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art by Tim Stewart

F is for Forever

Tim Pratt's stories have appeared in The Best American Short Stories, The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror, and other nice places. He's won a Hugo for his short fiction (and lost Sturgeon, Stoker, World Fantasy, and Nebula Awards). He lives in Berkeley CA with his wife and son. Find him online at timpratt.org

Jenn Reese lives in Los Angeles and is currently writing a middle-grade adventure series for Candlewick Press. Her stories have appeared in Strange Horizons and the World Fantasy Award-winning anthology Paper Cities, among others. Follow her adventures at jennreese.com.

Heather Shaw is a writer, editor, gardener and aikidoka living in Berkeley, California with her husband and son. She's had fiction in Strange Horizons, Polyphony, The Year's Best Fantasy, Escape Pod and other nice places. She just finished her first middle-grade novel, "Keaton T., Junior Gene Hacker" and is looking for representation. For more, visit heathershaw.org

Greg van Eekhout's fiction for adults and children includes the novels Norse Code and Kid vs. Squid and stories published in Asimov's, Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Strange Horizons, and other places. He lives in San Diego, CA. For more information, visit writingandsnacks.com.

Welcome to Hell's all-new Resort and Spa! Please, leave your worldly burdens by the gate and let me give you a tour.
No, you're exactly right. We've done away with such outmoded tortures as fire and brimstone, liver-eating vultures, and the like. Oh, Sisyphus still clings to his rock like a baby to his blanket, but not everyone comes willingly into the new millennium, as I'm sure you know.
Our first room! Look at those large-screen, high definition TVs covering every surface! Hell receives over six thousand channels from around the world, including several from Heaven. (I personally find the angel soaps duller than white on wings, but to each its own.)
Why is the channel stuck on Barney? Because we like to cater to our customer's needs, and this is the room for new parents. Our diehard sports fans are next door, being treated to endless replays of their favorite team's most heartbreaking loss. Hear those screams? Our cherished liberals enjoying 24-7 coverage by FOX News.
If this is your fate, all you need to do is find the remote. (And then, of course, there's the small matter of fresh batteries.) But remember--over six thousand channels available! So you know there's wonderful programming, but you just can't watch it.
Ah, and here's the gaming room! We run one of the most successful gold-farming businesses in the afterlife. Unfortunately, our chairs and desks are not... ergonomically satisfying. There is a 100% chance of carpal tunnel syndrome, back spasms, and eye strain among players. If your tastes run to more casual games, we have any number of virtual farms that need weeding, sowing, and harvesting. The farms--and the possibilities--are endless!
Most of our creative types end up in Asmodeus' new self-publishing division. Asmodeus has become quite the writer of Heaven-Hell crossover fanfic, and his subjects must record his every three-hundred-thousand-word novel. The true challenge is not correcting his many grammatical mistakes--each "error" costs the subject a finger, which makes typing his Gabriel/Beelzebub mpreg slash masterpieces that much harder. We have such high hopes for this enterprise!
What's that? There's been a mistake? You belong in Heaven?
Oh, goodness! I'm so sorry! That certainly is a problem, and we'll want to rectify it as soon as possible. You look relieved, and I'm so glad. At Hell's all-new Resort and Spa, we aim to please.
This room has thousands of phones from which you can contact customer support and inform them of the mistake. But let me warn you up front: we are experiencing a high volume of calls at this time, our phone lines occasionally stop working for no reason, and you may have to spend a little time on hold....
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, February 9th, 2011
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