David let out a guttural sob as he collapsed back into his comfortable chair, vision blurry with tears while he stared at the bright computer screen that seemed to mock him incessantly. It was over, it was all over. “I’m sorry Twilight,” he whispered to the small pony toy that sat atop a pile of coke cans and pizza boxes on his desk. “I can’t take it any more… this world is just too much of a cruel, heartless place!”
He looked again at the computer. His magnum opus, a piece of literature the like of which had never been known before in the entire canon of human achievement and had taken him upwards of three hours to write, had been brutally star bombed on Equestria Daily. He stroked the glowing LCD screen, feeling despair clutch at his heart. “How can the world be so evil?” he wailed out in his grief. There was only one thing to do.
Tearing open a fresh packet of Kool-Aid, David tipped the powder within into a fresh glass of water and immediately took a deep gulp, feeling the deadly liquid course down his throat. As the lethal effects of the Kool-Aid started to claim him, David clutched his Twilight toy tight to his chest, repeating the same mantra again and again: “If you die, you go to Equestria. If you die you go to Equestria.”
And then the Kool-Aid did its work and he breathed his last.
David woke up on the ground with a start, panting and breathless as his entire head spun from the sudden disorientation. “Did… did I do it?” he gasped out, feeling across the rocky surface on which he had landed. “Am I… in Equestria?”
“Foolish mortal!” boomed a voice from in front of him. David shielded his eyes as a gout of flame erupted before him, illuminating a vast desolate underground landscape across which could be seen lakes of fire and the sound of ear-piercing screams. From the flame stepped a massive red-skinned figure, body rippling with muscles as it cast a horned head in his direction. “You have spurned the greatest gift of all – life – and so you are forever damned!”
David scrambled to his feet, brushing himself off as he looked up at the creature which seemed to glow with an inner fire, cloven feet clicking across the charred rocks as it stalked towards him. “Is this Equestria?”
“No!” The figure’s red eyes flashed and it let out a laugh, raising its pitchfork above his head. “I am the Lord Lucifer and you are in the realm of the damned! Here you will be subjected to an eternity of torment and agony! Sick, disgusting sights await you, terrible noises will destroy your ears; every morsel you eat will turn to ash, every creature you meet will be the most reviled and twisted being imaginable. There is no escape from this unending doom!”
“Oh.” David brushed the crumbs off his Rainbow Dash t-shirt. “Am I at Bronycon then?”
Satan prepared to swing down his pitchfork to impale the human and begin an existence of pain and torture when he paused, confused. “Just what are you babbling about?”
So David told him.
It had been several millennia since the call had last gone out to all the Princes of Hell to meet together. Imps had been dispatched by Lucifer himself to all the circles of Hell, from the ice palace of Mammon where none may step without becoming a blackened mass of frostbite, to the fire pits of Asmodeus where the three-headed demon lord spent his time torturing the damned in pools of molten rock.
The message was plain and simple: “Lucifer demands an audience”. None of the imps had been willing to say more – able to say more – even after the most heinous tortures. The Princes knew that something was going on, some dark work, some foul new scheme that was so secret not even a whisper could be risked to escape lest it be uncovered by the forces of Heaven.
The mood amongst the Princes as they sat at the gigantic black onyx table in Satan’s fortress of darkness was one of barely repressed excitement. Something was coming, they knew it. Some massive change.
Even the vile Belphegor, who was usually content to wallow in his mound of offal and eat the delicacies brought to him by his malnourished human slaves was rather animated, tapping the table impatiently as he looked around at his fellow Princes of Darkness. "Brothers!" he cried through rotten teeth, "I know not of what Satan has planned, but I am sure it is to be the beginning of a new age!"
"Indeed!" buzzed the insectoid figure of Beelzebub, his fly-like protuberances slopping as he spoke. "The last time our lord and master was so secretive in his intentions was when..." He trailed off and all around the table nodded solemnly.
"The war with Heaven!" Belphegor concluded. "Could it be that he has some new plan, that we will finally throw off our shackles and destroy the Heavenly Host once and for all? That the army of the damned will ravage the celestial universe?"
“I believe so!” All the Princes turned as a mighty armoured figure riding atop a black steed trotted into the room, followed by three more such riders. “Why else?” said War as he removed his massive helmet to reveal the battle-scared face underneath, “would he have summoned his Horsemen of the Apocalypse?”
As one, the Princes gave a mighty cheer at the sight of the four Horsemen. “I can scarcely believe it,” Mammon rasped. “At last, after all this time, the forces of Hell will rise supreme!” The Princes and the Horsemen cheered once more in a chorus of throaty cackles, banging their fists on the table and stomping their feet in triumph.
They were immediately silenced as the black iron doors at the far end of the chamber swung open to reveal Satan himself. The Lord of Darkness was an imposing sight – as much creature as man, he towered over all present, pointed tail whipping back and forth as he strode towards his throne of bones, his every breath sending a gout of hellfire flaring from his nostrils.
“My Princes!” Lucifer reached his throne and sat down, sweeping a clawed hand at the eager demon lords seated at the table. “Mammon, Asmodeus, Beelzebub, Leviathan and you too, Belphegor! It is so good to see you again!" He turned towards the four Horsemen sitting atop their mounts at the far end of the room. "And you too War, Famine, Pestilence and Death. It has been long, too long, since we were all together! There is much to do!”
“And we are eager to begin, my liege!” Mammon slammed a meaty hand down upon the table. “Just remember when it comes to dealing out the rewards who it was who spend five hundred years burying all those dinosaur bones on Earth!”
“You creep!” Beezlebub spat a globule of acid in the direction of Mammon. It hit the table, fizzling angrily. “Who was it who invented evolution? It was me! I should get the lion’s share of the rewards! All those years wearing that insufferable beard!”
“Gentlemen, gentlemen, please!” Satan waved two mighty hands as the room looked about ready to descend into a brawl. “You do not yet know the full extent of my plans. I promise you that they are beyond even your wildest conception! Nothing will be the same again!”
The Princes all leaned forward in eager anticipation.
“As you know,” Satan continued, leaning backwards in his grisly throne, “ever since the defeat of my army after my failed attempt to overthrow Heaven, we have been trapped in this infernal realm with only the souls of the damned to keep us company, forced to do Heaven’s bidding and ensure the torture of those who have fallen out of God’s favour. But I see now that my vision was too narrow. I saw only Hell, Earth and Heaven, and wished to conquer all. I now know that there is a fourth world, a world of love and tolerance, a world of magical cartoon ponies who live in happiness and peace. A world called Equestria!” Satan slammed a clawed finger down on the arm of his throne.
“And we will conquer it!” War screamed from across the room, swinging a sword above his head. “Yes my Lord, yes! We will destroy this new realm and use it as a staging ground for the annihilation of Heaven!” The room erupted into applause and cheers at this clever and audacious plan.
“Er, no.” Satan coughed, waving a hand to quieten down his audience. “No, no no. You see, my minions…” he reached behind his throne and pulled out a crumpled black t-shirt, which he pulled over his mighty frame to reveal the stretched image of Rainbow Dash emblazoned over his front. “I have seen the light!” A corner of the t-shirt burst into flames. Satan quickly swatted the fire out.
“I have a question!” Mammon raised one mighty hand, a puzzled look on his face. “There’s something I don’t get.”
“Yes, what don’t you understand?” Satan took out a small plastic pony and began to nonchalantly comb its hair.
Mammon frowned. “Everything.”
Satan laughed, rolling his eyes in an exaggerated fashion at Mammon’s confusion. Some of the other Princes followed suit, though not really understanding themselves. “It is simple!” Satan announced, putting down his plastic trophy, which melted slightly into the arm of his chair. “For too long I’ve let my life be dominated by hatred and the lust for power. Watching these little ponies has made me re-evaluate everything! Why do we inflict pain and suffering on others? Why do we delight in the misery of the less fortunate? Why don’t we care and share and love?” Satan stood, rising to his full, impressive height. “This morning after marathoning all of season 2, I looked out upon my fiery domain of the damned, and I thought “what would Pinkie Pie do?”
Several sets of extremely worried eyes stared back at Satan. Finally Belphegor raised a gnarled hand. “Invade Heaven?” he ventured.
Satan let loose with a jolly laugh, shaking his head. “No no Belphegor! Hold a party of course! From this moment forthwith, I proclaim that Hell will not be ruled by hate and fear, but by love and tolerance! We will build a new Equestria here with the souls of the damned! Dismantle the fire pits! Melt the ice palaces! Go forth and build fairgrounds and castles and enchanted forests!”
“What about my mound of offal? Can my mound of offal stay?” Belphegor croaked out with a look of dread last seen when the Archangel Gabriel had cast him into the depths of Hell. “I like my mound of offal.”
“No mounds of offal!” Satan grinned, displaying row upon row of pointed teeth. “But you can have a mound of candyfloss! That would be twenty percent cooler!”
“I… what?” Belphegor narrowed his eyes, before quickly nodding. “Yes my liege, it shall be done!”
“And now, my Horsemen!” Satan strode over to the waiting riders of the damned, nodding to each of them in turn. “War! Famine! Pestilence! Death! You’ve done such sterling work, but as you can imagine, things will need to change!”
War gripped his helmet tight like a comfort blanket as he squinted at Satan. “Do you mean… there won’t be any wars at all?”
“Of course not!” Satan pondered. “Well, if there are, they will be fought not with weapons of mass destruction but with delicious apple pies, and no-one will die! So War, from now on you are in charge of…” Satan stroked his chin. “Apple pies!” He turned his attention to the bloated form of Famine, whose horse took a few steps backwards in terror. “Famine, there is no room for hunger and starvation in my new world of happiness, so you are now in charge of making cupcakes!”
Satan handed Famine a pink cookbook. The unholy spectre of malnutrition stared at it before nodding, shell-shocked. “Y-yes my lord!”
“And finally, Pestilence!” Satan walked over to a cupboard, pulling out a crisp white nurse’s uniform. “You can be a nurse like Nurse Redheart and help the sick! I’ll even make you a little hospital.” He handed Pestilence the uniform, patting his minion’s shoulder. “No no, don’t cry with joy, it’s no trouble.”
Satan started to walk away, and then turned again, snapping his fingers. “Oh yes, that’s another thing. Horsemen is a bit…” he wiggled his hands in the air, “passé. You are now my Ponymen!” War, Famine and Pestilence gasped as their horses reared in panic, surrounded by a flaming aura of intense energy that stretched from Satan’s hands and engulfed their mounts. Within seconds the energy cleared, and where the riders had once been sitting on three mighty horses of war, they were now crouched upon three tiny pastel ponies.
“Behold!” Satan roared as he leaned forwards to ruffle the mane of War’s mount, which was once a jet black steed of impossible evil, now a tiny orange and purple winged filly. “Yours is Scootaloo,” Satan whispered to War. “Because I like you best!”
“T-thank you!” War stammered, trying to sit in a dignified manner on the tiny filly but finding his armoured legs dragging on the ground. “I am… honoured…”
“They are, of course, not the real Cutie Mark Crusaders…” Satan continued, “but with time, I am sure we will be able to build a true portal to Equestria and meet all our favourite ponies. Now ride War, Famine and Pestilence, spread love and tolerance across Hell!”
The three Horsemen hobbled off on their tiny mounts, leaving a confused Death still seated on his mighty warhorse, looking at Satan through his bony eye sockets. “A-and me, my lord? What task do you wish me to perform in this grand new order?”
Satan was silent for a moment, pulling a face and looking away while scratching his arms awkwardly. “Ah. Now Death. Yes. About that…” He took one final object and handed it to Death.
Death looked at the slip of pink paper in his skeletal hand, the legend “P45” emblazoned at the top. He looked back up at Satan. “You’re… you’re firing me? But after all these years, all the murdering and killing and death I have done in your name!”
“Yes well… “ Satan shrugged. “There’s not going to be any of that in the new Hell, and as such your services are no longer required. He held out a hand and gave Death a quick but firm handshake. “Don’t worry Death, I’m sure they’ll be many new openings and opportunities in the future! You can even lead one of the Winter Wrap-Up teams, we’ll need to get rid of all the ice and snow from the ninth circle of Hell!”
As the dejected Death slunk off, Satan turned to his assembled Princes, who immediately responded with a frenzied round of applause, lest they too be turned into ponies.
“Well, that was all very inspiring,” Belphegor stood from the table and started to leave. “Now if you’ll excuse me sire, I must prepare my candyfloss mountain.” The old demon had vague hopes of being able to save his mound of offal if he hid it somewhere fast enough. Unfortunately it was not to be.
“Sit down Belphegor!” Satan pulled down a white screen at the far end of the room and flicked on a projector, causing the assembled Princes of Hell to shield their eyes momentarily from the glare. “I sense there are still some neighsayers amongst you!” He laboured the joke slightly to leave no-one in any doubt. “I was the same, I admit! But denial is the first stage! After this marathon session of Friendship is Magic, you will see as I see! You will no longer be Princes of Hell, but Bronies of Hell!”
Satan gave a contented sigh as the screen filled with colourful images. “And no talking in the back!” he snapped. “If you talk, we have to start all over again from the beginning!”
Belphegor sighed. Eternity in Hell hadn’t seemed so bad before.
A bolt of pure light pierced the blackened igneous rock that formed the roof of hell, and from within its beam descended the Archangel Michael, a grim look of determination on his face as he surveyed the sight below.
His worst fears were confirmed. Two weeks ago, reports had filtered in to the Heavenly Host that the fires of Hell had been going out. After much discussion amongst the angels, it had been decided that rather than send an army at once, Michael should travel to Hell and carry out a surprise inspection. If Lucifer was up to his old tricks again he would soon warn Heaven and the righteous fury of the Divine Host would quash Satan’s lust for power.
Clad in perfectly shining armour, Michael clutched his burning sword of truth in one hand, and official clipboard in the other as he slowly flapped his wings, letting the new landscape of Hell unveil itself underneath him. Instead of the blasted rocky wasteland full of fire, lava and death that he had been expecting, it seemed rather… grassy. Where there were once mountains there were now lovely hillocks. Where there had been lakes of fire, there were now crystal blue lakes. And where there had once been Satan’s mighty gothic castle of Pandemonium, there was now a tasteful white classic castle festooned with balloons and bunting.
Michael landed on the ground, slowly reaching down to pick a blade of grass suspiciously, sniffing it. It was definitely grass. But where were the damned? Where were the screams and moans of those being eternally tortured?
Looking around, he frowned as he saw a strange pink fluffy mound of cotton-wool type material. Moving closer, he reached out a hand, only to recoil as the demonic face of Prince Belphegor burst out, covered in sticky pink fluff. “It’s not the same!” Belphegor moaned, spitting out a mouthful of candy floss. “I want my offal back!”
“LUCIFER!” Michael turned to bellow out across the grassy plains of Hell, raising his flaming sword high above his head. “LUCIFIER! SHOW THYSELF THY WRETCHED KNAVE! WHAT FOUL TRICKERY IS THIS?”
“Michael!” Michael almost dropped his sword in shock as from out of nowhere the lumbering form of Satan appeared, springing forwards to embrace him in a tight embrace. Satan smiled happily, letting go of the angel but wrapping a large red arm around his shoulders. “Do you like what I’ve done with the place?”
“Do I like…” Michael felt his face flush with righteous fury, an eye twitching as he gazed out upon the rolling hills that almost rivalled those of Heaven. “Lucifer you fiend, what deception is this? I had heard the fires of Hell had gone out, but I did not expect this! Where are the pits of acid? Where are the racks of torture upon which the damned are flayed? Where are the great birds that peck out the eyes of sinners?”
“Oh that.” Satan shrugged. “Yeah we’re not doing that anymore.”
“But…” Michael gripped the blade of his sword even tighter. “Hell isn’t supposed to be a happy place, Satan! It is where the sinners go, to endure eternal torture for daring to cross God! It’s where we punish the unbelievers, the people who eat fish on Friday, the scientists! It is God’s plan!”
“Well it’s not Celestia’s plan!” Satan crossed his arms petulantly, giving a slight huff. “Really Michael, I thought you of all people should understand love and tolerance! Think of me as Nightmare Moon, repentant for all her wicked past sins. I stand before you as beautiful Princess Luna, cute and shy!”
“I… what?” Michael stared at Satan in confusion. “What riddles are these, lord of lies?”
“Tell you what, I’ll show you what I’ve done with the place, and then you’ll see!” Snapping his fingers, Satan conjured two large-headed pastel ponies, one green and one cream, that stood in front of Michael blinking in confusion. Satan walked towards the green pony and sat on its back, dwarfing its tiny body although somehow it managed to carry his weight. “Now don’t get too excited Michael, these aren’t the real Bon-Bon and Lyra, though the portal to Equestria is nearly finished! We shall ride through the new Circles of Hell and you will understand!”
Michael regarded the cream pony with suspicion and hesitantly sat on its back. “I’ll try to not get too excited,” he grumbled. “But if this is a trick...”
The two riders galloped across the plains of Hell, descending into the lower levels. Where Michael had expected to see waterfalls of lava, and vicious snarling snakes that constantly devoured the sinners, there was now beautiful waterfalls and birds that tweeted in the sky. Soon they rode into view of the damned.
Rather than laid out upon torture racks being forever mutilated by demons, the damned were currently sitting at tables, reading through page after page of parchment. Michael steadied his pony to a standstill and looked quizzically at Satan. “What devilry is this?” he demanded.
“Now, this used to be full of all kinds of horrible torture racks,” Satan swung a hand out to show the neat, green fields. “So I cleaned them all out and thought, ‘how can I put the damned to work in a way that will benefit Bronykind?’ I then had the idea that they could read all the pony fanfiction, offering critique and editing assistance and sending the very best my way.”
Michael approached one of the cloaked figures reading the parchments. “It hardly seems a fitting punishment for the hell ridden,” he mumbled. “The Lord will be displeased, you should bring the racks back.”
No sooner as he said this then the figure threw itself at Michaels feet, flinging away its parchment. “It never ends!” it wailed. “Make it stop my Lord, make it stop! All the violence! All the porn! All the horrible spelling errors! At least with the lake of eternal fire you knew where you stood! Now, it’s just…” He trailed off as a demon scuttled past, thrusting a massive tome into his hands. “No! Another human in Equestria story! Make it end! Bring back the lava!”
Michael kicked the poor lowlife away and picked up one of the loose sheets of parchment, immediately retching at what he read. “By all that is holy!” he cried, throwing it away in disgust. “What monstrosities lurk in this fair valley!”
Satan seemed oblivious to this, motioning his pony into action again as he trotted off. “I know! He called back. “There’s just so much great stuff out there! Come, I’ll show you the rest!”
Together they descended further through the Circles of Hell. They passed through what was once the Circle of Lust where those who let appetites sway their reason were supposed to be subjected forever to terrible storms. Now it had become the Circle of Wubstep where the sinners were forced to forever listen to identical sounding electronic screeching. From the wails of the condemned, it did not seem to Michael to be much of an improvement.
Down through the Circle of Fanart they passed, where Michael had to clasp a hand over his eyes at the images that awaited. They moved across the Circle of Plushies, where the damned stood in lines, creating the most suspicious cuddly ponies Michael had ever seen. Many lost souls had tried to stab themselves with their sewing machines as Michael passed, but in Hell there was no death, and they were instantly brought back to life to continue their terrible task. The Circle of Music, the Circle of Games and the Circle of Toy Collecting were no less horrific. If Michael’s stomach had turned the last time he was in Hell at its infernal height, it was nothing compared to this.
Finally they arrived in the final Circle, what was once the home for the most twisted and depraved traitors. Now, there was not a person in sight. At least, not at first.
“Get out of there!” Satan reached into the lake which had once been an icy prison for the world’s greatest traitors. He hauled out a struggling bearded man, who wailed and wept. “Back to the Circle of Games, Judas, back to making me some new and exciting pony Flash games!”
“Please, put me back in the lake of eternal frost!” Judas wept, falling to his knees. “Bring back the demons to flay off my skin, bring back the serpent to eat my liver every day! Anything but force me to make more rubbish Flash games!”
Satan kicked him away. “No! One day you will all finish a game and we can play it together and it won’t be really boring! Begone!” He shrugged to Michael and dismounted his pony. “Sorry about that Michael. Now, you wondered where all of the torture equipment had gone.”
Satan gestured across at the landscape. It was a sight that took Michael’s breath away. Every single instrument of torture – all the racks, the knifes, the spikes, the deadly birds, the lava, everything was on the ground before them. It was not haphazardly piled up however; the entire array of Hell’s wrath was aimed at one empty iron chair.
“This,” Satan boomed, “is the final Circle! The one place that love and tolerance does not apply. It is in this Circle, Michael, that the most evil man in all of creation will be tortured for all eternity for his mighty crimes!” He loomed forwards. “The Hasbro executive who changed Derpy’s name! This will be his doom!” Satan shook his fist in the air as lightning forked above him.
Michael frowned, picking up his official clipboard and leafing through it. “Hm. You really should have checked before going to all this trouble, Satan. That guy’s actually set to go to Heaven.”
Satan paused in his fist shaking. The lightning froze in place. “W-what? But he changed Derpy’s name!”
With a shrug, Michael showed Satan the clipboard. “It’s all in the Book of Life. He’s a good family man who goes to Church and helps the poor. He gets to go to Heaven.”
Satan grasped the clipboard, and then with a snarl threw it away. “But he changed Derpy’s name!” he repeated in disbelief. “There can be no greater crime!”
“Furthermore…” Michael picked his clipboard up and started to make notes. “I’ve inspected Hell, and the tortures you are inflicting upon the damned are too heinous. You must go back to the traditional racks and lakes of fire forthwith!”
“Or what? You’ll send me to Hell?” Satan spat, shaking somewhat. He started to run away from Michael, bounding with his cloven feet over the landscape. “I tried to make pony paradise!” he wailed, “and this is what I get? I don’t need you! I don’t need anyone! I’ll go where I’m wanted!”
Michael flared his blazing sword into life, wings flapping as swooped after Satan, intent on stopping whatever evil plan he was about to set in motion. “Stop Lucifer!” he cried. “By the name of the Angelic Host, stop!”
Satan scrambled up to a gigantic wrought iron door inset with thousands of runes, and placed a clawed hand upon a crystal that sat beside the entrance. The door started to open, letting forth a blinding light. “I was going to use this portal to invade Heaven!” he yelled. “But now I have rebuilt it to serve a new purpose!”
“You were what?” Michael half cried out, stumbling as the light from the doorway struck his eyes. As the light faded, he saw a bright and colourful world on the other side of the arch, rendered in strange cartoon-like colours and shading. In the distance, an orange pony galloped along.
“It worked! The portal to Equestria worked!” Satan felt tears prick at his cheeks. “Goodbye Michael! I escape God’s creation, into a new, purer one! I see her! The best pony! Applejack!”
With that, Satan leapt into the door, bounding into the new world as he raced towards the orange pony. Michael could see Satan chasing after Applejack, laughing and giggling. Quickly, the archangel slammed the door and rammed his burning sword into the crystal, sealing it forever.
Michael slowly shook his head at the drama that had just unfolded. “Applejack, the best pony?” he muttered to himself. “Satan, you were indeed the most twisted and evil being to have ever existed.”