Most people liked to tell themselves there was some alternative to hell, and others liked to perhaps rile themselves up with the idea that hell was entirely suffering and tragedy. Perhaps tragedy, yes, but suffering implies that one could still feel; there was only hell, certainly, but within, one could simply lose themselves entirely. It was tough to feel anything when there was simply nothing new to feel, when you'd spent eons, countless centuries and ages, going through the same things over and over again, haunted by the same thoughts, exploring the same feelings. You go from dynamism to static—it's a death that never really ends.

That's why Amos knew he would have to hurry. It had taken everything of him, numerous bargains and favors rendered, as well as a number of debts incurred—but they had opened the gates for him. People more powerful than him. People who knew more than him, who had plumbed hell itself. And so they could get him in; but, once inside, it was up to Amos. That was fine with him. He didn't want them mucking about with him in the first place, not when his only mission was to find her, to bring her back—to rescue Edna from that hellish spring.

Digging further and farther into the depths, he passed a number of souls who were lost in thought, locked in their own heads, as it were. None of them seemed to even realize he was there; all they could do was swim through twisted memories of infinite interpretations and reel over an infinitude of surely horrific futures that must have awaited them. But those futures might not ever come, and as for their memories—well, to put it bluntly, those were the things for which these people were always already too late.

Pushing past the thinkers, Amos found himself amid the hot glow of uncontrollable hearts. Tossed on the wave of one sensation and one feeling after another, he nearly lost himself in what became an ocean of insuperable passion. Feeling consumed the people he found here, and none of them could seem to break out of their own hearts. Rather, their hearts had hardened, and none could break open the other's heart, not when they themselves were also locked inside.

Ignoring the tears and anger, the flushed faces and sweaty palms, Amos too found himself wrestling in heart and mind. Perhaps he always had been a kindred spirit of these types. More than anything, though, he just hoped she had not fallen into these ones' woes—though he knew not who would hear such a prayer, he prayed indeed that she was still conscious, that she had not slipped into static nothingness.

Sifting and burrowing deeper into hell itself, through one layer after another of a realm that had no core or bottom floor, Amos wondered on the whole of it. He wondered how none of the horrors he found, or even the simple disappointments, were ever forced on anyone here. They themselves manufactured their own woes, which caused him to shutter. Because, he supposed, a perfect creator formed reality in the first place, then likely realized what all good governors realize eventually: they must serve the governed equally; and no policy, no law, no ordinance will serve all equally. One law will suit the few while exploiting the many, and one policy will serve the many at the sacrifice of the few. No, a perfect creator, a flawless governor, must have come to the ultimate conclusion: that in order for the governed to be governed equally, the governed must simply govern themselves.

Who was it that said it? Where had he read it? Amos could not remember, though it went something like this: the perfect creator first created, and then took the only other step they could, namely, to disappear.

The people he soared past, the one he sought, and indeed he himself—Amos knew they were all free. Ultimately free. And that frightened him and enlivened him all at once, for though that freedom had brought him great happiness, he knew it had brought such terrible fates upon those past whom he coasted on his way. He wondered, too, if he would be just like any of them when he finally died. Yet, though it caused him to quiver inwardly, he reminded himself that it was that terrible freedom that had brought him into Edna's own heart, and she into his own. Freedom had given them something redemptive, something worthwhile. Perhaps that perfect creator was also a good one.

Down another layer, and another, and yet another, until Amos's feet slipped out underneath him, landing on solid ground. And standing amid a torrent of beings, conscious and otherwise, swirling all about him—he found her.