A Merry We Rule Christmas in Hell

On the night before Christmas, outside his cottage, Serf 1 looked at the stars while eating his porridge. He was joined by a farmer who liked to complain about this, that and what not, whatever he blamed for whatever it was that got under his bonnet as though his friend Serf could go get right on it.

“You have a cottage and so do the elves where you can lie down at night after stocking your shelves while they gave me nothing to sleep under but stars and…”

“What elves,” Serf 1 said, with no appreciation for rhyme.

“In the peppermint cottage. They’re new, just in time for Christmas, but that’s not my point…”

“Where?” said Serf 1 with no sense of rhythm, pentameter, couplets or syllogism.

Still hoping to polish his words like a poet, Farmer said, “Just down the street, as if you don’t know it. But that’s not my point, if you really must know, my point is I sleep in the rain and the snow.”

“It never rains, here. It doesn’t snow either. What snow that I’ve seen just shows up for no reason.”

“All right, have it your way,” Farmer 1 said bitterly. “But lets face it. You get a cottage, the girls get a cottage, some get red and blue houses. The tailor has a roof on his shop, the milliner has a roof for her hats, even the tavern keeper has a roof for his pots.”

“I can’t go inside,” Serf 1 said.

“What do you mean, you can’t go inside?” Farmer demanded.

“The door doesn’t open, the chimney doesn’t smoke. It’s just a facade. We have to sit out in the rain all day long just like you.”

“I guess it’s a good thing it doesn’t rain,” Farmer 1 said. “Or that the snow isn’t even cold.”

“That’s not the worst of it,” Serf 1 said. “We can’t share cottages with the girls. They have their own cottages. There’s no place we can sneak away to steal kisses or whisper or romantically cuddle.”

“Why would you want to do that?” Farmer said.

“You wouldn’t understand because there are no female farmers.”

“What is kissing, whispering and romantically cuddling?”

“I don’t know because we can’t try them.” Serf 1 said. He sighed and looked at the stars. Serf 37 walked by a nodded at them both. They waved back.

“Then why do you want to try them?” Farmer 1 said. This was the first time he had ever considered the possibility that he could do something other than grow crops or wander around the kingdom trying to find a place to sleep where he wouldn’t get rained on.

“Because I’m in love with Serf Girl 24,” he admitted.

“Which one is she?” Farmer asked.

Serf 1 pointed to the girl with the red hair and the blue dress standing in the middle of several other serf girls with red hair and blue dresses. At least, Farmer thought that’s who Serf 1 was pointing to because she looked exactly like all the other girls with red hair and blue dresses.

They were wandering in and out of the new Candy Cane forests which had just sprung up overnight around the new Gingerbread and Peppermint cottages. The two new lecherous elves who had appeared with the peppermint cottages were trying to hit on the serf girls, who were, in turn doing their best to avoid the elves.

The gingerbread man was hiding behind his cottage, probably afraid someone would try to eat him. Farmer thought the elves were pretty obnoxious with their wolf whistles and innuendo. Oh well, he said to himself, what did you expect from elves? (He thought this even though, until that very morning, he had never seen an elf.)

He had to admit to himself that a lot of new strange creatures had been showing up lately—the sugar plum fairies, the gladiators, the chimeras and at least eight Zeuses all arguing with each other over who was really the Lord of Olympus. He had even seen reindeer with blinking red noses. It wasn’t like the old days when the only strange creatures were the dragons and occasional griffin and the most expensive shop imaginable was only 100,ooo coins.

Back when he only had to worry about planting beans and corn and the occasional magic cauliflower, not these new exotic plants like cat tails, venus fly traps and birds of paradise. But then he could remember when the kingdom was just an outpost with his farm a mine and a frog pond. Before the castle grew into this hideous monstrosity and you had to hoof it across five different realms to visit all the farms.

Not that he knew anyone who had actually left this realm to visit all the others, but Farmer 6 had a cousin who was a candlemaker who knew a cobbler who knew a knight who knew a Viking who said he could move back and forth between realms. But Farmer knew you could never really trust Vikings. Some of them went totally berserk and would kill you if you didn’t hide.

“How do you know which one is which?” Farmer asked Serf, remembering the conversation that had prompted his reverie.

“Because she’s Serf Girl 24. She told me.” Serf 1 seemed very sure of himself, even though, for the life of him, Farmer 1 couldn’t tell the difference between any of them. In fact, now that he thought about it, Farmer couldn’t tell the difference between any of the other farmers. They all walked around with the same fat bellies and carrying hoes on their shoulders.

“And how do you know she can tell you from any of the other serfs? Come to think of it, the only reason I can tell you from any of the other serfs is because you’re always sitting here by your cottage moping. The other serfs are too busy wandering around with that stupid grin on their faces and falling into the river.”

Before Serf 1 could answer, Serf Girl 24, at least Farmer assumed it was Serf Girl 24, broke away from the pack and rushed up breathlessly. “Serf 1, it’s so good to see you.”

“Wait a minute,” screeched Jacques, the emaciated Frenchman who claimed to have been the left hand of de Sade. “This is a f______g love story?”

“It’s Christmas,” Pilgrim said.1 “What kind of Christmas story can you have without a little romance? Remember Miracle on 34th Street, Good Sam and It’s a Wonderful Life? Even Elf had Zooey Deschanel as the love interest.”

All of the damned in the room started howling like wolves with needles jammed between every claw. “This is hell. You can’t make us listen to a happy love story,” Jacques whined.

“At Christmas,” whined Leopold Von Sacher-Masoch, the man who had the dubious honor of having an entire category of sexual deviancy named after him. The very sexual deviancy the damned in this corner of hell were being punished for. “There’s nothing a masochist hates worse than Christmas. My own mother, who made me the deviant I am, would punish me in many delicious ways, but she would never make me listen to Christmas stories.”

“I’m Moslem and a masochist,” complained T.E. Lawrence. “I would rather be caught in the middle of a sandstorm being lashed by twelve young men with leather tipped whips than listen to this drivel.”

“How about some eggnog then?” Pilgrim offered. He produced a giant serving bowl filled with the creamy alcoholic punch. “Eggnog and pfeffernusse? And candy canes.”

“Spare us,” they all whined in unison. They wrapped their arms around their heads and twisted in and out of the chairs they were strapped to so that they looked like pulsating pretzels just waiting to be dipped in salt.

“We know you, you’re supposed to be a good guy, the only decent guy in hell. Why would your torture us like this?” Sacher-Masoch added.

“I am a good guy,” Pilgrim said, “and what could be more good than a little Christmas cheer in the boiling bowels of hell?”

He continued the story, how Serf 1 and Serf Girl 24 had been condemned to fall in love and live in separate quarters they could never enter. They even attracted the attention of the new ice skating pair who understood their misery because they could never touch, or even skate face-to-face.

As the wailing rose from a roar to the whine of two dozen jet turbines in a superheated wind tunnel, Pilgrim continued.

When just past the ice pond there arose such a clatter, every one rose to see what was the matter. And what to their wondering eyes should appear but a miniature sleigh and eight red-nosed reindeer:

“Now, Rudolph! Now, Rudolph! Now, Rudolph and Rudolf. On, Rudolph on! Rudolph, on! And Rudolph and Rudolph!”

“That’s not how it goes,” Lawrence moaned. “Even I know that.”

“In We Rule Christmas, there’s only one reindeer, the red nosed reindeer Rudolph,” Pilgrim assured them. “There could be three dozen of them, but they’re all Rudolph.”

“To the top of the Yeti Lair, and the Red Dragon’s wall. Now dash away, dash away, dash away all!”

To all of their wonder, most amazing of all, there was no one driving, nobody at all.

“That has to be the strangest thing I’ve ever seen in the kingdom, and I’ve seen some pretty weird things. Ghost girls, and vampires and grave diggers’ digs.”

Suddenly, at their feet, a red bag filled with toys, and from it rose Santa with his shiny red nose. “Never fear, young lovers, you need not feel woe, you can leave with me for this sleigh grows.”

“No, no, no,” the damned’s wailing swelled. This is too happy, it’s too much. Just throw us in the fire, impale us with molten steel and strangle us with barbed wire.”

But Pilgrim continued, “Merry Christmas to all, and…”

Before he could finish Lucifer’s bellow swirled through the hall and enveloped them all. “Christmas! Christmas in hell?”

He grabbed Pilgrim by the neck and dangled him over the low flame meant for roasting marshmallows. The flames curled up over his ears, his nose, his navel and his toes. “How dare you bring Christmas into my domain?”

“I was only trying to help,” Pilgrim protested.

Lucifer lifted his burring body from the flames and tossed him into a pit so that he sparked and crackled like a yule log.

“Do that to us, Lord Lucifer,” the masochists pleaded all at once. “We’ll be as evil as you need us.”

Lucifer ignored them and cursed at Pilgrim. “This is hell. No one tries to help in hell. That goes against everything hell is about. In hell you’re supposed to be selfish and promote your own interest at everyone else’s expense.”

“We will,” the masochists wailed. “We swear we will.”

“But, sir,” Pilgrim pleaded himself. “Didn’t you say you could never find a punishment good enough for the masochists?”

Lucifer’s head swelled with a rage that threatened to boil over and erupt in a volcanic fury. “I never said any such thing.”

“Not to me,” Pilgrim said. “Not directly. But you said something about it to Mephistopheles when you were having me stuffed with fiberglass as an experiment in taxidermy. You said that the more you tortured them the more they seemed to enjoy it.”

Lucifer spit a single stream of acid that ate its way into Pilgrim’s forehead. “I never,” he snarled, curling his lip to reveal a single long fang. But he was lying. He remembered the conversation and many others like it. He had always suspected that the more he tortured the masochists the happier they were.

Pilgrim prattled on, “So I thought, if they enjoy misery, why not force them to be happy? Make them eat cake? Sing happy songs? Celebrate Christmas with romantic Christmas stories with happy endings?”

Lucifer’s ears burst from his head and ricocheted around the boiling pitch walls of the dungeon finally losing momentum and tumbling into the egg nog. “You think you can come up with a better punishment than me? Me, the master of pain and misery. Me, the inspiration for the inquisition? Well let me show you punishment, you pinheaded pompous pipsqueak.”

He snapped his fingers and acid flowed from the ceilings across all of the damned. At the same time flame leapt from the walls, singeing their skins. As they danced and screamed he sent an electric charge through the room so that they screamed even louder.

“That,” he said to Pilgrim, “that is punishment.” He turned an swept from the room, his tail rising behind him and lashing out across the backs of every on in the dungeon.

As soon as Lucifer’s back was turned, Pilgrim could have sworn he saw a small smile forming on the faces of the damed. He couldn’t imagine a better Christmas present, and he knew in his heart that Lucifer would continue this course of punishment for eternity

He lifted his head and smiled back to the damned, mouthing the words, “Merry Christmas to all, and too all a good night.”

1For readers who have no idea who Pilgrim is, they can find a previous episode of Raising Hell written for the special Halloween edition. It is a spin off to a novel I promised to post, and never got around to. But I will. I swear I will.back

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