Short Story: Full Verbal Transcript

A human skull set against a black backdrop
Indeed.

Waddup? Here’s a short story I thought off in June 2021 and cobbled together pretty quickly in a long series of typing sessions.

I’d long had this idea, after death, of receiving a full transcript of everything you ever said. And how bizarre it would be leafing through all of your speech over the course of your life.

And so I’ve turned the idea into a classically absurd short story! Hurray! A few details below and then feel free to read at your leisure. Or not.

Synopsis: After dying, a man finds himself in a vacuum facing the universe’s High Council. There he is presented with his Full Verbal Transcript, a verbatim transcript of everything he has ever said. Based off this, is he suitable for Heaven or Hell?

Full Verbal Transcript

Part I

[The scene opens! We open in the black, dark, deep recesses of space. There is a small courtroom setting, replete with a large Judge’s Bench and small Defendant’s Table. There is also a Witness Stand evident. With this starry backdrop does appear one gentleman at the Defendant’s table. He is newly relieved of his living status, now facing black cloaked figures hunched over their bench and ready to condescend from lofty positions. The trial begins.]

“Urgh… what happened to me? Where is everyone? Where am I?”

[Unremitting silence]

“Hello!? What is this?!”

“Welcome. You are in the space between Heaven and Hell. A kind of purgatory, if you wish to view afterlife legal proceedings in such a manner! As your recent passing sees you before the High Council who will determine your passage into the next stage of not being.”

What? What happened?!”

“You are dead, sir.”

“Dead!? What sort of sick joke is this!? I’m only fifty-two!”

“Sir, please calm down, we have a lot to go through. But for clarity, you were drunkenly revelling in your garden during a dinner party when you insisted you were capable of climbing the oak tree in your back garden. When almost at the top of the aforementioned tree, you lost your footing and fell to the bottom. As you lay shattered on the ground your final words were, ‘Oh, fuck me sideways, why is my spinal column sticking out of there?!’ Then you gurgled and you died due to severe blunt force trauma at nine oh seven pm in Oxford of Oxfordshire in the United Kingdom.”

“But… I was just having fun, just now. It was a splendid dinner party!”

“Yes! And you are now dead. Bad luck, but had you been sober you would not be here. Now, in accordance with High Council procedures we must first ask you to clarify your person.”

“What?”

“Please confirm who you are.”

“Well… I’m Gerald.”

“Full title, please.”

“What?”

“Please confirm your full identity.”

“I’m Gerald Rogers.”

“Full title.”

“What!?”

“Please confirm your full title, sir. Then we may proceed.”

“I’m Gerald Johnathon Rogers.”

“I see… and is that mister or mrs? Or miss?”

“Huh? You’ve been calling me ‘sir’, you know that already!”

“Very sharp of you, Mr. Rogers.”

“Well, see now, you knew that all along anyway, so…”

“Mr. Rogers, these formalities will determine your fate. I advise you behave accordingly.”

“Fate? What fate? Will you just… can you, please, explain what is happening?”

“Now, Mr. Rogers, er… this is a lengthy process that may take several months. In some instances, it can take years. Seeing as you are a somewhat incoherent and befuddled individual at present, your discourse may make for a six month trail.”

“What… is this some sort of joke?! Sebastian are you and the chaps pulling my leg?!”

“Mr. Rogers, there is no ‘leg pulling’ going on here. The process to funnel you into Heaven or Hell depends on a review of your Verbal Life Transcript. This is the full text of your every word spoken throughout your life, starting from the first, up until the last. For the sake of clarity, we will not classify your final words as that anguished gurgle you made after falling from that four-hundred-year-old oak tree in Oxfordshire. Instead, your final words are to be noted as, ‘Oh, fuck me sideways, why is my spinal column sticking out of there?!’ Do you concur with this assessment?”

“Please… I don’t understand what’s happening!”

“Mr. Rogers, we require your cooperation as there are some nine hundred and eighty thousand pages of your Verbal Life Transcript to review. Most individuals have around six hundred thousand pages. Prolixity was a big deal for you, I see.”

“The… takes one to know one!”

“Mr. Rogers?”

“I said… takes one to know one!”

“Mr. Rogers, are you attempting some form of rebuttal?”

“Yes.”

“Please refrain from this in future, you are merely delaying proceedings.”

“Well then don’t make glib comments about me!”

“Mr. Rogers, we are the High Council. We can do as we please. Do you wish to be shuffled into Hell with immediate effect with no due process? As I can do that immediately and spare us all this tedious endeavour.”

“I… no. Of course not!”

“Good, then we shall proceed. We will use your life statements to determine whether you are worthy of an entrance to Heaven, or if you have debased yourself to the extent you go to Hell.”

What?! Who the hell gives you the right to do that?!”

“The High Council has always been present. This is the way of things.”

“Well, that’s not very democratic!”

“Mr. Rogers, we understand you are, at present, confounded. Let us reiterate, you are here due to your drunken fall from a tree. What was a man of your age doing scaling a tree whilst inebriated?”

“It was just a bit of fun!”

“The truth please, Mr. Rogers.”

“My wife asked me to fetch the cat from the…”

“Mr. Rogers, you do not own a cat. The truth, please.”

“I… I… I was trying to impress Mrs. Jefferies from next door.”

“Indeed you were. And why is that the case, when you have a wife of thirty-five years?”

“I…”

“Mr. Rogers, please.”

“Because… I…”

“Because you are a silly old fool with a marked lust for a woman ten years your junior. And look where it has got you. A glance at her Verbal Life Transcript reveals she commented, after your fall, ‘What was that silly old fool doing climbing a tree?’ And now here you are, deceased, and your Verbal Life Transcript reveals a comment from you about Mrs. Jefferies from two weeks previous. You were once again inebriated for this occasion with your friend Charles, whom you told, ‘That Jefferies woman is dead sexy hahahahahahaaa.’ The pair of you laughed about this for some time. Mr. Rogers, on reflection do you still feel this was an amusing incident?”

“No, sir… I do not.”

“Three weeks previously you also said, ‘Mrs. Jefferies is much sexier than my wife. It isn’t fair…’ And you said that to yourself whilst sitting on your toilet evacuating your bowels. Mr. Rogers, do you consider that an appropriate time to opine over perceived marital differences regarding fundamental aesthetics?”

No, sir. No, I do not.

“Quite. And yet you felt it a pertinent moment to do so? Interesting. Did you ever mention this issue to your wife?”

“No, of course not! Why would I do that? And besides, you’d know if I did because you have my full life verbal records… or whatever it is!”

“The Verbal Life Transcript. It is a most precise database, Mr. Rogers, and one with which you have great familiarity. These are all your words.”

“Well, can I see this database!? As it’s my records, I want a copy!”

“Mr. Rogers, you already have a copy. It is in your head.”

“What do you mean?”

“Your memory, Mr. Rogers.”

“What, you expect me to remember everything I’ve said throughout my life!?”

“Mr. Rogers, are you trying to avert accountability for your utterances over your fifty-two years?”

“Enough of this nonsense! How DARE you criticise MY lifestyle! I may have my foibles, sir, but I have led a pure and JUST life and…”

“Mr. Rogers, please refrain from emotional outbursts.”

“…”

“Mr. Rogers, are you now in a position to accept responsibility for your lifelong discourse?”

“Yes, your honour.”

“Good. We will have your cooperation during this endeavour. Otherwise, we will have to detract from your end score due to obstinacy. You will need to be on your best behaviour during this High Council review as I have had a brief scan of many of your statements and I can already assure you to be verging on the side of Hell. For example, on the twenty forth of March, nineteen nighty nine, when at the age of thirty-one, you said to your then girlfriend, ‘Of course I didn’t urinate on the toilet seat, you silly woman! It must have been the builders!’ Am I correct in asserting it was, indeed, you who urinated on the toilet seat?”

“This is preposterous! I had moved into MY new home based off MY hard work and I had builders in to fix an extension to the rear-side facing the acres of…”

“MR. ROGERS! Did you urinate on your toilet seat on the twenty forth of March, nineteen nighty nine, or was it the builders extending your property?”

“I… I think it was probably me. This is bloody ridiculous!”

“Mr. Rogers, I remind you that you are under the review of the High Council. From this moment onward, there will be a cessation on profanity.”

“No I bloody well won’t, you jumped up git!!”

“You will stop swearing and offer some semblance of polite conduct. Again, cooperation. That is what will help you here.”

“What, because you think I urinated on a toilet seat in nineteen nighty nine!? And I have to go to Hell because of that!?”

“The twenty fourth of March nineteen ninety nine at precisely eleven oh one pm and thirty-six seconds.”

“What!? Where’s your proof of such a claim?”

“Mr. Rogers, this is a thorough and precise investigation into every single utterance you made throughout your life. Did you think you could get away with some of the barbarous statements you proclaimed? For the High Council’s amusement, I point to page three hundred and thirty thousand and one. Mr. Rogers’ drunken announcement on his wedding day at precisely four fifty six pm. Verbatim, ‘I’ve… *hick* eaten so much quiche I’ll be shittin’ bricks into the summer hahahahahaaaa.’ Said directly to your new wife’s mother, your mother-in-law, who was eighty two at the time and in frail mental condition. Based off her Verbal Life Transcript, she was most distressed by this development and thought about it for many months afterwards.”

“Er…”

“Indeed, Mr. Rogers. Indeed.”

“I want a lawyer!”

“There are no lawyers in the High Council, Mr. Rogers.”

“Well, what are you then!?”

“We are the High Council, Mr. Rogers.”

“Well, what’s the bloody High Council?!”

“Mr. Rogers, please refrain from further profanity.”

“Oh, come off it! Who are you?!”

“For the record, I am the Grand High Council Master and I oversee proceedings. The two gentlemen to my right will merely observe this trial and will not communicate directly with you. This is because they are in training.”

“In training!? What is this!? Who are they!?”

“Oh, Mr. Rogers, do not consider it a denigration on your capacity as a lifelong orator that we absconded from providing a full body of experienced representatives.”

“What are you talking about?”

“We will now begin from the start of your records. To note, we are examining your speech for signs of dubious statements. What qualifies as a dubious statement? Anything that is broadly related to some bigoted remark, or that causes unnecessary confusion, vitriol, or anything we just find generally annoying.”

“Nonsense! That’s… adjective and unfair!”

“Mr. Rogers, I believe you mean ‘subjective’. You are panicking and garbling your efforts at critical thinking. Please stop doing that, it is annoying. Regardless, we can confirm most of our review is an objective consideration on the basis of the High Council Act, to which we, by universal law, enjoy certain malleability to make a learned decision on your conduct. We shall now proceed.”

“I need some time to think this over! I request a toilet break. I need to call my wife and explain what’s happened!”

“Mr. Rogers, you are deceased. Your widow has identified your body and you are laying in a body bag in the local morgue. Meanwhile, you join us pre-afterlife in a bid to make your way into Heaven. You do want to get into there, it is a lot of fun. Spinoza is in there and he has some fantastic party tricks. However, before then, and for the record, you do not ever need a ‘toilet break’ in the land of the dead.”

“This is a lot of information to take in all of a sudden… I was going to watch the football tomorrow! It’s too much! I…”

“Mr. Rogers, please refrain from your pathetic sobbing. We do not have time for stalling through emotional distress. As you have said consistently over the last decade, you are fed up of ‘precious snowflake Millennials’ and here you are with not nerves of steel, but eyeballs like a faltering bladder.”

“Your attitude, sir, is…”

“My attitude, Mr. Rogers is none…”

“This Mr. Rogers nonsense had better stop! Address me by my name!”

“No, Mr. Rogers.”

“This is not a trial! This is balderdash!”

“Mr. Rogers, CONTROL YOURSELF!”

“…”

“That is the highest level of impertinence I have encountered since Malcolm Muggeridge passed through this vacuum in nineteen nighty. You will respect our rules. You will not flout our rules. Is this clear?”

“It is, sir.”

“Good! We shall begin at once, there is a lot of ground to cover. Beginning with page one. Your first words and beyond, into early development and your formative years. Remember, your honesty is essential to this process. We know exactly everything you said, so you cannot deceive us with denials. Is this clear?”

“It is, sir.”

“Good. Now, you were born in nineteen sixty nine. Is that correct?”

“It is, sir.”

“Ten months into your life, you were able to form your first words. These were, ‘Hi bye.’ Is this correct?”

“I… I can’t confirm or deny that, sir.”

“Mr. Rogers, you mean to say you cannot remember your first words? Such a defining moment in your life and you cannot remember?!”

“That is correct, sir. I do apologise. I was very young at the time!”

“Mr. Rogers, these excuses are not acceptable. I feel you are going to overuse these in the months ahead.”

“God, months?! Why… is this really necessary? I mean, I know I wasn’t perfect. I could have been a bit more personable, I suppose… and maybe been a bit more generous. And maybe I should have… well, it’s not like I killed anyone ever!”

“Mr. Rogers, we know from your Full Verbal Transcript you squished at least thirty-seven blue bottle flies throughout your life. Using a flyswatter. And you laughed about it.”

“And… well, that’s not murder, is it!? They were just flies!”

“Mr. Rogers, those blue bottle flies you obliterated all had parents, and potentially children, of their own.”

“You are joking, right?”

“The High Council is not famous for its sense of humour, Mr. Rogers.”

“Yes, well I can see that!”

“Mr. Rogers, is that impertinence?”

“Yes, it is.”

“Duly noted. Moving on, we can see your next words followed a week after your first. You announced loudly to your mother, ‘Poo poo!’ This was in the aftermath of you soiling your nappy.”

“Christ, are we going through this word by word?”

“Blasphemy, Mr. Rogers, we remind you to avoid such statements. And the High Council will determine the pace, and focus on words, as is necessary. Now, can you confirm your discourse?”

“Well I don’t know, I can’t remember!”

“I see. And do you think shouting ‘Poo poo!’ at your mother was relevant at that time and place, given the career you would later have as a car salesman? I would class your statements as puerile and unprofessional. Do you concur?”

“Yeah I guess, but I wasn’t even a one year old. What do you expect?”

“We expect greater conduct from a man in your eventual position! I refer to page eight hundred and sixty six thousand and ten. Your statement on the nineteenth of June in 2018 at five sixteen pm of, ‘I hate how immature these snowflake Millennials are! With their scatological humour and… and… er, video games. They are so immature, this is why society is crumbling.’ And then yet, you at a far younger age, stated ‘Poo poo!’ direct to your mother’s face. Such hypocrisy, Mr. Rogers, does not fly in the High Council!”

“Sir, I feel that’s irrelevant. I was very young and I feel that’s a ridiculous point you’ve made.”

“Mr. Rogers, I remind you that Hell is a very unpleasant place!”

“No kidding? Is it as unpleasant as these stupid procedures, because I think I’d rather be down there than here!”

“Mr. Rogers, do not make such statements in jest! Your impatience could land you in hot water, quite literally. One regular practice in Hell is to douse residents in boiling hot liquids.”

“Oh, I’m quaking.”

“Quite. Now, onto your third word. This one is also of considerable concern.”

“Cram a sock in it, you pompous fool!”

“Mr. Rogers, I feel you are not taking this seriously. We have over nine hundred thousand pages of your transcript to go. At the present rate it will take six months of rather tedious toing and froing between you and I to complete this process.”

“Well just speed the process up and shuffle me into Heaven where I belong!”

“That would be the case, Mr. Rogers, except for statements such as this on the third of April two thousand and three, ‘I don’t like working class people. They’re stupid and lazy.’ Such statements, Mr. Rogers, result in consequences.”

“Well, it’s true!”

“This is astonishing, Mr. Rogers, you are acknowledging it here before us?”

“That I am!”

“Duly noted. Now, your third word followed shortly on from your excremental announcement and was, indeed, ‘Wee wee!’ We shall now delve into this scatological focus into your bodily functions, as it was clearly a most prevalent obsession of yours around this time. Mr. Rogers, please take your head out of your hands. Mr. Rogers! Please take that condescending expression off your face. I am not here for the good of my health. I am here to provide an objective passage into the afterlife for you. Take ownership of this situation, please, as these are your statements. We must now proceed…”

Part II

[Six Months Later]

“Mr. Rogers, in your final few months of life it is clear you became quite obsessed with the adjective ‘Brobdingnagian’ and would use it in conversation to an excessive extent. Why was that the case?”

Because… I felt it was a word others could learn from.”

“Is it possible you were using this word to sound clever and make yourself look more impressive around others, to suit your ego?”

“Erm… no.”

“You seem unsure about that, Mr. Rogers.”

“I’m not unsure. I’m one hundred percent sure.”

“Are you certain?”

“One hundred percent certain!”

“Yet we established three months ago you were using the term ‘qualia’ several hundred times a month to deliberately try to sound more intelligent than those around you.”

“Er… well, that was different from my Brobdingnagian phase.”

“How so, Mr. Rogers?”

“Erm… because, you know, I’d learned my lessons from my qualia phase and was now merely in a didactic phase, rather than, er… self-promotional phase, if you will.”

“You mean when you were being insufferably egotistical?”

“No, just self-promotional.”

“To an insufferable extent?”

“Well, I believe that I wasn’t being insufferable.”

“The Full Verbal Transcripts of dozens of your acquaintances would indicate otherwise.”

“Well… they’re poorer than I am so they’re probably just jealous.”

“Mr. Rogers, that is not a coherent argument.”

“Well, I think it is!”

“Do you think your friends and acquaintances harboured feelings of envy towards your career as a car salesman? Bear in mind it is not a profession that elicits much respect.”

“I think it commands an enormous amount of respect.”

“Mr. Rogers, do you believe you have had much respect in your life?”

“Masses of it, yes. My friends and family adore me. They’ll all be bawling their eyes out on Earth now I’m gone.”

“That is not quite the case, Mr. Rogers, your wife already has a new love interest whom she intends to marry. Derek, your next-door neighbour. The one who sells used automobiles.”

“What the hell!? THAT HACK!?”

“Mr. Rogers, please control yourself.”

“I can’t believe it! That blasted swine! He told me he was gay!”

“Yes, well he appears to have been having an affair with your wife for some time and that was merely a cover. Never you mind about that, we are now at a stage where we must review key discourse from your life.”

“Never mind that?! Are you kidding!? That bastard has been screwing me over all that time!?”

“Mr. Rogers, you are a car salesmen. Believing his every word to be authentic was a rather elementary error on your part, given your knowledge of the industry.”

“I see…”

“You do? I remind you of one sale you completed in the year two thousand on the evening of…”

“Oh, Christ, this again!”

“… On the evening of March the first, three sixty six pm. You said to a potential customer, ‘She’s a beauty! You can floor it and be up to sixty in under ten seconds. She’s great for cruising around country lanes, but is a sweet baby ride when you need to cruise through the city cruising chicks like you’re on a cruise ship. If I wasn’t married I’d definitely own this car so I could have the birds hanging off me!’ Mr. Rogers, did you say this utterly repugnant sales nonsense?”

“Well… probably.”

“We must ask, Mr. Rogers, why was your sales lingo so different from the way you talk outside of work?”

“Because it’s my job! What do you think? Seriously, do you go home to your wife after work and speak like the way you do here?!”

“Mr. Rogers, I exist within the frameworks of non-existence between Heaven and Hell. A ‘wife’ is not a concept I need to concern myself with.”

“But do you continue talking like this when you’re off the clock? That’s my point here.”

“I understand your point, Mr. Rogers, along with its irrelevance. For your clarity, however, I will indicate this is the manner I speak at all times. Regardless of the situation.”

“I bet you’re fun at parties!”

“Thank you.”

“I meant that as a barbed criticism.”

“Thank you.”

“Er… okay.”

“Moving on, we must now close proceedings with an overview of your most deplorable comments alongside those we consider somewhat saintly, or merely less irritating than the rest of your lifelong discourse.”

“And then this ordeal is over?!”

“Mr. Rogers, we will then make a decision on your fate in due course.”

“And how long does that take?”

“Given how many individual cases we review for a Full Verbal Transcript and the many variables under consideration, plus the backlog created due to staff shortages and regular overrunning, this can take as long as thirty thousand years.”

What?!”

“Mr. Rogers?”

“Thirty thousand years?! And what do I do during that time?!”

“You will remain in a holding cell until a decision is made.”

“For up to thirty thousand years!?”

“Yes.”

“And what the hell am I supposed to do during all that time?!”

“You will be provided with light entertainment, Mr. Rogers.”

“Such as?”

“Well, let me see. I advise most individuals in your situation are happy when I inform them there will be light entertainment. No one has ever enquired about what is offered before.”

“Thirty thousand years is a very long time.”

“Infinity is a very long time, Mr. Rogers. Perpetuity, which we are all now stuck in with this afterlife, should not be of concern to you. Thirty thousand years is but a mere half second in the grand scheme of things.”

“But I’m not going to just sit there doing nothing for thirty thousand years, am I?”

“Some people have, you will be interested to know. Others have written great works of literature. Others have composed hundreds of operas and memorised them before being inducted into Hell and having their memories thrashed mercilessly by scorching hot infernos.”

“Well, that doesn’t worry me because I know I’m going to Heaven.”

“If you insist, Mr. Rogers. And as per your request, the light entertainment is as follows. On offer are the complete works of the playwright William Shakespeare, there’s a chemistry set, a CD in the form of The Very Best of Pavarotti, some paper for origami, three juggling balls, a bucket, and a VHS copy of the film The Bridges of Madison County.”

“And that’s it?”

“Indeed.”

“For thirty thousand years, that’s it?”

“Yes, Mr. Rogers.”

“Jesus.”

“Quite. Now, back to the matter at hand, beginning with the worst statement you ever made in your entire life.”

“I can’t imagine what that would be.”

“We ran your Full Verbal Transcript through the Horrendous Speech O’Meter earlier and it triggered a ten out of ten maximum reaction of hatefulness for the worst offenders.”

“… you’ve called it the Horrendous Speech O’Meter?”

“Why are you sniggering, Mr. Rogers?”

“Well, it just seems like a silly name for someone as serious as you guys are.”

“Stop delaying the inevitable, Mr Rogers, I will read the following heinous statement for the knowledge of the High Council.”

“Erm…”

“At two thirty am on the first of June in nineteen ninety three, you said to a parking ticket collector, ‘Bugger off, you sad git! I will not pay that parking ticket! Get a real job!’ A most barbaric statement.”

“That’s it? That’s the worst thing I ever said in my life?

“A close second was when you were thirteen years old and referred to your school headmistress as a ‘witch’.”

“I really don’t see how those are the worst things I’ve ever said. You need to be a bit less precious about all of this, on Earth those comments are just a bit rude. Nothing else.”

“The High Council is the judge of that, Mr. Rogers. Can you confirm you said both statements?”

“I can confirm I said them, sir.”

“But you do not recall saying them, Mr. Rogers?”

“No, I don’t.”

“And why is that, Mr. Rogers?”

“Because I can’t remember every goddamn thing I said in my entire life, you jumped up wanker!”

“Mr. Rogers, I again request you refrain from such vitriol. For your own sake.”

“Enough of this ‘Mr. Rogers’ crap, I’ve been listening to you chatting this bollocks for six months now!”

“Yes, Mr. Rogers, to determine your path into the afterlife. It does surprise me so that you remain so indifferent on the prospect either way.”

“Oh, do you now? Stuff it up your arse, bellend!”

“Mr. Rogers, I…

“Enough of this ‘Mr. Rogers’ already! How am I to know this is the gateway to Heaven or Hell? How do I, or don’t I, know this… DUMB little game you’ve had going isn’t already Hell? It feels like it! You’ve been driving me mad for six straight months!”

“That is a novel theory, Mr. Rogers, but erroneous. Now, I must conclude your behaviour over the last six months has been most belligerent and wearisome. We have gathered all available evidence and discussed your lifetime of speech. Before we place you in the holding cell, would you like to make a closing statement in your defence?”

“Yes, I really think you need to lighten up and acknowledge the things I’ve said really aren’t that bad. Your thinking is a bit anachronistic and out of touch with the way modern humans role. Had it been the Middle Ages, sure, maybe. But humans have advanced on since then and you’re kind of getting offended about things that really aren’t that offensive in modern society.”

“We will be the judge of that, Mr. Rogers. We will speak to you again soon enough. High Council closes proceedings on the case for Mr. Gerald Johnathon Rogers. We will reconvene in thirty thousand years.”

[Sound of gavel slamming to close proceedings.]

Part III: One Hundred and Thirty Thousand Years Later

[The scene opens again in the courtroom. The same one as before. You know the one. It is in space.]

“Hello again, Mr. Rogers, I trust you are ready to resume the final stage of your trial? I do apologise for the delay in excess of one hundred thousand years, we have been busy of late processing more cases as the human population continues to grow at such a rate.”

“Okay. I must say this has been a very long, arduous, tedious, obnoxious…”

“Mr. Rogers, we do apologise, but we have to explain this exact same issue to everyone awaiting their results. So, we are now here, you have unending time ahead of you to move on from a minor delay. Are you ready for your verdict?”

“Okay… fine. If you must no, hello, nice to see you. In the time you were away I wrote three hundred books and composed three symphonies about life itself. Thanks for asking. But yes, that’s how I kept myself busy all this time whilst you lot faffed about delaying this thing by ten thousand year segments!”

“Very good, Mr. Rogers, we are pleased to hear you have kept yourself busy.”

“Okay. Right. Are we ready? I’ve been waiting a long time, please pass me through into Heaven like you should have done millennia ago.”

“Mr Rogers, having to read through your lifetime of general gasconade, pomposity, and overblown egoism with utmost impertinence, we have decided to rightfully consign you to the bowels of Hell. I pass this judgement forthwith and you are sentenced. Would you like to make a final statement?”

“What the fuck!?”

“Quite. That is recorded. Now, Mr. Rogers, you will be eligible for parole in thirty million years at which time, if you have behaved sufficiently, I will review your case for possible entry into Heaven. Good luck, Mr. Rogers, and all the best in your future endeavours with demon spawn.”

“What?! That’s it!?”

“Mr. Rogers, we really do not have another one hundred and thirty thousand years to waste on any of this. I remind you that in the summer of nineteen ninety eight you once told a lost small child to, ‘Stop being such a little baby.’ A lifetime of statements such as this warrant only an opportunity to seek redemption.”

“This is an outrage!!”

“Mr. Rogers, we are quite though with proceedings. Your final statement is recorded and you will now be processed into Hell. I advise you to use your time wisely there and to purge your very being of the foibles within you. Kind regards.”

“Kind regards!? You really are the most pompous, condescending prick, aren’t you? Where are you going!? Where have you gone!? Why have you disappeared? Where am I now? What’s happening to me? Hello!? HELLO!?”

[Mr. Rogers and the space courtroom slowing fade into nothingness as the transition into the afterlife commences.]

Part IV: Hell

[Mr. Rogers is now in an open space with a raging inferno—the landscape of Hell. There are innumerable fires, much screaming, and demons are everywhere. Mr. Rogers is tied naked to a wooden post and is greeted by a mortifying being of much putrescence wielding a three-pronged pike.]

“All right, Mr. Rogers?”

“Erm… hi. Who are you?”

“I’m Dave.”

“You’re Dave?”

“Yeah.”

“Why are you so red?”

“Because I’m a demon.”

“You’re Dave the demon?”

“Yeah.”

“Why are you holding that red hot poker iron?”

“Well, I’m under strict instructions to ram this up your backside, Mr. Rogers.”

“What!? I didn’t agree to that!”

“Well, it’s not about agreement, per se, because you’re in Hell. That’s what we do here. The first thirty thousand years are just me, Derek, and Roderick jamming red hot pokers into you around our schedule. It’s not that bad after a bit, if you’ve got a sadomasochistic streak you’ll probably come to enjoy it.”

“I don’t have a sadomasochistic streak!”

“Oh… well, that’s unfortunate.”

“I refuse to let you do this!”

“You don’t have a say in it sorry, Mr. Rogers, you’ve been sent down here by the High Council and you now begin aeons of torture. I’d like to introduce my colleagues Derek and Roderick who’ll observe me for the first decade. They’re new here and in training.”

“Now, really, I don’t care if they’re in training! It’s this simple! I COMMAND you to NOT do this and to LET ME GO! I belong in Heaven! I’m a great person! I used to have patio dinner parties with only the finest pâté and champagne for my guests!”

“Okay, Derek and Roderick, note at this point of your training that the victim will begin demanding not to go ahead with what’s planned. That’s really common and nothing to worry about, they usually go through this freaking out stage where they don’t want the red hot poker jammed into them. Humans feel severe pain when that happens and it’s usually in their best interests to avoid such an outcome.”

“Can you speak to me directly when you’re talking about me!? That was extremely rude!”

“Again, you don’t need to pay attention to the individual as you’re boss here. But do note there’s more whining and pitying ahead during the endless bouts of hideous torture. Behold!”

[Dave the demon manoeuvres around the wooden post and forcefully rams the red hot poker up Mr. Roger’s backside. As the latter howls and screams sweet bloody murder, Dave walks back around to the attentive Derek and Roderick to explain the next course of action—Mr. Roger’s screaming continues unabated in the background.]

“So, as you can see, doing that will stop the endless pleading, but it does create these long periods of high-pitched wailing. That’s a bit annoying at first, but you’ll get used to it. Some of them try to grimace their way through the initial searing agony but then give in and start hysterical screaming. Some others just kind of pass out briefly. Hah. Funny, the variation! And, yes… you have a question, Roderick?”

“Yes, thank you, it’s all very revealing and helpful so far with this training. I was just wondering, I have quite bad tinnitus so are there any earplugs I can use during my shift?”

“That’s a very good question, Roderick. The Hellish Workplace Health and Safety Act is in place to ensure no demons suffer unduly negative health consequences in the course of work. You can pick the earplugs up during your lunch break, speak to Cynthia in human resources and she’ll set you up. And, yes, Derek, you have a question?”

“Yes, when’s our lunch break?”

“Now, Derek, I thought you’d be more interested in the work at hand rather than waiting for whatever sandwich your wife has made you.”

“Well, it is, but I was very nervous this morning before my first day of work and I didn’t eat anything. So I’m looking forward to my ham sandwich.”

“Okay, Derek, I appreciate your point of view there. Lunch will be in two hours, so I’m sure you’ll be able to hang on a little longer. Okay?”

“Sure, Dave, thank you. It’s just Mr. Roger’s burning flesh is making me kind of hungry.”

“I’m sure, Derek, but a quick reminder that you shouldn’t be eating any of the victims in Hell. Is that clear for both of you? There will be severe consequences if that’s the case. You both clear on that? Good. And yes, Roderick?”

“Is this level of screaming from Mr. Rogers normal? What did he do to deserve this? It feels a bit morally… wrong.”

“No, Roderick, that’s why we have the High Council to determine who is, and isn’t, depraved enough to be down here. I can inform you, for example, Mr. Rogers once told his mother-in-law that she was a bit ‘dreary’ and that she ‘smelled funny’.”

“My God! What a horrible man!”

“Exactly, Derek. And it’s such considerations from the High Council that lead to the right people down her facing millennia of absolute horror. What we’re doing is a public service and we must take pride in our work. Now, let’s go and check on Mrs. Hendricks who’s had a red hot poker iron in her right eye since the Middle Ages for stealing candles from her local shop.”

[The demons disperse in discussion, whilst Mr. Rogers eyeballs them leaving. He is unable to do anything, his faced transfixed in an endless, wailing scream.]

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