Hellish Retention

“Mandy Salinas?” Mandy heard her name called a split second before she opened her eyes. She didn’t know where she was nor how she got there. She found herself in what she could only guess was Hell’s waiting room. Obsidian, uncomfortable-looking chairs lined three of the four brimstone walls. They surrounded a small ebony coffee table loaded with Hell-related literature.

The woman that called her name stood by an open door; she wore dark red scrubs that complimented her dry, red skin. Two tiny dark horns poked out of her blonde head.

“Yes?” Mandy responded; she was still trying to get her bearings. She had no idea how long she’d been there, but when she opened her eyes she was standing up.

“This way, please,” the demon woman gestured through the door. Mandy walked through the door and found a narrow brimstone hallway lined with closed doors.

“Straight ahead, 12th door on the left. It should be the only one open, but count just in case,” the woman said with a pleasant smile. “Trust me, you don’t want to end up in the wrong room.”

“Oh, okay,” Mandy nodded, not sure what else to do; then, she walked forward. The hall seemed to go on further than Mandy could see and she was glad she only needed to reach the 12th door. As far as she could tell there were hundreds in the hall. The unbelievable architecture only proved to her that she was in fact in Hell. The first three doors were fairly close together, but the fourth door was further down than Mandy expected. And the fifth even further. It felt like an hour passed by the time she reached the 12th door; it was at least three football fields from the 11th door.

Once she reached the open door, she looked up and down the hall. She still couldn’t tell where it ended. Looking back, she couldn’t see her starting point anymore.

“Mandy! Welcome to Hell!” a woman’s voice called from inside the door. Mandy walked in and greeted another red-skinned woman. This one had brown hair and wore a dark red suit instead of scrubs, with a black bow tie.

“I’m Barbara and I’ll be your supervisor while you’re down here,” the demon-woman said as they shook hands. Barbara gestured at a comfortable looking rolling chair in front of her obsidian desk. “Have a seat and let’s get you sorted.”

“While I’m here?” Mandy asked with faint hope.  “I’m not damned forever?” While she didn’t know how she got there, Mandy wasn’t surprised. She lived a rough life on the streets and did many, many things she wasn’t proud of. She felt an enormous wave of relief when Barbara shook her head with a smile.

“Technically, you’re not damned at all,” she replied. “You’re here solely on luck,” Barbara chuckled. “Though, looking back over your life, it’s obvious you were due some major good luck.”

“GOOD!? I’m in HELL! I don’t even know what luck has to do with anything.”

“That’s what we’re here to talk about,” Barbara replied. “Orientation before you start work tomorrow. Or in a couple of days, if you need more time to get settled,” Barbara gave her head a quick shake to dismiss the thought. Her brown bangs landed in front of her eyes and she brushed them out of the way again.  “We’ll get to that. For now, let’s start at the beginning.” Barbara sat up straighter in her chair and took in a solid breath as if preparing for a spiel.

“You ARE in Hell,” she said. “Though, things are more complicated than you think. Hell’s original purpose is record keeping; point tallying to be specific. But, it only takes a few religious nuts to ruin people’s lives. Hell has had to branch out into things like torture and deal making to meet demand,” Barbara gave a light chuckle. “The customer is always right.”

“No one wants to be tortured forever…,” Mandy interrupted, but Barbara nodded.

“You’d think so; but, we’re a customer service industry. We wouldn’t invest in a torture division if it wasn’t wanted. Anyway, you weren’t particularly religious so you aren’t assigned to a religious Hell. You’re not here to be tortured, you’re here to work.”

“I don’t want to torture anyone either,” Mandy replied. She wasn’t sure she had a choice, but she at least wanted to make her stance known.

“Oh, no no,” Barbara shook her head. “You’re here to tally points.”

“Points? What kind of points?”

“Life points, you’ll be keeping score of people’s lives. You’ll get a breakdown in your welcome packet, and you’ll be in training for the first week, so don’t worry about the details too much yet.”

“You make it sound so… normal. Is it a sweatshop or something? Working myself to the bone overheating in miserable conditions?”

“Oh God, I’m sorry,” Barbara apologized suddenly. She reached below her desk, then placed a frigid bottle of water on it. “I didn’t even offer you a drink. Are you warm?” She asked.  Mandy shook her head, and actually couldn’t help but laugh a bit.

“Are you serious?” she asked Barbara. In thinking about it, Mandy realized she wasn’t uncomfortable at all. She accepted the water bottle anyway and immediately took a drink; it was as cold as she hoped. Barbara sighed and shook her head.

“It’s always a battle breaking through those preconceived notions,” she said. “You are obligated to work for us for at least a year. After that, based on your performance, we can discuss you staying longer if you like. We maintain a positive, professional environment here.”

“What’s the pay like?” Mandy joked. She still wasn’t sure she believed Barbara. She held a bottle of cold water in Hell, but a part of her still considered that it might be a trick.

“No pay, as such. We don’t have much use for money down here. But, you’ve already been assigned a lovely home and a car to get around in. And even though, strictly speaking, you don’t need to eat; we know how enjoyable it is. Your neighborhood has a nearby grocery store, as well as other shops for hobbies, electronics, and so on. You don’t need to pay for a thing. As long as you’re in good standing with us and doing your work, just wander in, grab what you want, and leave again. Most of our employees treat this as a second shot at a better, more enjoyable life and make a career out of it.”

“You’re.. serious?” Mandy asked. Barbara nodded and smiled.

“Like I said, you were due some good luck. Let’s get started on your paperwork and you can tell me when you’re comfortable starting.”

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