Best Hell Ever

by Rambling Writer

Chapter 1: The Celestial Bureaucracy Needs Better Clerks

The ground was cold and hard beneath Twilight’s hooves, like polished stone. She couldn’t remember how she’d gotten here; her last memories were of being at dinner with Spike and Starlight, talking about a recent changeling rally in Canterlot. One second she’d been there, and the next, she was here, with no magic or anything. So where was here?

“Welcome to hell.”

…That wasn’t a good sign.

Twilight looked up. She was in some kind of reading room, with small tables meant for holding books and papers. The walls were lined with shelves and shelves and shelves of books and books and books; she was in a library (yay, hopefully) of some kind, only bigger than any library she had ever seen before. The aisles leading out from the room stretched out in all directions before disappearing into the distance and even the ceiling above her seemed miles away.

Standing in front of her was a demon, of vaguely equine shape, and yet, at the same time, not at all, composed more of stony shadow than flesh and blood. Its voice was deep, with the rumble of two ships slamming into each other.

“This is hell, is it?” Twilight said cautiously. Her personal hell was a library? What was the catch?

The demon ran a tongue over needlelike teeth. “Indeed. You will experience personalized torments for the rest of eternity here.”

Which clashed immensely with what Twilight was seeing. “So where are we?”

“This is the Library of Babel,” said the demon, still in that voice that might’ve been horrifying if it hadn’t been telling Twilight the most amazing things. “It contains every book that has ever been written, every book that will ever be written, every book that has never been written, and every book that will never be written.”

“Okay…” Twilight was still waiting for that one little qualifier that would make it terrible. This was hell. (Why was she in hell, anyway?) There had to be something bad involved.

“As you can imagine,” the demon said, “the sheer amount of knowledge contained within these walls is not organized or conducive to searching.” It smiled. “And that’s where you come in.”

Twilight got it and perked up. “Wait… You’re saying… I get to organize these books? Every book possible? For all eternity?” That was the catch? That didn’t seem particularly hellish. Worst catch ever. (Or would that be best catch ever?)

The demon cackled a cackle of granite slabs scraping against each other. “Oh, yes. Every book. Enjoy your stay. You’ll be here a while.” It vanished in a puff of smoke and a stench of rotten eggs.

Twilight looked up, at the shelves reaching to the ceiling high above. A library of every book ever and every book never. And she got to organize them. In fact, there hadn’t even been any restrictions on reading the books. What kind of hell was this? This would be easy. And if she had a quill and paper to work out a system, it’d also be quick (in the grand scheme of infinity, anyway). She quickly started surveying the tables, and-

A-ha. Right there was a quill in an inkwell and a stack paper for infernal beings to take notes. Perfect. Twilight quickly tested the quill; it’d be just like hell for her to have a quill but no ink. She turned out to be right and wrong. The inkwell had no ink, but it did have blood. Twilight wrinkled her nose; the smell was going to be terrible soon. But that was the worst thing she’d experienced so far, and it wasn’t that bad.

Twilight quickly began working out a system in the best hell she’d ever been in.

“Uh, Mr. Satanner, sir?”

“Yes, Wormwhinny?”

“We’ve got a problem. You know how I sent a soul to organize one of the Libraries of Babel a while back?”

“Sure. Standard punishment for-”

“She did it.”

“…Come again?”

“She did it. She organized the Library.”

“…The whole-”

Yes the whole thing! You think I’d be here if she hadn’t organized the whole thing?”

“That’s not possible. The Library is infinite.”

“Look, don’t ask me how she did it, but she did it! I walked through, just to be sure, and it’s all perfectly organized! I asked her how she did it, and she said she had a system. Then she asked if I wanted to see it, and before I could say no thank you, she was shoving this scroll into my hands. I took a look at it, and… Well, see for yourself.”

“…Huh. …Huuuuuh. …Huh huh. …But how- Oh, that’s how. Huh. …Huh huh huh huh huh. …Wow, this is really clever. She’s even got the permutations of books properly separated.”

“And, yes, I tried disrupting her system, throwing it back into chaos, but it’s like she’s psychic. The moment I leave, she runs past me, apologizing because there’s a “disturbance in the folio” or something. I go back, and the books are organized again. I once tried to disorganize them while she was watching and she hissed at me.”

“You were scared of a pony hissing at you?”

“You didn’t see her! It’d make Beelzebuck run for the hills!”

“Uh-huh. Right.”

“Look, one way or another, what’re we gonna do? Now that she’s organized the Library, she’s just sitting around reading books. And not just as a way to pass the time. Sir, I… I think she’s having… fun.”

“I’ll send someone over to you to help look into it. Make it quick; we don’t want to sully hell’s reputation into one of rainbows and butterflies and flowers. Except when the person involved hates rainbows and butterflies and flowers, but you know how rare those are.”

Twilight trotted over to a table and laid the book she had found on it. According to her system, this was the ultimate Droste novel, and she wanted to test that.

She opened the book to the first page and read it. In it, she opened the book to the first page and read it. In it, she opened the book to the first page and read it. In it, she opened the book to the first page and read it. In it, she opened the book to the first page and read it. In it, she opened the book to the first page and read it. In it, she opened the book to the first page and read it. In it, she opened the book to the first page and read it. In it, she opened the book to the first page and read it. In it, she opened the book to the first page and read it. In it, she opened the book to the first page and read it. In it, she opened the book to the first page and read it. In it, she opened the book to the first page and read it. In it, she opened th-

Outside it, she smelled fire and brimstone. Sigh. Demons again. But then, this was supposed to be hell. Maybe they were finally going to step up their game and turn this into something genuinely hellish.

One of the demons looked a touch annoyed, but mostly in control of himself. The other looked nervous, constantly shifting his weight and glancing around at nothing in particular. The in-control demon cleared his throat. “I am Screwtrot. This is Wormwhinny.”

“Um. Hello.” Twilight waved cautiously. What was this about? “I’m Twilight. Twilight Sparkle.”

“How are you enjoying your stay in hell?”

That was a question Twilight never thought she’d hear. She bounced around a few possible answers before settling on the truth, to make things simple. “It’s not remotely like hell,” she admitted. “I’m loving it.” Her joy bubbled over and she grinned. “I get to read every book possible!”

Screwtrot nodded slowly. “Wormwhinny,” he said in a low, angry voice, “you messed up again.”

“I received a soul and a hell to put them in!” protested Wormwhinny. “I just did what I was told! It’s not my fault!”

“Maybe not. But you should check that your soul and your hell are properly suited for each other.” Screwtrot tapped the floor once, twice. “What was the identifier of this specific hell?”

Wormwhinny said something that was less a sound and more a torrent of pure sensation, ranging from gentle touches to burning cold to the loudest whispers Twilight had ever heard to that weak lemonade taste after the ice in it has melted.

“Hmm. Do you know who has the Compendium of Infernos?”

“There’s a copy in here.” Twilight pointed. “Go four miles and three thousand, seven hundred fifty-eight feet that way, take a left, go nineteen flights down the first set of stairs you find, go a parsec to the right — that’s a parsec exactly — and it’ll be on the right edge of the sixty-second shelf up.”

Screwtrot and Wormwhinny stared.

“I organized this according to a system, I know my system!” protested Twilight. “It’s not that hard! See, you were looking for factual information, so-”

“I’ll be right back,” Screwtrot said quickly. He ran down the direction Twilight had pointed. He ran back a few seconds later, reading the book Twilight had mentioned and looking very, very angry. He showed his current page to Wormwhinny. “Wormwhinny? Can you tell me what sort of pony is supposed to be here?”

Wormwhinny read a few lines and cringed. “A green earth pony?”

“Can you tell me what sort of pony Twilight Sparkle is?”

“A purple alicorn?”

“Can you tell me whether or not Twilight Sparkle is supposed to be here?”

“…No. She isn’t.”

“Like I said: you messed up again. I’ll deal with you later. Scram.”

Wormwhinny vanished. Screwtrot rubbed his head. “That demon…” he muttered. “It’s a wonder I haven’t eaten him already.”

“Um.” Twilight cleared her throat. “So… what about-”

“You were sent to the wrong personal hell,” said Screwtrot, almost apologetically. “This was meant to be for a slob committing the sin of sloth, not somepony who likes everything neat and orderly.”

“Oh,” said Twilight. That explained a lot.

“In fact…” Screwtrot fanned through the book. “I don’t think you’re supposed to be in hell at all. I can’t find an entry for you. I don’t think you’re even supposed to be dead.”

“So does this mean I’m going back home?” But she didn’t want to leave the Library just yet. There was so much to-

“Absolutely. We don’t know why you were sent to hell before you died, but rest assured, we ensure it never happens again. Hell apologizes for the inconvenience, and have a pleasant day, ma’am.” Before she could protest, Twilight vanished from the library-

-and reappeared at the dining room table, where Starlight and Spike were discussing a changeling rally in Canterlot, exactly what they’d been discussing when she’d “died”. From the sounds of things, she could get right back to life, as if none of it had ever happened.

But Twilight thought about the infinite Library in hell. And Twilight thought about her own miniscule library here. Tears began welling in her eyes.

“Uh, Twi?” asked Spike. “You look real weird all of a sudden.”

I was in hell and I had access to EVERY BOOK POSSIBLE!” Twilight wailed, and planted her face in her salad.

Down in hell, although that particular clerical error had been sorted out, that still left the matter of how Twilight had “died” in the first place and got placed in this particular hell. And there was one option that Screwtrot was particularly keen on. He reached through time and space and possibility and yanked Discord into the Library by his antler.

Discord, as usual, wasn’t too put out. “Hello, Mr. Trot!” he beamed. “Long time, no see! Still heading down the Lowerarchy? You should come visit Equestria, the weather’s scheduled to be quite lovely this time of year-”

“A pony ended up in the wrong hell,” rumbled Screwtrot. “In fact, they weren’t supposed to go to hell at all. Are you responsible?”

“I did her a favor, really, she got to spend so much time organizing books with no disruptions — just because I find order dull doesn’t mean-”

“Bad draconequus!” yelled Screwtrot. He squirted Discord with an acid spray bottle. “Bad! You’re not supposed to interfere with the afterlife!”

“I resent that!” protested Discord, flailing his arms to protect himself from the acid. After all, it would get him wet. “The author had a plotbunny they needed to get rid of! I did them a favor, too! And you know how hard it is for me to do favors!” He scraped a drop of acid from his fur, licked it, and cringed. “Oh, please. Sulfuric? Still? You really need to switch to fluoroantimonic.”

“Too much work.”

“So you say.” Discord wriggled out of Screwtrot’s grasp. “Anyway, I shouldn’t keep you any longer, not with all the work you have waiting on you. Toodles!” And he was gone.

Screwtrot sighed, but there wasn’t anything he could do about it. He did need to get back to work. Another day, another damnation.

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