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His boots crunched on the ash and garbage as his feet dragged. His muscles ached, his throat was raw, and his face was caked with coal dust. Viktor was feeling great. He savored the dull throb in his limbs and the sleepiness tugging at his eyelids. The mines had been especially brutal that day.
His gaze wandered and settled on the fires in the distance, his eyes feasting hungrily on their dangerous beauty. He watched in awe as the fire worked its way down the hill, consuming the skeletons of trees and humans alike.
Viktor decided to cut straight through the woods instead of going around. He was due for punishment in Inferni four days from now, and would sleep stay at the tavern tonight before continuing his journey. He didn’t have long until the tavern closed, and he needed to get there before nightfall. But that wasn’t the only reason he chose to travel through the blazing forest. Viktor adored fire, and as he neared closer to the blaze, the familiar warmth wrapped around him like an old friend. He stepped into the flames, and the heat nipped playfully at his nose, and licked at his clothes. He walked through the burning forest, unaffected. That was one of the perks of being a soul damned for all eternity: You can’t burn when you’re already in Hell.
When Viktor emerged from the forest, the sky was an angry crimson, and the smoke only added to the darkness. He saw the tavern in the distance, it’s structure standing alone against the night, one ship in a sea of ashes. He willed himself to keep on going, he wouldn’t survive the night if he didn’t reach his destination, for the creatures that walked the night made the sinners look like saints.
When Viktor opened the large wooden door of the tavern, he saw sinners of every breed. Drinking, gambling, and fighting. The dirty room was lit by lanterns, bathing everything in a dirty yellow hue. Everywhere he looked he could see the oily gleam of guns, the owners not even bothering to hide them. Relief flooded over Viktor, for he was home amongst the hellions.
He sat down at the bar next to an older man, Viktor could tell he was one of the gamemakers. They people who had conned, swindled, and lied their way into wealth back in the land of the living. They owned big companies, were corrupted politicians, or pulled the strings behind the scenes. They were the only ones who died old, probably on life support as long as possible, determined to stay in the game. The rest of the underworlds occupants didn’t even make it to the ripe old age of 30, for hellraisers tended to die young.
The man bought him a drink, which tasted of tar and oil, and they traded stories, not even bothering to exchange names.
“So” the man said after a few drinks, “what did a nice kid like you do to end up in a place like this? You can’t be more than what…. seventeen?”
“There are no ‘nice kids’ in Hell.” Viktor replied smoothly, finishing off his drink.
“Well you’re avoiding the question, my interest is piqued.” he grinned, anticipating a good story. “How’d you end up here?”
“Fire.” Viktor answered as he pulled a lighter out of his pocket, and let the flame dance across his fingertips.Viktor continued, “We’re good friends, fire and I, but he tends to get me in trouble.”
The man nodded. He didn’t judge Viktor, for his story was not uncommon among the demons walking the underworld.
“I was always in trouble.” Viktor said. “I liked to start things on fire, watch them burn. It was little things at first, garbage fires, old junk, but it escalated.” he paused, “It was like an addiction. It just got worse, I needed more and more. I started burning warehouses, abandoned barnes, and vacant homes.”
“How did you manage not to get caught?” the man asked.
“I’m good at being invisible. Nobody really ever noticed me” Viktor said simply before resuming with his story. “But then it just got even stronger, the need to burn things. I started targeting people in my high school. I mean, they deserved it. I would learn their routine, and wait till they were home alone. I would douse all the exits in gasoline, and throw the match in as I left. Then I would stand outside and watch it all burn to the ground.”
The man just kept on nodding, as if telling him to continue his story. Viktor took a deep breath, “My method was flawless. Until that one night, that one mistake.” Viktor shook his head, trying to make the flashbacks go away. “The girl... the target, she was popular, beautiful, and kind, but she never noticed me. Well I can tell you she noticed me that night. She woke up as I was dousing the last exit, a window in her bedroom, and before I knew what was happening she had grabbed a lighter from her bedside table. Her last words were: ‘I know I’m not gonna make it out of this alive, but I’m sure as hell gonna take you down with me’ and with those final words she set the world ablaze.”