This little piece was written at the peak of a very hot summer - by our standards. Which may explain a few things, but the imagery is true to the old Norse beliefs. The story is just barely TNG in that I had to borrow Data for a brief appearance. There are also a couple of races mentioned that I borrowed from others. No infringement intended. The rest is mine.

Feedback as usual to the address given on my main page, please.

For some background, here is an excerpt from the original introduction:

Ytterön 20 July 1996. The setting of this story was provided by the expression it will be a cold day in hell before.. that I just read for the umpteenth time. This time it was a mere slipup by an otherwise skilled author, but it would seem that the imagery forced upon us a good millennium ago by desert-sprung cultural imperialists is hard to extinguish. As usual, my first thought on reading the cliché was, But Hell is always cold, in fact, it's nothing but. The imagery rose unbidden from there.


 

Hell Hath No Fury ... at All

by Eliann SleepingCat



It is a cold day in Hell. Except that Hell has no days, but the cold is always there. Hell is frozen over. Has always been. Caverns of ice and stark bedrock, frosted. Stalactites hanging into tunnels no one needs, obstructing them. Stalagmites growing from the floor of passages no one walks. Spikes of ice rising from the depth of chasms and crevices. The drops to feed the structures are never heard. It is a growth without movement. Exempt from time.

There are creatures in these halls. A white owl in flight, frozen. Crystalline bats hanging from a naturally vaulted arch. A group of humans huddled in a corner; frozen skeletons all. Some elves, a few Ferengi, a Wookie whose natural habitat might be like this, a Centauri, even a giant from Jotunheim. Or perhaps from the greenlit planes twice removed from Tibet. All frozen specimens. The Queen's realm is not limitless, but it is vast. And nobody knows all its extensions.

In these halls, nothing moves. No thing, that is, save one. The Queen's head. Deep in some forlorn part of the cavern complex, a chamber without specific location, she sits frozen to her throne. Her face is skeletal, her crown a helmet issuing blue light from its many cracks. Her body is frozen, but her head occasionally nods, or even turns, once a century or so, to keep watch over her dominion. In these halls, nothing moves. No thing, that is, save.. two?

Slowly, through the caverns comes what may once have been a woman. She is frozen, yet she moves. She is featureless, but for one thing. She is colourless, but for one thing. She is translucent, but for one thing. That thing is her heart. It is fully visible inside her transparent body of ice, and it still glows. The only red spark in a world of white, blue, and slate. The only burning thing in a world of ice.

And it burns for a machine.

Because of this, she cannot rest in ice. Because of this, she still moves, if slowly like a sluggish stream under ice floes. Because of this, she still walks, dodging stalactites to get into the tunnels no one needs, stepping around stalagmites to wander the passages where no one walks. She has no aim, no direction. She knows not whether she is dead. She only knows that she is trapped.

She wants so much, this woman. She needs so much. She must so much. She must escape this place. She must make plans. She must make tools, whatever they may be. She must free herself. She knows that desire is at the root of her suffering, of all suffering, yet she cannot help herself. She must get to her mechanical man somehow.

Yet all she does is wander the halls. As she passes the chamber of no specific location, the Queen sees her and nods her skeletal head to herself. This one is no threat. There are no threats in Hell. Full of intent and anguish, wandering the halls. Full of plans and incentive, moving without direction. The Queen goes back to her frozen semi-sleep.

The woman walks on, her heart like a beacon in the caverns of ice. She leaves the halls and walks on the black ledge by the chasm. The spikes are soaring majestically from the depths, but she does not see them. She sees only her own anguish, and the plans she must make to escape.

And something else. A flicker perhaps, a startling glint of gold in the dark. And there he is, before her. Another warm colour among the whites, blues, and all-but-blacks. The heat of his machine body actually melting the frost where he happened to touch the wall. A thin layer of frost turning into an equally thin trickle, a movement.

He cannot know her, and yet he does, for recognition here depends on other things than sight. He holds out his hand. "I have come for you."

She takes it, but she says, "I was just about to leave. I could have joined you by my own effort."

He searches for a while, an answer that is not a lie, yet will not reflect his doubt. He finds it: "It did not seem fair that you should have to do everything alone."

She accepts this for now, knowing that it is but a respite, support while she is still looking for her strength. "How did you get in?" she asks. "The Queen allows no living thing in here."

"I do not think she counts me as truly alive", he says. "Her only mistake, perhaps."

He does not smile, but the sparkling gold of his eyes clashes wildly with the stark blues and slates around him.

The woman detaches her glowing heart from the ice that is her body. She hands the burning object to her mechanical man.

In her chamber of no specific location, the frozen Queen smiles.

But then, she always does.

 

*** The End ***