Get Out of Hell Free [Greenie and Shiz]

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Shizuochan

he hears his master's voice
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#1
A hooded figure presided over four corners of ebony, which stuck out like obsidian shards. The craftsmanship was brutally elegant, its jagged sharpness preternatural, and it seemed as if a single wandering prod against the corner of the black table could sever a finger. Unfurled atop it were passages of haunted-white, scrolls of such resplendence that they would sear the eyes, but not her eyes. She ran her fingers over those ebony corners, savoring the delectable scent of blood that the blackness drew from their tips. Then, she sneered.

Oh, how she hated that fucking table.

It was an old, old table, past the point of being artifact, past the point of being archaic, so old that it simply was. Even in its age, it looked refreshingly new, pristine, so enveloping was its darkness that it overwhelmed the unseasoned eye. But she was seasoned, for she -- and her tired eyes -- had presided over those four corners of ebony for what seemed like, and was doomed to be, eternity. All upon the surface were indents shaped in the word of Aramaic, language etched and repeated unto the scrolls overtop it for so many millennia that they became part of the structure’s face. The torturous fate of all the world’s adulterers, rapists, murderers, and lawyers.

Or some similar collection of people.

She eyed the horizon, and even her senses had trouble attuning to the ever-shifting sights and sounds that had accompanied her throughout the eons. Some shifting inscrutability that took turns manifesting as clouds and rainbows and blue skies, the bestial eyes of manticores and griffins and dragons, thunder and lightning and the storm, the droning and static and hypnotic waves of new age machines, the shadow and the shadow beneath the shadow and the plane even further beyond which defied comprehension. Things beyond even her, she who was amongst the first of all.

When they had first cast her down, she had thought that, perhaps one day, she could explore that unfathomable expanse. But the ground beneath her was the same obsidian black as the table, and the burning white circle engraved upon it and all its ornate ridgings formed a seal with which to bind her for eternum.

And so, she was bored.

Not that she had never been bored before. It was in the nature of humanfolk to find boredoms after scarce minutes, seconds in many case, and in the beginning, she had been little different. At first, it took but minutes passing to gnaw at her, and then hours -- and for a long, long time, hours was a term of nightmare. Then her mind began to grow numb to the concept of hours, and only days bothered her, and then months, decade, years, centuries, and so forth. By now, it took ages, and eventually, with each new age, she would finally grow bored again.

When she did, a New Game would begin.

Between pale, brittle, gnarled fingers, she held a card as black as the table, as black as the ground upon which she sat, engraved with golden words.

Get Out of Hell Free.​


  

REQUEST FOR ASSISTANCE--CONFIDENTIAL, CLASSIFIED!

I am Dr. Djimon Challa, the cousin of Nigerian Prince, Akabe Challa. I am contacting you… blahblahblah... your assistance is required as a non-Nigerian citizen… blahblahblah... $15 million dollars…
RE: URGENT! HELP WANTED!

There was no real reason for Seamus Milligan to draft up a reply to this unlikely relative of this entirely fictional Nigerian Prince, who likely fired off his scam-spam with the whole indiscriminate shotgun-like approach. Maybe he wanted to get a kick out of conversing with whatever addled conman was behind the scheme. Maybe some fantastical part of his brain had conjured up the possibility that maybe, just maybe, there was a Nigerian Prince named Akabe Challa. Maybe he just wanted conversation.

He was pretty alone, after all, save for the two peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches he had prepared to sustained him throughout the next twenty-or-so hours of what was to be a lonely, sleepless night full of MMO-grinding and dating-site “window-shopping” -- where he would scan pictures of people as lonely as he was, but never summon up the courage to talk to them.

Dear Dr. Djimon Challa,

What’s good, bro! Hit me up with dem sweet juicy deets, bruh; I got the hook up!

Sincerely,
ya-boi!


He sighed as he lay back down in his bed, closing his eyes. God, what the fuck was he doing?

When he opened his eyes again, he was elsewhere.

A field of black, and a horizon that shifted and morphed from things that he understood to things that he didn’t and then back again. All around him were shadows, briefly flickering like the flash of a TV-screen. Faceless, but attentive to someone that remained in the center. A figure that presided over a table of black.
 

Greenie

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#2
It had been a long and tiresome day for Nora, and she was glad for it to finally be done. Working in her parents' grocery store had its perks, but it also meant that she didn't quite have the same hours or holidays as other employees. Well, to be fair she did, but when your parents were your boss and they were rather creaky with all sorts of back and knee troubles, a good and patient child stayed back and helped close up or take care of things on the weekend.​
There were plenty of times Nora would daydream the possibility of just finding another job and leaving, perhaps even heading out of the city to the smaller towns where no one knew her and she could relatively relax. Alas, her lack of highschool diploma wasn't very awe inspiring on resumes, and she was certain that at most she would simply get a part time job that paid less than what she was making now.​
She shuffled her hand momentarily in her purse for her keys as she made her way down a narrow pathway of a house to a side door. Perhaps the biggest reason she worked with her parents was because she made enough money to actually be able to rent a tiny basement apartment of her own. Living in the main city was expensive, and even this place cost an arm and a leg, but internet was included as well as hot water, heating and electricity. And probably most of all, it was pet friendly.​
As soon as she unlocked and opened the door, she was greeted by a meow. Looking down, a tired smile graced her lips as she watched the tuxedo cat brush against her jeans in greeting. Quickly stepping inside and locking the door behind her, she then proceeded to pick up the cat in her arms before heading downstairs. It was small, that was certain. A single large room with a door that lead to the bathroom. She eyed the kitchenette, wondering whether to bother to cook. In the end she simply downed a mug of milk before flopping down on her bed, deciding she'd make an effort for breakfast instead.​
"Night Avery," she muttered to the cat, snuggling up against her pillow.​

*​

When Nora woke up, she was confused. It felt like she had been asleep for hours, yet at the same time she couldn't be sure if she had only just shut her eyes. One thing she did know was that she was no longer laying down in bed. In fact, she had absolutely no idea where she was. Grey eyes attempted to survey the scene, but she couldn't make out anything. Were those other people in the shadows? It was too hard to focus and deliberate.​
The one thing that wasn't hard to make out was that which everyone seemed to be paying attention to. A table, and presiding over it a... someone.​
What- where is this? Who's that? Her thoughts were panicked and it took all she had not to turn around and run. In fact the only reason she hadn't yet was due to that panic and fear. That person there, the one by the table, they were the one in charge here; Nora could feel it in the very fibre of her being.​
Is that... God? The thought had just manifested itself when a chuckle resounded around her, though it did nothing to quell any of the uneasiness being felt, increasing it instead.​
"God? No. Anything but that. I am the Devil, and you're all here to play a game."​
 

Shizuochan

he hears his master's voice
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#3
Shadowy limbs flailed in this otherworld, colorless necks craning aimlessly to spot the source of a voice that rang omnipotently around them -- for his part, Seamus still hadn’t quite gotten past the sight of the myriad phantoms, moving in some sort of frayed, yet unifying, confusion. One by one, shadow by shadow, however, confusion gave way to clarity, as each entity slowly turned their inscrutable gaze towards the hooded one over the table, who stood as still as a single, sharp breath in a room full of death.

“Now, please. Cease the endless thoughts of ‘where are we?’ It is unimaginative; it grows stale. You’ve nowhere else to go in the interim, and when you’ve nowhere else to go, the knowing of a location doesn’t seem very relevant, I would find.” Seamus could hardly believe it but, in her stillness, had she sighed? “And in any case, I already introduced myself as the ‘Devil’, which makes the answer to the question rather basic.”

Had the shadows grown still as well?

“This is Hell.” She allowed her voice to echo amidst a silence of her own choosing -- the Devil had a knack for theatricality, turned out. “A subset of it, anyways. The knowing of that fact is only relevant as long as you understand the following: those of you that I’ve plucked from your mortal, breathing worlds are destined to arrive here once more, after I have returned you, and after you’ve all worn the last strands of your earthly fibers. For something you’ve already done. For things you’ve already done. For things you might yet do. All of you.”

The shadows had moved then, incongruently. Some remained a still portrait of black. Shocked stiff, or perhaps stalwart in having already come to terms with their eventual resolution. Others trembled, or made to move with impotent steps towards the hooded figure -- non-believers, the delusional, the angry. Seamus was of the still variety.

It didn’t matter.

Not really.

It. Didn’t. Matter.

“All of you, save one -- the one who wins this Game of mine.”
 

Greenie

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#4
Shocked wasn't a good enough word for what Nora was feeling at the moment. In fact, she didn't quite think there was a word in the thesaurus that could quite describe the accumulated surprise, fear, panic, and utter confusion she felt right now. The woman at the table was the Devil? And they- they were in Hell?! How? Did she somehow die at night without knowing it?​

More importantly, why? Nora knew she wasn't the most perfect person in the world, hell there were things she could have done better in life despite still being young, but she'd never hurt anyone or done anything that any religion would consider irredeemable. As for the future, that wasn't set in stone, right? At least for Nora it wasn't; she refused to believe in fate or destiny or anything that said her life wasn't hers to dictate.​

These and several more scrambled thoughts raced through her mind like headless chickens. Forcing herself to calm down was a task and a half, but the woman-devil-whatever's words did bring a cease for a small moment.​

This was a game? What the hell was that supposed to mean? Maybe this was something like Just For Laughs gag reel, or one of those shady reality TV shows, the ones where you could enter a family member or a friend. She blinked twice before shaking her head. No, that sort of stuff happened in movies or mangas, not in real life.​

This has to be fake... There's no way it's real. It's gotta be a dream, I just have to wake up!
 

Shizuochan

he hears his master's voice
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#5
Voices too, rang out from the shadows, as if en masse the gift of speech had been suddenly availed to them, like some sadistic tick of a mad woman-thing who delighted in the sound of anguish and pleading. Inarticulate words, of unnatural tone and pitch, of some distorted verve, blended into one another -- protests and questions and unrestrained fury. More frightening, Seamus found, were the ones that did not move, that did not speak, whose flickering forms did not muster nary a tremble. They seemed rested, almost at ease. It amazed him; what measure of man and woman could keep their head in a time such as this? Perhaps only someone who had already lost it.

Seamus felt almost sedated, watching it all unfold.

“Accept this as your new reality, or we’ll be reunited before too long.” As she intoned in her bored, almost delinquent-juvenile lilt, the shadowy voices ceased unnaturally -- without diminuendo -- as if suddenly muted by remote, “Now, I would be remiss to claim you all for my Game without explaining the nature of it. So. Listen.

You, whom I have plucked from your metropolis, have only one objective: reap all other competitors. Kill them, send them to my domain, so that you yourself may be spared from it. Only one must live, and they shall be the victor. At its core, the game is as simple as that.”

The shadows twisted and bent as they looked towards each other, as if attempting to see through the dark facade to glimpse upon the faces of the ones they were told to kill. For his part, Seamus found himself thinking of the minutiae of the game, of the rules or the lack thereof; so many shadows -- how were they to even find each other in the ‘metropolis’. Were all of them people from Toronto? Why?

Why not Quebec?

Finally, the hooded one moved, her hand shuffling about the front-side of her desk, pulling open a drawer with a sound that sounded suspiciously like unsheathing a blade. She continued to speak as she rummaged about, “You will be wondering, doubtlessly, how you might be expected to find one another. Rest assured, each of you will be provided the means to do so -- along with another gift of mine.

Secondly, there will no doubt be some of you who choose not to partake in this Game of mine, who choose to hide behind inaction. Be assured, as well, that there will be… harsh incentives to encourage your participation. If, for example, after thirty days has expired, a victor has not yet been determined: I will claim each and every one of you. Forever.

But there can be no greater incentive, I would imagine, then this.”

Finally, her gnarled hands stopped rummaging, and Seamus’ pupils dilated as he looked upon the black card, with the golden words that seemed to sear themselves into his head, searing understanding into his brain.

Get Out of Hell Free.​

“The one who holds ownership of this card will be beyond my reach on the day of their passing. They will go elsewhere, somewhere entirely undeserved, irregardless of their various transgressions. Adultery, rape, murder. Irrelevant. Nulled. Absolution, unconditionally.

The single greatest gift one such as me could possibly offer, and worth every. Single. Drop of blood.”

Was it just his imagination? Or did the shadows seem to slow?

“Return then, to your mortal stations, and play.”

All around him, the shadows unravelled, and so did he.


  
His eyes opened with a flutter, and Seamus Milligan rose with a start in his lonely bedroom. He blinked once, twice, three times before he forced himself to his feet, testing his balance, almost expecting the shock of what had just transpired to send him reeling to the floor. He remained upright, and finally, he allowed himself an exhale that he thought he had been craving for an eternity.

He looked, to his computer, to his screen, the browser, with the tabs of various online-dating profiles. Averting his gaze, he noted something upon his cluttered desk. A small book of sorts, bound by some archaic leather, with a single letter that -- for a moment -- reminded him of those searing words upon the card.

The pages fluttered open, and Seamus’ could see their contents.

Faces.

The faces of the shadows.
 

Greenie

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#6
Nora woke up with a jerk, lurching up in her bed as she clutched her stomach. One might think it was due to the shock of the nightmare she had just endured, but no, it was simply her hungry cat racing across her beg and not caring much about his master's beauty sleep.​
"Avery... why...?" She slowly sat up, pulling the blanket up to her neck with one hand rubbing her abused stomach with the other. Still heavy lidded, her eyes slowly shut and head head drooped, ready to return to the bliss of sleeping. Unfortunately, the alarm app on her cell let out the horrendous tug boat horn she had purposely downloaded to stun her awake, and it did its job perfectly. Her head shot up once more, eyes opening as she grabbed her cellphone from the plastic night table at the side of her bed.​
The clock read 7:30, but it didn't feel like it was that late. She'd been asleep more than six hours, but it hardly felt as if she had rested at all. "What the hell..." She blinked as her voice trailed, the last word triggering a memory in her mind. The dream- no, the nightmare. What else could an encounter with the devil be called?​
Felt too real, she thought as she finally threw the covers away and slid off her bed, legs a little stiff until she stretched out. Avery was rubbing against her legs, leaving goodness knew how much fur on her in his quest to bully her into feeding him. There was still an hour until she had to leave though, so she decided to check her email instead.​
Or she would have had she not seen a curious book sitting on her chest of drawers. "Eh?" She'd never seen it before, and if she was being honest, it looked like something she'd see in a museum. Maybe Mom left it here last time she came over? Even that didn't make sense. Unsure, she reached over and picked it up, letting the book open to a random page.​
Sh*t.
She only had to see the face to know what it was. She quickly turned a page- another face. And another... and another... and another-​
The cat let out an irritated meow, causing Nora to jump in shock. "Dammit Avery!" she snapped. The look on the cat's face and his subsequent escape from the room caused her guilt. "Shoot, sorry... jeez."​
She could already tell it was going to be a terrible day. Looks like I'm already heading to Hell, heh. Forgetting about her email, she quickly showered and dressed, barely remembering to feed the cat before leaving her apartment. The air outside was still cool from the night before, but at least it helped clear her sense.​
This must be it then, she thought as she pulled the book from her backpack, sitting on a bench at the nearest bus stop from her place. How we're supposed to find each other. And then... She couldn't bring herself to even think 'kill'.​
Oh God, I'm effed.
 

Shizuochan

he hears his master's voice
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#7
He had sat there, on the edge of his bed, flicking through the ‘grimoire’ with feverish fingers, staring at each and every face with a dazed expression. Seamus doubted he’d be able to commit any of them to memory without dedicated study, and yet each one’s features seemed so vivid and defined in the moment he looked upon them -- targets, if the Devil was to be believed. And if the Devil was to believed, he was going to Hell.

Figured.

It satisfied Seamus, to be able to cast aside such a revelation with nary a reaction. He chalked it up to whatever the perfect opposite of adrenaline was, the stupor upon just waking that was just as emboldening -- even if stupefying, or ‘stupid-efying’, was the more apt word. Either that or just the obscenely strange way that he was wired, that he reacted less to his hellbound fate than he did to the prospect of a future without nameless online babes to chat up and provoke with vague lewdness. A matter of the here and now, perhaps?

No. He was just messed up. He knew this.

And he figured he couldn’t have been the only one of the ‘players’ to know this. Maybe it was a certain strength of theirs, as far as the game was concerned. The sheer mental disconnect to cast off the anguish and panic and fear, and simply play the game. He looked to the book again; if this was a game, and if he wanted to win -- because he couldn’t imagine wanting to lose -- he’d need to prepare.

Holing up wasn’t an option -- she had said that if no one won, she’d ‘claim’ them all. That left only the hunt. But how to begin?

He closed the book, before letting it open again, each page cascading past his fingers before he came to a sudden stop. The book fanned out, revealing a single face.

Freckles.

Red hair.

And as he stared, something pulled at him, like a hand, a hook craned around his neck. With direction and purpose, however vague it was, pulsing incessantly but numb.

Yet.

He felt like maybe he knew where she was. So he’d just go… find her and…

Find her and what?


  
Kill her, obviously.

Obviously.

Duh.

With what seemed like a 16th century version of the ‘handy-dandy notebook’ and the swiss-army knife he had procured for the kitchen drawer, drawn by some endlessly tugging force that waned and pounded as if shouting “colder” and “warmer”. And why had he settled on that face? Young -- could not have been any older than he was -- fair of complexion, and distinctly un-monstrous. Part of him felt that he recognized the girl from somewhere, though he could not place it now. The other part of him touched upon the truth. It was rationality; she seemed weaker, more vulnerable than the mass of well-muscled cons and ex-cons that littered the pages.

His trek had taken him across the boulevard and the well-kempt backyards that he cut across with nary a care, the heckling longboarders, the main road and the traffic-light intersection that stopped pedestrians in their treks for what seemed like eternity. The corner-stores, the Asian-Mart plazas, arcades and seedy Cash-4-Gold locations. And al the while, the call...

that burst into cacophony when he saw her waiting there, at the bus stop.

He fumbled around in his pockets as he eyed her intently, finding no real comfort in its worn handle.

Closer, he walked.
Closer, and closer still, before he heard the abrasive roar of a bus from behind him.

Not here… they’ll all see… just… need to follow her once she gets off her stop…

He turned to face the bus as it passed by, catching the sight of a crying child, her hand pressed up against the window, held by her mother near the front. Bleak, almost grey figures, expressions pursed and, almost anxious, as they stared not ahead, but downwards. And then, near the center, the face of a screaming man, his hand pinned to the bus window by some sharp implement. A shadow, pantherine, stalking down the center of the bus.

He could hear the dim echo of the shadow’s voice, “Wait! WAIT! I CAN FEEL IT! IT’S CLOSE! Cl-cl-cl-CLOSE!”

The pneumatic doors of the bus hissed open, and Seamus heard himself scream towards the girl waiting at the bus stop, “Hey! Move! Get out of there!”

And then the shadow revealed itself, the raving madman with a goddamned crossbow.