Ukobach sat at his desk, staring blankly at the endless pile of papers in front of him. He was going cross-eyed with all this paperwork, but he also knew that if he didn’t start working now, his boss would come buzzing in from nowhere and make him regret it. No, he thought with a sigh, better to get started now.
He took a sip from his coffee and grimaced. Damn, that was terrible. And it had gotten cold, to boot. He set the mug back down on the legal pad to his right, placing it just a few centimeters beside the stain from yesterday’s brew. The once-yellow legal pad was almost completely brown with coffee stains, but the desk beneath looked even worse.
It never ceased to amaze him how many souls managed to get damned in just one day. His pen made a quiet scratching noise as he filled in the name, soul number, and transgression in the appropriate lines. Joe Smith, 644351807876724355, drug dealer. Aaron Bordoni, 948714994554876190, adulterer. Michele Bachmann, 902326232648400786, politician. He paused, cocked his head to the side as he gnawed on his pen, then added a note to the last entry: special treatment for furthering our cause on earth.
Ukobach had been at this job forever…literally. He remembered a time when things were simpler, when all he had to do was maintain the oil in the boilers with the blood of the damned. There weren’t as many people on earth back then, and demons had more free time to themselves. He had learned how to cook on the job, and all hell would rave about his little culinary experiments: deep fried butter, french fries, and — his favorite — bacon cheddar cheeseburgers with donuts for buns.
But that was before the invention of the printing press, much less the internet. Once there was a mechanism to disseminate ideas more efficiently on earth, Management realized that they would need to upgrade the system for processing souls. Ukobach’s boiler room was transformed into an office full of demons just like him, and the blood of the damned became the ink in all the fine print they used to damn even more souls. In essence, it was nothing new, just a different name for the same thing.
As he worked, Ukobach reached over to his coffee mug and picked it up, absently heating the drink with his fiery tail. The mountains of paper never combusted around him, despite his inner core temperature of 450°C; this was partly because of the odd physics of hell, but mostly due to the frigid air conditioning unit that had been installed directly above his station. The down side of this arrangement was that his coffee was always cold before it even touched his lips. He sipped again and nearly spit it back out. Damn, but that’s awful.
Back in the days before bureaucracy and hell had become synonymous, Ukobach would take long breaks to go drink the clear, fresh water in the pool where thirsty Tantalus stood. One day he’d found a goldfish there, and he had placed it in a bowl to bring back to work…but the fish was almost instantly boiled alive when he took the shortcut over the lava fields.
He missed that goldfish. It would have brightened up this cubicle a bit.
A fly circled slowly around the cubicle, coming to rest on the edge of Ukobach’s coffee mug. “Don’t drink that stuff,” he warned. “It’s not good for your health.”
The fly buzzed angrily, and Ukobach shrugged. He knew that he had taken too many breaks already, but he also knew that if Belzebuth were truly displeased, he would have come himself, instead of sending one of his flies to pass on the message. “You know,” he said, lifting his mug to get a better look at the fly, “this why our side keeps losing. We are so mired in our own processes that we can’t think creatively. So many people think that heaven has all these rules and regulations, but we’ve got just as many, don’t we? Maybe more.”
He stood up, mug still in hand. The fly looked at him warily, but did not move.
“I want to go back to cooking,” he announced to the fly.
The fly buzzed, but it was so cold in the cubicle that it had a hard time moving off the mug.
“I can tell you right now that Charlie Sheen’s tiger blood will make a fantastic sauce for my next recipe,” he continued.
The fly buzzed again, trying to get away, but falling instead into the muddy brown liquid in the cup.
“What’s that? I’m sorry, I can’t chat with you; I have to get back to work!” Ukobach raised his mug in mock salute to Management, and the frosty air from the vent froze the coffee solid, trapping the fly within.
Ukobach tilted the mug to look at the icy concoction. He sighed, placed the mug back on the legal pad, and picked up another pile of papers.
Maybe when I get home tonight, he thought, I’ll make some fried ice cream. Coffee flavored.
For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, femmefauxpas challenged me with “Nothing new. Just a different name for the same thing.” and I challenged Kurt with “pulverized.”