At the Hotel Simons in New York, the Ancient One stands before the unconscious form of his former pupil, Doctor Strange, who floats horizontally above a bed, and gloats. His psychic fingers, he states, will burrow into Strange’s very heart, he proclaims. Unless he returns, he will destroy the house of his life force… giving his wandering sprit no home to return to. For as the gods die when the people cease to believe in them… so does a great magician perish… when he’s careless about where leaves his mortal body.
Meanwhile, in a lower of Hell, Dead Girl cradles the barely conscious Doctor Strange, telling him he’s breaking her heart. Don’t exaggerate, he replies. If anyone’s heart is hurting here it’s… Strange’s words trail as he cries out in pain. A moment later, it subsides and he returns to coherence. F-farewell, he haltingly tells Dead Girl, “whose first name I still do not know…” A moment later, Strange is gone, discorporating into thin air. “It’s Moonbeam…” she whispers. With that, Dead Girl’s demeanor changes and she stands, glancing back to the group with cold eyes. Her name’s Moonbeam. Well? What’s so funny about that?
Shrugging his shoulders, Guy tells the others that he’s right. So what if she’s got an absurdly inappropriate name? That’s no reason to stare at the poor girl. Smiling admiringly at him, Edie tells Guy that that was masterful. What he’s trying for, Guy continues, is… sensitive… but strong. It made her molecules tingle, Edie rejoins. She knows this wild little desert island in the sea of heavenly dreams they could ‘port to… Now the Doctor’s gone, this mission’s all but washed up, anyhow… When Guy rebuffs that he doesn’t think so, not now, Edie becomes confused. She thought that was what he wanted! She thought she was what he wanted!
It is, Guy counters, but he wants someone else too. “Dead Girl?” Edie asks. Him, her and Dead Girl? Okay, she can get her head around that. Taken aback, Guy explains that he wants himself. Being with her has made him remember who he used to be. A leader the old him wouldn’t walk away from this mission until it was done. For Pete’s sake, Smith, Edie mocks, why does he have to be so complex.
Back in the Hotel Simons, the Ancient One continues his spell, proclaiming that he summons Strange. He commands him to use his mystic skills to bestow the gift of life onto him… and some of his colleagues at present languishing in Hell.
So summoned, Doctor Strange’s previously inert form springs to life and in a moment is on his feet, his hands formed into position to cast a spell. You of all people, Strange tells the Ancient One, knows how life is to be bestowed to the dead – by the ghastly ceremony of Osiris… To this, the Ancient One explains that it is beyond what he can achieve in the twenty-four hours allotted to him by the Pitiful One’s clay… Instead, he will batter Strange into submission so he is a puppet of his will… they begin with something he picked up from dread Dormammu!
With that, the Ancient One casts a spell, firing a mystical blast from each hand at Strange. And this, Strange replies, casting a shield counter-spell, was inspired by one of their recent presidents… an occult barrier of mystic teflon from which all evil assaults slide!
The crisis passed, the two combatants size each other up, each waiting for the other to make the next move. How did he end up in Hell, Strange asks the Ancient One as they wait. He, who rescued him from despair when he thought his life was over. “I became evil,” Strange’s former master states. Casting a new spell which propels dozens of daggers at Strange, the Ancient One continues that it started with an obese fool breaking wind in an elevator. He left, leaving him twelve floors to go with his stink… so I created a tiny spell to give that lump of lard the worst case of hemorrhoids known to science.
“And for that… he went to Hell?” Strange asks, casting a spell with which his hands speedily deflects each dagger. Next time someone irritated him, the Ancient One continues, the spell was bigger. The next time, bigger still… Before he knew it… he was thoroughly rotten.
Across the sheet from the building Hotel Simmons, some street walkers watch the light show within. Interpreting it as a controlled demolition, one of them remarks that it’s ‘bout time they pulled that dump down.
Meanwhile, in Hotel Self-Loathing, Kraven the Hunter loudly demands to know from the Pitiful One what keeps the Ancient One. Instructing Kraven to relax, the Pitiful One states that he’s got to persuade Doctor Strange to break several laws of physics and resurrect them. That might take a little while. Sitting nearly, Mysterio interjects that the Ancient One looks kinda feeble. Is he sure he can handle a dude like Doctor Strange. He’s a tough old bird, the Pitiful One replies. And he’s master of all kinds of weird stuff.
Ignoring the conversation, Miss America tends to the Anarchist, who is still in his near catatonic state. Over and over, Tike mutters that he can’t get his hands clean. Addressing the others, Miss America tells them that she’s really worried about Tike. He’s been in his private Hell for ages. Do they think the hotel has a doctor? This is deep hell, the Pitiful One replies. The only doctors ‘round here are the ones who poisoned their patients. Her boyfriend’ll be fine. He’s not her boyfriend, Miss America corrects.
Inspired to a different train of thought, Kraven regards the flask of crème and notes that if they put a little more eau du profundis and take a trip to the land of the living, they can see what’s keeping them. Before he can reach the container, however, the Pitiful One intercedes. No one’s touching the eau du profundis he declares. And no one’s going anywhere. The Ancient One knows what he’s doing.
Elsewhere, the Ancient One and Doctor Strange are no longer in the Hotel Simons, now floating in a celestial void. Commenting on their location, the Ancient One notes that they seem to have shunted themselves into another dimension.
“Hemorrhoids?” Doctor Strange rejoins. “…did you say hemorrhoids.” Caught off guard, the Ancient One seems unable to offer a reply, which only confirms to Strange that his theory was correct. He fashioned a spell… to give a man hemorrhoids? Tell him, Ancient One, Strange commands. Still reeling from being caught, the Ancient One tells Stephen to calm down. Didn’t he teach him that a master of the mystic arts must remain chilled at all times? Growling a reply, Strange angrily casts another spell.
Meanwhile, in the afterlife, the ever horseback-mounted Phantom Rider tells Dead Girl if’n the sheriff’s done n’ gone, he doesn’t see why he should stay wit’ this durned posse. He stays, Dead Girl replies, because they’ve come this far and they’ve got to find the Pitiful One and his magic potion - for the doctor’s sake. Grinning slightly, Guy adds that if the Rider leaves now, won’t he feel like the most awful quitter?
Considering this for a moment, the Rider replies nope, he doesn’t reckon he will. Glancing off into the horizon, he marvels at the sunset, announcing it perfect. Entranced, he apologizes to “Moonbeam” but he always dreamed of riding off into the sunset. A moment later, the Phantom Rider is gone in a cloud of smoke. It’s not even a proper sunset! Dead Girl yells after him. This is Hell, you dummy! It’s a cruel illusion! The rest of the group is less enraged, however, with Guy and Ant-Man noting that the Rider can’t hear her or that he doesn’t want to hear her. The Piano Player, however, is more optimistic and notes that it says a lot for his indomitable frontier spirit that he can find happiness in this place. It says a lot for his stupidity, Ant-Man rejoins.
Ignoring the departure of the Rider, Moira excitedly asks Dead Girl if Moonbeam is really her name. Her parents were hippies from Berkley, Dead Girl explains. The Moira admiringly replies that she thinks it’s a “lovely wee name,” Dead Girl counters that she thinks it suck and asks that they keep it as “Dead Girl.”
With that, Dead Girl waves the others to follow her. Next stop, Hotel Self-Loathing. That’s where they said the Pitiful One is staying, right? However, Dead Girl stops a moment later when she realizes that none of her “dead girls” are following. Moira? Gwen? Mockingbird? Apologizing, Gwen explains that they’ve decided that they’ve been through enough already. They figure they’ve fulfilled their side of the bargain, Mockingbird adds. It’s been a grand adventure, Moira interjects, but they have a book club meeting tomorrow. Funny, Gwen chimes in, how they cling to terms like today and tomorrow, when days don’t really exist down there. Guess they’d go loopy if they didn’t.
Dorothy Parker is due to give a talk, Moira continues. They’re going to offer her honorary membership in the dead sisters’ club. Besides, Gwen adds with a lift of her eyebrows, there are no real men left down there. The decision seemingly made, the Piano Player generates his floating piano keyboard and announces that he thinks he’ll play a valedictory tune to mark the girls’ parting. Any requests? YEAH, Ant-Man and Dead Girl shout. SHUT UP!
Meanwhile, in the other dimension, the Ancient One finds his wrist bound by a mystical set of handcuffs. Visibly panicked, he tells Strange he admits it. He put a spell on him. He gave him the low pain that dares not speak its name! But… WHY? Strange demands. He had become so full of himself, the Ancient One continues. So high and mighty! He imagined an outbreak of hemorrhoids might cut him down to size.
“Wait!” Strange interjects. By the third armpit of Svaaar, he can see… see that this wasn’t just about cutting him down to size. The Ancient One had begun to despise him. He began to hate him. He hated his vigor. His power… but most of all he hated his youth. Ashamed, the Ancient One replies that Strange is wise beyond his tender years. ‘Tis true – for a while his great age brought wisdom and knowledge, but then = a worm of envy entered him. A demon of resentment gnawed at his spirit. Until he became what Strange sees before him… a bitter twisted old man. With this, the Ancient One removes his towering hat, showing his wrinkled and visibly remorseful demeanor.
What will Strange do with him now, the Ancient One asks. He’s already dead so he can hardly kill him. Soon the powers of the eau du profundis that sent him there will weaken and he’ll go back to Hell. Strange confirms that the Ancient One is dead, but his spirit exists. He could invoke the terrible Babylonian curse of disintegration. The Ancient One taught him that himself. He could shatter his spirit so that its fragments scatter throughout the many dimensions. He will cease to be. Death beyond death. The ultimate oblivion. No return. Ah, the Ancient One voices. The old Babylonian curse. He’d rather hoped Strange had forgotten that one. He is Doctor Strange, Stephen says. He forgets nothing.
Now panicked, the Ancient One begs Strange to listen. He knows what ails him. He is gripped by ennui, a feeling of pointlessness. He still has some power, some influence. Spare him… and he will lift his burden. He will make him normal. He could look at a woman like a regular red-blooded man again. Life, Stephen, not magic spells. Life… it can be his again. If he spares him.
With cold eyes that display none of the thoughts behind it, Doctor Strange readies a spell.
Elsewhere the remaining members of the group of heroes make their way down the disgusting hallway of the Hotel Self-Loathing. When someone wonders how the Doctor’s getting on, Guy suggests that maybe he’s forgotten all about them and they’re wasting their time there. Incredulous, Dead Girl mocks that Strange’d never forget about them. No way.
To this, the diminutive Ant-Man notes that it’s this carpet that needs a doctor. He doesn’t think it’s been cleaned in years. They’re talking infestation on an unimaginable scale! Through gritted teeth, the Piano Player crouches to Ant-Man’s level and asks if he can please shut up about bugs and germs? His insanity is starting the grate his keyboard? “Insanity?” Ant-Man counters. He’s completely sane. It’s everyone else that’s nuts! Glancing up to the others, the Piano Player grinds that that’s the time-honored refrain of the mentally eccentric!
Angered to action, Ant-Man responds by growing in size in such a way as to punch the Piano Player with a two-fisted uppercut. Bloodied, the Piano Player snarls that Ant-Man shouldn’t have done that. He’ll be sorry. “Oh?” Ant-Man asks. What’s he gonna do? Sing him unconscious? Serenade him to tears? Interjecting, Dead Girl calls Ant-Man by his name of Scott and tells him he’s right. He really shouldn’t have hit him. They’re supposed to be on the same side. But… but she heard him, Ant-Man counters, he said he was crazy. Mentally eccentric he called him. Seeing an odd facial expression on both Dead Girl and U-Go Girl, Ant-Man asks “what?” He then looks at Guy and asks why are they looking at each other like that? He doesn’t think he’s nuts too, does he?
Of course, they do, the Piano Player exclaims. Everyone does. As Edie tells the Piano Player to shut up, Dead Girl tells Ant-Man that it isn’t easy being dead. He’s not the first to… to suffer. But, Ant-Man continues, the bugs, the carpet bugs, they’re real ain’t they? They’re very real, Dead Girl tells him, and he’s doing a wonderful job with them. What she means, the Piano Player explains, is at least he’s messing around with bugs he’s not attacking people, like a lot of psychos do.
Guy begins to tell the Piano Player that that’s not nice, but halts in mid-sentence when the Piano Player begins to turn translucent and disappear. What’s happening to the Piano Player? He’s been promoted Dead Girl answers. The strange and mystical law of rebirth has means that even now the Piano Player is alive and well in the land of the living.
Incredulous at this news, the Ant-Man places his hands on his helmet. “The Piano Player? Promoted? How?” According to the doctor, Dead Girl explains, enough people in the land of the living must want to see him alive again. “And I’m still stuck down here?” Ant-Man wails. “Me! Ant-Man! I want to throw up.” Suddenly, Guy announces that he’s heard a noise at the end of the corridor. A terrible blood-chilling howl. Only one man he knows howls like that…
In a room down the hall, the Anarchist wails. AaOOooo!” Doing her best to calm him, Miss America calls Tike’s name and tells him to calm down! He’s just coming out of his Hell… Still reeling, the Tike replies that that was intense! It certainly looked it, Miss America notes. Is he all right now?
Of course he’s all right, Guy states, his old team leader’s here. To the shock of the Pitiful One and his group, they look up to see Guy standing at the bottom of the flight of stairs, flanked by Ant-Man, Dead Girl and and U-Go Girl. Hullo, Tike, Guy says. Nice company he’s keeping these days.
Moving to action, the Pitiful One calls to Mysterio and Kraven, ordering them to take Ant-Man. Alicar and Madeleine can look after Sensitive. And what will he be doing. Mysterio demands, while they risk what’s left of their immortal souls? “I’ll handle the girls,” he replies. You think? Dead Girl asks incredulously. Deal with this creep, sister, Dead Girl tells her. She’ll help Guy with tike and Li’l miss stars and stripes.
“Tike!” Guy yells to his former teammate, who seems to be rushing to the attack. He’s come all this way to find him… he’s not going to fight him, is he? “Or me?” Dead Girl adds. “We almost had a thing going once, remember?”
Aided by momentum, Tike leaps upon Guy, knocking him down onto his back. As they struggle, Tike tells Dead Girl that there ain’t room in his po’ brain for all the honeys he almost had a “thing” with. The next moment, Guy manages to kick the Anarchist off of him and into Miss America, who asks Dead Girl if he’s always this full of himself. “Nearly always,” she replies. Maybe that’s why he ended up in Hell, buddy, Guy offers.
A short distance away, the Pitiful One reels as he sees Kraven and Mysterio disappear in a swirl of red matter. Explaining as he attacks, Ant-Man tells the Pitiful One that U-Go Girl is teleporting them outta there. Undefeated, however, the Pitiful One offers an elbow to Ant-Man’s chin. He’s too easy to squash, the Pitiful One tells him. Just like a bug.
Okay, Pitiful One, Dead Girl says, announcing her presence. Doctor Strange ain’t there to do this, so consider her the executrix of his will. Baby, the Pitiful One rejoins, he’s been humiliated by scarier heroes than she. Did he ever tell her about the time Spider-Man gave him a wedgie? “Pitiful,” Dead Girl replies. With that, she delivers a punch which goes through the Pitiful One, shattering a hole all of the way through his center mass. “AAKKK!” the Pitiful One groans. “Just… my… luck… I’m rotten!”
Slowly, the Pitiful One begins to fade away. As he does, the wrappings around his head come loose, revealing the face beneath. Whoa, Dead Girl voices. So that’s who he is. Who woulda thought! Agreeing, Guy replies that when he was a kid, he was really something…
What’s happenin’ to him? Tike asks as the last of the Pitiful One disappears. He’s getting’ relegated to an even lower level of Hell, Dead Girl explains. Now he’ll really have something to feel sorry for himself about.
At that moment, U-Go Girl returns via a portal, announcing that she doesn’t like ‘porting this deep in Hell but it was worth it to get rid of those two apes. Asked by Guy where did she take them, Edie replies that she’s not sure. But it was hot. Very, very hot.
Nearby, Dead Girl announces that she’s found the eau du profundis. Guess they can all go home and watch TV now. Turning to Tike and Miss America, Guy asks if they’re coming. Though looking at to Miss America, Tike asks Dead Girl what’d happen if he and Miss America started walking upstarts. Well, it’s not an exact science, she replies, and the gods of the underworld won’t look kindly on them teaming up with the Pitiful One…
But they saw the error of their ways, Miss America interjects. They didn’t fight them. Surely that must count for something. He hopes so, Tike smiles. Feels like he’s had enough Hell for two lifetimes. Me too, she rejoins. She means, she’s Miss America. She’s not even particularly bad. Except for her one naughty little secret. Keep walking uphill, Dead Girl tells them. With any luck, he’ll come to the stairway to heaven.
The mission’s completed Edie, Guy tells her. Now, what was she saying about a wild desert island?
Sorry, Mr. Smith, Edie replies, but he had his chance. Now he’s gonna have to wait a little longer. With that, U-Go Girl disappears in a swirling portal of her own creation. “Edie Sawyer,” Guy smiles. “Dead or alive… guess you’ll never change.”
Later, in his residence in Greenwich Village, Doctor Strange sits on his couch with Dead Girl reclining along its length, her legs laid across his lap. “Moonbeam?” he asks her. She spent most of her childhood trying to forget, Dead Girl explains. He thinks it becomes her, Strange rejoins.
Gesturing to the corked flash on a nearby table, Strange thanks Dead Girl again for bringing him the eau du profundis. He will rest more easily once he has consigned it to nothingness… Couldn’t they save just a tiny bit for themselves, she asks, referring to the green mark of the crème on her forehead. They could have the occasional weekend together. What does he say? Very tempting, Strange replies. But he thinks it’s best if they remember what they had together. Their lives take different paths… their destinies do not lie together… With that, Strange casts a spell and the flask is no more. Do not look so sad, Moonbeam, Strange tells her, leaning in close enough to caress her face. They’ll always have the stinking oesophagus of Cerebus.
Sometime later, Wong enters the room with a tray of tea, finding Doctor Strange having moved to the desk. Lady gone, master? Wong asks. Yes, Wong, Strange replies. The twenty-four hours that the eau du profundis allowed her expired… and she simply… disappeared before his eyes. Still. Je ne regretted rein. To this, Wong wonder if maybe… master regrets a little … not accepting the Ancient One’s offer? Life, not magic spells? His life is magic spells, he tells Wong. And he’s content with that.
Placing the tray on the desk, Wong eyes the glass vial resting on his master’s desk. Within the vial, a purple smoke swirls. The Ancient One…, Wong voices. All of him inside that bottle? His eternal spirit, yes Strange confirms. And it’ll remain there until he decides what to do with thim. And how are master’s hemorrhoids today? Wong then asks. “Hemorrhoids, Wong?” Strange asks back, reclining in his chair, his hands clasped behind his head. “They’re already a distant memory…”