WORK EXPERIENCE

by

Jennifer Hor Email: jennyhor2004@yahoo.com.au

Story Length: 4,606 words © Jennifer Hor 2011

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This was the first time his secretary had referred a phone call from a school student to him since he established this hellish business thousands of years ago. "Hello, Devil speaking," he growled in his best professional/most sinister voice, "how may I be of assistance to you?" "Mr Devil?" a female voice piped through, "my name's Angie White and I'm in Year 10 at St Agnes High. I'm inquiring as to whether there's any possibility I could do my week's work experience in Hell." "1 beg your pardon? You want to do a week's work experience in Hell?" He gulped and his voice dissolved into its usual pleasant tone. "Why don't you ask your local bank or hospital or government institution instead? You don't need to come to Hell to experience Hell, you know." He leaned back in his armchair and chuckled at his little joke while tiny clouds of poisonous gases puffed from the chair's upholstery. "Oh but I really want to see Hell for myself and how it operates. And I've already got relatives who work in banks, hospitals and the public service who say they'd rather work in Hell if it exists and I know Hell exists because 1 saw the website." "Website? What website?" "Hell's website. With all the phone and address details." "Oh, right." He got his pad and scribbled a note to speak to the IT manager. Website? He was sure he had not yet given IT any authorisation to establish a website for Hell on the Internet. "Well, er - sure, if you're really keen to see how Hell works, you're welcome to come to Hell for a week. We've never had school students visit here before so you'll have to tell me what your teachers expect of you and of us." "Well, I have to watch what goes on and help out with simple jobs under supervision if they're not dangerous," Angie explained, "and people just explain what kinds of things they do. Would I be able to see you tomorrow after school? I'll bring some forms along. There's a guide for employers and a form for you to sign."

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"Hm, let me see." He looked at his diary. "Yes, you can come tomorrow after school. I've got a free afternoon. Just tell the receptionist at the front desk when you get here and she'll buzz my secretary. You know how to get here?" "Yes, I've got the address and the instructions off the Internet." "All right. See you tomorrow afternoon." "Thanks, Mr Devil. I'll see you tomorrow." He put down the receiver, picked it up again and dialled the IT manager's number. "Yes?" came a raspy demon's voice. "Devil here. I've just had a school-kid ring up and tell me we already have a website on the Internet with our phone and address details. What's going on down there? I don't remember giving the OK for a website. There are still minor things we have to work on. Now we'll probably get all kinds of idiots calling my secretary and wanting to speak to me." "But sir, we already have your signed authorisation saying we could set up the website and .r "WHAT?!" "- well, if I remember correctly, when you signed the document, you looked as if you had a hangover .» "Oh." He remembered. That was after the celebratory lunch marking the billionth soul registered in Hell. "Damn!"

The girl was sitting in the second armchair in front of his desk, gazing at the enormous reproductions of Bosch paintings that completely covered the walls and the ceiling, and at the equally over-the-top furnishings with their swirling lava patterns in which tiny skulls with contorted expressions of anguish and terror could be seen. He read the form and "The Employer's Guide to Work Experience," sneaking a glance at the girl every now and again to

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see how she might be reacting to her surroundings, though since she was wearing a gas mask, he couldn't tell if her eyes were wide because of fright, awe or just amazement. His curiosity got the better of him. "Have you ever been in an office like this before?" "No," she said. Then, as if she guessed why he asked: "I think your office is great, Mr Devil. It looks so scary, so creepy! Yeah, I really like it." His jaw dropped. He remembered his manners and clamped his mouth shut before she saw the discoloured razor-taloned teeth in there. "Ah - well- thank you, that's - that's very nice," he quickly mumbled and went back to reading the forms. They talked about what was in the forms and he signed them and gave them back to her, keeping his employer's guide. "All right, you'll be checking in at 8.45am next Monday with the receptionist and she'Illet my secretary know," he said, "and then the secretary will bring you here again. What I'll do on Monday is take you on a tour of Hell, or most of it anyway, and we'll see if you want to continue from there. Hell's a big place so it can be overwhelming but don't worry, we're very experienced at making souls feel at home because for all of them, it is their home." Angie chuckled inside the gas mask. "Thanks, Mr Devil. I'm looking forward to next Monday." He escorted her back to reception. "You'll be OK going home?" "I'll be fine, thanks." She strapped her miner's helmet over her gas mask. "Bye, Mr Devil." He watched her clomp through the front door in heavy boots and enter the elevator that had brought her to Hell. Gutsy kid for her age, he thought, she'll go far. When was the last time he had a visitor like that? When was the last time Hell had a human visitor at all? He turned to the receptionist. "Where's our visitor's book?" he asked, "I just want to see when we last had a human visitor."

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"I've worked here for over five hundred years and that girl was the first live human I've ever met in my life," the receptionist said in a shaky voice, "and I was so scaredmeeting a real live human! I don't think I've ever been so frightened in all my life!"

At 8.45am on Monday, Angie, already in full visiting safety gear, arrived in his office. He got up. "Ready for the tour, Angie?" "Ready, sir!" They went to Administration first as it was on the same level as his office. Angie noticed the different colour scheme and surroundings. "Everything's in black, grey and white! And - well, the whole place just looks like an office! "She looked down at the grey carpet. "Those cute little furry monster bears lined up along the wall - what are they for?" "Those? The Administration Manager likes to collect them, that's all. As for the colour scheme, the demons who work here chose the colours they felt comfortable with. Everyone who works in Hell is allowed some say in their work surroundings. And I encourage individual self-expression as long as it's reasonable. The Administration Manager also likes full-sized monster toy bears but there's no way they'll fit in here. Hey, be careful if you want to touch those little bears, they can bite." He introduced her to the Administration Manager and the three of them exchanged small talk. Then the Devilled Angie through a grid-like labyrinth formed by desks, cabinets, piles of folders, pes and more small furry monster toys. "Every soul that comes to Hell has to register with the Registrations Department," he explained, "and the clerks there set up a file for the soul and it comes down here for storage and updating. The soul goes on to Determinations and then Executions and those departments have to advise Administration everything that happens to it: the nature of the evil the soul has committed, the punishments inflicted on it, how long the soul suffers, what the punishments do to it - everything is sent

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here and the clerks record it all onto the file. That's the main work. Then there are other things the clerks here do - every six months they collect statistics on the punishments carried out and analyse them so we know what punishments are being used most often over a certain period and which ones seem to be most effective so we can let Executions know. The clerks here also do activity audits around the departments. Yes. We have files here that are over a thousand years old," he said proudly, "and those are for souls whose sins are so great they have to suffer punishment forever. I'm sure you can guess who those might be!" Angie thought for a while. "Mass murderers?" "Yes, those certainly - and also those leaders who send their soldiers to fight useless wars that involve slaughter and suffering, and those who stir up others to torture and kill in the name of religion or patriotism or some other belief. Any killing is evil but we have punishments that fit the crime depending on why it was done and other circumstances. Well, all sinful souls must pass through Registrations so let's go there for a look." They took the lift to an upper floor which resembled an alien planet with pink skies and orange and green clouds, and the Devil showed Angie the endless rows of booths where demon clerks were' processing the applications of souls waiting to enter Hell. Queues of souls stretched into the far distance. "The clerks work in shifts so the booths are always operating 24 hours a day, every day," the Devil said, "and the clerks organise these shifts themselves. As you can see though, there's a huge demand for our unique services." Angie observed the bustling activity. "How do the clerks know who's done what evil?" "Ah, they don't! They just do the applications, create the files and send the souls onto Determinations. They also take turns keeping the queues in order and attend to any soul who's either upset or angry at being here." "What happens when the souls go to Determinations then?" Angie asked.

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"I'll take you down there," he replied. They took the lift to a different level and he led her through a long, long corridor. On each side of the corridor were small rooms with doors and observation panels. Angie peered through one panel and saw three demons sitting at one side of a desk talking to a soul sitting at the other side. "What are they doing?" "In each and everyone of these rooms, there's a panel of three demons interviewing a soul as to the nature of its crimes," the Devil said, "and the demons determine from the soul's replies what punishments apply." "How do the demons know if the souls are telling the truth?" "Well. all the souls that come here have committed some evil so they've all got something to hide," he said, "and my demons are all trained in sophisticated questioning techniques and they can all read body language and detect changes in the soul's voice. The interviews can go on for hours. The demons tell the souls that all our punishments are equally painful and horrible but they never tell them how long they must suffer, that's very important! The souls must not be able to anticipate an end to their punishments! That's not to say that our panels don't make mistakes or miss something. We do have back-up systems that uncover further sins which Determinations may not have picked up; for example, when the souls are being punished, any cries they make are recorded and analysed for any further confessions they might make." "And do the demons here also work shifts?" "They do. I should have said that all the departments have shifts. Everything is operating round the clock. We try to ensure that any soul that comes here never has to wait longer to be attended to than is necessary. Though waiting to be punished is a good punishment in itself. Hell is a never-ending concern. No public holidays here!" the Devil chuckled.

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They went to another lift and rode several levels down to Executions, the largest and busiest department in Hell, encompassing nine vast floors. On one floor, they watched souls drowning in burning lava pools; on a second floor, they watched souls in honeycomb chambers being alternately frozen and blasted by searing temperatures as demons manipulated levers and switches; on a third floor, they watched souls being crushed in monstrous jaws packed with fine needles; on a fourth floor, they saw souls being divided into tinier and tinier units by demons wielding scalpels. "Don't fret too much," he told Angie, "every soul that comes here deserves what it gets. No need to feel sorry or upset! We deal out the ultimate justice if that's any consolation to you." They continued to tour Executions and then Angie looked at her watch. "It's one o'clock already," she said, "no wonder I feel hungry."

They rejoined at two

0' clock

and he took her to the Engineering and Design

department where demons worked on designing, making and improving the tools, machines and other equipment for punishing and obliterating souls. They watched demons busy at work in the repair section and demons in the recycling section sorting out scrap materials and putting them in furnaces or through special machines to create new raw materials. Then the Devil took Angie back to Administration and showed her the classification section where demons worked at classifying sins and punishments and determined which punishments were appropriate for which sins. He showed her the archives section which was arranged like a vast supermarket with rows upon rows of tiny boxes containing the remains of punished souls and their closed files. Overhead, music that was excruciatingly bland wafted. "Not much remains of the souls when their allotted punishments are completed and their files are closed," the Devil said, "we keep them for ten years and then we pass them on to Heaven after culling."

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"Heaven? Why do you do that?" "Well, they want them up there. I'm not sure why - I haven't been up to Heaven for thousands of years and as you can guess, God, or rather, the Chief Angel and I don't get on. I imagine the good souls want to know what's happened to their friends and relatives who didn't make the grade so to speak so the angels need to have something to demonstrate what goes on down here." "Hmm - I wonder what happens to the souls of people who don't believe in Heaven or Hell," Angie said. "Oh, those - they go to a place called Oblivion if they're atheists. The being who runs Oblivion does very well, I hear. I've never been there myself but some of my demons went there for a seminar and they said it's run very simply - the souls just disappear into a huge void. And there are other places besides Oblivion." By the time the left Archives, the afternoon was getting late so they went back to his office. "Overwhelming, eh?" the Devil grinned, "what do you think of it all?" "It's a lot more complicated than I thought," Angie said, "I just thought you had people burning here and that was that. I never realised there was a lot of paperwork involved." "And, er - do you like it down here?" "It's great," she replied, "I'm looking forward to coming back here tomorrow." He had to control his jaw very hard; the muscles in his face were forced to twitch at awkward angles. "Well, in that case - we'd better talk about what you'll be doing tomorrow." So, after some discussion, they agreed that the next day she would spend the morning sitting with someone in Registrations and the afternoon in Determinations; Wednesday she would spend in Executions; Thursday she would spend in Engineering and Design; and Friday she would spend in Administration. Each morning his secretary would take her down to the relevant department.

t,

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After Angie left for the day, the Devil phoned all the department managers of the departments where the girl was to go to arrange for staff to mentor Angie. To his surprise, the managers all nominated demons to mentor the girl. He put the phone down after making all the arrangements and mused, "Well, we haven't had any human visitors for over five hundred years ... I suppose everyone's excited at seeing a real live human ... "

He didn't see Angie for the next three days apart from Thursday lunch-time when he went down to the canteen for a snack and saw her sitting with a group of demons. He waved to her and she waved back. She seemed happy. And the memos he got at the end of those three days from the various departments indicated as much: from Registrations - "Cheerful, quick at learning basic tasks, likes to talk to new clients"; from Determinations - "Keen observer, asks lots of questions, interested in what goes on"; from Executions - "Curious about how we carry out the punishments"; from Engineering and Design - "Gets on well with everyone, very enthusiastic about what we do. Shows aptitude for designing equipment." He was pleasantly surprised. "She could be useful here," he told his secretary, "if we weren't" limited to hiring only demons and other supernatural beings. What would the unions say if we started hiring humans?" It wasn't until Friday afternoon, when she was sitting in his office with half an hour to go before work experience was officially over, that he was able to find out what she thought of Hell and whether she was happy. "Oh, I enjoyed every moment of it," she enthused, "it was scary at times but I really enjoyed being here. I'd like to come back and work here if it's at all possible!" Not only did his jaw drop, revealing all his shocking teeth, but his eyes nearly bulged right out of their sockets, revealing the networks of blood vessels. "You do?!"

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She didn't flinch at the sight of him. "It's a great place you have here, Mr Devil. Everybody here is really helpful and happy. They told me how they rotate among the different jobs in each department so they all do something different and never get bored, they're always learning something new. And sometimes they swap workers with different departments so demons can understand how other areas work and how all the work they do helps everybody else in HelL And they like having flexibility in organising their work and their free time. Plus there's always a job that suits a demon's personality and the Personnel demons try to find jobs that suit the demons." "Ah, yes," he said, catching his breath, "it's very important to me that Hell's a good place for my demons. Otherwise they'd all desert me and work for Oblivion or some other place. Anyway, I'm pleased to hear that you enjoyed your time here. My managers have told me that you were very enthusiastic about what we do." He picked up a piece of paper and wrote an assessment of Angie's work experience based on the memos before him and Angie's comments. ''That's for your teachers," he said, handing her the sheet, "and I suppose next Monday you'll be back at school hard at work?" "Yeah," she said, putting the sheet away, "I have to write an essay about what I've done here and give it to the teacher and then it's back to schoolwork as usual." "And may I ask what plans you might have in the future when you've finished school?" "Gee, that's a long way off - I've got two years and a bit to go at school. I haven't thought about it much. I'd like to go to uni, I'd like to go into advertising. If you have any job openings for humans in two years, I'd like to work here." "Well, at present, union regulations limit me to hiring only demons and other supernatural beings but the situation may change in the next five or seven years," the Devil said, "Hell's short of staff in several departments and as long as humans keep sinning and

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committing evil, we'll never run out of clients. Plus we ought to start thinking about setting up a public relations area down here, improve Hell's image, let humans know what we're really all about ... we have to keep up with the times." He escorted Angie to the reception area and then shook hands. "Good luck in whatever you decide to do, Angie." "Thanks for everything, Mr Devil! Goodbye!" And the girl put on her miner's helmet and clomped out to the elevator shaft with a small furry monster toy in tow.

Three weeks later he got a phone call from the Chief Angel in Heaven. "What are you running down there, Devil?!" the voice yelled down the line. Bits of lightning were being spat out by the ear-piece so the Devil had to hold out the receiver at arm's length. "I've got a revolt up here! All the junior and middle ranks of angels have threatened to walk out on us if they don't get what your demons have got - job rotations, job sharing, flexible work hours, a recreation centre, plus a 15% pay rise! And the angels want all this in the next two weeks! Two weeks! How can I do everything in two weeks? And God's off somewhere in the far universe tied up with creating a new galaxy and won't be back for another month!" "Well, you just have to talk to the union," the Devil replied, "I can't help you with your staff problem. I warned you thousands of years ago that you can only push angels so far on measly wages and a work hierarchy that doesn't recognise individual achievement and initiative and which rewards angels only on the basis of seniority and who sings the loudest. As they say, you reap what you sow," "I didn't call to be lectured," the voice snarled, "there's one thing I want to know from you, Devil. Did you have a school-kid on work experience in the last two months?" He remembered Angie. "Yes, I did. A kid called Angie. Cute kid."

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"1 don't care if she was cute or had teeth like yours! She's written an essay for her teachers saying she had a great week's work experience in Hell and wants to work there one day! The nuns fainted when they saw what she wrote! And the kid's told her relatives and her guardian angle! And the guardian angel's told all the junior and middle-ranked angels! So they all know what your demons are getting down there and that you need more staff! That's why I've got a riot on my hands! The angels are all ready to leave Heaven and apply for jobs in Hell if they don't get what they want!" "As 1 said before, you have to negotiate with the angels' union," the Devil said wearily, "and as for the kid, it's not my business to tell humans not to blab things about Hell to your representatives. And I'm not reorganising my workforce for your convenience if that's what you really want me to do. I don't tell you how to run Heaven." "Are you taking on any more school-kids for work experience?" "That's none of your business," he snapped, "if you haven't got anything interesting to talk about, get off the phone. I'm a busy Evil Being down here. I've got to discuss with my IT and Personnel Managers a job advert to recruit twelve thousand new workers in Registrations and Determinations which we're going to put on our website and then _" "Website?" "Don't you know? Hell's got a website on the Internet." "Internet? Website? What are you talking about? What's the Internet anyway?" "Don't tell me you don't know - oh, for Heaven's sake!" And the Devil slammed down the phone.

Ten years after his final conversation with the Chief Angel, he was the happiest Evil Being in the universe.

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He was standing on a balcony overlooking the new third level of Registrations. Below him, as far as his eyes (aided by a telescope) could see, stretched endless rows of booths where demon and angel clerks alike were processing the applications of newly arrived souls. Between the rows of booths, conveyor belts took the souls to the lifts that would transport them to Determinations. Overhead, helicopters transported angels and demons to booths to replace their co-workers who would fly or climb up rope-ladders to the helicopter to be flown to a much-needed rest. Somewhere in the pink-hued distance, the Devil knew that souls were still arriving and sitting in the new waiting areas where they could read newspapers, watch Hell's promotional videos, play computer games or listen to music. He left the balcony and went back down the corridor to the lift which took him to the newly refurbished Determinations. He walked through a new corridor flanked on both sides by rooms where panels of angels and demons interviewed souls in airconditioned and piped music comfort. He passed two angels coming down the corridor, exchanged greetings with them and smiled. Yes! Thanks to the income from the business his vastly expanded workforce had brought when all the junior and middle-ranked angels had left Heaven and flocked to Hell to fill the twelve thousand vacancies, he had finally been able to get his teeth cleaned, bleached, filed, polished and varnished. Now he could smile and laugh and show off his teeth like never before. Wonder how the Chief Angel's been coping, he thought idly, maybe I should ... His pager beeped. "Mr Devil, you have a meeting with the Marketing and IT Managers in another fifteen minutes," the secretary's voice reminded him through the audio piece. 'Thanks, I'm on my way." He hurried back down the corridor past the angels to the lift that sped him back to his office. The Bosch paintings had been relocated to reception and in their place on the ceilings and walls were huge glass panels of swirling red liquids in which

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minuscule computerised globules flashing vivid green, yellow and purple floated and emitted tiny high-pitched screams. He picked up a remote control and pressed the volume button; the screams died away. He sat down at his desk and began to browse through the folder the secretary had placed there. She came into his office a few minutes later. ''The managers have just arrived. Shall I bring them in?" "Yes, I'll see them now." While the secretary was fetching the managers, he thought of the time five years ago when the unions representing the angels and demons had finally agreed after numerous talks that Hell could start hiring humans in its new Marketing Department on the grounds that the new positions required frequent contact with not-yet-dead humans. Besides which, none of the angels and the demons knew anything about public relations and advertising. The door opened and in walked the IT and Marketing Managers. The Marketing Manager was wearing a gas mask. A small furry monster toy followed close by.

"Ah, hello. I've just been going through some of the proposals for the online
competition for a new logo for Hell." The Devil offered the managers chairs. As they sat down, he took his own seat in front of them. He could see the Marketing Manager's name tag pinned to her uniform: "Angie White/Manager, Marketing".

END