Dedicated to the memory and spirit of Fredrick Brown
Mot moved down the Eternal Hallway with an effortless glide. He was tall, 8 foot 2 and a half inches to be precise, dressed in a black cloak, hood over his head, obscuring all facial features. In his bony left hand, he carried a long scythe parallel to his body.
Mot had been moving down the hall for somewhere between 750 and 900 years, give or take a decade or two. He wasn’t exactly sure as he hadn’t checked time before embarking on his journey. Time isn’t relevant to an Angel of Death.
Screams, throat rattles, and guttural moans from the eternally tortured were piped into the Eternal Hallway like Muzac in a suburban mall. Mot hummed along to his meeting wondering how long he had been traveling because he knew Bilé would chastise him if he were tardy. While it was impossible for Mot to be tardy, existing outside of time and all, Pwcca would burn him nonetheless. It was what Tezcatlipoca did, burn and torture and other things unspeakable.
Mot was also going through the innumerable names of Yaotzin. He had so danged many. Besides Bilé, Pwcca, Tezcatlipoca, and Yaotzin, other favorites were Adramalech, Apollyon, Mantus, Melek Taus, Mictian, Moloch, Nergal, Nihasa, Samnu, Sedit, Yen-lo-Wang, and many more unnavigable with a human tongue. His friends often called him Hoof.
Mot was not his friend, so choosing a name with which to address him was a befuddling task.
Several hundred years later Mot arrived at his destination. Standing in front of the door he removed the round, yellow smiley face pin from his cloak and dropped it in his pocket. “You got to go in the pocket for a while, Ted.” He had named the smiley face pin Ted. “Just for a little while.”
Uniform accessories were forbidden and Samnu was a stickler for dress code. Mot checked his breath to make sure it was putrid, shook his bony arms to relax and loosen up, then finally grabbed the handle, turned the knob, opened the door, and walked in.
The door creaked open like a rusty castle drawbridge. Mot glided into the outer office and stood in front of the secretary’s government surplus metal desk.
He stood for what seemed like fifty years. The secretary was typing memos or some such on an old Underwood typewriter, oblivious to Mot standing before her. She was a timeless hag, snaggletoothed, with open sores oozing puss, and wearing an immaculate Guy Laroche black dress accented with a pearl necklace and baby teeth earrings. She finished the memo with a flurry of mad typing, ripped it out of the Underwood, and slid it neatly on a stack of papers in her outbox. As she turned to Mot, a tricolored scab fell from her neck along with several ashy flakes. The skin on her face, what was left of it, had turned to leather and was stretched drum tight. Her empty eye sockets were black as pitch. Her eyeballs were missing, but her eyelids still clung to her forehead, drooping lackadaisically over the sockets. The left one still had a few lashes. The secretary’s name was Marzanna, her friends called her Marge.
Mot was not her friend, either.
“And how are you, Marzanna?” Mot inquired politely.
“Shitty,” she replied.
“Glad to hear it.” Mot rocked on the balls of his feet, drew a deep breath, and continued, “Is he in?”
“He’s been waiting,” Marzanna said testily. As she spoke, a left incisor fell out of her jaw and into her mouth. She rolled it with her wart covered tongue and spit it into a wastebasket across the room. “You are his last appointment. He’s anxious to leave for the weekend.”
“It’s the weekend, is it?”
“It is if he wants it to be,” she paused and lined her empty, gaping, soulless eye sockets directly at Mot, “and he always wants it to be the weekend.”
“Yes, of course, who doesn’t look forward to the weekend. Seems like it never gets here,” Mot laughed awkwardly, “mostly because it never does.”
Crickets crawled out of Marzanna’s left ear hole.
Mot knew he should stop talking but he kept hearing words drop out of his mouth, “Sorry if I’m late,” he turned and pointed a bony finger, missing the top joint, towards the open door, “They don’t call it the Eternal Hallway for nothing, you know.”
More crickets crawled out Marzanna’s left ear.
“Have a seat,” she said, dust spraying out of her mouth as she spoke. “I’ll tell him you’ve finally arrived.”
“Ahh, yes, thank you.” Mot turned and surveyed the outer office. If memory served, they had redecorated since he had last visited. His remembrance from before was the office had been medieval, heavy on blood, and tones of excrement. The room was now more inquisitiony with holocaust accents and hints of BDSM with no safe word. As he took a seat in a leather wingback chair, making sure the spike went straight up his ass, Mot asked, as casually as he could muster, “Any idea why he wishes to speak with me?”
If Marzanna had eyes, she would have cut them in his direction to signal Mot he should shut up. She didn’t need eyes to convey this message. Mot sat quietly. Marzanna picked up the phone, and viciously hit the intercom button. After two beats, “He’s finally arrived.” After another two beats, “I’ll tell him.” Before she could hang up the phone, her hand fell off her wrist and into her lap, the receiver clacking to the floor. She took no notice. “He’ll be right with you.”
Mot sat quietly, squirming as little as an Angel of Death can when he is nervous and has a wooden spike up his posterior.
Soon enough the door to Nergal’s office opened and he stepped into the outer office. He was tall, though not as tall as Mot, thin, and his face was pale almost to transparency. He had no outstanding features save a pencil thin mustache. His suit was black and for a splash of color, he wore a lavender beret atop his head at a rakish tilt.
Mot, thank you for coming, unimpale yourself and come on in.
“Thank you,” said Mot. He carefully rose and glided ahead of Adramalech into the inner sanctum.
Hold my calls.
“No one calls you.”
He turned and walked into his office. Mot was standing in front of a six foot tall, twenty foot wide, and ten foot deep black marble desk. The walls of the office were yellow fire and the floor was high viscosity lava. The room smelled of sulfur, ragweed, and lemon rinds. Nihasa closed the door behind him and walked to his desk.
I’m sorry to take you off the streets, Mot, but HR is climbing up my ass about you and I think you know why.
“I more than meet my quota, I’m top 15 percent every quarter.”
It’s not production, Mot, it’s method.
“You said snot.”
Don’t humor me, Mot.
Mantus walked behind his desk and sat on a giant golden throne.
Please, make yourself comfortable, stand in the boiling diarrhea barrel.
Mot glided to the barrel of boiling diarrhea in the middle of the room, “Head first or feet first?”
Feet first is fine.
Mot climbed into the barrel.
I have reports here. Melek Taus shuffled through papers on his desk, found the report he was looking for and began to read.
Intake says some people are arriving in hell snickering. He looks up to Mot and shrugs his shoulders and shakes his head.
What the what, Mott. Snickering?
That’s not all.
Shuffling more papers he comes up with another report.
Here’s one that says chortling. Chortling, Mot. Pause for emphasis. I don’t even know what chortling is but I’m pretty sure it is worse than snickering. You are a freaking Angel of Death dispatching souls to hell. They are not supposed to arrive chortling and snickering. That’s for souls going the other way.
“Some are scared,” pleaded Mot. “Some are really scared, and disconcerted.”
Sedit rubbed his temples.
Explain to me this method of yours I’ve been hearing about.
“Well, I sneak up on them,” Mot crouches in the barrel of boiling diarrhea as best he can, raises his scythe and torques his back, “then I whack their head clean off,” he lets rip a swing of the scythe, “and as the head tumbles and rolls I say, ‘Whoops-a-doodle.’” He stands straight and fidgets a might. “Kind of ironic like, you know. Whoops-a-doodle.”
Long, slow, heavy sigh from behind the desk.
First thing, Mot, and take this as constructive criticism. So, you cut their head off in one fell swoop, which is okay, I suppose, on occasion, but it would be better if you hacked them up a bit. Use the pointy end of the scythe to stab them, then slice and dice a little. I mean, we gave you the scythe for a reason. One, it looks cool, especially with the robe and all, and two, it isn’t very efficient for killing people, you have to work at it. So take advantage, Mot, come on, ingenuity, my man.
“I see what you’re saying.”
Do you, Mot. Do you really?
I need to know that this time, you really hear what I’m saying.
“I do. More stark terror, less irony and whimsy.”
Stark terror ALL the time, irony on occasion, to break the monotony. Absolutely no whimsy. Whimsy is out.
No more whoops-a-doodle?
Mot sighed, his hood slouched, he whispered, “Whoops-a-doodle is right out.”
Moloch slaps both hands on the black marble.
Excellent, he exclaimed.
Mot began to climb out of the barrel of boiling diarrhea, careful not to spill any on the lava floor.
One last thing, Mictian said.
Mot was one beaten down, hapless Angel of Death. He looked mournfully to Yen-lo-Wang.
You know what I’m going to ask for. He held out his hand.
Mot sighed, reached into his pocket and withdrew Ted.
You know we freaking see you. Everywhere. Throughout eternity, time and space.
Mot stretched out a shaky, bony hand and gave the smiley face button to Apollyon, who took it, opened his desk drawer to reveal hundreds of other smiley face buttons with names like Billy, Joey, Fred, Buddy and so on. He dropped Ted with the others and closed the drawer.
So we are all clear, are we?
Go knock them dead, Mot.
Mot shuffle-glided out of the office and back down the Eternal Hallway.
Mark A. Nobles is a sixth generation Texan. Born on Fort Worth’s infamous Jacksboro Highway, Markproudly claims blood and kinship with Thunder Road’s gamblers, outlaws, and wastrels. His work has appeared in Cowboy Jamboree, Sleeping Panther Review, Crimson Streets, Cleaver Magazine, Curating Alexandria, The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, and other publications. He has produced and/or directed three feature documentaries and several short, experimental films. Mark lives in Fort Worth but hopes to die in the desert. He loves his two dogs, two daughters, and Texas, but not necessarily in that order. He can be found and followed on Facebook @ Flyin’ Shoes Films.