Continued from Part 4.
I nod to the security guard as I enter the lobby of the 666-story office building.
Surprisingly, the personage I seek has an office on only the 33rd floor.
I walk through the metal detector, smiling apologetically as the arrow through my heart sets off the alarm.
The guard rolls her eyes and waves me through.
I suppose they get all kinds here…
For some reason, I am expecting black turtlenecks and disco balls, rather than lava and pitchforks.
But the decor is conservative, perhaps 1920’s gangster with a dash of Mad Men
As is the one I’ve come to see, dressed in a matte grey double-breasted suit.
He sighs and sets down his golden pen as I enter.
H: Geez, another one of you Jesus freaks. What is it this time? Come to rebuke Death? Chide me for destroying the above-ground world with the relentless pursuit of Mammon?
E: What? No, I’m actually a fan. Sort of. But do you really get that a lot?
H: Oy vey, you have no idea. Ever since I got saddled with Tartarus, pretty much every wrong things seems to land on my desk.
E. Perhaps you could take it as an compliment to your competency and efficiency that they keep giving you more work?
H. Are you making fun of me? Y’know, there is a special place in Hell for those who laugh at Death.
E. I thought that was Heaven.
H. I give up. So if you’re not here to yell at me, then what DO you want?
E. Actually, the way things have been going, I think I’m here to find out what you want.
H. You’re kidding me, right? That’s… ridiculous. Who did you say you were again?
E. I didn’t, but I am Earnest.
H. Again with the puns.
E. Well, this IS where people have been telling me to go with them…
H. I surrender. Okay, enough with the wordplay. I’m a busy guy. Why don’t you tell me what you really want, and I promise I will deal straight with you. Deal?
E. Deal. When you put it that way, I think what I really want is to empty this place out so you can have a vacation.
H. Come again?
E. As best I understand these things, you all represent some primal aspect of humanity. In particular, you represent the hidden treasures and terrors that people spend their lives seeking and avoiding. Am I on the right track?
H. Eh, close enough.
E. It is precisely that ambivalence that makes people hate you. People keep asking for one when they really need the other, and then blame you for withholding evil and curse you for giving them good. It’s a no-win job.
H. Damn, you are good. My niece wasn’t lying.
E. Oh good, then you do know who I am. That should make things easier.
H. I wasn’t born yesterday, Son of Adam. I know who you are and why you came, perhaps better than you do. But there’s just one little detail you overlooked…
H. The sacrifice.
E. Oh, that.
H. Yup. It can’t be something as simple as your death. You already did that once, and frankly I’m already up to my armpits in it around here.
H. There’s only one thing I truly want. And you already said it yourself.
E. Um, a vacation? But that would mean…
H. Yup, your sacrifice is that you take over my job.
E. But.. but…
H. A deal’s a deal, kid. Didn’t your Daddy warn you about making deals with the devil?
E. But I… I mean you… I’m not… I can’t…
H. (Grabbing his briefcase). Sorry Bub, that’s not my problem anymore. I’ve been chained to this desk for, like, forever. I’m off to Tahiti for a little R&R. I’ll send you a postcard.
E. But how? Where? What?
H. Heh, the keys are in the desk, along with my notes and calendar. You’re a bright boy, I’m sure you’ll figure it out. Or die trying, heh. See ya! (Heads out the door)
The door slams.
To be continued in Part 6