The burning on my back and the sizzling flesh smell wake me up: I’m tied to a metal cross in a pit of fire. The air swims with the heat. The sulphur in the air burns my eyes: I can barely see.
I let out a desperate scream as steel wire tightens around my wrists, the barbs cutting into me. The wire is white hot, but the wounds don’t cauterise. They stay open, like all the others I can suddenly feel. The blood flows and flows and I start to get light-headed, wondering how much more I can lose before I pass out… Sweat trickles into the cuts and stings like acid.
I swear I see the demon tremble a little as he plods toward the corpse at his feet and picks up the flaming cat o’ nine tails. The heat doesn’t bother him: he thrives on it. He allows himself a sly grin as he pulls back his rippling arm and brings it down on my face with enough force to tear my head from my shoulders.
I slip out of the borrowed body and re-corporealise into something more comfortable. No horns, no tail, no red skin today: just my favourite sharp suit, matching hat, and rosewood walking cane.
“Excellent,” I tell my minion. “Now get back to work in the Third Circle.”
He bows low, eyeballs into the dirt. I snap my fingers and he’s back at his post. Perhaps I should consider him for a promotion…