Come On Down…
LJ Idol Exhibit B | week four | 990 words
Give 'Em Hell
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The Devil swept into Torment Assessment with a swirl of his cape. "All right, let's get down to business. Who have we got today, Pendrick?"
The processing minion checked his slate clipboard. "Richard Taylor, an investment broker who swindled thousands of elderly people out of their retirement funds."
The Devil stepped up to the podium. "Cue the lights."
"Yes, your Vileness." The minion scrambled to obey.
Theme music filled the room as a man reluctantly edged around the corner. A demon followed close behind, using its pitchfork to prod him forward.
"Richaaaard Taaaylor!" the Devil bellowed. He leaned toward the microphone, and added a touch of false camaraderie to his voice: "Welcome to Hell."
"Hu-uh what?" the man stammered.
"Hellllllllllllll," the Devil intoned.
Taylor tried to run back out of the room, but the demon barred the corridor. "Uh," Taylor started to say.
"As your generous host, I offer a selection of ways to choose your fate." The Devil gestured upstage and the spotlight followed. "Roulette wheel, dart board, or Concentration?"
Taylor gaped at the display for a moment. "Concentration," he croaked out drily.
The Devil smiled. The smart ones nearly always made that choice—not that it helped them.
Taylor began working the board, revealing the hidden entries: cat-o-nine-tails, pit of fire, Black Friday sale at an electronics store… He paired one set after another until he reached the final two, and then paused, gleeful at knowing they would obviously match. Finally, he turned over one of the remaining cards, which appeared to show someone holding a bedpan.
"What?" he said.
"That looks about right," the Devil said. "Fitting, don't you think? You'll be cleaning up after nursing home patients, and witnessing their despair."
"Back on Earth?"
"No, of course not. It will be one of our simulations."
Taylor blinked dazedly. "For how long?" he asked.
"All eternity, of course." The Devil examined his talons. "That's how it works."
"But… don’t you ever re-visit past cases, see if they've done well enough to deserve something better?"
The Devil sighed. "Your chances for atonement and redemption expired when you did, Mr. Taylor. And I haven't the time. Besides, it would dilute the whole point of the 'Hell' brand. So there you have it. Off you go."
The demon herded Taylor toward the exit door.
The Devil turned to his minion. "Who's next, Pendrick?"
"May-Ellen Mayhew," the minion announced. "Serial poisoner. She killed her parents, a coworker, and two husbands."
"Been awhile since we had one of those," the Devil mused. "All right, crank it up."
The theme music began again as another demon escorted the woman into the judgment chamber.
"May-Ellen Mayhewwwww," the Devil boomed. "Welcome to Hell."
The woman eyed him suspiciously. "Why am I dead?"
"Someone poisoned you, dear lady. About time, too."
"About—wait, why do you care? You probably tempted me into doing it!"
"Nonsense." The Devil waved his arm at the vast room surrounding them. "I have far too much to do just running the place. I think you'll find that jealousy and the lure of easy money had far more to do with the choices you made." He leaned forward, grasping the sides of the podium. "And now begins the game of Fate. How will you let yours be decided? Roulette? Dart board? Or Concentration?"
May-Ellen frowned in thought. "Dart board," she said.
"Excellent. Please step forward." The Devil ushered her toward the throwing line, and offered her three darts.
May-Ellen threw the first dart, which landed just outside the target. An image followed.
"Quicksand," the Devil said. "Quite nasty."
May-Ellen aimed the second dart and threw harder. It hit one of the black spaces inside the innermost circle.
"Crushing by eternal stampede. I wouldn't recommend it," said the Devil.
Squinting in concentration, May-Ellen threw the final dart. It flew toward the board, and neatly pierced the bullseye.
"Ah!" the Devil chuckled. "The spider pit! An eternity of being smothered in millions upon millions of angry black widows, as they ceaselessly ravage your flesh."
"But… but that's much worse than the first two results!" May-Ellen said.
"True, but then again… this IS Hell. Take her away, Oswald!"
The demon led May-Ellen out the door, and the Devil thought about whether it might be time for lunch yet. He pondered for a bit. "This setup is growing stale," he commented to the minion. "Let's change it over for the next one, go with The Lady Or The Tiger instead."
The minion was still fairly new to his position. "But sir! You wouldn't—"
The Devil laughed. "No, not at all! It's always tigers around here."
"Ah! Two doors then, or three?"
"Three really seems more evil, don't you think?" the Devil said.
"Three it is."
The Devil paced as the room's transformation began. "Would this be a good time for a break?" he asked.
The minion consulted his clipboard. "Well, we have another delivery coming in shortly that still needs processing: a group of gang-bangers. They all killed each other in a shootout."
"I see. Where are they now?"
"In holding. We've put them in the simulation of the slow train through Africa."
"Really." The Devil thought for a minute. "I'd call that just about perfect. Make it permanent."
"You heard me. Make it good and hot, and be sure the bathrooms are utterly filthy. We'll handle new assessments again in two cycles of the main floor volcano."
The Devil spun on his heel, the better to twirl his cape behind him, but a messenger demon suddenly ran into the chamber. "Sir, the forges on level three have all shut down, and several of the fire demons have escaped."
The Devil sighed. Never a dull moment. "Send a crew in with torches, and bring in an off-duty Legion of the Damned to search for the fire demons. Pendrick, we'll postpone the rest of the assessments until tomorrow."
Lunch would have to wait.
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