Holiday in Hell

Perdition is no excuse not to find the right gifts this season.

You're dead. Really. What's worse, discovering yourself in a pit of eternal damnation, you still have to shop for the holidays. Aren't the flames of Hades bad enough, you ask, without having to go back to the mall? Just when you're growing accustomed to the oceans of fire, landscapes of burning sulfur and coal, and Satan's cackling minions constantly poking you in the ass with pitchforks, it's time to face the truly hellish prospect of pleasing your fellow lost souls—and your foul-humored tormenters.

Start simple. Take your cues from your surroundings. On which circle of hell, precisely, is your gift recipient located? Those guilty of standing on escalators and impeding impatient pedestrians behind them would be on the sixth circle, holding red-hot embers for eternity. For them—oven mitts! Those condemned for allowing their cell phones to ring in movie theaters are sentenced to stand forever in cauldrons of shit (eighth circle) and could surely use some nose plugs.

Now you get the idea. It's one thing to have your liver eternally eaten by a hungry buzzard, but quite another with books-on-tape and a good set of headphones! (Extra batteries are recommended.) Swimming against a stream of hot magma until the end of time may sound like a drag, but why not let your co-sufferers look their best with the present of a sexy new bathing suit? (Some models available in asbestos.)

Seasonal affective disorder is never a problem in hell since the climate is downright tropical, meaning that warm weather notions will be appreciated. Skin creams can help alleviate scourged flesh, while underworld-strength sunblock runs up to SPF 400! Given all the fire and brimstone, quality sunglasses make a fine stocking stuffer—although welder's goggles will hold up better for the endless sparks and embers. Straw sun hats might seem like a good idea, but have a tendency to spontaneously combust.

You can't go wrong with ice cube trays or thermal mugs to keep beverages cool. Sure, there isn't actually any water or booze in hell, but it never hurts to dream. Likewise, an electric fan provides a delightfully welcome breeze—if you can get the thing to run off the current from the earth's molten core.

Avoid novelty ties. Every year, some joker thinks it's funny to give out a pitchfork-embroidered tie with some slogan like, "Hope you have a hot holiday season!" but that gets old, say, after about the ten thousandth time.

The elements are surprisingly variable in hell, creating some exciting outerwear possibilities. On the stygian marsh (fifth circle), for instance, a nice pair of hip waders comes in handy. Swimming the seventh circle's river of blood would be far more pleasant with one of those waterproof sports watches with lap counter function. (Number 484,008; number 484,009; number 484,010. . . .) Nearby, the plain of burning sand calls out for comfy thick-soled running shoes to run, run, run for unobtainable shade. Down on nine, the telephone solicitors frozen in ice could use lip balm and mittens. Even though the first circle of hell, limbo, seems pretty mild, those wretched agnostic souls could use something to relieve the end- less tedium. That's the beauty of checkers—there's a game that never gets dull!

Also remember that the holiday season is about giving; it's not just about what you, the persecuted and the damned, want to receive. Instead, think about those poor goblins and ghouls assigned to administer your ceaseless agony. Talk about drudgery! Do you ever ask what might make their lives a little easier?

Start with megaphones to avoid the hoarse voices that come with heaping obscene invective on you all the time. Or lozenges; most demons prefer mint. And those guys work on their cloven feet 24-7, so a gift certificate for a pedicure is sure to please. (Who knows, maybe your personal torturer might even spare you the old barbed-poker-up-the-rectum routine once, just once, before returning to the never- ending cycle.)

And what about Satan? Think of the management pressure he's under. Talk about quotas! Every day brings thousands more case files for him to sort through and assign. You know what he'd love? One of those little handheld Dictaphones! ("Memo to myself: Order more charcoal lighter fluid. And some marshmallows—just for me.") Finally, you know how the fallen angel gets a little down during the holiday season, so remember to use one of those nondenominational cards with your gift. He's still a little sensitive about everyone celebrating the birth of you-know-who.

bmiller@seattleweekly.com

 
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