War May Not Actually Be Hell

After a hundred thousand years of unendurable agony your face melts off. “Shit, boy,” says the demon who tortures you. “That ain’t right. Well, just you run along to Medical and get that looked at. Double-time, now! Every second you waste just makes me angrier, y’hear?”

You try to run — you’ve been well conditioned — but your legs don’t work right, either. You can’t figure out why, and then it comes to you: for the first time since you can remember, you aren’t wailing, you aren’t twisting and writhing in desperation. You have forgotten how to move simply.

At Medical the receptionist looks at you. He is a clean-cut, earnest young man, the kind you hate. “My god!” he says. “That looks terrible!”

“Agggh igghhknnnk aaaaaa furrrrrrrg sssss ggggggh,” you say, your lips lost in the ruin of your head.

“Just — just go on through,” he says. As you lurch through the swinging door you can hear him retching. You laugh to yourself, and marvel at how joyfully you still feel spite.

The doctor’s office is empty, a featureless, unending void, an infinity of emptiness.

After three thousand years of loneliness you miss the demons.