Welcome to Hell

She put her hand out and Malphus shook it. The negotiations had been difficult. Angie kept going on about peanut butter and hairnet sauce, whatever that was.

Malphus let go and he and Angie were standing at the gates of hell in an instant. She blinked and rubbed her eyes, trying to figure out if she was still dreaming. This couldn’t be real, she had to still be dreaming.

“When can you start?” the demon asked, flexing his wings.

“Start what?”

“Your new job, silly!” Malphus chuckled. “Looks like we have a new office prankster. Satan’s gonna love that!”

Horror clouded Angie’s features. “How? Why?” She racked her brains trying to figure out what was happening. Then, she remembered the weird dreams she’d been having lately.

“You interviewed me in my sleep!?”

“We find that’s the best approach when hiring new demons.” He paused. “Usually, there’s less screaming.”

The black gate swung open and Malphus walked through it backward, like a campus tour guide. Angie had no choice but to follow.

“So, to the left,” he said gesturing. “We have employee housing and the cafeteria. There’s also a jogging trail and a gym. To our right is your new office building!”

“What exactly will I be doing? I won’t torture people.”

“Of course not, silly-billy. That’s the lower executives. You’ll mostly be doing data entry so R and D can implement new programs. If you ever want to torture sinners, you can always work you way up- you’ve got a billion year contract.”

“A billion years?”

“Yup,” Malphus said. “But remember, time moves differently down here. Up there, it’ll only be about two weeks.”

“I can’t miss work for two weeks while I’m in hell.” Angie said flatly.

“Of course you can! We put in for vacation on your behalf and back-dated the request. It’s all taken care of!”

Angie opened her mouth to utter another protestation, but Malphus cut her off.

“Also, your salary is in the eighteen point five trillion dollar range for the length of your contract, after taxes of course. It will be deposited into your account when you get back.”

Angie’s world swirled before her eyes, and Malphus blew a puff of sulfur in her face to keep her from passing out. She closed her eyes and shook her head, but when she opened them, she was still in hell.

“So? What do you say?” Malphus asked.

“Yes,” she said after a moment. “I mean, it’s only a billion years, right?”

Malphus smiled and held out his hand again. This time, Angie took it confidently and shook it twice.

Demons and Dinner

The chef in the video is blathering on about how important it is to measure your ingredients for consistent results.

I roll my eyes. Some things, like garlic, you have to measure with your heart. I flatten the garlic clove with the broad side of my knife and peel away the papery skin. My knife makes quick work of it and soon I’ve lost count of how much I’ve added. Instead, I just taste it every few minutes.

I shake in some white pepper and the room fills with smoke and the stench of sulfer.

Great, maybe I should have been measuring.

I fling open the doors and windows before I scramble up on the counter to reach my screaming smoke detector. It takes a few tries, but finally, I silence it.

I take my soup off the good burner and set it on the star and crescent cast iron trivet, a hand-me-down from a dizzy aunt. I dipped a clean spoon in and raised it to my lips.

It tasted amazing- nothing like the now dissipating stench from a few moments ago. I shrug and reach for a stoneware bowl.

Someone behind me cleared their throat, and I drop the bowl. It explodes into a million tiny pieces. I live alone.

Slowly, I turn, fighting the urge to scream when I see him.

He’s over eight feet tall, hunched against my ceiling. His skin is the deep red of drying blood and his eyes glow with yellow flames. What really sets me off though, are the horns protruding from his creased forehead. There’s a scar on the ceiling above him where he’s scraped off the popcorn.

He’s tapping his foot and looking annoyed. “You summoned me,” he says with a sigh. His voice booms like thunder and rattles my dishes. Dogs bark somewhere down the block.

I try to speak, but all I can manage is a tight squeak.

The demon rolls his eyes and strides forward on his cloven hooves. He opens the right drawer on the first try and pulls out a spoon. He dips it in and tastes the soup.

That’s a summoning spell.” He smacked his lips. “It’s delicious, just the right amount of garlic, but it’s still a summoning spell.”

“No!” I seem to have found my voice at last. “It’s Italian tomato soup.”

“Is that tomato? All I taste is garlic.”

“I like garlic,” I hiss, taking back my spoon a little to forcefully.

“As do I.” He smiled, revealing his fangs. “Hence, how you managed to summon me.”

“No,” I whisper. “I was making soup.”

“You can eat it, but I’ll still be here.”

“You’ll never leave?” I asked in a wail.

“Not until you give me a task,” he said simply.

“Task?” I wasn’t sure I’d heard him right.

“Yeah,” he began, scratching his chin. “I was summoned, by you, and now I can’t leave until I do your bidding.”

“But I don’t want you to do anything. I don’t have any bidding. I’m a good person.”

“Hey! Just because I’m a demon doesn’t mean I want to do evil things. No one ever asks, they just assume, and I am mighty tired of it!”

“Sorry,” I mumbled.

“I forgive you.” He sighed. “I just get so tired of the demon equals evil equation.”

“What would you like to do?”

The demon in front of me looked genuinely surprised. “In 10,000 years, no one has ever asked.”

“Well?” I asked.

The demon screwed up his face and there was a sound that I can only describe as a rock and roll record being played backwards. I watched as my soup pooled together and jumped back into the stoneware bowl that had somehow mended itself. The bowl bounced back into my hands and the spoon plopped in.

I looked up at the demon and smiled. “Thank you,” I said. “Would you like a bowl?”

The demon smiled back and nodded.

“I think I know what I want,” I said as I handed him a bowl.

The demon quirked his brows in question.

“I want a friend,” I began. “I want a friend who likes garlic as much as I do.”

“Done,” said the demon as his body shifted into that of thirty-something hipster. He looked just like the sort of friend that you would expect me to have.

“Perfect.”