The intense cold caused Stanley’s hairs to rise on end, forming goosebumps that dragged across his sheets with a spine curling tingle. Exhaling misted breath, he pushed up from his pillow and reached for his bedside lamp.
He froze . . .
A shadowy figure stood in the doorway—dimly lit by the streetlamps shining through the window.
“H-hello?” Stanley said, attempting to blink away his grogginess.
All hopes to explain away the figure as a coat stand or a pile of clothes were dashed as the figure glided forward with a steady gait.
“Stanley.” Its voice was like shattering ice.
“W-who are you?”
“Stanley… I have come for answers.”
“What do you mean?” Stanley bit down on his lip and switched the lamp on.
A slender, featureless black and grey monster stood at the foot of his bed. Its head scraped the ceiling and its face leered down at Stanley with nightmarish fangs.
Stanley would have screamed if his lungs hadn’t seized.
“I have been stalking you for weeks now,” it said, “I have caused you emotional toil, made you think that the walls were closing in around you, that the floor was collapsing beneath your feet, yet you carry on… how?”
“Huh?” Fear was temporarily overridden by confusion. “You mean my panic attacks? I’ve been having those for years now.”
The creature hesitated. “You… you have another demon?”
“What?! No, well, none that I know of.”
“But I have interrupted your sleep, I don’t let you drift off, don’t let you rest.”
“I have insomnia… wait, have you been trying to make my life hell, but failing because I’ve been dealing with my own hell already for so long?”
The demon quickly looked away, “Ah… but… what if I taunted you by opening up a wealth of more successful people to compare yourself to… Would that upset you?”
“You mean like social media?”
“Dude, get with the times!” Stanley rolled back into bed.
“Well… what if… what if I arrayed an endless supply of potential partners before you, but you would feel hopeless by having no guarantee of finding depth or meaning from the relationship?”
“That’s called online dating.”
“How about I threaten you with potential war and widespread disease? Isolate you from your loved ones…” It halted and withered under Stanley’s glare. “Well…” The demon shuffled from foot to foot. “I have to go.”
As it disappeared into the ether Stanley checked the time, groaned, and slammed his head onto his pillow.
Within Hell’s corporate office lobby, the air was palpable… more from the tension this time than the sulphur…
A horde of demons crowded the space in droves, a collection of grotesque forms and sinister visages, gathered and chanting with protest signs.
Among a myriad of other clever slogans, the more common were:
“Human conditions need to be better.”
“We can’t bring hell to earth if the world has already gone to hell!”
The large iron doors that led into the building proper swung open, and a tall, red horned demon in a blue business suit stalked out. His footsteps burned into the marble tiling, leaving the impression of sizzling hooves.
“Good afternoon.” It addressed the protesting demons with a booming voice as they quietened and listened eagerly. “I have brought the concerns of the demons to the higher-ups. As Overlord I recognise the good work you all do terrorising the mortals, and we appreciate that things have been difficult lately. In response to your strike, the Dark Lord himself contacted the Highest to find a solution. Here in my claws,” he held a scroll aloft to the demons, “Is the decree passed down from the Highest, which hopefully contains a resolution.”
The Overlord unfurled the scroll, donned tiny spectacles which fit snugly over his hognose and peered at the scrawling.
“Ahem,” he looked up and scrunched the scroll. “The Highest agrees that with the current conditions on earth, your jobs are no longer necessary.” There was a startled gasp from the horde of demons. “Yes, and before you complain, they ended with a post script that tells me all complaints on the matter will fall on deaf ears.”
“What was the post script?” A gelatinous blob groaned from the floor.
The overlord sighed, “They ended the message with, and I quote, ‘Get Wrecked demons, LOL.’” The Overlord waited as the realisation settled on the demons, “Yeah, this is unfortunate; there is still plenty of work in the acid mines if any of you are struggling. Good day.” The Overlord turned and stalked from the arranged demons, leaving them in abject shock and silence.
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