Friday, March 30, 2012

Alone


 “Hey!” I shouted after him.  “Where are you going?  You can’t just leave me here!”  It occurred to me after speaking that he could probably do whatever he wanted and I couldn’t appeal to his sense of morality to get him to do what I wanted.  Because he was the Devil, and appealing to the Devil’s sense of morality might be as difficult as trying to taste something with your ear.

I remained seated, bound to the chair by invisible restraints.  I squirmed, trying to loosen a hand, but the chair tipped crazily, and I decided I was probably better off tied to a chair that was standing than to a chair that was on its side.  Not that it was likely to make much difference if I was supposed to rot here for an eternity.

I focused my energies on trying to wriggle a foot free.  There didn’t seem to be much slack in whatever was holding my ankles together.  No matter how I tried to shift my feet, angle my legs or twist my ankles, nothing I did gave any hope of loosening the firm pressure my restraints held on me.

I began to feel uneasy.

First it was just a bout of dizziness, like I’d stood up too fast and needed a second to adjust.  But then, instead of dissipating, the feeling grew steadily worse.  Soon it was accompanied by a headache, whose intensity grew in a similar fashion.  Then came the nausea.  Cottonmouth.  Constipation.  Sharp pains in my inner ear.  Then I noticed droplets of red swimming in front of my vision and in the midst of my agony I realized my eyes were bleeding.

Then unconsciousness.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Poisoned


“I don’t think I’m going to do that,” I said defiantly, but with less bravado than I’d hoped.

“Doesn’t matter,” the Devil replied.

“I didn’t agree to anything,” I said uselessly.  The possibility that I may not have a choice in the matter was starting to dawn on me.

“Well,” Satan replied, crouching next to me and feigning sympathy, “I know it’s not what you’d call fair, but strictly speaking, I don’t actually need your permission.”  He stood and picked up my empty glass from the desk.  “All I need you to do is drink a little of my blood.”

So it was poisoned.  Not poison that could kill me, just poison that could turn me into the Devil, apparently.  I growled, straining against my invisible restraints, bucking uselessly in my hard wooden chair.

“Then I just had to drink a little of yours,” he continued, “And then wait for the exchange of power.  It shouldn’t take long.”  He glanced at his expensive watch.  “And I do have some last-minute packing to get to, so, if you’ll excuse me.”  He headed toward the door through which he’d entered, opened it, and paused to look back a moment.

“Have a nice eternity,” he said in a low, brutally sarcastic voice.  Then he flashed me that evil, winsome smile and left, swinging the door closed behind him.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Options


As scared as I was of the guy, I may have lost my temper a bit.  Out of shock.

“Why the hell would I do that?” I sputtered scornfully.

“You’re the best option I have,” he said sadly.  “It has to be a freshly deceased blood descendant.  My daughter Evelyn was my only child, so I only have you, your uncles and your cousins to choose from.  And you guys are a disappointingly pleasant brood.  You’re actually the most evil person in your family, and it’s only because you’re a small-time bully with some entitlement issues.  You’ve treated some classmates like crap, but you don’t do much raping, murdering or stealing.  You and your family are an embarrassment to my legacy.”  He smiled sarcastically.  “But I have to work with what I’ve got.  So here you are.”  He poured himself another glass of wine.

“What makes you think I’ll agree to this?” I asked.

He stood and stepped around the desk again to approach me.  I struggled to move as he towered over me, but my hands and feet felt like they’d been tied to the chair, even though I could clearly see there was nothing around my wrists. 

The Devil calmly reached into his pocket.  Swiftly, he withdrew a butterfly knife, swung it open, and slashed at my forearm with surprising speed.  He’d opened up a four-inch gash that was starting to bleed profusely.
“The hell was that for?” I shouted angrily.

Without answering, he retrieved his glass from the desk, knelt beside me, and held the glass under my arm to allow blood to drip into the wine.  “What are you doing?” I grunted in frustration. 

He continued to ignore me and put the glass to his lips, pouring its contents down his throat, blood and all.  Then he smiled at me again.  “Well,” he said finally, “Now that the details have been taken care of, I’m off to enjoy my retirement.”

“Don’t you need a replacement first?” I said angrily.

“I already have one,” he said tauntingly.  “You.”

Friday, March 23, 2012

Succession


I shook my head the way injured cartoon characters do to clear away the stars circling their heads.  “You’re the Devil,” I stated.

“Yes I am,” he said, with an obvious measure of pride.

“But you’re not the first Devil,” I said.

“I am not,” he said.

“How many have there been?” I asked.

“Many,” he answered simply.

“Okay, but where did they all go?”

He smiled.  “Into retirement.”

“The Devil can just retire?” I asked.

“No, not just retire,” he replied.  “It’s not as simple as that.  There are lots of arrangements to be made, not the least of which is finding a suitable replacement.”

I nodded.  “Oh.”

“Which brings me to the reason I’ve set up this meeting,” he said smoothly.  “I’m retiring soon.  Very soon.”
My eyes widened.  I did not like where this was heading.

“You’re going to be my replacement,” he said, smiling broadly.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Family History


It tasted like ass.  I swallowed.  I gagged.  Then I coughed.  The Devil laughed at me again.  He’d been charming at first, but he was really beginning to annoy me. 

“It’s an acquired taste,” he said, moving my empty glass to the desk and sitting down again.  “Like caviar.  Or lamb’s blood.”

“I’ll take your word for it,” I muttered.

He only smiled in response.  “So let’s get down to brass tacks, here,” he said, tenting his fingers in front of him.  “I’ve been looking forward to this meeting for a long time, and I must confess that I really don’t know how to begin.”

That sounded slightly ominous.

“There’s a lot you need to understand,” he continued.  “A lot of information you need to take in.  And there isn’t really an easy way to start, so maybe the best thing for me to do is introduce myself in a little more detail.”  He leaned forward.  “I’m the Devil.  I’m also your great grandfather.”

That was not what I was expecting.  All I could think of to say was, “What?”


Without consulting his file, he said, “Jason Giles.  Born January fifth, nineteen ninety-five.  Father, Edward Giles, born May twenty-eighth, nineteen sixty-six.  His mother, Evelyn Reilly, born April second, nineteen thirty-three.”  He gestured to himself with both hands.  “Her father, Conrad Reilly, born November eighteenth, nineteen-oh-eight.  Died, June ninth, nineteen sixty-one.  Been the reigning king of Hell for the last five decades.”

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Wine

I stared at my wine.  I didn’t want to drink it.  He was the Devil, right?  The most untrustworthy being ever to exist?  Maybe it was poisoned.

“Come on, Jason, what should we drink to?” he prompted.

“I’m only seventeen,” I said.

He smiled broadly.  “So?”

“I can’t drink,” I told him.

He actually doubled over laughing.  It started out as one of those sudden, obnoxious guffaws.  He had to set his glass down on the desk so that he could bend over and hold his stomach while he finished laughing.  Once he’d regained his composure, he shook his head.  “The drinking age is twenty-one in the United States of America,” he said.  “This is Hell, brother.  The only rules here are my rules.  Forget the toast.  Drink.”

There went my plan to politely decline to drink his poison.  I swallowed nervously and slowly brought the glass up to my lips.

He laughed at me again, but this was more of a friendly laugh.  “It’s not poisoned,” he told me.  “And even if it was, it wouldn’t matter.  You’re already dead, man.  No worries!”  And he quickly drained his glass in one long gulp.  He looked me in the eye.  “Drink.”

I drank.

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Devil


“Hi,” I said dumbly, shaking his bony hand.  “Uh…like, the real Satan?  Devil and all that?”
As I shook his hand and asked him stupid questions, I stared at him.  He was a handsome guy.  He was fit, but not muscular.  He was a few inches over six feet.  He looked to be about thirty-five.

He had very dark, very thick facial hair which he’d shaved into a thin curve along his upper lip to the corners of his mouth, a soul patch and a narrow, almost pointy goatee.  His teeth were white, his eyes were quick and intelligent, and his smile was disarmingly genuine. 

He answered my question with a wink.  “Yes and no,” he said.  “Have a seat and I’ll be glad to explain a few things to you.”  His extended arm gestured toward the wooden chair.

“Okay,” I said uncertainly.  I sat.  He walked behind his desk and settled into his expensive-looking adjustable desk chair.  I squirmed on the hard wooden seat.

He opened a drawer in the side of his desk and withdrew a file folder, which he laid open on his desk.  “So,” he began, perusing a page.  “Jason Giles.  You’re dead, huh?” he glanced up to give me a brief look of sympathy.

I shrugged.  “I guess,” I said.

“Tough break,” he replied.  “Beaten to death with…gardening equipment?” he read, chuckling.  “Well, I gotta tell you, I’m supposed to be the representative of personified evil in the universe and sometimes how fucked up people are impresses even me.”  He looked up.  “Are you thirsty?” he asked.

What a strange question.  “A little, I guess,” I answered uncertainly.

“Great,” he said, pulling a bottle of wine and two glasses from the bottom drawer in his desk.  “You’d be surprised how great some of the vineyards down here are,” he said conversationally, pouring.  “What should we drink to?” he asked, standing up to walk my glass of wine over to me.

“I don’t know,” I said, accepting the glass and feeling more and more intimidated by the second.  He gave me this unidentifiable but unmistakable sense of uneasiness, like he had complete control of the situation and was simply enjoying himself while he manipulated some unseen force to ensure my demise.  I held the glass of wine in my hand and stared into it fearfully.

And, in the midst of that dark line of thinking, it suddenly occurred to me how strange it was that the Devil had a modern American accent.  And that his computer had the Hewlett-Packard logo on it.  And that the waiting room outside his office had played Elton John.

This was weird.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Satan's Office

At long last, after we passed Exam Room 486, the narrow hallway took a ninety-degree turn to the left and abruptly ended.  I was staring at a door that looked exactly the same as the last four hundred eighty-six except that the plaque on it said Administrative Office.

The sexy nurse stood off to one side to let me pass.  She looked at me expectantly.  "Here's his office," she said.  "Go in."

I'd never met the Devil before.  Was he a stickler for formality?  "Do I knock first?" I asked.

"Go in," she repeated, enunciating the words carefully as though I was some kind of an idiot.  I decided that, sexy or not, I really didn't like her.

I squeezed past her in the tiny corridor, turned the handle, and pushed the door open.  And I found myself in a surprisingly nice office.  As the door closed, I heard the sexy nurse chuckling to herself as she walked back down the hallway.

I didn't see anyone in the office with me.  It was quite a luxurious place.  The room had that rich maroon-brown color scheme that was reminiscent of New England old money.  It was kind of what I imagined the office of the Dean of Students for Harvard might look like.  A colorful impressionist painting I didn't recognize hung on the wall to my left.   Massive bookshelves stretched along the far wall.  The desk in front of me was an enormous wooden structure.  Its surface was organized with stacks of papers, a calendar, an office phone, a desktop computer and a few picture frames facing away from me.  There was a motionless Newton's cradle in one corner.  The chair behind the desk was large, black, and appeared to be extremely comfortable.  In front of the desk was one smaller wooden chair that appeared to be extremely uncomfortable.

I was pretty sure I was in Hell, but none of this looked like what I'd have guessed Hell would contain.

A door across from the one through which I'd entered opened suddenly and a tall man in an expensive-looking pinstripe suit walked into the room.

"Hi," he said in a businesslike tone.  "Sorry to keep you waiting."  He strode across the room and extended his hand.  "I'm Satan."

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Hallway

I followed the woman through the door and into a narrow, dimly lit hallway.  Now that I was closer to her, I could see that she was dressed as much like a nurse as someone you'd see at a Halloween party.  The skirt was extremely tight, the heels were impractical, and...well..she looked like nursing was not what she did for a living.

The hallway was absurdly long and lined with doors on both sides with only about five feet of wall between them.  Each one was marked with the words Exam Room and a number.

I was going to see the Devil.

I was not prepared for this.  I was seventeen years old.  I was now quite aware of the fact that I'd been kind of a dick, but I didn't think that being thrust down to Hell and given a personal meeting with the Devil was a treatment proportional to the severity of my crimes.  I was an arrogant bully.  I made kids at school who were less wealthy, less intelligent, and less good-looking feel like crap.  But that's how teenagers are, right?  High school's a vicious, bloodthirsty place and it was them or me.  I didn't think I needed to apologize for clawing my way to the top.

Oh.  Wait.  There I was, being arrogant again.  Justifying my own cruelty by claiming it was merely survival.  There were plenty of kids at my school who didn't really play any of those games or acknowledge this so-called high school caste system in any way, and they survived just fine.

At any rate, if I had been cruel, my sins were common.  Plenty of kids did what I had done, and it didn't seem like the level of depravity I'd achieved in life merited an audience with Satan.  Maybe there'd been some kind of mistake.

"Excuse me," I said meekly to the sexy nurse who was currently leading me past Exam Room 114.  "Are you sure--"

In response to the question I hadn't yet finished asking, she swiftly turned around and slapped me across the mouth.  "I'm sure," she snarled impatiently.  And then she continued walking at the same brisk pace, apparently expecting me to follow her.

I swore at her under my breath.  But I followed her anyway.  If the Devil was expecting to meet me, I didn't think that trying to run away would give him a reason not to throw me into the fiery pit.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Waiting

There were magazines laid out on a table a few seats over from mine.  I scooted down and grabbed the first one.  Brimstone Weekly.  Featured on the cover was what appeared to be some kind of female demon.  She was naked and quite attractive, but there were lots of claws and sharp edges and flaming bits and I didn't find the burnt-red skin to be much of a turn-on either.

The caption across her stomach read Kivra:  10 Secrets to Torturing Success.  I flipped through the magazine briefly, but almost every page seemed to contain detailed drawings and diagrams of various methods of mutilating human flesh.  I tossed the magazine back on the table and picked up another.

The Crochet Hook, February 1973 edition.  I immediately selected another magazine.  Vomiting Journal.  I gave up.

Moments later, a door on the far side of the room opened and a pretty young woman who appeared to be dressed as a nurse stepped out.  She glanced up from the clipboard she was holding.  "Giles, Jason?" she called out.  

That was my name.  Mostly out of habit--because this is how things worked in waiting rooms--I stood up, gave a quick wave, and started walking toward her.  She flashed me a sweet smile and said, "The Devil will see you now."

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

I Died

I died.

I didn't want to.  But I kind of couldn't avoid it.

I'd love to tell you that I got hit by a car.  Or died of leukemia.  Or burned to death while saving two children and a three-legged dog from a burning building.  But that's not how I died.

I was murdered by a bunch of kids from school.  Apparently, I was kind of an asshole when I was alive and it pissed some guys off enough for them to beat me to death with an assortment of gardening tools.

Yeah, I admit to being an asshole...now.  It's incredible how much a little thing like death can do to change your perspective on things.  I haven't had some dramatic change of heart.  I'm still the same guy with the same tendencies, pretty much.  I'm just a little more acutely aware of my shortcomings.  So I realize how horrible of a person I've been.  But that still didn't change the fact that I was dead.

I remember the beating.  I remember it in great detail.  Mike had the shovel, Quinn had the hoe and Jessie was swinging the rake.  There were a lot of unwise, unhelpful words exchanged.  There was a lot of violence.  There was a lot of pain and a lot of blood.  And then there was nothing.

But then I was sitting in what appeared to be a waiting room.  It was abnormally large for a waiting room.  There must have been more than five hundred seats, all identical, arranged against walls and around the occasional table.  Each table was predictably adorned with a dusty assortment of plastic flowers and a pile of magazines.

There were maybe half a dozen other people waiting in the room with me.  Most were older.  Most looked somewhat confused.  The room was absolutely silent except for Elton John's "Your Song" playing softly from the speakers in the ceiling.

It was such a vividly familiar setting (except that  I didn't happen to know where I was) that I felt compelled to sit and wait.  If I'd woken up in something more like a jail cell, I probably would have freaked out.  But I'd been in waiting rooms many times before, so even if I didn't know where I was or what I was there for, I knew what I was supposed to do.

So I waited.