by Jade O, 7th
Fire. Yet everything about this place felt cold. Life. But you can't see or know it. A system. One that is impure and dark. These are all aspects of the world, an unforgiving terrible world. This place is incapable of many kinds of love. The residents who live here are forced to live, a punishment. This place is Hell. Since Beginning, there has been a ruler. It has been the same ruler when Hell first started. He goes by many names. His most common title as the Devil, is Lucifer. Today, he surrounds himself with his guards, as he awaits his new arrivals to enter his kingdom. The guards flush in. These are true hounds of blood. The dogs have killed many without thought or hesitation. Dogs who are demons, gifted with wings, so they can find and execute intruders. Their teeth and claws are stained with blood. Four guards gather around the Devil, who sits in his throne, two on each side. The first arrivals enters the room. He is thrown on the floor so that he is on his knees. The guards on the left of the throne, Daku and Bouk, muttered to each other. "This ones gonna be a thief, I know it.” said Bouk.
"We aren't supposed to talk," grunted Daku. "He might hear us."
"You said more than me!" Bouk eared. He eyed his master, tracing his enormous horns with his gaze.
"You are accused with illegal theft, is my assumption wrong?" the Devil spoke.
"No your assumption is not wrong, but I was wrongfully accused. I am no thief," the boy quivered, face down and teary eyed. The Devil rested his head on his fist, looking so bored that he could've fallen asleep right there.
"Bring him closer." Lucifer commanded the guards holding the accused. The dogs dragged him across the carpet, up the steps, and laid him at the Devil's feet.
“He's gonna say, do you lie to an evil? then tickle his spine." Bouk informs Daku. Daku shoots a sharp look at Bouk.
"Do you lie to an evil, an evil who chooses your fate?" the Devil said. He stroked the boy's spine with his thin sharp finger. Daku grunted a laugh, not even trying to hold back his smile. Lucifer snorted, leaving puffs of smoke coming from his nostrils. He glared at Bouk and Daku, making Daku whimper. "Now, now. It's okay. Just tell me the truth, and everything will be fine," he said calmly and kindly. His eyes looked solemn, he even put on a shy smile. The boy's eyes were gushing with tears.
"I only did for my mother! She was sick and we didn't have food! Please have mercy! I beg of you," he pleaded. Lucifer played and tousled with the thief ́s hair. He clicked his tongue against his teeth, still smiling. The smile went away, and the glaring eyes came back. "Take him away," he directed the guards.
"No, no! Please! Please! NO!̈" the boy yelled. The guards dragged him through the enormous doors, never to be seen again. His last words echoing in the halls. The Devil got up out of his throne to leave the room.
"You are dismissed," he said behind him, and the guard dogs scattered.
Bouk and Daku trotted the halls as they goofed off during duty. "How did you know he was gonna say that?" Daku laughed.
"I've been working for him´bout 1000 years now, you start to catch on to his routines." Bouk said.
"Wow. I can't believe it's been like this for 1000 years already. We don't ́t look a day over 650!" Daku exclaimed. He lifted one paw up to his muzzle, making him stand in a regal and fancy pose.
"Me yes, you not so much." Bouk pawed at him making Daku break his stance and fall. Daku got up with his ears all perked up as he licked his paws. He looked up and pounced on Bouk. The two wrestled and play fought until their bout was over.
The two flew out of the palace on their wings back to their home. Daku and Bouk have lived in the same den since they were pups, for 1000 years now. It was Bouk´s turn to catch dinner, so he headed out while Daku rested. Bouk traced the whole day, like he did every evening after guarding during the day. Wake up. Catch breakfast. Go to the palace. Guard palace. Guard at Arrival Test. Guard again. Go home. Catch dinner. Sleep. Just to repeat it the next day. And the next day. And the day after that. This has been going on for 1000 years now. 1000 years of roaming the palace walls. 1000 years of killings and homicide. 1000 years of nothing new. Bouk sighed in disbelief and in blue devils. He landed in the Fire Grounds, a field of burning scraps and bodies. Food. Dinner. He sniffed for fresh meat in the air, looking for traces of scent trails. He finally caught one and started to follow it, nose in the dirt. Bouk was lead to a fresh corpse, it looked like a cow but the body was to mangled to tell. He ripped through it, trying to tear a piece of the chest out. Bouk teethed on a bone, taking in the juices and marrow. Fresh meat tasted a lot better than the old rotting flesh. While he was eating, Bouk heard a noise. His stance changed, ready to defend his food. Bouk growled madly, drool dripping from his curled black lips. To his surprise, a red kit popped out from the top of the hide. The kit had long tufted ears, and stubby horns. He was teething on a cube of meat. It looked funny because the kit only had one tooth. A larger version of the kit looked down at Bouk then picked the kit. She was beautiful. She wore a crown in between her ears. "Lady Lilith, my apologizes, I did not know it was you." Bouk bowed to the Queen of Hell.
"It's fine, you may rise," she said. Bouk sat down on his hind legs, keeping his back straight. She was wearing a long red silk skirt with an open front and a hooded cape with a pentagram medallion. Lilith was married to the Devil, making her the Queen of Hell. The kit she was holding looked much like his mother, taking on her red fur and long tuffy ears. "I am sorry that he interrupted your meal Bouk." Lilith said ruffling her kid ́s hair. "You always have to keep an eye on kits, or they'll fall off the face of the earth," she sighed. Bouk just nodded.
"You know my name?" Bouk asked her.
"Yes, why?" she bounced her kit to the sky then wrapped him in her arms.
"Because we have never really formally met and there are thousands of dogs in the kingdom and- "
"Yes." Bouk snapped his muzzle shut. Queen Lilith looked around him, as if she were inspecting him.
"How long have you been working for the Guard?" she asked him.
"'Bout 1000 years," he said.
"How long have you been alive?"
"Huh," she scoffed. "You've been a guard dog your entire life? Nothing else?" the Queen smoothed her hair over her right eye.
"Yes, it's all I've ever known. Why should I be doing something else?" one of Bouk ́s ears flopped. She scoffed again.
"Farewell Bouk of the Guard." She turned around and started to walk in the direction of the palace. Bouk was confused, what was she scoffed at? He watched her walk away for a bit, still very puzzled. Bouk asked her one more question before she was too far away. "Are you ever tired of doing the same routine every day, wanted to get away from this life and start a new one, break the everyday?" he shouted.
"I had a different life before the crown," she says. Lilith continues to walk away to the palace, and Bouk has an answer to his question.
Bouk left the Fire grounds without the meat and flew straight back to the den. It was dangerous to fly this fast in the dark especially with embers falling from the sky, but his willpower burned brighter than all the embers that would fall that night. When he got to the den, Daku was still asleep. "Daku, Daku, Daku!" he grunted as pushed against his neck. Bouk knew that Daku was a heavy sleeper. Whatever he did, his younger brother would not wake up. Please don't be mad, Bouk thought as he took in a bit breath and pushed it right out before he bit his brother on the tail.
"AaAAAaAoOooOoWww!" Daku howled. "Ehhagrh," he grunted, "-what was that for!"
"Come one, we ́re leaving."
"What? Where are we going"
"I don't know yet, but we need to leave. NOW!"
"No,no,no,no,no, first tell me why." Daku demanded, though he said it with a yawn.
"Because our life sucks, Daku! We live in Hell if you're asking! Wee been stuck doing the same thing for 1000 years now! 1000 years of killing and guarding! We deserve better lives Daku!" Bouk kept on pacing and Daku just stared at him. His smokey white eyes were blank. One of his ears fell.
"What the heck are you talking about?" Daku yelled. "Bouk, we are guard dogs. We were born for this job. Our lives were planned out and chosen for us before we could even breathe! If we were to leave it would be treason, there isn't anywhere the king wouldn’t find us. And like you said, we're murderers! No one no matter what no one will accept us. So go to sleep!" Daku scolded. He laid down to go to sleep.
"No." Bouk told him. One of Daku ́s eyes opened. "I will do anything to live a better life, or to get away from this one. I will leave, whether you ́re by my side or not." Bouk looked Daku, dead serious, in the eye. There was a long pause. Even Bouk looked shocked at the words that had come out of his muzzle.
"Okay." said Daku.
Bouk and Daku shot out of the den and flew like arrows to the palace. When they got there they knew what they needed to do: go to The Hall of Mirrors. The Hall of Mirrors is the only way to leave Hell. It's hidden in an underground chamber, and in the hall are mirrors that lead you to another world. The chamber is guarded, not by dogs, but by Darkness itself. If you look into its eyes, then you´ll die instantly, but not before you feel the Darkness steal your soul and devour it. The two snuck into the palace and quietly strolled the large halls looking for the stairs that would lead to the chamber. They crept around in the dark, the torches lit on the walls every now and then were their only source of light. Bouk found a trap door hidden under a carpet, the entrance to the staircase. They bit onto the silver ring handle attached to the door and pulled. The metal left an unpleasant taste to linger in their mouths and the pulling gave them a toothache. The latch was still nowhere to being open. They bit onto it again.”Wan,oo,ee!” Bouk said through his teeth as they pulled even harder. It didn't budge. Bouk was getting aggravated. They needed this door to open, he needed this door to open. Bouk didn't care how they got the door open, he just needed a way in. "Stand back," he commanded Daku. He shifted away from the trap door. Bouk lowered his head, tilted his horns, and rammed into the floor. He took his head out of the hole he had made and shook his whole body because on the impact on him made him dizzy. “Lets go,” Bouk said as he walked down the first step of the stair care.
“Wait, I have to get something,” Daku said.
“What is it?" Bouk asked.
"Just wait here.” Daku said again. He walked around the corner without looking back. Bouk waited in the dark, sitting on his hind legs, long bony tail wrapped around himself. Later he laid down because his legs were so tired from standing. It had taken Daku so long, and Bouk was getting sleepy. His eyelids were getting heavier. All of a sudden, he heard footsteps.
“Daku?” Bouk sat up. Bouk saw a shadow along the wall of a demon dog walking. Their horns were long and twisted. Not like Daku ́s sharp and thick horns. The dog who turned the corner was not Daku, but a different guard dog. “Hello Bouk.” they said as they circled around them.
“Hello Tanto." Bouk answered.
“What are you doing here? You went home hours ago.” Tanto knew what he was doing. He wasn’t light leaded.
“Yeah, why aren you at home. All snuggly in your den?” another voice said. A dog with horns that went straight from the side of her head appeared from the opposite corner.
“What do you want Vexa?” Bouk said annoyed by her snub voice.
“Answer my question first: why are you here?” she taunted. Vexa looked behind him and saw the broken trap door. She smirked. Bouk just took a lick at his very short chest fur. More dogs came from each corner, until it looked like Bouk couldn't escape if he wanted to. One last shadow moved across the walls. This one a much larger than any of the other dogs. The only resemblance was its broad bull like horns. The dogs got rowdy and started to bite the air and bark laughs. Bouk knew who was coming. The Devil himself turned the left hall corner.
“Bouk, you such a good guard, one of the best,” he revised.”-but you had to mess this up by, what are you doing again?” Lucifer asked Bouk.
“Looking for a way out,” was his response, headstrong. Lucifer clicked his tongue against his teeth. Bouk didn’t care about the Devil's pathetic act, he wanted to know where Daku was. Did they find him and kill him? Was he being kept hostage? If his brother was in trouble, then the question wouldn't stop being asked unless it was answered.
"Where is my brother?" Bouk asked the Devil. He bared his teeth, to show how serious he was.
“Oh, why don't I show you instead." Lucifer shifted to the left, smiling, to reveal another dog standing behind him. He did not look like he was in pain, he was not in chains.
"Why? Daku how could you, to your own brother?" Bouk was not shocked, he was past flustered. There were no words to describe his feelings. Daku swelled up grief in his eyes, he too was feeling things he didn’t know.
"I had to! You-you were- " started Daku but Bouk cut him off. His head turned in anger, but his red eyes were wrapped in sadness, and a tear was the bow on top. That was why Daku took so long. He told them about Bouk’s plan to leave.
"Bouk of the Guard, I charge you with treason. Your punishment," Lucifer paused,"-death." All the guard dogs crept closer, and closer to Bouk, except for Daku who didn't even look at him: Bouk saw no way around the circling guard dogs, the Hall of Mirrors was his only chance of survival. He knew that he wouldn't be able to pick which one he would go in. With his eyes closed, he charged as fast as he could into the mirror. Bouk dived into the latch in the ground and ran, he ran as fast as he could. The last thing he saw was the Devil turned his head and shout "DON'T LET HIM LEAVE!" Bouk heard the other dogs run after him, trying to bite onto his tail. He didn't know how for he had to run so he ran faster and squinted even harder. All of a sudden, Bouk hit something hard, and it felt like glass was cutting against his pelt, only for a second though. He opened his eyes and he saw the ground below him, but he wasn't touching it he was falling towards it. He was falling. He didn't know how, but he was. Bouk hit the hard dirt, his whole body felt numb, but when he looked up. Into the sky, he didn't see a black and red sky, instead he saw pinks, blues, and purples. White shining dots freckled the sky. It was amazing. Bouk smiled. He had made it out of Hell. he closed his and fell asleep. Bouk woke up to something touching his forehead it was cold and it gave relief. He almost didn't wake up it was so soothing Bouk snapped and tried to bite what ever put the cold thing on his head. He saw a strange creature looking back at him. She looked angry at the fact that Bouk tried to bite her. He didn't know what to do at this point, so he just put his head down. He ran his paw over his head and pulled down a wet towel.
"Put that back!" she snapped. Bouk put it back, he was too surprised to do anything else. Bouk looked around, there were jars hanging from the top of the ceiling that were filled with herbs and spices. The hut had a small stove in the far left that the tall furry creature, who had taken Bouk, was stirring a pot that was boiling. Bouk tried to figure out what she was, but his knowledge was limited.
"Where am I?" Bouk asked her. She didn't respond. "Why did you kidnap me?" he asked. Her big round ears twitched. Bouk sighed. "Who are you- "
"Listen here! You ain't gonna be the one who asks the questions here! If you think your questions are so important then aren my questions are important too! Now, what kind of dog is that skinny and lives? What kind of dog, has wings and horns? What kind of dog has red eyes?" her voice wasn't hard and rough, it was smooth but the way she used her voice was coarse. "I know you are a demon."
"Then why would you help me?"
"Because. You were dying. Anybody would have left you out there to die, a lot of them would have killed you on the spot. You owe me your life." She got to the point.
"Okay. Thank you, I should go now." Bouk got up and went for the door.
"No, why would you go out like that?"
"I just need to go. I have stuff to do." Bouk lied. He didn’t know what to do. He always thought that Daku and him would find a way to hide themselves and maybe dig up a den. Live out their lives in peace, away from their past lives, until Daku betrayed him. Even if he did stay here, it would put the person who helped him in danger. The person who had not killed him on sight, but instead aid to his wounds and help him, even though she didn’t even know her name. She sighed.
"My name is Raine. I'm a kangaroo rat. I live in a small hut in Khantria and I work in Herbology. I found you in the desert outside an abandoned windmill; there was glass in your pelt. I knew you were a demon but you were hurt so I took you home and helped you. If you want, you can stay here as long as you want but if you leave, its okay." Raine looked down as she talked like her fieriness was burning out. Bouk was calm now. He felt like he wanted to talk.
"My name is Bouk, and I used to work as a guard dog for the Devil. I was gonna escape with my brother from Hell to live a better life, but he betrayed me, so I went alone." Bouk told her everything about how he got where he was now. She understood. When Raine wasn’t talking, she was listening. Bouk decided to stay with her like she said he could. But she had one strict rule: he had to always be in disguise. She had an old dog costume that used to be her pajamas when she was a baby.
"A dog in a dog costume? Isn't that kinda um- " Bouk said as he fiddled with the cow bell on the collar. His horns poked through the costume fabric, he couldn't do anything about that.
"Yes, ok so stand in your hind legs. And try to make a puppy face." Raine told him. He did what she asked. He got used to the hind leg thing and he tried to be as cute and cuddly as possible. Bouk was satisfied. "There, you can leave anytime Bouk, I ́m here to help." Raine smiled. Bouk smiled back. He knew that he could never escape Hell and that the Devil would come for him and wouldn't stop until he was dead. But now he wasn't alone, he had a friend. Bouk could go to sleep and wake up to a better tomorrow. Bouk finally found a way out.
Students 6th-12th Grades