posted on: Thursday November 8, 2001
His sleeping body lay still and silent. The sunlight that had crept towards his face all morning was just hitting his eyes and soon he would wake. A magnificent dream hastily ended when the blackness filled with the powerful redness of the early morning sun. John sat up, took inventory of his wellness and shouted, “Goddamn it.” As he reached for a tissue, he thought to himself, “Am I ever gonna get better?” He had been sick for three straight weeks and he felt as bad today as he felt the day he came down with the terrible illness. Every night he went to bed thinking he would be better off when he woke up. This morning was his twenty-first disappointment in a row. Wrapping his blanket around him, he staggered out of his room and flopped on the couch where his roommate, Michael, sat watching Regis and Kelly. “Feeling any better?” he asked, with the same smug tone that he did every morning. John turned and glared at him. “Jesus man, you’ve been sick forever,” Michael added in a unsympathetic way. “Are you taking Echinacea?” “Yes, I’m taking Echinacea. I’ve been taking Echinacea for two weeks now!!” “What about vitamins? Are you taking vitamins?” “Look,” said John, forcefully, “I’m doing everything you’re supposed to do. I’m getting rest, taking multi-vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin E, I’m drinking water, I’ve even tried a little transcendental meditation – nothing’s working.” “If you had been drinking wat-” He was interrupted by John’s fury. “If you mention the water thing one more time I’m gonna kill you. I swear to God, I’m not just saying that. I will physically end your existence on this planet. Just because you drink ten gallons of water a day doesn’t mean you’re immune to illness.” “Hey buddy, this anger is not helping your condition. The fact is: I drink tons of water and I don’t get sick.” John got up and went into the kitchen to make some breakfast. He opened the fridge. There was no milk. That was strange because they had plenty of milk the day before. He yelled to his roommate, “Yo, what happened to all the milk?” “There’s some in the fridge.” “Well I’m looking in the fridge and I don’t see any milk.” “Then I guess we’re out of milk then.” “Then I guess we’re out of milk then,” John mimicked under his breath. No milk meant no cereal. He then remembered that he had Eggo waffles in the freezer. When he opened the freezer door he was surprised to see a small greyish demon smiling at him. He thought, “The fever must be causing me to hallucinate.” But before he could fully comprehend what was happening, the demon grabbed him and pulled him in, sucking him into a portal that led to the depths of Hell. They both landed pretty hard on a sand-covered ground and John was immediately overwhelmed by the heat. As John dusted himself off, he carefully studied the creature that had abducted him. He was greyish green, about four feet tall, wore a monocle and had a mustache. “Sorry to scare you back there, old boy, but the boss wants to see you at once,” said the demon in a colonial British accent. “Welcome to the inner circle of Hell. My name is Cornelius.” “Pleasure,” John said, shaking his hand. “Follow me close, Old Bean, you don’t want to get lost in a place like this, you know.” They began walking. Fire and brimstone surrounded them and he could see people being tortured left and right. The screams were so loud that John had to cover his ears at one point. This place had the works: stretching machines, whips, people chained to the wall, you name it. Cornelius led John up a small metal staircase, which burned his bare feet as he stepped up. At the top was a huge door that had “The Devil” written on it. Cornelius opened the door and walked right in. Sitting in a large red leather chair behind a wooded desk was Fidel Castro. “Ah, please sit down, seÃ±or,” the devil said motioning toward one of the other chairs in the room. He turned to the demon and said, “Any trouble with this one, Cornelius?” “No sir, I went with the old ‘hide the milk trick.’ It worked like a charm.” Castro let out a mighty bellow, “‘The hide the milk’ trick, Cornelius, you old dog. Excellent work, mi amigo. Now if you’ll excuse us.” Cornelius let himself out and the devil turned to John and smiled. “May I offer you a cigar, senor.” “No thank you, I don’t smoke.” “Come on… have a cigar- they’re Cubans. Besides smoking isn’t bad for you down here. You see, everything that is bad for you up there is good for you down here-Red meat, smoking, instant messenger. . . ” “Alright, I guess I’ll have one.” “Bueno. Besides, it will make you feel better.” “How did you know I wasn’t feeling well?” “It is your sickness that I am interested in, seÃ±or. You see, you have a rare virile illness that some of the boys down at the research center have been working on. You were chosen at random to be a sample case. The illness is unique in the fact it that it is painful, but not completely incapacitating. You have been sick now for three weeks exactly, have you missed any of your classes?” “No, but it sucks going to them because I am blowing my nose and sneezing every two minutes.” “Perfect, you suffer all day long. You see, seÃ±or, the reason we have gone through all this trouble is because Hell has grown considerably. This past century has been very good for Hell. Woman’s liberation, free love, and the pornography industry have caused the number of Hellgoers to skyrocket. In 1900 we were receiving 50,000 new people each day; now we get over 170,000 a day. This facility is meant to accommodate a million souls and we currently have 3.5 million souls. We have 3 million full time fallen angels on staff and 40,000 part-time. The problem is we have so many new people coming in each day that we can’t process the souls fast enough.” “What do you mean process?” “Every soul must suffer for a pre-determinate amount of time before we can empty it and send it what we call ‘The Facility.’ It’s sort of a cosmic recycling center where souls are reincarnated. My plan is to start likely hellgoers’ suffering procedure while they are still alive to cut down on the time they have to spend in Hell. The illness we gave you is controlled by us. We control the severity of it and when it comes and goes.” “Does this mean I’m going to Hell?” “Not necessarily. If you cooperate, we can make sure that you never come back here.” “So what do you need me to do?” “Due to a mishap at the lab, all the strains of the illness were destroyed except for the one in your blood. All we need is a blood sample and you can be on your way,” he said as he handed John a contract. “This is a standard form. It simply guarantees, as a result of your cooperation, that you will automatically forego Hell. Pending that you avoid murder, blackmail, Haitian brothels, et cetera, et cetera.” John looked closely at the document and took a long drag of his cigar. “You realize you’re asking me to give the devil power of attorney over me.” “Look, I could just take the blood and sentence you to an eternity of torture. How about that?” John signed on the dotted line; Castro leaned over his desk and they shook hands. The next thing John knew he was holding the handle to the freezer. He closed the door slowly, trying to recall what had just happened. He felt a slight pain in his right arm and noticed a band-aid covering the sore spot below his elbow. He also noticed that he didn’t feel sick anymore. Walking into the TV room, he saw his roommate with a blanket wrapped around him and a thermometer in his mouth. “How ya feeling?” asked John. “Terrible,” replied Mike. “You must not be drinking enough water,” John said, with a slight grin.