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Story 4

Gloria Oliver


Gloria Oliver is another author who has contributed to 4 Star Stories in the past. One of her previous stories, "Windows", is worth the effort to look up on the Stories Archive page.

"Bloody Hell" is the story of a couple of demons in Hell who are pleasantly mystified by the nuances of the English language.

Enjoy as we did, the underworldly tale of "Bloody Hell", where a practical demonstration is worth an eternity of scholarly discourse. 




Bloody Hell


     The end of the whip touched the exposed back with the lightest of caresses. A startled scream echoed through the sulfur-infused air.

     "Nice one," said George. "You've been practicing."

     "Yeah." Fred's six, glowing eyes scanned the line of shuffling damned, looking for anyone else moving down the narrow expanse slower than they should be.

     Everything looked good for the moment, so he took the time to use two of his eyes to glance at the other lines of humans winding amidst the rocks and cliffs as far as the eye could see. They shuffled like ants to the different, dark shafts that would lead them to their own particular hells.

First, however, they must walk the "Walk of Shame" through the stage the Boss set up to meet their expectations -- chasms, boiling lava, the stench of brimstone, naked humans everywhere, and, of course, demons.

Fred didn't much care for all of it. Not like they paid to get here. Besides there was just a touch too much red for his tastes, and the leather outfits tended to chafe.

     "Watch this." Fred gave a flick of his scaled wrist and snapped the long whip at a sweating man who was consumed with trying to hide his genitalia as he shuffled dutifully along -- as if anyone here cared.

     Unlike the previous time, the whip's tip closed in on its target, swept past the damned's arm within the span of a breath, then reached the end of its arc and snapped back, making a loud crack.

     The human jumped. "Bloody Hell!"

     George laughed, his bellies rippling, the sound like a handful of rocks thrown against paneled plywood. "Oh, good one, dude!"

     Fred showed his rows of pointed teeth, pleased. This made several of the damned cower closer to the edge of the precipice. Humans just had no sense of humor. No wonder they had to be sent down here to be taken care of. He fingered his axe, then his pike, but decided to stay with the whip a while longer.

     "Hey, Fred."

     "Yeah?" One eye swiveled toward his friend, the rest staying on their charges.

     "What'd he mean by 'Bloody Hell'? There's no blood here. We keep a clean stage, we do."

     His friend hadn't been in the head of the line when Satan served their brain cells. "It's just a saying. Don't worry about it."

     "Yeah, but -- "

     "What the…?" One of Fred's eyes searched for the cause as a sudden gap developed in the line of humans, the rest of his ocular digits remaining on the damned still moving forward.

     A young woman had come to a dead stop near the bend, her eyes ogling as she caught her first good look at the denizens of her new home. As Fred watched, her mouth opened, and a long, piercing shriek ricocheted off the stone walls surrounding them.

     "Oh for Satan's sake, not another screamer." Yet another reason not to like being on duty at the 'Welcome' theater -- at least in the others you didn't have to put up with newcomers' shock. By the time most of them made it to the Boss's other stages, they were pretty much numb to the employees's looks, or had other things to worry about. And it wasn't as if the humans were anything much to look at, with their mostly hairless soft skin and sunken eyes. Yuck.

     "I'll handle this one, Fred." George oozed off his perch and waddled toward the screamer.

     "Uh, George, I don't think...." Too late.

     The screamer choked at the sight of all that wobbling flesh and pus, and tried to go against the already stalled line, except there was nowhere else to go. Trapped, still shrieking her head off, she jumped off the side of the cliff.

     "For crying out loud!" Fred's displeasure bounced off the walls like thunder.

     George didn’t look at him, squirting some dilute acid at the stalled line to get them moving again and catch up with the others.

     Fred leapt out of his seat of thorns, the ground trembling as he landed. It almost sent a few of the nearby damned over the edge. "I hate fishing them out of there. This job sucks!"

     George shrugged and rolled to join him. "Sorry… No help for it, I guess. I'll come with though."

     "Whatever." This morning wasn't going well at all. A screamer turned jumper, and they hadn't even hit first break yet.

     Fred led the way to the nearest employee-only access door hidden behind a never-ending column of fire. His big, clawed feet clicked along the tiled hallway inside, almost blending in with the brown stone walls.

     He ignored the break room on the right, with its giant hourglass in the corner, its free Dante's coffee, and its demon worm sandwich vending machines. Company slogans were posted on the walls in the room and hallways, as well as the stairwell they were heading for. They were admonished to "Make 'em scream", "Whip them like you mean it", and that old favorite "There are no small parts, only small actors".

     George waved at a yellow demon sitting at the break table, who was busy reading a script for his next performance.

     "Hey, Fred, what about that phrase we were talking about?"

     Fred groaned quietly, the only thing he needed to make it a perfect day was George hanging onto this topic.

     "Have you heard it before? Huh? Have you?"

     Fred sighed, wondering if there was a quick way to get out of this one. "Yeah, on stage nine -- a nasty piece of work by the Boss on some stiff-upper-lip guy. Every time he filled a book of numbers and went to turn the page, it'd go blank and he'd have to start all over again. Guy kept his cool for a while, but he slowly unraveled over time. Kept using the phrase almost like a mantra. Heard it's quite popular in one of the northern sections topside."

     Small, phosphorescent imp worms hanging from hooks in the ceiling lit their way as they continued on down.

     "Is that right?"

     Something in George's tone said this was definitely the beginning of one of his "intellectual musings". It set Fred's rows of teeth on edge.

     "What exactly does the phrase mean anyway?"

     "George, like I said before, it's just an expression."

     They went down another hundred steps.

     "I understand that, but still, what does it mean?"

     Fred groaned under his breath. "I don't come from above, George. It's a curse, that's all. I know nothing about it." He thumped open the exit door, sending a quick curse to those above for the inane topic.

     "Yeah, I know, but -- " George hesitated as a cloud of sulfur blew into the stairwell and made them both cough. "Dang, those guys in Props are overdoing things a little, aren't they? Too much scent. Gross." He pushed his nose into his face trying to block off his nostrils. "Gonna be a pain to get it off the uniform…"

     Fred made no comment, trying not to gag, and stepped outside onto the catwalk hanging about two arm lengths above the seething lava. The railings were covered in fake rock to help them blend in with the rocky walls -- had to maintain the illusion for anyone looking down from above.

     "Which way is the drain catch again?"

     "Uhm." George pointed off to the right.

     "Thanks." Fred went on at a brisk pace, wanting nothing more than to get this annoyance over with.

     After a small handful of grains ticked away, they reached a platform set against a cliff into which the lava river flowed. Grabbing a large hook set into the wall, Fred stomped over to a slit opening in the platform right at the lip of where the river merged into the cliff.

     He dipped the hook into the hot lava and scraped against the grating placed there to act as a filter. Finally feeling some resistance, he brought the hook up.

     White, shiny bones rose to the surface and began to struggle as he brought them into the air. Instantly, bio-matter started growing over the bones. Muscles, fatty tissue, veins, intestines, all reformed over the structure as Fred set the struggling mass down. The half-formed man tried to run past George, but the latter just kicked him easily back into the corner.

     As a big gut formed over the fished-out damned, it became obvious this one wasn't the one they'd come looking for.

     "Well that's just darling. Someone's not doing their J.O.B." Fred continued to grumble as he plunged the hook back into the lava. "That sucker didn't fall off on my shift."

     "Bet it was Belzee Jr.," said George. "He likes to loaf just 'cause he knows nobody'll mess with him because of his father."

     "Spoiled bastard." Fred dipped farther down with the hook. "Ah, got another one."

     This time the skeleton that came up was definitely female from the shape of the pelvis. Soon he became absolutely sure he had the right one, for as soon as the throat and mouth had half reformed, she started shrieking.

     Fred felt the beginnings of a nasty headache in the back of his head. Great.

     He yanked her up close and shook her a little. "Shut it up, will you?" Her reforming lidless eyes stared at him, having no other choice. Her screams hiccupped and after a moment, her eyes rolled up into her head and she went limp.

     "Better. Much better." Fred swung her unconscious form over one shoulder. He moved to grab the gibbering beer belly next. "Come on, you. No skipping the theater." With an easy toss, he placed the other damned on his free side.

     George took the lead.

     "So, why do you think he thought Hell was bloody?" George asked. They were almost to the exit. "I never saw anything about it in any of the scripts or shift memos."

     Fred groaned. He'd hoped this had become a dead topic. "I told you, it's just a figure of speech."

     "But it had to come from somewhere, didn't it? It has to mean something."

     "Do I look like a linguist to you?" Fred barked.

     George's bellies did flip-flops on his back, as he sent Fred an apologetic look over his shoulder. "Uh, no. But, you know, you're a higher level than me, been at this a lot longer. Surely you know these damned well enough to have some idea?"

     They came out of the stairwell back into the main theater.

     Fred sighed again. He moved up to the line of shuffling damned, and plucking beer belly off his shoulder, dropped him in between two of them. He then grabbed the now fully formed girl, slapped her a couple of times until her eyes opened, and dropped her into the line as well.

     "Any idea at all?"

     George just wasn't going to drop this was he? And linguistics, usage, and theories weren't going to cut it. "Okay, tell you what. I might just have one thought about this."

     His buddy jiggled in eagerness as he waited to hear what Fred would say.

     In less than a blink, Fred reached down for his massive axe, unhooked it and swung it at George's head.

     Screams echoed down the line as George's top flew off his body, and green colored liquid sprayed over the damned, Fred, the floor, and the walls. George's head and shoulders rolled a ways and then came to a stop.

"Bloody Hell, Fred! What was that for?" His eyes were wide with surprise, even a little hurt, as they stared about him, his blood a bright contrast against the theater props.

"Did you hear what you just said? What you're feeling right now about what I did?" Fred licked the end of his axe clean with his two tongues, actually having enjoyed that. Nothing like a little violence to relieve piled up work stress.

     "Oh, oh! I get it now. Thanks, dude!"

     "Don't mention it." Fred shook his head and moved to sit back down at his station, leaving his partner to put himself back together on his own.



The End


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