Excerpt 3: Welcome to Hell
Rachel and her fellow condemned souls entered a round chamber with a domed ceiling. Torches blazed with smokeless fire, and a huge chandelier hung from its roof. Its walls were decorated with horrific scenes of torture — tormented souls being whipped, flogged and beaten, others writhing in flames. They appeared to move in the flickering light, seeming almost alive.
On the far end was a throne carved of a single stone. Encrusted with a glittering array of yellow, red, orange and blue jewels, the tips of swords and other weapons jutted from its high back. On it sat a demon more terrifying than the rest.
He was massive, hairless and pure black, with ram’s horns spiraling outwards from his head. From his thick feet, toes protruded into gleaming white, razor-sharp claws. One was perched on a padded footrest, the other flat on the ground. His clawed hand gripped jeweled scepter that pulsated red light. Grinning, he leaned forward, beckoning them inside with a finger.
Sobbing and moaning, they shuffled forward. Their guide yelled for them to form a line in front of the throne.
The black demon looked them over with glee. “Welcome to your eternal reward,” it said, giving a sharp-toothed smirk. “You’ve been judged unworthy of Heaven. Now you belong to Lucifer.”
Rachel betrayed no outward emotion at the declaration. Inside, though, her heart pounded.
The condemned souls around her broke into sobs. Some begged for mercy, but all shushed when a troop of demons took positions around them, their pitchforks crackling with power.
“To answer your immediate question, no. I’m not Lucifer,” said the black demon. “Believe me, you don’t wanna meet him. I am Hades, and I get to decide your fate.
“Now, you can go ahead and give up the idea of playing harps in the clouds, flitting around without a care in the world.” He danced on the platform while he spoke as if in a mock ballet, hands flapping at the wrists like wings. “That’s for the good little boys and girls. And God’s decided you’ve been bad.”
Cries and moans were silenced by a swipe of his clawed hand.
Roaring with laughter, Hades jumped from his throne and paced beside the condemned like a drill sergeant. “There are rules here in the underworld. Follow them, and you’ll find that life is pretty bad. Break ‘em, and well—“ He stopped and turned to the poor soul next to him. “You see, there’s hell,” he said with a grin, which transformed to a snarl. “And there’s Hell.”