Chapter 2

In which the reader is introduced to the concept of time in hell then segues into a panicked dream revealing that even Lucifer has insecurities, a dream which may turn out to have been prophetic when Lucifer discovers that he can’t simply delegate thorny problems away. Complete with schematics and illustrations.

Time in hell doesn’t work like time anywhere else because time doesn’t exist in hell. Everywhere else (well, everywhere else but one), time is finite. Time can be measured; it has a definite beginning and end. Suppose time began with the big bang (which, if the truth be told, was more like a pitiful match strike), and ends when the universe reaches entropy. Those two points will be the extremes on the time ruler. The reference point we measure from is now.

Eternity doesn’t begin in this moment and extend forever into the future or past. Eternity never began and will never end. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be eternity, would it?

Since time doesn’t happen in hell, theoretically you could go to hell on your twenty-ninth birthday, spend all eternity in hell, and be released for good behavior just in time for your birthday party that night.

Or you could fall into hell by accident, serve a light sentence — say, three hundred dips into a vat of molten lead followed by six hundred lashes with the nine-of-cats tails (literally nine cats lashed to nine chords on a whip, usually feral bob cats who haven’t eaten for a while1) and finishing off with five hundred laps in a lake of acid — and be released for bad behavior only to return to earth at the onset of the fifth ice age (which should occur sometime around the year 472,000).

In fact, and this is only theoretically, you could find yourself in hell on your fifteenth wedding anniversary, do the grand tour twice, sit in a waiting room watching a clock complete 797,862,129,35010rotations, and then find yourself returned to your life right at the moment when you crawled into the back seat of that 76 Dodge Dart with your lover and created the situation that would (in about fifteen more years) result in your fifteenth anniversary.

All of this is theory, of course. But it is, nonetheless, a fact.

As a result, Lucifer lost track of Pilgrim for a few hundred years. Actually, Lucifer lost track of just about every soul in hell. Just as he didn’t bother with most of the living, he couldn’t imagine trying to keep track of all those names and details. That’s what the databases were for, and, if the truth be known, the occasional misplacement or loss of records actually helped to make hell the wonderful place it was.

During the passing centuries, Lucifer put down a minor rebellion of demonic democracy activists by banishing them all to the Hell of Women’s Consciousness Raising Sessions Where Souls Are Encouraged to Release Their Inner Rage and Get in Touch With the Feminine Sides They Don’t Have; oversaw the construction of the Howard Hughes memorial wing of the Hell of Gamblers with Eternal Bad Luck Who Spend Eternity Bidding Their Fortunes on Hands That Can’t Possibly Lose But Do; supervised the Punjab rebellion against the British Empire and introduced Francis Nixon to Hannah Milhouse.

He spent a particularly hard decade trying to replace rock-n-roll with easy listening. The best he could do was have John Lennon killed to give Paul McCartney more airtime, a decision he regretted whenever he scanned the airwaves.

He forgot about Pilgrim entirely, no doubt assuming the problem was taken care of. If he had thought of the “Pilgrim problem,” he would probably have said to himself that he’d never heard back from his managers, so the problem must have gone away. This is a convenient mind trick top-level managers often play on themselves rather than admitting that the managers may be too scared to admit the problem is becoming worse.

This tendency may explain why managers seem so surprised and angry when presented with the news that the auditors found the expense accounts that were supposed to disappear, or that the judge learned about all of those secret tapes, or that those damned O-rings and foam tiles actually do cause shuttles to blow up in space.

#

After an all night session helping to write the songs for Celine Deon’s new album, Lucifer fell asleep on his couch. He dreamed he was lecturing his middle managers on out-of-the-box thinking. He drew three rows of three dots on the board and asked if anyone could connect all of the dots with only one line.

The puzzle looked like this:

Img1

When none of the demons answered, Lucifer drew the marker though the line without lifting it from the board.

Img2

“See, you dim witted ponderous turds,” he announced, “you weren’t thinking outside the box. You assumed the line had to be straight.”

Suddenly Pilgrim appeared in the middle of the audience and said, “Excuse me, sir, but that isn’t thinking outside the box. That’s cheating.”

“I beg your pardon?” Lucifer said, not really begging Pilgrim’s pardon, but expressing a sense of astonishment.

“Well, I know cheating comes naturally in hell, sir, but it isn’t thinking outside the box. You can’t arbitrarily change a rule or a definition and call that a solution.”

Lucifer mustered his most benevolent response to show this worm how insignificant he was in the presence of the next-to-almighty being. “That’s the most moronic, narrow minded, pudding head producing, pointless comment I’ve ever heard. Do you really think the rules can’t change?” Lucifer loved the trap behind the question since he knew better than any of them that the rules never changed, unless, of course, he changed them himself.

“That’s not the point, sir. You can change any rule any time you please. But we can’t change the rules.”

Lucifer began to grow weary when the damned pointed out the obvious. Unless, of course, he was the one doing the obvious out pointing. “And your point is?”

“Your puzzle is to draw a line through three dots. You don’t tell us we can draw anything we want to connect the dots and call it a line.”

“But that is a line you pontificating, paradigmatic moron. It’s just not a straight line,” Lucifer fumed.

“See, you’re changing the definition of a line. Anyone doing math after the nineteenth century would grant you a line can indeed curve between two points. But only a mystical sect of topographical mathematicians ingesting psilocybin mushrooms with tequila would believe a line can go in one direction, suddenly veer off in a completely different direction, and then do an about face and head back in the first direction. That’s not a line, it’s a zigzag.”

“You have got to be joking,” Lucifer said.

“No, sir. Suppose I said: ‘There’s a large elephant turd in the middle of a locked room. No one brought it in from the outside, and no elephant entered the room. How did it get there?’ Then, after you can’t figure it out, I tell you that since it’s an imaginary turd an imaginary elephant left it.”

Lucifer thought the example over, looked at it from all sides and came to the conclusion: “What’s wrong with that?”

“Well, excuse me again, sir, but if the phrase ‘a turd in the room’ includes real and imaginary turds then the phrase, ‘never been an elephant in the room’ has to include imaginary elephants, not just real ones. Otherwise, it’s a double standard. The real puzzle is: ‘There’s a real or imaginary turd in the room, but no real elephant entered the room. Who left the turd?’ Once you put it that way, sir, you don’t have to think out of the box at all. An imaginary elephant left the imaginary turd.”

Lucifer felt his blood boil, but didn’t want to erupt in front of his demons. So he handed a piece of chalk to Pilgrim, a tiny nubbin of chalk that would pop out of his fingers when he tried to use it. “Okay, you condescending, want to be smarter than the rest of us, lord your logic all over us, smug, cocky, know-it-all with an overactive brain stem. Let’s see you solve the problem with one straight line.”

Pilgrim dropped the nubbin in the chalk tray and picked up the longest piece of chalk. He dragged it sideways through the dots, creating a single thick line like this:

Img3

“There you go, sir,” he says. “That’s thinking outside the box.”

#

Lucifer woke from his dream screaming, the first time he’d done so since the earliest days of hell when he dreamed he and the All-Meddling were Siamese twins. He dragged his limpid tail to his medicine cabinet and mixed two quarts of Pertsovka Vodka with radish juice, Chipotle seeds, cayenne pepper and two raw alligator eggs. He fed the mix to his vulture, who immediately spit it up. He patted the vulture’s beak and said, “Personally, I wouldn’t have touched that noxious crap myself.”

He wandered from his bedchamber wearing his Speedo, sunglasses, South Korean flip flop sandals and favorite silk kimono embroidered with dragons who occasionally curled out of the material and nipped at the cheeks and shoulders of anyone who wandered too close. He finished the ensemble with a walnut staff with tigers’ claws carved into the knob.

Struggles stood beside the buffet with his morning tea. Lucifer grabbed a burnt English muffin with pumice jelly from the tray and stepped back from the wall to study his newly painted portraits of Descartes, Leibniz and Pascal, philosophers who helped send a lot of young souls to hell with their perniciously confusing proofs for God’s existence.2

He devoted a leisurely breakfast to perusing the CIA Fact Books for the 1990s through the first two decades of the Twenty First century, the highlight of which seemed to be a nuclear exchange in the Middle East after a prolonged war between Christian, Jewish and Islamic fundamentalist states, each one claiming they were fighting a war on terrorism. Amateurs, he chuckled to himself. No subtlety at all.

He dropped his kimono to the floor and waiting for Struggles to drape him in plutonium encrusted Chinese imperial robes embroidered with lapsed Taoists, lip-service Buddhists and obsequious bureaucrats. He grew his fingernails until they wrapped around his wrists and up into his sleeves, and tucked the muffin and jelly into a pocket so that Struggles would have to stay up for a month hand-cleaning the fabric. He stepped through the front door to his apartment and stopped for a moment to savor the acid monsoon that pelted the denizens of hell into the asphalt before dissolving them into puddles.

He took a deep breath of sulfur oxide and lead fumes and wondered why every year in hell couldn’t be like this.

He danced down the steps to Hell’s Only Pretentious Display of Avarice and Ostentatious Wealth Erected to House Its Diabolical Lord and Remind All Others of Rewards and Pleasures They Will Never Have, kicking aside supplicants who begged for an audience. He strolled across Hell’s main mall, singing in tune the pleas of the damned who accidentally stumbled into the intricate snares of administrative incompetence that sucked them slowly through pores in the concrete and into the bureaucratic bowels below.

He skipped into Hell’s Capitol Complex for the Diabolical Administration of Perpetual Pain and Punishment Accompanied by a Simultaneous Inescapable Sense of Dejá Vu, and pushed his way into the top floor elevator. He booted every one waiting inside the elevator back out into the lobby. “Get to work,” he snarled, opening his mouth to display row after row of razor sharp shark’s teeth.

Since no one could get to work without taking the elevator, hundreds of souls scrambled up and down the corridor. They climbed on the other’s shoulders, stabbed each other in the back, ripped out each other’s throats, elbow joints and ankles – whatever it took to prove themselves unworthy.

The elevator operator trembled beside the control panel. A former Seagram’s executive who never touched alcohol personally, the operator woke up in hell with delirium tremens and would spend the rest of eternity trying to shake the shakes.

“Get on with it, you unstable, spastic, poor motor control suffering, pathetic excuse for a twelve-step wannabe,” Lucifer barked.

The elevator ripped through the Hell of Liquid Fire and Napalm Facial Rubs For Women Who Spent Their Lives Fretting Over the Condition of Their Delicate Skin.

It ripped past the Hell of School Cafeterias Serving Unspeakable Indigestible Indelicacies With Nothing to Drink But Spoiled Milk in Tiny Half Pint Cartons.

It ripped past the Hell of Competing With Four-Eyed Nerds Covered With Impacted Zits in Intense and Addictive Board Games Only to Find Your Key Piece Is Missing Just before the Final Move.

It plummeted through the millions of levels in Hell’s Quarters for Inductees into the Hall of Everlasting Damnation, Torture and Never Ending Decay, also known as the Slough of Despond, where millions upon millions of the damned woke up in hell for the first time, their faces contorted into an infinitely varied pastiche of guilt, recrimination and astonishment, as though they had no clue as to how they ended up here.

It plunged through the Hell of Tedious, Indistinguishable, Unending Sublevels of Meaningless Mid-management Bureaucracy Where the Same Dozen Proposals Cycle Endlessly Waiting for a Manager to Show Enough Guts to Sign Off on One of Them.

It plunged past the Hell of Supervising Incompetent Blue Collar Assembly Line Workers With Job Security and Permanent Bad Attitudes Working With Substandard Parts Supplied by the Lowest Bidder.

It plunged past the Millennial Miles of Minefields Filled with Abandoned and/or Cuckolded Ex-Spouses and Lovers Just Waiting for an Opportunity to Lob an Ego Deflating Explosive at You.

It landed at the lowest level of all, Hell’s basement suite, where he conducted his most important business: the Hell of Having to Grovel Before, Kowtow to, Debase Yourself in Front of, and Beg for Mercy From His Satanic Majesty Lucifer in a Singularly Humiliating Attempt to Gain Personal Dispensations That He Would Never Bestow.


Alas, dear reader, Amazon has informed me that even though this is only a web site, the content is in direct competition with their exclusive 90 day contract and, for now, the novel must end here. But the full text will be free in December at the g.d.i. Monday site, and it is only $1 at Amazon. (Prime members have access for free.)


1 Ironically, the nine cats’ tails themselves inflict very little pain. The other cat parts do the damage. back

2 Most people remember Pascal for Pascal’s wager, which goes like this: Finding out if God exists is a crap shoot, but the return is better if you bet on God. Leibniz tried to convince people that this is the best of all possible worlds, which means there must have been a God to make it. Needless to say, this didn’t help God’s credibility once people realized that really bad things happened all the time in this best of all possible worlds.

Descartes earned fame with the statement, “I think, therefore I am.” He then tried to prove that if he could think of God, then God must be as well. Unfortunately, Descartes spent a long evening drinking in a local inn when, after he fell off his stool from drunkenness, the bartender asked if he would have another drink. Descartes said, “I think not,” and disappeared.back

3 After inheriting his father’s textile mill, Milquesop insisted on personal involvement with every aspect of the operation, including showing the factory workers how to stand when threading the machines, exactly how thick the thread should be, and how their fingers should be positioned when the machine caught the thread. Not only did he bankrupt his factory, throwing his entire village into poverty and unemployment, but his own managers took his micromanagement techniques with them to other factories. back

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