Long one today. I felt like there were too many ideas to fit this one into a hundred words, and it's one I really wanted to write. Hope y'all find it interesting.
It was a pitiable corner of Hell, a singular accomplishment in a landscape whose very existence was a lament and a curse. He tried not to feel too sorry for himself as he listened to his soul-flesh sizzle on the hot rocks of the cave; he'd certainly endured worse in his time here, and this, at least, was quiet.
After a time that might have been ten minutes or might have been a half-century, he became aware of a niggling sensation... of boredom. It grew from a momentary itch to an appalling fire in what seemed to be only moments, no matter how he distracted himself with new and interesting burn patterns on his singed buttocks. Perhaps that was the ultimate horror of this part of the Pit: to drive souls back into torment as into blessed release from the grip of ennui.
That was when he heard the sniveling.
Straining to see in the sulfurous fumes and amid spires of pitch-black rock, the soul saw a tiny blot of something still darker. A demon! Albeit one as sad and uninteresting as its tiny demesne. Perhaps a demon as puny as that would be able to inflict only similarly puny tortures; and that, he reflected, would be more interesting than crouching in a dark corner.
"Hallo!" he called, with cheeriness that surprised even himself. "It appears I've lost my way."
Red eyes flashed briefly, quickly covered once more with a scaly hand. "Go away."
"Hardly welcoming," said the soul. "It's not as though you've any other souls to flay."
The demon's voice was like rusty wire and sour milk. "Go away. I have neither pity nor anger to spare for you."
"Of course," said the soul. "Yearning for Heaven, whence you fell. Do you crave readmittance or simply destruction? I've met all sorts."
"Neither? You're happy here?"
"Of course not," the demon snapped. "This is Hell. But I prefer it here, where I know I am meant for suffering."
"And is Heaven not conversely meant for pleasure?"
The weary red eyes flickered into view again, momentarily. "Not for everyone."
The Best of Clarkesworld 2012+
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