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Now Landing at Circle Seven

by on May 20, 2014

“Until the day I die, I’ll never forget those glassy unblinking eyes,” Hadley Baxendale thought as she tumbled through the inky darkness of hell. Yes, that would be a wonderful opening line for her memoirs, if she ever wrote them. On the other hand, the woman who had so unceremoniously shoved her through the doorway into the infernal regions, didn’t have unblinking eyes at all. Rain blinked like a pro. So Hadley would either have to meet someone who didn’t blink, or change the line. It was a puzzlement.

Sadly, she had worse problems than devising a good opening line for her memoirs. She was falling like a mauve star into the depths of hell. All around, in the seemingly endless night, she heard mournful wails and terrified shrieks.  This was not the most cheery place she had ever been. Hadley swore she’d get back at Rain for this.

Then, quite suddenly, red light lit up the darkness around her. Before Hadley could get her wits about and look around, she was splashing down in something very wet and sticky. Hadley went under, floundered for a second, then reemerged, gasping for breath. Red liquid bubbled fiercely all around her. Hadley realized she was flailing about in a river of blood. “Well,” she tried to say optimistically, “I suppose there’s worse rivers to be stuck in!”  She could have fallen into a sewer, for instance. Somehow that thought wasn’t as comforting as she hoped.

An arrow splashed in the red muck near her head. “‘Ey, you!” bellowed a centaur on the bank. “Get back under there!”

Hadley saw more centaurs riding about, carrying bows, and assumed these were the proper authorities. “Excuse me,” she called, “but there’s been some mistake. I’m not actually supposed to be here!”

“Yeah, that’s what they all say,” laughed the centaur. “You’re really innocent, aint’cha? Y’ only wiped out that village by accident when y’ dropped the proton bomb square on it, yeah? Sure ya did. This is hell, ya nitwit. You did the crime, now you do the time. Eternal time.” He chortled viciously.

“I’ve never even seen a proton bomb, except in holo-films!” Hadley protested. “Also I’m alive. Not dead. So I can’t really be sentenced to eternal punishment now can I?”

The centaur blinked. (Drat, she thought. She’d never get to use that line).  “Ey!” he said. “You’re alive!”

“Yes. So I am.”

“Y’ can’t be alive! Only dead people are allowed down ‘ere!”

“And do you see dead people?” Hadley countered. Then she paused. Actually, she didn’t see any dead people. At all. No one else was in the bubbling river. She had only read a pamphlet on Dante, on her first and only visit to a traveling exhibition on ancient Earth texts, but she vaguely recalled that there were supposed to be a lot of people in hell. She didn’t see a one. That seemed unusual.

“I’m gonna have to report you to the authorities,” the badly confused centaur said. “We can’t ‘ave dead people in ‘ell. It’s against the rules!”

“Yes, good, excellent!” Hadley said. “So, I can come out of this then?”

“Oh, yeah, sure. You’ll ‘ave to. I’ve gotta report this!”

Hadley scrambled towards the shore, delighted that she was making progress. Once she met with the authorities, she would dramatically confront them about the battle fleet that had apparently unleashed on the universe, the one that had blown up her planet. They would naturally confess their villainy and recall the fleet, and she would be a hero. Hadley hadn’t quite put it together what the centaur meant by taking her to see the people in charge of hell.

A short time later, she found herself setting in a plain boring room, with a perfectly ordinary sofa and chairs. A painting of someone she didn’t know hung on the wall. Hadley stared at it. It wasn’t a holo-painting; it was an antique. That meant the man wasn’t blinking! She could use the line!

Before she could really work up her excitement over this, a door in the room opened. Hadley leaped from her chair, turning bright with excitement. At least she would see the person in charge, she could register her complaint, everything would be fine, and-

A giant snake coiled into the room. It slithered at her.


Hadley did not like snakes at all. At least, she thought bravely, it wasn’t a bunny.

For previous adventures with Hadley, go here. Thanks for reading!

  1. Ah poor Hadley… I’m going to enjoy reading about her adventures every week now though 🙂

  2. Oh my, being alive in hell… that really is hell 🙂

  3. There is so much to like about this piece: the “mauve star,” reference to Dante…I love ’em all. Fabulous writing.

  4. Love the confused centaur! And I love your take on the prompts, particularly the way Hadley obsessed over the unblinking eyes. Can’t wait for the next instalment!

  5. Great title! It’s nice to come back to Hadley every week 🙂

  6. Meg permalink

    I was going to say the exact same thing as Susan did, above. So much to like, and the “mauve star” was gonna be my example. So here’s another: that the centaurs all sound like British bobbies. It’s funny and smart and I want to read more. Especially about the bunnies.

  7. This story gave the phase “Go straight to hell” all new meaning. Well done! ♥

  8. The power is a snake. Cool. I liked the bumbling quality of the Centaur. Good write.

  9. I’m laughing so hard at how you worked the prompt line into the story by not being able to work it into the story, too clever by half

    • Well, the prompt itself was in the first person, but I’ve been narrating these things in the third person. Naturally I had to improvise.

  10. I like this description of hell. It’s so interesting. But I’d like tho know “who” that giant snake is. Perhaps a middle-manager? I’d love to see more of this world.

    • I’m not sure who the snake is myself. It could very well be a manager. Something tells me hell has layers and layers of bureaucracy. 😛

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