Getting Better At This.

At first, I didn't think anything had changed. The world went black, and then it went normal again, only it wasn't normal, it just seemed like it.

I'd never been in a part of Hell that looked like a part of the 'real world' before. I'd seen a lot of Hell -- a lot more than anyone would ever want to see -- because the time I spent there was so different than the time I spend in the real world but I'd not seen all of it.

When the blackness faded away, I was still on the steps of the Chicago Art Institute. Reverend Tommy was still there but he was slumped onto his knees, hands on the ground. The buildings and streets were all around us.

But the resemblance to "real" Chicago quickly fell away. First because it was about 200 degrees hotter, maybe; most of Hell is hot unless you don't want it to be and then it's cold. It's never just right.

Second, the air felt thick and miasmic and hard to breathe. Spots appeared on my skin as what felt like mist fell around me. The spots were red. I touched them and they were slightly sticky.


We were standing in, and getting spattered with, and breathing, a mist of blood.

I wondered where it came from, and I realized, as I looked around, that there were exploded corpses all over the stairs. Everywhere within sight, in fact, were corpses -- people who appeared to have been blown to smithereens and then dropped dead. It must have just happened because their blood, blown into the sky, was just dropping on us.

I looked around more, grossed out and more than a little horrified. The front of the Art Institute was swaying and bricks were falling off. I looked a little further and realized that this wasn't some Hell version of Chicago; we had taken a chunk of Chicago with us. When I'd touched Reverend Tommy, and I'd blacked out, I'd gone to Hell -- but I'd brought him with me, the way I'd brought Mr. Damned Corpse out, and we'd brought a chunk of Chicago, including all those poor people who had been watching the standoff.

And including Rex, I noted, seeing the heap of fur and bones near Reverend Tommy.

He was standing up.

"You damned creature," he rasped. He was one tough guy, I'll give him that. But he hadn't noticed what had happened yet, which I realized because he first realized the mist was hitting him and stuck his hand out, then looked at it. Then he looked like he almost threw up. Almost. But he didn't. Like I said, tough.


He looked at me.

"You..." he said.

"It's Hell," I said, and turned around and began walking away from him. I heard some more crackling.

"You have brought me to Hell?" Reverend Tommy said, more sternly than shocked. He was like a parent who, hearing that the dirigible has been smacked up, is more concerned about how much to punish the kid than about getting things fixed up.

"You brought me to Hell," I snapped. "You, with your magic prayer thing. You knocked me out, and whenever I fall asleep, I end up in Hell."

"Where you belong," he said.

"Where you are," I said back.

There were more rumblings, and a part of the wall that used to be the front of the Art Institute fell away. I wondered what it looked like back in Chicago.

Reverend Tommy noticed it too, and began to move away. He went off to the right. I decided to go off to the left. I wasn't bound to him, and I wasn't going to help him.

I stalked away from him, in the exact opposite direction, trying to get out from under the shadow of the wall before it fell over if that's what it was going to do, trying to find a place to hide, if possible, and wait until I wake up. There was a time when I'd have gone exploring, but I didn't want to explore Hell and I didn't want trouble anymore; the last time with the waterspout had convinced me of that.

"You're getting better at this," I heard, though, and that stopped me. When you hear a voice you recognize in Hell, you stop. It's just nature.

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