She was old.
She was older than the gods. Older than the stars. She was there to witness the births, deaths and rebirths of the universe.
The gods gave birth to their holy species and guided them to war and peace, to doom and prosperity, all under her watchful gaze.
The gods created paradises for their faithful and honourable so that their people would follow what the gods believed to be the right path.
But none dared to make an afterlife to punish the unrighteous.
For that was her domain.
She was the punishment that all faced in the end. She was the master of the underworld, or hell, or whatever the gods and mortal decided to call it.
The unworthy were put on her domain to suffer for eternity. Frozen tundras near scalding deserts and pits of magma, the starless nights were broken only by the scorching blood red sun.
None could be happy here. Any moments of joy were swiftly taken by her unholy drones.
For countless existences nothing changed.
Until, on a planet forgotten by gods and devils alike, a single species was cursed with sentience.
They had no gods to guide them and thus they had no heaven to go to.
They all came to her.
She didn’t care of course. She cared not for the reason why any came to her, she only cared about making all suffer.
She watched the humans as they crossed tundras and deserts, forests and plains.
And then something interesting happened.
They… they were building things?
She looked closer and indeed the humans were building huts and walls to protect themselves.
She was surprised by this. Most species simply let the environment take hold of them as their feeble minds broke under the stress of being abandoned by their gods.
It didn’t matter, the humans would suffer. She sent her drones to attack the camp and soon they had dispersed.
Except that now they were… building again?
She watched as the humans built something else using the wood from cut trees. Her drones came to attack but as soon as they were seen the humans all got on top of their creation and… and they sped away!
The master of hell watched in awe as the feeble human construct used the winds to force itself to move against the snow and ice of the nearby tundra.
They had used her elements to beat her.
She watched the humans closely now. She had ordered her drones to stop chasing them since they simply could not outmanoeuvre the humans. She was interested in seeing their progress now.
The humans seemed to notice they were no longer being followed and thus rebuilt their camps, this time much larger ones.
They made tools and weapons, hunted and ate creatures that most species would have called monsters, collected plants and fruit that were poisonous to all but the most resilient. They thrived.
The master, for the first time in untold years, smiled.
She saw as new humans came to her reign and introduced their fellows to the wonders of farming and fire.
She saw as they were introduced basic metal working.
She watched as they used metal weapons to disable her drones.
She saw in awe as humanity’s dead built empires on the single worst plane in existence.
The Reman Empire, the Greater Brazilian technocracy, the 8th German Reich, the United States of Russia and countless others.
She saw as Tesla and Edison brought their bickering to the afterlife, she saw as Newton and Einstein theorized together to understand the laws of her plane, she saw as Stirling and Da Vinci worked to build a giant Stirling engine in the divide between the magma ocean and the great tundra.
But what impressed her most were the wars.
She had never seen such carnage in all of her infinite existence. Men and women, armed with weapons so powerful they could only exist on this plane, all marched and fought for their nations. Humans would die fighting in the trenches of World War one and two only to find themselves fighting yet again on the afterlife.
Humans brought more suffering to themselves than she ever could.
She grew to love these, no, HER people more each day.
They were brutal, ruthless and primitive. But also gentle, compassionate and intelligent.
Many gods challenged humanity. Wars of conquest and extermination were declared against them. None succeeded of course, her people were too strong even for the gods.
Many died to defend their homes and families however.
She shed no tears for the dead.
She only offered them her gentle hand and greeted them to their new home.
For all humans were welcome in hell.
Republished with permission from the author, Reddit user u/Mercury_the_dealer. Image created using Stable Diffusion 2.1.