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God's Shoehorn (Chapter V)
Hell was not precisely as Paul had expected it to be. In fact, he was astounded by how dissimilar it was to his imagined lakes of fire and whatknot.
"And this is the canteen" drawled Lucifer blandly. His courtly gesture took in a huge grey expanse of plastic tables and chairs on a vaguely off-white tiled floor. Depressed looking lines of people shuffled passed smug demons in aprons. Each inmate collected a faux-wooden tray, paper plate and brittle looking plastic cutlery. A menu had been scribbled on a free standing whiteboard. It read:
Starter: Sprout soup
Main: Boiled Ham and Sauerkraut with coleslaw
"Holy Hell!" breathed Paul. A small demon wearing a chef's hat paused in his duty of slopping food onto absorbent plates, to give him an approving nod. Blasphemy was a respected art form down here.
"Horrid isn't it!" agreed Lucifer with a pleased smile. "They don't need to eat of course, being incorporeal" he went on, "But they're always hungry - it's part of a pilot scheme we've had in place for a couple of decades. We induce a false sense of intense hunger in them, and supply them with a constant barrage of repulsive food. The semolina was my idea." He grinned viciously.
"Everything is so... institutional!" complained Paul plaintively. Lucifer chuckled.
"I invented institutional old boy!" he said and opened the double doors leading to yet another military grey corridor. the walls were hung with occasional medical diagrams and letters of complaint from inmates.
"We allow them to make formal complaints every now and again" said the devil as Paul took a closer look at one.
...and the view from my room is of a concrete wall! Wrote one Mr. Tulbot formaly of Tumbridge Wells, England.
"Gives them a false sense of control" drawled Lucifer as they walked on.
"Which you then take away from them?" queried Paul, already knowing the answer.
"Oh yes" chimed in Lucifer chirpily, "We moved Mr. Tulbot to a room facing the level 3 demons' latrines. They're a messy bunch at the best of times!"
"Strewth!" muttered Paul. In spite of himself... Paul was actually quite impressed. The legions of Hell had clearly put al ot of thought into their system of punishment. Paul could appreciate craftsmanship when he saw it.
"We have a think-tank of Psychiatrists on our creative team now" said Lucifer, "Blue sky thinking and all that. I tell you, the nasty buggers positively leapt at the chance to get their own back on their whiny former clients!"
"There many Psychiatrists down here then?" asked Paul curiously. He wondered briefly if there was career correlations with percentage likelihood of damnation.
"All of them" said Lucifer smugly. Ah, thought Paul, definitely a correlation then. "All the P.E. teachers and Barristers too" the devil continued.
"Not short on coffee then?" joked Paul and received a withering look from his host. Levity was not allowed for guests then? Lucifer led them to the head of an escalator much like those one can find on the London underground only much, much longer... and apparently broken. As they started the long descent Lucifer chuckled to himself at Paul's frustration over the malfunctioning stairway.
"It's the little details that do it for me these days" he laughed and Paul glared.
They continued down the motionless escalator for a good hour or more. As they went they passed through the different levels of Hell. Paul saw doors with signs above them saying things like: Advanced Geography Classes This Way! and Demotivation seminar Hall.
"This place" he said to Lucifer in appalled tones, "Is some kind of Hell!!"
"Ta muchly!" said Lucifer with a preening smile, "I love a good review!"
After slogging their way through another five levels they finally found themselves on the basement floor at the end of the broken escalator.
"This" said Lucifer with a dramatic pause, "Is the seventh circle!" He pointed with a long slim finger at the single plain fire-door ahead of them. Beside the door and sat on a cushion, which in Paul's opinion had far too many tassels for its own good, sat a three headed Chihuahua.
"Is that...?!!" gasped Paul, aghast with disappointment.
"How is my little Cerberussypops then?" cooed the King of Hell. The fiendish creature yapped ecstatically at the attention his master lavished on him.
"That's the guardian of the underworld?!" hissed Paul in outrage.
"Think about it Paul" said Lucifer dryly, "How long exactly do you think the queue is of folks wanting to break into this place, eh?"
"Fair point" said Paul and as Lucifer opened the door and ushered him in. Paul took a deep breath and stepped forward into his new work premises. He had a feeling that this job was going to be really irritating. Still... anything for a laugh.
Mrs Parsonage mopped sweat daintily from her brow with a dusty handkerchief. It was mid October but in Israel that still meant the lowest it got was 23°C. Mrs Parsonage considered this ‘unseasonal’ weather and didn’t give a fig that Israel had a different climate to Oxfordshire. It just wasn’t Natural!
‘I don’t get it’ whined Isabelle squinting from the glowing scroll in Layla’s hands to the broad valley that lay before them.
‘What a shocker’ sneered Layla. Mrs Parsonage gave her apprentices ‘the look’ and Isabelle snapped her mouth shut before her retort could bubble out.
‘The Bible claims that the big battle between the armies of heaven and hell will take place in the Valley of Meggidon, here in Haifa, Israel.’ Explained Mrs Parsonage calmly. ‘We have a more reliable source however – one of the devil’s own prophecies.’
‘Isn’t he the father of lies though, teach?’ pointed out Layla. Mrs Parsonage glared harder.
‘Well, yeah… but…’ she struggled, ‘It’s precisely because he’s known for ‘is lyin that he tells the truth so much – he knows folks won’t believe it and it’s a proper giggle when it all turns out true and they feel like a right bunch of plonkers!’
‘Oh… right’ said Layla nodding. Mrs Parsonage resisted a sigh of relief. That had actually made sense! She hadn’t really been sure what she was on about until the words came out of her own mouth. She was glad her subconscious seemed to know what it was about. Her conscious mind was a thin façade of calm over giddy panic.
‘The version we’ve got say’s that this is where the anti-christ will first appear. Now would one of you tell me what the Hell that thing is?’ continued Mrs Parsonage.
The three of them turned back to the flurry of activity around a huge construction of steel that was rapidly growing in the centre of the valley. There were black vans and loads of men in high-vis jackets. Some of them had clip boards. Most of them had walky-talkies.
‘Festy!!’ squealed Isabelle in sudden excitement. The two older witches stared at her blankly for a minute. Isabelle blushed and stopped jumping up and down. ‘It’s a music festival’ she explained defensively and pointed. ‘See, that’s the main stage. You can see the speakers and the lights’n’stuff!’
Mrs Parsonage softened her frown and looked back towards the cafuffle with interest. A music festival? She had never been to one of those. Her mother hadn’t approved and neither had her old teacher Mrs Tumpling. Mrs Parsonage felt a brief pang of hurt that the old biddy could have been so selfish in her actions. She squashed the emotion.
‘What does the prophecy say?’ she directed at Layla. The serious young woman blinked and glanced at the scroll. She had to cross her eyes slightly to focus through the orange fuzzy glow.
‘The horn-ed son in fire and smoke shall rise
Noise shall rend the starry skies,
Wings above a horde of minions,
Slaves carousing touch his pinions.’
Mrs Parsonage sighed and looked at their expectant faces. What she wanted to say was… buggered if I know what that means! However, more was expected. She opened her mouth to spin some utter nonsense off in the hope it would fit with real events when they played out.
‘Look!!” gasped Isabelle suddenly. Mrs Parsonage let the words die on her tongue and stared at the waggy tailed pack of six huge Doberman streaming away from the frenzy of men and equipment. Folks in high-vis were chasing them and throwing things.
‘They’ve got something’ murmered Layla squinting. The three witches waited in tense silence for Mrs Parsonage’s ‘boys’ to lose their pursuers then hare-tail it to their mum’s side. A few feet from the witches the big dogs slowed their approach and trotted towards their mother with sheepish looks.
‘I thought I left you guarding the house’ said Mrs Parsonage sternly.
‘Sorry Ma’ they chorused telepathically. Silus (always leader of the pack amongst his brothers) tentatively dropped the crumpled item that had been held in his jaws at his mother’s feet. The old occultist looked at Isabelle who sighed and tried to ignore the slobber as she picked up and unfurled a large poster. It showed the headline act.
‘Bloody Hell!’ breathed Layla in astonishment. Isabelle snorted in disgust.
‘Can’t say I’m surprised’ she said flatly, ‘I always thought he was a horn-head, if you catch my drift.’ Mrs Parsonage looked blankly at the angelic features of the boyish youth beaming up at them from behind the streaks of dog slobber and dirt.
‘You know ‘im?’ she asked in ignorence.
‘Not personally’ said Isabelle before spitting in a most unladylike manner.
‘Who is he?’ demanded Mrs Parsonage with growing irritation.
‘It’s Justin bloody Beiber isn’t it!’ snarled Isabelle. The old witch shrugged. She didn’t keep up to date with such things.
‘Whoever he is’ she said matter of factly giving each of her boys a fond pat on the head, ‘I bet I know who his real dad is…’
- God's Shoehorn VI
In this chapter of God's Shoehorn Paul settles into Hell and starts to undertake his devilish duties.
Previous hubs in this series
- God's Shoehorn
In this hub inspired by my 'activities to inspire your creative writing hub' (pats self on back in egotistical self-aggrandizement) - Father Paul falls out with God and Mrs Parsonage communes with dark forces. Read on to find out how these things tra
- God's Shoehorn (Chapter II)
In this second chapter of God's Shoehorn, Paul has a surprise meeting with the devil in a coffee shop, and Mrs Parsonage goes looking for artifacts of occult significance under Lindesfarne Abbey.
- God's Shoehorn (Chapter III)
In this continuation of God's Shoehorn, Paul has an altercation at the supermarket, and Mrs Parsonage meets an old friend who is acting a wee bit suspiciously.
- God's Shoehorn (Chapter IV)
In this fourth chapter of God's Shoehorn, God tries to reason with Paul and Mrs Parsonage gathers her troops.