A speed-write written in twenty minutes. Nouns generated via this site: [link]
Telephoning hell is a lot easier than believed. It doesn’t take a circle or candles, chants or prayers, incantations or spells, the invocation of demonic entities or the assistance of angelic celebrities.
One just needs a phone.
It doesn’t even have to be a fancy phone. It could be smart phone, or a cell phone with a flip, or a phone with a line and a rotary dial.
So when Phoebe phoned hell to speak with its overlord, it wasn’t really that big a deal.
Not that she had her on quick dial or something like that.
But she did have her number, which had been given to her sometime ago during an evening of dubious intent at various forms of witchcraft. Normally she tossed the numbers people gave her at these sorts of shenanigans, but she had kept this one for future reference.
And now the time had come to use it.
The phone rang for a very long time. It was very difficult to cradle a cell phone on one shoulder, so she put it on speaker, set it beside her desk, and continued to watch Netflix until someone picked it up.
It took two episodes of the X-files (Mulder and Scully have fun with roaches!) and two cups of coffee before someone answered.
“What?” The overlord of hell spoke like she had just woken up from a very long nap.
Phoebe clicked pause on the computer. “I think we should meet.”
There was a long silence. Phoebe thought about everything she could have been doing to fill the void. Lick an ice cream cone. Eat a peanut butter sandwich in circles until all that was left was the soft center. Drink a bottle of wine.
Phoebe cleared her throat. Maybe she was a little embarrassed for her foolish younger sister—but then, what were big sisters for? “You have something that doesn’t belong to you.”
For the first time, the overlord of hell sounded awake and positively delighted. “If you’re talking about the necklace, it’s mine fair and square. Lord of lies and deceit indeed.” She sniffed indignantly.
“I am talking about my sister’s necklace,” Phoebe said. “It was her favorite necklace. Given to her by our mother who is no longer with us.”
“It’s not my fault she lost it.”
Phoebe sighed. “Let’s have coffee or something. My treat and you return the necklace. Everybody’s happy.”
“I can get coffee whenever and wherever. You’d probably what, bring me to some coffee shop like Starbucks? Well, I can get coffee fresh from the press in Paris. I’d like to see you try that.”
“Yes, just let me book my plane ticket. And, no I wasn’t going to bring you to Starbucks. I was going to bring you to Tina’s Café and Diner. Support local business, and all that. They have the worst brew this side of the state. It’s amazing. I could drink there all day.”
“The worst coffee isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement.”
Phoebe rolled her eyes.
“Fine. Thirty minutes.”
There was a disconnecting click and the line filled with white noise. It didn’t take long for Phoebe to get ready—she kept her hair shaved short and she wore clothes that were easy to put on and off. She walked to the diner with her hands in her pockets and she got there with fifteen minutes to spare.
But even so, the overlord of hell had beaten her and had, in fact, already selected a table. She was dressed similarly to Phoebe. Just a plain white tee and some old blue jeans worn at the knee, cuffs stuffed into a pair of untied motorcycle boots. Her nails were plain and cut short. There was a smudge of engine grease on her forehead from where she had pushed her too-long bangs out of her face.
She appeared to be engrossed by the laminated menu, as if she couldn’t decide between a cup of coffee with or without a slice of pie.
Phoebe scowled. She hated being shown up like this. Knowing her, she had probably already been here when she had called, just waiting. Had probably kept the line ringing because it seemed like something the devil would do. Sighing, Phoebe slunk into the opposite chair.
The necklace was on the table, it’s chain coiled like it was put in a jewelry box so that it wouldn’t tangle. Phoebe knew better than to ask for it directly.
“Phoebe,” the overlord of hell said without looking up.
They ordered coffee and said little, though Lucy remarked upon the clouded skies and the fresh breeze.
Phoebe mentioned that the farmers had just manured the fields which would account for the smell the fresh breeze brought along with it.
Lucy wrinkled her nose as she took a sip of coffee. “Maybe the rain will wash it all away.”
Phoebe craned her neck to look outside the window. It did look like it might rain—probably on her way home because Murphy’s law, don’t you know.
Even though Phoebe could not recall them ordering it, the waitress brought a piece of apple pie on a single dish. She was gone before they could ask for another plate, and they shrugged at each other.
Phoebe asked if this wasn’t just a little bit ironic, but Lucy just prodded at the pie with the tines of her fork.
The apples were glazed in sweet syrup. Brown sugar was crumbled on top. It smelled heavenly.
With the pie centered between them, they took their turns bite by bite until there was nothing left but crumbs.
“I enjoyed this,” Lucy said, standing up. Her boots thumped heavily against the diner’s bare wood floor.
There was a sudden weight at her neck and Phoebe glanced down and saw her sister’s necklace at her throat. It was heavy from the pendant that held their mother’s photo.
Lucy was gone and Phoebe was alone. She asked for the bill and was told that it had already been paid for.
Phoebe couldn’t help but smile at that. And even though it did rain on her way home, not a single drop touched her.