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A Man of a Few More Words - by Swan Morrison


George listened with approval to screams of agony from the fiery, sulphurous pits of Hell as the flesh of his charges again was seared.

In life, no one had considered that George might be ideally qualified as one of Hell’s Torture Overseers. He had demonstrated kindness and charity to all.

Upon death, however, the Eternal Life Committee, comprising God and Satan, had examined George’s behaviour together with his hidden thoughts and feelings. When alive, George had frequently raged inside with intense, pathological anger and malevolence towards those who dared to offend him.

Having been a Catholic, George well understood that those thoughts and feelings would inevitably preclude him from Heaven. Thus had he feared the possibility that enacting retribution would offend someone who could, one day, become his Torture Overseer in Hell. Such a person might subject George, for all eternity, to similar merciless inhumanities as George deemed appropriate for those who had slighted him. The prospect of such unspeakable horrors moderated all his actions.

After death, the ELC could not dispute that George should be judged ‘good’ by virtue of his earthly deeds, and thus must be spared torment in Hell. George had been correct, however, about exclusion from Heaven.

The sole remaining option was for George to enjoy eternity in Hell, and the only role that fulfilled this criterion, bearing in mind his personal disposition, was that of a Torture Overseer for his choice of damned souls.

George selected another can of cold beer from one of the infinitely replenished refrigerators and then continued along a walkway above the pits.

He paused and glanced below at the car mechanic who had made a labour charge of seventy pounds for the replacement of his handbrake cable. Such a cable was now noosed around the miscreant’s neck. Their eyes knowingly met as George, for the one hundred and five thousand six hundred and twenty-fourth time, pushed the button to operate the trap door.

Tied in the next pit was the editor of a publication who had rejected one of George’s short story submissions as ‘rather didactic’. George manipulated remote controls to close steel teeth around this critic’s fingernails and savoured taking longer than usual to rip them from his hands.

George experienced some sympathy for the hapless occupant of the next pit. The lad had simply worked in a factory that had manufactured speed cameras. He had never considered his personal culpability for the consequences of his labour. George selected another beer as he enjoyed the familiar sound of a steamroller, crushing bones.

Hell was fully automated. George personally supervised just a handful of selected tortures each day before retiring to party with colleagues.

Before leaving the walkway, he pressed the ‘Auto’ button and left boiling oil to be robotically poured upon the Inland Revenue and VAT inspectors. Water levels rose inexorably in pits containing bankers and politicians, as figures for their pensions and expenses flashed on display screens before them.

At the party, the usual daily festivities and debaucheries were in full swing. A great time was being enjoyed by everyone. Of course, all were being very careful to avoid causing offence. Today they were equals. Eternity was a long time, however, and who could tell how the balance of power might one day change?