• Vol. 06
  • Chapter 06
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The Bespoken

Of course, Dante had gotten it all wrong.

What did you expect of a poet? Facts are the least of their worries. So there were no nine circles to divvy out comeuppances; nor was there any Vestibule of the Futile to collect putterers and fence-sitters, divine or otherwise, either.

The Imagineers of this final resort prided themselves on their ability to tailor-make any eternal stay to fit the guest. Although no guest would later sit down and check off boxes on a satisfaction survey card, the work was done with great care and a sulfurous desire to make the client realize the Management knew the industry standards for eternal torment, and were prepared to exceed those expectations.

So Roberta found herself suddenly awake, lying supine on a green field of play. Again. Once more into the breach she went, wearing (as ever) the overladen outfit she had been wearing on her last day on earth. That was the day her heart had pulled that nasty trick on her, latte macchiato in hand, untasted, falling to earth, its coffee splashing all over the sidewalk on eternal loop like Roberta herself. "Hell hath no fury like wasted Starbucks," she whispered to herself.

But then she began to remember why she was really here on this playing field. Because each time she awoke, the memory came back piecemeal.


The Bespoken

The players were called out onto the field. Each name she recognized. There were men and women of all ages, even children. Each name blared over the loudspeakers was one she had sullied, with innuendo or outright lies. The stadium was full of bodies, but she could not make out a single face to think bad thoughts about even one of the people in attendance. She was deprived of her primary food. How could she make gossip without sizing them up? She was dying to look somebody, anybody, up and down and then start the rumor mill grinding grist to nasty flour with which she could coat someone, really roll them in it, before dunking them into the fryer of misinformed public opinion.

But it was then that she noticed what had been erased from her memory so many times before: Her former victims were now tenfold her size. Their size was inversely proportional to the size to which she had shrunk them down with her belittlement. And they were on the field now, eager for play. Why, she even recognized some of her own family among the giants and giantesses.

A whistle blew. The time had come. She saw the giant feet come racing across the turf, heard the faceless crowd roar, and in the moment before she felt the first boot, before she flew through the air for the first of countless times, she admired the artistry of Hell. The game was on. She had spent her life being the kicker. This game taught what her deficient empathy never could.

Finally knew what it was like to be The Ball.