“Berry, get me a coffee with two sugars and have those twits in accounting send me the latest spreadsheets yesterday.”
I just nod. Already on my phone sending the twits a message as I head to the break room to grab the coffee. I can only imagine the scrabble as they try and put together a presentation in a matter of moments that will satisfy the big guy. The large window behind me cracks into a spiderweb as hexes are sent my way and I can feel the ill intent leak through. Good luck goblins, better than you have tried worse.
“Berry Bear! My man. How’s it hanging? Boss seems like he is in a real shit mood today, am I right? Wheat grass is the key to controlling those mood swings, you know.”
He slaps my back and scalding coffee runs over and down my knuckles. I look at him with pure venom is in my eyes. He doesn’t notice, already someone else is caught in his vortex of small talk. I make a mental note to pay him back for this later. The mid-level ones are the worst. They are all about proving themselves. Some are brand new and speak foreign words like synergy and other made up phrases that sound important but really do not mean a thing. I would love to see them skewered on a pit and flayed ever so slowly as flames cook the juices from their screaming forms.
“Did you have to grow the Dad damned beans? Where is my fucking coffee?” sounds over the loud speaker. I top off the mug again and whisper a little spell to keep the liquid in the cup for the walk.
I hurry into the boss’s office. He is always in a bad mood but today is worse than normal. The numbers are down this quarter. As they have been the last five hundred quarters or so. Modern medicine and technology have had severe long term effects on business. But do not get caught trying to explain that to him. Just the idea of making that kind of excuse will likely cause him to rip your head off. Literally. We need to invest in the janitorial industry to subsidize profits.
“About sarding time Berry.”
My name is Baalberith, Berry or Berith for short. And I am the Secretary of Hell. Secretary doesn’t quite encompass everything I do down here but a title is a title. I get to use the Corporate gym and have my own parking spot with covering. You can hardly imagine how hard blood rain stains. I also consider myself the Official Record Keeper, more of a hobby than official I suppose. But sometimes a story needs told. And Ours is one of those. After millenia it has all gotten confused and the ones who know the truth don’t really talk about it. But I want to tell it. As a loyal employee I feel it is my duty.
My boss had this great idea a few millenia ago to rise up and, using modern business terms, stage a hostile corporate takeover of our father’s business. It didn’t go exactly as planned. There was a bit of a scuffle and those of us that decided to partake in the failed venture were forced to take our business elsewhere. That elsewhere was a bit warmer. We were cast down to Hell.
It sounds bad and was probably worse than you can imagine. One minute we are fighting, flaming swords and angelic majesty through out heaven. Then Michael, ever the little kiss ass ran and told Dad what was happening. Time froze. His light filled all of us. And in a second he saw into our hearts and cast us aside. It was a real low point. Figuratively and literally.
It took awhile to straighten everything out after that. The Boss had sown the seed of discontent and curiosity into the heart of Man with the whole pomegranate thing in the garden. Yes it was a pomegranate. How it ever became an apple is beyond me. Apples are delicious and only a truly horrible creator would deny there lush sweetness. Pomegranates look like a swollen testicle and are filled with that horrid staining juice. It makes sense to not want to eat one at first glance. But Lucifer always hated when someone got a new toy until he could take it and break it. Man was the new cool thing.
I think he also did it to impress Lilith. He was smitten from the moment she was handed down as Adam’s plaything. But that is watercooler gossip. Not tolerated in the workplace according to Human Resources, but some things cannot be stopped.
I got a bit off topic there. The Fall. It took time to figure out what we were supposed to do after that. There is a common belief that we were sent to Hell to punish the souls of sinners. There weren’t sinners yet. Not really anyway. There are a lot of misunderstood things from back then. Or things that were glossed over for dramatic effect later on.
See, this is where truth and myth separate. Adam and Eve were not the first people. Well technically they were but there were quite a few Adams and Eves. All put into the Garden to live in paradise. Every time a new pair showed up they were given some arbitrary thing they couldn’t do. Like the famous forbidden fruit. And each time they failed spectacularly. If there is one thing Man had proven he was good at it was not listening to the rules. And each time they were given the boot and out into the world they went.
After a while there was enough that they formed a village. My book keeping wasn’t as meticulous then as it is now but at its peak there was around a thousand of them. And they had babies. And their babies had babies. I think you probably get the drill. And for the first century or two it was hilarious watching how the new pair would screw up and get kicked out. Sometimes with a boost from us, but surprisingly not as much as you would believe. The devil is in the details and the details are scarce in this. Not worth the vellum it was written on. I should know, i helped dictate it.
Eternity is a long time. Man has such a short life that eternity really is impossible to grasp. After so long watching screw up after colossal mistake we grew bored. Lucifer tried to convince Father that maybe he should just give up on Man. When the dinosaurs were discarded and He tossed a meteor at them it was no big deal. I mean they were pretty cool. And beautiful in color and ferocity. Honestly they were quite a bit better than Man. Smarter for sure. But they lacked that spark, that pizzazz. They were content to roam around and give in to basic need. Some of them strove for more, like the ones that banned together and built the Moai Heads and Stonehenge. All that work just to prove that the planets revolve around the sun. Silly lizards.
“Where in Mary Magdalena’s hairy balls are those spreadsheets?”
A lower demon handed them over. Lucifer tried to make sense of them, turning them one way and then another, finally deciding on upside down.
“These make no sense, who designed this?” he snarled. A junior hellion raised a hand tentatively. A gout of flame, pure blue, consumed him. “And who can make it readable?”
No hands raised. He pointed at the janitor who came in to sweep up the ashes. He swallowed loudly enough to elicit giggles from the room and bowed.
“The mind that made spreadsheets and graphs is far more evil than anything I ever imagined. I hope an angry mule sards everyone of them!”
“Sir, the term is now fuck. No one has used sard for nearly a thousand years.”
I visibly flinched as the lower demon corrected Lucifer. There are rules in place down here. You can suggest alternative ideas, you can agree wholeheartedly and then add something, or you can just do what you are told no matter how ridiculous you may think it. But you do not correct him. Or disagree with him.
The group of us took a careful synchronized step back from the offender. As his head was twisted off of his body and thrown threw a window. We did our best to casually look away. As hot ichor sprayed across those unfortunate enough to be too close, it was ignored. And as if by hive mind, we all stared dutifully at the floor as the angry gaze swept across us.
“Someone clean this fucking sarding mess up.”
No one mentioned the redundancy.
You don’t last long in the upper tier of Hell by pointing out the boss’s flaws. You push them from your mind and hope he doesn’t notice yours. I have stood at his side, noticeably a step lower at all times for thousands of years because I remember these basic tenants. I keep a low profile and diligently do my job. Most days being the Secretary of Hell is a terrible job. Some decades are worse. But every now and then it is a pretty decent position to have.
Not like those poor slobs in charge of eternal torment. Even with the gracious six weeks vacation a year the constant screams of the damned is hard to handle. One of them, a friend of sorts, broke down crying at the bar explaining how no matter what he tried the blood just stained every piece of clothing he owned. I bet his therapist dreads those sessions.
The idea that Hell has such a comprehensive health care system is shocking to people. But where do you think the idea of health care stems from? If you pay close attention you will see the trademarks of hell all over it. As Man discovered more about how the body works and figured out what helped and hindered that process, a truly hilarious series of events for us watching for sure, Lucifer realized he needed to find a way to slow it all down.
What better way to slow down the good of health of humanity than by throwing roadblocks in the way? Instead of seeing a doctor you have to wrestle with paper work, figure out a way to pay, show proof of you being not know who you are supposed to be but of coverage as well. This leads to stress, stress leads to more sickness. Then instead of getting the cure for what ails you the big pharmaceutical companies (underwritten and funded by us) give drugs that cause the twice the harmful effects as they cure. It is genius. And yes it may have been a pet project of mine. The devil is in the details, or so it has been said.
Down here we realized the key to happy, healthy demons is time off and mandatory therapy. You try and insert barb wire into the abdomen of sinners and pull it out slowly over the course of months and see how you feel at the end of the day. Some of the workers thrive in these conditions, but some are just not made of the right mental toughness and endurance to do it day in and out. It turns out politicians are exceptionally good at the monotony. And it isn’t much of a surprise that they tend to end up down here.
Once every decade or so, all of the higher ups spend a day or two grinding down the tormented. It puts everything in perspective. If your job is to torture the damned you should have an understanding as to what it means. If you have been productive you get the fun jobs like sicking the children wraiths on the pedophiles. I defy anyone to produce a more joyous sound than that of grown men being mauled by a group of young monsters. The cacophony is reminiscent of a concerto by Bach or Wagner.
Both of whom are down here. We get all the good ones.
Do not get me wrong. I am not saying that Hell isn’t, well, Hell. It is. But it is well organized, well run and a decent place to work.
It wasn’t always like this though. At the beginning it was a total mess. But I don’t have time for that, there are new formats for the spreadsheets and I have to be able to teach the Boss to read them before the next meeting. Which means I have to understand them before them. Hell is not just not about torturing souls, it is about all of us being in eternal torment.
This sarding life is not for the weak.