Monday, October 02, 2006

‘Welcome to Hell, where all your nightmares come true. This is Amy, can I help you?’

‘Um, yeah. I’ll be there in a few days, I want to know if my cat is down there.’

‘Yes sir,’ Amy chirped in a horrifically cheerful manner. ‘All cats come to Hell for the sin of vanity, sir.’

‘Oh, thank God!’ He let out a deep sigh. ‘At least we’ll be together.’

‘On the contrary, sir, you will never have the joy of seeing your cat again. This is Hell, after all. You’re not supposed to enjoy yourself.’ Amy’s voice had a grotesque smile in it. He could hear it, even from Earth.

The caller paused, deep in thought. ‘What about my family?’ he asked eventually.

‘Oh yes,’ Amy said with relish. ‘They’re a-a-a-l-l-l here,’ she said it just like that, drawing the sound out for maximum effect, ‘waiting to spend eternity with you! Won’t that be nice?’

‘Is it too late to atone for my sins?’ he asked hurriedly.

‘For you, sir, yes. Far too late. However you can discuss that with out Eternal Assessment Department when you get here.’ Click. Amy hung up in some annoyance, despite her smiling voice. Customers were all so moronic – it’s not as though they didn’t realise where they were headed, or what they were in for. They just held on to that thread of hope, when it was all so hopeless.

She looked across the corridor of fire to where her colleague was still on the phone. They rolled their eyes at each other; then dusted them off and rolled them back.

Amy and Paul sat in cubicles on opposite sides of a long corridor. The corridor stretched out on both sides as far as the eye could see; other corridors intercepted it at regular intervals, and their ends could not be seen. All the corridors were lined with cubicals; in every cubicle was a desk; on every desk was a phone. Behind each desk sat a Customer Service Consultant with encyclopedic knowledge of Hell, its rules, regulations, and inhabitants.

The corridor and cubicles all were painted red, with flame motifs in deeper maroon colours over the walls. The carpet was a sickly yellow-ochre, and dead pot-plants were placed beside each doorway. Amy never knew how they managed the lighting, but it flickered like a fire and made her head ache after a few hours every day.