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God's Shoehorn VIII

Updated on February 4, 2013


Paul had been in Hell for three weeks now, and on the whole thought it was going rather well. He was sure that he was probably going to require years of therapy to get over some of the things he’d seen… but at least he had the satisfaction of knowing he was capable of high level management. He’d always wondered how he’d cope if he’d been the type of career person who ended up as the CEO of a big multinational company. He thought that it must be quite like overseeing Hell in many ways. Hundreds of backstabbing bastards constantly scrambling over each other to get to the top of the ladder beneath him; the ones right at the top watching him like a hawk for any excuse to oust him from his position; then down at the bottom of the pile, thousands of miserable souls who were suffering on his behest. Yes… not a bad analogy at all really.

Paul spread a bit of fois gras on his melba toast and took a saliva-inducing mouthful. Truly, this was sinful food at it's worst. He swallowed the rich morsel guiltily. He had noticed shortly after arriving that pretty much all of his food had required some kind of unnecessary suffering to be made. He'd been proudly informed by one of the demons who brought his meals that even though it was difficult to make a lettuce suffer, nonetheless, the chef had given the salad leaves a good dressing down before serving. Paul had forced a chuckle at this horrendous pun. He still wasn't secure enough in his position to risk not laughing at the demon's comment.

There was only one file on his desk this afternoon. It was very slim and unobtrusive. Everything about the file seemed to whisper 'Oh, don't pay me any mind. I'm probably not that important eh? Why not just slip me in the draw and forget you ever saw me.'

At least... Paul had thought it only seemed to whisper such things at first. He was staring at the brown cardboard of the files front cover blankly munching on his fifth piece of toast and regretting it, when more words whispered inside his head.

'It's a nice day for a walk isn't it?' the file tried hopefully.

'Um' said Paul.

'Why stay cooped up in here when you could be strolling around in the... er... brimstone?'

'You're talking, aren't you?' said Paul finally in accusatory tones.

'...No?' tried the file.

'Oh come on!' sighed Paul.

'Your a bit tired, that's all' said the file in a last ditch effort at concealing its unusually talkative nature, 'Overdone the fois gras a bit I expect. Rich food does that to some folk I've heard.'

Paul frowned and fought the fuzzy feeling in his head. He suddenly felt like going for a swim. He wondered if Hell had a swimming pool... maybe he should ask... 'NO!!' he shouted and slammed his fist down on the file. The fuzzy feeling of his willpower being eroded vanished in an instant.

'Ow!' said the file reproachfully, 'That was so uncalled for!'

'Just get out of my head will you?' wheezed Paul pinching the bridge of his nose as he blinked spots from his vision. The rising migraine subsided and he sighed with relief. His eyes flickered down to the file beneath his fist. It didn't move... but it looked like it might leap into the air and fly off at any moment. He didn't know how he knew that... it just looked... flighty.

'I'm going to open you in a minute' said Paul with forced civility. This was mad! He was being polite to a cardboard file! Then again... he was house-sitting Hell. A bit of madness was par for the course. 'And then I'm going to read you' he finished.

'I wouldn't if I were you' said the file desperately.

'Oh yeah?' said Paul.

'No... I'd... urm...I'd go and wander in some... spring meadow or something nice like that' it said. There was an embarrassed pause.

'You don't get out much do you?' said Paul.

'Not really' sighed the file in defeat, 'I've heard that wandering in spring meadows is lovely though.'

'Sure, sure' agreed Paul, 'Not many meadows in Hell though.'

'I wouldn't know' replied the file a little bitterly, 'Like you said, I don't get out much.'

Paul shook his head in bemusement then opened the file. It groaned portentously and a gust of jasmine scented air suddenly filled the devil's office. A couple of books fell off the shelf in shock. Paul felt all of his stress and worry about the various duties he'd been lumped with fade to insignificance. He smiled with pleasure as the knots in his shoulders released their tension.

'Wow!' said Paul staring at the beatific face that beamed up at him from the mugshot of the file's obvious subject matter. He had never seen such enlightenment peace and beneficence shining forth from someones eyes so clearly. This was one special guy, whoever this was.

'Now you've gone and done it!' moaned the file as Paul flipped through the pages and read with increasing incredulity the rap sheet of prisoner X. 'I'm gonna be shredded! I know it!'

'Oh shut up' snapped Paul rifling through the document to find the inmate's location, 'I'll make sure that doesn't happen.'

'Oh yeah?' came the file's voice this time dripping with sarcasm, 'Forgive me if I don't weep for joy at the obvious salvation your great powers will no doubt grant me.'

'How can a file weep anyway?' asked Paul absently closing the file and walking to the door with it under his arm.

'It's an expression you heartless bastard' complained the file.

'Yeah?' said Paul, 'Here's another: Shut your cake-hole before I do it for you!'

'How rude!' it muttered. Paul stopped still and looked down. Silence reigned.

'Thought so' said Paul smugly, and ignoring the ghastly yapping from Cerberus' direction went in search of the Holiest Man in Hell.

The Prince

Decades had come and gone... centuries now no doubt. The wizened inhabitant of the plainest, deepest hidden cell in all of Hell looked about his drab confines and smiled happily. All was exactly as it should be. He was to have a visitor today. This the enlightened one knew implicitly. How he knew was anyone's guess. He hadn't had a visitor in over a hundred and fifty years... there were no windows, no gap in the sound-proofed door through which he could overhear things. Besides which, the demons weren't allowed down here. The Morningstar was afraid he might... talk... to them.

'Good morning!' said the Holy man brightly as the door clanked open dramatically silhouetting Paul in the red glare of the corridor lanterns. Paul blinked in surprise.

'Um... thanks?' he said uncertainly.

'Do come in!' said the Holy man kindly. Paul looked about suspiciously, then found something to jam the door open with. The cell was rather reminiscent of the prison cell Paul had so recently spent some time in. He shrugged with some discomfort and glanced about the corridor one last time. The smiling old fellow nodded reassuringly and indicated a patch of bare stone floor that was opposite the bit on which he sat lotus-style. Paul stepped inside and sat down.

They looked each other over curiously. The Holy man was wearing what looked like the ragged remains of what might have past for high fashion during some indeterminately long-gone era of earth's history.

'I suppose you're wondering why you're here?' asked the Holy man and Paul frowned in confusion.

'Actually, I'm here because I wanted to know why you're here' he said and the old fellow chuckled.

'So you say' he said. Paul opened his mouth then shut it. He pulled the man's file out and opened it.

'It says here that you have been isolated for trying to organise a jailbreak?' asked Paul and The Holy man's smile became a grin of amusement. He chuckled light-heartedly.

'I suppose you could say that' he agreed, 'Certainly, a few of those I spoke to snuck upstairs if you catch my drift.' Paul loosed a low whistle of amazement.

'You're a lot nicer than they say back in the mortal realm' he said and the Holy man shrugged.

'Time has mellowed me a tad' he said humbly and proffered his hand.

'I'm Paul' said Paul.

'I know' said Machiavelli, 'We have a lot to discuss, you and I...'


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