The sun was rising above a smoky wasteland. Leather-winged abominations turned lazily in volcanic updrafts. Mindless opportunistic predators, they watched the activities on the pitted plain below. Without warning, a fist-sized Nightwing turned and dropped from the sky towards a seemingly-vulnerable target below. The stony mass next to the twitching red shape erupted with a speed inconsistent with its squat shape. The Nightwing vanished in a single wet bite.
The scorched landscape of Malebolge awakened. A new day had begun in Hell.
As the victorious predator consumed its breakfast, a hulking figure emerged from the acrid haze. The ground shook with each step. Many-legged vermin scattered before his stride. Eight feet tall with a red barrel chest and oily bat wings, the creature moved as the undisputed master of its domain. It stopped in front of a Hellfire pit. The penitent souls below stopped their slow migrations as their master drew near.
The giant arched its back as massive shoulders unrolled kinks. Its wings stretched out to full extension. The pit fell under their broad shadow as the creature looked down across its occupants.
“Hey guys – good morning! How’s everybody doing today? Wow, we’ve got a lot to get through here… Okay, the forecast says it’s going to be Mostly Scorching today with a chance of Hellfire after lunch. Let’s see if we can really push this morning to get the outer pit area cleaned up. We can move the mental torments to the afternoon. Then no matter what the weather does we’re covered! Sound good?”
The tortured souls looked up from the hellfire pit. Those with intact vocal structures voiced their agreement. Others nodded or snapped their fingers. Jean-Paul, the pit’s most senior resident, rocked back and forth slowly. He had been slowly cooking down over the last century and was little more than a face atop a 50 pound mass of charcoal.
“Great! Sounds like a plan. Hey – somebody help Jean-Paul please. He’s tipped over again.” The red giant gestured with his clipboard and paused. The group pushed their teammate back into a vertical position. Stability established, the group gave him the go ahead. He continued.
“Let’s see, the demon locusts have begun molting this week so everyone just be aware of that. Try not to step on the husks – we don’t want any premature incinerations today. Hey, that’s my job, right?” He snorted at his own joke which, unfortunately, sent a gout of flame across his clipboard. The captive paper ignited instantly. He slapped at the agenda and extinguished the flame.
The group waited as he deciphered the remaining meeting items. The bottom half of the page blew away in a fine ash. He looked from the clipboard to the pit below and back to the clipboard. His great bat wings, black as night, extended and retracted. Geryon was nervous. The souls offered various encouragements from the flames.
“Gerry, it’s okay!”
“Take a breath, no rush.”
The massive bull head bowed. He closed his eyes and inhaled slowly before carefully exhaling. No additional fire erupted.
“Thanks guys. Have I told you all lately what a great group you are? Really.” He looked across the dozen figures below him. “So I guess the only other thing is just a reminder that we’re beginning our personal development sessions today. I’ll be connecting with each of you for the discussions throughout the day. I think that will do it! Let’s get out there and have a great day!”
“Gerry? You’re forgetting something, aren’t you?” A middle aged woman raised her hand. The group again communicated agreement. “It’s your birthday! We’ve got donuts!” She offered up a slightly singed cardboard box as the group began singing.
“Aw, guys! You didn’t have to do that!”
Shortly after his ascension to power, Steward J. Glassberg, CPA, Lord of Hell, realized that he had taken the helm of a rudderless ship. Lucifer’s absence had only amplified Hell’s pre-existing environmental chaos. Knowing that he could not develop a strategy for an organization without an accounting of the resources available to him, Glassberg broached the topic at his next Monday morning staff meeting.
“An ‘organizational assessment’, Your Darkness? Is that what You called it?” Berith, Chief Secretary of Hell, paused in his note taking and looked up from his scroll. He placed his fountain pen precisely next to the scroll before continuing. “I am not certain that I understand Your question. Do You believe that some being holds some secret information? We shall root out the vile traitor who conspires against Your…”. Berith paused as his liege raised His hand. The assembled Divisional Heads and their respective lackeys stilled as one.
“I would like to understand the resources available to us as we work to rebuild Hell’s effectiveness. From the documents I’ve reviewed, I can’t see that Hell has had any discernible strategy when it comes to managing its human, er, uh, demon… resources. Ever. It’s almost as if Hell didn’t care about developing leaders or succession planning…” His voice trailed off as his thought process caught up with his tongue.
Berith sat patiently, waiting for Glassberg to continue. He brushed a speck of ash off his smartly-tailored crimson jacket. Its style was vaguely reminiscent of Michael Jackson’s iconic “Thriller” jacket. The jacket did nothing to silence persistent rumors that Berith had tried his hand as a Michael Jackson impersonator in Times Square during the initial exodus of fiends from Hell following the Merger.
Berith accepted Glassberg’s silence as invitation to speak. “That is true, Your Darkness. Hell has not traditionally concerned itself with… encouraging inferiors to aspire to advancement. Is this Your wish that we now do so? I am afraid that we are ill-prepared for such work. Hell will, of course, act as You desire. But You may find Hell’s execution less than polished.” Another errant fleck of ash was identified and removed from his jacket.
“Well. Let’s not trudge through an exercise in frustration, then. I can’t help but think that we’re underutilizing our talent. Why don’t we put out requests for proposals for just such an assessment? I’d expect to hear from the biggest players… Eon Howlett, Deluge Consulting, Mercy… Get that moving, would you please, Berith? Say requests for proposals in the next 30 days? With a decision on engagement within the next 30 days following that?
“Excellent. Next item… oh yes, I’m – frankly – surprised to learn about Hell’s fiscal year. It coincides with the calendar year… really? That seems rather inefficient. Doesn’t that force an excessive number of prior-period adjustments to souls’ altruism accounts? I would imagine that post-holiday giver’s remorse MUST be backed out of “spirit of giving” gains recognized earlier in the holiday season, no? It has always been my position that one should cast a critical eye towards any such systematic issues.
“Prior-period adjustments are, of course, a commonplace accounting tool. In that sense they are not in and of themselves any more concerning than depreciating the value of a capital asset over multiple years. Rather, I believe that an insightful manager should instead observe WHY the accounting structure is forcing the use of these adjustments. Would shifting a fiscal year reduce the frequency of such actions?
“Why don’t we set up a working session for a deeper dive into the accounting. No need to farm all of this work out. I’d enjoy diving into some controls. Roll up the old sleeves, as it were! Does it surprise you to know that I’ve presented a number of papers on the topic at American Association of Accountants seminars over the last few years? Oh, I wonder if we could get a courier to go pick up my old presentation materials? Look at me! I’m so excited! Believe you me, Berith, you’re really going to love this discussion.”
Steward J. Glassberg, CPA, Lord of Hell, was ascending to his role. Hell, for the first time in many (many!) years, moved with a purpose. The great mass of bureaucracy began to align behind its liege.
Berith cancelled his afternoon meetings.
“Geryon! Thanks for joining me this afternoon! Please – have a seat.”
“Gerry, if you don’t mind.” He looked around the small office as he stooped to peer through the doorway. He looked at his supervisor then back at the chairs. His entrance was stopped by the simple dimensions of the room.
“Um, sir? I don’t think that I’d -”
“Please – it’s Steve. And fit? Of course you will!” Steve waved him in enthusiastically. “C’mon! It’s part of the new retrofitting of our facilities! It’s your people’s stuff – you know, magic. Step in and watch what happens!”
Gerry’s first step was careful and deliberate. The flooring withstood his advance. He smiled as the doorway stretched to accommodate his towering frame. His next step was longer and less hesitant. Steve sipped his coffee as he waited behind his desk. The room expanded as Gerry maneuvered into the plain chair in front of Steven’s desk.
“Thank you, Steve! I’m really excited to meet with you today! I’m excited about the good things happening in my team.” His fervor was visible as he eased his bulk into the chair.
“Oh my gosh… Sir – Steve, I’m so sorry!” One might consider blushing across a demonic visage impossible. Gerry disproved any such belief. He looked at the broken chair on the floor around him. He looked at Steven. He looked back at the chair.
Steven spoke first. “Wow. I guess Facilities hasn’t had a chance to tweak everything so far. Can you, you know, fix it? Like… with your magic? You can do that, right?” He waved his hand towards the debris.
“Well. I can. Yes, I mean, magic can. But it’s probably just easier to pick it up. Is that OK? Do you have a trash can?” Gerry started gathering up the chair’s remnants. He looked at the small receptacle next to Steve’s desk. “Maybe a larger one? You know what? I’ll just take this with me. I’m going by one of the empty Pits later. I’ll just dispose of this on my way…” His voice trailed off as Steve cleared his throat.
“Gerry, I have to tell you, I think this is exactly the problem I’m seeing with you. I could not have planned a better segue to our conversation today.” Steve leaned back in his chair. He looked across the desk smugly. “This is why I’m here.”
Gerry frowned. “You’re here because I’m breaking furniture? I’m really sorry. We haven’t traditionally had much in the way of office space out in the Pits…”
“Gerry! C’mon! Really?” His coffee cup splashed as he slammed it down on the desk. He beat back Gerry’s attempts to blot away the escaped liquid. “You just don’t quit, do you? Stop cleaning up after me! God damn it, you’re a Lord of the Hellfire Pits! Act like it!
“You seem like a nice enough… guy. Fiend. Whatever. But who cares? Do you think anyone’s interested in a nice Pit fiend? Is that what we do here in the Pits? Be ‘nice’ to people? No! These are the mother-fucking HELLFIRE PITS! We’re not ‘nice’ to people. We’re not in the ‘nice’ business! We’re in the ‘Hellfire and torment’ business!”
Steve paused. He pulled his chair in closer to the desk and adjusted the items atop his desk. Just so.
“Gerry, let me tell you why I’m here. It’s because beings like you apparently can’t get things done. Did you know that the incineration rates across the Pits as a whole have declined for the last 33 quarters? Your people have been going in the wrong direction for so long you don’t even know which way is up. The Pits have one purpose – cook down Damned souls. And your fires are getting colder every day.
“That’s why my kind is here. Humans. We’ll drag Hell into the twenty-first century if we have to lasso every single one of your horned bastards along the way. But you know what? This is your lucky year. Century. Whatever. Go ahead – ask me why.” The smugness had returned. He leaned back again as he awaited Gerry’s response.
“Um, why? If you don’t mind telling me?” Gerry’s voice trailed off. He hunched forward presenting an ever-shrinking presence before Steve’s desk.
“All across Hell you’ve got human managers firing their Hellion team members. Have you checked out the emigration waiting list lately? All these Johnny-go-lately’s aren’t leaving Hell because they suddenly wanted the white picket fence. No – those sheep left years ago. As soon as the portals opened. No, the Hellions leaving now are the ones who can’t hack it in today’s Hell. These are the fiends who don’t have what it takes to really get the job done.
“But you got lucky. I’m not firing you. No. Every one of my limp dick ‘peers’ across Hell is filling up their days processing terminations for their ‘can’t-hack-it’ Hellion staff. But not me. Nope – I’m going to make my mark by whipping you into shape. You’re going to be a creature of Torment if it kills me – or you, more likely.”
Gerry looked across the at Steve. He sighed, resigned to his fate. “A deeper level of Hell? You’re casting me down to suffer?”
Steve’s grin was broad. He shook his head. “Worse. I’m sending you for corporate training.”
Glassberg’s move to modernize Hell’s managerial system was not met with open resistance. Hell had never embraced the kind of personal initiative required for such a revolt. But the damned souls in Hell’s dominion were not the only beings suffering there.
Thirty minutes into the briefing on the new ERP (Entity Resource Planning) system Zystygian, a minor devil of note only for inspiring a senior Marketing Vice-President on Madison Avenue to invent the faxed spam advertisement, stood up, sliced his scaled palm with an athame, and declared himself a sovereign Prince of Hell. As such, he proclaimed, he was certainly above such pedestrian concerns as “…setting a Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant, and Time-bounded [SMART] development goal for the upcoming year.” He was promptly incinerated by the watchful eye of Hellish Resources, in accordance with newly published Standards relating to behavioral expectations during the management transition. A one-week $99 Caribbean getaway did not await him.
The subsequent tortured howls were not the last time Hell’s remaining fiends reconsidered their decisions to remain in Hell instead of emigrating to Earth. Responses on the newly-implemented organizational survey had been evenly split between an unshakeable belief that greatness awaited them in Hell and an overwhelming fear of adaptation to Earthly life. A small but distinct subset of those surveyed referenced hearing that they may be eligible for backdating of profit sharing in Hellish endeavors and wanting “to see how that played out”.
The meeting’s sole human attendee paled. The Eon Howlett consultant looked around the room as he struggled to collect his thoughts. He watched Zystygian’s ashes puff away in the initial burst of air as the conference room’s air conditioning system cycled on. By the time the HVAC switched from its deep freeze cooling to a steamy bake on the usual one-minute cycle there was no trace of the upstart.
“So… SMART goals. They are, uh, an important part of any organization’s effectiveness in talent development.” He regained his composure as he brought the discussion back to the meeting’s agenda. “The idea is that today you’ll all learn how to write your own SMART goals. Then you’ll bring this process back to your teams with an expected roll-out by March 1st.
“Yes, you… ma’am? In the back? With the, uh, snake hair? You have a question?”
Serpents hissed as she stood. Her right hand reached up, reflexively, ensuring that the thick wraparound sunglasses remained in place covering her eyes. She looked down at her notes before speaking.
“Am I correct in understanding that you are suggesting that my minions should set their own development goals? Self-direction? Rubbish! Next you’ll tell us that any of those cockroaches is capable of joining our rarified ranks!”
The consultant cleared his throat and shifted in his chair. “That takes us nicely into the next section – identifying your next generation of leaders. Please turn your workbooks to Chapter Three.” He paused as the hissing grew louder.
The look of horror was perfectly captured on his statue face. Eon Howlett offered a makeup session via web conference call.
Petrification, apparently, was not transmissible via Skype.
“Hey there big guy! Working hard or hardly working?”
Gerry stopped his wrestling match with the Keurig, the k-cup door still open. As he looked away from the machine, the lid snapped shut on his thumb. The machine promptly delivered 10 ounces of lukewarm coffee directly onto his khakis. The imp chuckled as his much larger co-worker attempted to extricate his thumb while reaching across the counter for a stack of napkins.
The other Hellions in the breakroom resumed their own conversations across various institutional-style tables. Each table rocked as its users touched any of the items sitting atop it. “To please excuse us our mess as we remodle!” read a simple sign at the center of each table. Roughly half of the signs displayed commentary defacements related to the syntax and spelling. Hell, it seemed, was intent on punishing all within its unholy depths.Grammar Nazis were doubly tormented.
“Damn it, Lennie! That was my last $3!” Gerry dug through his pockets and started separating miscellaneous coins. “The machine is only taking $2 bills and Canadian nickels this week. Do you have any?”
The two fiends accounted for their pooled money. They produced a Sacagawea dollar coin, an assortment of North Korean Won coins, a crumpled $2 bill, and exactly 17 Canadian nickels.
“Gerry – I’m sorry buddy. I owe you one. Are you going to karaoke tonight? First round is on me!”
The large pit fiend slumped over the counter and sighed. His barbed tail flicked back and forth. He frowned.
“I don’t know. I’ve got to pack. I’m traveling tomorrow. I’m going for training. Why me?”
“Wait – you’re traveling for work? To Earth? And this is a problem – how? Do you know how many times I’ve applied for one of those career-development programs? None! I can’t apply because every time I try to submit my application my computer crashes and I have to reboot. I tried saving my application essay before I submitted last time and I swear to Lucifer that the computer laughed at me before the screen went black! And it didn’t save! I have to write that whole thing over again!”
“Wow, that sounds terrible. I can help you work on it tonight. Why don’t I stop by around 7? Shouldn’t take more than an hour and then we’ll hit karaoke! Just one beer and one song then I’ll go pack.”
“Gerry, have I ever told you that you’re the best friend an imp could ask for? By the way, do you happen to have a spare phone cable? The wifi in our building has been on the fritz lately. Have to use the dial-up.”
Gerry frowned. “Why don’t I come by around 6? Might take a bit longer.”
Gerry shuffled as he took a small step forward in the queue. Leaning to the side, he saw the line stretching forward into the distance. He squinted and shook his head. No matter. He could not see the line’s terminus.
“Earthly departures in this line! Please have your travel authorization and itinerary out for inspection. Foot or hoof coverings and outerwear must come off. No brimstone in carry-on bags. Pre-cleared travelers may use the expedited lanes. Step forward, please…”
“Excuse me,” Gerry addressed the tentacled blob directing traffic in the terminal. “You mentioned pre-cleared travelers? Is that me? Do I belong in that line?” He pointed to the empty lanes.
The blob snorted, spraying Gerry from what he had assumed was an eye. “Does your travel authorization say ‘Pre-Cleared’?” It waited just long enough for Gerry to study his paperwork before spraying another blast of spittle across the documentation. “Of course it doesn’t! We haven’t implemented the Pre-Clear process yet! What, you think you’re special?”
Gerry struggled with his response. “No. But why would you set up the lines before you’ve started taking travelers? That doesn’t make any sense. Wouldn’t it make more sense-”
“Look at the efficiency expert over here!” The blob spun as half of its tentacles began flailing. “So you must know more than His Infernalness? Because His Darkness hasn’t told us to stop this yet. So we must be doing as He wishes, right?” Two tentacles poked Gerry’s chest. “Pipe down. You’ll leave Hell when we say you can leave Hell! In fact, let’s get the inspectors over here. Security! Need an orifice search!”
Gerry sighed and set his bags down. This would be neither efficient nor painless.
Berith stood, impassive, before the floor-to-ceiling window. Below him, the vast expanse of Hell – from the fiery rapids of Phlegethon to the lifeless frozen waste of Ptolomaea right up to the wicked gates of Pandaemonium – roiled with skirmishes, assaults, and all-out battles. His gaze swept the panorama without pausing.
Hell was restless.
“Chief Secretary? Sir?”
Berith answered without turning from the chaos below. “Speak. Have the departments all reported in?”
“Mostly. Um, sir. Yes. We have most departments reporting in.” The intern shuffled papers within the manila folder before deciding it was hopeless. “Here they are.” He offered the folder.
“Your summary, Mr. Wilkins, if you please. Wharton has taught you how to communicate succinctly, I believe?”
“Yes, Chief Secretary. My summary. Ah, most departments have been successful in shutting down any open conflicts.
“There are a few exceptions, however. Facilities launched a sneak attack on IT this morning. The fire suppression systems in the server bays were apparently hacked and some sort of combustible gas was fed into IT’s section. After the subsequent explosion, Facilities workers rushed the responding techs with improvised weapons made from, uh,” he scanned and shuffled pages again before finishing his statement, “broom and mop handles. The IT staff was largely wiped out before Facilities claimed victory and offered quarter to the remaining workers.
“Sir Nergal, took the field and led a force of commandos to take the Facilities central office. It looks like right now we have neither a functioning Facilities NOR IT organization. Also, Outlook is down. I’m guessing that is a result of the server destruction? Nergal sent a runner with the latest report. He is requesting orders, sir?”
Berith sighed heavily and rubbed his forehead. “Tell Nergal to clear the offices. And ensure the IT wing has been purged. We’ll be engaging temp workers.
“And… Mr. Wilkins? Get me our Eon Howlett account manager on the phone. They provide staffing services, no?”
Wilkins quickly dropped the folder on Berith’s desk before retreating. “I better get an A for this,” he muttered as he pulled the massive doors shut behind him. “I could have gone to Google.”
Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport hummed with energy on this Monday morning. Inbound and outbound flights, international and domestic routes, ground transportation links… and, as of a year ago, the site of the largest Hellgate in the United States.
A joint panel composed of experts from the US Departments of Transportation and Homeland Security had studied the question of exactly WHERE the United States should situate a permanent gate between worlds. Various options including Death Valley, west Texas, and southern Wyoming were in consideration before the delegation from Hell announced that only O’Hare possessed the type of energy necessary to hold such a gate. (One junior member of the DOT group opined privately that he saw no coincidence in the fact that O’Hare was also the setting for 9 of his 10 personal worst travel experiences.)
Concourse X in Terminal 6 (Extraworldly) serviced exactly one carrier. Perdition Pathways operated with exactly one route, zero regulation, non-existent competition – and the lowest customer satisfaction scores ever measured by JD Power. USTelecom spokespeople continued to deny an exploratory committee was considering business synergies with the carrier should Net Neutrality finally fall.
Into the chaos of an O’Hare morning puffed a noxious cloud of sickly green gas. Perdition’s inbound flight had just arrived. Towards the edges of the concourse a small janitorial crew awaited their summons. Ichor tended to stain if not immediately cleaned.
Gerry stepped through the portal but hesitated as he looked around the sparse gate area. His tourist gaze was interrupted by the short woman manning the adjacent desk.
“Sir? Please. Clear the portal. If you don’t mind.” Her tone suggested she was not concerned with whether he minded.
“Oh, sorry, I’m sorry. This is my first trip…”
“To civilization?” Gerry was observed, assessed, and found wanting in a single horn-to-hoof scan. The perfunctory smile set on her face. Her attention returned to the flickering computer screen. “Ground transportation as marked. No smoking outside designated smoking areas. That includes whatever that is that… you… people… do.”
“Smoking? Oh, like bursting into flames! That’s funny! No, we don’t do that. Well, there is a small minority of Hellions who specialize in pyrotechnic magic. They sometimes tend to self-ignite. But that tends to be more of an ‘Oh my Dark Lord, no!’ kind of an occurrence. Sort of an accidental kind of thing…” His voice trailed off as he noticed the woman’s expression.
“Um. Anyway. ‘Maude’, is it?” Gerry peered over the counter at her nametag. “It’s very nice to meet you!” His proffered hand was met with cool disdain.
Maude’s response was more curt than her last. “Sir? You are blocking the portal. For God’s sake, please move!”
Gerry winced reflexively. “Is He here? Ah – right. ‘Maude’? Um, you mentioned ground transportation? Which way is that?” Gerry smiled over the counter. Behind him, the queue came to a halt.
“Sir! The portal! Please!” Maude gestured aggressively behind Gerry, her travel mug as her weapon of choice. Steaming liquid sloshed against the mug’s walls, overcame the barrier, and escaped to the paperwork below. Maude frowned at the further complication of her day.
Gerry turned and understood his role in the traffic jam. He slid closer to desk, Maude, and her spilled tea. “Ah, it seems that a little of that tried to get away from you,” he said, pointing at the widening pool of tea. “Looks like that’s soaking through those. You may want to clean that up…”
“Please. Just leave.” Maude sighed as the tea reached her computer terminal and her monitor went black. “I’m going on my break.”
“Gerry? We’re going to ‘Wrap Battle’ for lunch. Wednesday is Double Meat Day! You want to come with?” The young man looked the fiend up and down. “Jennifer got an SUV from the rental car place. I think you’ll fit.”
“Thanks John! I really appreciate that. I’ve been grabbing an extra bagel and banana from the-”
“Lobby breakfast? I know. I saw you this morning. And yesterday. And the day before that.” John smiled broadly. “You could have come with us for lunch any day, you know. Why didn’t you say something?”
“Well, I’m the only fiend here. I wasn’t sure how everyone else felt. HR – I mean, our HR, Hellish Resources – told us to hang back while we were on Earth. Some people wouldn’t be comfortable around us. Respecting local customs and all…”
“Are you kidding?” John stopped in the middle of the hallway. He pulled Gerry into the conference room with a nodded apology as their classmates moved around them towards their seats.
“Gerry, you are the nicest… guy? In this class. I don’t think I could find someone to say something bad about you. Actually, a few of us were wondering if maybe you didn’t like us? You never seem to hang out with us. We’re all staying in this shitty Highway Inn but the seminar ends every day and you just seem to disappear. Don’t you eat dinner?”
Gerry shrugged. “I usually order some food to go and take it back to my room. Did you know that they have more than 20 channels in HD? It’s amazing!”
John looked around as he answered. “Yeah- ah, listen Gerry. Remember when we had to partner on that assignment yesterday? Pitching our dream business? You, uh – you were great! I don’t know what I expected with this ‘Unleash Your Inner Beast’ but I’ve been thinking that you have been the best part of this class! I just don’t think that I have whatever it is that the instructors are looking for. But I know that last night I was thinking in my room… No one has ever made me feel like I could really do it. I mean, start my own beer company. Maybe you and I could just stay connected after graduation on Friday morning. I mean – I’d pay you! Maybe you could just coach me. You know… like you did yesterday?”
Their instructor stepped around the podium towards them as their classmates found their respective places. “Gentlemen? Your seats? We’re close to time on the break. Thank you. Ah, mister… Geryon? A word?”
John nodded as he made his way back to his chair. “Lunch?” John mouthed as he thumbed towards the exit. Gerry nodded, embarrassed, as he turned toward his instructor.
“Yes, sir? Can I help you?”
His instructor visibly blushed before responding. “Yes, I think you can help me. I was impressed with your work on yesterday’s project. You were just so positive in how you approached things… I don’t know – I just don’t know if I really believe this. The “Inner Beast” thing? Ugh – it’s so pretentious. And, I don’t know… douchey? How can I talk to my kids after a day like this?”
Gerry smiled as he patted the man’s back. “I’m sure your kids know exactly who their Dad is. Maybe we can grab a cup of coffee on the next break?”
One would be hard-pressed to suggest that Hell was deliberately censoring Internet traffic. The content that did make it through Hell’s one ISP, Fearizon, seemed to follow no discernable logic. A puppy wrestling with a kitten unexplainably froze mid-video while a masked figure seemed to be adapting an “Anarchist’s Cookbook” recipe to suit Hell’s odd physics played in pristine high def beauty.
Regardless, social media was abuzz with Gerry. Gerry was the talk of Earth’s motivational speaker circuit. Gerry was from Hell.
And no one seemed to care.
Within his cramped office adjacent to Malebolge’s Hellfire Pit #1373, Steve stared at the blurry image on his laptop. As it seemed to stutter, a swift open-handed smack quickly cleared the picture. “ ‘Featured Speaker’? What kind of horseshit is that? Who in the Hell would want to listen to him?!?”
The crowd shifted as the lights came up. In the control booth at the rear of the studio, the technical crew focused on the recording at hand. Between their natural nervousness, the intrusive cameras, and the manic energy of the warm-up act, the audience held an energy seemingly ready to erupt with the slightest stimulus.
Gerry entered the back of the theater as the announcer began the introduction.
“Ladies and gentlemen! We are very lucky today to have a very special guest. A guest all the way from HELL! You want the “been there, done that”? This man has it all! He climbed the very top of the ranks to serve as a Lord of the Hellfire Pits themselves! But that wasn’t for him! He had a gift – a gift that he’s ready to share with all of us today!
“He’s ready to help you unlock the very best “YOU” inside of each of you! Are you ready? Ready to be the very best “YOU” that you are capable of?
“Please help me welcome our very special guest- the reason we are all here – GERRY!”
The audience reacted as if goosed. They leapt to their feet, their excitement overflowing. Gerry made his way down the center aisle, head down sheepishly. Behind him, John urged him on, quietly but with energy.
The procession paused as Gerry saw a familiar face on the aisle. “Maude? Is that you? I’m so happy that you’re here! Can we grab some tea afterwards?”