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Sunday, January 20, 2013

Friday Flash: Door to Hell

From Chuck Wendig's prompt, using one of these pictures:

They called it the Door to Hell ages ago, but I don't think people really thought it went to a literal Hell. It was always just a crack in the earth, showing the lava underneath. Until we got there. 
I was in the front row when they lifted it from the Door and the heaving stone-fire there, and I was one of the first to see it.  
We came here because it was high on the list of possibilities, of places where the shell of reality is thin enough to drop lines and see what comes up. We'd had luck in other incongruous places; I, myself, pulled up a net full of creatures that weren't at all like anything we have here, in the normal world. They were dark and flickering like shadows cast by candlelight, slick and dry at once, and they slithered away as soon as I opened the net. Thank god we had the extraction filmed, or we'd've never known what we had. 
I called the order to drop the chains. They were mostly normal chains, though of the size and strength that the average project doesn't need, but they were laced with certain ancient coded glyphs we'd uncovered in our research before we came, and they didn't melt as they sank into the fire. It was hours before they stopped playing out, and hours more before something caught itself on the enormous hooks at their ends. 
I thought it might be like the creatures from the bottom of the sea, so used to pressure that bringing it to the surface would distort it. Maybe even explode it. We weren't sure what we had, but things where we'd sent the chains were supposed to be stronger than that. And why not? All its brethren were created before there was a creation; they had to be tough to even exist then, and all the ages of man and beast since then. 
The Heretic's Division Exploration of the Deep program had brought up any number of strange species before I joined, all interesting specimens. I'd seen many of them in their jars, picked and pale, but often still moving. From the beginning, we were a resounding success--the very first netful landed contained a full-demon, a tangle of evil spirits and a writhing tentacle that might've been from a lesser Elder Thing.  
But this was novel. New. Thoroughly unexpected. The chains had never been dropped so deep, nor in so wild a location. And no one had seen an Angel in generations, millennia. We had no expectation that we'd happen to pull one up on a blind dredge somewhere they're not generally expected to be. 
It came up head-first, and it's head was nominally like any other good-looking blond's, though as large as a house, but the features were impossibly fine, like cut glass, impossibly well-made, and the expression was a mix of near-godly outrage, cosmic confusion, and a deep, ageless waiting. That alone should have been impossible, and yet, there it was. As we winched it up, we saw that the form was after the human pattern--or, perhaps, we were after its pattern-- but it was so much more perfect than anything man-shaped that gender was impossible to determine, despite it's nudity, and it didn't matter. Divisions like Male and Female were entirely unnecessary to such a being. 
It glowed. Not the way hollow things with lightbulbs in them glow, but the way the sun does, violent, mighty, containing more power than the human mind could even begin to comprehend, more than even the fierceness of its bizarre light showed. For it was brighter than anything had ever been, and yet we could all look at it, unflinching, and it burned into us, laying us bare. We could not look away. We didn't want to. 
The men at the winches tried to set it free, to let it fall, huge as a skyscraper, back into the Door, the Pit, the Abyss--only the Fallen should have been there, but perhaps even the Fallen are as beautiful as the face of god--but it was too late. The Angel lifted wings as cruel as the edges of scalpels and butcher knives, as beautiful as shards of glass and ice and sunlight, and the feathers rang where they moved over each other. At their peak, they cut the sky as easily as cutting silk, and the red-gold-fire of the pit showed through the cuts. It flapped those mighty wings once, with the sound of all the thunder in the world, the sound of mountains falling into the deepest parts of the sea, the sound of a million massive brass bells ringing just once with a note that went on forever. 
And everything broke. 
I woke weeks later, somehow still alive, though I'd been out in the open on the edge of that fiery pit for all that time. I woke blind--as entirely sightless as someone born without eyes, and when I raised my hands to my face, I found that there was only solid, smooth, arched bone between my eyebrows and my cheekbones; there was nowhere for eyes to go. The last thing I saw was an Angel's rage, and it is all I see now. 
Rage, and the Door to Hell.


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