One Hell Of An Offer

Modestine was aware of the gap in her memory, the section of consciousness that had been removed, and two separate events seamlessly spliced together in a non-jarring, dream jump-cut fashion.

The first partial memory was of Modestine stepping out of the shower. Her petite foot missed the rubberized shower mat by inches and instead slid along the wet tiled floor. Her vision shifted up toward the ceiling and her eyes locked on the one hundred watt energy-saving fluorescent light bulb. The next instant, at the point of the splice, she found herself standing inside a pair of pearlescent gates, waiting as patient as the lamb she was in life.

She was dead, of this there was no doubt. There was also no cause for alarm. She had no memory of either fear, pain, or the precise moment of her death. That was the portion that had been mercifully removed from her awareness, no doubt to aid in her acceptance of events.

Modestine watched the hubbub of nervous yet joyous chatter and a flurry of feathers as angels tested their wings in the air above her. They flew from structure to structure—she hesitated thinking of the impossibly tall spires as buildings because their various shapes defied her limited perceptions of architecture—getting the lay of the land. Though no one told her, she somehow knew this commotion was normal for the first day of new arrivals in Heaven.

While she waited, Modestine’s eyes drifted over to an ornate pulpit offset to the right of the gates. This, she assumed, was where the welcoming saint was supposed to have been stationed, but Peter was nowhere in sight. She noticed a few pages had fallen from the ledger on the pulpit, so she spent a little time laying the leafs out, deciding the order they should go in, and locating the exact spots in the book they had fallen from.

Finally, an angel arrived. He was tall and thin, wearing black horn-rimmed eyeglasses he obviously no longer needed. It was a remnant of his physical life that he clung to, a misconception that it was a permanent part of his appearance. A trapping that would fade in time. This was yet another thing Modestine had known without being told.

The glasses made the angel look bookwormish and out of place in their surroundings. Then she felt guilty for judging his appearance. Who was she to do this? She, who had always been short and mousy in the physical world, what her mother affectionately called the unsundertall and unassuming. She wondered what she looked like to him and if the same rules of beauty still applied here.

“Hi, I’m Modestine,” she offered a hand and a smile simultaneously.

Bookworm eyed her head to toe and back to head again, before taking her hand for two firm pumps. He opened his mouth and let out a high-pitched screeching noise, intense enough to rock her celestial molars.

Modestine, who graduated magna cum laude in never let ’em see you sweat university, replied, “Pleased to meet you,” and she tried her best to match the noise he made…but came up a little short. A lot short, actually.

Bookworm let out a burst of short laughs like a semi-automatic weapon. “Just messing with you. My name’s Phil. Welcome to Heaven!”

Modestine didn’t really get the joke but smiled anyway. “Are you here to give me the guided tour?”

“Heavens no, that’ll come later, once all this dies down. Saint Peter sends his apologies, by the way…”

“Oh, that’s no problem at all.”

“I’m here to take you to class,” Phil said and with a single flap of his wings, shot into the sky.

“Oh, okay.” Modestine imitated Phil’s action and was understandably a little unsteady on her wings, but through sheer determination managed to keep up.

Phil led her past fields of flora and fauna, the likes of which she could never have dreamed existed and finally into a structure that housed a vast amphitheater that was unmistakably set up like a classroom. Packed to capacity, its seats were filled with the most grotesque and vile creatures imaginable.

“Here you are,” Phil gestured in the direction of the amphitheater and was about to fly off.

“Wait! Wait!” Modestine caught his forearm and pulled him down to eye level. “Where do I sit?”

“At the podium, where else?” Even in Heaven, the duh-look carried a sting.

“What? Why?”

“Don’t tell me no one let you know?” Phil looked at the class with his best can you believe some people look. “You’re a teacher, right? Or were, before, you know…”

Modestine nodded, “Underprivileged kids. Twelve years.”

“Well…” Phil swept his arm in the direction of the class as if to answer.

“Oh, no…no way. I’m not qualified for this. I barely know what I’m doing here.”

“The information will present itself as you need it. Heaven’s cool that way.”

“But, this class…” Modestine whispered. “Not to be rude but what are they?”

“Our version of underprivileged students. They’re bussed in every day.”

“From Hell?”

“We tend not to use that term in front of the students. We call it The Basement.” Phil checked the invisible watch on his bare wrist. “Well, I’d love to stay and chat, but I’ve gotta run. Too many new recruits and not enough ushers. You’ll be great. I’ve got a feeling about you.” he smiled and shot into the sky, leaving Modestine’s jaw swinging on its hinges.

The once and now future teacher straightened out her ethereal robe, cleared her throat, turned, and faced the class. “Pleased to meet you, class. My name is Modestine. Welcome to Introduction to Heaven.” The name she took off the lesson booklet on the podium. The completely blank lesson booklet. Beside it was the roster. “Hopefully you’re all in your assigned seats because it’s the only way I’m going to learn your names with a class this size.”

Modestine went through the attendance sheet and called her students one by one, each responding with a grunt or bodily noise that she assumed translated as “Present!” When she completed her check, surprisingly every student sat quietly or whispered inaudibly to their neighbor.

“Well, class, as some of you might have figured out, I’m new here, but don’t let that stop you from asking questions. My goal is to teach you everything about heaven, which means I’ll be learning it as you do, and if I don’t know an answer to your question, I’ll do my best to find out as quickly as possible. Today, though, I’m going to outline my expectations of you, and how you’ll be graded.”

The time passed swifter than Modestine had anticipated. Quite frankly she was surprised to be aware of the passing of time at all. For the most part, her students were orderly. A few class clowns, but nothing she couldn’t handle. She’d straighten them out before the course was over.

The entire class watched her closely, she never felt so scrutinized before, and a good deal of the period was spent answering questions about Earth. It wasn’t long before she realized these students were born in Hell, and Earth was like some mythical place to them. When the earth questions began dying down, she introduced several ice-breaking games before the class broke for recess.

As the class filed out of the amphitheater, some by flight, a few in a puff of eye-watering brimstone, and the rest on cloven feet, one student hung back.

“Miss Modestine,” the young demon said when all the others had left.

“Just Modestine, and yes?” she searched the attendance sheet for the section he came from, hoping one of the names would jog her memory.

The demon shook his head. “You won’t find me on your list. I’m not one of your students.”

“You’re not? Then who…?”

“Many names have I, from those who live and those who die, but for you, I wish to be known as Mister Thatch.”

Modestine frowned, looking down at this creature who straighten itself in an odd regality. “All right, Mr. Thatch, what is it you want?”

Thatch pulled a file folder from seemingly nowhere and opened it. “Interesting session today. I’m assuming you taught the class off the cuff, as I am unable to identify any of what was discussed in the pre-approved syllabus, correct?”

“As I stated at the beginning of class, this assignment was thrust upon me at the last moment, so if you have any objections…”

“No, please, you mistake my meaning. I’m not here to condemn you, I was simply assessing your performance. It’s what I was hired to do.”

“By whom?”

“Your superiors would call them Basement Management.”

“And do my superiors know you’re here?”

“They should. It would make for a shoddy operation if they didn’t. Now, as to my assessment,” he pulled a document from his folder, stapled in the top left-hand corner. “Here is an offer from my employers for you to teach your course to a larger audience of underprivileged students. Please study it carefully and feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns. Please be aware that agreement to the terms as stipulated in the contract will require you to abandon your post here. Out of curiosity, are you willing to relocate?”

Modestine stared dumbstruck at the professionally worded document in her hands. An immediate and instant “No” rested on the tip of her tongue but never quite made it past her lips, because, in her quick scan, she found a list of perks that tickled each and every one of her many interests, as any temptation worth its salt should have done.

“I’ll need to read this more closely, Mr. Thatch, before I can respond, of course.”

“Of course. I think you’ll find the compensation quite reasonable. If you have questions, you may summon me at any time. We have high expectations and we’re positive you can fulfill them, Miss Modestine.”

“Just Modestine, and why me?”

“You’re new and, as yet, unjaded by the caste system. We look forward to working with you,” Thatch held out a hand, which Modestine took. It was remarkably soft, despite its texture. “Enjoy the rest of your day.”

Modestine watched as the demon simply evaporated from the room. She looked at the contract. Am I willing to relocate? she asked herself as she walked over to her desk, sat, and read the agreement more thoroughly.

Again, she found it difficult to verbalize the word No. Chiefly because she loved working with underprivileged students and they didn’t come more disadvantaged than the denizens of The Basement. The second reason was she’d always preferred warmer climates and there was an odd constant chill to the air in Heaven.

29 responses to “One Hell Of An Offer

  1. Can you imagine being so good at your job that Hell wants to steal you away from Heaven with a better offer? My only question is did you make the deal with the devil in order to be such a remarkable storyteller?😂

    Liked by 4 people

    • With the economy the way it is, I’d gladly accept any job offer at the moment. And, Cuca, if I penned a deal with the devil, you’d best be damned sure that I’d yearly be pushing out Harry Potter-style novels like an Eastern cottontail rabbit’s litter and raking in that sweet book/movie/merchandising moolah…and I’d have the common sense to keep my opinions to myself in order to avoid offending my revenue-producing fanbase.

      Liked by 4 people

  2. This is a great tale, well told! And Modestine’s deal might not be such a bad one if Shakespeare was right when he said, ‘Hell is empty, all the devils are here.’

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I wouldn’t want to be in Modestine’s shoes at all. Can you imagine the lack of sleep she must’ve had that night?! To be offered a better position from Beelzebub himself because of your work ethic and competency and then have to weigh Heaven against Hell, and make a decision . . . No, thank you.

    This is awesome, Rhyan! Another great tale from you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know this comment isn’t going to fly well with a lot of folks but I would imagine that nothing in existence is absolutely black and white. There have to be downsides to heaven for some people and upsides to hell for others, especially for someone with a giving nature who’s made her life’s work helping to educate underprivileged young minds. If that rests in the core of her being, does it evaporate from her soul once she sheds her fleshy container? They say if you love what you do you never work a day in your life and I would imagine the “good place” afterlife being filled with people doing what they love to do.

      I could go on about this ad infinitum but I don’t want to bore you. Thank you, trE, as always for the read and comment!

      Liked by 2 people

  4. What an interesting quandary and an exploration of free will that still exists in heaven. Imagine weighing the decision of whether it’s better to teach your own Masterclass in Hell than follow the syllabus in Heaven.

    Another topnotch job and a head scratcher for sure, Rhyan!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Would I accept the contract? Of course. Why? Because it’s worthless. An Infernal contract is nothing more than a certificate of gullibility, signed with the DNA of the holder. Any real “deal with the Devil”, can always be broken with prayer. He’s powerful, sure, and frightening, but he’s mostly just a weak bully, who gets beaten every Easter Vigil, with the Renewal of Baptism. Interesting food for thought though!

    Liked by 1 person

    • This one’s a toughie, Peri. Having been granted eternal bliss only to succumb to the temptation of a hellishly better offer only to change your mind and want to take the elevator back up to the penthouse suite might require more than a few “Our Fathers” and “Hail Marys.” The penance you’d need to perform might just make it worth your while to stay put and sleep in the bed of your own making.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Noooobody prays the way I pray…..much stronger than all the Hail Marys and Our Fathers and rosary beads combined! It’ll get me back in, I guarantee it!

        Liked by 1 person

      • I’ll have to take your word for it, Peri…but if you do take the deal and wind up in The Basement, can you do me a favor and swing by a couple of my friends and check in on them. I just want to make sure they’ve got the place all set up for my eventual arrival. Cheers!

        Liked by 1 person

  6. First, Modestine–totally cool name. Second, I think I’d definitely NOT take the offer to transfer to the basement. You see, my dad and several of my ex-girlfriends would be there, and I went through enough hell on earth with them, so yeah, no thanks! Not even for the MLB package on hell’s version of DirecTV! 😀 You keep knocking these tales outta the park, Rhyan. I wish I knew why I haven’t been receiving updates from your blog (WordPress being weird?). Anyway, I really enjoyed this one. So glad you’re still cranking ’em out. Well done, good sir! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow, for some bizarre reason you aren’t showing up on my radar and I totally missed this comment. My notifications have been dodgy since the site upgrade, I’ll have to look into that. Hell isn’t a place for everyone, just reprobates like me. Cheers for the read and comment, Mike!

      Liked by 1 person

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