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Review

by on December 21, 2010

The burning on my back and the sizzling flesh smell wake me up: I’m tied to a metal cross in a pit of fire. The air swims with the heat. The sulphur in the air burns my eyes: I can barely see.

I let out a desperate scream as steel wire tightens around my wrists, the barbs cutting into me. The wire is white hot, but the wounds don’t cauterise. They stay open, like all the others I can suddenly feel. The blood flows and flows and I start to get light-headed, wondering how much more I can lose before I pass out… Sweat trickles into the cuts and stings like acid.

I swear I see the demon tremble a little as he plods toward the corpse at his feet and picks up the flaming cat o’ nine tails. The heat doesn’t bother him: he thrives on it. He allows himself a sly grin as he pulls back his rippling arm and brings it down on my face with enough force to tear my head from my shoulders.

Enough.

I slip out of the borrowed body and re-corporealise into something more comfortable. No horns, no tail, no red skin today: just my favourite sharp suit, matching hat, and rosewood walking cane.

“Excellent,” I tell my minion. “Now get back to work in the Third Circle.”

He bows low, eyeballs into the dirt. I snap my fingers and he’s back at his post. Perhaps I should consider him for a promotion…

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6 Comments
  1. good clean fun… I enjoyed this; nice idea with cool descriptions.

    I enjoyed the bit about ‘I see the demon tremble a little’ as strange and odd. Also liked the bureaucratic everyday tone towards the end.

    Great imagery esp like ‘ …tear my head from my shoulders’ as a Dante-ish idea. Enjoyed the idea of the demon preferring a sharp suit to his traditional form.

    Some small issues: ‘…as he plods toward the corpse at his feet …’ is supposed to refer to the narrator (kind of alive) or a different corpse?

    ‘I let out a desperate scream as ‘ – I would prefer not to have the desperate in here as it seems to contradict the later twist – perhaps remove or ‘I let out my best scream…’

  2. This was quirky and unexpected and pleasingly evil minded – I love the switch from victim to corporate quality control. For this reason I disagree with elementalsystems about the “desperate scream” – it works well for me as being absolutely in paradigm for that moment of transferred consciousness.

    I also liked the writing – muscular and restrained, with a curious and completely appropriate detachment from the torture. Cool stuff.

  3. parfles permalink

    I enjoyed this immensely – the writing is really strong and the imagery is very well expressed. I did not see the twist coming but in hindsight it is very nicely supported by the detachment and the whole first-person-commentary-continues-after-death thing. It’s a fun read and so appropriate for Christmas! 😉

    I would swing Elemental’s way on desperate – I’d prefer a lower emotional knock there.

    In “I swear I see the demon…” I would play around with leaving out the “I swear” for a cleaner sentence.

    The last ellipsis is not ideal for me. It could work with just a full stop, or moving the last sentence into its own paragraph – but it’s a minor quibble.

    Lots of great turns of phrase:

    “The wire is white hot, but the wounds don’t cauterise.”
    “Sweat trickles into the cuts and stings like acid.”
    “…he pulls back his rippling arm and brings it down on my face with enough force to tear my head from my shoulders.”

    Yummy 🙂

  4. I was quite curious when I started reading as it is a lot grittier in description that your others but I was expecting a twist somewhere. I liked the end, the promotion bit.

  5. cbraz permalink

    This is wonderful, fun and clever, with great literary connections – Dante’s Inferno, Iain Banks’ latest Surface Matter, and Rowan Atkinson stand up. I really enjoyed it. I didn’t see the twist coming, but love the way it was foreshadowed in a way by the character’s detachment from his torture (apart from the “desperate scream”, but I like that – it is appropriate that the devil feels some of the desperation of the body he briefly inhabits).

    The descriptions are beautifully crafted and I think you manage the segue from tortured soul to demon beautifully. “Enough” standing alone is a great pivot-point.

  6. This is an interesting (and hence fun) piece of descriptive writing: how would someone experience being tortured in hell.

    I enjoy the description: the detachment works well, and supporting Our Hero over a pit is great.

    One thing that at first didn’t and then did work for me was the point of view. Our Hero wakes up in a very odd place indeed, but somehow recognises their situation with little effort. They also realise the state of their body (all their hurts and cuts and wounds) in quite trying circumstances with relative ease. It did make me wonder what was up (this is the not working bit), but then made complete sense when it was shown that the POV /wasn’t/ the victim’s. I’ve put a ✓ next to it working, but thought I’d let you know what I was thinking nonetheless.

    Oh no! You’ve used the verb GET™. I have a huge, untainted, feral hatred of the verb GET™, as in:
    > start to GET™ light-headed.

    I recommend using almost anything else as an immediate drop-in replacement:
    * start to grow light-headed
    * start to become light-headed
    * start to feel light-headed
    * start to [anything but GET™] light-headed

    Anyway, rant aside, I did enjoy this, and approve of your grittier side!

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