Monday, October 10, 2016

Sorting the Mail

I look at the address again. “612 Cherry Tree Lane, Inferna, Hell.” It seems to have proper postage and the customs form looks like it’s in order. So the only problem is that Hell isn’t actually a place. At least not on Earth.

“What do I do with this?” I ask my supervisor.

Her heavily eyeshadowed eyes drop to the package for an instant. “Sort it.”

It takes work, but I manage to not to sigh. “Yes, of course. But sort it where?”

She looks at me like I’m the dimmest lightbulb in the display. “Take it to Interplanel Deliveries.”

I laugh. “Yeah, okay. So it’s undeliverable?”

“No,” she says, drawing the ‘o’ sound out. “It’s an interplanel delivery. They’re in the basement.”

This is the first time I’ve ever heard of our building having a basement, but Phoebe seems to be completely serious. When I don’t move, she points toward the fire exit.

Even though I’m suspicious this is a practical joke, I take the parcel in the indicated direction. There’s a sign on the door that I’ve never bothered to read before. “Use only in case of emergency or interplanel delivery.” Huh.

The door eases open with no alarms ringing. Behind it is the top landing of a narrow stairwell. There’s another door to the left, which I assume leads outside, but I take the stairs down. The stairwell, while utilitarian, is decisively lacking in spookiness or peculiarity. My skin doesn’t tingle as I descend. The air doesn’t get warmer. There’s no scent of sulfur, just a faint tint of mildew. All in all, it’s a perfectly normal stairwell.

The room it leads into looks like a dimly lit and unused basement, which I assume means I really am being pranked. Until I see the slots along the wall. “Valhalla,” says the closest one. A breeze comes from it, smelling vaguely of beer.

Still not completely sure this is real, I follow the slots past “Heaven,” which smells like vanilla; “Tir-na-nog,” which somehow smells like the color green; and “Hel,” which is scented like a snowy winter’s day and has a little note on it proclaiming, “Do not confuse with Hell.” I stop at the slot that reads “Hell” with two l’s. Now I get heat and sulfur.

Despite the air coming from the slot, behind it is not a chute, but a small platform. Not sure what else to do, I put the package on said platform.

At this point, I more than half expect the lights to get brighter and my coworkers to start laughing at me, but instead, the slot begins to glow a brilliant orange. There’s a puff of smoke, and some sounds in a strange, guttural language that I hope never to hear again.

The parcel is gone. The glowing dies.

I go upstairs as quickly as possible, sign out for an early lunch, and head to the nearest bar.

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