The First Time I Met Ivanka

I looked down at the half of him that had spoken.

“What?” I asked.

“Help me,” he said. I ducked back as some green splatter flew near us.

“How?” I asked.

I still held tight to Brigitte’s hand. I never knew when I was going to wake up and I was not leaving her here. Brigitte’s eyes were really wide but she was holding together well; she was a lot stronger than I thought.

“Pull my other half over here.” He pointed with the arm he had, and I looked and saw the other half of him, weakly struggling to crawl over to him. “I’ve been trying for a while but I can’t get it here.”

I tugged at Brigitte, who said to me “We should help him. He helped Doc and I a lot.”

So we scuttled over there, still watching Ivanka stab and poke at the demon and keeping an eye on Samson, too. All three demons were swinging at her, trying to grab her horse, but it was pretty clear it wasn’t an even match – Ivanka was a Valkyrie and they really know how to fight. I remembered the first time I’d ever seen her, there in Hell.

It was the second time I recalled going there. After that first time, climbing out of the crevasse, I thought I was out of Hell forever. I didn’t even know how I’d gotten out. One minute I’d been sitting on the edge of that deep dark hole and the next I’d been standing in a diner.

The second time in Hell was even scarier for me because I had no reason to expect to go there (or the third, or the fourth. Each of those times I didn’t realize I’d go to Hell whenever I fell asleep. By the fifth, I was pretty sure what was going to happen and though I didn’t like it, I at least knew to expect it. That was in part because on my fourth trip here I met Bob. That was the long trip, the time that Bob had explained to me at least a bit about how Hell worked and some other things, like what revenants were.)

I landed, that second time, in a part of Hell that was near some action, too – I fell asleep walking out of New York City with Doc. We were in the outskirts, in the suburbs of New York City, heading south as often as I could. I couldn’t go on walking. I was exhausted and scared and crying and couldn’t figure out what was going on, and finally, Doc said it would be okay to sleep. I think he knew, although I never asked him, knew that I was going to Hell as soon as I closed my eyes because the last thing he said was be careful as I climbed into a grove of bushes in a little park and tried to settle down. I thought then that he was only warning me to be careful where I slept.

I fell asleep almost instantly and woke up on the other side of that broad plain of Hell that I’d seen the first time, or one very like it, with people still being tortured as they crawled across it. The part of Hell that I was in right there was flowing molten lava with little rock islands in it, and I was on a rock island in a river of lava, or more like a maze made up of rivers of lava. Lava flowed around me in all directions and I immediately hunkered down and just sat there. I was too scared even to scream. I just stared at the lava around me and felt the hot rock on me and the hot air going in through my nose and stinging my eyes and I heard the flowing sound… have you ever heard the sound of rock that’s so hot it flows like water? It hisses and rumbles like a million deep-voiced snakes and the sound just grinds at your spine, taunting you with the idea that rock can become liquid… and I just stared around.

Not too far away were the people and the demons torturing them; these weren’t the hundred-foot-tall kind, they were smaller but plenty big and they were dumping lava on the people and poking them and stepping on them and I could hear their demonic laughter.

Then, as I watched, I saw something come flying down over them. I saw this thing with wings, through my tears, come swooping down and begin flying back and forth over the crowd of people, over and over. It would swoop down and then fly around and then back up, sometimes near the demons and sometimes not. As I watched, I realized that the demons were angry at this thing; whatever it was, they didn’t want it there. But it kept flying back and forth, ignoring that the demons were throwing rocks and stuff at it, and I think sometimes they were throwing souls at it, too.

At one point, it flew really near a demon, which took its pitchfork out and tried to stab it. I saw something flash – I didn’t know then, still, what the flying thing was – and heard, even that far away, the demon’s howl over the thrumming of the lava and the wailing of the souls.

I watched it for a long time, wondering what I was looking at and trying to keep from being even more frightened than I was, and then I got really scared because suddenly it was flying right at me. It came directly for me and I tried to scrunch down on the bare rock I was sitting on, the rock all hot against me, as it flew more and more towards me. I covered my hands with my eyes and watched as the flying thing grew into a horse with wings, and then I saw that there was a woman sitting on it; she was beautiful and naked and gorgeous and really really big… and she was coming straight for me. I didn’t know what I could do. I couldn’t fight her, I couldn’t do anything and I didn’t want her or anyone to notice me.

She landed on a rock near me, the horse and Ivanka (although I didn’t know her name) and I laid there on the rock, crying again.

“Please,” I sniffled. “Please don’t hurt me. Help me.”

She looked at me.

She motioned for me to sit up, and I did so, sobbing.

“Help me,” I said.

She looked me over.

“Please,” I said.

Then her horse flapped its wings and she took off and flew straight up into the sky, going higher and higher and higher until she disappeared.

I woke up shortly after that, lying in a set of bushes in the park in the suburbs, more scared and confused than I’d been and also wet from dew. It was Doc that explained to me that she was a Valkyrie, but I thought then that maybe he thought I was making it up that I went to Hell, or I thought, maybe he doesn’t understand. There’s limits to what an octopus can process, I’ve learned.

Now, I kept watching Ivanka while I pulled Samson’s half over to him with one hand. He said that if I let go of Brigitte I could pull faster but I wasn’t letting go of her for nothing.

I pushed the half up to his face, almost, with my legs, and then said “Now what?”

The talking half of him struggled and rolled a little and laid next to the other half and the two of them began mending together. Almost before I knew it, Samson was whole again and stood up and said “Now we run.”

So we ran towards the nearest rock outcropping again, and shortly after we began running, one of the demon’s heads came flying over us and landed in front of us, thudding to the ground so hard it shook. The demon head was still yelling and its wild eyes rolled around and saw us and kept screaming. I looked back over my shoulder and saw the body toppling in the other direction. Ivanka had killed one of them, it seemed, and had the other two well in check.

No comments: