48 Cain

Hades, Center Earth, Year unknown

 

Lucie was caught off guard when Archangel Gabriel dropped off a prisoner. The angel left before she could protest. Almighty and Lucie had discussed the possibility of this scenario when they set up the conditions of the Great Game. Almighty believed a few men would turn away from him even when they understood his love and eternal plan for them. Those few would be dealt with when the time came. He guessed it would be several generations before the descendants of Adam would reject Him. He miscalculated how quickly sin would spread.

Even Lucie was surprised by man’s propensity for sin. Man takes to sin like a fish takes to water —a line she likes to use with the demons. If one “sinner soul” could arrive within one generation of the arrival of sin—that soul being the son of Adama no less—she surmised the total number of souls who would  be banished to Hades would likely grow to the millions before the end of the Great Game. It pleased her to see one of Almighty’s children standing before her throne and placed under her power. She stepped down from her throne and circled Cain, slamming her tail against the floor as she paced. After making her seventh trip around her new prisoner, she had an idea.

Lucie stopped short and smirked at Cain. “Welcome home, Cain. As I see it, I have just earned a new servant. As your new lord, let me catch you up on the new plan. I have a limited force of four billion demons living in Hades—far too few to be able to compete with Almighty’s massive army. As I see it, you are an unexpected addition to my resources. As sin spreads and more men arrive, the support team of condemned human men who serve my army will reach untold numbers. Your arrival has shown me how to lessen Almighty’s advantage in the Great Game. He can create, but I have limited resources. Fallen men can be put to work for my cause. Almighty would never allow man to join my army and attack his fellow man—he has a distaste for cannibalism—but they can serve me as slaves.

“This is indeed a great turn of events! Filling Hades with men who have rejected Almighty could give us a huge advantage. I won’t just wait for Almighty’s rejects to drop in as you did. I’ll actively recruit men by sending my demons to entice them into sin. I will cloak them from as much truth as possible. I will teach men to hate. If I can get them to kill each other—or themselves—my team could see massive increases in numbers. Extrapolating out through the years, this should put me on a level playing field by the time of the Great War.

“As sin spreads, and men refuse to ask Almighty for mercy, they will come here. We will prepare them just as I prepared the fallen angels: by stripping their garments and shaving their bodies. Anyone who refuses to join me will be banished to the other side of the Lake of Fire and live in isolation. Unless Almighty intervenes, they will stay there—trapped in their diseased and aching bodies. This should be enough to get them to join me in my quest.” Lucie turned towards her new prisoner and grasped his chin. “As it turns out, Cain, your arrival today has inadvertently changed the entire fate of the universe.” Cain yanked back his head from her cold touch.

He stood helplessly shackled before Lucie—visibly shaken by his condition. Lucifer’s words should have terrified him, but he no longer felt fear. He only felt anger, directed at both Abel and Almighty, for putting him in this hopeless situation. Never, for even a second, did he entertain the thought this life sentencing was his own doing. Instead, like any reprobate sinner staring condemnation in the face, he looked for a way to better his position. It took him less than a minute to lift his head and look into the hate-filled eyes of the second-most powerful being in the universe. “Are you asking me to join forces with you?”

“Well, you don’t seem to have any other offers on the table, now do you? Yes, I am suggesting you join me. In fact, I’m willing to bestow upon you the title, Warden of Hades, and charge you with  the… care of all incoming souls. You’ll welcome them and get them acclimated to their new home. After they are stripped of their clothing and shaven, you will offer them the choice of joining my support forces. If they accept, you will send them to Abaddon for training. If they refuse, you will send them across the lake for imprisonment.

“I also want you to research everyone who arrives. Identify the evilest of the incoming. Skip the formalities with these and throw them into Level Ten. They will land on the grids that sit above the boiling river of lava. Any hair on their bodies will singe off in an hour. After the hair is gone, their skin will develop oozing boils. Pus, hair, and threaded garments will make for a messy and painful combination. Let them peel off these things themselves with their own fingers.” Cain grimaces in disgust.

“When ashes from burned fabric and skin complicate the maintenance of the area, give them steel brushes and order them to scrape off the little parts of themselves and drop them into the lava. We will make their lives unbearable until they become obsessed with hate. They will be the ones we use for our darkest of deeds. What say you, Cain?”

“Your offer sounds horrible, and you are despicable. But, as you pointed out, I don’t have any others to consider, and I don’t want to spend eternity in solitary confinement—so I will do it.”

“Of course you will. In time, you’ll be very busy. I am certain many souls will be coming our way. You can use the time before the next sinner arrives to prepare the area across the Lake of Fire. I cannot see all that Almighty has planned, but I do know this: When evil spreads across the generations, far worse crimes will be committed than this brother murder of yours. I can imagine molesters who will steal the souls of innocent children. I imagine abusers and bullies who will crush the spirits of their victims, and greedy rulers starving their people as they destroy loyalty and faith. The brokenness that comes from these sins will take decades to heal. I can hardly wait to hear the stories of their sobbing victims begging for mercy.

“A word of caution, Cain: The prisoners in the lowest level of Hades will try to escape to higher levels to get relief from the torturous heat, and to rape the weaker prisoners. The gates between the levels must remain locked. You should never go down alone. Once they figure out you are the Warden, they will want to capture and torture you in the most horrible of ways. I’m not saying this out of empathy. I would rather enjoy watching you be dissected. I am going to be busy with strategy, and I need someone with a killer mentality to do the job.

“Oh, just one more thing. Be mindful of which humans you put in Level Ten. Only the most evil can survive there. Demons on this level struggle for power over the others—both sexually and physically. It will be one giant pit of hate and disgusting sex orgies. I must add cameras.”

The picture Lucie painted horrified Cain. He made one more attempt to get Lucie to rethink her plan. “What purpose does this serve? Why not just leave the gates wide open across Hades and let a massacre separate the weak from the strong?”

“That’s the difference here, Cain. Death doesn’t take anyone out of the way here. This is the end of the line. I’ve had to figure it out. If there are no levels of punishment, then there can be no order to Hades. Demons, and now wayward humans, must come to fear consequences of their actions. They have to know that greater punishment exists in the lower levels if I am to have any control on their actions.”

“Levels? Is this despicable place really that big? How many levels are here?”

“There are twelve levels of Hades, each its own dimension. The first is Earth itself where man resides. The second is the underground—in the depths of caves, beneath deserts, jungles, and the ocean. Level Three is Middle Earth, where no one resides—it is a solid mass, a buffer to keep us separated. Level Four is time. This transient level allows travel between Heaven and Hades. Some souls resisting their fate will try to hide there.”

“Wait,” said Cain. “If souls have a choice, wouldn’t they all stay on the run? I know I would have if Gabriel hadn’t dragged me here.”

“It wouldn’t be wise to refuse to report after death. Almighty has given me control of Hades. He wouldn’t dare tell me how to run it. I will add time to solitary confinement for not reporting immediately. Every day spent on the run will add two days to the confinement sentence.”

“That will be a tough choice.”

“It won’t get any easier. It would be best if they turned themselves in immediately. No one escapes their date with destiny. Level Four is also the entry point of Heaven and Hades. This is where you will be stationed. Some souls will arrive in absolute despair that their short life is over. They will be horrified to find their eternal existence will be spent in Hades. Others will be numb with apathy, like you.

“I’m guessing Almighty will place angels near the entrance of Hades, hoping a few of the damned will make a last-minute decision to return to Him. We will do the same thing near the entrance of Heaven.”

“Wait, that makes no sense. You’re telling me there is an opportunity for evil men to turn to Almighty after they know about their afterlife? What kind of fool would choose not to go to Heaven?”

“Look at yourself, Cain. You are the firstborn son of Adam and Eve. You heard the stories of the Creator directly from your parents. They walked with Almighty in the Garden of Eden and spoke with Him every day. Yet, knowing that life is created and it was wrong for you to kill your brother, you did it anyway. You liked being in control. Your pride kept you from giving into Almighty—even if He appeared in front of you this very minute. Am I right?”

Cain stared blankly into Lucie’s eyes. She was right—even if Almighty was here personally, he would turn away. The cost would be too high. He doesn’t know why he thinks this way, but he is sure of his choice. The thought frustrates him, and he changes the topic. “Just tell me what you want me to do.”

Lucie gave him an evil smirk. She liked being right, and she liked this feeling of dominion over the firstborn son of Adam and Eve. She held the fate of two generations in her hands. She was relevant. She was the one who led Cain’s parents to eat of the Tree of Good and Evil. Once they ate of it, their minds were immediately opened to the truth. They chose the red pill of the Matrix over the blue. They chose knowledge over blissful ignorance. It wasn’t what was in the fruit; it was the choice that made all the difference.

After their choice, Adam and Eve, and all mankind who came after them, could see a whole other dimension of existence—a dimension with choices and consequences. This was something Almighty had kept from them. He had hoped their relationship would stay simple and pure. He knew sin would inflict pain upon them and their future generations. Here before her was their greatest source of pain—their lost firstborn son.

“I want you to keep Hades in order and not pout about it. Don’t feel foolish for your decision, Cain. I’m not talking about the decision to kill your brother. I’m talking about the decision to reject Almighty. I was His most beloved angel, and I rejected Him. Hades is filled with four billion fallen angels who walked with the Creator in His paradise. They also rejected Him. We totally understand why you did what you did. Now, I need you to focus.”

As the imps stood on each other’s shoulders to get high enough to shave Cain’s head, Lucie continued her description of the levels of Hades. “I set up Hades to be a complete mirror of Heaven. Levels Five, Six, Eight, and Nine will be home to demons and now, human souls. Levels are determined by behavioral styles assigned at conception for humans and by design for the demons. Level Five is the Warrior Hell.”

“What is a Warrior Hell?”

“On the dark side, Warriors are impatient, possessive, controlling braggarts. They are pushy, violent, and restless. Expect a lot of fighting there. Level Six is the Strategist Hell. At their worst, these people are critical and stubborn—schemers and classic manipulators. Passive-aggressiveness rules this level. Level Seven contains my chambers and the large meeting arena. The heat is intense in all levels of Hades because of the magma core, but it’s mildest in Level Seven. I have cool air pumped in from the cave tunnels.”

“Are you trying to make me jealous by bragging about your air-conditioned chambers? I assure you I don’t care.” As Cain tries to put Lucie in her place, he also smacks the head of one of the imps for nicking his ear with the dull razor blade.

Lucie roams in slow circles around Cain. This is the first human to set foot in Hades. She is enjoying the banter. “Level Eight is the Idealist Hell. These demons annoy me. I imagine any man who joins them will be the same. One day they are whining about everything, and the next they’re bouncing around the stalagmites like they’re jumping beans. They are the embodiment of bipolar personalities. I want to slap every one of them. Sometimes, I send the imps in to do just that.

“The only redeeming quality of the Idealists is their ability to tell stories and seamless lies. They are natural manipulators. I send these demons to Earth from time-to-time to persuade people to make bad choices face to face. They are highly effective. I don’t know how they do it, because they sell with sickening enthusiasm. After a recent productive trip to the surface, they returned and went on and  on with their stories of victory. I yelled at them: ‘Stop being so happy—you’re in Hell for God’s sake! Tomorrow, you are going to be crying on the floor. Even out your temperament, will you?’”

Cain laughed a little at the mental picture.

Lucie was not amused. “Level Nine is the Samaritan Hell. These people are the saps of the human and demon races. They cry at the drop of a leaf. They’re overly sensitive, judgmental, meek, and lack any drive whatsoever. They are the most miserable residents of Hades. They whine daily about the constant change here. As you can probably guess, Hades runs on pure chaos. If you want to mess with them, just stop by their level early in the day and announce there is some change coming. Walk out and watch them on the security cameras. They’ll scurry about in total panic.” Lucie laughs. It’s the evilest laugh Cain has ever heard. He asks the imps to shave his bottom next so that he can bend over and stop Lucie’s laughing from burning in his hairless ears.

Lucie ignores Cain and continues her description of Hades. “The Tenth Level is for the Saints of Satan—the darkest of demons. It sits on metal grids above the Lava River. As we discussed earlier, this level is where the evilest of the demons work as slaves to the rest of us. They are the pool from which I draw when someone on Earth asks to conjure up evil though a séance or Ouija board. Sometimes, these fools asked to be possessed. They think having a demon inside them will give them more power. Ha! These evil ones will hold their souls captive and cause them to work all kinds of evil deeds—and they will be helpless to stop any of it.

“Humans who mess with the occult are playing the game of instant gratification. They want it all, and they want it now. This will intensify with each generation. Your scientists will say ‘necessity is the mother of invention.’”

Cain rolls his eyes at her arrogance.

“The Tenth Hell is also where I will ultimately place my highest-ranking Saints of Satan. My Lead Demons will take up seven of the twenty-four seats. I will select the remaining seventeen saints from my reign on Earth. I will choose from the evilest humans and demons I find there to help me lead in the final three and one-half years of the Tribulation.”

“So, you’re rewarding their service with damnation in a lower Hell? Do you know anything about incentivizing demons?”

Lucie caught his insult and turned to leave. “I know more about incentivizing evil men and demons than anyone else. In time, this will be evident. I am needed in my office this hour. Kali will help you from here.”

Lucie slapped her tail onto the hard flooring. Cain called after her, “Wait. You told me there are twelve heavens. You’ve only talked about ten. What’s in Levels Eleven and Twelve?”

Lucie was visibly shaken by the question. She took the three steps back to where Cain stood. “The Twelfth Heaven is a mystery known only to Almighty. It connects the two sides of His nature. The Eleventh Heaven need not to be discussed. It doesn’t matter if it exists. It will never be used for the purpose for which it was created.”

“Which was?”

“It was created to be my destination—complete with solitude and mental torture. Almighty believes I will lose the Great Game and He will be cleared to imprison me. But this will never happen. I will overthrow Almighty in the end. Even you will now play a role.”

“Really? This is my punishment for killing one little brother—an eternity spent with you in this miserable existence? I guess I should have let the sniveling little shepherd boy go on his merry way with his dead lambs.”

Lucie ran her palm across his newly shaved chest to get his full attention. “Should’ve, would’ve, could’ve—classic remorse. Expect to hear it from every human who steps into your prison, Warden.” With this, Lucie picked up her tail and lifted her hand. She disappeared into the black smoke above Cain’s head.

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Triple Digit TOC by K.M. Sheridan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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