Friday, January 18, 2013

FFF: Ravaged By Kittens

Every Friday, Kurt posts a new piece of flash fiction. This week...

Ravaged By Kittens
Word Count: 599

Birzog picked a piece of ash from his horn and tossed it aside. He wrote a few notes on the paper in front of him and dropped it in his outbox. There was a knock on the wall at the entrance to his cavern.

“Got a minute?” asked Lephroheem, the manager over Birzog’s division.

“Hey, Leph,” said Birzog. “What can I do for you?”

“I was just passing by,” said Lephroheem, “and I wanted to talk to you. You’ve always had a good track record here.”

“Thank you,” said Birzog.

“I was wondering if you’d be interested in moving out of the Ironic Punishments division,” said Lephroheem.

Birzog exhaled a puff of smoke. “Gee, Leph. I like it here. This division’s always been good to me, and I feel like I’ve done some of my best work here. Why do you ask?”

“Well,” said Lephroheem, “I couldn’t help but notice that the same punishment has shown up an awful lot lately: Ravaged by kittens.”

“Is there anything wrong with that?” asked Birzog.

“Well, it works for neglectful cat-ladies, and Satan knows there are enough of them around, but it feels like you’ve been issuing it indiscriminately.”

Birzog looked down at the sulfur stains on his desk.

“I just think your heart hasn’t been in it, lately,” said Lephroheem. “The guy with the bad hygiene that you made spend eternity with an acute sense of smell—that was good. Or that thing you did with the Wright Brothers, that was inspired; I get chills just thinking about it. But you’ve sent twenty-seven people to be ravaged by kittens in the last week alone.”

“I guess it just feels safe,” said Birzog. “It’s ironic on its face. Feels like it could work for anybody.”

“I understand,” said Lephroheem. “It’s just that, well… this is Hell. Kittens are kind of in short supply, and they’re expensive to import.”

“I know,” said Birzog. “I’ll be honest; I haven’t been on my game.”

“What happened?” asked Lephroheem.

“It was this hipster from about a month ago. Case file 592116703-11G. Everything I threw at him, he laughed at. I’d give him something new, he’d laugh even harder. He was in Heaven, so to speak.”

“Ouch,” said Lephroheem.

“I finally had to send him to the torture chambers, which felt like giving up, you know?” said Birzog. “That’s what put me in this funk.”

“It’s fine,” said Lephroheem, “we all need a break from time to time. You’ve got some vacation days coming. Why don’t you spend a week at the Lake of Fire?”

“I should,” said Birzog, “but I’m behind as it is. I’ve got souls stacking up in Limbo and not enough help here.”

“You know we don’t have the budget for more staff,” said Lephroheem.

“I know,” said Birzog. “I’ll get this figured out.”

“Good,” said Lephroheem. “Just… get away from the kittens. You’re better than that.”

“Thanks, Leph,” said Birzog, “It won’t happen anymore.”

“Glad to hear it,” said Lephroheem. “You want a coffee or something?”

“No thanks,” said Birzog, returning to his desk as his manager sauntered away.

Leph was right; Birzog needed a vacation. He pulled a file from his drawer—case file 592116703-11G. How had he let this one get under his scales? How do you ironically make someone stop loving irony?

Birzog stared at the paper. A smile crept onto his lips. He scratched out “Torture” on the bottom of the page and wrote in “Temp in the Ironic Punishment division.”

There, the thought, a few centuries of this ought to do the trick.

Edited by Carolyn Abram.

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