(Or How to Balance Family, Religion, and Friendship in Pandemonium, Kingdom of Hell)
“I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life and that’s why I succeed.” – Michael Jordan
“Welcome to Suckersville, man!” – Matt Groening
“This was your last job, huh?” He mutters it to no one in particular, adding a rueful headshake on the last syllable.
The office is cramped, barely room for a desk and workstation yet somehow files, boxes and folders seem to find purchase on long buried shelves. Were these all applicants looking for a new job? A new chance?
“Can you even answer like that?” His eyes finally leave the screen and move by millimeters to focus on Zizanú. A heavy sigh leaves his large frame as he adjusts awkwardly behind the desk. The stacks of reports and files rustle and threaten to cascade down as he leans back and stretches his heavily-muscled arms. Rough knuckles graze the ceiling as an ominous pop leaves his shoulders.
“Yes. I can speak.” It was musical, thousands of tiny voices lifting together in chorus. The room seemed to pulse with the sound of fluttering wings and clicking mouthparts each contributing to the melodic and alien voice.
“Neat trick! Bet that used to scare them! Do you know Paz? He had a similar shtick.” He bangs his fist down as he stabs a finger in Zizanú’s direction. He leans forward, his ample frame causing the desk to groan. His full attention and good humor are more alarming than his boredom.
“Pazuzu. Old friend, Sumerian too. Heard he made it big in Hollywood. Real success story.” he grins wide. Zizanú noticed his teeth for the first time: shiny, sharp, and a brilliant white.
“I was in his court. A long time ago…”
“Yeah…” the smile fades and a new emotion flashes in his eyes: pity, “Look, I understand. It’s hard out there. No one wants to be downsized. But you just pick yourself up and get out there.”
Zizanú abruptly starts to shake. This was all too much. To be here, starting over. A sound begins to fill the office, a high-pitched trill and a rising cacophony of tiny claws scratching on every surface.
“No need to cry! Are… are you crying? I can’t tell, looking at you is hurting my head. Try to condense down…”
It slowly dawned on Zizanú, it was currently an ideation. They were a swirling mass of legs and wings, clicking jaws and waving antenna rising and falling into a central mass of chitin. Zizanú was the idea of a locust swarm given flesh, a literal cloud of hunger and the impression of an endless number of insects. And they were crying. In public.
“I’m sorry! I didn’t realize…”
“It’s okay. I get it. You hit the Material Plane and make with the buzzsaw voice and bug cloud. Boom!” His fist drops for effect, the entire room seems to ripple and shake from the impact. “The mortals freak out and perpetuate your concept. It was easy. Always was.” That toothy smile returns to only disappear under a sneer. “But nowadays, eh… Contracts. Forms. Negotiations! We got demons that were retired being called up because they got a mention on a TV show.”
“Mr. Enkidu… I’m willing to work. I just want… a chance.”
“Entry-level, business casual so self-manifested personification is a must. Non-affiliated so you won’t be working for a court but headhunters watch the high-scorers. It’s a job but it isn’t like the old days…” Enkidu had returned his eyes to the screen only to return their focus to Zizanú as he held out a piece of paper. “I can give you a small chance. All the details are on the sheet.”
“Thank you. I’ll try my best.” Zizanú’s psuedopod gently envelops the paper, thousands of claws and mandibles flexing and twitching as they retract it into their mass. Things seemed to be looking up!
“Before you go, may I see you personify? So I can confirm you can?” Enkidu asks sheepishly. His eyes search the floor as he shifts his weight in his chair. He hated asking, moving from conceptual core branchinating to ideation was one thing, ideation to self-personification had excluded a great many demons from work. He wanted the little Akkadian bug ball to get a win; working in Hell was hard and good jobs were scarce.
“Oh! Of course…”
Damn it! They were so close, could they just swarm out a vent!? No… No! Swarming out of vent wouldn’t save them this time. Focus, they could do this. Just go from concept to idea made flesh (already done!) to personified entity. Get some DNA and hemoglobin and lungs and…!
Suddenly the ground seemed to rush up at Zizanú. Everything was dark. Her eyes had closed as her body had hit the ground. They were a person! Kind of…
“Oh man! You okay!? Oh no, you’re naked. Naked bug lady…” Enkidu had gently lifted and moved his desk to the side as he dropped his suit jacket over the shivering and nude Zizanú and helped her to her unsteady feet. Shamhat was going to be mad but his wife’s temper was easily outmatched by her mercy
“I am a person!” Suddenly Zizanú realized her mouth felt strange and promptly plucked out the paper she had moments before enveloped. Lucky, she thought, no need to vomit it up later. Things were truly looking up!