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This is not a particularly sex-filled story, so if you’re looking for wham bam, thank you ma’am, this ain’t it. All I can promise is an ending that will make you smile, and maybe a few laughs along the way.
Sympathy for the Devil
I stood there gawking at the leggy brunette, in her skin tight, electric blue satin dress, standing tall and straight, with a clipboard cradled in the crook of her elbow. Her dress was slit far enough up on one side that I could easily make out that she was a garter and stockings kind of gal. Except, I think her stockings were actually painted on, like I’m told the ladies did during the years of rationing during World War II. Given her headful of loose curls, held in place with an adorable matching blue bow, I think 1940s pin-up girl might have been exactly the look she was going for.
But then there were the coal black Wayfarers that covered her eyes—the only anachronism in her entire ensemble. Anyway, it didn’t matter, she looked hot and she knew it. I suppose that was the point though. Looking around, I’m pretty sure everything down here was just a little bit hot.
“I’m in hell, aren’t I?” I said.
“Yes you are, dear,” she said, extending her hand. “My name is Molly.”
“What did I do, exactly? I mean, I thought I lead a pretty good life.” I cocked my head to the side and turned my eyes upward, thinking back a bit. “It wasn’t that one time in college with… oh, what was her name… um, Janet something or other—”
“Love is not a sin.” Molly laid her hand on my arm and flashed me a row of perfect pearly whites. “Besides, you’re not on my residents’ list.”
Molly lowered her Wayfarers a bit, raised her left eyebrow and looked down her nose at me. I swear I saw a bit of smoldering flame just beyond her pupils. “Permanent residents,” she said, and smirked.
Molly turned, distracted by something just past my shoulder.
“No, no, no, not over there.” She gesticulated at some small red-skinned creature with cloven hooves and a tail, but walking upright and holding a kid-sized trident, looking almost comical in his rather diminutive human-looking hands. “Listen Bob,” she said, “I know you’re new, but advertising execs have they’re own wing. I’m sure we’ve discussed this before. Down by plagiarizers, and just before you get to profiteers.”
The little red creature, Bob, stood frozen for a moment before scurrying off, brandishing his pitchfork and hissing at the wide-eyed man in a dark blue suit standing in front of him. After a few judicious pokes to the backside, the man shuffled and tripped his way over to an entrance leading to a downward flight of stairs. Sure enough, there was even a sign above it that read ‘Advertising & Marketing This Way’. Though, I’m pretty sure it was written in Sumerian or Early Aramaic. How in the hell can I suddenly read Aramaic?
I covered my mouth and snickered for a second or two.
“What?” said Molly.
“Sorry. I just realized I can read Aramaic now.”
Molly tucked her chin and glared at me over the tops of her Wayfarers. Her pupils definitely had a smolder.
“Well, it’s not that so much as… well, I was just thinking to myself, you know… Um… How in the hell can I read Aramaic.”
I snickered again. Molly didn’t move a muscle.
“You know, ’cause I’m in hell. How in the hell…”
Finally Molly straightened up, waved her hand in the air like she was shooing a fly, threw her head back, and let out a single ‘Ha’.
It sounded contrived.
“You need to get out more,” I grumbled.
“That’s exactly why you’re here, darling.” Molly flashed those pearly whites again. “I’ve got a job offer for you.”
She turned on her heel and motioned for me to follow.
* * *
“So, you see, Daddy’s fallen in love with this whole idea of social media. Says it’s the perfect vehicle to spread his message…” Molly paused. “What?”
I had been staring at Molly’s legs as she gave me her spiel. I knew it wasn’t polite, but I couldn’t help but wonder if those stockings really were painted on.
“Sorry,” I said.
“No, no.” Molly waved her hand in the air and leaned forward to rest her elbows on her office desk. She tented her fingers and rested her chin ever so gently on the peak. “Do tell.”
“Sorry, ma’am, it’s your stockings. Rather, are they actually stockings? Because, they look painted on.”
Molly stood up and smiled. She hiked her dress so far up the side that I instantly knew the brand of underwear she favored. It was called none. She sauntered over. “Do you like it? I do them myself.”
Molly gave a little half twirl and moved until her backside was close enough to kiss if I were so inclined. “I swear it took me millennia to get the seam on the back to go straight instead of looking like it was done by a drunken prison gang road striping crew.”
“Millennia?” I said.
Molly lowered her dress haramidere escort and parked her tush on the edge of her desk.
“Time moves differently here. It can be faster or slower, depending on one’s perspective… and needs.” She did that thing with her hand again, like she was shooing a fly. “As I was saying, Daddy’s off spreading his message and I’ve been left here to run the family business—”
Somewhere in the distance there was a crash and a gunshot, something that sounded like angry German, and then a string of stern insults in French. Some questioning of one’s parentage if my translation was correct. Honestly, I was better at Early Aramaic.
Molly held up a single index finger and proceeded to pick up the phone on her desk. It was red, and I think it may have been steaming just a little. She spoke in hushed tones.
“Bob,” she hissed, “Hitler’s out again.” Her mouth took a decidedly downward turn. “Yes, harassing Napoleon. … I don’t know, Bob, that’s why I hired you. Go straighten them out.”
Molly looked up again and forced a smile. “Now, where were we?”
“Right about where your dad ditched you for the dot-com boom.”
“Yes,” Molly said. “That. Oh, how do I say it? Miranda, I could use some help running the family business. I think you’d be a good candidate. You’re organized, you’re a go-getter—”
“But, I’m not a permanent resident. You said so yourself.”
“No. No, you’re not, but I was hoping you might consider staying if—”
“In hell? You want me to stay in hell? What kind of pitch is that?”
“Please Miranda, just hear me out.”
“Besides, you’ve already got Bob.”
“Precisely why I need someone like you to—”
“What in the hell, pun intended, did I do to get sent here anyway? Was it that extra bulk pack of toilet paper I bought? At the time, I honestly thought there was going to be a shortage, but looking back…”
Molly was shaking her head. I shut my mouth.
“I just need someone to help with the day to day. Nothing too taxing. And nothing cruel and unusual. I only say that because most people… Well, anyway, I hope you’ll give it some consideration. I really could use the help.”
“Was it that time I snuck a dollar out of my mother’s purse to buy candy? I was only seven years old. Does that count?”
“Really? Do kids get a free pass, like up until they’re of legal voting age or something? Because, if I’d known that—”
“It wasn’t the dollar from your mother’s purse. And if you remember correctly, you asked to get a paper route a week later so that you could earn the money to pay her back.”
I smiled. “I remember that now. My first real paycheck.”
“The point is, Miranda, while Daddy’s been gone, I’ve been taking a new approach to things around here. Are you familiar with the term restorative justice?”
I cocked my head to the side and chewed my lower lip as I searched the corners of my mind. Molly didn’t wait.
“On Earth, it’s a program where those who have done wrong are given the opportunity to make things right rather than face criminal charges. Reparation rather than incarceration. Though in my case, the stakes are a little higher.” Molly smirked.
“As in reparation rather than eternal damnation?”
“You are a quick study, Miranda. Can you see now why I’d like to hire you?”
“I guess.” I ran the fingers of my right hand through my hair and then paused to rub at a sore spot on my left wrist. I rubbed for a while.
Molly was behind me now. I could feel her warm breath on my neck as she coaxed me to rest my hands at my sides and took to rubbing my shoulders. The satin fabric of her dress made a distinctive swishing sound as her breasts pressed into me. I sighed gently. Considering her present occupation, she was actually quite gentle.
“Feels nice,” I mumbled.
Molly kept rubbing, saying nothing, but the gentle rhythm of her breathing and the magic of her fingers held my concentration.
“Are you trying to hypnotize me and get me to do your bidding?”
“‘Cause it might be working.” I heaved a sigh. “If you keep this up.”
“I don’t want to hypnotize you, Miranda. I want you to retain your free will. I want you to choose to take my offer because it suits you, rather than resorting to some Faustian trickery.”
In the distance, there was a heavy clang of metal on metal and then a long string of German curse words that culminated with ‘schweinehund’.
“Hitler’s back under wraps,” Molly said, and paused the shiatsu.
“So what would I be doing, exactly?” I said, and turned to face her. “You know, if I chose to work for you?”
“Oh, sixty to seventy percent of it is mediation and counseling. Listening. Both for the trespassers and the ones trespassed against.”
I must have given Molly a funny look. I have this habit of scrunching up my face when I’m trying to puzzle something out. Anyway, she paused to explain. And during that time, I made the rather içerenköy escort bold decision to take Molly’s hands and move them back to my shoulders, hoping she would resume her rubbing.
To my pleasant surprise, she did. And I swear I saw a slight uptick in the corners of her mouth.
“It’s an old turn of phrase,” she explained. “And a bit of a mouthful, if you ask me. I suppose a more modern interpretation might be the debts and the debtor, or offender and victim. You would listen to both sides of the story as an unbiased mediator. Help them find a middle ground. A solution that works for both of them.”
“And the other thirty percent of the job?”
“Paperwork, time sheets, expense accounting.”
I huffed as I let my shoulders drop.
“This is hell, after all, dear.” Molly grinned. “But, it’s only eight hours a day. The rest of the time is yours to do with as you please.”
“And what does one do for recreation in hell, Miss Molly?”
“Oh, we have a marvelous health club. The sauna is top notch. There’s this fabulous old contraption with a boulder you can roll uphill, for an eternity if you want. And the lava flows are quite spectacular this time of year if you’re into that.” Molly lowered her Wayfarers just a bit and leaned in. “Though personally, I enjoy spending a bit of quality time down in the advertising exec’s wing now and then, with a book full of fine print in one hand and a red hot poker in the other.”
Molly sighed just a little as she said that.
At that moment, there was an unmistakable crunch of a power chord, followed by a long howl of feedback from what sounded like a vintage Fender Stratocaster, reverberating down the hall to my eardrums.
“Oh,” Molly said, raising her index finger skyward. “I forgot to mention the house band. We’ve got a conversion therapy tonight.”
I chewed my lip.
“Probably not what you’re thinking, Miranda.” Molly laid her hand on my arm.
Rather than letting her console me, I pulled my arm away and rubbed at the sore spot on my wrist instead. Another power chord rang out.
“The conversion therapy is for the parents. Our theory is that everyone is born with an innate love for heavy metal and that some people just choose to…” Molly lowered her Wayfarers and tried to meet my gaze. “My humor’s not really working today, is it?”
“And if I’m not interested in the job offer?” I said. “Am I free to go?”
“Not exactly, dear.”
“But, you said I’m not a permanent resident.” I began rubbing the inside of my wrists again. The burning sensation had spread to both sides and the itching was driving me mad.
“Not a permanent resident. No.” I watched Molly’s shoulders slump just a bit. “But you do have your own restorative justice that needs to be addressed before you can go.”
“Well, let’s get it over with. Though, I still can’t figure out who I’ve wronged.”
To my surprise, Molly wrapped me in her arms and pulled me tightly to her chest for several seconds. It didn’t take long for me to snuggle in and nestle my head into her shoulder. She smelled faintly of brimstone, but otherwise her touch was warm and comforting. And when she finally straightened up again, I was reticent to let go.
She took my hand gently in hers and aimed us at a doorway that I swear wasn’t there just a minute ago. I shuffled along with her.
* * *
Inside, the furnishings consisted of only a table and two chairs. The table had chrome plated metal legs and a fake woodgrain laminate top, with some chips out of the corners that exposed the cheap particle board underneath. The chairs were in about the same shape with their vinyl seat coverings cracking and flaking at the corners. Over the entire length of one wall was a floor to ceiling mirror.
“It looks like a police interrogation room from some bad late night detective show,” I said.
“Everyone’s room is tailored to their needs.”
“Who’s behind the mirror?”
“No one. It’s not one-way glass, if that’s where your mind is going.” Molly shut the door and showed me to a chair.
I sat down and rubbed at my wrists under the table as I fidgeted in my seat.
“Where’s my accuser?” I asked. “The one I supposedly trespassed against.”
“It’s just us, Miranda.” Molly took the seat across from me.
“Can we trade seats?” I said. “I don’t want to look into the mirror.”
Molly shook her head. “Both parties have to be present. You have to face your victim.”
“Who’s that? You?” I leaned forward in my chair. I would have been on my feet, heading for the door, but my wrists were itching something fierce and for whatever reason, I didn’t want Molly to see. “I keep asking you what I’ve done to end up here and you keep giving me the brush off.”
Under the table, I slammed my wrists against my knees. The burning never stopped, but at least the sensation was different for a while. Molly slid her chair to the side, but said nothing. I stared at my face in the mirror and banged innovia escort at the undersides of my arms.
The image of my face in the mirror began to dissolve. It was replaced by an adolescent girl with spiky blue hair, an over-sized T-shirt and ripped jeans. I blinked. It was still me, just younger.
“This is my offense? My bad teenage fashion choices? You’ve got to be kidding me.”
Molly said nothing. The girl in the mirror struggled with a child-proof cap on a prescription bottle for a moment before dumping the contents into her hand. She slammed her hand against her mouth and turned to gulp a glass of water.
The scene in the mirror turned to mist. The girl’s mother—my mother—entered the room. She stood over the girl—me—weeping. She shook me and then pulled her phone from her pocket to dial. I didn’t have to look to know it was 911 that she called.
My face was hot. I rubbed a tear from my eye with the back of my hand before the itching of my wrists got so bad I was dragging them across the battered edge of the laminate tabletop for some distraction. The sensation was spreading up my arms.
“This can’t be it,” I said. “I told my mother I was sorry. We worked it out. I went to counseling for God’s sake. This can’t be it.”
Molly said nothing.
The image in the mirror turned to mist once again before coalescing into my face again. This time I looked to be about the same age I am now. I was reclining in the bathtub.
“Oh, for fuck’s sake,” I said. “Masturbating in the bath? That’s what I’m here for? Everybody does it. If you don’t, you go crazy and become a sexual predator or something. I’m sure of it.”
“Look closely,” Molly said.
I tried. Between dragging the insides of my arms over the edge of the table or clawing at them with my nails, I tried to discern what Molly wanted me to see.
The woman in the mirror slumped back, her head lolling to one side. I wasn’t looking at post orgasmic bliss. There was something very unnatural about her pose. Just as I was about to start slamming my arms against my knees again, I saw the blood—the blood on each arm that was oozing out of three long gashes starting at the woman’s wrists and extending halfway up her forearms—my forearms.
I looked at my own arms. “I don’t… I don’t remember that.” I looked up, but Molly was no longer sitting at the table.
She had moved around behind me. I felt her arms on my shoulders again, rubbing away the tension that had built there during this disturbing, otherworldly picture show.
I took another look at my arms under the table and watched the long, jagged scar tissue beginning to rise. “Did I…?”
“That’s my sin? Oh, shit.”
* * *
There was a knock on the door and I rolled out of bed to answer. And just like every morning, there was my favorite diminutive red-skinned demon with cloven hooves for feet and a tail with a mind of its own. He was holding a breakfast tray. “Thank you, Bob,” I said, and took the tray.
“Is that breakfast, honey?”
“Yes, Miss Molly.”
“Could you set it aside for a minute and help me with my stockings? I can never get the seam quite straight.”
I smirked, but I set the tray down and knelt behind Molly as she stood at the vanity, curling her hair. She was completely nude, unless you count the stockings she had painted on after her shower. “You told me you mastered that technique millennia ago.”
“But it’s so much better when you do it.” Molly let a lecherous grin cross her lips as she wiggled her bare ass in front of my face. I could see the smoldering of her eyes reflecting in the mirror.
“You know, Bob and I have been talking about forming a union and demanding better working conditions.” I extended my tongue and took a long, slow lick over the superbly toned skin of Molly’s right butt cheek, running dangerously close to the cleft.
“I thought you liked being my stocking girl.” Molly turned around and took my hands in hers. She coaxed me to standing and wrapped me in her arms. “You’re not a permanent resident, you know. If the working conditions are that bad—”
I silenced her with my lips on hers. And after a fierce battle of tongues, with my hands cupping her ass for several minutes, I think I convinced her I wasn’t going anywhere.
“Come on, I said, “Breakfast is getting cold.”
Molly dipped her chin and looked at me as if she were staring over the tops of her Wayfarers, a habit she had developed, I suppose. Her sunglasses were still on top of the chest of drawers next to where she hung her poker.
“Nothing really ever gets cold here, Miranda.”
I smiled and pushed Molly’s curls to one side to place my hand on the back of her neck. “Well, in that case, we’ve got plenty of time…”
I watched the corners of her mouth turning up as I leaned in to deliver my kiss.
“I’m glad you decided to stay,” she said.
“Me too.” I took Molly’s fingers in mine and led her back to the big, king-sized bed in the center of our room.
Molly says there’s a special wing for people who rate stories less than five stars.
Kidding aside, there is a riddle in the form of a song, with clues to its title woven throughout the story. If think you know what it is, post your guess in the comments.
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