Hell's Guards – Chapter One

Hell. No I'm not talking about being stuck in the lift with that bloke from accounts who proceeds to tell you all about his painful bowel movements. Or, if you still go to school, having Ravioli on the lunch time menu again. I want you to imagine a large cave full of sulphurous fumes. If you don't know what sulphurous fumes smell like then eat ten hard boiled eggs and sit in a small enclosed room for four hours. This cave is huge. Think about New York and if you were to put it in this cave the tops of the tallest building wouldn't even scrape the roof. Most of the inhabitants of New York would probably think that a sulphurous smell would be in an improvement, but I digress.

Anyway this cave is full of demons. Not the sort of female demons that some writers write about. The ones with tight leather and revealing all sorts of things that should be kept under wraps. Most of those writers end up having to have long cold showers or go for long runs. Again if you are too young I can't really explain this to you. These demons are big burly men with no hair and short beards (some of them can be seen outside night clubs insisting that despite evidence to the contrary that shoes are in fact trainers). They work in these horrendous conditions for little or no pay but they do enjoy it. The only problem is since they are all workaholics they don't really have any interesting hobbies like stamp collecting or bird watching. In fact most of their conversations go something like this.

"Nice day."


"Still dark in here."


"Are you worried about global warming in our nice warm cave?"


This particular part of hell, like any prison it had various wings for different offenders, was full of the really nasty murderers. The ones who the phrase "Would murder his own grandmother" was actually written about. These people had died or were killed or in an ironic way had actually got killed by their own ray guns or something. Normally just after explaining to the tied up hero that pressing that button would stop the end of the world happening and the other one would fire the conveniently placed ray gun at the villains head. Despite being a genius for building super ray guns and who would probably do really well in most jobs, possibly even rising to chief shelf stacker at the local store, would always fail to search the hero for any gadgets.

This cave was doing something that it shouldn't. It wasn't shoplifting or sidling up to old ladies and frightening them by looking like a spotty teenager. No, it was shaking. In fact shaking is too loose a word. Trembling or shuddering is better. Bits of the cave that had for thousands of years been happy to be up there looking down were now down there looking up. A hole was opening up in the roof and a diamond tipped drill bit was spinning as it cracked the roof.

I am not one to blame the Russians for this. I can't help feel sorry for them. They are painted as the villains in at least half a dozen James Bond films and many a Hollywood script writer would be busy writing till receipts without them, but in this case it was their fault. Again I can't really blame the nation; it was really one persons fault. I will call him Sergei. That's not actually his name but I don't want to defame him here, poor chap is about to have the fright of his life. The only good thing is it won't be on his mind for very long. In fact that will soon be the least of his worries. Anyway moving swiftly onto the story, if I start to meander please give me a nudge or if you are reading this somewhere else then shout loudly. Something like "Get on with it!"

If you are in a library or a train, you might have to shout extra loud. Ignore the irate looks you get. People like to be angry and have something to focus their rage on. Talking of being angry one of the inmates of hell was positively livid (livid does not mean lived in it means angry, I only used because my Mother bought me a thesaurus and I feel I should use it. By the way a Thesaurus is not a relative of a Brontosaurus). This particular inmate, I'll call him Jack, had been down in hell for over a hundred years and considering he wasn't in a good mood before he certainly wasn't in a good mood now. He saw the hole in the roof open and thought he would take his chance. Evading the guards. Some of the bits of rock had been heavy enough to knock some of then out; he leapt for the side of the cave and climbed quickly to the hole. Taking on his spirit form he wafted out the hole and up the three miles to freedom.

At the surface Sergei (again it is not his name so do not be surprised if other people call him Boris, they don't know they are meant to call him Sergei in order to hide his real name. This happened in the past I didn't know I would have to tell them to call him Boris. If I could foresee the future I would be reading the future in tea leaves or a crystal ball. I would also tell him to duck at the right moment. I can't, so I didn't. If tea could really see their future consisted of being dried, wrapped up in a small paper bag and boiled before being thrown into a bin with bacon rind and egg shell, you would think they would hide before the tea leaf pickers turn up?) was looking at a computer screen. What he was trying to do was find out how deep the earths crust was here in the search for more and more exotic minerals.

The computer was beeping at him. Like a lot of people who had had a computer for some time he had changed the beep to saying a rather rude Russian word. It is too rude to type here in English but here is the Russian, Основание. Please don't tell that to any visiting Russians you meet. They might be offended. Anyway he looked at the computer. It was showing that the drill bit was rotating about in mid air. Now he knew this was impossible. The pressure of the earth was such at that level that no cave systems could exist. He had spent four years at university being taught all sorts of interesting things about plate tectonics (not what your parents do when you don't do the washing up) and continental drift to know that such a thing was impossible.

One of his colleagues leaned over the screen. "What is that Boris?" To be honest he didn't say that he said. "Что является этим Борис?" but to save you the trouble of going out and buying a Russian dictionary I will translate it for you! You see that is how nice I am. I'm not even going to write a long and laborious epic about the life of a cockney shoe black who grew up to build a chain of merchant banks and find the love of his life in the very girl he hated at school!

Boris pressed a button his computer and the drill bit stopped whirring and he went out to take a look. Since he was in the Northern most tip of Russia it was snowing out. He put on his shoes. Then his boots. Then his furlined boots. To save words and my fingers on typing just imagine he dressed up to about the same size and capacity of a polar bear. Anyway Boris (sorry Sergei, just forget I said the name Boris) walked out and looked at the drill rig. The engine was just starting to cool. In these temperatures he needed to keep it running constantly or else it would freeze up. He pressed the button on the front of it to keep it rotating slowly. He looked around warily (no warily is not the name of a mountain, please keep up!) the air was starting to warm up. In fact the snow was starting to steam off the ground in front of him. He took a couple of steps back. Have you noticed how people always do that in horror films? They are facing some horrendous night demon or something and they walk backwards into the very creature they are fighting? Anyway Boris (sorry Sergei) didn't bump into Jack, he fell off the drill rig he was in and into a snow drift. This was a pity for Sergei. As I said before he doesn't live very much longer, but if he hadn't fallen off the rig he would have seen something that no-one else has seen. And I'm not talking about me opening my wallet or me actually giving money to a charity rather than an old button I found on the road. We are not talking about me. A story about me would have more mugs of tea and bacon sandwiches in? See I haven't even mentioned them… Okay I have now, but back to what he had seen, or rather hadn't seen. The rig exploded in a huge Technicolor display of pyrotechnics. Or for those of you who didn't bring your dictionaries with you it blew up.
The spirit of Jack was embossed against the sky. Again embossed is probably not the best word to use. It brings to mind Christmas cards and pretty pictures of carollers but it will have to do. I left my dictionary next to the kettle and I am not standing up to fetch it (not until I finish my tea anyway). Anyway Jack was at last free. He looked down at the drilling rig to see that he had destroyed it just by travelling through it. In fact a lot of small boys do this to cars they are travelling in as well but not quite so permanently. He looked down at a small hole in snow drift. He resumed human form. The fog seemed to gather in on itself and took on the shape of a Victorian man complete with top hat and cane. He walked up to the form of Sergei who was just clambering out of the snow hole and he killed him. That can't be a shock to you. I told you he was going to die. I told you several paragraphs ago! I know that doesn't help poor old Boris (sorry Sergei but there you go). Jack was free and ready to take on the world…