Hell to Raise “Is it another one?” There was something nibbling on his toe. All things considered, it was not an unpleasant sensation. Certainly, compared to all the aching in the rest of his body it was positively mild. Had he been in a mood to laugh, it would have tickled. Now, it was just a minor inconvenience, something to be accepted until it left of its own accord. That was, of course, until whatever it was bit down sharply, electing a yelp from him. He sat up, opening his eyes blearily, to look around him. “Certainly tastes human,” one of the imp-like creatures that had swarmed around him commented, spitting a blob of pale yellow mucus onto the ground before licking its lips. There was a moment of relative silence. The imps stopped moving, and the young man seated on the strange earth beneath him had a chance to think. The last clear memory that presented itself was him, Daniel Moray, ending another ridiculously stressful day by swallowing a couple of sleeping pills and heading on to bed, his long, light brown hair pony-tailed to keep it from tangling too badly while he slept. Now he could not have told you exactly where he was, but there was a fear building within him, a fear that he knew exactly where he was now. Right around him the world was consistent enough. Hard, black earth, tightly packed so that his fingernails could not easily claw into it. Grey plants of various shades growing up from the soil, and a sky the color of raw meat overhead. That,his brain could comprehend. But in the distance the borders of reality began to find together, joining up in ever more complicated patters until Dan felt like he was spinning, even though he knew he was holding still. He lifted up a hand, pressing it to his forehead, and the movement seemed to break the spell of quiet that surrounded him. In the distance a loud bang, similar to a crack of thunder. The imps stirred, before quickly turning their attention back to him. “Lets eat him,” one spat, hopping towards him on strange,double toed feet. Its mouth fell open, panting hungrily, and a long, ropy tongue fell out between razor sharp teeth. Dan kicked out wildly, desperate to get the thing away from him. The imp dodged the blow with ease, shook itself slightly, blinked at him, and then continued forward. The other imps,now completely convinced of Dan's inability to protect itself, closed in. They had hesitated before only briefly because they never knew what strange pranks one of the greater demons might want to pull on their wonderful selves, but their desire for human flesh was far too great for them to willingly resist the temptation for long. Dan kicked out again, scrabbling his way desperately onto his feet. He looked around, trying to find something, anything on which he could orient himself, but the swirls of eternity at the horizons were all that greeted him. But he could not stay here. The imps were closing in ever faster, tickled pink by his continued inability to resist. He aimed one last kick, this one barely clipping the edge of one imp's shoulder, before turning around and running at random towards the horizon. If it wasn't for the coming and going of the plant-like things that surrounded him, Dan would never have known that he was making any progress. The horizon did not change, and nothing seemed to be drawing any closer. The imps chased happily at his heels, snapping and yapping like dogs, more than willing to play with their food a little bit before devouring it. His breath was starting to come in gasps, he didn't know how much longer he could keep running before he was forced by his own body to come to a halt. Even the adrenalin and fear of the situation was not enough to keep him moving forever, and the imps hung behind him, seemingly untiring. Dan was saved, in the end, by pure luck. Something began to grow on the horizon. Whatever it was, it was moving. It was lean and thin and tall, with something long clasped firmly in one hand. He didn' tknow whether to shout at the figure or not. It was doubtful that anything in this place was particularly helpful, but if he turned aside he would never know what he might have missed. Ultimately, he decided it was better to die quickly at the hands of some cruel beast, than be nicked and torn apart by the imps. “Help!” he screamed louldly, lifting his hands over his head and waving them wildly, even as he continued running, trying desperately not to trip over the plants that seemed to rise up from nowhere. The figure turned to face him ans was still for only a moment, before it began to run as quickly in Dan's direction as he was in its. Finally, the figure resolved itself before his eyes, and Dan nearly cried out with relief. Human. The figure was human. There was a fierce look on the man's face, but his eyes were darting about, clearly trying to see whatever it was from which Dan was fleeing. The imps slowed a bit, threw glances at each other, before turning aside and leaving Dan to complete the rest of the journey to the stranger unhindered. Dealing with a new human was all well and good, but those who had lived here for a time were an entirely different species. Even three imps might not be enough to take one of them down. “Th... thank you,” Dan managed, bent nearly double as he heaved in massive gasps of air. The stranger eyed him cautiously, before planting the butt of his spear on the black earth. “Well,” he said harshly. “Who did you piss off?” “I don't...” “Don't play games. Everyone knows that the only way for a person to wind up in the Demon Realms is to be sent here by another person. I don't care how innocent you think you are. If you are a murderer, rapist, or stalker, we don't want to have anything to do with you.” “I'm not” “Then what did you do?” “I... I don't know.” “Nonsense. The person who sent you down here had to give his or her soul to the Portalmasters for all eternity to get you here. People don't go doing that kind of thing for no reason.” Dan shook his head, still gasping. His worst fear was confirmed. He was in the Demon Realm, a place from which there was no return. He was trapped here for the rest of his life, which was almost certain to be abysmally short. There were rules to keep demons in check on earth, but down here all bets were off. Who could he have possibly angered enough to have them send him down here? His boss was far too selfish to ever trade his own soul for anything, no matter how much he might be mad at Dan. He and his ex-wife had parted on mostly agreeable terms,both of them acknowledging that they had rushed into getting married, and were hardly ready for the commitments that came along with it. He'd only had sex with the woman at the bar for one night. There had been no missed signals there, he was certain. “I don't know...” he was forced to repeat, this one far more lost and broken than his last, gasping reply. “...Fine,” the stranger was forced to acknowledge. “But one false move and you are back out here on your own, understood?” Dan nodded, straightening up. “Fine. I'm Brian. Good enough to meet you, I suppose.” “Dan,” Dan replied, a small smile spreading over his face despite the uncertainty of the situation. “And thank you again.