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An Encounter With Death

by on May 28, 2015

The boat scudded up on the further shore of the Styx. The two Madeleines, good and evil, climbed out, bid farewell to their guide Phlegm, and set off into the fourth circle of hell.

It was a bit disorienting. Crowds of people were running around in circles, pushing huge boulders back and forth. The rocks crashed against each other, and then they all went round and did it again. As Madeleine Prime passed one group, she heard one of the rock-pushers yell at another, “Why do you hoard?”

“Why do you squander?” the second rock-pusher shouted back.

“Why don’t you shut up?” Madeleine snapped. She had a lingering headache, and the sound of rocks crashing together all around her didn’t help in the least. Rather than walk through the crowds of people, she powered up and rose into the air, Evil Madeleine trailing along behind. From her height, she could see across the circle, to a distant greyness that reminded her of a November rainstorm. “Lovely,” Madeleine said. “Of course I forgot to bring my umbrella down here.”

“Hey, who’s that?” Evil Madeleine said. “She looks sketchy.”

“This, from you?” Madeleine Prime said. Then she took a hard look where her counterpart indicated. A woman, black-haired and tall, stood in the distance near the storm, but still inside the bounds of Circle Four. She looked very grim. “You may have a point…” Madeleine Prime said. She thought about flying away, but that storm looked to be Circle Three, and they had to go that way anyway. If they were going to confront a mysterious unknown, they might as well get on with it.

As the two Madeleines approached, the woman pulled out a flashcard. “Right, Pape Satàn, pape Satàn aleppe, blah blah blah.”

“You’re not Pluto,” Madeleine said, in mild surprise.

“No, I’m Rain,” she said. “Current incarnation of Death. Pluto’s away right now, so I’m filling in. And no, I don’t know what that saying means. It’s standard.”

“Oh. Well, nice to meet you, and see you around-”

“Hang on,” said Rain acidly. “I’m actually on your side, you know. I’ve been down here before, helped some people, saved a planet from sacrificing people to a volcano spirit, and so on. The point is, you’re in danger.”

“It’s hell,” Madeline returned. “I’m used to it. What’s the problem now?” 

Rain gestured back at the storm. “Up ahead? That’s Circle Three. Gluttons wallowing about in eternal slush, the usual. And right past that is Circle Two, where the lustful are blown about forever in a violent windstorm.”

“I’ve read Dante,” Madeleine said. She was still trying to get a handle on Rain. The incarnation of Death wasn’t carrying a scythe, and didn’t have a skull for a face, and didn’t speak in all capitals, but she still had that solemn air of doom hovering about her. Madeleine knew Rain had a story somewhere. She wondered if she’d ever find out what it was.

“Yes, well, I don’t know about Circle Three, but you’re going to meet some friends in Two.”

“Friends?” Madeleine, a little uncomfortably, ran through her list of deceased acquaintances, wondering which of them would’ve been condemned to hell for that particular vice. Ever since her high school breakup, she hadn’t dated much herself, hadn’t even read any literature more romantic than the Song of Solomon for a college study group. Then she gasped. “Not-”


She flashed back. Christmas Eve, 1997. The snow had let up at last, and the stars had come out. Evan Benjamin Wizowsky had left his nice new car out in the open in the hotel parking lot. Madeleine had slagged it, in the first-ever use of her flame blasts. She’d never heard what had become of Lizzie and Evan. Now she knew. This was going to get awkward. One didn’t always expect to meet one’s ex in the Infernal Regions.

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

One Comment
  1. Hee! I can’t wait to see how *this* turns out. Love the “speaking in all capitals.” Good one!

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