“Sorry, Father. Uh.. Reverend? Sorry,” the driver, Eddie Ortega, gave the formally dressed priest an apologetic look. “My clearance only gets me to the first.” Eddie gave an involuntary shudder. “I’m not in a hurry to go any deeper. The Infernal Bonus isn’t worth it to me.” The priest glanced at his cell phone and sighed.
“It’s quite an emergency, I fear I don’t have time to wait for another ride. You mentioned that the Infernal Bonus isn’t enough, what if I tripled it for this one time?” Eddie’s eyes widened, then disappointment washed over his face.
“I’d definitely do it for that much, but my clearance still isn’t high enough. And I’m sure you know how long that takes to get. Sorry.” Eddie stared at the priest over the seat and wondered why the man had not left his car yet. Instead, the client ignored Eddie’s stare and swiped through his phone. After a few seconds, he dropped his hand to his lap and smiled at Eddie.
“You have my Blessing. Just a one-day pass, but that’s all you need. To the Ninth Circle of Hell, please.” The priest nodded at the road ahead and waited for Eddie to start the car.
“Uhh…” Eddie hesitated. “Are you sure your Blessing is enough? I mean, uh, you know. No disrespect your Highness, but the licensing is built a certain way for a reason, you know? My mind has had like, no training.” Eddie scratched at his light blond beard while he explained his reservations. The priest gave Eddie a patient smile and placed his hand on Eddie’s head.
“I am about to be late to a meeting in the Ninth Circle of Hell. With God and Satan both there. Me.” The priest brought his other hand to his chest to make the point. “If I am important enough to have been summoned to their presence, I assure you that my Blessing will keep you safe and sane, my son.” Eddie nodded at the priest with starstruck eyes.
“You got it, Rabbi,” Eddie gave the road his attention, started the car and drove. “So what’s the meeting about?” Eddie asked. He drove out of the downtown area heading towards the highway.
“No idea,” the priest replied with a chuckle.
“Isn’t it your job to know?” Eddie asked.
“No. My job is in an office doing paperwork and granting clearance for Hell. This meeting is a once in a millennium opportunity. God and Satan meet every 1000 years, and they each choose human representatives to attend with them.”
“Whoa.” Eddie took his time to process what the priest said. He drove in silence for a few minutes but then spoke up again as he merged onto the highway to Hell. “Shame it’s not in Heaven,” Eddie commented as they drove past the exit to Heaven, then he began to chuckle. “Not that I got clearance for there either,” he said. Eddie laughed hard at his own joke and the priest gave a polite chuckle.
They reached the First Circle of Hell blockade, a translucent red force field, and Eddie drove through it without hesitation. He’d been in the First Circle a couple of times before, however, he was happy to realize that he did not hear any of the expected whispers tickling the back of his neck. After another mile, they reached the Second Circle of Hell blockage. Instead of a translucent force field, this blockade consisted of a solid dark red wall. Eddie did not doubt the priest’s Blessing anymore and drove straight through the wall without hesitation.
After another mile, Eddie drove through a red-black wall held shut by heavy locked chains. Despite their location, Eddie felt as calm as if he were driving in a Sunday parade. Part of the reason he never wanted to go deeper into Hell was the stories. The first two levels were pretty easy by all accounts, but everyone agrees that the third level is where things started to get bad.
“Thanks for your Blessing, preacher. I feel great.” Eddie said.
“You’re welcome, my son. Thank you for your speedy driving,” the priest replied. The car passed through the Fourth blockade. A black steel-looking vault door decorated with demon skulls hanging from hooks.
“You know… Uh. If you want I can stick around and wait for you. So that you don’t have to wait on another driver whenever you’re done.” Eddie offered. He hoped to take advantage of the priest’s blessing. Not many humans ventured down to the Ninth Circle of Hell, but the ones that did were often rich. The curio shops on the ninth level carried the rarest and most interesting items. Any of which could be worth millions on Earth. Eddie was never greedy by nature, however, the possibility of turning a triple bonus into a permanent retirement with some choice purchases provided him with enough motivation to take the job. They drove through the Fifth blockade, a jagged obsidian wall of cooled magma.
“Time moves on a different scale for them, I doubt that you’ll be alive when the meeting is over. I might not even survive it myself. However, my Blessing is for 24 hours,” the priest said. “Whether I’m near you or not. I’d hate for you to miss out on all of Hell’s wonderful shopping after doing me such a great favor. ” They passed Sixth blockade, a curtain of bright orange flowing magma.
They drove through the Seventh blockade, a towering wall of fire. The Eighth, mist of ash; then the Ninth, a red translucent force field again. The mile between each blockade passed in silence as both men focused on their own peace of mind. Though the priest’s blessing was strong whispers tickled Eddie’s neck as they drove into the Eighth Circle. Once they reached the Ninth circle he began to notice hellspiders, illusionary spiders that existed only to startle and distract people.
Eddie stopped the car and immediately the highway around them disappeared. Eddie’s car stood parked in front of a towering obsidian spire. The spire seemed to be the social hub with strip malls of curio shops radiating out of it. Eddie saw mostly demons, but he also noticed a handful of humans wandering between the shops.
“Here’s your stop, your Honor,” Eddie said. He turned around to face the priest over the back of his seat, but the priest was already half out of the car. “Good luck with the meeting!” Eddie yelled as the door slammed, then he turned his eyes to the shops.