Of Adam’s first wife, Lilith, it is told
(The witch he loved before the gift of Eve,)
That, ere the snake’s, her sweet tongue could deceive,
And her enchanted hair was the first gold.
And still she sits, young while the earth is old,
And, subtly of herself contemplative,
Draws men to watch the bright net she can weave,
Till heart and body and life are in its hold.
– Dante Gabriel Rossetti, “Body’s Beauty”
My name is Lilith Lotan. Trite, I know, but we love trite down here – at least, the upper class does. The damned don’t know the difference. I am perceived as the President and CEO of Abbadon Industries, but I prefer to be addressed as Queen, or Your Majesty. I can get away with it, too – because I create the realities here.
That’s what Hell is: your reality, created by someone who not only doesn’t care about you, but actively sets out to make you miserable. I don’t physically torture you, or even influence your existence to the point that that it has no more meaning. I just create situations of sustained discontent through the use of carefully planned, and – if I may say it – brilliant disappointments. I don’t push the damned to total desolation – there’s too much drama in that, which in turn gives the damned a redeeming nobility through their ability to endure. I’m going for the almost-but-not-quite unbearable unhappiness, caused by the kind of events that you can’t really complain about to others without receiving “other people have it so much worse” looks of disdain.
What makes this work is that the damned don’t know they’re damned. They believe they’re still living their lives, pushing towards a better future. They remember the incidents that caused their deaths, but don’t know they passed on. For example, if Larry died in a hit-and-run accident, he wakes up in the hospital down here – a little sore, maybe a little disoriented, but the doctor on duty fixes him up and discharges him to his new life. Maybe Lil AK was shot in the head at close range by a rival gang member, but he’ll wake up down here with a memory of being saved at the last minute by a member of his own gang, with nothing to show for it but a little bump on the head.
I’ve got you thinking now, right? There are a lot of dynamics to consider in convincing people that the life they’re living is real. For instance, the damned can’t be allowed to see each other for who they really are. They might start comparing lives, and sooner or later someone would figure out that no one was having a happy existence. Aside from other questions this might raise, it would remove one of my weapons from my arsenal: envy. Envy is a fantastic tool of misery; half of my methodology is based on it. Loneliness is another. If I didn’t control the interactions and perceptions of the damned, someone might actually fall in love, which is the greatest impossibility in the land.
So how does this work? It’s quite complex; the only way I can explain it is through example. Let’s say that you are a 45-year-old white woman, single, and unattractive. You work at a bank. While at work, a balding, heavyset man in a black windbreaker and jeans walks into the bank and robs your window. He says, “I have a gun pointed at you right now. Don’t press the alarm button; just give me what you have in the register and I’ll leave quietly.” You give him the money, as he asks, and he leaves. You’re terrified, and you’re also worried that you’re going to lose your job for giving him the money without pressing the alarm.
The man that robbed the bank is another damned soul. He’s not actually a balding, heavyset man, and he’s not wearing a black windbreaker or jeans. He’s a single, gorgeous, 38-year-old investment banker in an Armani suit, and when he walked up to your window to make a deposit, he saw a beautiful black 30-year-old woman that made his heart race as no one had since his high school sweetheart. He asked you on a date. You not only turned him down, but made him feel like a fool for asking. He left the bank angry and ashamed.
These are two completely different events and points of view. I control what he saw and heard, and what she saw and heard, and made sure that the versions were unhappy for both. This way, none of my damned can ever make a soul connection. They can date and even marry, but only if the objects of their desires are completely unsuitable for them, and will eventually lead them to disappointment. And any happiness they feel in the beginning of a relationship will be countered by a proportionate dose of pain.
I don’t do this alone. I’m in charge, but I have to delegate a lot of the responsibility to others. These others are what I consider the “upper class”. They’re the Vice Presidents and Directors of Abbadon Industries. They don’t know the whole story, either, but I control their realities, and delegate the manipulation of the rest of the damned to them, so I only have to control a handful of damned. It’s a pretty sweet setup, with me on top of the bottom of the world. I was here when man first damned himself to eternity; I’ll be here when you screw up and damn yourself; and I’ll remain here until eternity decides it wants nothing more to do with the lot of us.