“What gives?” I said. “I didn’t think the Evil One got hangovers.”
“I don’t,” he said. “The pressure of running Hell just getting to me.”
“I imagine. The war in Ukraine must be filling the place up with customers arriving early.”
“It’s not them. Most of them just get the standard treatment. Melt a red-hot medallion onto their chests and turn them loose to swim in the Lake of Molten Fire or play along the Beach of Blisters. The grandma-rapers and other war criminals get fileted by my imps when those guys get around to it, which isn’t often—they negotiated a four-day work week for themselves in their last contract, plus unlimited mental health days, claiming that pitchforking souls for all eternity gives them permanent PTSD. Even pouring hot lead down the gullets of politicians to keep them from lying gets old after a while, they say. But you don’t see them on some condemned psychiatrist’s couch on their days off. All they do is hang out at their taverns, drinking boiling wine from gold chalices and playing cornhole with shrunken heads.”
“Are you just showing up to complain about your labor issues again?
“Hell, no. I’m here to talk about real problems. Vladimir Putin’s going to die one of these days, and I always feel the pressure when someone who really, really, REALLY deserves to be here shows up at the Gates of Despair.”
“Are you afraid he’ll take over? He might be qualified.”
“Frankly, I wouldn’t mind. Ain’t no vacation days in eternity, and sitting by the Pool of Urine from Failed Drug Tests, sipping the blood of unbaptized boys, and enjoying the screams of the damned from afar sounds like a peaceful way to spend a millennium or so, but there’s no rest for the wicked. Kind of sorry I made up that rule in the first place. But, no—if I let Putin have the run of the place for even a few hours, he’ll drum up some kind of fake referendum to make himself Lucifer-for-Life. I know how that guy works.”
“Well, you could just torture him in any of the numerous ways he’s killed people here. Poison his underwear, put polonium in his tea, starve him in some gulag, launch missiles at his head, shoot him from behind when he least expects it. I mean, the ways are almost endless.”
“I could, but then I might be accused of a lack of originality.”
“Just combine it, then—shoot him while he’s exploding while wearing poisoned underwear and sipping radioactive tea. Over and over. And just for the lulz, push him out of a high window in the Castle of Condemned Souls at random intervals.”
“Hmm…not bad. I always knew you were an idea guy.”
I blushed. It’s not every day you get praised by THE fallen angel.
“Thanks. And oh, by the way—see you soon.”