The Devil’s Temp

by Fred Warren

Bad things typically happened on Mondays at Plugin Services, and this day was no exception. With a flash of fire and a puff of brimstone, Chester found himself in Hell. He hadn’t even finished his first cup of coffee.

Hell was an office, and the Devil was there, seated in a red leather chair behind a mahogany desk of executive proportions. Chester knew it was the Devil because he’d seen his picture on a package of firecrackers at a Fourth of July party a few years back. The Armani suit made him look a little more intimidating.

“My, that was fast. You have no idea how hard it is to get a temporary on short notice. I must jot down your company’s number for future reference.” The Devil’s voice was deep, with a hint of Southern drawl.

“So I’m not dead?” Chester’s momentary relief was tempered by the realization that Plugin had sold his services to the Devil, not that he found it terribly surprising.

“Oh, no. If you were dead, you’d be out there.” Chester turned around, discovering one wall of the office was dominated by a picture window with a view of Hades. Flames and smoke filled the huge cavern, and the screams of the damned were faintly audible through the glass.

“You see,” the Devil continued, “I’m in a bit of a bind. Every year, I have to report to Him,” he rolled his eyes upward, “and this year has been incredibly productive. The report usually takes only a few minutes, but I’m afraid this one will consume the better part of the morning. Damnation projections alone will take half an hour to review, the archangels insist on double-checking my figures, the seraphim need all the technical terms explained, and so on.”

Chester felt a little more comfortable. These were standard managerial complaints. “I see. What sort of help do you need? I’m certified on all the latest presentation software, if you need something ginned-up quickly.”

“No, no, the report’s ready. I usually wing it, anyhow. It’s more fun that way. What I need is for you to sit right here,” the Devil stood up and ushered Chester around the desk to the leather chair, “and administer Hell for me while I’m away.”

“I’m a clerical specialist,” Chester protested. “At this level of management, you need an executive temp.”

“Pish tosh. Most of what I do is sign papers. Contracts and the like. I have a stamp for it.” The Devil rummaged about in a side drawer, pulling out a red ink pad and a large, round, wooden-handled rubber stamp.

Chester squared his shoulders and picked up the stamp. It was heavier than it looked. “I’ll do my best. Plugin Services guarantees satisfaction, or we’ll enter binding arbitration to determine a fair settlement.”

The Devil smiled, sharp teeth glinting in the reflected firelight. “A wonderful motto. I must have a chat with your CEO sometime. Ta-ta.”

And he vanished in a flash of fire and a puff of brimstone.

Chester fiddled with the stamp and surveyed the room, trying to avoid looking through the window. It was mostly bare. A painting of a sad clown hung on one wall.

The door burst open, and a tiny imp bounced in, bearing a sheaf of papers. “More contracts, Boss,” he squeaked, then caught sight of Chester. “Hey, you’re not the boss. What gives?”

“I’m from the temp agency,” Chester said. “I’m just filling in for a couple of hours.”

“Okay, whatever.” The imp held up the papers. “These all need his John Hancock.”

“I’ll take care of it.”

The imp hopped away, slamming the door behind him. Chester riffled through the contracts. They were all the same. Several paragraphs of legalese, and a signature smeared in ugly red ink near the bottom. There was a yellow-tagged line below for the Devil’s endorsement, labeled, “Prince of Darkness.”

Chester hesitated. Stamping the forms would condemn these people to eternal torment. Technically, he wasn’t responsible, but he was still participating. Orange flames flickered within a trash basket beside the desk. He could toss the papers into it, and probably no one would ever be the wiser.

On the other hand, maybe these people deserved what they were getting. It wouldn’t do to interfere in this kind of cosmic decision. Chester was just a temp, and he always performed to standard.

He sighed heavily, then began stamping contracts–thump, thump, thump.

The imp returned, bearing a steaming cup of coffee. “Hope you like it black,” he chirped, “no cream or sugar in Hell.” He bounced off. Chester took a long sip. It had a smoky aftertaste, but wasn’t too bad.

Two hours later, the Devil reappeared, looking rather pleased with himself. “Whoo-hoo! I haven’t had so much fun since Sodom and Gomorrah! They’ll be talking about that report for aeons. I can’t imagine how I’ll top it next year.” He slapped Chester on the back. “So, my boy, how’d it go? You didn’t auction off the furniture while I was gone, did you?”

Chester handed over the stack of forms, all properly stamped. “No problems, sir. It was pretty slow, just like you said.”

“Good, good.” The Devil sifted through the contracts. “I must say, I’m delighted with your performance. In fact, you’ve done so well, I think you deserve a promotion. I’m going to call your supervisor immediately.”

“Thank you, but that’s really not necessary.” Chester was pleased, but it was unprofessional to show too much enthusiasm.

The Devil smiled. “Oh, I disagree. I’ve never met anyone with less concern for his fellow man. You consigned 653 souls to everlasting perdition with barely a flutter of remorse. You remind me of…well…me. In fact, I’ve decided to hire you myself. Permanently.”

“I’m sorry, sir, you can’t do that.”

“Can’t? Can’t?” the Devil roared, flame issuing from his mouth and nostrils, “I am Lucifer, Supreme Ruler of Pan-Demonium! There is nothing I can’t do!”

Chester pulled out his wallet and retrieved a small piece of paper, which opened up to letter size after several rounds of unfolding. He handed it to the Devil. “Everything’s here. Our human resources folks tell me the language is bulletproof.”

The Devil scanned the paper, smoke slowly rising from his ears. “What…in…Hell? This is my boilerplate!”

“Yes, sir. Paragraph 66b clearly states my soul is under contract to Plugin Services in perpetuity.”

The Supreme Ruler of Pan-Demonium spat a string of profanities Chester had never heard before, then with a flash of fire and a puff of brimstone, the temp found himself back in his cubicle at Plugin.

The Devil’s assessment bothered him. Was he really that callous? He hoped not. He’d never thought about it before.

He could hear Spencer pounding out a report, three cubes over. “Hey, Spencer,” Chester called, “can I help you with that?”

“Go to…help? You want to help me?”

“Sure. Just a minute.”

Reflecting, Chester had to admit there were some things worse than being a temp for Plugin Services, even on a Monday. He took a sip of coffee and grimaced.

In Hell, though, the coffee was always hot.

5 Responses to “The Devil’s Temp”

  1. Jennie Dumas says:

    This was a very well written and interesting story.

  2. Loretta says:

    Wow! I’m amazed at your imagination. Great plot. Like the message.

  3. Candace McClellan says:

    Hahahahaha! I’ve been an Executive Administrative temp. Fred Warren, you’ve captured my experiences brilliantly. Good show!

  4. Fred says:

    Thanks for the kind words, Jennie, Loretta, and Candace…I’m glad you enjoyed it.

  5. Cindy Hooker says:

    Very interesting story and well written. We don’t hear enough about hell … The message was powerful. You are very creative and gifted with your words. 🙂

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