Hell, it seemed, had turned its eye toward the city and was slowly turning up the heat. Yellow and red beams of light tangled with the humidity, becoming solid outside Patty’s bar. Each red and yellow facet of stained-glass created its own flame, pouring fire out into the sweltering heat of the mid-summer night.
Out of the haze walked an older woman, her graying blonde hair curled by the humidity and heat. She opened the door to the bar and instead of finding the heart of an oven, she found cool relief. This was not the furnace, it was a respite. The furnace was the rest of the world.
Though she went up to the bartender, her eyes never left the lone man with a marked up classified section sticking out of his pocket. “How’s our boy, Mitch?”
The middle-aged man in the rumpled, brown suit stared at his drink. He looked through the ice cubes, moving them in the glass, making them chase each other around the bottom.
Mitch looked at him with a face of tentative, positive appraisal. “He ain’t bad, considering.”
“Is he drunk?”
“Nope, just quiet. He’s been looking at that same drink since I called you. Seems he ain’t here to be cheered up as much as he don’t wanta feel down no more. What he’s looking for is in that newspaper, not in that glass.”
The blonde shook her head. “Sal had a big interview today. I’m guessing it didn’t go so great.”
“Oh shit, Marcy, I’m sorry to hear that. How are you all holding up?”
“We’re doing ok. Got savings. It’s just hard on him.” She sighed. “I better go. Thanks for being a sweetie.”
“Hey, no problem.”
As the pretty, older blonde walked down the bar, Sal looked sideways at her.
As they watched, Sal seemed to be in a trance. He stared into the half empty drink glass, at the ice cubes and he started to talk. It was detached, as if he weren’t really there.
“I’d be happy to just live up to the life you have given me, Marcy. But without a job, I can’t pay my way. I’m not living up to my promise to you, and I’m not living up to the promise I made to myself to do something worthwhile. My skills aren’t that much, but they come from a life worth of study, and they can make things better for people. No one wants them.” He shook his head. “I just want to be needed again.”
Stroking his shoulder, she said, “I need you, sweetie. Come on, let’s go home. Tomorrow’s another day.”
He nodded and absently slid from his bar stool. He nodded to Mitch.
“Yeah. See you, Sal. You take it easy, big guy.” He watched them go into the hot and muggy night.
🙂 😦 😉
A knock came at the office door and a young woman with a blonde pageboy haircut stuck her head in. “You’ve got a guest here, boss. He says he’s interviewing here?”
The man behind the office’s lone desk looked at his watch and said, “Yeah. It’s a transfer request straight from the big D himself. Send him in. Oh, and Shelly,” he added, adjusting his reflective sunglasses, “What do you think of the guy?”
“What do I think?” She snuck in the door and closed it. Her slight frame seemed impossibly fragile, yet somehow more feminine than girlish. “Well, he was kind of a dick to me when he came in, all bossy and ominous. He lightened up a little after I got him a soda, though.”
“Not the good stuff.”
“Grocery store brand. Put it in a cup so he wouldn’t bitch.”
“That’s my girl.” He grinned, stroking his black goatee. “So in other words, you’d do him.”
She nodded. “Totally, but I think I’d rather slash my wrists than work for him.” The tall blonde raised her forearms and giggled, showing long, deep razorblade slashes as she backed through the office door. “So, you want him now?”
“Sure, send him in,” the man said with a wave. The blonde girl disappeared and from the hallway he heard a loud thumping sound. He tugged on his red suit jacket and smoothed his shiny black tie over his even blacker shirt.
Suddenly, the door, frame and all, ripped free of its place on the wall, with a sickening, tearing sound. Through the hole strode a creature made of metal, wire and blue sparks. It seemed to be in a constant state of unnatural motion as its arms and legs didn’t seem to keep their length or shape for very long. The face was a rough sketch made of wire and metal plates, webbed over by constantly changing sparks. A wicked smile that was much too large for the face grew even larger, showed the sparks that it used for teeth, then said in a voice that sounded like feedback and static, “I’m here to inquire about the job.”
The man wiped dust off of the sleeves of his suit coat and blew the dust off of the desk. “Yes. You must be Demon-go.” His hand darted out as he stood and smiled. Behind the creature, plaster continued to fall. The limbo-bound souls who shuffled paperwork in the office couldn’t help but stare in amazement at the new opening the creature had just made.
“Actually sir, it’s pronounced Dee-MON-go. Emphasis on the ‘MON.’”
Tipping his finger against his forehead, the man said, “Of course. Well, are you ready to begin?”
“Sure. Do you have a copy of my resume?”
“Yes, they sent me an email, and it’s printed…”
The ghastly sparking creature threw a stack of three papers on the desk. “Here you go. This one has all my formatting and I printed it on some nice paper.”
Picking up the pages, the man felt the weight of them. “Oh, this is nice paper! So,” he looked at the resume, “Demongo, I see you have been in the Seriously Fucked Up Sins Department for the past millennium. What exactly did you do there?”
“Well, I was sodomizing pedophiles,” the thing screeched out.
“Ah,” the man said, lacing his fingers. “And why do you wish to leave your current position?”
The thing tilted his head and had a hard time looking into the man’s red and yellow sunglasses. “Well, it was a great job in the beginning. I started out really strong as a new guy and continued to refine my technique as I was promoted. But for the last couple decades, I’ve hit a plateau with that kind of work.”
“Understandable. Even the best of jobs can get old after a while. I understand you had a lot of client interface in that job, talk to me about that.”
“Well, yeah.” It smiled and the grin grew even further past the confines of where its face should be. “It was usually like them saying ‘No! Not again!’ And after a while I had to really work with them to get that nice scream of total despair out of them. I mean, after being down there for a while, the clients kind of need some special attention every once in a while, just to keep things fresh for them. I always gave that extra mile for the clients.” A large spark shot from its large right eye and hit the curled up end of its humongous metallic smile. “I like to think of myself as a people person.”
“Well good!” The man in the red suit continued to read. “And before that, you were in the Mischief making department. You got to go out onto the earth and spread misfortune.”
“Ah yes. I liked that job. The pay was lousy but I really liked my co-workers. And my boss, Mr. Woe, he was a right hellion. Happy hours were a real scream!”
“I bet. So, you think you can do this? We place people in jobs here and the jobs are carefully selected to cause mischief. Do you think you can be both friend and tormentor to these people? It takes someone special to pull off this job. It’s a blend of psychology, sweetness and force.”
“I hear that you are the best so I’m sure you will be able to teach me. But yes, I feel comfortable lying to these fresh souls.”
“Well it’s not really about lying, more about a careful presentation.” The man looked at the thing while resting back in his chair. “And I almost forgot. We do have a dress code here: ‘Business Casual.’ And you generally need to conform to a human appearance. We’re all former earth souls here and it’s become customary. Is that a problem for you? It’s a bit of a lifestyle change, I understand.”
“I’m sorry. No one mentioned it. No, no problem at all. I’ll change now, if you don’t mind.”
The man waved his hand. “There’s a bathroom right across the hall if you want some…” The thing had already sprung across the hall and ripped the door off of the woman’s room, eliciting a shriek from inside. “…privacy.”
He could see across the hall that the creature shrank so it could fit in the stall. A hail of blue sparks shot around the bathroom as the creature assumed a human appearance. Out of the stall came a small woman with straight black hair, and straight cut bangs. Her small bust was further hidden by the pinstriped skirt suit.
She walked back into the office and asked, “Is this ok with the dress code?”
“Yes.” His surprise was evident through his glasses, though he was more amused than shocked. “Now, if you don’t mind, I’ve a few more questions.”
“Well, I was wondering what kind of job you would like, under ideal circumstances.”
“You know, I’ve always wanted a job like this. From what the big man tells me, it’s really about getting the earthly people to be wicked by employing them in select jobs and then send their tainted souls down here.” She motioned to her resume. “If I could be permitted to sell myself, I have the requisite skills and have always risen to the top in the positions I’ve held. In mischief making, I was always very crafty at tricking people into ill will, or putting them in a frame of mind to sin. Of course, in my last job, I had to fill some time in the nightmare section. We did a lot of hunting there, and I really like the feeling of giving someone a good, bloody death.”
The man sat back in his chair and put his index fingers to his mouth. “You know, that’s very interesting. So, would you describe yourself as sadistic?”
“Oh, sure! I’m a total sociopath, and I always take great pleasure in coming up with new and interesting ways to kill.” Her girlish face showed a trace of her former wild unconstrained smile as she talked. “I can’t wait for the opportunity to go after fresh meat on the surface, though.” She practically purred. “I hear that they have particularly lovely screams.”
He leafed through the resume, scowling. “Yes, I can see you are a very talented tormenter, and you do come highly recommended. Well now, the challenge for me is to see if I can put you to the best possible use.” He snapped the resume on the table. “So, do you have any questions for me?”
“Well, I understand that the staff here is almost entirely former tormented souls that got out of their respective torture by agreeing to work with us.”
“Something like that. In fact, all of our recruiters are former ‘top-siders’ like myself. But you would be our first full demon working here. I hope that won’t be a problem. The Big D wants us to have a more diverse workforce.”
“I’d have no problems working with you blackened souls. I’m sure we can all get along.”
“While we’re on the subject of diversity, I want to mention that we’ve also just added a bunch of souls from limbo for our routine office work. They are boring guys, but they keep the place running smoothly.”
“Really? How does that work?”
“Well, if we don’t have them doing any actively evil work, they can be used for organizing duties. Gives them something to do and helps Shelly out a ton! We call them a ‘soft asset.’ So, before we wrap up the interview, is there anything else?”
She put on a fake smile that, again, was a touch too wide for her human face. “Actually, I’m a little confused. The big man was talking to me like I’d already gotten the position and talking to you was kind of a formality.”
He smiled. “As I said, you came highly recommended. If you’d like, you can wait in the lobby. I need to make a phone call.” He got up out of his chair and extended his hand.
“Uh, Ok.” She got up and shook his hand and made her way out through the hole in the wall.
He called after her. “Um, could you…?”
He made a motion to the hole and she said, “Oops, Right.” For someone so small and slight she displayed every bit of her previous strength by lifting the large slab of wall and fitting it into place as best she could.
The man looked at what used to be his office door and shook his head. Picking up the receiver, he hit the first speed dial and was almost instantly connected. “Yes, is this Nancy? Hi! Nice to talk to you again. I was wondering if I could talk to the big D, please. Is he busy?”
He leaned back in his chair and smiled. “Thanks, Nancy. Oh, and before I forget, thanks for the fast work on those reports.” He nodded. “Yes, I’ve got my staff poring over them as we speak. I really appreciate it. You run a tight ship there. Oh, and before I forget, those souls we got from limbo are a really great addition to my clerical staff. They are fantastic office drones. … He’s free now? Ok. Of course, I’ll hold.”
He sat up in his chair and said, “Hello, Sir. …Yes, this is about the applicant you sent over. … Yes, Demongo. … I agree, Sir. A charming girl. … Yes, a real go getter.” A frown crossed his face as he listened. “I understand that you want more actual Demons in high positions here at Idle Hands, but, … Well, yes. But that’s the issue, isn’t it? Since most of us, myself included, used to be surface people, we know how to work with ‘em.”
The phone chatted in his ear. “Well, I’m glad that you are so interested in our project that you would like to franchise, but it’s really a subtle technique, and I’m afraid that Demongo is too heavy handed and sadistic for the system here. I’m afraid that I’d like to decline your generous offer to have her on my staff.”
Great gouts of flame poured from the telephone’s earpiece, completely incinerating the man’s face and head. As soon as the flames died down the man’s eyeballs re-grew out of dark red smoke. While the rest of his head was coalescing from the same dark smoke, the eyes blinked in astonishment. With his one hand still holding the telephone receiver, his other created a new set of sunglasses.
Putting the sunglasses over his wide eyes he said, “Sir, I can see your point. Clearly, I’ve overlooked something in this girl that you cherish. I’ll give her a shot, but if she doesn’t work out, I want to know that I can get rid of her. I don’t want to compromise my efficiency by having to handle a problem employee. I’m sure you can understand the importance of what we are doing here.”
The line was silent for a while then spoke. The man heard the words and said, “Thank you. I will set up a test for Demongo right away, so she can get a fair evaluation of her skills and,” he paused slightly at this last word, “temperament.”
He smiled and stroked his goatee. “Yes sir, she will start in the morning.”
🙂 😦 😉
[Author’s note: This is the second Idle Hands story, though the “episode” numbering is 3. Long story, If I reorganize this to be a real serial, This bit might even go first. In any event, I’m cutting it up into three sections just like Crabtree for the sake of convenience.
If this is a story you like, please give me likes on comments. So far, the serial after The Strange (which is by no means done, is between this, more strange, Crabtree and a couple of other projects I’m working on. I’d like to know what people like, so I’m asking. I know my wife likes Idle Hands the best and that’s a strong vote for, but being evil is difficult. 🙂
What’s also difficult is getting the word out. Please, if you like what you see here, tell a friend, or a stranger, or a friendly stranger or a strange friend. I’m not advertizing and having days where no one is visiting me but spambots and my mom (hi mom) is a little… Well, it doesn’t help me churn out more words.
Thanks. That’s it. Stay Weird.