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In the Land of Sand

by on April 24, 2015

“Now, this is what I expected hell to be like,” Madeleine said as she flew over miles of endless burning sand. The wyvern Geryon had dropped them off at the edge of the immense desert and then soared away again into Circle Eight without so much as a by-your-leave. Geryon hadn’t been much of a conversationalist, so it wasn’t like Madeleine expected a farewell speech. Still, there they were, in Circle Seven, faced with crossing a massive desert. She might’ve hoped he could have dropped them further into it.

Evil Madeleine had finally come to, and she was not happy. “Couldn’t let me find my own way out, could you? Nooooo. You just had to send the stupid monster after me. Jerk.” She followed it up with a few more insults, many of them unprintable. Madeleine Prime was ashamed of herself that she knew those words, even if it was an alternate version of her.

“Yeah, yeah, whatever. Let’s just get out of here.” Madeleine Prime didn’t see a track, or a signpost, so reluctantly she launched into the air and started straight across. Evil Madeleine, still swearing, followed.

They flew on and on and on. The heat rose up at them from the sands and blistered their faces. Madeleine saw people wandering about down there, and wondered what their sins were. She remembered from Dante that Circle Seven included the violent, and this particular area was meant for the violent against God and nature, specifically. She thought she saw another politician, one she hadn’t voted for, who’d been involved in a messy scandal that had kept the tabloids going for weeks. Madeleine Prime kept on. There were still six more circles to go after this.

Then, Evil Madeleine tugged at her sleeve. “Look, over there!” she said, her eyes lit up in excitement. “A waterfall!”

Madeleine had tried not to think how thirsty she was getting, and how refreshing a nice cold bit of water might be. Even the frozen lake back in Circle Nine sounded better than this. Still, though, she didn’t remember waterfalls mentioned in Dante. She looked where her evil self was pointing. “I don’t see it,” she said.

“Seriously? It’s right there!” Evil Madeleine exclaimed, gesticulating frantically. “It’s like Niagara Falls over there! C’mon!” She kicked off towards it.

“You idiot, don’t go chasing waterfalls now!” Madeleine Prime shouted.

“I know that song,” Evil Madeleine said. “But I don’t care, it’s totally real! Can’t you hear it?”

Madeleine Prime sighed. “It’s a mirage. You really expect there’s a nice cold waterfall in hell?” 

Before her counterpart could say anything, a sudden boom resounded across the desert. Both Madeleines spun towards the sound. A long dark blur ran across the edge of the horizon, and from that blur smoke was rising. “Something’s going on,” Madeleine Prime said. “Question is, do we check it out or stay away?”

“You go after it,” Evil Madeleine said stubbornly. “I’m going after the waterfall.”

“Oh, no, I am not going to hunt down an unexplained noise in hell all by myself,” Madeleine Prime said. “Besides, that blur looks like the forest in the middle ring of Circle Seven, which means we’re nearly out of this thing. And, I’m telling you, there’s no waterfall. I wish there were, honestly, but there’s not.”

Evil Madeleine glanced agonizingly towards the sand, where she was presumably seeing a waterfall. “Fine,” she said. “Whatever.” Slowly she followed Madeleine Prime towards the distant blur,.

As it grew closer, the blur resolved into a dark tangle of crooked trees and thorny bushes, extending for miles. In the depths of the forest, more columns of smoke rose, coiling and ominous. Madeleine Prime heard more loud booms, punctuated by distant shouts and wails, and, once, a ripping metallic clatter that sounded almost like a machine gun tearing through a clip of bullets. They landed at the edge of the forest. “What on Earth is going on?” Madeleine Prime said aloud.

“Revolution,” came a slow, melancholy voice from the nearest tree.

Evil Madeleine yelped in fright and backpedaled rapidly. Madeleine Prime remembered Dante had said something about talking trees in the middle ring of Circle Seven. She was more alarmed by what it was saying. “What do you mean, revolution?”

“It seems,” said the tree mournfully, “that someone broke someone else out of the frozen lake in the lowest part of hell. Word spread. People further up decided they wanted to break out.”

Madeleine’s stomach knotted. She had only meant to rescue her evil self and undo the damage she had caused. She hadn’t meant to spark a revolt in hell.

This story is part of the Gaseous Girl Mysteries, and was written for the Mutant 750 challenge by Grammar Ghoul Press. Thanks for reading!

  1. Holy crap! A revoly in Hell? Imagine! One of my favorite lines is “…a machine gun tearing through a clip of bullets.” So writerly!

    • 🙂 I’ve been reading a lot of World War One alternative fiction lately (Harry Turtledove, specifically), and it describes machine guns very well. I may have absorbed some of that.

  2. I meant “revolt.”

  3. Haha! Only a super-hero could spark a revolution in Hell. Talking trees and Wyverns? I love it. So many fascinating elements to this piece.

    • The talking trees were Dante’s invention, I hasten to add; I’m just borrowing it. 🙂

  4. Now I have that waterfall song in my head. Thanks for that. 😉

    I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed Hell as much as I’m enjoying your version of it. Love the mournful tree. Can’t be much fun to be stuck in a forest in the underworld.

    • I’ve been familiar with that song ever since I decided to name a character Jason Waterfalls. 😀

      I’m glad you’re enjoying my version of hell; I imagine there aren’t many versions of hell that rate as enjoyable.

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