to my chest. I envision them taking away the book and not giving it back. Bullying is the most popular pastime for many of Hell’s denizens, which I suppose makes it not much different than Earth.

            They aren’t interested in the book, or me really, except for my hand. They each hold onto my arm and speak rapidly to each other in a raspy squawking language. Finally, one says something that makes the other laugh and they release me.

            “Ok.”

            Opening the gate involves a long series of complicated maneuvers with multiple latches and locks too complicated to follow. They eventually drag the gate open and bow while waving me in.

            Behind the gate is the rumored tremendous pit. Supposedly the pit was made when the Heavenly choir cast Satan and their army from Heaven. At some point steps were cut in the side, spiraling around the whole hole, to create a path from the lip to the bottom of the pit. The lip of the other side must be a mile or two away. Rising from the center is a shaft disappearing into the thin yellow clouds. 

            It is too far away to make out much detail, especially through the prevalent smog. I turn to ask the guards how this leads to Heaven. “Take the elevator,” they point to the shaft. They giggle and close the gate behind me.

            I follow the deep and wide cut-out steps around the edge of the pit downward and to the center. It’s about four or five miles to make the loop and about a dozen loops to reach the bottom. Since I have nothing better to do I start flipping through the book and reading passages that catch my eye. Eventually I reach the bottom and start to the shaft.

            As I near the elevator pillar rising from the center of the pit I notice there are steps spiraling around the side of the pillar.

            Hope the elevator works, I think. Of course, this Hell, and so I’m not terribly surprised when I arrive at the elevator doors and see a tattered sign that reads “Out of Order. Take the stairs,” with a bony finger pointing to the steps. I push the button hopefully, but nothing happens. I hear Betz, my imaginary Betz who lives in my head, say – “Hey! A stairway to Heaven!” I growl at the imaginary Betz and start my climb.

            There’s no sunrise or sunset in Hell, so it’s difficult to count days. We measure time by use of terrestrial television and the internet. But really, it’s a burning, glowing eternity. Despite this we still have the circadian rhythms we had while alive.

            Sleeping on the steps doesn’t work. After fifteen or twenty minutes of rest my hand starts tingling and sharp pains come quickly if I don’t start moving. I don’t know how long it takes me to climb those stairs, but it must take days. To kill time on the climb I keep reading the book I’m delivering. The Grimoire opens with spell titled “Area of Troblesome Noice,” and ends with “Gayning the Spetiale Ayde of Aengells.” 

            At some point I climb above the acrid sky of Hell. There is darkness for a long time, then a glow appears above. Above me the entire sky starts to give off a dull gleam. I am approaching the floor of heaven. By the time I arrive at the top of the elevator shaft I am exhausted, dehydrated, and gasping for relief. The shaft pierces an enormous marble ceiling, which is the underside of a softly glowing alabaster floor. 

            At the top of the steps I emerge into an immense lobby. The air is sweet. The atmosphere is suffused with a golden light. A fountain burbles. I stumble over to the fountain, setting the book carefully on the floor. I drink deeply. Never have I tasted water so sweet or felt so refreshed.

            When I look up from the invigorating water, two frowning angels glare down at me. At least I assume they are angels. Who else would I find in Heaven? 

            “We don’t know how you got here…”

            “But back you go.”

            Angels, or at least these two, are tall, dark-skinned, wingless, and naked. I probably stare too long at their marvelous breasts and generous schlongs. They are each more beautiful than everyone on the Banks of Vanity combined.

            I hold out my hand, palm facing them as if I am instructing them to halt.

            They bend closer to examine the rune engraved on my flesh.

            One sighs, exasperated. “Is this for real?” They ask the other.

            The other nods. “We used to see them all the time. Before humanity. Back when the elevator worked coming up. I’ve seen it before.”

            “So, we just let it go?”

            The angels examine me with obvious distaste.

            “Yep. The rune will compel it to stay on its task and then leave quickly. Let it go.”

            They step aside, and I move between them, alleviating the pain starting in my hand.

            I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Heaven, but it’s pretty spectacular. Like Hell, there is no sun, but the atmosphere is imbued with a golden twilight glow, like magic hour at sunset. It is part city and part countryside. Around each turn of each winding street is another heart-stopping, awe-inspiring panoramic vista. I want to stop to soak in the beauty, but the stinging pain in my hand keeps me moving.

            The residents of Heaven stare but keep their distance. They stare at me like they’re examining a bloody snot stain on a clean pale handkerchief.

            The library is a fabulous glass and steel structure rising over a sweeping view of an enormous ocean on a peninsular spit. I briefly consider how the library deals with humidity but dismiss the thought. “It’s Heaven,” I assure myself.

            The hand pain increases, compelling me to move faster, until I am trotting through the library, unable to gape and gawk at the wonder around me.

            The Special Collections room isn’t sealed off and locked away like mine but resides on its own floor. One wall made entirely of glass oversees the ocean, illuminated by a permanent stunning sunset glow. The beauty brings unexpected tears and my throat clenches. A large foyer displays selections from the collection. Ex-humans, angels, and other-than-humans wander through the exhibition alone, in pairs, or small groups, speaking softly amidst the wonders on display.

            “There you are. I thought you’d gotten lost.” An angel appears from the rows of bookshelves. “Do you have the book?”

            I hesitate. Was my stay in Heaven already over? I’m not ready to return. I want to tour Heaven. I channel Fabulosa’s courage and leverage my status as Head of Special Collections. 

            “What a tremendous honor to meet you,” I introduce myself. “Do you mind showing me around your library? I have so many questions.” And then I throw in the line every librarian is a sucker for. “I can’t imagine how challenging it must be to maintain this collection.”

            Their face softens. “You have no idea. People think it’s easy just because it’s Heaven, but in some ways that makes it more difficult.”

            “How so?”     

            “Let me show you around.” Gosh (I later learned their name is Gosh) says companionably. 

            I grimace and flex my hand unwittingly. Gosh notices. “Of course,” they smile and take my right hand, the one incised by the map. In an instant all the pain vanishes and I feel safe and protected and at peace. 

Over the next few hours I am in… well, literally I’m in Heaven, but I’m also constantly in a heightened state of awe during the tour. Heaven’s collection is pretty fucking amazing.

            While Gosh gives me a tour through the collection I ask why Heaven’s library needs to interlibrary loan something from Hell.

            “Well, it definitely is a recourse of last resort. And…” They stammer and flush a little bit, “…this almost never happens, but… we lost a book in the reshelving process.” My ears perk up.

            “Do you need help finding it? I’m pretty good at finding lost books.”

            They look amused. “That isn’t necessary. We have a system.” And then, one of the worst moments of my afterlife, the tour ends. Gosh gives my hand a final gentle squeeze and drops it. The pain returns immediately. “Thank you for transporting the interlibrary loan. We’ll have it returned to you by the due date. I’m sure you can find your own way back to Hell.” They turn and walk away.

            I am going to find that book. I am going to prove Heaven is a better place with me in it.

            I want to run to the location on the shelves. I recognize the organizational scheme from one Gyat ordered a few centuries before. I remember the location in the library from the tour, but I don’t want to draw attention to myself. Or, at least any more attention. And so I don’t run, but walk deliberately and purposely, gritting my teeth against the pain in my hand.

            To find a lost book in a library you start at the location it’s supposed to reside. Then you scan to the right of the location to see if it has been mis-shelved to the right. Do the same to the left. Look above, then look below. The next step is to visit special collection areas (like reference, children’s books, new books, rare books, etc.) look for the item there, and repeat the process. Be methodical. Look in places where it might be if the call number on the spine is mis-read. Perhaps the bar on the B is worn and it looks like a 3, or the curve on the D is rubbed away and it looks like a l. As I search, the pain in my hand increases. The longer I search, the more it hurts. I ignore it. Centuries of torture have left me with the ability to endure pain. It is hard not to get distracted by the titles I am browsing despite the pain. One of the joys of being a librarian, even in Hell, is the opportunity to read across disciplines. 

            I find the Grimoire. It is mis-shelved. Just as I suspected, one of the call number letters started to flake away from where it was printed on the spine, and someone shelved it in the wrong part of the library. If they don’t do regular inventory checks, centuries might pass before it is located.

            By the time I find the lost copy my hand feels like it is being eaten away by thousands of burning ants, and I have a moment of clarity. They’re never going to keep me in Heaven for locating a lost book. I realize I might have a use for the Grimoire, more useful than giving it to Gosh. There’s a spell I want to try. Dare I steal this book from Heaven? What if the spell doesn’t work? I assume there are no security features embedded in the book. Do angels steal in Heaven?

            I feel guilty, but I am already in Hell, I tell myself. How much worse could it get? 

            I jog through Heaven to the elevator shaft and spiraling steps. My eyes are full of tears of pain, blurring the wonders surrounding me. 

            The guard angels watch me run into the giant room holding the elevator and stairwell. As I cross the wide expanse of marble it occurs to me this had once probably been a throne room. THE throne room. “Take the elevator,” one angel guard shouts with angelic kindness. Sure enough, the elevator in Heaven works.

            I expect the pain to lessen as I make my way to Hell and I suppose it does a little, but it doesn’t vanish and the pain distracts me from my task 

            While the elevator is rapidly plunging to Hell I look up a spell. I begin memorizing the spell in case I’m compelled to hand over the book before I am able to use it. I don’t know if it will work, but I’ve got to give it a try. Fortunately, I’ve spent millennia honing my memory skills. In order to locate lost books, I’ve memorized thousands of complicated organizational systems over the millennia.

            Through the pain I read and re-read the spell. The elevator moves fast.

            Once I arrive in Hell I work my way up the steps carved into the edge pit, still reading and committing the passage to memory. Being away from Hell means when I return I once again notice the deep foulness of the air. I am dizzy from the stench and blinded by tears of pain. Hell is even more horrible now that I have witnessed Heaven. I push through the gates in the wall surrounding the pit, ignoring the snoozing guards, and start to my office. 

            Gyat calls my name.

            “Did you not deliver the book?” They point at the book I clutch under my arm. Busted.

            “I found their lost copy and brought it back as a replacement in case they never returned ours.” It is a lousy lie, but I’m amazed I can create even this thin tissue of a falsehood. I honestly hadn’t thought this far ahead.

            Gyat shakes their head, their enthusiasm interrupted for a moment by a rare frown. “That’s not the way it works. I expected more of you. Hand it over.”

            Reluctantly I hand over the Grimoire.

            Gyat inspects the book and then stares at me for a moment over the top of their spectacles.

            “You must be tortured for this error!” Their enthusiasm returns. “Give me your hand.”

            I hold out my right hand and Gyat spits on it. The rune etched on my palm dissolves and flakes away. The pain starts to recede.

            “Since you delivered the item successfully I won’t send you to torture immediately, but be sure to report to the torture chambers before work tomorrow.” Sometimes, in their own inimitable way, Gyat is a good egg.

            I nod. I don’t want anything to stop me from reaching my office while the spell is still fresh in my memory. If it works, my existence will be changed forever.

            Gyat waves me away and I walk casually to my office trying not to draw any unnecessary attention. 

            Once inside I begin the preparations. And once prepared I cast the spell.

            Nothing happens.

            Nothing continues to happen.

            Defeat.

            Then I notice it.

            Like the volume being turned down ever-so-slowly.

            My office becomes quiet. Not completely silent, but library quiet. My muscles release tension I didn’t even know they were holding. The absence of constant noise is an amazing relief.

            After a lackadaisical round of torture the following morning by Bellwood the torturer, torture I barely notice because I can’t wait to share my newfound treasure with Fabulosa and Betz, I track them down and suggest coffee.

            When the age-old question of where to drink our coffee comes up I casually suggest my office. They roll their eyes, but I insist.

            They can’t believe their ears. We have found a quiet spot in Hell.

END

Afterword: This started as a roman a clef, a way to vent my work frustrations. The characters were meant to parody my actual co-workers. However, I quickly got bored with a thinly disguised account of my work life, and this mutated into a story about friendship. All the thinly veiled real characters were excised and only the made-up characters remain.

WordPress prefers line skipping between paragraphs, while I prefer indenting. I wrote this with indents, but when I pasted it into WP it added lines between paragraphs. I’m too lazy to take out all the indents (which WP reads as 12 leading spaces).

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