When Raymond committed suicide, he discovered that his vision of the afterlife was utterly incorrect. He had assumed that his parents, teachers and all those assholes at his high school would attend his funeral in tears, wailing, “We totally should have been nicer to him! We are so stupid because we didn’t understand his deep, deep thoughts!” while he’d lounge in heavenly bliss, surrounded by beautiful angels and goblets of nectar, saying, “That’s right, bitches!”
Tragically, he realized his error as he sat in Hell’s placement office, stuck between a pair of Stink Demons and waiting for the spidery Hell Advisor to give him a work study job. There was nary a goblet of nectar in sight, though there were some stale Peeps and oversweetened Kool Aid. He avoided both, figuring that any Kool Aid in Hell was surely of the Jim Jones variety. The spidery creature quizzed him about his work experience, which consisted of three months stocking shelves at the local Safeway Grocery. The creature looked him up and down and said, “Yesssss … lazy. Pretty, in a contrived sort of way. Unwilling to inconvenience himself for the sake of assisting another. Puts forth minimum effort. Habitually late. Blames failures on others. Cultivated ennui and well-versed in the art of making people feel stupid. You’ll make a perfect stock boy in Hell, won’t you?”
And thus Raymond embarked on his career as stock boy at the Supermarket of the Damned. He found his name on the shift schedule and was annoyed to see “Raymond: Continuous Shift, no days off. Ever.” When he complained about the crappy hours, the Stink Demon store manager looked genuinely pleased and chattered its unnecessarily sharp teeth at him. “God,” grumbled Raymond. “Why do I have to have a job? I’m dead, right? Like, I don’t need money for food and shelter.”
“Oh, God can’t hear you,” the Stink Demon said helpfully. “And don’t worry, you don’t get paid.” It cracked its whip and shouted, “Now, stock!”
The Frozen Food Aisle
“Urrrgh ….” groaned a zombie. “Don’t you have any fresh brains? All–arrrrrrrgh–I see here are frozen.” The zombie’s nose fell off into the crate of cockroaches Raymond was moving. The creature scooped it up, slowly, with what Raymond supposed was a sheepish smile, if it had lips.
“I don’t know,” Raymond said indifferently. Indifference was an art he had cultivated in the living world. He tossed his carefully styled hair and went back to ignoring the customer.
“Why can’t –BRAAAAAAINS–you kids give good customer service these days?”
“What do you have, Tourette’s Syndrome or something? I don’t know–why can’t you, like, not drop your rotting body parts in my roaches?” He pointedly turned away, only to find the Stink Demon manager’s burning gaze focused on him. Literally burning, thought Raymond as little blisters erupted from his skin wherever the managerial monstrosity had looked.
“Raymond!” The Stink Demon shouted. “Of course we have fresh brains! Take a little initiative next time, why don’t you, and go find out for yourself. I’m sorry, sir, here you are.” From under his cloak, he shoved out two shivering miscreants, obviously newbies in Hell. The zombie brightened, dropped twenty Hell dollars in the manager’s hand, and dragged its new purchase from the store.
“Good thing your brain isn’t fresh anymore, kid,” the Stink Demon warned. “No crowbar’s gonna get through your thick skull.”
“Yeah, whatever,” said Raymond.
The Cigarette Counter
Quite possibly the most disturbing area of the Supermarket of the Damned was the cigarette counter. Raymond had first-hand experience with its evils. He’d been working several hours and just wanted a cigarette. He asked for a smoke break, and the Stink Demon seemed suspiciously happy to grant him one, directing him to the impressive cigarette counter. Cartons of all types were artfully displayed, reflecting manufacturers from all over the world. He’d gasped to see the price tag on each one listed as $0.00.
Now he watched sourly as another Hell newbie wandered in, bleating pitifully for a nicotine fix. “Please, I just need a cigarette. God it’s been so awful here. I need a smoke.” Someone pointed her to the counter where she waited eagerly. Raymond continued stocking the Arsenic Cotton Candy. It almost hurt to watch. The noob looked around the corner, sure that someone was on their way. She rang the little bell, still looking hopefully at the brightly colored cartons and mentally choosing her purchase. She waited some more, knocking on the countertop and shouting, “Hello?” Finally the noob whirled around and saw Raymond. “You! Where’s the clerk?”
“There isn’t one,” he intoned, annoyed that she’d singled him out.
“What do you mean? Why can’t you help me?”
“I can’t, ok? I need to stock the Poison Confectionery aisle.”
“Well can’t you call a manager?”
“Because they won’t come, ok? This is Hell. You can’t have cigarettes.”
The noob fumed. “If I can’t have any, then why are they sitting there for purchase?” Determined, she marched around the counter to snatch a pack. Raymond averted his eyes, knowing what would happen but by this point, he kinda didn’t care. She’d asked, hadn’t she? He’d told her. He saw a bright poof and heard an anguished shriek, then he chuckled as he saw that the fingers of her right hand, which she’d so boldly reached out to take the cigarettes, were now replaced with particularly long eels.
“This is the Supermarket of the Damned,” he muttered. “You think they’re gonna let you have cigarettes?”
The Health and Beauty Aisle
Raymond grunted as he dragged the cart of “Uglifying Skin Creme” boxes into the Health and Beauty aisle. At least there was some small amusement in this department. He fielded all sorts of requests from irritating customers.
They wanted a hair tonic. He directed them to the “Hair No More” bottles.
They wanted an anti-diarrheal; he would explain that the store carried only laxatives. Oddly, when someone wanted a laxative, he felt compelled to explain that the store only carried anti-diarrheals. Both seemed to reside in alternate realities on the same shelf.
They wanted the cosmetics aisle; he showed them to the section of uglifying “You-So-Nasty” lipsticks, pressed powder, and nail polish. Invariably, they’d protest and he’d suggest You-So-Nasty’s competitor, Ugly in a Bottle. Some desperate souls, no doubt feeling naked without their make-up, actually purchased it. They would come back for more the next week, noticeably more warty, wrinkly, and wearing Spring colors on complexions that demanded an Autumn palette. “You know, you can use that nail polish on your horns,” he’d advise. This was a trick he’d learned from the Beauty School Demons, who bought caseloads of Ugly in a Bottle. He could always tell how long someone had been in hell by whether they’d sob at the mention of their newly-grown horns, or if they’d perk up at the mention of luxiously glossy horns.
The major annoyance in Hell was that he simply could not find the right kind of hair gel to keep his carefully tousled locks in place. In the end, he settled for some disgusting paste made from the Lipids of the Damned. It smelled grotesque and in the evenings he’d have to pick out whatever it was that was breeding among his follicles, but it did work. He didn’t mind making sacrifices for fashion, really.
The Meat Aisle
You really don’t want to know about Hell’s Meat Aisle. Raymond felt fortunate; because he had no butchering skills, he only once had to mop up when the Meat Aisle Slave was regenerating and the Demon Dogs clean-up crew were out for their morning constitutional. He had nightmares for a few weeks afterward, which was especially inconvenient because one does not sleep when one is in Hell, so his mental creations roamed the store causing havoc and chasing him. He could see that the Stink Demon was pleased when this happened, but hey, it was better than being near the cigarette counter.
The Produce Section
Hell, he learned, was populated with locavores. He was astounded at the number of farmers that came in each week to drop off freshly harvested livers and home-pickled uvulas. The produce section was easy, as it was stocked with only lima beans and delicious-looking apples that tasted (as he knew from unfortunate experience) of ammonia. Again, he’d fielded many complaints from the human contingency of hell. “Do you have any fresh basil leaves?” someone asked. “I want to make pesto.”
“You have a kitchen?” Raymond said, surprised. “In Hell?”
“Yes,” explained the customer. “I’m a chef. I love food. I was a little surprised, too. I thought this Hell thing was supposed to be all about deprivation and torture.” He laughed nervously. “Obviously that isn’t the case! But I need to go shopping because the kitchen is … not to my tastes. When I open the fridge, all I see are McDonald’s leftovers. There’s some Brie, but it expired fifteen years ago. I discovered all the fruit is wax, too, so I was pleased to see these lovely apples you have here. But where is the rest of your produce?”
Raymond had already lost interest. “There isn’t any.”
“Oh come now–“
“You can’t mean–“
“Nope. It’s Hell.”
The chef wandered forlornly, periodically lifting apples and lima bean packets in case a stray basil leaf or pine nut lay beneath.
Raymond, who had stopped eating when he was alive to fit into his tight jeans, ignored him and continued dumping apples into the bin. It didn’t matter how careless he was; they never bruised. A demon and vampire couple entered, holding hands and mooning at each other. “I’ll run and grab a bottle of blood, dear,” said the vampire. “You pick up something in produce and we’ll have a romantic candlelit dinner.”
The demon smiled. “I have the music–” (she gestured to the wailing tormented souls under her coat)–“and maybe I’ll make … hmm … lima beans with a lovely apple-ammonia sauce.”
It was a fashionable dish in Hell. Raymond smiled. If he couldn’t avoid inconvenience and a disgusting work environment, he could at least be fashionable.
There was, he heard, a mall in Hell…
You may be wondering what the hell is up with the photo. Me too. It showed up on Flickr creative commons when I searched for “demon.” How could I NOT use something so ridiculous? The rest of Scragz’s photostream is here:http://www.flickr.com/photos/scragz/2715702390/