Crackling… Roaring… Hissing…
It is the sound that Bromley is first aware of. He has no idea where he is, other than in the midst of an intense, searing heat. He feels his eyes stream, his lungs fill with smoke. He instinctively knows that he is surrounded by fire.
Suddenly, a face he has not seen in years materialises out of the haze. It wears an expression of calm, of nonchalance, in sharp contrast to the inferno all around. It smiles, whether in encouragement or schadenfreude Bromley cannot tell, before clearly and deliberately mouthing the words, ‘Remember thine end’. It promptly dissolves into ashes.
Almost immediately the blaze grows higher. Bromley is aware of the smell of sulphur. He absently is put in mind of the Promethean® pyro-cannons used by the Defence Secretariat, before being snapped back by the urgent realisation that the flames are beginning to lick at his feet. It is at this point that Bromley recognises his surroundings; the Administration Academy of State Service.
In the next instant, the conflagration has transformed into a huddled, groaning mass. Emaciated, desperate creatures grabbing with fearful fury at his clothing, and screaming at him in open-mouthed silence. Their teeth are rotten, green with mould and decayed, but somehow remain razor sharp. Milky eyes glare with hatred at him, staring out from faces covered in boils, blisters and sores. Open wounds oozing black blood pepper the bodies of these damned figures.
The monstrous beings claw at his face, his eyes, his limbs, tear out his hair and scratch and slap and rip every part of him in demented glee. Bony fingers with sharp, yellow nails violently grasp his body everywhere. A peculiar feeling of tranquility envelops Nolbert Bromley, and he experiences an overwhelming sense of clarity; he knows what drives these tormented souls. He also, amidst the chaos, discovers that their flailing, thrashing and pulling does not elicit any pain whatsoever. Rather, Bromley feels a sensation akin to sympathy; theirs is a retribution that he, for some reason, now believes to be necessary. With this, he finds peace.
As the engulfing crowd begin to annihilate his corporeal form, Bromley closes his eyes…
Solidarity, brothers & sisters…☭