They say that long ago, in the bottomless pit that is Hell, Satan, the Devil himself, had grown tired and weary of his eternal chore. “Torturing the damned brings me no pleasure anymore!”, his moans would echo throughout his castle of woe, “A spirit laments and screams the pain we minister it here, but so what? Eventually these ears of mine have grown deaf to their misery.”.
A clever demon, as few were, cautiously approached his sire and spoke with eloquence, “Perhaps breaking their spirits instead of crossing their thresholds of pain, my lord. You speak truly when you say that their howling agony leaves us without anymore glee, yet what of a broken spirit? Even the damned have a faint, if foolish, hope.”, a fanged smile rose from its lips. The Devil’s head tilted to the side, resting over one of his hands, while he pondered briefly the unbidden counsel. After what seemed an eternity, or probably a second -in Hell time mattered not-, Satan’s eyes shone fiery red, while a grin of deepest malice crossed his face.
Three demons flew into the fiery pit where the damned screamed endlessly and after a time they brought three frightened souls before their infernal majesty. One tall and strong, of broad shoulders, who whimpered on his knees; one slender and fair, of delicate features, she quivered, holding back a scream; and one old and bent, his long beard shook, but seemed not to care. “You who are damned and bound to eternal torment will render me a service. In exchange for the one who pleases me, I shall grant them a minute of peace. As for the other two…well, they shall soon find out.”, his fiery eyes bore into each of the wretched ones’s own.
“We shall do as you command! Tell us, please, of this task!”, the deep voice of the strong man rose loudly as he found his footing and stood up. The woman’s eyes changed from fearful to those of someone nursing a deep hunger, while the old man nodded slowly, stroking his beard.
“Your screams of pain and horror amuse me no more. Find me a way to break the spirits of those who are forever lost. You have one of your mortal days.”, and with that Satan vanished in a flash of flame. The three then set out to work each on their own, for they knew the peace from eternal suffering, even if for only one minute, was for one. One alone.
Time passed until the Devil returned. The three damned were gathered in front of him, a wide grin on the strong one, a mocking leer on the fair one, a somber expression on the old one. “You. Come forth. Show me what you’ve made.”, he pointed his finger at the strong man who stepped forward boldly with rolled up parchments on his hands. Setting them down in front of the Devil, he unrolled and explained each one.
“Devices of torture to cause more excruciating pain! In my centuries of endless torment I have slowly figured out how to cause even further suffering to we who are condemned!”
Satan nodded, “Truly, these devices shall spread new horrors among those below. Now you, come forth and show me your work.”, the woman stepped forward with sure footing, surely she would be granted peace. The Devil noticed she held nothing in her hands, yet a wide smile hung on her full lips.
“More pain makes more screams, but it still does not fully break their spirits. Make their hearts suffer instead! Have the damned relive the pain of their lives that led us astray until we fell after death. Truly, to relive such horrors over and over will drive any insane!”
A twinkle in Satan’s eyes shone briefly, and once more he nodded, “A heinous act indeed. To relive ones sins over and over again is indeed a cruelty beyond merely castigating the flesh. Well then, the last of you lot. Come forth.”
Shaking his weak bones, for in Hell the frailties of the human body are left intact, the old man shuffled slowly towards the Devil. A device held in both shaking hands. Satan saw that it was a clock, yet it had no number. “A clock with no numbers? Explain yourself.” The old man did.
This all happened a long time ago, no one remembers now the name of the three. But high atop the peaks of Hell, above the reach of the screams of the damned, a giant clock looms ever present for all to see far and wide, whenever any lost soul looks upon it, they curse and wail, any hope left in them is drained. It is a most curious contraption, for it has no numbers. Yet its two hands are eternally pointing each at one word: Never and Forever. Below the clock an inscription over a plaque made of stone reads:
When shall my torment end? Never.
How long will I stay here? Forever.