Sunday morning, eight o'clock. For some that may be time to sleep in and dream. For others it may be time to sit down in church and pray. For those of us spending our eternity in Hell, though, it is time for breakfast at Satan's. At eight sharp a long, winding path carves itself inside the rock and we trudge our way up to His mansion, a castle so large and so dark it becomes one with the sky. As soon as Satan enters the dining room (randomly early as always) the great doors close and seal themselves up and the stragglers slide down the mountain to the fiery pit below, where demons wait with their maws open.
All of us take place around a wide, seemingly infinite table, but through some satanic witchcraft no one ever seems to find themselves more than a few seats away from Him. The dining room is decorated with utmost elegance: the tall chairs's down-filled cushions are covered with purple velvet, so soft on your butt cheeks it's like sitting on a cloud, and on the walls, skulls, swastikas and other symbols of evil are woven together in sober patterns, quite tasteful if you don't look too closely. The redwood table is large and robust, and it is engraved throughout with a wide range of lewd and shocking scenes, monsters eating children, satyrs raping women, harpies pecking out the eyes of men, and so on, a tapestry of evil. Each week I study the engravings in front of me. It distracts me, so that I can better focus on my primary objective: not breaking my fast.
Because as the clocks sing eight o'clock, Satan sits down on his throne, and the meals arrive, lobster omelettes, crepes and maple syrup, fresh fruit from all four corners of the globe, some from regions so wild, so far away, that no one knew they existed. Intoxicating aromas waft around, searching for noses, from the foods that scarlet demons bring diligently, coming out of openings in the wall that close behind them, and when they have laid out the food they fly up and disappear into the patterns in the ceiling. This breakfast is the only meal we are allowed in Hell, these delicious edibles are the only ones we can gorge ourselves on between two ordeals at the hand of His vicious underlings. Satan always eats to his heart's contents, swallowing so much food that his girth doubles or triples. From time to time he gets up from his throne, carrying a chicken or a whole pig, or plump blue grapes, and he tempts us. Does Mr. Hitler want a bite? Or what about Mr. Stalin? He is gaunt as a ghost: if he waits any longer to fill his belly, he might well disappear!
And as the hunger finally has the best of us, our will dissolves, we give in to our traitorous appetites, but of course nothing on this table is any good for us, the omelette is laced with powerful laxatives, the chicken is infected by a virulent salmonella strain, and God knows what's wrong with the bagels, but he isn't there to tell us. The more delicious and nourishing the meal is, the more vicious its side effects are. See here, Genghis Khan gives in and nibbles on a bit of chocolate, a teeny weeny little bit, but it barely brushes his tongue before he has fits of nausea and splurges torrents of bile.
Satan walks behind me. He is perfectly silent, he has no smell, but I can feel his presence. The temperature always changes around him: if it is too hot, he is hotter, and if it is too cold, he is colder. No one knows what happens if the temperature is just right, because that only ever happens in the blink of an eye between scalding heat to chilling frost. “Mister Laberge,” he says to me, “you don't look so good! There is but skin on these bones… no, that won't do… that won't do… this is unhealthy, you know. You should know better than to let yourself wither away. Here… taste this waffle… it is covered with melted dark chocolate, sprinkled almonds and cashew… and clementine syrup… divine! Divine, absolutely! God in Heaven would kill to have the recipe. Jesus would sell his soul to me to taste it! But you can have it for free, my dear friend.” Oh, does it smell good… but I must not… I shake my head with difficulty. It feels like it weighs a ton. Satan lingers for what feels like hours, but he finally leaves to tempt my neighbour instead.
Ten after eight, says the clock on the wall. Only ten after eight? I sigh and look at the engraving. It is of a woman burned at the stake for witchcraft—she is so beautiful—and in the background are two children eating an infant, and a man getting fucked by a cerberus. But I'm afraid that if I look at the table too intently, Satan will notice and will replace it with a flat, boring slab. So I turn to watch my fellow diners.
I try to see if there are any patterns. For each food I try to figure out the effect. Maybe some of them aren't too bad. I look at a redheaded woman, who I had never seen before, nibble on a small bit of bacon, and then she has a shivering fit, as if she had just found herself naked during a blizzard. On the other side, a black man, who used to be obese if the grotesque flaps of skin sagging from his arms are any indication, looks like he just ate the spiciest pepper ever created, even though what he just drank looks like crème fraîche.
And then… on the other side of the table, three seats to my right, there is this diminutive, wrinkled, white-haired woman, who probably died young, because in Hell only the young look decrepit. She is peeling a banana, but she throws the flesh away. Instead, she sinks her rotten teeth into the peel. I wait for a reaction, a rictus of pain, but nothing comes. She eats the whole thing.
I sneak a look around, heart beating fast. There is a lone banana next to the largest and fluffiest tiramisu I have ever seen. I touch it, I grab it, I peel it. For an instant I am fascinated by how perfectly ripe it is, the perfect yellowish color of its flesh, its Gros Michel smell. I've never had a Gros Michel banana, they were extinct before I was born. I raise it to my mouth… and I almost bite into the fluffy fruit before coming to my senses. I throw it out and bite into the peel instead, awaiting some relief to the weeks, months, years of hunger I have endured since I arrived.
Pain assails me. My teeth are shattered into a thousand pieces, my gums are pierced by a thousand needles, my brain is eaten inside out by ants, cockroaches and venomous spiders. My arms pull on my shoulders as if they weighed as much as mountains and I feel like I am rotting in place, my entire body gangrenous. I am paralyzed. In the corner of my eye Satan is startled. He turns to look at me and he starts laughing, a bellowing laugh, full of delight, shaking the room like an earthquake. Then everyone else turns to me and they laugh, they howl, so hard their jaws dislocate. Then they fly away, gnomes, demons, vampires and other spirits. The ceiling opens to let them through, the walls burst into fire, the floor dissolves, and Hell eats me whole.