LJ Idol Prize Fight | Week 5 | 1130 words
Kayfabe (maintaining the reality of the persona at all times)
Trol'gorak was not the first to wear the human suit, but he was probably the first to think it was trying to kill him.
He never told anyone. It had been impressed upon him millennia ago that such complaining was not done, that no self-respecting demon would ever gripe about such a basic assignment. No, his job was to 'demon up' and do the job.
Even if the suit pressed on his horns and rubbed the spikes off his tail.
Trol'gorak was undercover in the human world, learning about people and trying to find the best ways to torment and tempt them. As far as he could tell, the old ways worked as well as ever, but His Helliness wanted new research and new data.
In his cover position as an office drone, Trol'gorak had decided that humans already tortured themselves more effectively than anyone could ever dream of doing.
He based this conclusion on many things. Business attire, particularly the excruciating cramping of one's hooves and the proxy strangulation of anyone with a generous neckline. (Actually, 'generous' sounded like a euphemism for 'fat', whereas some demons simply tended to have a more substantial presence in the—okay, fine, so he had a fat neck, so what? Neckties were still evil!).
Working in business was dreadful too, at least the kind of work he did. Meetings, spreadsheets, expense statements, personal reviews… Quarterly reports, 'corporate vision' exercises, Secret Santas… Horrible. Possibly even the work of the Horned One himself.
Small talk was another form of torment. Trying to remember the names of his coworker's spouses and children, their stupid hobbies, the various teams involved in their mysterious obsessions with professional sports of all kinds—it was exhausting. Worse still was having to hold up his end of the pointless chit-chat! He'd had to fabricate a life outside the office, with just enough detail to avoid seeming weird and suspicious, because attracting that kind of attention could result in reassignment to an even nastier Hell-assignment. What, he couldn't imagine, but if it was worse than this? There was no suicide in Hell, no way to escape one's fate. That was why it was Hell!
Television. That was what he'd settled on. When it was time to interject a hint of human self, Trol'gorak talked about some television show or other he pretended to like. Which necessitated him actually watching the damned thing—tragic but unavoidable, because it was important to seem authentic. He'd quickly learned that the kinds of shows he liked were not good 'cover' for his human persona. Jerry Springer was too trashy, General Hospital too gender-inappropriate (apparently?). He'd had to resort to watching either raunchy comedies, or thrillers involving drugs, gore, zombies, or conspiracies in various combinations. It was useless as escapism—all just everyday stuff in Hell, really. Even thinking about it bored him to tears.
Trol'gorak's research was not confined to the office, nor was all of it intentional. Before he'd gotten smart enough to invent a long-distance girlfriend, he'd found himself cornered into accepting invitations for leisure activities. That was how he'd found out about co-ed baby showers, elementary school band concerts, square dancing, helping people move, and fishing (oh, the horror!). Other things, like telemarketers and laundromats, he'd stumbled across as part of his fake day-to-day human existence.
It was tiring work. Sometimes, after an especially long day of corporate training or holiday parties—or even when he got mesmerized by an explosion of chair-throwing on a TV talk show—Trol'gorak would forget to file his official reports.
"You don't want to be late with these," the collections agent told him.
"Why?" Trol'gorak asked. "What have you heard?"
"One of the demons in the upper sector got demoted, and now he's undercover as a teenaged girl in junior high."
"Oh, yes. Have you forgotten what Hell is?"
Trol'gorak vowed to work harder at his research and to be more diligent about his paperwork.
He spread rumors that his girlfriend had left him, and let a coworker set him up on a blind date. He signed up for a community college course in pottery, and tried to learn to like football.
He even started riding mass transit to run errands like going out to lunch and grocery shopping.
It was that last part that did him in. One day, while standing on the crosstown 85th Avenue bus, the unthinkable happened:
Trol'gorak popped out a horn.
He could feel it sticking up out of his human suit like a prong on a hat rack. Oh, no! He turned his face toward the wall, trying to hide in the shadows. What if someone notices?
"Hey, what's that on your head?" the kid next to him asked.
"Halloween costume?" Trol'gorak said.
"I like to start early..."
He got off the bus at his stop and tried to hurry home. The woman waiting next to him at the crosswalk leaned back in horror.
"What the heck is that thing?"
"Uh… I had a run-in with a tree."
"You should get to the hospital before it becomes infected. It's leaking pus or something."
Trol'gorak gave up on subtlety, and made a mad dash for his apartment building. He ran up the stairs to his floor, unlocked his apartment door, and rushed inside. The bathroom mirror showed not only the protruding horn and its attending trail of slime, but a general bagginess around the face where the ruptured human-suit had started to sag.
Oh, this is bad!
He couldn't fix it on his own, and he had nowhere to escape. What to do? What to—
The floor opened up beneath him and he fell down the Hellevator shaft to his doom…
After a week of flaying, filleting, and flambéing, he was put through retraining for the hardest job he'd had yet. It was mortifying, it was misery, and it was even more punishing than his last assignment.
Then Trol'gorak rose to the surface once more, packed into a brand new human suit that was even tighter than before. It was shorter, squashing him down so that he bulged out the sides and could hardly move. He was already dreading his first encounter with his new peers, known to be among the cruelest of the human species.
He edged around the corner of William Day Middle School, plaid-clad and braided, clutching the hideous unicorn-themed backpack he'd been given. Some part of him was already quivering beneath his disguise, waiting for the inevitable first assault.
A group of adolescent females in lip gloss and mascara spotted him, the tallest and blondest of them sneering as she looked him over and found him lacking:
"Ewwww," she said. "Excuse me while I barf myself to death, thank you very much.
"Who's the new girl?"
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