Upon seeing hell for the first time, Lee C. didn't really know what to think, exactly.
"Welcome to hell!" bellowed Satan like an animatronic gorilla.
"Oh, thanks." said Lee suicidally. It had been quite a trip and he no longer had the spirit to act appropriately horrified at Satan's theatrics.
"Ready to hit the golden streets of Hell? I go out with everyone on their first night, but this is not going to be a regular thing. I just love seeing it through someone else's eyes for the first time. You know?"
"Well, I have no idea where I'm going so, okay."
"Oh, you're not going anywhere!" Satan loved softballs.
The most obvious thing Lee noticed initially was what a striking resemblance the whole place had to how heaven was described in most of the best-selling, non-canonical, neo-Anglican, gnostic-fantasy teen literature he had loved as a single man in his early 30's.
"Do you get it? Don't you love it?" probed Satan needily. "It's a satire!" I mean, obviously, we couldn't get everything right, but just wait to see what we got to play Jesus. You are going to lose it."
Lee panicked, "But all of this was meant to be a metaphor! I didn't think there would literally be streets of gold in heaven! Who cares about gold, anymore? I've never even held a piece of gold."
"Oh, well, we've got lots of gold here. Lot's of gold. Probably went a little crazy."
"And have people been singing since we got here?"
"Oh, yes. We took that all quite seriously."
"Are you telling me that the only things that happen here are literal representations of metaphorical descriptions written by desert people from the Bronze Age?"
"Almost. We borrowed pretty heavily from commemorative plates and Family Circus cartoons, among, " he paused, "other things. Now, would you like to spend the rest of your time here in the form of a dead grandparent or a baby with wings?"
Immediately Lee transformed into a bearded flying baby.
Satan made a face that said, "It's hell, what do you want?" and then collapsed said face into a black hole and out of a one-star constellation, imploding singularity pulsing in the center of anti-matter, explained in the hushed voice of his Lee's mother,
"No more tears."
"No more tears."
"No more tears. You will never cry again. No tears in heaven, little baby. No more tears."
Following this bit of howling devilry, Lee flew off after Satan in the direction of his new residence. They walked past rows and rows of gaudily whitening-strip-white mansions until they reached one that was arbitrarily Lee's.
"Plenty of room!" Satan's voice echoed through the foyer.
"This is mine?" asked Lee, dumbly.
"Of course! I have prepared a place for you!"
Lee wished he hadn't been privy to why this was funny, there seemed to be an unending stream of insider Bible-puns here that he didn't recall ever reading about.
"Now, it's important to note that all these houses have bed bugs, and most of your neighbors are sex offenders. I have no idea how the Bed Bugs got here. They are impossible to get rid of. Apparently they like to hide out in old pieces of wood, so who knows." he hinted. "Exciting to think about, though. Gives the place a little history. As far as all the sex offenders," he paused dramatically, "well, you know what I'm talking about, don't you, Lee?"
Satan continued, "Giving you the full tour would take forever, so I’m just going to give you a minute to get settled and walk around this huge empty house that has no worth, represents nothing, contains no memories, will appear strange and alien to you every morning you wake up in it, and was given to you by the person responsible for every ugly thing you ever heard of the whole time you were alive. Look at all the gold, though! Beautiful! I can see why God was so into it!"
Walking out the front door, he called out, "You've got some singing to do, so I would advise warming up!"
Alone, in the full extent of the word, at last, Lee leafed through his welcome packet, which was the only item other than some gold on the high-gloss diamond Redwood stump end-table at the foot of the stairs.
On the cover was a picture of a golden animatronic gorilla bellowing "Welcome to Hell, LEE COPPERHEAD!"
"Hello, LEE COPPERHEAD, if you're reading this, then you're in Hell, and you're going to be here for a while, so we recommend you keep this literature, complete with a pocket-sized map, on your person at all times. Here you'll find useless time-saving tips, dining hours, health insurance FAQ's, and a schedule for all mandatory worship services. Please locate your individualized name tag and make a big gesture out of disposing of it, as you are no longer an individual with a name, LEE COPPERHEAD. If you opted for "flying baby" form, you will have some unique community responsibilities as a dead grandparent. Your changing partner will be assigned at your first group sing."
"Don't they mean 'chapel partner?'", Lee whimpered internally.
In one of the pockets was a personal note from Satan, "Lee, I forgot to tell you earlier, I have a special surprise for you later on. Please report to tonight's service like 20 minutes early. They're going to assign you a changing partner, but just show them this note and tell them I want you to be sitting in filth for the service, just for tonight. They might re-direct you to the wristband pavilion, but institutional dysfunction is all just a part of the experience here! I'm sure someone will be available to give you a ride across campus. See you tonight!"
Stroking his beard with his new pudgy baby hands, Lee considered Satan's deeply confusing bed-side manner.
After a relative amount of time, Lee made his way to the conference registrar's table to sign in.
"Welcome to Hell!" screamed the daemon manning the table. "Baby, your two proofs of residence!"
"I didn't see anything about proofs of residence!" Lee protested wetly.
"No, just say two of the things that got you here."
"Oh. I hadn't had time to reflect on that yet."
The daemon suddenly reared back and made a facial expression it would be tough to describe. "Wait. Did you teach at that MJP school?"
"I did! Why, I was the principle."
"That's too funny! You look just like a baby, but I knew I recognized you! Maybe it's the beard!", the daemon hacked blood throatily. "I don't know if we ever met, we are Indignant!"
Indignant stayed seated.
"Do you still need those proofs?"
The daemon's eyes lit up disconcertingly. "Oh, no. I know you."
"Oh, wow, thank you so much," Lee said obliviously while the daemon laughed miserably. "I have this note from Satan that I'm supposed to give to somebody."
"Yeah, I can take that," said the daemon helpfully. "Oh, yeah, we can assign your changing partner tomorrow. No... problem...", Indignant said while alternately scribbling frantically and speaking softy into a camera phone.
"Satan said I might have to stop by the wristband pavilion?"
Indignant waved a golf cart through, "No, I can give you a temporary one here, so you can go in and out for now, but at some point you will have to take the shuttle to the event registration trailer and pick up your event laminate, or else you won't be able to get back in after the service starts. You're a little early. Walk in through the double doors here, stay to the left and in two turns you'll see someone who will say the same thing to you that I just did but it will take them 3 minutes longer than the one before and that will happen 11 times until you get to the stage."
"Stage?" Lee wilted.
"Says here. Wardrobe."
A little over a half hour later, Lee found his way to Wardrobe where Satan was waiting for him, flipping through racks.
"Tiny baby, you made it here all by yourself! That's wonderful! Here, I want you to put this on." Satan draped a full sea-otter skin over Lee's tiny shoulders and exclaimed, "Yes, that is perfect!"
Lee looked up and asked, "What's with the sea-otter?"
"Why, don't you know anything, you dumb little baby? Beached sea otters are the most common, easy-to-maintain spirit animal we have down here. Sorry, I just assumed it was yours. Well, it is now, like it or not. If you can't keep a sea-otter around, you're doing something wrong." Satan paused and said, "I know I'm not supposed to tell anyone this, but I figure you all aren't going anywhere, so you might as well know that the Sea-Otter also happens to represent the secret 13th age, of man, in your case. The earth is scheduled for a quantum wobble that will reveal a never before seen Sea-Otter shaped constellation." Obviously, none of this was true, as it would have had serious theological implications for Lee's current location.
Just then a kindly-looking dead grandparent walked into the room with an Ark of the Covenant-shaped box made out of gold.
"Look at you, you tired old thing! Right on time! You made it all the way here, all by yourself? Good for you! Have a seat, you must be beat!"
A daemon materialized and started the non-consensual beating.
Satan picked up the box and revolved it admiringly. "I love this stuff. I'm so into Bible crap right now! Our gift shop, you might end up there, is almost entirely Old Testament stuff right now. It's so funny, I can't get enough." He shook his head like even he couldn't believe it. "I don't know, I've just been getting into some weird stuff; ah, anyway!" Satan opened the box to reveal the tiniest golden paddle you've ever seen. While this had all been transpiring, it sounded like people were filing into the convention center to start the singing.
"This is for the star of tonight's worship service!" Satan declared, barely able to contain himself. "You can paddle all you want tonight, little baby, because tonight you get to be God!"
Lee's light-sensitive doe-eyes widened.
"That's right, you're going to sit up there on your adorable baby Throne and everyone is going to sing just for you! They're going to sing about how everything you do is perfect, and wonderful, and just, and all-too-much, really! The best part is: you get to decide who gets paddled for singing and who doesn't! Doesn't that sound fun? Isn't it what you've always wanted? To be like God? Well, alright, then! And tomorrow we'll get you out of that diaper when you get your changing partner! He's going to be responsible for changing your diaper everyday for the rest of non-time! Now get out there, you helpless child!"
Satan pushed Lee through the curtain.