Author: Meltha

Rating: T

Feedback: Yes, thank you. Through "Season of Mists"

Distribution: The Blackberry Patch and If you're interested, please let me know.

Summary: Hell's tortures know no limits, bu nothing can cause more pain than the heart.

Disclaimer: All characters are created by Neil Gaiman, and no profit is made from this work.

Abandon All Hope

Time doesn't mean much when you're damned. The souls in hell don't measure the days in the same way the living do. No sun or moon shines in that place, and the sounds of torture continue unabated without a pause forever. The damned do not sleep.

Centuries without food or water have dulled her appetite so much that she can remember the taste of them only when it is her particular punishment, but the demons rarely choose it for her. She is no Tantalus, gluttonously following water and grapes that she knows she will never reach. She silently regards the phantom dainties set before her, and even when her appetite is increased until she would eat the fetid dirt on the floor of her cell to slake it, she still abstains from movement. She has always possessed control over desire of one kind or another.

Millennia of screaming have all but deafened her, the screams both those of the others placed here as well as her own. She has been whipped, eviscerated, peeled, burned, chopped into little pieces so many times that the numbers have ceased to have any meaning at all. Then there are the times of complete isolation, interminable spans in utter darkness and perfect silence, robbed even of her own screams, held deaf and dumb and blind in a void of perfect black to the point where she thinks she will go mad, and then past that point. But they never permit her to break fully. It would spoil their games. It would bring her peace. They cannot allow that.

Ages had passed on ceaselessly. Her trials changed with the whim of passing demons, and she had experienced countless times the pain of every torture known. There was some comfort in knowing the worst, and perhaps that was why he came, to prove there was no bottom to the depths of hell.

She saw him, robed in black, pale as moonlight with hair the color of a raven's wing. His form was different, but she knew him all the same. The scent that clung in the folds of silk still smelled of air uncontaminated by sulfur and stench. Wildly, hope raged through her, a hope she had not permitted herself to consider for longer than even she could recall, and she implored him through the bars of her cell, begged him to release her.

"I still love you, Nada. But I have not yet forgiven you."

And he was gone. Hope dashed itself on a million knives of pain, and she didn't know which hurt more: the knowledge that he would not permit her suffering to end, or the assurance that, despite what she endured at his will, he still loved her. Or perhaps bitterest of all was the silent voice whispering in her ear that she had never stopped loving him either, not even at the moment of her death.

She coiled into a ball in her cell, unable to cry, to move, to think. The damned do not sleep. Her brown eyes stared wide into the blackness and dull red of hell, aching with the need to close, to blot out existence for even a brief while, but she knew it was useless.

The damned do not dream.