The Hell of Half-Nothings
The sky is drab and gray, almost completely covered in rainclouds. What gaps there are open up to show yet more gray. Much like mortal demesnes, the weather is unpredictable, but every so often the clouds unleash their burden of water on the residents of this boring land.
Welcome to the Hell of Half-Nothings. Your stay will be boring, we guarantee it.
Some few find their way here through other means, but almost all the denizens (and all of the souls) come here by way of the Station. The Ferryman has changed from a boatsman to a conductor, but he still makes his deliveries of the damned from every multiverse every day. The number of passengers varies between times of war and peace, but regardless of the number of new residents of this forsaken plane, the shrieking sound of the Helltrain whistle can be heard nomatter the distance from the Station.
There is no office, staff or ticket counter, for none are needed; no tickets are sold here. The Helltrain is a one-way trip, and this is the destination. The structure itself is a massive edifice of marble columns and granite walkways covering an inconceivably long strip of land thousands of kilometers long. No human station past or present was ever that large, but then, no mortal station ever had to unload a million souls at once.
The Helltrain is rather out of place sitting in the Station. Where the latter is drab and lifeless, the former feels alive and malicious. A red and black paint job covers an unyielding metal body, and despite the lack of any spikes or macabre artwork, none who see it doubt for an instant that this is the Chariot of the Gaoler, dragging the damned to their fate.
To describe this machine in terms of size and length is a folly of the mortal mind; such concepts simply do not apply to such a vehicle. One moment the Station is empty, the next the Helltrain is unloading the daily assemblage. With nary a sound, the Station is empty again. Suffice it to say, boarding at this Station is nearly impossible.
Surrounding the Station is the only set of structures within the entire plane that can rightly be called a city. However, the classification is itself something of a misnomer, because the City is best sized in megametres. The Helltrain has been delivering souls here since the dawn of humanity, and the City has been growing nonstop since.
Visually, it looks something like 1800s Paris, with multistory domiciles and broad boulivards. Back streets and alleys are suitably cramped and confined, though strangely there is little to no refuse cluttering them further.
The land outside the City is vast and truly endless. While possible, it takes an inordinate amount of time to travel far enough to lay eyes on ground not touched by the damned. Most find that they don't actually want to spend an eternity in solitude, and eventually even the staunchest of loners will make their way back to what passes for civilization here.
The True Meaning of Hell
What makes this slightly odd but otherwise normative plane worthy of the title Hell is the nature of its reality, for here there is no mystery. The feeling of surprise is simply absent from this demesne. That isn't to say that everyone knows everything, only that the souls of the damned cannot feel surprised anymore, and with surprise goes innovation, curiousity, and almost every other emotion. They all know of these things, and have memories of them from their time alive, but the memory is not the feeling, and it does nothing but inform them of their lack.
This knowledge of lacking drives the damned to do everything possible to regain what has been forever lost. Men and women drink, but cannot find dissolution. They work, but cannot find enjoyment in the completion of their task. They talk, but it lacks substance, wit, and humor. They laugh, but it has no heart. They make love, but there is no enjoyment in it, only the desire to feel once again what has been lost.
This Hell needs no demons, no nightmarish monstrosities to torture inhabitants for eternity; their memories of life do more than the infernalis ever could. True Hell is in the knowing of the lack, and the inability to change it.
Entrance and Exit
The living who wish to enter this realm need merely to board the Helltrain. Among the infinitude of stops it makes daily, it will stop here to disgorge passengers. Those who wish to leave again will find the task much harder. The only exit is to take the train back out, and as mentioned before, that is no easy task. Even once the train has been reboarded, one must somehow persuade the Conductor to allow passage back across the Veil. This is no trivial task, for the Conductor is a heavyweight in the halls of divine power and takes his task seriously. Souls come into the Hells, they do not come back out.
No mere spirit can withstand his fury, nor can vanilla mortals; only those on level with a godling can hope to stand against him and force their way back out. Assuming they haven't already succumbed to the draining nature of this reality...
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? Responses (12)-12
I like the description of the place, but I am not sure a lack of suprise would have such an effect on emotions. Maybe if the people could not feel anything they would act in such a way but I don't think a lack of suprise alone would go so far as to negate actual physical pleasure or pain.
Remember, without surprise there is no anticipation. Without anticipation, one loses a significant portion (in some cases, all) of the enjoyment from activity.
Every minute of every day is that stretch of time right after a break when you have nothing to look forward to except more of the same crap you've been dealing with all day. Nothing new, nothing fresh, nothing exciting. Drab. Dreary. Boring.
A very real hell. Dying a thousand times a year of boredom. Alot of parallels to Nogard, the PC retirement world proposed in Dragon Magazine umpteen years ago, only you made it much more. I like it.
I never read Dragon Magazine, so I'm not sure how well done Nogard was, but I certainly appreciate the compliment!
What a boring place to be. 4.5
I think I work there... Well done sir. Now time to go look at something happy!
Dear Cthulhu, yes. I had to stop writing every so often and do something cheery. This thing is depressing.
Given the nature of this particular hell, it may be difficult, but methinks this lacks ... something... to make it really stand out.
Reminds me, actually, of an old Arthur Clarke short, in which humanity comes up short on Judgement day. Punishment is for all the dead to wake up, and for every one to be needless and immortal. The world gets very boring, then an angel talks God out of it on a technicality.
Still, very solid.
I really love the description of this place, and I can imagine it in vivid clarity and detail. The writing is really well done. However, I agree with Echo: it simply lacks something to make it come alive for me. It's the central concept, really, that bothers. Why should anticipation be needed to enjoy a job well done? You have a vision for the project, work towards its completion, and can admire the result when you're done -- no surpise necessary.
Perhaps what you were looking for is not a lack of surprise, but a feeling of waste. The feeling that one's talents, skills and abilities lie unused and unrecognized. Having to watch others bumble along at a task that you are much better suited for. That or just simply being prevented from doing what comes naturally, or from using the skills that you have the most pride in.
Either way, this is a solid piece. I just see so much potential for it to evolve into something truly horrifying.
This sounds like a hell born from the symptoms of depression.
I imagine that at some point the souls here would wish for a fiery hell, just so they could feel something.
I like the idea of a conductor instead of a boatman. It especially brings up the idea of how current the gods and psychopomps need to be to keep up with their worshippers. If the ancient Greeks kept their religion constant up into the cyberpunk timeline, would they still keep a few gold coins around because Charon doesn't take creds?
As far as a setting goes, it is lacking something. Geography, I think. Maybe a mound of all the passengers who were to dispirited to move more than 10' away from the train. After getting off, you first have to walk over a slow wall of these guys. Or the OCD guys in hell (does hell cure OCD?) who, despite not giving a darn, go and sit in even rows somewhere compulsively. Or they move the other immobile people into lines.