The Bells of Hell, not to be confused with the Belles of Hell, who can be visited alternate Thursdays between 2 and 4 A.M., nor with the Halls of Baal, where I worked for a few summers, doing re-enactments of The Death of Tiamat for the tourists. (“Thunderer, thou hast slain me! No more shall the parch-ed Earth cry for the bless-ed Waters of Heaven and be denied, and Thy puissant name shall be for a blessing! Yet forget not Mot ...”) used to be proper great things, made of primal gold and tainted brass, booming and clamoring until you could scarce hear yourself think. Which, given my thoughts in those days, was probably just as well. It didn’t usually matter what time it was in Hell, but when it did, we all knew.
Then, around the turn of the last century, the noise of the things began to seem somehow quaint, and their names (Nebless Clem, Jenny Brazen, Ill-trusted Fido and the rest) an embarassment. All too medieval, too obvious without the spice of irony which was then popular in Hell. The bells were dismounted from their towers and left in a store room; the demons who pulled the thick ropes were found new jobs, or were killed, or refashioned. An array of incongrous instruments were hung in the campaniles -- dinner bells, bicycle bells, butter knives hanging from strings. By the time of the Great War, it began being bruited about that the Bells of Hell went ting-a-ling-a-ling. A certain cheap effect was gained, granted, like that of hearing a great hulking bruiser speaking in a piping falsetto as he goes about his business of breaking other folks’ bones. Still, I’ve always regretted the change; the Bells of Hell should shake souls with fear and wonder, not make them instinctively grope for change with which to buy ice cream.