Noah Haynes looked across the jagged, scarlet terrain. Ragged plateaus and worn cliffs jutted from the rocky sand. The entire landscape was a deep menacing red. It looked as if the Martian planetscape had sired a child with one of the desert national parks of the American west. The sky was the ugly blackish purple of a half healed bruise. A nasty orange sun sat in the angry sky.
There was no smell of sulphur. There was no fire. There was just the empty landscape and the faint stench of fear and rotting meat that seemed to emanate from the ground itself. Nothing moved. Nothing lived. No birds flew the unfriendly sky. No animals traveled across the shattered wasteland. No plants grow from the broken ground.
How long will I have to stay here? What will I eat? Do I even need to eat? Great questions to ask Death, Noah. He berated himself. Way to walk into this prepared.
Noah still didn’t see anything that looked like a devil, or much of anything else. As he examined his surroundings, he realized how difficult equipment would be to find. There was no wood. He hadn’t found any flint. So far the only useful thing he’d found were several small round rocks, ideal for throwing. He slipped them into his bag.
Noah needed to find the enemy. Without intelligence on their movements, he’d be too likely to walk into an ambush. There was a small plateau behind him. Haynes started to climb.
* * *
The heat was oppressive, but Haynes didn’t thirst. He’d been climbing for an hour, but his muscles didn’t ache. He hadn’t eaten in recent memory, but he didn’t hunger.
So far, death is a lot like life without the distractions.
He reached the top of the plateau. The summit was as deserted as its base had been. The other side of the plateau was les steep, and dropped into a dry, barren plain. Noah suddenly realized why he hadn’t seen any life before now.
Everybody’s at the party.
More than a hundred nightmares roared and gibbered below him. Some were bizarre mockeries of the human form. Others were more bestial or insect like. More than a few looked like they had drug themselves out of a pit of rejected Lovecraft stories, all slimy tentacles and rubbery bodies. Most of the devils seemed to be fighting over something, or watching others fight. Noah’s blood ran cold. Not because of the monsters that strove below him on the crowded plain. He’d expected worse. But Noah had just gotten a good look at what was in the middle of one of the battles. It was a severed human head, partially stripped of flesh.