Chapter 3:

First Day of Work

Welcome to Hell



This was...

Click. Click. Click.

Instantly, my hand threw the gun I had pointed at my temple in a direction I didn't care about. The police siren kept wailing.

It landed on the kitchenware tray, making a hell of a mess as the spoons, forks, knives and other tools clinked and shinked, getting tossed around the kitchen table.

A quick look through the window showed those damned police officers already approaching the front door, with their pistols on the ready.

Fuck it. I couldn't just... die? Was I doomed to be stuck in prison?

Oh God. I hate my life. I despise it. How did it all go wrong? Whatever have I done to get here? What made me do the stupid mistake of killing those two assholes? Fuck, why did I even get born!?

Damn it all! I couldn't even go cleanly! All I had was those knives! If I could end myself fast enough with any of these—




What the fuck.

My vision was a little groggy. Had to rub my eyes before I could see that I was back in Hell, in my room. Both the light and the TV were left on, now playing some drama or comedy show, I didn't care.

I... really did kill myself, didn't I? I really got to the point where I made the decision to go without a second thought?

But once again, touching my neck, I couldn't feel anything amiss.

Quickly getting up on my feet, I cursed the lack of mirrors in my room — only to be hit with the realization maybe it was inside my closet, and yes it was. A full length mirror at that.

The pale-skinned woman staring right back at me from within the mirror had black hair going down slightly above her shoulders. Green eyes, small nose and mouth — and nothing strange on her neck. I couldn't see anything underneath her black T-shirt's collar, so I took it off, revealing her chest hidden behind a white bra. Again, nothing unusual against her pale body. No stab marks, no wounds; nothing. I considered taking off my blue jeans, but I was one hundred percent sure I'd still find nothing, so instead I put my T-shirt back on.


Would things have gone differently if I didn't kill myself? For certain I was going to spend a few years stuck in a cell smaller than this room, wearing a prison uniform and bossed around by guards. But maybe I could have walked out eventually with good behavior? Heh, as if that wouldn't have scarred me for life, and made me more depressed than I already was!

"Bleh." I collapsed back into bed, unable to hold my tears back. I let them go down my cheeks.

I was thankful I got another chance at life and not the void. But at the same time, I just... wasn't...happy about it? The last few minutes of my life were the most awful experience I ever had, and instead of living through it only once, I felt these knife stabs again. They weren't physically there, but I could feel a dull pain where they used to be.

Ding dong... Ding dong...

I didn't realize I had a doorbell. Or that of all things, my door had a literal screen on it. That screen gave an overhead view of three guys. More like three buffoons but—

Oh god why did I even sign up with these guys. Fuck me!

Calm down, April, was the only thought in my head.

A few seconds of hesitation allowed me to slow down and take a deep breath, followed by going to the bathroom and splashing the warm tap water on my head. It was a little too warm for me, but I was able to wipe my face with the towel before it got any hotter.

Taking another deep breath, I slowly slid the door open.

"Yo!" Andy enthusiastically shouted at me. The other two just stood aside.

"What's up?" I yawned.

"We'll show you the ropes. Come on, it'll be fun." He extended his hand towards me. As if I had the choice to refuse him.

Stretching my arms over my head, I hoped to show them maybe this wasn't the best time for that. "Okay, but I just woke up. Can you like... come back in an hour? I need to drink my coffee."

"But, man, we came here all this way just to pick you up. Hell coffee is too expensive for you and it tastes terrible, if you didn't know."

"Ugh, fine," I slammed the door frame, "gimme a few minutes."

Shutting the door, my legs lazily took me towards the sink in the bathroom, so I could wash my head another time and brush my teeth. I forgot I had another mirror behind the sink, too.

Seriously? The coffee tasted bad? Nah. It was them. They used to drink beer like Prohibition was going to be tomorrow morning.

I also grabbed a hairbrush and straightened my slightly messy hair. After making sure I looked decent in the mirror, I reopened the door and then reunited with the idiots.

"Good morning, or whatever it is you say these days." I sighed again.

"Ah, ye sound like an old man." Henry glared at me. "We just say 'hello' here, ye broad."

My head tilted, ignoring Henry's ever so subtle insults. "Lemme guess. You can't spell hello without—"

"Hell. Ye're gonna be a fast learner." he continued. "But only in English."

"Come on, fellas. This job ain't waiting." Andy walked off without a care in the world, with us following behind him through the alley.

"As a rule of thumb," Eugene wiggled his thumb with ridiculous emphasis, "almost all humans speak English in Hell. Even the North Sentinelese speak English."

I crossed my arms and tilted my head slightly downwards, trying to recall what the heck was that, but it hit me. "Ah, aren't those the people living on that remote island off the coast of—"

Eugene cut me off. "Yes, yes, that's North Sentinel."

"About five decades ago," Andy started, "humans, aliens, and a bunch of other demons agreed that all interracial communication with humans should be in English. It's very important to know this."

Shifting my weight, I placed my right hand on my hip and pondered. "Sure, but how is that useful to us?"

"You see, April, if some other race is addressing you in a language other than English, and if they give off a... I don't know, a threatening aura or vibe, that means they're bad news."

"Ah, so body language?" I put a sly smile on my head.

Andy kept going without turning his head. "Well, that's one way to put it."

We made it to the main road, where the bikes were parked just a bit beyond the alley. Semaimachi's market crowd had filled out, far busier and bustling than it was before I fell asleep. All three of them hopped on their bikes. Andy turned his head towards me, and pointed behind him with his right thumb. "Sit back."

Tapping my foot on the ground, I ask. "Well, won't you first tell me what I'm doing this time in this gang? I need to know what my role is in all of this, y'know, while I work on your stupid money."

"Just sit back and I'll tell you everything." He repeated.

"Fine." I did as he asked, and latched on to his bike's side handles. All three of them whirred their bikes to life, and quickly went up two levels, in an area unencumbered by lanterns. All of us zoomed out of the narrow road and off into Skyscraperhell.

"Listen," I managed to hear Andy very clearly despite flying against the wind, "we do the stuff we always did back then."

"Back then? So uhh... protection stuff?"

"Pretty damn much." We whirred past one of those holographic billboards, this time of... Satangrade Cigars? A box of like five old-fashioned cigars with one of them popping out of a red and black box.

"By the looks of it, the three of you ain't good enough to start a protection racket by your lonesome." I made sure he would hear my giggle.

"Great observation, April. Not sure what was the point of that remark, though. Eugene only arrived here four months ago after Henry and I. We're all small-time and you shouldn't expect better."

"Uh-huh. How do we even pull off this gig?"

"Same as usual." He paused. "Can you guess?"

"Yeah," I answered while unsure if his mantra of "we just do it, and it'll always work," actually still applied. "You say that like there's no way to fuck it up."

"Just don't worry about it for now."

This time, we buzzed past a building that was covered in a black screen with numbers, text, arrows and other symbols in green and red. A megaphone echoed stuff like "Value of Magnade Mining up!", "Value of GaapCo up!" and "Value of SilliconSoft down!".

"That's the stock exchange?" I asked.

"GDES, yeah. Don't even think about it, that's for the high devil society. None of us are close to deserving the title."

"Devil is just a title here?" Andy flew into some wide oval tunnel inside a building, covered entirely in black metal, filled with blue vents and some strips of light.

"Sometimes a title, sometimes a race. Pro tip, don't try to think too much about some stuff here. Keep everything stupid and simple and you'll survive. Don't worry too much about unforeseen circumstances or other shit 'till it happens."

"Okay." Andy always preferred to keep things simple, but he wasn't usually this dedicated to it. He took this philosophy a little bit more seriously here. Perhaps too much. "How much further now?"

"Just a little bit." We had finally gotten out of the tunnel. Instead of a red tint prevailing over the atmosphere, it was now blue and foggy. Buildings spanning miles high were still prevalent, but now they hanged precariously from a ceiling, as the only thing below us was nothing but a dark void. Some of the buildings were obviously taller than others, but most of them stopped at more or less the same level, as if it was mandated by law.

"This is the industrial sector of Gremory. Way below us are some mines, but that isn't our thing. We're here for the Deck Market."

Not a minute later, we were headed towards a bright white building that was wider and taller than most of the other buildings. It had about ten disc platforms jutting out, with each level connected to the previous one by giant pillars. Each disc level also held numerous smaller and shorter buildings at the lower half while the upper half was dedicated to traffic.

"Why is Hell so fucking precarious? What if a building falls down?" I asked.

Andy chuckled. "It's a long story spanning the history of Hell itself. Let's just say Lord Gremory's district has almost no usable land suitable for life, but him being a shrewd Devil, he just built the city's foundations in the ceiling or below the magma pits. They're designed to make gravity look like a joke; not a single one of them fell. Got to admire the guy."

I was thankful Gremory was not a city planner on my home planet trying to argue with Mother Nature.

Flying into the middle of one of the floors, Andy came to a stop along with the other two, and descended to the bottom, finally killing their engines.

The whine of the bikes faded out into the market noise. I thought Semaimachi was lively, but it was nothing compared to the Deck Market. A metallic white maze of booths, shops, supermarkets, and countless other places, bathed in brilliant blue light emanating from the ceiling.

"This Deck 8." Henry still had that spiteful look on him. "We make our living here, if yer ass don't run away again."

"When you're done with us," Eugene walked closer to me, "you'll probably make your living here too."

Ignoring Henry again, I looked towards Andy, who saw me glancing over. "Okay yeah, but how do I make a living here? How do you make your living here?"

"Just come with us." Andy, along with Eugene and Henry, went past me. I turned around with slight confusion to see them starting up the stairs of a short building that blended in with the others, so I followed. Andy unlocked the front door, then all three of us entered right before Andy locked it again.

The ground level was a light brown and dimly lit, but roomy, hallway of sorts connecting to what appeared to be other rooms at a glance, as well as a staircase leading up. There were some furniture like chairs and sofas, as well as decor such as carpets, weird looking plants, wallpapers, and more. There weren't a lot of people inside, but one of the tables had a couple demons, two aliens and one human play poker, complete with chips — mostly in the possession of one of the aliens. Further up the stairs, there was another hallway of the same style, but smaller. Going straight to the second last door, Andy once again opened it, and we all followed him inside.

Sitting behind the desk in the middle of the office room was a demon with skin chaotically colored in red, white and green, as if someone threw three different buckets of paint at him. He was far smaller than Gilligan, but his hornless head was split vertically into a tall half on the left and a short half on the right, most of his features also off-center. Even his teeth looked like a half-broken mess.

"Ey, new face this is?" Rubbing his hands, this demon's smile really was crooked. As was his accent.

"Of course she is, Malstororo." Eugene said. "She just arrived less than twelve hours ago."

His smile turned into an angry frown in less than an instant. "Are you shits-for-brains serious?" I was already used to Henry's snide remarks, but this shtihead barely even knew me!

Turning my right hand into a fist, Andy took a step forward with confidence before I could even speak for myself. "I can testify she was a very naughty lady back on Earth."

"What the fuck?" My attention turned to Andy. I was so on the verge of punching him.

"Bah!" Malstororo turned his head away. "I have no use for ladies of the nigh—"

Andy interrupted the demon and the tense mood with an extremely out of place laughter. "I meant as a thug."

Malstororo turned towards me, his red eyes focused on me. "And what be your name?"

That whole conversation really went down without any of my input, huh? I seized the chance to finally speak. "You can call me April."

"Ah, April." He nodded. "Cute name you got. But what can you offer me?" He put his elbows on the desk, then clasped his hands together.

Putting my hand on my side, I answered. "Contrary to your beliefs, I'm not a shit-for-brains or a lady of the night. Also, contrary to my name, I'm not cute when I'm violent, you piece of tu—"

It seemed like Malstororo had the laugh of his life, because he went for about twenty seconds non-stop before coming to his senses. "I like your attitude, human." His accent changed drastically to something a lot less crass. "I'd tell you we have no more available jobs, but y'know what, I'll create one just for you. Welcome to the Marlboro Ring."

"Heh." Smiling, I crossed my arms, feeling triumphant for no good reason. I probably won a bullshit hidden challenge by accident. "I appreciate the gesture."

Malstororo squinted at my figure intently. "Oh! Yes, I remember now, you're that April, aren't you?"

Glaring at the other three in the room, I sighed. "I guess I am." What kinds of other people knew about me here?

"Either way, I'll leave it up to my three boys here to show you how it works in this dimension. Shouldn't be too different to what you uncivilized humans do to each other, anyway."

Ah, yeah. I agreed that we were pretty terrible creatures, hell-bent on bringing suffering to our own kind. I knew from my experience anyway.

Not soon after, Andy and his gang led me down to the basement, full of dusty kegs of what I presumed to be alcohol. I wasn't sure exactly why I was here. Henry and Eugene pulled one of the barrels standing sideways next to one of the walls, and then with all their strength, pushed the wall behind it.

The wall itself moved backwards, revealing a hidden room. Going inside, it looked just the same as the rest of the basement except it was packed with guns. It did remind me of something. "What is this? Wolfenstein 3D?"

"Isn't that game from the 90s?" Eugene grinned. "Didn't know you were that retro, April."

"Used to watch my older brother play it when I was a kid." Memories came flowing in. What I always found funny about these memories is him playing high end games with mind blowing graphics one moment, then that game or others like it the very next instant. "I wonder what Jeremy is up to now, that jerk. I miss him."

Andy picked up one of the guns, tossing it to me. "If he's been a bad boy, you can be siblings in Hell, too."

Inspecting the gun, it looked almost nothing like anything back on Earth, but I could safely say it resembled a blocky assault rifle with some half-circular part above the muzzle, just about the same size as a submachine gun. Attached to the side of that part were three short magazines, one behind the other. The rest was as expected; two grips with plenty of distance in between, the trigger after the first grip, safety lock — the usual. The side of the barrel had a small rectangular groove in the middle, with the barrel itself being large and wide. That said, the familiar parts didn't explain the remainder. At all.

"Seriously, what is this? Is it an assault rifle, or some weird hybrid?" I aimed at one of the walls, away from the others. "Can I try it?"

Henry immediately grabbed the gun and lowered it while still in my hands. "Are ye really that dumb, broad? Ye want to give away our gun stash to everyone in Hell, that easy?"

I firmly pulled the gun away from him. "How about you shut your fucking trap and mind your own business?"

He instantly grabbed another gun and pointed it at me. "Not when yer putting us on the li—"

"Enough, ladies!" Andy stepped in between us and lowered both of our guns.

"You forgot?" Henry was concerned by Andy's interruption. "She's why—"

"Let it go, Henry." Hearing Andy's firm refusal, Henry appeared stuck in place for a moment or two, before putting his gun away with a defeated sigh. Served him right.

Eugene gently took the gun from my hand. "Never shoot in our hideout. We don't want anyone here knowing where we really stash our guns." He glanced over my gun, and then let me go. "Thankfully the safety's on, so we're okay, I guess."

Andy continued. "We do this thing the same as we did it back on Earth. Every three days, we show up to a couple of our partners and ask for the cash. Someone doesn't pay for the third time in a row, we smash their shit. But keep shooting to a minimum."

"Well, I already knew this stuff. Wait..." My head tilted, one eyebrow raised. "Keep the shooting low?"

"Because you will attract attention, you know that." Andy smiled. "Rival gangs could show up. Or you know, maybe you want to escalate things with the vendors. Use it wisely, unless you fancy dying from unwanted press or something."

"Eh, the press doesn't concern me," I waved dismissively. "If I get the most out of something, I'm happy."

"Your gun has three magazines slotted in." Eugene hit the three magazines on the side. "Most guns here use something called Iblis Energy, or energy for short. Cheap, hurts just the same as our guns but without leaving bullets or shells. Just pretend this gun is like a shotgun."

"So..." I raised the gun in front of me, giving it another look. "Intimidate and wreck, shoot only if necessary."

"Yes." Andy smiled. "Can we get straight to business?"


Following the three misfits outside, my "shotgun" was hidden inside an opaque shopping bag latched on my back, with the gun itself buried under a bunch of boxes and other light crap. It was a decent enough disguise because almost everyone here was walking around with bags. Our group split into three; Andy, Henry and then Eugene and myself.

Our first destination was an electronics store not too far away from our HQ, with Eugene and I going in. A "Vlad's Electronics", run by one Vladimir Pushkin. Sold everything from white and black CRT TVs, vacuum cleaners, blenders, and even up to the latest available video game console. To showcase all this stuff, his walls were crammed with goods for sale, and even the space available for walking wasn't sacred.

"Oh, it's my boy Eugene!" A man with a thick Russian accent greeted us. There was nothing to convince me that he wasn't our guy. He looked older than the rest of us, somewhere in the 40s if I had to guess. Had white hair, and a robotic arm with displays all around it. Did everyone have a modification around these parts?

"Uncle Vlad, how's the business today?" Both of the men hugged, to my surprise.

"Really good still, lottery wins are great. Who is the young lady?" Vlad gave me a smile.

Suddenly, I couldn't figure out what to say, other than simply answering with "Uh, April." Honestly, I wasn't that good at meeting new people. Always felt nervous around other folks I had no common interest with, or more specifically, folks I was supposed to extract money out of.

"Eugene, business is so good, I'll give you protection money and a little bit of cash for April here." Vlad laughed heartily.

"I... I uhh... I mean, thank you." Getting anything out of my mouth proved harder than it needed to be. "But we barely even met."

"Doesn't matter, a friend of Eugene is a friend of mine. Your cards, please."

I took out my card and gave it to Eugene. I was far from being a friend, but I still liked the gesture — and besides, why would I turn that offer down? I still had a debt to pay.

Eugene put the cards on the cashier table and Vlad put his. Both of them opened their interfaces, and kept tapping on some of the buttons and fields on the holograms with their fingers. Eventually a 'ding ding' sound played once, and then again shortly after, in which Eugene gave back my card.

I couldn't believe it, but I now had 150,000 luci. I just got twice the balance I started with.

"I'd love to stick here and chit-chat but we've got some more errands. I'm sorry, Vlad." Eugene said.

"That's okay, it's all to make a living here. See you soon!" And with that, both of us left the store.

Seriously? That was it?

And it wasn't just Vlad's shop that was hilariously easy — Bakery Isabelle, Ngyuen's Bookstore, Xanrukkon's Oddities, Cigaretta, to name a few. All of them had their owners or assistants just hand us the money with warm welcomes. My balance quickly reached 250,000 luci just for being a, quote unquote, "friend of Eugene". The worst it got was when a skinny, raptor-like customer briefly scolded me in another language for bumping into him, or so I assumed.

Man, I remembered the days when I'd be around them back home, but instead of people literally gifting us money, we'd shout, kick, wreck, and hit rival thugs in the nuts. It wasn't as easy as it was here. I could simply just pay my debt, after all? It could take about two to three months or so... still slow, but better than nothing.

"Eugene, this doesn't make any sense." I asked. "They're giving me money just for being a friend of you guys, or whatever. I could just pay off my debt like that?"

He laughed. "If you can get all your money before the next Demon Lottery, you could get outta our sight, yeah."

"What is it about this lottery thing?" I had completely forgotten about it. "Why does everyone talk about it?"

He just smiled. "Lady, we're living in bliss right now because Lord Gremory won this month's lottery. The odds of him winning twice in a row are pretty slim. If we don't win, things return to normal. You better pray that we never lose."

Losing... "Wait, what happens if we lose?"

"Each month, there's a winner and a loser. Our luck is usually better than other districts, but when we lose, we get fucked hard. Your balance will be in the negatives. You'll be forced to work for people you're indebted to."

"Heh. So kinda like me and you right now."

"Try a day working for the district government on debt, like some people do here. You'll hate your life. In this case, you won't keep any of the money and split it as you see fit, so you will work for free."

I cringed at the thought of working for free. "Yeah, no thanks."

"I know you don't like us, but believe me April, you'd rather have us than the government. If you can get all 10 million luci in the next few days, you're one very lucky lady. But don't count on it."

"Sure, I guess. Just disappointed I couldn't start a new life here without being in debt all over again."

"It happens," Eugene responded matter of factly, "besides, you did con us out of our money. All things considered, I know you're better than that, April."

"Yeah, that..." Just another reminder of my stupid life choices that brought me here. "I've gotta ask why Henry is like this. Did I do something to him specifically?"

Eugene briefly looked at me, just ever so briefly, before looking back at the road to dodge a signpost. "Same reason you're in debt."

Sighing, I continued following him across the bustle of Deck 8. Nothing really interesting happened, except...

There was a car parked in front of two adjacent shops — Mo'men's Beef and Georgio's Pork. However, it looked… special. Maybe heavily armored. This meaty wagon was larger in size than the usual car, and colored in all blue. There weren't windows, side mirrors, or even a windshield, only door handles.

Eugene didn't seem to notice it, so I gave him a tap on the shoulders. "Do you reckon this car is worth..." Another sly smile crept on my face. "Borrowing?"

"April, we don't need to do that anymo—" He suddenly stopped the moment his eyes were set on it. "Are you fucking kidding me, April? An actual Jet Streamer?"

"Streamer?" I looked back at the car. "This thing?"

"It swims through lava. These things are hard to steal, though. Y'know, unwanted attention. Do you want the press and special forces on your ass?"

Crossing my arms, I started thinking of what to do. "Let's say we shake off this unwanted attention. Will anyone ever bother to look for it again?"

"Nah, we just need to change the paint, swap the license, trivial crap really. The heat is the problem, and frankly I don't think it's worth it."

"What happens if we're caught?" I asked.

"You pay a fee and return the car, or get shot." Eugene sighed.

"Sounds like a fine time, and we can respawn if we ever die." I smiled again.

"Look, April, doing that would be insa—"

I leaned towards him and stuck my tongue out, making sure to look him in the eyes. "You'll be stuck forever collecting protection money, Scaredy Little Eugene." Then, I ran off straight to the car.

"April, hey!" As I expected, he actually followed me all the way to the car. Some things just don't ever change, huh? It helped that of the three, I was more at ease with Eugene.

Other Slater