30-Day Flash Challenge, Day 19
This is the third story in a series.
The prince of the third level of hell preferred to hold his tea parties in a different place. That was why today, he was on the second level. The screaming and agonizing and endless complaints from the tortured made it difficult to enjoy his Darjeeling. The other princes teased him, claiming he only preferred that variety because it was Satan’s favorite.
“Charlie Bennett? I’ve not seen you since the wedding. How are you?” the demon asks, referring to his marriage to the human girl, Elisa, that Charlie had found and groomed for him.
“I got no complaints,” Charlie says.
“And you are the one paying the fealty due today, I understand. Is that correct?” the prince says.
Charlie Bennett merely nodded. Then he up his hand, displaying the ruby brooch.
The prince studies the necklace, whistles appreciatively.
“With that ruby, we could have rented the entire level.” It was expensive renting space on the second level.
There was a constant background level of suffering and complaining here as well, but this wasn’t his level, and he was free to enjoy his tea as well as the cries of souls that weren’t under his charge. When it was someone else’s responsibility to inflict the torture, you could relax more and worry less that the other party attendees might spread talk that you were lax with your torturing responsibility.
A third demon arrives; he sees the two of them talking, approaches. This demon is short and horribly disfigured.
“Is that payment for today’s party?” he asks, gesturing toward the brooch on Charlie’s upturned palm.
“It is indeed,” Bennett says.
“May I?” the newcomer asks.
“By all means. Examine it to your heart’s content,” Charlie says to the demon.
The demon lifts the ruby jewelry and holds it pressed tightly against his forehead.
Charlie ignores him, turns his attention back to the prince.
“Huh, that’s interesting,” the newcomer says.
Charlie wishes the pitiful demon would leave him alone. He would rather converse with the prince than with this level-2 bureaucrat.
Charlie has had clout ever since arranging for the prince’s marriage to the young Elisa, a human tailored to serve him in his every need. As such, he occasionally speaks down to other demons.
“And what might that be, praytell,” Charlie says icily.
“Oh, well, you know all rendered fealty, if human in origin, which this surely is, yes?”
Here the demon pauses looks expectantly at Charlie.
“Of course, it’s human-made,” Charlie says.
“And you are aware that all objects used to fulfill fealty must be eternally lost to their owners, are you not?”
Charlie has never assaulted another infernal, but he feels a great desire to beat this babbling buffoon.
“Of course I’m aware, you twit. I’m Charlie Bennett,” he says, snatching the brooch away from him.
“Well, it’s interesting because this brooch will be found again. In June 2015, the original owner of the ruby, Stephanie Wilson, will have the item returned to her. So you can’t claim, in good faith, that the object was eternally lost, now can you?”
Charlie Bennett feels his knees threaten to buckle; he feels sick. This upstart is embarrassing him in front of the prince. He must regroup here.
“That’s quite impossible, I assure you; it fell into the English Channel.”
“Yes, yes, I saw that the demon says. But in 2015, Harold Wilson, Stephanie’s father, discovers a way for humans to change the past through the manipulation of memory. He has some cutesy mnemonic for it. I can’t remember it exactly.”
“Is this true, Charlie Bennett?” the prince asks, his face a mask of disappointment sliding quickly to rage.
Charlie is speechless. He has a bad feeling about how the rest of this will unfold for him. And Charlie had such ambitions. He planned to overturn the prince’s leadership, seize control of level three, for starters.
The prince loses patience with Charlie. Eventually, deciding that Charlie’s refusal to answer the question is a confession of sorts.
“Gather whatever you have from level 3 and report to level 9. Your services are no longer needed here. I doubt our paths will cross again, Charlie.”
Level 9? This punishment is too harsh. He started serving on level 9. It’s taken him millennia to rise to 2.
The prince had been reading his thoughts.
“You misunderstand me, Charlie. You’re not being reassigned to level 9 to work. I condemn you there for eternity. As I said, I doubt our paths will ever cross again. Did you honestly think I wouldn’t see through your transparent sycophancy? I see your ambitions all over your snarky face. Trust me when I say you will never replace me or any other prince in hell. Now, go.”