This week's FFF challenge was to pick a first line at random from a list. Then write a 1000 word story from there.
The list was:
1- "Do you ever think we should just stop doing this?"
2- Detroit had been without aliens for years.
3- "If you leave now, you get nothing."
4- With sadness, she realised they needed some time apart.
5- I have two things on my mind: rice and zombies.
6- "You were meant to be watching him!"
I got the last one, #6. Here's my story, at 1008 - a tad over. I tried to show more and tell less this time. Backstory is still hard to hide.
"You were meant to be watching him!"
I glared at my supervisor. "I know. I'll fix it." Damn. My first project as a demon in training, and I'd screwed up already.
Dying had been a bit of a surprise to me. And then discovering I was in Hell was upsetting, of course, but not that surprising. I had been a rebellious child, a schoolyard bully, an unfaithful wife, and a ruthless businesswoman. It was my final role that gave me the most pleasure. I'd been creative in my business solutions, and unfeeling in my punishments for failure. In my spare time I was a loner, cruising bars for victims, and dabbling in some S&M. So, not really surprised at my final destination, but not daunted by it either. I took that attitude into my intake interview.
"I think my past behaviour does more than condemn me to be here. I see as showing I can be an asset to you." I sat back and glanced at the nameplate on his desk. "Demon Shabat, do you have an apprentice program?"
The demon actually smiled, just a bit. "That's Sergeant Shabat to you, Lauren. But in fact we do have a program. Just don't screw up, or I’ll make you a special project, just for me. I have just the person for you to practice on, too, a politician."
After a quick Intro to Hell course, I started in on Darren. Not his real name, but getting it wrong was one more way to torment him. Torment that he deserved, judging by his file. In only a few days I'd designed a great program for him, his own Welcome to Your Hell. I pulled him out of the hell-fire vat, got him started, then asked Shabat to drop by.
He showed up in a puff of sulfurous smoke. "Let's see what you have, recruit."
"Thank you Sergeant. I started with the basic treadmill, lava deck of course, and no shoes on his tiny feet. He hated walking anywhere, but he will now. He was always a sucker for a deal and needed constant adulation. I feed him those emotions, until he trips - oh, there he goes again."
"What in hell is that dangling down past his feet? A red neck-tie?"
I smiled. "Yes. Watch his hair too."
"Is that what it is? I love the way it keeps squirming. Oh, right over his eyes. And he's down. And he’s up - those people with the whips seem to motivate him too. His enemies?"
"Not really. Family and friends. Including his father, daughter, and all three wives."
I was running over other details, such as his special meals, spicy Mexican food, served through a slot in a high cement wall, when the trouble started. I really should have kept watching him—it wasn't as if I didn't have a spare head to use. He had somehow climbed to the top of the wall, and was reaching for a baby demon, teetering on the edge.
"Maybe he'll eat it." I said.
No such luck. Daren carefully climbed back down, cuddling the little brown creature, then set it onto the ground. Alarm bells went off.
“Shit,” said Shabat. “The good alarm.”
He’d warned me about the goodness sensors. Not a good thing for us, as too many of them and the victim would get re-evaluated. Maybe moved Up There. And a demotion for all of us.
“I’m not getting busted for this,” said Shabat. “Deny everything when the investigators show up. They’ll trust my record.”
Internal Affairs did show up, within minutes, and we lied to our teeth. Shabat blamed it on a glitch, something over heated maybe, and they seemed satisfied.
“No more mistakes, Sarg,” I said. “I’ll watch this guy.
And watch him I did. I cranked up his punishment and added more little features. But it seemed he was happier, in spite of my best efforts.
I called over to him. “Darren, are you liking this? Do you need more lava?”
He shook his head. “I’m thinking maybe I deserve this. I was a real asshole.” He smiled. “Thanks, I guess.”
Thanks? Remorse? This couldn’t be a good thing, not for me. I added more lava.
Everything really went to hell when he waved. My minions had just set him up for another day when he looked over at me, smiled, and waved. And I involuntarily waved back. Video caught it of course, and within minutes Shabat showed up.
He poked my chest with a talon. “Well, maggot, before Internal Affairs gets here, this is our story. He was hallucinating, and you were signalling one of your minions, okay?”
I paused. “Well, the weird thing is, I think he’s coming to grips with his past and showing some remorse. Which is good for him, isn’t it?”
Shabat snorted. “Doesn’t matter about him, it’s bad for us. Especially for a lowly apprentice. I might lose one of by stripes, again, but for you it would be back into the hellfire. Say goodbye to an eternity of torturing these souls. Okay, here they come.”
The thing was, I was having some second thoughts too. In life, I’d done my best to make everyone else suffer. That was the legacy I’d left. And now I was facing the prospect of being evil all the time, for all time. Which would include keeping people like Darren here, whether they really deserved it or not.
I kept it simple. “I’m having second thoughts about my latest career choice. Darren seems to have come to grips with what a rotten person he was in real life, and I think it’s rubbing off on me. So, what now? Do I just get fired?”
Shabat growled and swung his huge fist at my head.
When I regained consciousness, I was sitting at a desk again. But not in front of a demon. I squinted my eyes against the white light.
“Welcome Lauren,” he said. What a voice. He could be a radio announcer. “I think we need to re-assess your file.”