I was walking through the fiery depths of Hell one gloriously hot day, minding my own business, really, when a gathering of four miscreants instantly recognized me and beckoned me to join them. Although they seemed vaguely familiar, I was damned if I couldn’t recall from what station of life I had last seen them.
“I’m sorry,” I said to the group. “Do I know you from somewhere?”
They all laughed, nodding their heads vigorously. “Of course,” the tall one covered in wasps stated. “We all went to school together. Class of 2154.”
I sighed at my own stupidity. “Sure, now I remember. It’s been a while.” They all grunted their approval. “So, what have you guys been up to?”
The tall one, Teddy was his name, grimaced as a particularly nasty sting needled him in a sensitive area. “Well, after school, I went to work for a medical research lab. I actually came up with a cure for cancer, but my boss tried to steal it and take all the credit. So, I bludgeoned him to death and purposely destroyed the only vial of the cure. I’m down here for murder.”
I nodded as the girl standing next to him, Mary, began to speak. “I moved to France and settled down with a family.” She adjusted the drooping flesh of her face back over the grotesque tissue that lay underneath, something she would have to do continuously and forever. “But after a while, I got bored and started having an affair with an artist. I actually inspired some of his best work, paintings and statues that are enshrined in the Louvre. When my husband found out about our little tryst, he hired somebody to kill me. So, I guess I’m down here for adultery.”
“Well,” continued the third one, a nervous fellow who had the perpetual inclination to keep looking over his shoulder at something that only he dreaded. His name was Harry. “I had this grand vision to build interconnecting gateways between feuding nations. It could have established world peace, but I sabotaged them so that only my country could use them to send annihilating weaponry. I was sent here for mass genocide.”
The last member of the group, a man named Billy, was silent for a long while, preoccupied with bubbling sores that covered him from head to foot. “I started my own religion,” he finally said. “We did a lot of charitable things, like clothing the poor and feeding the hungry. We built shelters to take care of the sick, and nurse them back to health. As my following grew and I became more powerful, I abused my position and took part in several underhanded acts. The reason I’m down here is for being worshipped as a false idol.”
When they had all finished, there was the unsettling moment of an awkward pause. “So,” Teddy said. “What are you here for?”
I couldn’t keep myself from smiling. “Oh, I had to fill in for somebody who was...let’s say, falling down on the job.” Before anything further could be said, Beelzebub bounded over and informed me that another legion of sinners had arrived. I excused myself from my former classmates and followed my minion to formally greet the newcomers.