Monday, April 30, 2012

Demon Number Two


The silence was kind of awkward.  I moved my gaze to the male demon.  “And who is our wardrobe-challenged friend here?” I asked.

The demon was short.  Like, short-short.  He appeared to be a full-grown male, but he probably fell just shy of five feet.  His skin was red but it was a much lighter shade than Kivra’s, almost to the point of being pink.  He was stocky but not quite muscular.  He was also glaring at both of us with his lips pulled back slightly to bare the edges of his sharp teeth.  I got the feeling that he liked us even less than Winston did.

“The name’s Dramien,” he snarled.

I was a little intimidated.  But as threatening as he was being, it couldn’t be avoided that he was short, and that made some of his snarling seem more comical than menacing. 

“Dramien’s Winston’s aide,” Gus offered.

The demon appeared to take offense to that comment and took a sharp step forward, but Winston cut him off with a wave.  “Forget it, Dramien,” he advised.  “Let’s just get this intro over with so he can leave us alone for a while.”  He cast a weary gaze in my direction.  “Okay, sir, what would you like to know?”

“How this works, for starters,” I said.  “Who makes the decisions, how are they made, and how do you make sure they’re fair?”

Dramien chuckled and shook his head with contempt.  “Fair?” he echoed under his breath, “This is Hell, for fuck’s sake.”

Friday, April 27, 2012

Director of Assignment


Apparently this guy could identify me as the new Devil before I’d even introduced myself. 

I tried to speak like I knew what I was doing.  “Uh, yes, Gus here is giving me a little tour of my new…um…kingdom so I can get acquainted with my, um…rule.”

The man smiled wanly.  “You’re not fooling anyone, sir,” he told me.  “Don’t try acting like the big boss in charge until you get your bearings.”

My eyes flicked to Gus.  He gave me a look that seemed to be the eye-equivalent of a shrug.  I looked back at the man at the desk.  “Uh, right,” I said awkwardly.  “Well, then help me get my bearings.  Who are you?”

“Winston Phelps,” he introduced himself blandly.  “Former criminal defense attorney in Dallas, current Director of Assignment in Hell.”  He spread his arms wide, palms facing me and added a sarcastic, “At your service.”

Gus nudged me.  “Most of your department directors are demons, but Winston here is an exception.  He was a master at manipulating the justice system and when he died an opening in this position had just become available, so your predecessor decided that his eternal torment would be to choose people’s fates.  He’d have to be the system instead of manipulating it.  It’s proven quite effective, too, hasn’t it, Winston?”

Winston scowled.

“Winston has become far more acquainted with anxiety and guilt during his tenure in the pit,” Gus said with a gleeful smile.  “You should’ve seen him when he got here.  Sharp as a whip, stubborn as a mule, and as dangerous as a rabid wolverine.  Now he’s tired, weary and depressed.  He’s the only guy I’ve actually seen go bald in Hell.”  He pretended to think for a moment.  “Well, other than the guys who get their hair pulled out on a daily basis as part of their torment.”  He smiled. 

“I wish I could have seen you do stand-up when we were alive,” Winston murmured sourly.  “So I could have thrown a goddamn watermelon at you onstage.”

“Love you too, Winny,” Gus beamed.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Exam Office


Just as he said, Gus led me down the hall.  It was a ways down the hall, but it was definitely just down the hall.

We passed the Exam Rooms I’d passed earlier, but we stopped at one I didn’t remember.  Instead of Exam Room, the plaque read Exam Office and had no number following its title.  Gus stood by the door and looked at me expectantly.

“What?” I said.  “Is this where we’re going?”

“Yup,” he replied, still giving me that look.  “Uh, but this guy is my superior.  I can’t just barge in.  You’re the boss around here.  You do the barging.”

I shrugged.  “Okay,” I said.  And I opened the door and walked in.  Gus followed.

The room I’d walked into was an office less than half the size of what was now mine.  It was an austere space that seemed suffocated by the baby blue paint that colored the walls and ceiling.  The thin, flat carpet was of the exact same shade.  There were no shelves, paintings, bookcases, lamps, or anything distinguishing on any of the walls.  The dim lighting came from what appeared to be a pair of dusty fluorescent lights encased on the ceiling.  The desk seemed to be the only feature in the room, and it sat precisely in the center.  At the desk, behind an aging, whining computer and impressively arranged stacks of papers, sat an overweight balding man with a truly terrible blonde comb-over.

The man was staring down at his desk sullenly and seemed to have been dictating a message to a male demon standing beside him.  I winced as I saw the demon.

“Do demons ever wear clothes?” I whispered to Gus in annoyance.

The man at the table looked up.  “Oh,” he said with surprise.  Then, he added mournfully, “Hello, sir.  I see old what’s-his-name decided to jump ship.”  

Monday, April 23, 2012

Call Forwarding


“Before we go,” Gus said, “Check the top right-hand drawer of your desk.  The little one.”

I opened the drawer.  Inside was only one thing:  a dark black cell phone.  “A cell phone?” I said.

“You’ll want to take that with you,” he explained.  “If an important call comes into your office while you’re out, it will forward to the cell.”

“You’ve got to be kidding,” I said.  “Hell uses cell phones?”

“Hey, it can’t give you cancer if you’re already dead,” Gus replied with a smile.

“I guess I was expecting something a little more…I don’t know…”

“A little less cellular and a little more Hellular?” he chuckled, clearly proud of his own joke.  “We used to use a system of messengers and couriers, but the invention of the cell phone has made things run a lot more smoothly around here.  Plus, the demons we used to use as messengers have been reallocated to other departments.  Boosts efficiency.”

I frowned, turning the sleek device over in my hand appraisingly.   Gus seemed to read my mind.  “I know, I know,” he said, waving a hand dismissively.  “You’re in Hell, there’s supposed to be fire and brimstone, caverns of blood and pain, yadda yadda yadda.  But there’s limits, man, even in the afterlife.  There’s always room for improvement.  And that little baby improved a lot.”

I shook my head.  “Weird.  Okay, uh, where do we go then?”

Gus opened the door through which I’d entered much earlier.  “It’s just down the hall,” he said.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Where to Start


I realized I was panting.  Embarrassed, I glanced up at Gus, who was standing beside me.

He gave me a piteous smile.  “That’s Kivra,” he shared as a simple explanation.  “She can be…overwhelming.”

“So…do I need to give her back those demons?” I asked. 

“Hey, you’re the boss, Boss,” he evaded.

Gus was the only person down here I’d met so far that I actually liked.  The sexy nurse was rude.  My predecessor was a piece of work.  And Kivra was…well, she was overwhelming.  Gus just seemed like a chill dude who didn’t have much reason to manipulate me.  That assessment was the closest thing I could get to a sliver of trust.  Better to rely on him than to rely on Kivra, right?

“From purely an advisory standpoint,” I rephrased, “If you were in my position, and you were worried about keeping law and order and all and making sure that Hell doesn’t overrun the planet and all…what would you do?”

Gus shrugged.  “I wouldn’t worry about it just yet,” he said.  “She’s pissed, but her department isn’t exactly hurting.  It’ll take her a while before she actually decides to do something more than bitch about it.  And in the meantime, you should familiarize yourself with how things work around here.”

That sounded like intelligent, informed advice.  “Okay, let’s do that,” I said.  “Where do I start?”

“We could start with the Assignment Department, if that meets with your approval,” he suggested gently.  

“Its offices are adjacent to yours so it won’t take us long to get there.”

“Assignment,” I repeated.  “Okay.  Lead the way.”

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Kivra's Judgment


“So you want me to give you three hundred more demons to torture people with?” I clarified, trying to ignore her performance as she ran a slender, clawed hand along her smooth legs.

“That’s the basic idea, yes,” she said.  She swung her other leg up on the desk.  She was still facing off to the side so I could see her in profile, but she was hot, naked, and sitting about three feet in front of my face and disrupting my ability to focus on my situation—I mean, my predicament.

“Um…who would get tortured?” I asked, trying to keep my voice steady.

“Every soul down her deserves some torture,” she answered, swiveling to face me and bringing one leg over, spreading her legs in front of me.

“Okay,” I yelped, pushing my chair back from the desk and spinning it to the side.  “That’s enough.  I don’t know what’s going on here, but this is crazy.”

Kivra’s answer was a long, low chuckle.  I wanted to see the expression on her face to understand why she was laughing, but I was scared to look back and fall for her charms again.

“I knew it,” she said contemptuously.  “I had you pegged the moment I looked at you.  You’re a coward.  A pussy.  You’re not even a man.  What are you, fifteen?”

I turned to glare at her, taking care to aim above the bare breasts.  “Seventeen,” I snapped.  Like claiming to be two years further into adolescence would do anything to improve my cred with a demon who was probably thousands of years old.

She laughed again, this time more freely and more gleefully.  “You’re just a kid.  A virgin, even.  And you’re going to command the hordes of Hell?”  She shook her head.  “They just don’t make Devils like they used to.  This is going to be fun.”

I was thoroughly embarrassed.  I’d been emasculated and patronized.  I struggled to think of something useful, noble, or at least relevant to say.

She leaned toward me again and thrust the claw from her index finger toward me threateningly.  “Here’s what you’re going to do.  You’re going to order my three hundred demons returned to my division.  And then the two of us will be able to get along just fine.  If you don’t do that, we will have problems.” 

She got out of my face and headed toward the doorway.  She paused in front of it.  “And I am not a problem you want to have,” she reiterated.  Then she cupped her breasts in her hands and gave them a little bounce, apparently to see my reaction.  Then she turned and left, her cackle echoing as she disappeared down the narrow corridor.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Reallocation of Resources


Kivra made direct eye contact with me for the first time.  I swallowed nervously.  She glanced back at Gus.  

“Damn it, Gus, I was hoping you were lying,” she said, sounding annoyed.

Her demeanor was changing from one of anger to one of mere frustration, and I liked how that looked as far as the odds of her destroying me was concerned.

“Sorry, Kivra,” Gus said with a shrug.

She folded her arms across her chest, shook her head and began pacing.  “So the little bastard flew the coop, huh?” she asked.  “It figures he threw one last dig at me before he ran off.  What a fuckin’ coward.” 
She turned and gave me an appraising look.  “So…you’re the new Devil?  That means you’re in a position to help me.”

I blinked.  I swallowed.  I breathed.  I swallowed again.  “What do you mean?”

She stood in front of the desk and leaned forward, resting her elbows on the surface and propping her head in her hands.  It was a bizarre, girlish gesture for someone who’d come blazing in a few moments ago, blasting doors to pieces.  It also had the distracting quality of putting her hanging breasts in my direct line of sight.

“The last guy in your spot decided to downsize my department before he left,” she explained.  “He gave one last order to have three hundred demons transferred out of my division just so he could dick me over and get the last word in.  All I need you to do is give the order to have those three hundred demons transferred back so I can resume my work uninhibited.”

I looked over at Gus.  He shrugged.  “Look, bro, you own my soul.  That means you tell me what to do, not the other way around.”

I turned back to Kivra and timidly asked, “What work is it that you do?”

She stood, smiled charmingly, and slipped into a seated position on the desk, so that now I could observe her body in profile and admire her buttcheek, thigh, and calf, which she’d stretched out along the edge.  “I’m the head of your most important department, the focal point of existence down here,” she said proudly, licking her lips.

“What is that?” I prompted, squirming in my seat.  She was making me more and more uncomfortable by the second.  Gus, I noticed, was observing her with great interest from a safe distance.

“The Torture Division,” she replied.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Kivra


I threw my hands over my face and the pieces of the door showered harmlessly around me.  When I felt safe enough to look up, I witnessed what could only have been a demon standing in the smoldering doorway.  It was Kivra, the demon I’d seen on the cover of the magazine in the waiting room.  And she looked pissed.

She was naked, and it was clear that the magazine cover hadn’t done her justice.  Her body appeared to be human, but every inch of her skin was a dark, scorched-looking red color.  Instead of hair, she hand a series of short, black horns protruding in a dense if chaotic arrangement from her skull.  Her eyes were large, angled sharply up at the outside corners, and of a fiery orange color.  Her teeth were perfect, white, and the four central ones on top and bottom were pointed and set between two larger sets of sharpened teeth that could only be described as fangs.  When she gnashed her teeth and growled, I saw what appeared to be rather boring-looking molars further back in her mouth. 

Her body was toned and slender, and her movements held both an elegant grace and an unbridled aggression.  Her breasts were large, round, and firm, her legs were powerfully muscled, and her feet had what appeared to be a thick layer of blackened skin on the soles that nullified the need for shoes.  Instead of fingernails and toenails, she sported two-inch claws.  She had no bellybutton. 

She was simultaneously arousing and terrifying.  I wasn’t sure if I would piss my pants or cream my pants.

“You,” she barked at Gus with a voice that was throaty, intimidating, and somehow still feminine.  “Where is he?”

“Who?” Gus answered.  He was totally unaffected by her entrance or appearance, but it seemed to come from indifference instead of bravery.

“You know who,” she snarled through clenched teeth.  “I want to talk to Satan.”

Gus smiled wanly and made a lazy gesture in my direction.  “He’s right here,” he said.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Job Skills


“So what do I do?” I asked.  “Do you actually expect me to be the Devil?  Like it’s my job?”

“No, not your job,” Gus corrected.  “It’s your life.”  He paused, frowned, and waved a hand to erase the last thing he said.  “Well, no, technically it’s not your life because you’re dead, but being the Devil sure as hell consumes your existence.”

“Okay,” I said, walking around behind the desk.  “So I sit in this chair.  And I’m the boss.  What do I do?”

“I don’t suppose,” Gus mused hopefully, “Being a seventeen-year-old kid and all, that you have much experience in business management , politics, or telekinesis?”

I sat down in the chair.  It was the greatest chair I’d ever sat in.  The level of comfort was like nothing I’d ever felt before.  “No, of course not,” I responded distractedly.  “Why would I?”

“Because those are probably the three most important skills you’ll need to use during your reign as Devil,” Gus said.  “Though not necessarily in that order.”

Somehow, if only because of the soothing feel of the chair supporting my weight with such luxurious gentleness, I was beginning to accept that I might have to be the Devil for a little while.  “Well, I guess I’ll just have to make some of that stuff up as I go,” I replied confidently.  I looked up at Gus.  He was smiling at me with what appeared to be a mixture of amusement and pity.

I furrowed my brow.  “Wait,” I said.  “Did you say telekinesis?”

He opened his mouth to answer, but that was when a thunderous voice outside shouted, “Downsize my department, will he?  Where the fuck are you, Satan?

I shot Gus a worried look.  “Who is that?”

He didn’t get the chance to answer.  The door through which I’d entered was abruptly blown off its hinges and sent flying across the room in shards the size of matches.  

Monday, April 9, 2012

Demonic Politics


“Why not?” I asked, exasperated.  “Why can’t I promote a demon to Devil?  Seems like it would come naturally to them.”

“It’s kind of complicated,” Gus said, apparently hoping I’d take him on his word that it was a bad idea.

“So explain it to me,” I pressed.

“There should be a human in charge,” he said.  “Even the most brutal Devils have held some kind of fondness for the living realm.  They’ve kept it from being overrun or destroyed by the demons down here in the pit.”

“Hell can actually take over the planet?” I asked.

“Theoretically, yes,” he replied.  “Bits and pieces of the underworld slip back and forth to the living realm all the time, but a full-scale invasion is possible.  It’s even been attempted several times.  One was particularly close, but it’s never been successful.  And it’s usually the Devil himself who stops it.”

“I don’t get it,” I said.  “Isn’t the Devil in charge down here?  Doesn’t he run everything?”

Gus smiled.  “You’re American, right?”

“Yeah, but what does that—”

“So you’ve got the President, right?  And let’s say he’s a Democrat, so he’s got the support of the Democrats, but not all of them, because they may disagree on the finer points of policy even if their approach to them is similar.  And most of the Republicans don’t support him.  The Green Party and the Libertarian Party and the Socialist Party and all the other independent parties don’t support him.  And then there are the masses of voters who haven’t declared a political party whose affiliations may be spread anywhere.  The President is in charge.  But that doesn’t mean he has control of everyone.  His constituency’s allegiances are diverse.”

“So the demons have political parties?” I summarized blandly.

“We call them factions down here,” Gus said.  “Some proclaim overt allegiance to the Devil, some just to our recently retired devil.  Some want change or reform of some kind.  Some want rebellion or mutiny.  There’s lots of different groups with lots of different motivations.  You’re in charge, and with the powers our recently departed friend has left to you, you’re the strongest thing down here, but only just.  It’s a tough gig keeping law and order in the underworld and protecting the land of the living from the threat of invasion.  Put a demon in charge and you may have law and order down here, but you might also have demons burning the living world to the ground.”

I heaved a weary sigh.  I did not want this responsibility.  But it was sounding more and more like a bad idea to give it up.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Possible Successors


“You can’t get out of this,” Gus said, his eyes showing slight alarm.  “Well, that’s not true.  You can get out of this, but you shouldn’t.”

I laughed.  “Why shouldn’t I?  I don’t want to be the Devil for the rest of my afterlife!”

“Look,” Gus said calmly, “The usual way is to do what the last boss-man did to you:  turn one of your freshly deceased descendants into your successor.”

“I can’t do that,” I said.  “I don’t have any descendants.”

“No kids?” Gus asked.

“Dude, I’m seventeen,” I said.  “Of course I don’t have any kids.”

“Sorry, I had no idea how old you were when you died.  Age gets kind of equalized down here, and I think it took effect for you around the same time the Devil’s blood did.”

That took me by surprise.  “Equalized?” I echoed.  Gus opened the top drawer in the Devil’s desk, took out a handheld mirror, and held it out to me.  I looked into it and saw my thirty-ish reflection.  I couldn’t stop looking.

I was a pretty fine looking young man to begin with, but it seems like I would have made transition into adulthood very well.  I looked handsome, fit, clean and well-groomed.  “Wow,” I said.  “I look great.”

Gus snatched the mirror back.  “That’s very good, Fabio, but if you’re seventeen that means you’ll never have any descendants.”

“Does that mean I have to be the Devil forever?” I yelped in sudden realization.

“No, it doesn’t,” Gus said.  “There are options.  From what I’ve learned, in the past, some Devils have raped mortal women during their travels to the living realm.”

I winced.  “So I either have to be Satan for eternity, or I have to rape some woman, wait for her kid to die, and then trick him into taking my place?”

“There’s also the possibility of promoting from the ranks of demons,” Gus added.

“Great, let’s do that,” I said, relieved. 

“I can’t tell you what to do,” Gus said, speaking slowly and choosing his words carefully, “But do not fucking do that.”

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Just Like That


“I don’t want to be the Devil,” I told him.  “So you can skip that stuff.”

Gus shrugged.  “Doesn’t matter what you want, bro,” he said with a hint of sympathy.  “You’re the Devil.  You’re stuck here for a while.”

I stared at him.  It seemed like he was about to crack a smile at any second and burst into laughter.  But he didn’t.  “You’re serious,” I said.  “Just like that, I’m the Devil?”

He snapped his fingers.  “Just like that.  Hell of a thing, isn’t it?”

I shook my head.  “Don’t you ever get tired of making hell puns?”

“I used to be a comedian,” he said.  “I wasn’t very good.  So I sold my soul to the Devil in exchange for the ability to come up with kickass material.  I got very, very good very, very quickly.  Then about two months after I made the deal, I overdosed on cocaine and wound up here, where I’ve had to remain in servitude as the Devil’s personal aide.”

“But he just quit,” I said.  “Doesn’t that mean you’re free?”

“Naw,” he dismissed the idea with a wave of his hand.  “I sold my soul to the Devil, not a devil.  I’m a servant of the office, not the person.  As long as there’s a big man in charge down here, I’m his bitch.  So…here I am, Gus Pitts, at your service, My Lord.”  He pretended to bow.

“You don’t sound angry about any of this,” I said.

He shrugged again.  “Hey, it’s what I signed up for.  Should’ve expected to get duped so badly, considering who I’d done business with.  I made my bed, and now I’m lying in it.  It’s the way of the universe, bro.”

I was actually kind of impressed.  “Okay,” I said.  “So you’re my personal aide?”

“Your Chief of Staff, as it were,” he reiterated with mock theatricality.

“So…how do I get out of this?” I asked.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Right Hand Man


When I woke up, only the headache remained, and each painful throb seemed less powerful than the last.  As the pain waned enough for my brain to bother doing anything other than focusing on how much my head hurt, I looked around.

I was on the floor, mostly.  My body seemed to be strewn across the splintered wreckage of the chair I’d been sitting in.  I sat up slowly. 

“Jesus,” said a chubby, dark-haired man sitting behind the Devil’s desk.  “You look like hell.”

I placed an open palm to my temple in a fruitless effort to slow the pounding of my head.  “Is that supposed to be funny?” I snapped weakly.  “Who the hell are you?”

“Gus,” he said.  “Your right hand man.  Unless, of course, you’re left-handed,” he added with a trace of concern.

“Gus,” I repeated.  “Okay, Gus.  Do you know what’s going on?  What happened here?”

“In a nutshell,” he replied helpfully.  “The Devil’s blood took effect, you suddenly became endowed with a tremendous amount of power, your body hulked out, and you slipped into unconsciousness.”

“And the chair…?” I asked.

“Like I said,” he explained, raising his hands over his head to indicate size.  “You hulked out.”

The headache was fading quickly.  I got to my feet.  “So what are you doing here?” I asked Gus.

“Consider this your orientation,” he said.  “The last boss-man skipped town like a bat out of hell and that leaves it to me to give you whatever background info he neglected to mention.”

“Like what?” I asked.

Gus chuckled.  He was probably about thirty, but his laughter had a grandfatherly charm to it.  “Like how to be the Devil,” he said.