In honor of the Holiday Season I always give this story away for free. If you love it, you can buy a print copy (replete with silly pictures) from Lulu.com and you can download it for your Kindle and your Nook (.99 cents each). Or, you can just read it here for free. The PDF seems to be giving us some grief. So soon as I figure out how to post it – I will. Or you can drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll send you the PDF. 🙂 All of this said I give you a FREE short story — The Day Hell Froze Over. Please DO NOT copy and paste this story anywhere. It is an original work by me and is copywritten by me. Thank you.
The Day Hell Froze Over — S. J. Reisner
It was a cold day in hell and everyone who lived there had ice water. Lord Asmodeus, Prince of Hell, sat at a long wooden table with his horned-head buried in his hands. His skull throbbed with the migraine he woke up with. Countless times he had told the minions of his legions to leave him alone until he had his morning coffee. But this morning they ignored him, or they weren’t listening, and sent Hell’s Chief Engineer, Tundra, in right away. Immediately, the short lizard, Volundra Tundra, began ranting with flailing arms. His wild, panicked green eyes denoted his obvious displeasure.
“My Dark Lord, the seismic retractor threw a retro-generator. All because some idiot dropped a crispy soul into the gears! It’s simply implausible, unthinkable, and ludicrous at that. For all the time I’ve spent slaving for my machinery you would think I deserve more respect! For me – there is none! I only run this place. Who do you think calculated the blue prints? Urobach? Heavens no! He just replaces hydrogen cartridges in the hydro-furnaces. Ha! And who gets all the credit? It certainly isn’t me!” The little lizard continued on pacing, stomping, and yelling.
All the while Tundra’s technicians came and went from Asmodeus’s office with greasy hands and equally greasy tools. Each brought new news and none of it good. Many of the parts had been backordered or were no longer manufactured. It looked as though hell had, for the first time in history, frozen over.
Asmodeus stretched his neck, took a deep breath and sat back in his ergonomic office chair. He noticed Tundra’s green, glossy scales were already cracking, a sure sign of freezer burn.
Tundra went on. “Oh! Lord Satan is going to be extremely upset. And do you know who he’s going to yell at? Me, I tell you. Never mind that I caught Urobach sleeping on the job. Just because he’s your cousin…”
Finally, Asmodeus had had enough. He held up a thin hand with precisely manicured talons, silencing the agitated Tundra. “I don’t know what to tell you, pal,” he said. He pulled his laptop closer and began typing. “We’ll just send a quick e-mail to Satan telling him we’re working on it.”
As he connected to AO-Hell a familiar scratchy voice growled: “You’ve got mail.” Asmodeus clicked on the mailbox icon and gasped. “Well, looks like Satan wants to see us A-S-A-P! We’re up the river Styx without a paddle!”
It took mere minutes for the twosome to find themselves in Satan’s private chambers. They stood near the door just in case they had to make a run for it. The Lord of Darkness was infamous for his reactive temperament. He was playing a game of pool.
“Suggestions?” Satan asked, eyeing the eight ball suspiciously. He lined up his cue, then abruptly stood; facing Asmodeus and Tundra.
Tundra stepped forward obediently. “Well, it’s merely a climatic change, sir. Many cultures have lived through such changes. We’ll just have to close down the clothing optional communities for a few weeks until we can locate parts. Or the damned souls will have to remain strictly indoors,” he added thoughtfully.
“But that’s why it’s hell! It’s hot!” The Dark Lord twisted his mouth into a menacing grimace. “If it’s a cold place we’ll have to change the name. Do you see what I mean? We have a reputation to uphold. All the brochures show a warm, tropical climate. Our tourism will plummet! Strip malls everywhere will have to close down! Look at all the Catholic’s we’ll be disappointing! They’ll have to reprint all of their literature, and if that won’t piss off the Pope I don’t know what will. Do you know what this will do to our economy? What do you expect me to do? Tell our citizens: ‘Oh, sorry, we’ll have to change the name of the kingdom to the Arctic?’ It’s just not the same thing!”
Asmodeus swallowed the lump in his throat. “Well, Father, we could concentrate on our industry to pick up the lag in tourism. It will keep all our citizen souls busy. Temporarily, of course. When Tundra gets the super hydro-furnaces back up and running we can concentrate on our tourism industry again,” he suggested. He pulled back and squinted, expecting a harsh retaliation from his infernal father.
Satan thought about this for a moment. “Hmm,” he finally said re-aligning his cue stick with the ball. “Which industries have the ability to pick up tab for the drop in tourism?”
“Toys,” replied Tundra without hesitation.
“Toys?” Satan asked.
“Yes, sir,” he replied. “Dolls, trains, pretend soldiers, stuffed animals. We have over thirty-five factories in this sphere of the Inferno alone.”
“What the hell are we manufacturing toys for? What’s the fun in that,” cried Satan. If word of this got out, he feared the whole reputation of infernal damnation would go to heaven in a hand basket.
“A lot of toy makers were sent here when they died. After Barbie and all those toy guns, Jehovah was pretty upset,” Asmodeus explained. “They were made an example of.”
“But – toys?” Satan asked again.
Asmodeus cleared his throat. “Well, father, the toys help pay the hydrogen bills and lots of people buy them. They have whole stores promoting our stuff on Earth.”
He pointed to Tundra. “He came up with the initial idea of Teletubbies and Barney the purple dinosaur. Kids love them!”
Satan nodded. “I see. If it’s toys we have then we need a marketing plan. A way to sell more ‘toys’ because we will be making more toys to keep our damned souls busy while we’re waiting for Tundra to fix the furnaces. Get production rolling, and get that furnace fixed! And, ” he added, ” I want a sign posted stating that no crispy souls are allowed in Furnace Engineering!” He waved them from his chambers with a quick flick of his wrist.
Everywhere, in all nine spheres of the now frozen hell, damned souls sat inside making toys. They took great delight in something to do now that it was too cold to do anything outside. So far, Tundra had been unable to fix the furnaces. Not only were the damaged gears no longer made, but he could not find the blueprints for the parts needed. To top it off, the working gears and controls had frozen solid. It seemed doubtful the furnaces would work ever again.
By November the whole community of hell had pretty much given up on the idea of the furnaces returning the abyss to its natural state. Meanwhile, the pope was so pissed he did away with purgatory and changed the definition of hell to a state of existence.
It was mid December when more bad news came. Satan and Asmodeus sat in the main house near the fire having their nightly tea as usual. In the months that had passed, Satan had gained quite a bit of weight as had his wife. It seemed everyone was getting pudgy.
It was this day, however, that Tundra bolted into the living room startling Satan and Asmodeus. “We have a serious problem, my great Lords!” Tundra cried.
Satan put his hands up to the frantic lizard. “Calm down, and tell us what’s wrong.”
“The warehouses are overflowing! The orders aren’t coming in! We can’t store anymore toys. We have no place to put them. And, the Infernal Revenue Service did an audit. We need more charitable contributions or we’ll owe taxes this year. What will we do?” Tundra fell to his knees and buried his head in his hands.
Asmodeus’s eyes widened. He had an idea. “We could have a promotional, charitable campaign!”
Satan sat back in his chair and scratched at his long, gray beard. “Yes. I have it! We could travel throughout the worlds, all of them, and give every child one toy. That should significantly reduce our stock, and we could use it as a tax write-off. Whatever is left will be used to fill orders.”
“But how will we distribute them, father?”
“Tundra,” Satan ordered, “You will build me a sleigh. Even a four wheel drive SUV won’t get on in this weather. We will have to find some animals to pull it. Horses?”
“I don’t think we have horses,” Tundra told him. He pulled out his Palm Pilot and checked.
“Well, what do we have?” the king of hell asked.
“Pigs, and goats mostly…” started Tundra.
“No, no!” said Satan. “They won’t do. We need animals fast and graceful!”
“Dogs,” Tundra suggested.
“What kind?” asked Asmodeus.
“Attack Rotweilers and Pit Bulls,” Tundra replied.
“No, that won’t do.” His infernal holiness let out a deep sigh.
“That leaves the rabid reindeer,” Tundra finally said in defeat.
Satan’s eyes lit up. “They’re fast…”
“And graceful,” added Asmodeus.
“Excuse me for asking, your highnesses,” Tundra said, his voice squeaking. “It will take years to deliver toys by reindeer sled. You have to travel by boat or space ship part of the time. You’ll need a passport, current vaccination records… It’s all more trouble than it’s worth.”
“Don’t be so negative, Tundra. I’ve thought of that. I will magically enchant the reindeer to fly and I will magically whisk the toys down the chimneys of the houses of children everywhere!” Satan said triumphantly.
Asmodeus broke his father’s serene fantasy. “Uh, but you forgot. We’ve never been well received on several planets, including earth. Jehovah made sure of that. Remember the last time we tried to do something like this? All we did was share herbal medicine and alchemy with people for healing. We thought we were being helpful,” Asmodeus said, hoping his father would remember.
Satan nodded in agreement.
“So how, do you suspect, we’ll be able to pull this off without starting another inquisition? Jehovah has a nasty temper.” Asmodeus raised an eyebrow.
“I will go under a pseudo-name,” Satan told his son plainly.
“A what kind of name?” asked Tundra, confused.
“A fake name, you idiot! I’ll still use the letters of my own name, of course. An anagram.” With that, Satan pulled out a pad of paper, grabbed a pencil, and began jumbling the letters of his name. “Natas,” he said.
Asmodeus shook his head. “Too obvious.”
Tundra shook his head and snorted. “No, sire. Too – ‘Rosemary’s Baby.’ Remember the tanis root?”
“Taans or Saant?” Satan tried again.
“Not memorable.,” Asmodeus told him.
“How about Santa?”
“Too bland,” Asmodeus decided.
Just then Satan’s wife, Lilith, with crimson nails and curlers in her hair hurried into the room. “Have you seen my claws clipper?” she asked, rummaging through the end-table drawer.
Asmodeus’s eyes lit up. “Santa Claws!” When he realized both his father and Tundra were confused, he decided to explain. “I can’t believe I didn’t think of it before! It’s perfect. Some jackass already started a myth on Earth about some guy named Santa Claus.”
“Perfect! That’s it!” Satan retorted with zeal. “Tax deduction – here we come!” With that, Satan, now Santa, stood, adjusted his black belt and red fur suit jacket, let out a jolly chuckle and led Tundra and Asmodeus to the workshop to build the sleigh.
Now, every year, in late December, when the toy factories of the once tropical hell have manufactured more toys than they can sell, and with tax season just around the corner, Satan, er Santa, harnesses up his enchanted rabid reindeer, loads up his magical sleigh with toys, and distributes them world and universe-wide to children everywhere. About five years after the first toy run, Santa legally changed the name of Hell to The North Pole, which significantly increased tourism. Finally, order was restored (even though the furnaces were never fixed) and they all lived happily ever after.