by Hydrargentium

Paco pushed the lime wedge down into the bottleneck, and took a long pull from his Dos Equis. He swirled the last bit around in his mouth, savouring the smell and the fizz against his cheeks, before swallowing with a satisfied gulp. As the golden liquid slid down his throat, so did his shoulders from around his ears, where it felt like they’d been for the last three days.

What started as a simple B&E at a record store at the better end of the barrio ended up with a trip across three layers of Hell or something like it, and a confrontation with a big-ass demon — red skin, throbbing horns and all.

The worst part of it wasn’t the physical trials, or the knock-down fight at the end that nearly left him missing a leg. The worst part was all the people he’d left behind, left and trapped in a plane of existence designed for ultra-personalized torture. Maybe they were all bad people, criminals and madmen who deserved the agony in retribution for their actions in this world. Maybe it wasn’t his place to intervene in the workings of what seemed to be a higher order. Somehow, though, all these ‘maybes’ just seemed like rationalizations.

By necessity, to save his world as he knew it, Paco had passed by what seemed to be an infinity of people, each person in the process of being subjected to the most horrific environments they’d ever seen. He knew all about the “needs of the many” and all that. That knowledge didn’t make it any easier.

Looking down, he realized his bottle was empty. As he waved for the waitress, he started making plans. Paco was going to need to call in a lot of favours. He was going to need to find some way to plan for things he could never, ever, in a million years consider with his wholly human brain. He would need preparation and training and equipment, most of which he was sure he had no conception of as yet.

Paco was going back to Hell, and he was going to straighten it the hell out.

Also, he was going to need another beer. And maybe a bowl of chips and salsa.

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