Curious was not your average Carebear. Oh, to look at her you would not have thought she was any different from her brothers and sisters. She was small and round, with soft lavender fur that tickled when it brushed against your skin in play. Her round tummy was white with a distinct question mark that glowed when she was deep in thought. And that, as it turns out, is precisely what separated her from her siblings. There was something restless and quizzitive about her spirit, something that often kept her apart while the other Carebears frolicked happily through the cloud gardens of Care-a-lot. Whereas they spent their time in silly games and nonsense songs, Curious often found herself deeply engaged in thought. Nothing made her happier than following the threads of an argument down tortuous and labyrinthine paths, and when she was poring over a problem, nothing, absolutely nothing, could distract her. Her siblings did not understand her. Never having felt the ecstasy of pure thought, they felt she must be unbearably lonely, spending all that time with her nose buried in dusty old tomes or searching out new species of flowers down on the earth below. Curious spent so much time in her own head that she often found it difficult to relate to others. She tried to speak to them, to give them some idea of the marvelous and beautiful thoughts which danced through her head, but somehow her words always came out clumsy and disjointed, her friends would just kind of stare at her uncomprehending, and Curious would grow embarrassed and flustered, and hastily withdraw to her beloved solitude once more. Eventually the other Carebears stopped even trying to reach out to her; they accepted that she was eccentric and would never be like them, however much they tried to show her that theirs was the better way. When they saw her walking, they would point and whisper and wonder what was wrong with her. Curious hated their pity, and in time began to hate them as well. She spent less and less time on Care-a-lot, and more time wandering the earth below, taking in strange and decadent sights.
It was on one such journey that she found the Box. It was in an old abandoned warehouse which had been used as a crackhouse until a careless whore had knocked over a gas lamp in an attempt to flee an imaginary police raid, and the filthy mattresses that lined the refuse-strewn floors caught fire. The whole place went up, and now only a burnt-out husk remained. Curious had been drawn by the desolation: something in the sad ruins appealed to her own misshapen soul.
Sifting through the rubble with her paw, the ash and filth staining her lavender fur, Curious found the Box. Strangely, though it had been laying in a bed of ashes, the Box was completely unharmed. Its black lacquered surface almost shone in the darkness: there was not even a speck of dirt anywhere to be found on it. As she cupped the Box delicately in her paws, she was surprised by its warmth. Though it was chilly outside, the Box was warm to the touch, almost like human flesh. It sent shivers through her body, and Curious began to slowly trace the swirling patterns with her thumb. The Box moved! Curious dropped it and backed away. She had felt someone or something’s breath on the back of her neck, and it made her fur stand on end. Curious started to back away: she suddenly felt very, very cold. But then her eyes caught the Box, once more laying in the ashes, and it seemed to call out to her: she could not resist. She picked the Box up and hurried back to Care-a-lot.
For the next two days Curious did nothing but play with the Box. She didn’t eat or drink: her old books lay discarded on her desk, and when some of the other Carebears knocked on her door to invite her to one of their parties, she held her breath, pretending not to be there, and impatiently waited for the sound of their departing steps. Then, once more, her paws began to trace the eldritch designs, and her eyes closed in ecstasy, as if she were exploring the familiar curves of a lover long parted’s body. Of course, being a Carebear, she had never known a lover’s touch, but the Box had awakened something deep, dark and sensual within her. She liked the unfamiliar feelings and longed to set them free. But before she could do that, she had to solve the riddle of the Box, walk the shadowy path of the labyrinth that was traced out in the golden spiderweb of knotwork on the Box’s surface. The Box was not of one piece – it was composed of myriads of shapes which one could shift and twist into new configurations. Her paws seemed guided by a higher force. She did not know what shape the puzzle would finally take, what form would solve the Box’s riddle, but she knew that she had not yet reached it, so she continued to work it, moving pieces into place, making it now a triangle, now an oblong sphere, then back into a box, though a box whose surface decoration had completely changed. With each permutation that the Box underwent, Curious felt herself inwardly change. A rush of violent anger, overwhelming tears of joy, blackest depression, lust whose flames made her ache for secret pleasures she’d never known before. Yet none of these seemed quite right, so Curious continued to work the puzzle Box, wondering if she would ever solve it – knowing that nothing else in all the world mattered as much as that. She would sit there for eternity until she had solved it and opened the dark doorway within her soul and beheld the terrible beauty that awaited her on the other side.
As it so happened, eternity came sooner than Curious might have anticipated. She moved a piece into place, and a small metallic circle was revealed. Hesitantly, Curious traced it with her thumb, and she was gripped with a most exquisite pain. It was as if the Box had suddenly burst into flame, yet she could not drop it. Her thumb remained stuck to the circle, tracing a downward spiral of its own volition. Her brain screamed in searing agony, but the only sound that escaped her mouth was a low, sultry moan. The Box began to change beneath her paws, mechanically falling into place. She had solved the puzzle! The hidden doorway in her mind began to creak open, and darkness poured forth. And suddenly, there was darkness without as well. The candles that she had lit and set up throughout the floor of her room all blew out in an instant. Yet there was no breeze: the air was still, empty, for several seconds the only sound was that of her own heart beating. And then there was the sound of chains rustling, and metal cutting wetly into flesh, and the wails of the damned in Hell. But there was more to them than just pain and fear and mad repentance – there was also the deepest sexual longing, and it made Curious shiver, for it was the sound of her own soul. The room filled with smoke and the smell both of rotting flesh and the musk of rutting bodies. The floor suddenly was wet beneath her, it stained her fur a deep red-black. Curious gasped in horror and dropped the Box, trying to get to her feet; she slipped and fell face-first into the inch-thick pool of blood which now covered the whole of her living space.
Curious managed to rise to her hands and knees – she was no longer alone. Standing before her were three pairs of sleek black leather boots. They belonged to things that once had been human, but were no longer. Slowly, her eyes rose, taking in the figures which stood before her. The leather encased their bodies like a second skin, except where it parted to reveal flesh that was white, a sickly bleached white like the underbelly of a fish. The flesh was pierced and torn, and where wounds did not bleed, it shone with cruel metal – nails and barbed wire and razor blades.
The first of the three was also the tallest. His head was bald but over his whole head and face there was a fine network of lines that had been burned into his flesh, and at the intersection of these lines, countless nails had been driven in. His eyes were cold and completely black, without iris or pupil, and his lips were flat, as if someone had cut a line into the smooth whiteness of his face, and curved at the ends into what might have been mistaken for a smile. But there was no kindness in the gesture, only cruelty and unspeakable delight in the pain of others. He had a severe and priestly stance, his long-fingered hands folded prayerfully before him.
Behind him stood two figures, one male and the other female. The female had some contraption on her face that looked like a dental brace from hell, made of razor-wire and spikes. Her mouth was kept open painfully wide, in a state of perpetual reception, and her teeth had all been knocked out. Her tongue lolled about, like a bloated eel nestled in the cavern of her mouth, and blood drooled freely down her chin. Her eyes stared out wetly from behind the brace, darting here and there but never able to focus on the same thing for long. Her leather skin had been cut open in the front to expose her exaggeratedly large breasts which hung down pendulously over her narrow frame. Large skewer-like rods had been thrust through the swollen mammaries in a criss-cross pattern. Her nipples had been completely removed and then carelessly sewn back on with wire thread. Much further below, another incision had been made in the leather suit to reveal her sex, which was hairless and distended, the plump lips of her labia strung through with several shiny metal rings that completely sealed her up. Her fingers were tipped with long silver nails like daggers and she continually flexed and wiggled them, as if she had an incurable desire to plunge them into flesh and tear long, bloody strips from someone’s back.
The third of the figures was unassuming compared to his companions. He might have seemed a regular human with a fondness for black leather and bald heads, except that the central portion of his throat was missing, leaving a ragged, wet wound that exhaled small gray clouds whenever he breathed, like a cancer victim who continued to smoke through his stoma.
Curious rose to her feet and started to back away, but brushed into a bunch of chains which had suddenly appeared. Attached to each of the chains were large, rusty flesh hooks which bit into her body, trapping her. She tried to move to free herself but the razor sharp hooks only bit into her flesh harder, tearing, trapping and tormenting her. She screamed out in pain and fear, and the leader of the trio, Pinhead, just laughed.
“Oh, your pain is delicious! Keep trying to free yourself, child, you will only make your agony more exquisite.”
Curious stopped moving and tried to ignore the fiery pain that assailed her from every direction. Finally, through her ragged breathing, she managed to find her voice.
“Who are you?”
“Explorers in the further regions of experience. Demons to some. Angels to others.”
“Why are you here?”
“You summoned us.”
“With the Lamarchand Configuration. The puzzle Box. It opened a doorway to Hell, and we came through.”
The cancer victim stooped down and picked up the Box. “How did this thing work the Box?” he wheezed. “It doesn’t even have fingers.”
Pinhead took the Box from him and began working it, transforming it back to its original shape. “It’s not fingers that summon us. It’s desire.”
“What do you want with me?” Curious demanded, jerking her arms back as Pinhead approached her. She screamed as the hooks plunged deeper into her flesh.
Pinhead stopped and stretched his hand out, caressing her soft, furry cheek in an oddly tender gesture. Then his hand closed into a fist, yanking her head back, exposing her throat. Curious swallowed hard, the pain warring with something else within her: desire.
“We have such sights to show you. Such ecstatic agonies to give to you. We shall transform your flesh, teach you all of its secret needs. Unleash your basest desires. You shall suffer in torment for all eternity, and you shall thank us endlessly for it.”
“No, I won’t. I don’t want this.”
“Everyone says that,” the woman hissed, her voice wet and weak coming through her toothless mouth. “And nobody means it.”
“You opened the Box. You summoned us. This is what you wanted,” Pinhead assured her.
“No it isn’t,” Curious gasped. Though in truth, it was, and she knew it. She had never been happy here in Care-a-lot, could never share the simple childish joy of her fellows. She always wanted something more, something darker, something fleshier. But that had been denied her in her Carebear’s body, and so she had retreated deep within her mind, where the limits of the flesh no longer applied to her. And here now these demons – or were they angels, she could not tell for their beauty – offered her a way out, a way to make her dreams a reality. She loved them for that – even as she feared them.
“Do not resist us, child. This is what you want – it is written in your eyes in the way that they have become clouded over with lust, and it is written in your body in how it trembles in anticipation. If you had a pussy, you would be wet.”
The others laughed at that, but Curious just shivered. She had always envied humans their genitals. Carebears only had soft tummies and empty spaces between their legs. They did not reproduce sexually – instead they were formed out of clouds and love and thoughts, each one representing a human characteristic or emotion. But there was no Lusty or Whore Bear – sex was supposed to be alien to Care-a-lot, but it wasn’t, for it dwelt in Curious’ heart. And she had laid there many a night, rubbing the empty space between her legs with her round paws, wondering what it would feel like to have something there, to have fingers to put inside herself. She occasionally felt pleasant sensations from rubbing herself, but never orgasm, and she was never certain that it wasn’t all in her head, a projection of her desire to feel something. Oh, how she ached to feel something. Anything.
“Let us give her one,” the woman whispered, stepping forth. She stank of cum and pussy and dried sweat – of lust – and Curious found the smell intoxicating. The woman reached out with her taloned hand and pressed the sharpness into Curious, just below her tummy. Curious winced, biting her lip against the pain. Blood surfaced and ran down the length of the woman’s nail: the nail stayed right there. Curious ached to feel it open her up, to give her what she’d always wanted, to transform her flesh so that it resembled her dark and twisted soul, and not this cute, innocent, cuddly façade that Nature had forced her to wear all these years. Curious opened her eyes, stared at the beautiful demonic trio, and silently begged with them for the woman to proceed. But she didn’t. They waited. They could wait for all eternity if they had to – but Curious couldn’t. She had to have it. Now.
“Please,” she finally whispered. “Do it. Make me one of you.”
And with that, the woman pushed her long razored fingernail further in and dragged it downward, carving for Curious a real cunt.
When they were finished, Curious looked at her reflection in the mirror that stood in what once had been her study. They had shaved off all of her lavender fur so that she stood pale and pink and nude. Over her flesh they had sewn a black leather suit like theirs, the suit grafted to her flesh with wires and nails. They had carved the question mark out of her Carebear heart and replaced it with a live, bleeding human heart adorned with a crown of thorns. All up and down her face – especially her cheeks and round bear ears – they had pierced her and strung tiny metal rings that glinted in the darkness and jingled as she moved. And between her legs was the still bleeding gash through which she had given birth to her new self. It was lined with sharp razor-edged teeth, and a tongue like a little cock or snake writhed within her. She had never been so beautiful. She was no longer Curious – now she knew who and what she was. She was a Cenobite. The Hellbound Heart.