It’s still storming by the next day. The hail has stopped, but fierce, cold rain has taken its place. Lilith stays at the hotel, guarding Mr Legion. Satan and Beelzebub head to the armoury together. According to Lilith, the armoury is a bunker in the tropical wilds on the outskirts of Winchward Beach. It’s well-hidden and constantly watched, so caution will be a must. Satan and Beelzebub tear through the underbrush, drenched in rainwater. The canopy of palm trees overhead blocks the brunt of the downpour, but the pair are still soaked from head to toe anyway. Insects buzz about, probing for demon blood. Satan swats them away furiously, but Beelzebub doesn’t seem to mind. It’s been an hour of slow trudging through muck, grass and wet sand. They’re beginning to grow hungry. Satan is reminded of his time as Archey, training with Mr Legion. He hopes there’s no more cannibal cosplayers lurking about. The new Winchward Beach may be a death trap, but at least it’s more thematically consistent.
‘What’s the odds that she was lying?’ Satan asks.
Beelzebub brushes a low-hanging palm leaf out of his way. ‘I give it fifty-fifty. We won’t know until we get to where the bunker supposedly is anyway.’
Satan stops and pulls out a laminated map of Winchward Beach hiking trails Lilith had given him. At the very edge of the map is a point Lilith marked in red. The bunker.
‘Where are we now?’ Beelzebub asks.
Satan looks left and right, searching for a landmark. He shrugs.
Beelzebub sighs. ‘We’re lost,’ he says.
‘Not all those who wander are –‘
‘We’re lost,’ Beelzebub repeats.
Satan spins on his heel and points in a random direction. ‘My demon king’s intuition tells me it’s this way.’
He takes three steps, then stubs his toe on something hard and falls over in pain. Beelzebub steps around him and kicks away some fallen palm leaves. There’s a concrete manhole with strange, ornate engravings hidden under it.
‘Looks like your intuition was right,’ says Beelzebub.
After no small amount of effort, the pair manage to move the stone manhole cover aside to reveal what seems to be a bottomless pit with a rusty ladder leading down. Rainwater streams into the opening. It’s impossible to tell how far down it goes. Satan takes a deep breath and climbs into the hole. The ladder is slippery. It doesn’t feel safe. Beelzebub follows after. Slowly and cautiously, the pair lower themselves into the deep. After a few minutes, the manhole cover above suddenly slides back over the hole, locking them in darkness.
‘What was that?’ Satan asks. He’s afraid, but he doesn’t want to admit it.
The distant sound of rain pattering against the stone cover echoes throughout the shaft. The pair stay still for a short while, considering if continuing is worth it. Without words, they unanimously agree to push onwards. It’s difficult to tell time in complete blackness. Anywhere between five minutes and an hour could have passed since Satan and Beelzebub began their decent. A few times Satan almost slips. The rungs are slick with rain water. The stench of rust and mould is becoming close to unbearable. Satan’s limbs ache. His armour is weighing him down. Rung after rung he descends. Perhaps the ladder shaft really is bottomless, and it’s all an elaborate trap sprung by the DLF. Satan and Beelzebub would be stuck forever climbing until their dream bodies give out and they fall to their doom. Just as Satan is about to suggest this possibility to Beelzebub, his foot hits water. He falls off the ladder in surprise, landing in what feels like a waist-deep puddle.
‘You alright, mate?’ Beelzebub calls out.
Satan staggers to his feet, coughing and spluttering. ‘I found the bottom!’ he replies after having regained his composure.
Beelzebub reaches the end of the ladder and carefully steps into the water. It’s still entirely pitch-black. Satan feels around the concrete wall of the shaft until his hands find an opening. It’s low and narrow, but it’s the only way out there is. He taps Beelzebub on what he guesses is the demons’ shoulder.
‘Let’s go,’ he says. Beelzebub might have nodded in reply, but Satan couldn’t see it.
The pair make their way slowly but surely through the uncomfortably low passage. Between the cramped ceiling and waist-deep water, Satan’s beginning to develop quite the case of claustrophobia. Something small whizzes past his ear. Some kind of mosquito, probably. After a few of what Satan thinks are minutes, another one flies past. Then another, and another. Satan begins to suspect they aren’t mosquitos after all. They’re not buzzing, for a start. Their wings sound more like rustling leaves than anything else. He can hear more ahead. As they continue shuffling onwards, a light can finally be seen, distant and cold. Satan can just barely make out the rippling of the water and the slick stone walls to either side.
‘I think we’re almost there,’ Satan whispers. This feels like a situation for whispering.
Then, silhouetted against the pale glow, Satan sees it. A swarm. He finally realises what the insects earlier were. Locusts. The swarm hits Satan and Beelzebub like a truck. It sounds like a hurricane in a forest. Thousands of locusts swarm the pair, wriggling into their mouths, ears, nostrils, eyes. Satan begins to sprint out of panic. He hopes Beelzebub has the same idea. He splashes through the water as fast as he can manage, waving his arms like mad in a desperate attempt to rid himself of the armoury’s guards. He screws his eyes shut and press his lips together, trying to rid himself of the invasion. He can feel them on every inch of exposed skin. As he moves, he feels the ceiling grow taller and the water more shallow. Soon, he’s finally running on dry land. He can hear Beelzebub’s footsteps behind him. Good. Satan risks a look at where he’s going, just in time to see a fast approaching corner. The locust swarm is still thick and loud. Satan can barely see in front of himself, even with the steadily stronger blue light. He skids around the corner and into another corridor. This corridor branches off into several other ones. He chooses a path at random. It splits again. Satan realises he’s in some kind of maze. He takes random path after random path, crossing his fingers that he’ll run into the armoury. Instead, he runs into a dead end. The locusts are thicker than liquid. Satan can’t see. He can’t hear but for the battering of their wings. He can’t breathe. The locusts aren’t demonic weapons. They won’t kill him; only incapacitate him until the end of time. This is it. Satan hopes Beelzebub has better luck. He slumps against the wall, resigning himself to fate. He wants to fight, he has to fight, but he doesn’t know how. The armoury is so close, yet still so far out of reach. Satan climbs to his feet, with the wall as support. He might as well try.
‘Lord Satan, we’re here!’ a voice echoes in his head. ‘You have to wake up!’
Satan’s mind becomes fuzzy. He loses feeling in his limbs, and can’t quite tell what’s what anymore.
‘Please, Lord Satan. They’re waiting for you!’
Satan opened his eyes. He was lying in his sweat-soaked bedding. Orobas stood over him, shaking him gently. Satan grabbed the horse-headed demon’s wrist with weak fingers. He didn’t know whether to thank Orobas for potentially saving his life or curse him for waking him at such an inopportune moment. Instead of either option, Satan simply nodded and rose to his feet. He would return to Winchward Beach soon with hope that Beezlebub fared better than himself, but first he had business to attend to. It was time to mobilize Legion.
- Intergalactic writing entity
Bio: Thousands of years ago, an ancient race of people created a being of pure serial-writing power, capable of annihilating entire galaxies with its raw, narrative energy. This being was the Grand Eye. Upon emerging from its incubation chamber, the Grand Eye proceeded to decimate the ones who created it by writing a web serial too good for mortal brains to comprehend. The Grand Eye then took off into the wild black yonder, intent on delivering impossibly excellent serials to all sentient species of the Universe. Now it has finally arrived on Earth. Humanity shall learn to fear the Grand Eye's writing power.