One Day, In Hell

This is a bit from my second collection of humor, Pity the Slug! I really love that book. It’s one of the few things I’m unabashedly proud of. You can download it on your kindle or nook or whatever.

Here’s “One Day, In Hell”:

 

Part One

Hi, everyone! Welcome to the Q2 team meeting. Lucifer’s going to come up in a few minutes with the quarterly report, but first I’ve got a few notes to go over. And stick around after the big presentation because we’re awarding a prize to the colleague with the most souls under contract!

All right, ha ha, let’s settle down. Settle down, now. First, where are my false witness crew? Hi, guys. I’ve got some clarification for you. They’ve determined that yes, eye witness testimony is usually inaccurate, but because it’s an honest mistake, it does not count. We’re finalizing the draft of the apology letter. Those will be distributed very soon. Any questions on that? Yes, Urmazel? On average, they will get about two and a half million years off their sentence.

Speaking of divine clarification, on behalf of myself and the entire Board of Tormenters, I’d like to apologize for the influx of souls who worked on the Sabbath over the past couple of millennia. We’re working on getting the word out that the Sabbath is in fact Wednesday, but since that is already regarded as “hump day”, there’s been some difficulty. Plus, let’s face it, people have been less prone to listen to prophets after the mix up about circumcision.

And yes, we are very close to wrapping up that issue with the supposed 72 virgins loophole regarding murder. That was a sting operation from On High to try to root out the pedophiles. There was a joint session between the forces of Light and Darkness and we all agree that it was a severe miscalculation. We’ll be working together to correct this in a partnership unseen since before the Great Fall. It’s very exciting.

And finally, there’s a big push to ramp up punishment for old school sins. Classic sins. With homosexuality and fornication practically benign, we’re looking at a big drop in future soul collection. But don’t worry, we’ve still got our greatest hits: murder, theft, and worshipping false idols. Those three will never go out of style. And I think if we all work together and use those noodles, then we can recoup those losses with some of those lesser-used sins. Tattoos are more popular now than ever. Let’s tap that market! What about men shaving their beards? Let’s tighten up on that! Be creative! Use your imagination! And study up on your Leviticus and Deuteronomy. You’ll be meeting with Shabelleh this week to review those two books.

All right, we’re gonna bring out Lucifer in just a minute. But first, are you ready to laugh? This can’t be Hell because I can’t hear you! I said are you ready to laugh? Then bring out the sinners and get those plastic sheets ready because it’s time for Pandemonium’s favorite splat-tacular comedian, the eviscerater of evil, the hammer of hedonism, the malicious masher of mankind’s moral misfires: Galgeron!

 

Part Two

Thank you for holding. You have reached the Disputes department. My name is Azbineth. How may I help you today? Yes, I can assist you with your claim. For verification purposes, may I have your name and the number marked on your forehead? Thank you. How may I help you?

Okay, ma’am, it sounds like you’ve been judged unclean and have gone into collections. Tell me, are you a priest? Good, then we can skip those chapters. Any history of leprosy or plague? Good.

Now, this action is usually taken due to either food or genitals. Let’s start with food. Tell me, have you ever eaten any of the following, beginning with water creatures: Shellfish? That includes anything that has an exoskeleton or shell. Yes, I’m afraid shrimp do count. That’s okay, it’s not too terrible; you’re just stuck with their carcasses in abomination. Okay, moving on to birds. Eagle? Vulture? Raven? Owl? Hawk? Little owl? Yes, they are different. Okay. Great owl? I know, it’s an odd distinction, but an important one. Swan? Pelican? Gier eagle? It does fall under eagle, but we try to double check the gier eagle restriction. It’s more commonly known as the Egyptian vulture. Does that ring a bell? Right, it is distinguished from other vultures. No, I don’t know why. That’s above my pay grade, ha ha. Yes, anyway. Stork? Heron? Bats? Yes, I’m aware that bats aren’t birds. You’re not the first to point that out to me.

Okay, moving on to bugs. Have you eaten any bugs besides locusts, beetles, or grasshoppers? Good. No, we don’t care that you don’t eat any bugs. Right. Uh huh. Well, things were different back then, I suppose. Yes. Let’s try to stay on track.

Last up is land animals. Have you eaten weasel? Mouse? Tortoise? Ferret? Chameleon? Lizard? Snail? Mole? Camel? Coney? Hare? Pig? Yes to pig? Okay, how many times? Can you make an estimate? I see. Well, it may not count. Tell me, when you finished cooking the bacon, did you destroy the stove? Right, every time. I see. Oh dear. Let me just make a note of that on your history. One moment, please, ma’am.

Okay, let’s talk about your genitals. I’m assuming you had a normal, healthy menstruation cycle throughout your teenage and adult life until menopause? Excellent. Now, when you had your monthly cycle, did you remove yourself from society for seven days? Ha ha, yes, I bet it would have been nice. That’s fine. Very few women do that anymore. I’m assuming you showered? Okay, good. And you took the two turtledoves or two young pigeons to your priest for sacrifice? Oh dear. Okay, let me make a note of that, too.

And finally, did you have any children? A daughter, okay. Did you continue in the blood for 66 days after she was born? It’s for purification purposes. Yes, I’m sure they were as clean and sterile as possible at the hospital, ma’am, but this is a divine uncleanliness, you see. 66 days, that’s right. No, it’s only 33 for boys. I understand, ma’am, but there’s nothing we can do about that now. So is that a “no” for continuing in the blood for 66 days? Okay. And I’m guessing you didn’t sacrifice a lamb and either a young pigeon or a turtledove? I see. Well, I may be able to help you. Can you sacrifice a lamb and a young pigeon today? How about a lamb and a turtledove? What if we put you on a sacrifice plan? You could sacrifice half a lamb today, half a lamb next month, and either a young pigeon or a turtledove the month after that. Is that something you would be able to do? Yes, I’m afraid they’re pretty strict about young pigeons or turtledoves. I don’t know why. No, ma’am, I haven’t. Asking questions like that is what sent me down here in the first place. Now these are pretty typical sins, so your dispute might still go through. Would you like to stay on the line or have the results sent to you via burning bush? Okay, hold please.

Ma’am? Your dispute has been processed and I’m afraid it’s not good news. It seems you had also sowed different kinds of seeds in a field and wore mixed cloth of wool and linen, so you’ll need to report to Hell immediately. One of our trained specialists will be there momentarily to escort you to your nearest Hellmouth. Ma’am? Please control yourself, ma’am. This was all covered in the terms and conditions. I understand this is not the ideal outcome, but it’s not all bad. Well, I guess it is.

The Redressers: Part 8

Wanted for two jailbreaks and destruction of public property, the Redressers were hiding in Dwayne’s one-bedroom apartment, going over their options.

Dwayne picked up the list. “Alright, what have we come up with? Get jobs under assumed identities. Okay. Lean into crime. Not super enthused about that one. This one just says ‘Dark Web’. Carl? Can you expand on that?”

“You know, like on the internet. But, like, untraceable.”

“Doing what?”

“I’m not sure yet. The library was closing, so I had to stop reading the wikipedia page.”

“Okay. Now, there seems to be an option missing from this list. One that I think we ought to look into. Can anyone guess?”

Carl peered into distance, racking his brain. Frankenstein drummed his fingers on the table in thought. Mia continued trying to ignore the whole conversation. Kathryn woke herself up with her snoring.

“Znxx, wha? Where are we?”

“You guys,” Dwayne said. “I think it’s obvious what we’re meant to do. We’re back together as a team, operating outside of the law, each of us with their own specialty. Frankenstein, you know what I’m thinking, right?”

“An agricultural commune?”

“No! Let’s be outlaw vigilantes! Let’s be supers. Fighting crime. Hunted by the very police who we’re helping in our mission to protect the streets. It’ll be great! We can have secret identities and everything. Well, those of us who aren’t blue or undead. No offense.”

“Hey, it’s catching on in Scandanavia,” Kathryn said.

“Which one? Never mind. I don’t want to know. So let’s talk powers. The old lineup was flawed, which we saw after a couple of excursions. Frankenstein, you’re good as the muscle. Mia, I like you as the brainy tinker. But the rest of us need new skill sets since none of us are actually magical or godlike. Carl, I like the blue. It’s a good initial distraction. Can we build on that? Make you a dark elf or something?”

“I learned to juggle flaming sticks in the freak show. Can we use that?”

“Okay, okay, I like what I’m hearing. Fire, blue skin, maybe a devil theme? A demon? An imp? Let’s put a pin in that and come back. That leaves you and me, Kathryn. I’m kind of the leader. The general giving orders. So you–”

“Hang on,” Kathryn said. “Why do you have to be the leader? My TED talk ratings are just as high as yours. And I think a female leader would be a good change. Good publicity, too. Think of if we made the news. If people see a man grandstanding about vigilanteism, they’ll get scared. But if a woman does it, that could be empowering. Inspirational, even.”

“Then what do I do? Carl’s got fire covered, so my only other skill is inspiration. Could we use a bard? Is that a thing outside of RPGs?”

Kathryn thought for a moment. “The nearest I know of would be a hype man. Like Flava Flav or Bobby Byrd. You could stand off to the side and cheer us on or repeat what just happened to amp us up. How does that sound?”

“Ifrit!” Carl said.

“Ifrit as in the fire demon?” Kathryn asked.

“Yeah! I could make my hair crazy and twirl fire and be really scary. Ifrit! What do you think?”

“Well, Carl, I must congratulate you on your knowledge of Islamic mythology. Ifrits are a kind of fiery jinni that appear in the Koran as well as more secular works like the 1001 Arabian Nights.”

“Oh. I just knew it from Final Fantasy IV. Rydia summons them and they do damage to all the monsters. It’s especially powerful against–”

“Okay. Thanks, Carl. Good job. So we’re good? We’ve got Ifrit and Frankenstein. Mia, you can make another costume and be the tinker or engineer or whatever. Dwayne, you’re Hype-Man (hyphen included). And I’ll be Professor K the psychic and keep my boobs inside my damn shirt. We can use earpieces to simulate telepathy like televangelists do. I like this plan!”

“She likes that plan!” Dwayne said. “How’s that, fellow outlaws?”

“One question,” Frankenstein said. “How do we make money doing this? We still need to eat and presumably pay the rent.”

“Once we get a name, we can sell merchandise,” Dwayne said. “Until then, we work on commission. If we stop a robbery, we get half.”

Mia stared ahead blankly and muttered, “We’re doomed.”

A few nights later, an alarm went off in downtown Big City. The Sand Witch ran out through the employee entrance of Adjectiveless Carl’s Pawn Shop with her sand blaster in one hand, a bag of jewels in the other, a tank of sand on her back, and a big, floppy hat on her head.

As she turned a corner into an alley, she found herself face to face with a flame-twirling blue man, a woman in a steampunk outfit, another woman pressing two fingers to her forehead intently, a man in a neat suit and skinny tie straight out of 1983, and, well, Frankenstein.

“What is this?” she asked.

“We’re the Redressers,” Kathryn said, “and we’ll let you choose WHICH of us beats you up first. No PAWN intended.”

“No pawn!” Dwayne repeated.

“That’s right!” Carl said. “We’re outlaw vigilantes and you’re about to regret doing all that crime!”

The Sand Witch put down the sand blaster, pulled out a gun, and shot all five of them. She then picked up the bag and ran home.

~   ~   ~

Mia stirred. The last thing she remembered was getting shot. She opened her eyes a crack. She seemed to be in a giant cave with high, red walls that disappeared into darkness. The ground was hot. She sat up and saw Dwayne, Carl, Kathryn, and Frankenstein on the ground near her. They were rousing as well.

Now that she was awake, she noticed the acrid, sulfurous odor in the air. She stood up to get her bearings. Fire and lava seemed to be everywhere. “Guys?” she said. “How did we get inside a volcano?”

“Oh, it’s not a volcano,” said a voice behind her reminiscent of Frank Nelson. She spun around and saw a bright red man in a tuxedo leaning on his walking stick. He had small horns on his head and a long, forked tail. “I’m afraid you’re in Hell.”