There were too many souls in all of hell’s circles, especially in the heart of the place where Malebolgia reigned. These souls that he condemned had proliferated to the point of maximum capacity and as to their rate of arrival; each circle became equally congested, particularly canto 28 of his inferno.
The damned souls from this canto endured a constant disembowelment by the proctoring daemon. As these souls continuously trotted one-by-one around a large splintered pylon, they awaited for the sword wielded by the proctor to disembowel them by vertically splitting their abdomen. First, it penetrated their skin where the neck met the bottom cleft, and then with one violent motion toward the ground by the proctor, the sword ended its incision at the base of their gut. As each passed, the sword was drawn away, which caused their entrails to flop out and land onto the scorched dirt-grimed ground. The succession was ceaseless, so as each stomach and intestines dragged from the lips of the freshly cut guts, the ones behind would inevitably trample over them, thus furthering the disembowelment until it was completed. There was slippage in each step upon the guts before them, but enough of these steps progressing forward caused the entrails to tear out entirely. By the time they passed the charred-skin daemon, totally disemboweled, they had endured the worst of it, only to have the process repeat with their stomachs healed and all their entrails intact. The horror would not stop along with their unrelenting fear of enduring the pain again and again.
Due to the overflow of these souls, Malebolgia issued all future sentences to be carried out in the world of the living, prior to the soul’s entry into hell. Taking this measure ensured reprieve from the influx and guaranteed a steadier acceptance rate. Portals were produced that were suitable and stable enough for the sentences commencement, and these portals were conjured through any and all reflective surfaces that induced vainglory in the offender; a type of vainglory that would drive the offender to deliberately cause schisms in the lives of those that they have influenced; a type of vainglory that had Christie trapped.
She barricaded herself in the maintenance room of the mall she frequented on the weekends, and it wasn’t until a few minutes ago that she regretted going to the mall this weekend. The sales hit big then, and she just had to take advantage of those sales because the weather began to call for looser clothing and shorter hair styles; the kind with less around the neck and shoulders. And that was the kind Marceline was about to give her, right before Christie bolted from the salon and down the long corridor in flight from the daemons. The instance kept repeating in her head:
“Hey Marceline, I’m gonna need something to go with this.” Christie raised a fashionable summer dress out of a large shopping bag with big-red-lettered print: Forever 21. The dress was a light blue and still on the hanger with the price-tag of the bar-code facing outward.
“Oooo, let me see!” Marceline reached for the dress, directing her head toward its tag and her eyes lit up. “Wow, payday I presume?”
“Actually, I just need a little pick-me-up from last night . . .” Christie dropped the dress back in the bag and walked toward the salon chair. “I had a rough week and had too many to drink with the girls.” Her heels clacked against the tile floor and as she stepped up into the chair, they ceased; yet her voice continued with the same piercing tone. “I just can’t get over that season finally of Grey’s Anatomy, ugh — and plus,” she held her bag up before placing it down against the swivel at the base of the chair, “Sales!”
Marceline took one step back, shifting her weight to the hip of the leg she drew away from the chair. She placed one hand on her chin, which reflected her thinking of what to do with Christie’s hair. Christie sat facing the mirror and looking at her, “I want something to bring in the season,” she said.
“Hmm, how about something short around the shoulders . . . and I’ll give your neck some breathing room.” Marceline stepped around Christie to grab the spray bottle, but Christie stopped her.
“Do you think that’s too much?” she asked, “I’ve never had shorter hair than this.” Christie turned her head slightly to capture herself in the mirror as a model would toward the lens of a camera. When she turned, her bangs shifted in front of her eyes and just before she moved the hair out of the way, the mirror warped, but she didn’t notice. The ripples dispersed as fast toward the edges as a Doppler wave would have on a radar screen.
“Well,” Marceline looked from the spray bottle to Christie in the mirror, “let me ask you this — are you seeing anyone?”
“No, not really . . . why?” Christie turned her head the other way to capture both angles. This time, her bangs flowed without blocking her vision.
“Because this hairstyle,” Marceline gave a wink to Christie in the mirror, “is what’s in right now. Plus, I’ve been rockin’ it myself – and – Justin loves it!” She lifted her free hand to the curled lower portion of her haircut. It hugged around her head almost perfectly, except that the back of her hair was shorter, revealing her neck, and the sides drew down toward her breasts at an obtuse angle. Her bangs bounced as she lightly pampered the ends of her hair with the heel of her palm.
“How’s Justin, and that whole thing?” Christie squeezed her face to indicate a sensitive topic as if she didn’t want to pry, but wanted to know.
“Oh, he’s doing ok . . . he left Wanda and the kids, but that’s really none of my business – are we going with short?” Marceline dropped her hand toward the spray bottle on the counter underneath the mirror.
“Yeah, that will be great,” Christie said, then glanced at her in the mirror, “So, you knew though, and you kept seeing him?” She brought her eyes on the spray bottle as Marceline began to spray her hair with it. The mist flowed over them causing her to squint and the mirror warped again.
“I told him it was me or them and well, let’s be honest,” Marceline stopped with the spraying and glared at Christie in the mirror, “the sex between them couldn’t have been great – we saw each other more times a week than he was home for dinner.”
“Oh, wow – so who did he choose?” Christie asked.
“This bitch,” Marceline said. She used the spray bottle to point to herself then stepped forward, around Christie, and placed it on the counter where every hair product and cutlery was aligned for potential use. “We’re gonna have to deal with these split ends babe.”
Before stepping back behind Christie, she went to grab a pair of scissors and a comb out from the jar that was filled to the rim with barbicide. Just as she was about to grab them with her hand, the blue liquid reverberated and she retracted from it. “Oh, that was weird,” she said standing still next to Christie. The mirror warped for the third time.
“Oh my – did you see that?!” Christie froze in her chair staring at her confused expression in the mirror just as the ripples hit its edge and disappeared.
“The barbicide, it shook – is that what you mean?” Marceline said, moving away from the counter now looking at Christie in the mirror. She clasped her hands together as if she was contemplating her next move.
“Well, no – but, the mirror . . . it shook.” Christie’s expression faltered as a bulbous red orb appeared in the center of the mirror. It steadily grew into the size of a marble, and doubled its size as she and Marceline kept their eyes on it. The ripples returned, but this time they caused the mirror to shake and loosen from the wall. The red orb seemed beneath the surface of the mirror, and when it reached the size of a fist, the mirror cracked – the orb breached through the reflective surface, and then black sharp claws protruded from the orb followed by fiery-red hands. They were charred at the skin and exhumed from the orb gyrating close together like surveying-antennae. When the forearms surfaced into the salon, the two arms were still close together at the elbows, and still gyrating. It wasn’t until a dome of a head surfaced that the arms started to flail as if the daemon’s animation accelerated by taking its first breath outside of the orb, inhaling the fragrance of the prosecuted right before it. The head breached and quickly lifted to have its yellow eyes scan the foreign environment. It looked left, then right, and then at Marceline. The lips lifted to reveal pencil-like teeth, as red as its charred skin, and out of the gaping black-hole between them projected a shrilling scream that almost inoculated her and Christie.
The daemon reached for the edges of the mirror to provide balance for itself as it then projected its body out of the orb, over Christie – missing Marceline – and onto the floor, sliding on its hind legs as it had hooves for feet, while scratching the tile with its front claws without obtaining a stable grip. As the daemon jumped again, it landed on Marceline. Christie swiveled in the chair as Marceline grabbed it, but failed to hold on to it as the momentum from the daemon brought her to the ground. Christie just watched in horror as the daemon clawed at her face and gut, tearing the entrails out and tossing them any which way; some hit the Forever 21 bag, but as for the most of the guts; they colored the entire salon red. Christie slowly stood up and backed away with her hands over her mouth. Blood spewed from the disembowelment and onto her face, but she just kept quiet while still backing away, out of the salon.
Upon her exit, she witnessed the utter carnage as more daemons danced around the mall, tearing at the guts of those who had deserved it. She witnessed it in repetition, which stuck a heavier sense of fear and horror into her chest. She was flabbergasted at the sight of the pain and torture of each disembowelment; even more so at the moment when it was completed, just to have it done unto them again. It was ceaseless. She turned and ran down the corridor hoping for an exit from the mall, without looking back; but instead, she only came to the double-metal doors of the maintenance room. She opened them as fast as she shut them from the other side.
She pushed every item in that room – every item that her strength could bear – up against the double-metal doors, but not even the rusty metal desk that she gruelingly lumbered in front of those doors could block the screams and harsh caterwauls bellowing from those spawning creatures as well as their victims. The ripping of skin and gnawing of flesh reverberated off the walls of that corridor as if the corridor acted like a funnel focusing the noises of the carnage directly toward the maintenance room. They entered her ear canals and jarred her eardrums. It seemed to her that the room grew smaller as the cacophony just outside grew louder and with every sound came even more of an intense grip over her ears with her hands. Everything she saw flashed again and again in her mind with eyes closed. It was mostly the serrated flesh of Marceline’s face – where the daemon’s claws dug in and started to drag them from the base of her eye lids all the way down to the ridge of her jaw line – that kept her now sitting on the floor, with back bowed and head down, in the maintenance room.