Mary Neon-Ass woke on a table. Last she knew, she had been organizing a protest against gender change in her California city. Then, she had heard a bang, and felt a few moments of agonizing pain. And then, suddenly, this. What?
She looked to one side, and saw a plaque inscribed in a familiar language. It said: “Judgement Room 42. University of Hell.”
Oh excrement, she thought. Now I remember. I was sent into a sim, in which I would be given power over others. It’s a second-year test in Philocivics at the University.
Well, she thought, how did I do? I didn’t get very high up in the sim’s power system, but I think I did a good job. I tried everything I could to stop the people there changing gender, or going gay, or having sex outside marriage, or denying the Christian religion, or contradicting its teachings, or believing other religions, or doing or saying anything against the good ole U S of A. I attracted quite a cadre of support from local conservatives. Yes, I think I did pretty well. A B, surely; even, maybe, an A, and a chance to leave Hell for a while!
Then, the thought: But someone shot me. Maybe it was an accident, and I’ll get a re-boot. Or it might have been a premature withdrawal. That wouldn’t be good. You can’t get better than a D if they have to bring you back before the full time.
There was no other furniture in the room. The door was shut, and she didn’t have the password for it. So, she sat on the edge of the table, waiting. She expected her supervisor, Dopo O’Whinger, to arrive soon to tell her how she’d done. She wondered what strange attire he would be wearing this time; for Dopo usually wore red and green, and his second moniker was “Hide Poor Gown.”
The wait was long. Then, the door opened slowly. And in came, not Dopo, but Old Nick himself, the Chancellor of the University. Nick O’Ell, his moniker was; Nick O’Hell, if you included his middle initial. Oh, sextillions of years of dog poo, thought Mary. This is worse than my wildest wakings. I haven’t got a C or a D; for those are dealt with by the Vice-Chancellor, Ba-Gahd Huge Hitler. No, I have an E or worse: Hell forbid!
Nick approached. He was wearing his most formal gown, and carrying a clipboard in his left hand. Mary looked at the pentagonal face, the square mortar-board, and the large three-pointed fork (the Tripos) in his right hand. And she was afraid.
“Well, how do you think you did on the test?” said Nick, affably and yet menacingly.
Mary’s tongue clove to her mouth. She couldn’t say anything beginning with a consonant. Eventually she squeaked out, “E?”
“Wrong,” said Nick. “You got an H. H for Hypocrite. Eighth Circuit, Sixth Division is your next home.”
All the way down to the Eighth Circuit of Hell, thought Mary. And after I climb back up the slippery poles, I have to start the course all over again.
Mary struggled to say something; Nick waved his left hand, and she could speak again. “What did I do wrong?” she blurted out.
“You know that,” replied Nick. “Maybe not consciously as yet, but you’ll work it out Down There. You got so mired into the wickednesses of that sim, that we had to send three special agents to get you out. Ira Leger, Len Syntax and the hitman, Emil Bach. You’ve heard of them? They aren’t cheap.
“But as a starter for ten, I’ll ask you: What sex were you in that sim?” Mary blushed; yes, she had asked to be male on her sim application form, then once in the sim, she had tried to get political power by campaigning against people who were unlucky enough to feel an urge to change gender.
Nick let that sink in, then said: “Mary you idiot, while you were in that sim you tried to get power over the simcivs through politics and religion. And you were aggressive, rude and dishonest. Moreover, you rejected Enlightenment values such as tolerance, freedom of speech and expression, and freedom of religion. You have knowingly acted contrary to the founding principles of Hell, as laid down in the Code of Lucifer. So, I have found you guilty of un-Hellistic activities.”
Nick turned away from her, and uttered loudly: “Yoler!”
“Your Esteemed Lowness?” came a deep, gravelly voice from outside the room.
In Hell, Yoler’s job is to transport the condemned to their places of punishment. He has the longest right arm in the Universe, and when Old Nick asks him to, he uses that arm to take convicts speedily to their destinations. It’s not much fun for the passengers.
Mary had met Yoler once before. That was after she had got an E in Elementary Self-Control, and had been condemned to the Fifth Circuit for a while. Yoler’s enormous right hand had lifted her into the air, high enough to be scary; spun her about until she felt badly sick, then dropped her suddenly to the ground. The pain after the impact had been excruciating.
“I have one for the ditch,” said Nick. “Eighth Circuit, Sixth District. Admission number 8/6/94590. Non-violent offence this time, so I’ve issued a Clemency Order for no physical pain. But you can give her the full Hellicopter Ride otherwise.”
“My pleasure,” said the gravelly voice.