I never truly planned on what would happen after Scion was gone. Whether or not we could manage him had always been up in the air, and honestly, I never expected to survive.
And I didn't.
I kinda thought it would be over then, after death, that there would be nothingness, oblivion, unless I was unlucky enough to get grabbed by Glaistig Uaine, and even there, it probably wouldn't been me, but rather a copy of sorts.
Yet here I am, able to answer whether there is an afterlife or not. There is, at the very least, Hell and to my not so big surprise, that was my destination.
I deserved it, I know I did. No matter my intentions, willingly or unwillingly, my actions had bad consequences for a lot of people, many of which who didn't deserve it.
Still, I always had the hope, deep inside, that I could have redeemed myself, but apparently, I couldn't, or at least, I hadn't been able to manage it.
So here I am, in Hell, standing in front of what I probably have to call a demon.
"We have awaited you for quite some time, Taylor Hebert."
That's not what you want to hear from the entity which claims to be the King of Hell. He looked familiar and foreign at the same time. I recognized people in him, people I hated and people I feared. For a second I saw Emma, I saw Sophia, I saw Bakuda, I saw Behemoth, I saw Coil, I saw myself. Always switching from one person to another and I only realized he had done so after the fact. Then, he also took the forms of things I couldn't describe, couldn't understand. Maybe I saw horns, too many eyes, and a gaping maw.
It changed too quickly for me to truly perceive. It was unsettling. Alien and inhuman.
"Yes, we have waited, eagerly for you to arrive," he said, his mouths twisting into a smile.
"I couldn't possibly be that special," I said, trying to ignore the stench of sulfur and brimstone. I wasn't sure I was smelling that because the clichés were true or whether I was unconsciously wanting to smell it and this place had some sort Stranger effect that made it so.
"You're not," he admitted, "You're not unique, but you have potential. We could roast you over a nice fire for a century or two, but why wait when there is so much to do?"
I couldn't really believe it. I'm in Hell for not even two minutes and the Devil, or whatever was making a recruiting pitch. A small smile made its way on my face.
"I truly do deserve to be here, don't I?" I said, almost whispered, but I knew he had heard me perfectly.
"Yes, you do."
"Heaven or whatever else there is, wasn't ever an option. I always made a better villain than a hero, so it makes sense that I would do much, much better in Hell than in Heaven."
"I'm glad you're seeing it my way."
"Oh, I'm really not."
Thing is, I may have died, but my power was still working. Oh, there weren't any bugs here, at least nothing similar to those when I was alive. However, I felt him the same way I felt my bugs, the same way I had felt all these capes. I felt him, I felt all the damned souls and I felt all the demons, or beings, or whatever they were that were handling them.
I felt them all.
"Sorry to break this to you, but I'm taking over."
He didn't have time to do anything, nothing in my range had the time to do anything. I didn't have a body anymore, not really. What I was, was pure consciousness and soul, manifested into a more or less solid form. My parahuman power was part of me, both, before it was broken and after. In many ways, it was stronger. I had the range that I wanted to have and I wasn't losing anything. I didn't have a good explanation, I just knew it worked.
I made true of my word, I took over. I took over him, I took over the prisoners, the guards and the warden.
I didn't know if I wanted to laugh or cry. I had been here for not even five minutes and I had taken over Hell and its legions.
Why, why was I so good at being a villain, a monster? Why was it so easy?
I really, truly, deserved to be here.
Well, I was, and all I could do, all I always had done was to try and make the best with what I had.
First things first, I released a specific mind from my control, and started walking towards him, the former king following me without a word.
An eternity in Hell, and I had to share that with people like Coil. What did it say about me that I was here as well? Was Emma? Did what she did count? Sure, it was horrible for me, but in the grand scheme of things, was it as bad as kidnapping a pre-teen and making a drug addict out of her in order to exploit her? Was it as bad as murder? As robbing the will and agency of countless humans? It had been ages since I last thought of her but she was dead, as was I and there was the possibility that I would find her here, raking on some coals, or heck, maybe they saw how good she was at making others suffer and offered her a job as well.
It's not like I could judge, the old boss here had shown up personally to recruit me, after all.
Truly, I would be in fitting company.
Yes, old enemies were here, I could feel them, but more importantly, old friends as well. Of all the people I know, I fought together, only a select few would not land in here, and of all the people I loved, I think only Dragon would find herself in a different after life and not because she was an AI.
We met not long before short. He was climbing out of the pit he was in, the wounds on his body healing in seconds. He stretched, groaned as bones snapped back into place and gave her a tired look.
"You're making me look bad, y'know? First you steal my shtick, and now you're taking over this place. Bet you're going to make me work as well, dork."
I could honestly say, while I was never too comfortable with him, I did love him, as I loved everyone in the Undersiders.
"It has been too long, jerk. And yeah, you bet we got stuff to do. No more slacking off in Hell."
"Leave it to you to suck out all the joy of Hell," Regent sighed, taking the hand I was offering him. "But what the hell, you can only die once, right?"