By Aaron Wilson
Artwork by Jose Baetas.
As Jack began walking back towards the mountain's path, the sound of Hell's iron gates swinging violently from their hinges stopped him dead in his tracks. He quickly turned around and watched as the Gates of Hell invited him in. Jack just grinned. He then slowly reached for the cigar that was still hanging dry from his mouth. He lit it on a Necrobastard that was still freshly burning at his feet. Jack knew right then that there would be no next time, and that the time was now, to kill the evil bastard that had taken his family from him; even if that was the Devil himself.
As he approached the Gates of Hell, Jack chewed harder on his cigar. It was times like this that he wished he was gripping a Jim Beam bottle. But without the alcohol to numb his nerves, Jack's mind, again, started resurrecting the memories of his dead wife and son. They were the only other things that could drive him into the unknown. As black and white images of them started flashing in his head, Jack could feel the adrenaline starting to pump throughout his body. He then quickly reached down towards his army boot and pulled out the KA-BAR knife. It was still dripping Necrobastard blood. Jack was now ready. He took one final puff from his cigar, flicked it past the gates, and stormed right past the words "Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch'intrate" that were engraved across them. Jack was now in Hell. As he headed further into Hell, Jack could feel the ash-like rubble that was now beneath his feet. It was slowly melting away his army boots, and its charcoal glow was the only thing producing light through the blinding fog. The thickness of the haze suddenly began to part in front of his eyes, unveiling the massive ancient-stone structure that awaited him. Necrobastards, as if on command, started plodding towards Jack from out of the fog. They were lining up and facing him along the sides of the emerging, descending path that Jack now saw he was on. Jack knew right then that, as he treaded through the path of ashes, he was being delivered. Instinctively, he began preparing his final thoughts - in case this was the end.
As the path of ashes came to a narrowing end, Jack stopped. He was now standing just a few yards from the silvery, primitive structure. Suddenly, a bright white light came jetting out from its entranceway. Jack tried to shield his eyes, but it was overpowering. Two shaded figures then came walking out from the light towards him. Jack managed to catch a glimpse through his fingers as they continued to move closer. Once Jack could see their faces, he knew - they were his wife and son. The boy was first to cry out to him "HEELLP DADDY!!!" just like he had that night in the cabin. The woman then shrieked out "JAAACK!!!" It was the last thing that his wife had cried out before she was dragged into the fog. As their bodies continued to draw closer, Jack realized that these two soulless figures weren't his family. They never had been. Jack could also see that their eyes were filled with nothing but the blackness of Hell. As they got within arm's reach, Jack immediately struck out his fist towards the smaller one's head. It instantly caved in on impact. White light came shooting out of the top of it. Jack then quickly took a step back, away from the remaining entity. As he did, whatever it was began to mimic his movement, also moving backwards, until it started to be sucked back into the light from which it came.
Hell was now silent once again. Jack managed to get within a few feet of the towering structure's entranceway. He no longer needed to shield his eyes though, as there now was only the emptiness of hell radiating from its passageway. As the silence started to take a hold of him, the Devil finally showed itself to Jack, as it came walking out from the entranceway's abyss. Jack had envisioned the Devil a thousand times, but to finally see it only cemented his thoughts of what pure evil could look like. It was constantly blurring between demonic images and its own hideous figure. As it continued to move forward, it began to speak to him: "I come for you Jack, like all the others, and you will love your suffering, over time". It spoke in a tongue of no distinguishable accent. Jack then looked the Devil right in the face and said, "NO, I CAME FOR YOU, YOU BASTARD". It immediately let out a squawking noise that shook Jack, and all of hell. Its back then split wide open, and massive bat-like wings came spawning out of it. It simultaneously propelled itself off of the rubble and into the darkness. Jack began screaming, "COME GET ME YOU UGLY SON OF A BITCH!!!" as his eyes scanned overhead for the giant winged bastard. The Necrobastards, who had been standing subdued along the sides of the path, suddenly started walking towards Jack. He knew right then that the Devil was weak, as it had to send its Necrosoldiers to do its death work. Jack then gave a slight nod towards the plodding numbskulls, as if to say, "I'm ready". Jack began slashing at any of the Necrobastards that his arm could reach. Vietnam hadn't give Jack much, but it sure as hell gave him the ability to fight. As Jack fought off the Devils army, he could feel the spirits of his family, and all of the others that had been taken too early, filling his body. They were giving him the strength and endurance to outlast whatever the Devil could bring forward.
Jack now stood gripping his army knife amongst the piles of cut-up Necrobastards that surrounded him, waiting for the final conflict. As if right on time, the Devil came swooping down out of the darkness. Jack caught sight of it over his left shoulder. He knew Death always approached from the left. As it came kamikazeing down towards him, its facial region started to rapidly project all of its greatest human atrocities throughout its existence for Jack to witness. Jack was beginning to be lured in by all the sights of brutality. That is, until the last moments of his wife and son started to be reflected. Jack's eyes suddenly turned cold, and everything he felt disappeared. He suddenly threw down the KA-BAR knife and started running through the ashes - right for the winged bastard. It was now going to be a battle of wills. As they collided, Jack let out a war cry, and ripped through the Devil's torso with his bare hands. He began ripping out handfuls of rotting black mush, and flinging it as far as he could. He ripped until nothing was left but its hollow shell.
As Jack now stood looking down over the Devil's disintegrating carcass, with handfuls of its innards still hanging from his hands, he knew it was finally over. The revenge he had sought out for the death of his family had been executed, and he knew that their souls, and his, could finally rest. As he raised his head back up from melting rubble, the fog began to break again in front of his eyes, but this time, Jack couldn't see the path that led back up to the gates. It didn't matter, though. Jack had already found his pathway out of hell.