A Demonic Dilemma
by Bill Prindle
Table of Contents|
parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
Tom awoke to find himself stretched out on a bed in a beige room. In front of him were two large abstract paintings bolted to the wall. He looked down and saw that instead of his hairy, scaly feet sticking out of his flip-flops, he was wearing a pair of tasseled, oxblood loafers. His legs were long and covered in khaki slacks. His Hawaiian shirt had been replaced with a blue oxford shirt in the same style as Willard’s. He leapt out of bed and rushed to the full-length mirror on the door.
“I’m hideous!” Tom screeched. Staring back at him was a human, about five-foot ten, in his early thirties, with darkishly handsome features, thick black hair, green eyes, and teeth instead of fangs. He now had two eyes, one on each side of a nicely shaped nose, sporting not one but two nostrils. His arms terminated not in paws but fleshy hands with manicured fingernails. On the table in front of him was a large red envelope, with block letters on it: “DON’T PANIC. READ THIS!”
He collapsed into the nearby chair and read through the packet. It confirmed what Willard had told him. He was assigned to an executive retooling program to acquire the skills necessary to promote the new 21st-century data-driven Devil’s Dreamland, the working title for the rebranded Hell and its earthly subsidiaries. He had been provided with all the accoutrements of human identity: ID cards, credit cards, affinity cards, membership cards, clothing, money, and a laptop computer.
A Quick Start DVD had instructional videos on how to behave like a contemporary human being: how to dress, eat with a knife and fork, drink from a glass, how to tell time and why it was so important to humans, the necessity of bathing, reminders about when and where it was appropriate to scratch, and so on. Since Tom had been an eager consumer of Hell’s cable channels and was up to speed on world events and contemporary U.S. culture, so he didn’t feel completely adrift.
He’d been allowed to retain a few of his demonic powers: he could work limited changes on animate and inanimate material. His supernatural spirit meant he could absorb knowledge quickly, but he was cautioned that he’d been so inactive for so long, it would take a while for his demonic intelligence to become fully engaged. His fearsome strength had been greatly reduced so he wouldn’t accidentally rend someone asunder in a moment of unbridled wrath.
For the time being, his ability to shoot flames from his eyes had been suspended nor could he read minds or foretell future events. Mr. Beelzy would be checking on his progress from time to time. His classmates were all human, and he was instructed in no uncertain terms not to reveal his unearthly origins. He’d been allowed to keep his name.
A map informed him that he was housed at a Motel 666 outside of San Antonio, Texas where the miserably hot and humid August weather should make him feel right at home. The Bane Executive Transformational Centre was a short walk down the street. Classes started tomorrow morning at 8:00 a.m. sharp.
Tom hoped there might a nearby bar where he might get a tropical drink. He walked down the motel’s long hallway covered with a floral carpeting, which smelled vaguely of cigarette smoke and old soup. A pimply teenaged boy at the front desk informed him that Billy Bob’s Pan-Asian Cuisine & Bar-B-Q Pit was five miles away and closed. Perhaps he had overlooked the refreshments provided in his room?
Tom consumed the entire contents of the mini-bar: little bottles of scotch, vodka, bourbon, red and white wine, and a vile-tasting liqueur; three bottles of beer; a packets of peanuts, cashews, and something called corn nuts; and a gigantic Snickers bars. He downed a tiny bottle of mouthwash and a tube of toothpaste as well. Leaning back on his bed, he waited for a comforting intoxication to spread through his body, but instead he felt a bit gassy.
He turned off the light and envisioned his home: his hammock, his Sub-Zero Pro refrigerator, his giant 60-inch plasma TV, his blender capable of grinding up entire live chickens, and Mr. Spock surrounded by his Star Trek crew members, all safe in their display cases. His past life, with its simple pleasures and certainties, seemed forever lost. Around 3:00 a.m., he dropped off into a restless sleep.
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Copyright © 2016 by Bill Prindle