The Game Show - A Short Story (October 31st, 1999)
Mark blinked in the hot glare of the intense light. Heat radiated from the unnatural light, burning his skin. Why was it so hard to breathe? Every breath was labored, and as he breathed, he could smell the sulfuric taint in the air.
The pain didn't subside - if anything, it got worse - but Mark managed to accommodate his body to the pain in order to look around. Two women stood on either side of him, wearing tight, slightly revealing black dresses with chains around their wrists, binding them to a podium. Looking down at himself, Mark could see that he was in a similar predicament, chained to a podium and wearing a nice suit and tie.
For some reason the women seemed familiar. Their faces were covered in scars and burns that ran down their bodies, hidden by their dresses. Mark looked down at his own body, somewhat surprised by the lack of marks on his body. Why the difference? He felt a slight burn in his chest. Frowning, he rubbed the sore spot underneath his suit coat. There was a slight bump, a disruption in his skin. Had he been shot?
More lights blazed on. Mark winced as feral screaming filled his ears. Something inhuman was screeching, something. Looking out, Mark could see hundreds of demons in all kinds of shapes and sizes.
Some were small and red with forked tongues, while others were huge, giant hulking horns protruding out of their multiple heads. His senses were overloaded. His skin and nose burned with sulfur, and his ears were filled with the demonic screeching and wailing. Slowly, as Mark retreated further into his mind, away from the physical world, he realized exactly where he was. He was in Hell.
"Welcome all!" The Devil's voice boomed over the crowd, throwing them into an even further blood frenzy. He turned to his victims. "Please meet our next contestants!" Mark smacked his lips, surprised at how dry his throat was. Finally, he managed to strength to speak.
"I'm not...I'm not supposed to be here." The crowd roared with laughter. The Devil chuckled, shaking his head and turning towards Mark.
"You're in hell. Of course you're supposed to be here." He stepped back, addressing the three of them now. "Each one of you have done something extremely evil and deserve to rot away for eternity in this hell hole.
He grinned, whirling to look at the crowd. "But never let anyone say I'm not a nice guy! These three contestants will get a chance to redeem their souls! This is Live..." The demons chuckled. "Live television of our most famous game show this side of hell, You Bet Your immortal Soul!"
He turned to the contestants.
"The rules are simple. You answer questions correctly, you get points. The person with the greatest amount of points wins, and you get one shot to redeem your soul, or you forfeit your soul. Any questions? No? Than let's go!
The floor in front of them turned into a blazing board that looked eerily similar to the Jeopardy board. The idea that the Devil had any idea of human entertainment seemed strange to Mark.
"Mark!" The Devil said. "You don't think you belong here? Prove it! Pick a category."
Mark scanned the board. His memory was still fuzzy, he wasn't sure…
"Umm…Dante's Inferno for 500." The Devil grinned.
"How old was Dante at the beginning of the poem?"
"35." The words were out of his mouth before he realized it.
The Devil looked a little surprised, but he just nodded and chuckled.
"Correct! 500 bones to Mark! Next question!"
The rest of the game went quickly, and Mark almost forgot he was playing a game for his soul. He quickly snagged the rest of the questions about Dante's Inferno, as well as many of the other questions, which had to do with 'Crime', the 'Bible', and various other topics. Mark was surprised at the ease of his answers, and how naturally they came. He couldn't recall anything except his name, yet somehow he kept getting answers correct.
The women on either side of him grew increasingly panicked as the game went on. When Mark finally got the last question right and he knew he won the game. The woman moaned in fear and scrambled to escape from their bonds, something bad was about to happen. The Devil licked his lips and hit a button. The women screamed as their chains moved, yanking them backwards through a set of double doors. Mark winced as the doors slammed shut.
He turned to the Devil.
"I won. Now let me go." The Devil grinned.
"Not so fast. You'll be set free, but only in 100 years!"
"What? You little..."
"Calm down. I'll make you deal, it's going to be a final Jeopardy question! Answer this next question right, and you go free right now. Miss it, and I get your soul, permanently. All or nothing."
Mark narrowed his eyes.
"What's the topic?"
"The topic is, 'British History'." Mark frowned. He had lived in England for several years, but he didn't think the devil knew that, or did he?
"I'll take it. What's the question?" The Devil grinned.
"What are the names of all Jack The Ripper's victims? You Have 30 seconds."
"What kind of question is that?"
Mark's eyes blinked. He knew this. Why did he know this?
"Umm...Mary Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes, and..."
"Clock is ticking!"
"I don't know!" The Devil grinned.
"Too bad!" Fire scorched Mark's body and everything turned white...
Mark opened his eyes gasping. What on earth? It had all been a dream?
Someone rolled in the bed beside him.
"Honey? You alright?"
"What? Oh, yeah. Yeah, I'm fine. Go back to bed, sweetie."
"All right" she mumbled, rolling back.
He made sure his wife was asleep, then reached for the knife hidden underneath the bed. Jack the Ripper is back...