The prompt from a writing group I'm in was 'Heat'. After a few months travelling around a blisteringly hot Europe in the van I must admit I've not written much for a while so I have eased myself back into it with this.
By the way, does anyone know if one can format this sort of post (italic, underscore, bold etc)? Can't see anything obvious on the UI, but maybe I'm missing something.
Harry the Nab and the heating problem
The great black doors opened, massive hinges screaming in agony beneath their weight, red light spilling through as the crack grew wider, to bathe Harry in its hot smoky glow. He waited to be called forward.
A terrible voice emanated from the room beyond, shaking the walls, resonating in the sultry air.
“Enter, lowly one. Abase yourself before the Morning Star, the Devourer of Souls, the Dark…”
“Thank you Azazel. Harry knows the form. Shut the doors behind you.”
“Of course, Your Dark Majesty.”
Azazel the Deceiver, obsequious and sulky, shot Harry a loathing glance as they passed each other at the threshold of the vast chamber.
“Oh, and Azazel?”
“Some oil, please, on the hinges. That noise just sets my teeth on edge.”
The doors ground shut behind the muttering demon. Harry the Nab, leader of the Satanic hunt, stood in the Great Chamber of Hell.
“Azazel is a sweetie, really, but he is a bit ‘old school’. Have you self flagellating if he thought he could get away with it.”
The Great Dragon, Angel of the Abyss, neatly clad in a tweed skirt and a pink woollen pullover, smiled at Harry as she held open a small door in the side of the huge chamber.
“Let’s pop through to the sanctum.”
The room that they now entered was far more manageable in scale. The walls, for example, in the Great Chamber, were more or less an article of faith. Harry knew that they must be there because of the way that the screams of souls in torment echoed off them but in three hundred years as the Devil’s huntsman he had never actually seen them.
Here the walls were clearly visible, or at least they would have been had it not been for the eclectic collection of artworks with which they were covered.
Harry was no connoisseur, but on his various visits to his employer’s office she had pointed out a few of her favourites to him. Hogarth’s scenes of gin and debauchery, the crows that troubled the wheat fields in the mind of poor Van Gogh and even, from the very darkest period of human artistic endeavour, a number of canvasses that presented cigar smoking dogs playing poker and pool. He happened to know that Cassius Marcellus Coolidge, the perpetrator of this particular atrocity, shared the tenth circle of hell with a number of other artists, playwrights and authors of romantic fiction who, whilst they may not in life have burned very brightly, would certainly now burn for a very long time.
Today, however, the artwork passed without comment. Today was all business. Satan, giving an ostentatious little shiver, took a cardigan, pink to match her pullover, from the back of the chair behind her desk and put it on. She sat, gesturing to Harry to do the same.
“So, Harry, how’s the soul gathering? Nothing burns quite so hot as the souls of wicked men, eh?”
Harry shifted uncomfortably, he had the feeling that this was a leading question.
“Numbers are good, we’ve had quite a few dictators, some property developers and I have a president coming due very soon. We are a little down on Bishops since the new Pope took office.”
The Dark Lady nodded, rubbing her hands together briskly.
“Does it feel a little chilly in here to you? Not quite as comfortable as usual?”
Since his death Harry had become acclimatised to the excessive warmth of hell. So long as he dressed appropriately he could cope with temperatures into the hundreds, though he preferred to be out in the cooler world of men hunting for beasts to feed the hungry mouths of the demonic hordes and souls with which to fuel the fires.
As a contractual employee of the Devil, rather than one of the damned, he had never been in any of the actual torment areas for more than a brief visit during his induction period, a fact for which he was eternally grateful.
“I’m not the best judge, Ma’am.”
His Dark Mistress eyed him coolly, at least as coolly as possible for one whose eyes smoulder with the fires of eternal perdition.
“It’s not the judges who are the problem, Harry, it’s the lawyers. You seem to have been bringing them in in their droves.”
“Well they are very wicked, Ma’am.”
“That’s true,” said the Mistress of all Lies, “but they’ve started lodging appeals, citing due process. Limbo is getting full to overflowing, the holding cells can’t cope. One of them has raised a petition to have Aleister Crowley beatified.”
Harry swallowed, his throat dry from the apparently inadequate heat of the room. It was true that he was not fond of the legal profession and had, of late, taken some degree of pleasure in hunting down their sin stained souls. This was a consequence that he had not foreseen.
“So cut back on the lawyers?”
“Cut back on the lawyers, they block the refuelling pipeline. We have always had a sort of loose arrangement with the opposition. Lawyers go straight into the seven circles of purgatory. They think that they’re on the way up but even if they make it through pride they can never get past avarice.”
“Understood, Ma’am. Perhaps I can bring the numbers up with a few football managers? They burn very hot, I‘m led to believe.”
“Excellent notion, Harry. The world of professional sport has some rich pickings for us. Let’s get onto that one quickly.”
She smiled at him, her teeth dazzling white and only slightly pointed.
“After all, nobody wants anything to freeze over.”