2012.07.19 A Prince Of Hell

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With a dispirited sigh, Fenris tugged the earbuds out and started absently winding the chord up around his fingers. "I'm sorry, I didn't quite catch all of that..."

The kindly-looking older lady with white curls and cheeks with damaged-capillary-rosy hue sucked in her lower lip, either as an expression of contained frustration or deliberation. She promptly recovered with a flash of smile that featured a shade of bright white not naturally available for elderly humans. "I was just remarking about how calm you seem to be about that bit of turbulence. Is that normal? Because I don't mind saying that it spooked the bajeezus out of me."

Fenris shrugged. "There's not really anything to be done."

"I'm probably just a silly old biddy, but I've just this terrible feeling that something awful is going to happen."

This seemed to lure the big man in the aisle seat into the conversation. "Let me ask you a question: Have you been saved?"

The kindly old lady's eyes transformed into constricted apertures of suspicion. "No. I'm anglican."

There then was a dramatic increase in the smugion radiation flux from the big man in his suit of dubious fabric. "AH. Well. IF you had faith in the protective power of the love of Jesus Christ, you would know that there is nothing to fear."

At 9 kilometers altitude, Fenris checked his watch impatiently and regretted not insisting on getting the window seat.

"Don't give me that." The old lady wasn't very good at seething, probably due to lack of practice, but she was giving a good effort. "Bad things do happen to good people, even good Christians. And I'm usually very sensitive to these things, and I have a very strong feeling that something bad is going to happen."

"BUT if you truly have faith, you will know that it is all part of God's plan, and that the worst case for the faithful will be the reward of paradise."

Real tears well up in the old lady's eyes. "We're not in paradise yet. I watched my Hank shrivel and suffer for months before he died of cancer. Don't you tell me that there's nothing to be afraid of!"

Protectively pulling his smugness about himself, the big man responded simply. "God will protect those who will accept Him into their hearts."

Both the kindly old fretmonkey and the nylon-skinned bluster sausage looked to be gathering mana to start a prolonged philosophical siege aboard flight 166. Fenris let out a long frustrated breath through his nose, and looked at both of his row-mates in turn. A look of weary why-did-you-do-this annoyance at the fretmonkey, and baleful measuring of the bluster sausage to gauge how much butter would be required to correctly sautée him.

The politeness boiled off of Fenris' voice, leaving a dangerously silky hiss. "I suppose I'll only be slightly extra-damned by telling you both the truth. It's not like you're going to tell anyone else."

Bluster sausage blinked with confusion. Fretmonkey articulated better. "Um. What?"

Fenris's smile was not completely unkind, but of a clearly predatory cant. "You were right. This plane is going to crash. We're all going to die."

"How can you possibly know that?"

"Inter-plane transfer. I'm leaving this plane of Hell and heading to the next plane up."

Perplexed stares.

A deep breath, with Fenris fully enjoying the momentary silence. However brief.

"Are you trying to be funny? Because you're not funny, twerp."

"Yeah, big guy, it's not surprising that you're going to have a hard time believing it. After all, you've been force-fed so much shitty dogma to make you into one of the hellish facets of this plane - so that sense of belonging you have is completely correct." Fenris unclipped his seatbelt so that he could straighten his hips for access to his pocket, and out he drew a battered ticket with an ominous glow. Brandished between two fingers, he turned it one way then the other, so that both his co-passengers could have their tongues stick the roof of their mouths when they tried to read the writhing script torturing the face of the ticket.

"I'll be damned."

"Exactly."

"How... how could it be that we don't know we're in Hell?" Big watery eyes still looked at the ticket.

"It's kind of one of the points of this particular plane of Hell: the not knowing."

"I should have known! The damn gays and their evil agenda were a clear giveaway."

"Ha! No, that's just you fulfilling your role as useful idiot tormentor. Good job on driving your step-son to suicide, by the way." All the bluster immediately decayed into high-density shame, and the bad suit seemed to sag inwardly. "What you might have noticed, though, is the conspicuous lack of clear communication from God. Kind of counter to all that stuff you believe in that book, isn't it. But, whatever, you were all distracted with a dizzying array of torment - from government to traffic, commercials to requiring exact change on public transit. Hellish, truly."

"So... so we're going to die?" Her eyes shifted from the ticket to Fenris.

"Yep."

"We all have to die so that you can go to another level of Hell?" A fresh new kind of horror framed the blotchy anguish on the big man's face.

"No, you get to die horribly so that people who know and care about you can suffer some more."

"Does that mean you're going to die too?"

"Hey, it's Hell, not Starbucks. The employment relations arm is technically another, lower level of Hell."

"What... what happens when we die?" Tears brimmed.

"Well, I for one am going one level up to supervise a particularly precocious ice age. Big man here has probably proved valuable enough to shuffle down a few levels where his mere coexistence will torment others considerably." Fenris' features softened for a moment. "And you, I suspect, get to resume your suffering with your Hank on a slightly-less awful plane."

The kindly old lady's eyes went round with surprise.

Of course, that could have just been because right then the fuselage ripped open and they were all sucked out and fed through the turboprop.