No Soul or Hot Coal | H. B. O'Neill
This guest story is brought to you by H. B. O'Neill find more of his work at https://hboneill.com/blog
The Devil returns from a long day making deals and collecting souls, but along the way to his keep he manages to unwittingly drop one… yours. Years later you arrive in Hell, but since the Devil doesn’t know where your soul is, he can’t manipulate or punish you. You’re just kind of… there.
Right result! All this hell and not one hint of Hell’s hellish horror. Not for me at least. I should own up really –
“Sorry Satan mate, you must have made an error – I’m here for an eternity of torture and damnation too. It’s all a little bit awkward – I seem to have somehow slipped through the net – I guess you have a lot of bureaucracy to cope with? Anyway, I’m really embarrassed and hope I haven’t caused you too much inconvenience. I feel terrible getting away with it – it’s not fair on all these others hopping about on the hot coals and steaming through their ears. Poor sinners. Surely I can just join in?”
Hmm, I could say that. Do the honourable thing. But I won’t of course. Honourability isn’t the Number One character criteria required around here. And to be honest (again a minority trait in such surrounds) I think it’s rather apt. I was tricked.
Well, maybe tricked is too strong a word (and I guess that’s probably what they all say down here – “I didn’t mean to sell it, honest!”) Misled might be a better word perhaps. Or mildly duped. He caught me at my weakest you see – it was January and I was down the gym. A fat-free lycra clad lunatic was screaming in my ear – “No pain no gain!” It’s true – I was paying him £65 an hour and he was simply screeching clichés. Christmas was over, the New Year had brought no riveting revelation, I was handing over money in return for verbal abuse and now here was Beelzebub grinning by the water cooler.
He slyly offered me an extra strong mint and said he could arrange a barbell incident. We agreed personal trainers were the slugs of the universe – profiting from misery, sloth and self-loathing. Then he put his arm round my shoulder, told me my gut wasn’t that big and said I shouldn’t allow anyone to poke it and make fun. Especially at such an exorbitant rate. I agreed a barbell wrap would be rather apt. We shook hands, I signed his soul-raider agreement and that was that. I was wearing a sly smile as I slunk back to V-shaped Victor who was tapping his watch and waiting by the Ab Excruciator machine.
I read about his demise a week later in the local paper. He’d made the front page –Popular Personal Trainer Pumps His Last. Popular? Anyway, it turned out he’d been bench-pressing a copious amount of iron when his spotter had suddenly tickled him. That was according to the only eye-witness – an octogenarian dentist preparing for his fourth wedding this decade. The teeth-fixer had gone on to reveal that the red-dressed man who had caused the giggle that led to the drop that had crushed the skull had subsequently enjoyed a quick cackle then swiftly slinked away. The dentist had also sworn a tail was worn but that part of his description was given little prominence.
And now, thirty-three years later, deceased and descended, here I am. Here we are. Me and He reunited. But he’s a lot less friendly these days – thinks I’ve cheated him somehow. Shafted the system or some such. It’s not my fault he lost my soul – probably dropped it somewhere between the weights room and the sauna – he’d had a lot to carry that day – I wasn’t the only one wishing ill on others. January is the big month for depression and melancholy – self-pity and such like – he was making promises right, left and centre. Serves him right for being greedy if he lost one. And his loss is definitely my gain. I’m untorturable down here – you can’t twist the soul that can’t be located. And if you’re not being tormented it’s like a posh weather-guaranteed all-inclusive.
He stares at me almost all the time. He’s scowling at me now. Does it incessantly. Even whilst he’s prodding his trident up the orifices of some well-known celebrity. Their discomfort is obviously not enough if I’m not suffering too. It’s all seems rather uncharitable and I’m sure he’d be happier if he could just let it go. I don’t know why he’s so aggrieved anyway – he’s the one who messed up the invite. Surely it’s a bit churlish of him to resent my good fortune? I take another bite of my choc-ice, lean back in the deckchair and give him a cheery thumbs up.
‘Remember me Guv’nor? It’s great down here innit?’
It is as well, I’m not joking – if you’re exempt from the horrors then it’s a happy place to be. I try and engage him in conversation again.
‘You been down the gym lately? If you do go again, remember this when you’re loitering by the cooler – I’ve reworked the mantra, here it is – “No pain… NO PAIN! Just like this place!” I’m pleased with that one and watch as his furious face becomes even redder.
I finish my ice cream and allow myself my own little cackle.
H. B. O'Neill is a London born Writer and Performer. He is a prize-winning poet and short story writer, a screenwriter, playwright and author. To see more of his works check out https://hboneill.com