Surprises in hell

#FlashFictionFeb Day 6 02/-6/2021

“Hi Henry.”

Henry was pretty sure none of this was real.  He had inhaled a whippet once and dreamed-tripped the entire Wizard of Oz in the time it took him to fully exhale, he was pretty sure this was the same kind of thing, only he hadn’t done whippets in ten years.

“Grandpa?” Henry was astounded. Well, he was as astounded as one could be after landing in hell with a demon he accidentally invited to lunch.

“Yes Henry, it’s me.” Henry’s grandpa took off his hat apologetically.

“Grandpa, what in the hell are you doing in hell?” Henry realized his voice was trembling but he was past the point of caring.

“Twenty-five to fifty, son,” said grandpa. “I’ve been dead twenty-four and a half years now, I’m hoping this sacrifice is my last and I can pass on to Limbo for a while. I’d like to join your grandma in the seventh heaven one day, she’s stuck in the sixth, waiting for me. My memory is the only thing that keeps her there.”

“I don’t understand, Grandpa, you were such a great guy.  How? How did you end up in hell?” Henry asked.

“I made some bad decisions, son. I left two fatherless orphans in Korea. I also joined a racist organization in 62′ but I want you to know I never went to meetings or supported it. I also never opposed it. Remember this son, if you don’t voice your opposition to things you know are wrong, your silence is taken as agreement,” Grandpa sighed. He was tired ashamed but knew his truth was necessary for redemption.

Henry was reeling from the information that his beloved, kind, big-hearted grandfather was actually a hell-bound, racist, bastard-baby maker. “I need to sit down,” Henry said. He felt sick.

Amy grabbed his elbow, just as Henry began to crumple. The demon had no time to spare in getting his group to their destination.

As demons go, Amy was actually a pretty important  manifestation.  At least he thought so.  An ancient old bastard, the 58th spirit in the circle of hell ruled over thirty-six legions of demons. Amy had taken all of them to hell, he wasn’t going to impeded by a couple of humans.

“Sorry Henry,” said Amy, “No time for the vapors or any more riveting family history.  I need your grandpa to escort us to my quarters.”

“D-d-does my grandpa live with you?” stuttered Henry.

“No Henry, he’s a guide.  Security, you know,” Amy dramatically swept his arms around to punctuate his explanation, “We let some of the Westboro Baptist Church loonies in a few years ago, had a helluva time getting rid of them. Had to change policies and portals – everyone requires a chaperone now, no more surprise visits from frothing at the mouth Christians dragging decent souls to hell because they’re gay. Now let’s go. We have places to go, things to do, chop chop!”

Somehow, knowing his grandpa was employed temporarily instead of bound by eternal chains to hell made Henry feel better.  He mutely nodded to Amy and readied himself, for the second time in one day, to follow someone he loved into the bowels of Hades.


Hell was never meant to be pleasant but even with the recent addition of depressing mood lighting and a constant background music loop of, “How Soon is Now,” it wasn’t as bad as everyone thought. 

The passageways were narrow and dank, and Henry’s grandfather trudged away in front of the group, occasionally whistling along with Morrisey’s angst, looking back every once in a while to make sure his ducks were following. The scene could have easily been a family outing, if the family happened to contain a hell-bound grandfather, his bewildered grandson and an ancient demon who like bacon sandwiches. 

The group walked out into a huge, open cavern lined with dark passageways similar to the one they had just exited on all sides.  Henry’s grandfather turned towards him, and embraced him in a grandfatherly hug.

“Son, I know this has been hard on you, and I can appreciate that.  I only have time to tell you that good people do bad things, and those things don’t necessarily make them bad people, but they have to atone for their sins.  Everyone does. The universe requires balance, and it will get it one way or another,” Grandpa cleared his throat to regain composure. “Now do me a favor and clear you mind of anything other than thoughts of your grandmother’s face when she sees me again, after all the years of waiting.”

Before Henry could ask any questions, his grandfather pushed him away, stepped out into the center of the cavern, and burst into flames. 

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As a former transportation industry writer, I learned that a regular paycheck is nice, but writing about something you're no longer interested in is miserable. Apparently, I like writing more than money - so I'm back to freelancing at 52. It's not as altruistic as it sounds, I'm also cranky and difficult and refuse to fit in anymore, making steady employment pesky and potentially dangerous to my psyche.

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