Two hundred feet below the earth a dark figure stood in a black Italian suit, waiting. His shirt was black silk and his tie crimson, just for fun. It wasn’t a color he particularly liked, but it he thought it expected of him. He did not like to wait. Someone was going to be disciplined. The door slid open with the whoosh of an airlock. The blast of warm air hit his face and he closed his eyes with the pleasure of it. The girl behind the door dropped the papers in her arms when she saw him. The look on her pretty face went from concerned to terrified when she saw who had triggered the door.
“I am very sorry …uh…uh,” said the young woman. “Boss will do,” he said.
“We weren’t expecting you. I certainly hope you haven’t been waiting long.” She nervously pushed her shiny blond hair out of her eyes and stooped to pick up the papers. As she bent over, he noticed that her blouse was too tight and far too low-cut for the usual office.Perfect. Just the way he liked it. Perhaps he could overlook her sloth for now. Forgiveness wasn’t really in his vocabulary, but there was always time for discipline.
“I just pop in sometimes to check on things. I am sure you’ve been told,” he said. “Well no. I... I’m new. I never thought I’d get to meet….” She stared at the stone floorvisibly shaking.
“Aren’t you the lucky girl.” He flashed her a devastating smile. “I came to watch the Big Board of Bargains.” The girl did not move at all, but stood shivering, her eyes on the floor. “Won’t you have the story to tell,” he said, his laughter rang off the stone walls. She flinched at the sound. “Most people in your section never have the honor of making my actual acquaintance. Continue on, I know the way.” He laughed again as he watched her run down the hall, stiletto heels machine-gun clicking on the black marble floor.
As the boss walked down the long corridor, the fact that his two thousand dollar Italian leather shoes made no sound on the polished stone, pleased him. He passed by door after door until the corridor ended in another airlock. He spoke into the small microphone uttering a single word, “open.” Somewhere a voice identifying mechanism clicked and the door slid open. The room was far larger than the size of the door indicated. Fifty chairs in a single row sat in front of a lighted map. In each chair sat a person with a headset talking into a microphone. The acoustics in the room were perfect, the fifty voices merely a soft murmur. As the boss walked into the room first one, then another of the seated persons saw him and stood. When all were standing, which took less than a minute, someone started clapping until all fifty clapped and cheered.
The boss smiled. This time, the smile he unleashed had a slightly humble taint, he thought. Like he was capable of humility. That thought made him laugh out loud and the clapping stopped abruptly. The sound of his laughter produced terrified looks on fifty faces simultaneously. “Go on about your business. Instructions must be given, bargains offered and contracts must be signed.” The fifty returned to their chairs and continued. He walked over to stand in front of the screen.
In front of him, one hundred feet high in vivid color, a map of the world spread across a wall that seemed to rise upward without end. Millions of tiny dots of light in white, red and green covered the continents. The dots blinked and changed color. When a new dot appeared, cheers pierced the sea of murmurs. As the boss stood in front of the screen studying it, his smile widened. He loved the Big Board of Bargains. Technology was so much fun. He could watch eternal damnation in real time.
The boss snapped his fingers. A young man in a gray suit at the end of the line of chairs hurried to his side. “Yes sir, Boss. What can I do for you?” He did not dare make eye contact, but kept his eyes on the floor.
“Your name?” said the boss.
“Carson, Sir,” said the fair-skinned man whose hair was so light as to have almost no color at all.
“Well, Carson, I’d like to make one of these calls myself. Choose one for me, please.” The pale man headed back to his seat and began to punch buttons on the console at his chair. When he settled in, the look of fear seemed to fade from his face. He now looked like someone who truly enjoyed his job.
“Here’s one, sir. I think you’ll enjoy.” Carson handed the boss his headset.
* * *
Pamela Windler was late this morning. She smoothed the wrinkles in the flower-print dress she saw reflected in the small cracked bedroom mirror. She sighed and headed out the door of her house locking it behind her. She would have to apply her make-up in the car on the way to work. It was a good thing her ex had custody of Morgan for the entire week of fall break. This morning she didn’t have time or desire to be Mommy. She ran to the car speaking rapidly into the cell phone pressed to her face
“Yeah, and I got a new phone too and you won’t believe how cheap it was. I know, right?... No, not her again. …It’s not like she doesn’t know better. He’s a skirt dog...She’s such a moron...I know me too.” Pamela looked into the side-view mirror and ran her fingers through her brown and blue streaked hair. As she got into the car and put the key in the ignition, she heard the beep on the phone indicating another call. “Wait girl, another call.” The caller ID said restricted. It might be that guy from the party. She pushed the spot on the screen to answer. “Hello.” She lowered her voice a whole octave to sound sexy.
“Hello Pamela.” Her heart rate doubled. Did it sound like him, that guy from Debbie’s party? She could tell that night he'd been into her. She'd expected him to call.
“Pamela, put down the phone and go back into the house. I’m waiting for you,” said the voice, definitely not the guy from the party. She did exactly as she was told, her will no longer her own.
Opening the door to her small house, she saw someone in a black suit sitting on the couch. His smile revealed the whitest teeth she’d ever seen. He looked around forty and would have been smoking hot if there hadn’t been something about him, something diabolical. His black hair swept back from his forehead, had just enough silver at the temples to make him look like a magazine ad for Viagra. She walked toward him as she felt compelled to do. He patted the couch for her to sit down and she obeyed.
“Do you know why I am here, Pamela?”
“No,” she answered honestly, without emotion.
“It’s about your cell phone, your Teletrex M18. To me it is simply a Minion. I am here to enforce the clause in your contract. Don’t tell me you didn’t read the contract you signed?” He laughed. His laughter hurt her ears like the highest note of a sour trumpet held far too long.
“It surprises me how rarely you people bother and how you will buy absolutely anything if it’s cheap enough. However, I do enjoy the element of surprise, so entertaining.”
Pamela noticed his eyes were the same dead black as the television’s flat screen on the table next to him. An involuntary shiver traveled down her spine. He spoke again, though with all her heart she wished he wouldn’t.
“It is a useful device, but any use carries a risk as clearly stated in the contract.However, I’ll explain it to you. You should know that there’s really no right way to use your Minion.” He chuckled and Pamela shivered. “The Minion is not just a communication device. It connects you directly to the material world and all its requisite evil. Every time you use it, it pulls you farther into this world. The more you use it, the less the chance of you being spiritual. Not my word.” He laughed again and she winced. “It specifically says in your Minion contract that for each time you use your Minion, in any unacceptable manner, you accrue one minute. To me everything is acceptable, but then who am I to judge?”
“What do you mean unacceptable? It’s a freaking phone!” Pamela said, her voice cracking.
“Oh you know, talking while driving; something about endangering the lives of others. Staying on the phone the entire time while playing with your daughter. Somehow that’s neglect. It hurts her little psyche. When you go online to order crap you could not possibly need, that’s greed. Who knew? I love consumerism. I like nothing better than an unrepentant materialist.” He pointed to the ceiling. “Him… not so much. Anytime you text in church when you should be listening, that’s somehow not acceptable. Hey I wouldn’t listen to that drivel either. But come on, why even go if you aren’t going to listen? Other minutes are two for one, but they count just because I say so. Who do you think invented the thing? You can thank me later.” His teeth gleamed and his serpent-black eyes glittered.
“You, young lady, have arrived at one million minutes and in record time too. Once the million minute limit is reached, congratulations, your soul will belong to me as soon as you leave this world.”
“What the hell? Who are you?” This time her eyes were wide.
“I am certainly not your guardian angel.” He laughed long and hard. “I have lots of names, but my favorite is Lucifer, which means morning star.” He beamed.
“I’m going to hell for using my cell phone? You must be freaking nuts!”
“Oh, I very well may be from time to time. That doesn’t change the fact that you signed the contract and it’s valid. Didn’t you suspect there was a reason it was so inexpensive?” He flashed those blinding teeth once more. “There is truly no rush. Eternity is a long time and this life short in comparison. I wanted you to fully appreciate the situation.” Getting up from the couch, He made his way to the door as Pamela sat sobbing.
Lucifer opened the door, turned back and said, “You still have free will and all, but no matter how you live your life, your ass and the soul to which it is attached, is mine when you die. You now have unlimited minutes. No need for good behavior. You might as well have a good time. The headlines are full of people who will soon belong to me. Go for it, everyone does.”