Tag Archives: waterhouse

Wherein Sara meets God

“What’s he like?”
They were now in Steve’s office. A fairly posh affair compared to the cubicles in the outside area, Steve had high-backed leather swivel chairs that surrounded a pentagonal oak table. In the far corner was a small oaken desk with a laptop on it, complete with red horns above the Apple logo. He sat at the desk perusing some interoffice memos and emails, sipping his coffee, as Sara had a look around.
“What’s who like?” Steve said, clicking idly with his optical mouse.
“You know…the boss.”
“Springsteen? He’s not here yet.”
“You know who I mean, jerk.”
He looked up from the computer screen, slightly perplexed.
“No, I really don’t.”
“Well, you know…” Sara gesticulated in what she hoped was a pleading manner. She said the next word in a worrisome whisper.
“God.”
“Why did you whisper that?” Steve laughed, leaning back in his chair.
“I don’t know, I figured his name probably wasn’t all that great to say, being in Hell.”
“No, that’s the beauty of it. We have very few rules down here, we can do as we please as long as we don’t anger the big guy and, believe me, that takes a lot.”
“Really?”
“Didn’t even flinch when I threw things at him.”
“You…threw things at him?” Sara was baffled.
“I had so much more I had wanted to do in life! I was pissed I got cut out so early, I really gave him a piece of my mind…not that it mattered.”
“Why?”
Steve leaned forward and took a deep breath, like he was about to tell Sara where babies came from.
“The problem is that people keep fitting God into ideas they can understand, ideas that are human. The whole point is that he isn’t. He’s not human, he’s not like anything else in the universe.”
“You mean there’s life somewhere else?” Sara’s eyes were wide and curious.
“Of course. It wouldn’t be logical to create a whole universe of nothing, would it? If you’re curious, the alien afterlifes are on separate planes from this one, but you can visit if you want to. We don’t mix them because it has a tendency to freak out all involved.”
He propped a pair of Chuck Taylor All Stars on his desk, leaning back and languishing. “Anyway! Back to the big guy. He’s not human. He’s really not anything, and yet he’s everything. It’s difficult to understand. All you really need to know is that he’s pretty cool. Great for conversations on pretty much anything because, well, he’s freaking God, but the problem is when it comes to business. He doesn’t care and he doesn’t not care, Sara. Business is business, and he’s basically there just to keep it all in line. I yelled and screamed and threw things when he welcomed me to paradise, but he didn’t get angry at me…or feel bad for me. He didn’t really feel, he’s kinda distant in that respect.”
“So God’s a Vulcan?” Sara involuntarily made the infamous hand signal.
“Sort of, yeah. I mean, he’s plenty interesting when you’re talking about something, but just don’t ask him to hate or empathize. It’s like this: if God acted like a human, it’d be like you and me knowing that every day we’d have to kill millions of our children.”
Sara inhaled sharply. Steve noticed.
“See? Humans can’t do that. Or when Lucifer was in charge, how do you think a human would have dealt with all evil in the world being the work of one of your children who saw no grater pleasure than trying to spite his father? We as humans can’t handle that, so God just exists above it. He’s got no happy, no sad, no scared, no mad. He’s not like us, and I’m damn thankful for that. He basically keeps the entire system from careening off into pan-dimensional anarchy, his power is beyond our power to even believe…but just don’t even think he’s human. Even calling him “him,” which is something I just do out of old habit, isn’t true because he really doesn’t have a gender. He’s just…there. He makes everything work with cold, calculating mathematical precision, and he doesn’t think about it further…because he can’t afford to. In some ways, it’s a life I wish I had,” Steve’s eyes grew distant, “but in other ways it’s a life I wouldn’t ever possibly want. That’s why I changed things up down here, I made it more human, I had to. I don’t make it all about torture and malice because, in reality, that would tear me apart. Thankfully, God didn’t ask me to fill in for him, that’s way too much damned paperwork. But he does it, and he doesn’t complain. I don’t even think he knows how to.”
Steve finished off his coffee. “All that said, he plays a mean game of Cribbage. Just don’t expect any feeling of satisfaction if you beat him.”
“So can I go meet him?”
“If you want. We’ve got pretty free reign round her, Sara. Just concentrate on anyplace hard enough and you can pop in and out, part of the special bargain. If you are going to visit the big guy, though, remember: don’t ask him any questions, because you might not like the answers. Don’t praise him, because he won’t recognize it. Don’t try to impress him with what you say, he’s more impressed by what you do. Just…talk to him. Oh, and don’t be afraid to tell him when he starts going off on something ponderous, he doesn’t really realize it most of the time.”
“He sounds very interesting.” Sara smiled.
“What do you expect?” Steve laughed, “He’s God.”

Welcome to Hell

It wasn’t what she was expecting, but in a strange, perverse way, it was.
Cubicles. Bulletin boards. Drywall. Everything austere, gray, and businesslike.
“You turned Hell…into Initech?” She said breathlessly.
“It’s efficient,” he attempted a defense.
“Oh, for crying out…the staplers are even red!”
“Come on, I spend all day punishing people for their sins, let me have a little clean fun!” he wailed, “now come on, let’s get to my office.”
While walking through the rows of cubicles, Sarah saw demons typing away busily at computers, drinking from coffee mugs (one reading “world’s best hellspawn”) and filing various reports. She had to admit, this was all very efficient looking, but at the same time very jarring. Steve, however, was in his element, barking out orders and questions to the fearsome beasts that flanked him in their pigeonholes.
“How’s the heat bill for this month?”
“Not bad, sir, since we fixed the boiler problem in the lake of fire,” a succubus in horn rims answered.
“How are things progressing for our second level folks?”
“We had one move up to third, but there’s still quite a few down there,” a deep-voiced demon responded, clipboard in hand.
“Ah well. Make sure you research the procedures, too. I don’t want any of that generic fork-in-the-butt kinda thing. We need to find out what they fear the most, and exploit it. Only then can we get real confessions out of these people.”
Sarah smiled, “you’ve wanted to do this forever, haven’t you? Any means necessary to get the truth…”
“Damn straight!” Steve winked at her, “oh, and feel free to swear down here, it’s a-ok. Fuck damn shit!” With a grin, he turned to his personal secretary, a friendly looking older woman with small horns protruding from a graying bob.
“How we doing, Gloria?”
“You’ve got a meeting with Hitler at four, remember, and the Repentance department want you to look at these confessions.”
Steve looked them over approvingly, nodding. “Looks like we have a few on the way to recovery. Are the Christophers back yet, Gloria?”
“No sir, still on their honeymoon.”
He turned back to Sarah again, “Newlyweds. Angel and demon. You’ve never seen a pair like it. So!” He exclaimed, picking up his own ‘Best Satan Ever’ coffee mug from Gloria, “Any questions?”
Sarah was falling in nicely. Cocking an eyebrow, she asked, “Hitler’s here?”
“Yep.”
“How long has he been here?”
“Doesn’t work like that, really. You’re on a different plane, we operate on our own rules of time and space. Basically, you wind up on the other side the minute you accept it. The thing is,” he said, hopping up and sitting on Gloria’s desk, “self-preservation is the strongest human instinct. Often times, in the nanosecond before death takes someone, they repent in the snappiest of synapses in their noodles. Even a guy putting a bullet in his head will often have his final electrical impulse be an acceptance and a plea for forgiveness, but by then it’s too late. The idea is that once you accept it, you pop in here, or upstairs, depending. If you’re not too bad of a person, first or second level or so, it won’t take long to work off your trouble and find your way into Heaven. Hitler…well, even by our standards he’s been here a while. Being a good Christian and all, he snapped right in here, and boy was he in for a treat!
Now, those who stay stubborn to the end and still can’t quite get themselves to wish themselves on to the next plane get stuck inbetween, with unfinished business to do until they finally accept it.”
“You mean ghosts?”
“You betcha. Most suicides end up being ghosts going around trying to apologize for a while, actually. All the people who miss ’em, blame themselves, et cetera. They don’t have the privilege like me and the demons of going topside whenever business calls. Thankfully, due to growing apathy with all major religious, our enrollment is way down lately and we’re basically able to take our time with our rehabilitations.”
“I like how you call it that.”
“It is,” Steve said, taking another sip, “with extreme prejudice.”
Sarah laughed, a bright cheery laugh that many of the demons could not emulate.
“This is heaven for you, isn’t it? Punishing the wicked like you never could in court.”
Steve Waterhouse answered only with a small smile.

Steve Waterhouse has a chat

I may be technically Satan, but I’m still a crusading lawyer at heart. Looking out for the little guy, even from the gates of Hell, that’s me. Even if they don’t always want to hear it. Take, for instance, a little problem Sara and I ran into on our way back to Hell this morning. Well, not so much ran into as invited it, but you’d be surprised the things you have the guts to do when you can no longer die.
This guy was a real piece of work, shuffling down the street in pants that must have been five sizes plus what he should have been wearing. Even though they hung down halfway to his knees, there wasn’t anything really indecent, because the hooded sweatshirt he was wearing draped well down past the level where we would (thankfully) see what kind of underwear he had on. Top off the whole ridiculous ensemble with a baseball cap worn in the perfectly wrong fashion: the brim is cocked to the side, eliminating the chance to deflect sunlight, and the brim wasn’t curved, also reducing the effectiveness of the hat’s ability to do, well, it’s chosen purpose. I don’t even know why I did it, but having the legions of hell backing you up is always a bit of a morale booster.
“Tool,” I muttered as we walked by. I could feel Sara tense up beside me the moment I said it, and she shot me a look as if to say “are you insane?”
It took the young man a while to turn around, probably because any fast movements would have flung his ridiculous pants into the adjacent alley.
“Whut’joo say, foo?” He slurred, even though I could tell he wasn’t drunk.
“I called you a tool,” I was far cooler than I should have been, “You’re just a tool of the system, I can tell it from the way you dress.”
“Yo, dis is mah stahl, dis is fo’ real!”
“Please,” I scoffed, “spare me. It’s not your style, it’s not your culture. It’s racism.”
The man’s eyes got very wide at this point. You’d be surprised how certain words act like triggers in these situations.
“You are encouraging racism by dressing like that,” I continued, “Do you know where that style comes from? The Prison System. It’s reminiscent of the jumpsuits worn by inmates. You’re basically telling the world you’re no better than a convict, and that’s just perfect with White America. They control everything: the money, the industry, even the culture, they have that much power. They’re also incredibly conservative and horribly close-minded. So what happens when they can convince all the minorities to dress like inmates and embrace a poverty-stricken lifestyle? It means they’re safe. It means they can continue being rich fat cats because they know they’ve got the minorities fooled into thinking that ‘ghetto’ is cultural, when in reality it’s just widespread hate speech. You’re all being fooled into cultural bondage, but because it’s packaged as something to identify with, you think it’s ‘keeping it real.’ The only thing you’re keeping real is the money in a few white guys’ pockets and the fact that they can sleep in a mansion every night, and so can their children, and so can their children’s children, while the minority maids and butlers struggle to get by. Those in power have you all playing directly into their hands, ensuring their stranglehold over the lion’s share for years to come. Every time you exult the virtues of the ‘hood,’ or act like a ‘thug,’ you allowing yourself to be treated like a slave.”
I slammed his hat back into the right position.
“Now pull up your pants. And show a little respect for yourself and your people.”
With that, Sara and I beat a hasty retreat, partly because we were late getting to Hell, and partly because we weren’t sure how that young man would react.

Sara Donlon

Sara Donlon was the perfect person to help me out at my new job. You know, Steve Waterhouse: New Satan. She’s bright, dedicated, and seen her share of tough times. She’s a member of the FBI’s Paranormal Unit, and yes that does exist, although I only found that out once I died. You’d be surprised the amount of snooping you can do from the great beyond. It’s like Facebook, only slightly creepier. Anyway, Sara was well versed in the ins and outs of the supernatural, which was only one of the glowing qualifications she had. With no family still alive and no friends to speak of, she was the perfect married-to-her-job sort of person we were looking for. As a bonus, working for the government offered an easy out for blinking her out of existence, it’d be like she never existed. All of this added up to an absolutely perfect Satanic assistant.
Only one problem. She’s my ex.
Like I said, it’s like Facebook, only I have all of creation to look at, and she fit the bill. Also, we work well together…or at least we did. You see, she didn’t always used to be married to her job. She wanted to be married to me. And, well, I’m a freaking idiot who couldn’t give up HIS job as some asinine social crusader of a lawyer. All that got me was an empty studio apartment and, eventually, a halo up high.
But that’s another story.
Sara always used to say that everyone she loved was dead: her parents, her brother, her sisters, et cetera. Long, gruesome story, most of which involved her joining the FBI. Even her Gramps and Gran, who raised her after everyone else got the kibosh, kicked right after she got into the Bureau. It’s a shame, really. They made the best Thanksgiving Dinner.
Eating. It’s funny, but I never thought of myself as a food addict until I broke the habit. I mean, I’m dead now, so I can eat…if I want to. I still want to a lot, but sometimes I’m just too darn busy. You know how many people pop into Hell on a day to day basis? I’m up to my eyeballs in paperwork.
Ergo Sara.
Ergo me, sitting in a red shirt, black tie and suit combo (What can I say? I’m a traditionalist) outside of her church on a brisk Sunday afternoon in November, outside Boston. I knew she’d sneak out the back, what with her government secrecy and all, and this saved me trying to pull her away from a throng. She walks out with the bells ringing through the clear, cold air, dressed nicely. She always dressed nicely. Real old school, real classy. Made Jackie O look like crap. Probably didn’t help that the sun came right over the old stone walls, illuminating her bright blonde hair, and a gust of wind just happened to whip said hair oh so dramatically away from her face. Those blue eyes of hers were still damn arresting, even after all the Aryan Race jokes I’ve met. It’s odd saying that, you know, now that I’ve actually met Hitler.
Wow. Jackie O, then Hitler. Maybe I do belong in Hell.
And that little trick of nature with the wind and sun was probably the Boss making things difficult for me. He can be a real jerk sometimes. But still, she looked good, with or without divine intervention, so I summoned the type of courage a guy only summons when meeting the ex, and sauntered forward. For added effect, I decided on a pair of old-school Ray-Ban Wayfarers. You know, just to completely put it over the top. I suppose if I wasn’t master of Hell, I’d look like Rick Astley.
“Steve?” She said incredulously, “Steve Waterhouse?”
“That’s me,” I said, flashing my pearliest of whites.
“What are you doing here? Aren’t you an atheist?”
I avoided the cheap laughter at the situation and instead went for a little black humour. And yes, you say it different if you say it with a “u.”
“Stalking you,” I replied, still grinning like an idiot.
She playfully swung her purse and hit me in my rather bony arm. It hurt. Man, I’d forgotten what being corporeal was like. Weird.
“You wouldn’t have the guts and you know it,” but she was still smiling, which was good. And it wasn’t the wolfish “Let’s go back to my place hurt little baby deer” smile which meant I was screwed. It was a generally welcoming smile.
“I have to admit I’m surprised to see you here, or anywhere other than the office. Isn’t some single immigrant mother losing a custody battle somewhere?”
“I’ll have you know Ms. Gutierrez is doing very well,” I pulled a face, “and it wasn’t always that bad-”
“That bad? You left our three year anniversary in upstate New York because someone killed a cat!”
“That cat was a champion show animal whose family stood to lose $750,000.”
Her face hardened. “It’s a cat, honey.”
Between the hardened expression, the unfair use of the word ‘honey,’ and the glaring sense she was making, I had nothing to say. She adjusted the purse strap on her shoulder.
“So is this your new outfit for defending the weak? Some kind of champion of the people with his red shirt?”
“Not exactly. I’m kinda…at a new job.”
The purse hit the ground. Sara was speechless.
“No way. No. Way.”
“Well, I didn’t have much of a choice.”
“You were fired?”
“You could say that,” I resisted a giggle again, but then tried to get serious, “Have you, uh…met anyone else?”
“No,” she responded with a hard chuckle, “You’ve completely wrecked me for all social contact. I gave you everything, you know, everything I had.”
“Well, now I’m trying to give back,” I lamely offered.
“Pfft. Then in no way is this Steve Waterhouse. My family’s too wealthy for you to care. So who’s the impostor? Red wig? Who’s behind the glasses?”
“Wait!” I tried to yell at she plucked the sunglasses off my face, but it was too late. Pain, searing pain, even worse than the pain of my own death, coursed from the spot where she touched my brow. All I could manage to say was “ow ow ow” over and over again and, thinking back, it was a very un-devilish thing to do.
“Oh my God, Steve!” Sara dropped the shades as I doubled over, “are you okay?”
“Will be…” I grunted, straightening up. From the look on her face, I could tell it was bad.
“You’re…burned?!”
“Yeah, part of the new job.”
“But…why? How?”
“You’re Catholic, right?” I said, retrieving my shades and gesturing to the old building to our right.
“Yeah.”
“And you did the whole Holy Sponge Bath hokey-pokey before you left?”
“Of course.”
“Then there’s your answer.”
“I don’t get it,” it was the first time I’d seen her confused. Gave me a little sting of pride that helped me ignore the pain in my forehead.
I decided to come out and say it. “Sara, I’m the New Satan and I’d like you to be my assistant.”
First, there was silence. Then, confusion. Then, laughter.
“Oh, nice one, Steve, real nice! And in a churchyard of all places!”
“No in. Right outside. You’ll notice the bench I picked isn’t on the church grounds, or else my feet would be smoking. And I can’t exactly go in there, now can I?” I jerked a thumb at the church.
“Bogus. You just had someone make up your face to look burned. This is all a ploy, isn’t it? I never knew you to be such a romantic, Steve.”
“I’m not, Sara. It’s the honest and gospel truth,” the irony again tickled my funnybone, “The whole burning thing is an old checks and balances system God put in. I guess he wants to make sure I don’t try to take Heaven either…like I want that headache.”
“Oh shut up,” Sara was beginning to become frustrated. I decided to switch to the heavy guns.
“Look, Sara,” I said, placing the first to fingers of my right hand at my forehead. “You want me to have horns?” I pulled my fingers outward, pulling horns out of my head, “I’ve got horns. You want me to be red?” I snapped my fingers, “there. I’m red.” I snapped again and returned to being pale and freckled. “Is there anything else you’d like to see? Maybe some goat’s legs, or a pointy beard? You know I could never grow a beard in real life. Come on, try me…”
“Stop it, Steve!” Sara shouted, her voice echoing off of the church wall, “this is weird! You’re not making sense! I mean…you’re not even dead!”
“I’m on a different plane, Sara,” I smiled, “I can exist in your entire life in one instant. But, just so you think I’m not completely loopy…” I swallowed hard. This part was gonna suck, “Make sure you watch the news tonight. Channel five at ten. Maybe eleven.”
“I will, but only because I watch the news every night.”
“All right. Will I see you later?”
“Only if I come down off of whatever hallucinogenic drugs I’m on at the moment,” she gave a nervous laugh and tottered down the street. I followed her a bit, made sure she got home safe, and I waited til 10:30 to give her a call. Here’s hoping she doesn’t stay up for the Eleven report.
“Hello?”
“It’s Steve.”
“Very funny, Steve. My caller ID says ‘666-385.’ 666-DVIL? Cute. How much did that cost you.”
I didn’t want to play the games anymore. “Did you see the news?”
“Yeah, but I didn’t see anything about you.”
“What did you see?”
“Something about Lindsay Lohan (like anyone cares anymore) then something about how Coca-Cola is killing us all, then some BS about how to protect your child from a .00001% chance of dying…”
She always had a way of exagerrating.
“…and then something about some guy getting beaten in an alley. I suppose you’re going to tell me it was you?”
I checked my watch. 10:30:48.
“Keep watching.”
“What, and give you the play-by-play? I need to get to sleep sometime…you…know…”
Then she was silent, but I could hear the TV in the background.
“A follow-up story to that earlier beating report. Police now say the body recovered was one Steven Waterhouse of West Newbury, a notorious pro-bono lawyer and ‘King of Lost Causes’ on the Boston legal circuit. He was rushed to the nearest hospital but Doctors were unable to revive him. He was 32. More on this story as it develops, now stay tuned for Seinfeld.”
I knew she was still there because her breathing was becoming frenzied.
“Apparently,” I said in a very offhand way, “I defended someone the Mafia wasn’t too keen on, and they let me know. It was the punctured lung that got me, in the end…I always said I should have jogged more, gotten in better shape…”
“Steve…” Sara’s voice was heavy, “Will I have to die if I work for you?”
“Nope, that’s the beauty of it. We can just blip you out of existence in five seconds…if you want.”
“The Bureau will cover it up, I suppose.”
“We’re hoping.”
“This is a long term offer?”
“How’s all Eternity sound?”
“Perks?”
“Full access to Heaven during break hours, no more need for sleep, eating, or going to the bathroom. Oh! And deceased humans can still have sex, unlike the angels. We get to keep our…stuff…” and then I realized how horrible that sounded, “er, I mean, if you want to, or something, whatever…”
“I’ll be able to see Mom and Dad?” She sniffed.
“And Brody and Kate and Tegan and Mary and Gramps and Gran.” I tried to smile as warmly as possible through the phone. There was a long pause.
“That would be nice.” She finally said.
“On one condition,” I added.
“This has got to be the lamest ploy to get me into bed I’ve ever seen,” she responded, which allowed me to breathe a sigh of relief. At least her humour hadn’t died with me.
“No no no,” I assured her, then re-thought, “well, I mean, if you want…”
She laughed. It was nice to hear her laugh.
“So what’s this condition then?”
“Invite me over for Thanksgiving, okay?” I grinned.
I couldn’t see her, but I knew she was grinning too.
“You bring the cranberries.”

Steve Waterhouse

Chase Van Horn was not a good man.
He was a swindler, a cheat, and a wholly unsavory human being. An ambulance chaser through and through, Chase had made an exemplary career of lying. Mass murderers, sick rapists, and all of the rest of the scum of the earth have walked as free thanks to Chase Van Horn, Attorney at Law. To him, law can be dictated for a price.
Sadly, or perhaps not so sadly, Chase couldn’t bargain his way out of the oncoming truck that struck him down outside Grand Ave. He had been talking on his cell phone, ignoring all those around him, as usual. “What good are the people who are not making me money?” he always liked to say. After tripping up a man on crutches and cutting off an old lady, Chase Van Horn walked out into a busy intersection at the wrong time, and met his maker in the form of a Mack dump truck.
There really wasn’t much left of him to scrape up. The truck was clipping along pretty well, and Chase pretty much leaped out in front of him. He was pronounced dead at the scene, DOA, and just plain dead: Street Pizza. The law firm put him up for an amazing funeral, but the bums ate well that night because almost no one came to enjoy the spread.
Chase was forgotten as quickly as he died. But the forgotten just happen to be my specialty. My name’s Steve Waterhouse, and I’m the Devil. Not the Devil Devil, but I’m the replacement. You see, after a nigh on eternity of “reigning in Hell” old Lucifer decided it was about time to try for the throne again. Let me tell you, the Big Guy was not happy. This time, he chained the old Boss down in the ninth circle to remain forever, no better than the souls he tormented for eons. Let this be a lesson, kids: don’t piss off God.
So he started tapping the divine topside to replace the old cantankerous crank. Myself, one of the few honorable lawyers (and also one of the few lawyers in Heaven, thank you very much) was asked to take care of the staffing and management problem down in Hell. Now, when God asks you to do something, you don’t exactly say no and go play polo, so I packed my begs and headed to the basement.
I hired a brand new crew and revamped the whole place. Computer techs, business wunderkinds, marketing gurus, ergonomic whizzes, the whole she-bang. Within a few months we had this thing running like a real office. We ditched the whole fire and brimstone thing for a cleaner, more cost-effective look. We still like to toss the old “red and dead” thing on entrance, you know, to keep up appearances, but it’s certainly not like the old days.
Rather than just tossing folks into the lake of fire (which we now use to heat the office) we’ve got detailed files on each client of fears, worries, doubts, et cetera to really send them into an unhappy place. Our client surveys have shown an absolute shift in the positive in the amount of terror, duress, and depression evident in the accused, and we’re seeing an unheard of spike of genuine repenting and soul scrubbing the likes of which you’ve never seen.
All in all, I’m very proud of myself.