9 Oct

An additional Chapter by Peter Rogerson, Chapter 8.
” Bernard meets his parents in Hell and begins to get some idea of what they were really like. “

“How about a nice cup of tea?” asked the Devil suddenly and out of the blue. Bernard looked down at his naked self, at the kind of transparency that seemed to be the essence of his skin and flesh now that he was dead, and sighed.

“Can I really drink tea?” he asked, “won’t it dribble all through me and come out of my feet or somewhere equally uncomfortable, and make a puddle on the floor?”

“Possibly, but we never know until we’ve tried, do we?” said the Devil, grinning that horrible grin of his. “Look: here come a couple of reprobates who might have some idea what happens to tea when the ever-so-dead try to drink it…”

Bernard squinted and tried to focus on two figures approaching from the far end of the cathedral-sized space, dwarfed as they were by the distance.

“There’s something familiar…” he muttered, “I seem to think I’ve seen those two before. Let me see … it’s a man and a woman… no, it can’t be … is it mummy and daddy?”

“You still call them that even though you’re both seventy and dead simultaneously?” quipped Satan, still grinning. “Mummy and daddy, even though they were responsible for your wretched life?”

“It wasn’t that wretched!” protested Bernard, “I lived my life, you know, and I had something that quite a lot of people didn’t have: I had a purpose. I had a raison d’etre. I had my eyes firmly fixed on an Afterlife, of enjoying an eternity in Heaven where I could spend each perfect day exactly as I chose, where the sun always shines and where my God is forever bathing me with the light of his perfect eyes! There! That’s the life I lived, and it was filled with hope!”

“Pity you ended up down here, then,” smirked Satan.

“It’s all been a mistake,” mumbled Bernard, “I know it has! But mummy and daddy … why are they here? What terrible sins have they committed to condemn them to your foul and noxious kingdom?”

“That’s not very nice, calling it noxious,” hissed Satan, “Foul it may be, I’ll give you that, but noxious? couldn’t you think of a happier synonym, like … let me see … pestilent? It’s a good old-fashioned biblical word, is pestilent, and to tell you the truth I quite like it.”

“Pestilent, then,” muttered Bernard reluctantly

“Good boy! You know it makes sense! So why are those two here in my wonderland?” giggled the Devil. “I’ll tell you why they’re here … but look, they’re getting closer, wouldn’t a good and obedient son like to wave at them? The truth is, they’re here because they’re rotten to the core. They’ve always been rotten to the core. True, they got down to some rumpy-pumpy and physical jerks, and you were the result of that, a squalling brat in their tender care. But what did they do when they got you? The woman, if woman she ever was, cruelly mistreated you until you finally escaped her clutches and the man did nothing about it. That’s their sin, and it resulted in you joining them here because you became as totally useless as they were and provided neither genes nor thoughts nor anything else to the future. Now go on, wave and smile and greet them cheerily…”

Bernard couldn’t help it. He knew that the woman who was now close enough to recognise clearly was his mother and that the man was his father, so he did as he was told, and waved.

“Who’d this snivelling useless bit of flotsam?” asked his mother when she was closer, and peering at him short-sightedly. He remembered she’d always been a bit short-sighted, but now it was a great deal more obvious. Maybe Hell amplified weaknesses, thought Bernard, and he covered his genital nakedness with one transparent hand.

“Don’t you recognise me, mummy?” he found himself asking. “Can’t you see it’s your son Bernard?”

“Bernard? The nincompoop piece of filth I gave birth to when I was meant to give birth to the Lord in His second coming?” squawked his mother. “Bernard, the most useless thing since our Lord created woman and plonked her in the Garden with the man of her dreams, to corrupt him? That Bernard?”

“See?” put in Satan, “See how loving she was … and is. Such meetings are really rather touching…”

“But mummy, I did all the things you told me to do…” he began, but his mother had turned from him and was facing Satan.

“I thought we’d come to an arrangement…” she began, “that if I delivered a soul to you then I’d get my own way and end up in Heaven instead of this grotty vestibule…”

“But mummy!” protested Bernard.

“And this is no vestibule…” sighed Satan, “this is my Kingdom of Hell and you are my tenants down here, you’ve been told countless times before, and because I think you’re rather sweet you’ll stay here for all Eternity and enjoy a cup of tea with your flesh and blood in the Afterlife…”

“But what wrong have I done?” almost wept Bernard’s father. “The Lord knows, I’ve had a hard life, living with this harridan of a woman and having to put up with her ways and weird beliefs… It was far from easy and I reckon I should get a berth in Heaven out of sympathy.”

“There are no sympathy votes in my realm!” barked Satan, suddenly bristling. “You, stupid man, could have done something about it! You could have stopped her mindless cruelty when it came to the boy! She beat him, you know, and when it wasn’t physical violence she harangued him with lies and tales of an impossible Heaven that he would be denied entry to when all he’d done was be a boy doing boyish things, and bit by bit brain washed him until he ended up here with you! Is that what you, as a father, wanted for your son? No you didn’t! But you let it happen anyway because you were too weak to do anything about it! And even when the woman had died and left you alone you could have gone to him and repaired the ill caused by your neglect. But no: you did nothing!”

“I did good works…” began his mother, ignoring the speech to her husband. “I went to Africa and rescued elephants from guns! I preached to little African children about the love of God… I tell you, I did good works!”

“And now you’re going to do one more!” sniggered the Devil, calm again. “Now you’re going to have a cup of tea!”

“Not that!” squealed Bernard’s mother. “You know what it does to us as it filters through us! You know the pain it gives us, the agony as it turns to steam in our stomachs, and the almost unbearable excruciation as all that steam inflates us until we go pop!”

“But that’s what Hell’s all about,” grinned Satan, “endless torment and pain … surely you know that much by now?”

“I keep telling you … I shouldn’t be here!” shouted Bernard’s mother, but no matter how hard she tried not to raise the cup to her lips she did just that, and then weeping and protesting, but out of any control and unable to help herself, she sipped it.

“It’s cold…” she tittered.

“Of course it is,” nodded the Devil, “but it’s in a far from cold place, with all the fires and flames and sulphurous fumes around us! It’ll soon heat up inside you and you’ll taste the nourishing warmth of its flavour…”

Then as he spoke bursts of flames leapt from deep vaults through fissures in the floor, and they swathed the woman in sheets of glowing white and yellow. She screamed, of course she screamed, but she was in Hell and most other souls in there were screaming as well and one more made very little difference. She merely added to an endless and timeless cacophony of pain.

And as the tea inside her did the predicted thing and boiled into copious quantities of steam it inflated her until she was twice, then thrice, her original size, and all the time the pain of it caused her to issue wave after wave of tortured screaming.

“That’s what it’s like to have a cup of tea in Hell,” grinned Satan to Bernard. “Would you like one?”

Bernard shook his head quite violently, quite sure he wouldn’t like one.

“He should try it once…” muttered his late father, “tea can be so soothing…”

“You know,” quipped Satan, “If I had a cock I’d make it crow three times… Now pay attention to the looking glass…”

© Peter Rogerson 09.10.16


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