The following is somewhat difficult to write because the characters all have names, and they're presumably written down somewhere, but I don't remember them. Giving them new names seems wrong when I'm pretty sure they have names. There are also relationships that sort of matter for understanding it. [Woman] is narrator's wife, Cat, the one person whose name I remember, is the personification of Hope, [Demon] has been living for 20 years as a human, he actually grew up along side [youth]. Hopefully that's enough to understand what's going on. Also, when I first produced these characters there's no way in Hell someone at age 20 would be called a youth. They've been with me since high school.-
Twenty odd years since we'd left. We went to ground, got married in hiding, managed to settle down in a house without being found, helped out the odd divine revolution, and in the end it, in a moment, it all fell apart and I was back in Hell. I reached out with my right hand and took her left, to remind me that I wasn't alone. I wasn't sure whether that was good or bad. If my previous stay had taught me nothing else it was how much of a difference the right company makes. At the same time, you don't want the right company to be in Hell, even if you are.
We were back in Hell. And that was a much less hopeful thought than if it had just been me alone.
“Hasn't changed much,” she said.
“Home, sweet home,” I said.
For a time we walked alone, toward the gates. There was no reason to avoid going in, there was no way out of the dumping grounds where souls arrived, you could make your way to the the entrance to Hell proper on your own, or you could wait for the demons to make you. Then someone took my right hand I looked and saw Cat, it was the first time I had seen her look less than optimistic. She didn't say anything.
Soon after we saw another familiar face, [youth]. He was a kid, barely twenty. He was apparently ready for action. He expectantly asked, “What's the plan?”
I wasn't sure if he was addressing the question to me or [woman]. When she didn't answer, I did, “What makes you think we have a plan?”
“You got out of here before.”
“Oh yeah,” I told him. “It's simple. We just make our way down through all the circles of Hell.”
“Which are guarded by demons,” [woman] added. “Several of whom are probably still pissed off that we got by them the first time.”
“And once we make it to the bottom, this is after we've made it passed unbearable heat and unimaginable cold, we climb right down Lucifer's back.”
“Actually,” a new voice said, “Lucifer is out on parole.” I looked to see that [demon] had arrived, putting his arm around Cat. “It is the apocalypse after all.”
“Ok, so we jump down the giant gaping hole where Lucifer used to be,” [woman] said.
“Crossing the center of the earth and hoping our momentum carries us to the other side of the cavern before gravity pulls us back like a yo-yo,” Cat said.
“Then we climb up through the earth to the far side,” I said.
“Up the island mount of Purgatory,” [woman] said
“Into the Garden of Eden,” I said.
“Steal some fruit and run like Hell,” [woman] said.
[youth] was not impressed. Which is understandable because it was a bad plan. He asked, “Do we have a Plan B?” When [Woman] and I didn't respond he looked to [demon].
“Well don't look at me,” [demon] said, “There's no chance in the ninth circle we get out the way I did last time.”
“It wouldn't help anyway,” Cat said. “We're not running.”
I hadn't been expecting that, “We're not?”
“This isn't just about getting out of Hell. This is the apocalypse.”
“Told you,” [Demon] said.
Cat continued, “Every child on earth has been kidnapped. Moreover, if we don't do something to stop it, the world will be destroyed and almost everyone will be sent to Hell. There will be nowhere to run, and no one will escape.”
“So what is the plan?” the kid asked.
“The Garden of Eden is connected directly to Heaven. If we can make it that far, we can make it inside. Then we take the fight to the enemy,” Cat said.
“That's suicidal,” [youth] said.
“You're already dead,” [woman] said. She let that hang for a moment, then added, “This is the second time I've been dead.”
“If we're going to do this,” [demon] said, “I might know some people who'd prefer to slip in through the back door than wait for Armageddon. If you don't mind making some stops along the way, there are plenty of demons around who don't particularly like God or Lucifer.”
The gates of Hell had come into sight, inscribed, inexplicably, in Italian. [Woman] released my hand and said, “Bet I make it to the second circle first,” and started sprinting before I had processed it was a race. There was a point to it beyond being something to do. Hell was designed around the belief that people would try to get from the more painful parts to the less painful ones, not the other way around. The demons didn't expect anyone to run through the gate, at least not in that direction.