Where Threads Come Loose
"Damnation 101

The Recording Script

Scene I. Classroom.
• Written and directed by Tony Pagel. Produced by Christopher Bahn.
• Episode 32 (1997 Edition) of the radiodrama series Where Threads Come Loose
• Originally broadcast on KUOM-AM Original broadcast date: January 1996.

• McCann: Tony Pagel
• Professor Eustace Greer: Christopher Bahn
• Simmons:
• Bachman:
• Devil:
• Lucifer:
Professor: Alright, this class is going nowhere. I've never seen such a pack of undisciplined, unlearned thickheads. Did any of you bother to read the material or are all of you simply dimwitted? (Pause, no one answers the rhetorical question) Fine. Now could someone please tell me why Orwell made the pigs at the end of "Animal Farm" the same as the humans they were dealing with? Anyone? How about you, Simmons?

Simmons: Uh, well it seems fairly obvious...

Professor: Well then, it should be easy to enlighten the rest of us, Simmons, seeing as you are indeed an expert.

Simmons: Um, the pigs are symbolic representations of all totalitarian regimes. By using animals as stand-ins for humanity, it allows Orwell to trace the development of Government from the roots of freedom to the...

Professor: Yes, yes, yes. We all knew that Simmons. That much is clear. What I want is something else, a fresh reading of the scenario if you are capable of it. This is not a class of regurgitation, people. I don't want to hear what you think I want to hear. Now, who can tell me what Orwell hoped to portray by making the farm's anthem a mixture of "My Darling Clementine" and "La Cucaracha"? Bachman?

Bachman: What?

Professor: Yes, what, Mr. Bachman. As in "what was I thinking when I opted to teach this class of brain-dead television addicts". I swear, when I was taking classes at my alma mater, this sort of muddled thinking would be as foreign to me as Mandarin Chinese. Listen all of you. When I was writing up my curriculum for this semester of Survey of British Literature, I was tempted to teach the giants of the field: Milton, Dickens, Austen. A veritable who's who of English writers. But then I thought that these masterworks would be too advanced for the level of talent I might expect in a class of this type. For that reason, you are all reading what might be called "Children's Literature", although originally written for children of a bygone age and therefore also over your minuscule heads. And I am forced to suffer through "Animal Farm" and "Alice in Wonderland." What a complete waste of my time. (SFX: Bell rings) And speaking of time, might I remind you all that I have office hours this evening, as I have had for the last seven weeks. Despite your less-than-shining efforts in my lectures, none of you have seen fit to take advantage of them. I cannot fathom why, but the University pays me whether you show up or not. So on that note, see you next time. (SFX: chairs scrape, papers rustle)

Simmons: I wonder why no one visits him during his office hours.

Bachman: You mean to say that you don't get enough abuse during class?

Simmons: No, I could use a little one-on-one harassment. It gives me that certain edge.

Bachman: Man this class is brutal. I had heard all the stories and warnings, but what could I do? I need this class to graduate.

Simmons: Hey, at least you have an excuse, I'm pre-med. I'm taking this class for "fun".

Bachman: Had any yet?

Simmons: Nope.

Bachman: I heard he had a TA once, but the poor guy couldn't take the pressure and went nuts. They say he's still locked up somewhere.

Simmons: It wouldn't surprise me. The Professor's making me a little twitchy too.

McCann: Excuse me a minute, guys, but I couldn't help overhearing you two. You're really starting to hate this professor, aren't you?

Bachman: Well, maybe hate's too strong of a word.

McCann: But it's close enough. I'm Barry McCann. You might remember me from my sparkling analysis of the Duchess from "Alice in Wonderland" a couple of weeks ago.

Simmons: Do I ever. I thought the old man was going to have a coronary right there in front of everyone.

Bachman: You really touched a nerve there, Barry. But even though you distracted him from yelling at the rest of us, I'm not sure it's such a good idea to crank him up like that.

McCann: Come on, let's be fair. He had it coming. In fact, let's be even fairer, he has a lot more than that coming to him.

Simmons: You said it. I'd like to see him take as much as we have without breaking. That'd show him.

McCann: Exactly. Our aged friend has forgotten what it's like to be on the receiving end of things. He's been unquestioned for so long that he's living in an ivory Sears tower.

Simmons: You're right! He does! I've got a good mind to go up to his office this evening and let him have it.

Bachman: But what about your grade?

Simmons: Forget the grade! I can afford one F. It would be worth it to see his beady little eyes pop out of his head.

McCann: Well, that's alright for you. You'll take your F and go on your merry little physician way. But what about the rest of us? Hell, let's look at the big picture. If something isn't done, he'll go on tongue-lashing students and ruining academic careers until he's six feet under. He's got tenure, you know. He's like the Energizer Bunny. He'll just keep going and going and going...

Bachman: There's teacher evaluations for that. I'm planning to rip him on mine.

McCann: Do you think anyone cares about those? Regardless of what the administration says, those evaluations don't mean anything. He'll never read them, and even if he does get of his dead behind and glance at them, he'll remember your handwriting. For as long as you're in school, he'll be watching and waiting for you to slip. Face it, teacher evaluations are no-win any way you look at it.

Simmons: I'm still gonna go up there and ream him. I don't care what happens later.

McCann: Before you do that, I've got something else in mind. If you can control yourself for an hour or two, why don't both of you have some coffee with me. I'll lay it all out for you.

Simmons: I'm in.

McCann: Great. How about you?

Bachman: Well...why not? I could use some coffee anyway.

McCann: Beautiful. Let's go.

Scene II. Coffee Shop.
McCann: So that's the whole thing. What do you think?

Bachman: I think you're crazy. Open and shut case.

McCann: Duly noted. And you?

Simmons: I'll admit certain parts of it do sound dangerous. Even criminal.

McCann: But the beauty of it is that if we pull it off just right, he'll never even realize what happened. It's classic Dickens. He'll appreciate that.

Bachman: I don't care. The entire thing is illegal in so many ways, I can't even start listing them off.

McCann: Look you two, I didn't just come up with this a few minutes ago. I've been going over it for weeks now, ever since he started slamming me every day. It's foolproof. If it was the kind of thing that I could do alone, I would have done it already and saved everyone some grief. But I've been watching you two and I think you'd make excellent additions to my team, even if you are wimps.

Simmons: Wimps! Just because we're a little leery of your "foolproof" plan doesn't make us wimps.

McCann: Oh yeah? Well let me just say I couldn't classify either of you as vertebrates.

Simmons: Spineless are we? Of all the...

Bachman: Just calm down. Look Barry, do you realize that if we were to do this we'd be committing at least two felonies?

McCann: Don't you two realize that the only crime is getting caught? You've all but said that the professor deserves something exactly like what I've proposed. Well it's not going to happen unless we make it happen. Are you in or not? I haven't got all day. If you two back out, I'll have to find some partners with some cojones.

Simmons: Okay, even if I were to go along with your plan, I'm not exactly sure I can get you what you want from the lab. They keep things like that locked up, probably because of people just like you.

McCann: I never said that this would be simple. We all want to even the score and this plan is poetic justice and revenge in a neat little package. If either of you had an ounce of courage, you'd be begging me to let you in on it.

Simmons: Dammit...okay, I'm in.

McCann: Swell. Now how about you? We can't do this without your car.

Bachman: But what about...

McCann: But nothing. You're either in or out. If you don't have the stones, tell me now.

Bachman: I...I'm in.

McCann: That's my boy. I'm going to make a run to the theatrical supply store for the make-up. You two know what to do.

Scene III. Office hours.
(SFX: Door knock)

Professor: Ah, Mr. Simmons. Congratulations. You are the first student to brave my lair. I see my appeal last week brought in at least one stray sheep. And believe me, Simmons, you are one of the most wayward.

Simmons: Uh, yes. I have a few questions about my paper topic. I was planning on writing it on "Animal Farm."

Professor: before you get going, I have to run to the faculty copy room. Ever since I dispensed with a teaching assistant I have been forced to do my own drudge work. Besides, this coffee of mine is too hot to drink yet. So have a seat and we'll start hacking away at whatever you've come up with when I get back.

Simmons: Okay, Professor.

(SFX: Footsteps out, pause)

McCann: Psst.

Simmons: What? Who is it?

McCann: It's me, you dope. Who else would it be? You've got the golden opportunity, so take it and drop the stuff into the coffee.

Simmons: I was getting to it. You don't need to check up on me and hold my hand.

McCann: I'm not checking up on you. I'm waiting around the corner for the big event. You're going to need help with him.

Simmons: I know, I know.

McCann: Everything is clicking along according to plan. These late office hours of his are just perfect. We couldn't have asked for better. I took a quick walk through the building and there's no one here. Bachman is waiting in the car.
Simmons: It's going to take a while for this stuff to work. He'll be hard to handle at first.

McCann: You just make sure you're ready. We've got a long night ahead of us and we don't have a lot of time to spare. Now put it in the cup. I need to get out of sight.

Simmons: Okay. (SFX: splash)

McCann: You'll give me the signal?

Simmons: I'm sure you'll know when it happens.

McCann: Gotcha. I'll be ready.
(SFX: two sets of footsteps)

Professor: Now, Mr. Simmons, let's get down to business. (SFX: sip of coffee) Ugh, this coffee is so bitter. I'll have to inform the secretary.

Scene IV. Later
Professor: Mr. Simmons, if you would kindly use your head for something other than a wigstand! The irony of Boxer the horse working himself to death is not lost on the average reader. You will have to come up with something a trifle more creative than a parallel between Boxer and the Boxer Rebellion before I lay eyes on your paper. Is that clear?

Simmons: Crystal, sir.

Professor: I don't understand it, Simmons. You look reasonably bright, yet you insist on disporting yourself like a class one imbecile. I realize that literature is not your main focus of study, but...oh.

Simmons: Sir?

Professor: Oh dear.

Simmons: Are you alright, sir?

Professor: I'm having some sort of...ouch...spasm in my chest. Oh my, it hurts!

Simmons: Sir?

Professor: My arms are tingling. Does that mean something? Ouch!

Simmons: It could mean any number of things, sir.

Professor: Damn you, Simmons! You're an ... argh ... medical student! It must mean...Oh my God! (SFX: Chair crash)

Simmons: Sir you'd better lie down. I'll dial for an ambulance.

P: (wheezing) I'm having difficulty breathing. The pain is ... argh ... crushing my chest.

Simmons: Sir? I think you're having a heart attack. Lie as still as you can while I call 911.

Professor: I knew this would happen some day. All that fatty food...ow...I just wasn't expecting it today.

Simmons: Please be still, sir.

Professor: Simmons? Simmons! (P shouts, faints. pause. SFX: door opens)

McCann: Is he out?

Simmons: I think so. The drug simulates the symptoms of cardiac arrest very closely. He's passed out from pain and shock.

McCann: Well just to make sure he stays out, give me the chloroform. We dose him with a good whiff of this and then we get to work. Bachman's probably close to his own heart attack in the car. We shouldn't keep him waiting.

Scene V. Driving.
(SFX: Car noise)

Bachman: Which building was it again?

McCann: Abernathy Hall. The whole place is shut down for remodeling. We'll have a classroom all to ourselves until the construction guys show up around 8. I've been scoping out the place for a week. How's the Prof. doing?

Simmons: He's breathing normally, but his chest is going to hurt like a mother when he wakes up.

McCann: Good. A little lingering pain will make everything that much more convincing.

Bachman: Are you sure he's going to be okay? I don't want this getting any worse than it already is.

McCann: Just keep your eyes on the road and leave all the details to me and Doc back here. (to S) How much longer can we expect him to be out?

Simmons: It's hard to say. I think you went a little overboard with the chloroform, but I think it could be anywhere from one to two hours until he comes to.

McCann: Plenty of time to get ready. I've got everything we need in the bag here. (SFX: paper rustle) I checked out the area where we'll be setting up last night. There's a bathroom just down the hall from room 217. We can get made up in there. I've also got enough nylon cord to make sure that Professor here doesn't get squirmy in his desk.

Bachman: I'm getting a really bad feeling about all this.

McCann: You'll change your tune once the fun starts, I promise. Take this next left.

Scene VI: Classroom.
(SFX: Loud clock ticks)

Professor: Hmm? Wha? What happened? Where am I?

McCann: (deeper voice) Welcome to class, professor.

Professor: What? Who said that? Why is it dark in here? Where am I?

McCann: Tsk. So many questions. You are quite good at asking questions, professor. But are you as equally adept at answering them, I wonder?

Professor: I ask again: who are you? Why can't I move my arms? Why does my chest hurt so? WHO ARE YOU?

McCann: Alright professor. We'll start the ball rolling your way. Let's give you some answers.

(SFX: Light switch click)

Professor: (screams)

McCann: Okay, I'm clue number one. On either side of you are clues number two and three. Now, for ten points, can you solve the puzzle?

Professor: Demons! You're all demons! I'm surrounded by demons!

McCann: You're getting warmer, professor. But give me more. I can't grade you until you've gone that extra step.

Professor: Oh dear God. God.

McCann: I'm afraid you're getting colder, professor. Right now you're about as far from God as you could possibly get.

Professor: No, no, no, no....

McCann: Yes, yes, yes, yes, professor. Now put it all together, or are you incapable of deductive reasoning?

Professor: The last thing...the last thing I remember is talking with Simmons in my office. And then...then...

McCann: Then what, professor?

Professor: Then the pain started and I fell down and Simmons was bending over me...

McCann: You're doing well, professor. Keep going in that direction.

Professor: And then everything went black. I don't remember anything else.

McCann: And then you woke up here. For the full ten points, professor, can you tell me where here is?

Professor: I...no! NO! It can't be!

McCann: Can't be what, professor?

Professor: I lived a good life. There's no possible way I could have ended up here.

McCann: And here is?

Professor: NO!

McCann: Say it! Acknowledge your fate!

Professor: Am I...am I in Hell?

McCann: Correct! Excellent work, professor. You receive the full ten points for that answer. Keep on answering in this fashion and you'll pass with flying colors.

Professor: But this can't be happening. I never harmed anyone. I never sinned greatly. There must be some mistake.

McCann: (laughs) Oh Professor. We don't make mistakes. You're here because you deserve to be here. I won't go into specifics, but maybe after the first thousand years we can discuss the matter in detail.

Professor: This is insane! I must be having a near death experience. That's it.

McCann: No, that is most certainly not it. You've passed the near-death border and are chugging down Death Street as we speak. But if it will make you feel better, we can say that you are having a near-death experience. We don't want you to be uncomfortable.

Professor: No, no. I'm doomed.

McCann: Change that damned and you'll be closer to the truth. But enough of the wordplay and preliminaries. Let it now be known that Professor Eustace Greer has died and now resides in Room 451872201 of Hell Proper. Let the examination begin.

Professor: What is this examination you keep referring to?

McCann: It's quite simple really. In life, you were considered one of the most intelligent men of your generation. And no one was quicker to admit it than yourself. Now, in death, my colleagues and I shall determine just how bright you really are. I will ask questions. You will answer at length in essay form with as much complexity and depth as you can muster. Perhaps if you answers are sufficiently impressive, we will take a short break in a hundred and fifty years. Are you ready to begin?

Professor: What? I'm not sure I understand.

McCann: Question number one, and remember, the questions start off easy and then get progressively more difficult. Can the character of the Cheshire Cat in Lewis Carroll's "Alice in Wonderland" be seen as a metaphor for his chronic migraine headaches?

Professor: Well...well...If all the questions are that simple, I won't even have to strain myself. By the way, I know that the purpose of Hell is to inflict pain and suffering on the unholy, but these ropes holding me in the desk are cutting into my wrists. Could you loosen them? They're distracting me.

McCann: I'm sorry, but they're standard procedure. Now please answer the question.

Professor: Right. You can't blame me for asking. Now, on the subject of Dodgson's headaches, it is well-documented that he often lapsed into a hallucinatory state when...

McCann: WRONG!
(SFX: punch to the head)
Professor: OW!

McCann: You are utterly wrong! That answer was both ignorant and incompetent. You will have to do better than that.

Professor: Why...why did that demon hit me in the head?

McCann: Are you that stupid? You just said that you realized that the sole function of Hell was to punish. For every unacceptable answer you give me, one of my colleagues will administer a blow to your head. Call it negative reinforcement if you like. I'm sure that after a while, you'll be churning out brilliance and my associate gentledevils will no longer be necessary. Are you ready to continue?

Professor: But...

McCann: Question number two: Compare the Circe cycle of Joyce's "Ulysses" with its corresponding passage in Homer's "Odyssey."

Professor: That's not a question...

(SFX: punch to the head, P moans)
McCann: Now, to continue: what differences and/or similarities do you see?

Professor: Oooh. Well, Bloom is the equivalent character of Odysseus in the opening chapters...

McCann: WRONG!
(SFX: punch to the head)
Professor: Arrgh!

McCann: Obvious, professor. Blatantly, totally obvious.

Professor: But...but one has to start at the beginning before anything that follows can be coherent.

McCann: Yes, but you were completely transparent in choosing Bloom as your focus. A true scholar would have began with something fresh and original.

Professor: No see here...

McCann: No, YOU see here! Don't you realize just where you are yet? Hasn't the reality of your situation penetrated your fat head? You're in HELL! I am in charge and you are completely at my mercy. Your fate rests in my talons like a hollow eggshell. I will either pass you (pause) or I will fail you. Are we clear on this fact?

Professor: Yes, but...

McCann: Fine. Question number Three...

Scene VII. Later.
McCann: Oh that wa the worst one yet, Professor! Not only did you ignore the symbolism of the eyes of T.J. Eckleburg, but also the East/West dichotomy and the significance of the name Daisy. Pathetic attempts earn you the beating you so richly deserve.

Professor: Please...no more. I'm begging you...

McCann: Beg all you want, Professor. I've heard it all before, believe me. Now, where were we? Oh yes, question number forty-seven.

Simmons: Maybe it's time for a break.

McCann: Hmm. Maybe you're right. It's been a long session so far. But just a foretaste of what is to come, professor. You just sir back and relax. We'll be back before you know it.
(SFX: door open/close)
McCann: Well guys, how're we doing?

Bachman: We've got to stop this. I feel sick.

McCann: Stop it? But it's only three o'clock! We can keep him here for hours yet.

Bachman: No! We've gone far enough. Maybe too far. I don't know.

Simmons: I agree. It was fun at first, but I think he's learned his lesson. Besides, I never realized how much a bare fist against a skull hurts. I've just been slapping him for the last dozen questions.

McCann: I can't believe I'm hearing this! This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and you two want to pull out? Uh, uh. I don't think so.

Simmons: Barry, he's taken multiple blows to the head. When we return him to his office and he calls for an ambulance, the EMTs are going to wonder how he got so banged up. If we stop now, they might just put it down to convulsions. But a few more hits are going to do some serious damage.

Bachman: And I think he's had about all he can take. We've given him more than enough.

McCann: Okay, you two listen up. This was my scheme and I'll know when he's had enough, not you. Now let's get back in there.

Simmons: What if we don't want to?

McCann: Let me put it this way, fellow accomplices. We're not moving him until I've finished the exam. If you try and stop me, I'll squeal like a dying pig, because I don't care what happens as long as he gets the message. We're all in this together. I don't have too many questions left. So what don't we wrap this up quickly and get him back to the office?

Simmons: Have you even looked at him? Don't you have any compassion?
McCann: In or out?

Simmons: He's got us. I guess we're in, partner.

Bachman: But...

Simmons: Do you want to go to prison? Because that's where we're going unless we play along. That bastard over there has got us over a barrel. If we do it his way, we all go home safe and sound.

McCann: I thought you'd see it my way. Don't you two get all jumpy on me. I really am almost done with the questions. Let's get back in there before he has too much time by himself.
(SFX: Door open/close)

McCann: Hello, Professor. We're back. Did you miss us?

Professor: (groan)

McCann: I thought so. Now let's see, where were we before the break? Oh yes, question number 47. Are we all set?

Professor: Please...please no more. I don't think I can answer any more questions.

McCann: Be that as it may, we need to get through these. If you feel unprepared, you have no one to blame but yourself. Now, question 47: Explain the relevance of the main character's war wound in "The Sun Also Rises." Pay particular attention to the wound's effects on the character's interactions with Brett.

(Long pause)

McCann: Professor? Did you hear the question?


McCann: Alright, no answer is the same as a wrong one. Boys?

(SFX: Slap)

Professor: (screams loudly)

McCann: Now professor, of all the childish, silly ways to react. Didn't I just say that silence is equivalent to an incorrect answer? You should have seen that coming.

Professor: (scream)

McCann: Professor? This tirade of yours is just going to prolong the examination.

Professor: (begins to gibber)

Simmons: Uh, Barry?


Simmons: Sorry, but I don't think he can hear anything right now. I think we pushed it too far.

McCann: What do you know about it, Mr. Medical Man? Are you a specialist in psychology or something?

Simmons: I don't have to be. He's gibbering like a loon! What are we going to do?

McCann: Now don't panic you two.

Bachman: (moans) Ohhh...I knew we never should have started this. We crossed the line and took him with us. We're in so much trouble...

McCann: Shut up and let me think!

Simmons: What's to think about? We have to go to the cops and tell them what we did. I just hope he's not completely gone.

McCann: Now let me say this first thing. We do NOT go to the cops. Never. We're going to work this out ourselves.

Bachman: What?! Listen you, we followed you with this and look where it got us. At least if we come clean we can throw ourselves at the mercy of the court. With you we can only go downward.

McCann: Why you little...

Simmons: Both of you clam up! The Professor is not faking this. This wasn't part of your plan, Barry. His mind is GONE! Now I don't care what you think we should do. I don't want to go to prison, but I will if we can't think of anything better than going to the cops.

McCann: Okay. Okay, here's an idea. Help me get the Professor down to the car and I'll tell you what I've come up with on the way.

Bachman: On the way where?

McCann: To the hospital. Let's move.

Scene VIII. Driving.
(SFX: Car noise, P keeps on a-jabbering)
McCann: Okay, we drive up to the hospital, pull into the ambulance turn-around and open the back door. Simmons, you push the Professor out onto the sidewalk. We don't wait for anyone, just close the door and take off. If we work it right, the orderlies won't find him for a minute or two and no one will get a close look at the car.

Simmons: But what if he snaps out of it and spills to the doctors?

McCann: No problem. He's going to be talking about dying and going to Hell and being quizzed by a bunch of demons. They'll think he's nuts.

Bachman: And he is.

McCann: Shut up, you. As I was saying, the doctors will think that he's just been drinking or something. Simmons, will any traces of that drug show up in his blood?

Simmons: It might, as well as the chloroform, but we kept him for a long time. There's a good chance that he's metabolized the stuff by now. Even if they did a blood sample or urinalysis, they would be looking for alcohol or other drugs, and not the drug we used. We might be safe on that score.

McCann: At least one thing is going right for us. Now, we need to get our stories straight.

Bachman: What do you mean? If they don't see the car, how are they going to know we had anything to do with this?

McCann: Let's see: One, if the Professor becomes lucid, he might recall the last person he saw before he went out, which would be Simmons.

Simmons: Oh man, I thought you plan was foolproof.

McCann: "The degree to which a plan is foolproof is inversely proportionate to the magnitude of the fool involved".

Simmons: So you're saying I'm an idiot!

McCann: No, I'm just saying that if this plan went smooth, the Professor would be resting comfortably on the floor of his office by now. I was I supposed to know that he was such a weakling? He never gave you that impression in class, did he?

Simmons: Well, no.

McCann: Right. Now don't anyone get panicky. We've had a little setback, but that doesn't mean we're sunk yet. Now, Simmons, on the off chance that the Professor starts blabbing, you say that when you left his office...

Simmons: Which was when?

McCann: Let's say seven o'clock, the Professor was fine and dandy.
Simmons: But he's going to say that he was talking to me at the time he had the heart attack.

McCann: If the cops say anything about that, use your pre-med skills and say that he was probably hallucinating from the stress.

Simmons: Yeah, that sounds plausible...

(Professor screams suddenly)

Bachman: (near-hysterical) Would someone please shut him up!? I can't concentrate with him shouting like that! I can't take it! I...(SFX: slap)

McCann: CALM DOWN! Just get us to that hospital and leave the rest to us. I can't say I'm enjoying his antics either, but we need to focus on the matter at hand, okay?

Bachman: Yeah, okay.

McCann: Now, Simmons. We need to...Hey Bachman.

Bachman: What? What!

McCann: Shouldn't we have gotten to the hospital by now? I mean it's just on the edge of campus.

Bachman: I know, I know. But I'm doing the best I can.

McCann: Fine, now Simmons, when the cops start talking to you, I want you to say that the Professor was (start fade) talking oddly, as if he was under a lot of stress.

(SFX: Loud deep laughter, 5 secs)

Devil: What is so funny, my Lord?

Lucifer: Those four in the car down there. The ones driving through the miniature city.

Devil: And why are those four in particular so amusing? You have many damned souls in this place, why pay so much attention to them.

Lucifer: Oh when will you demons learn to appreciate things as I do.

Devil: Sorry, my Lord.

Lucifer: Never mind. Now observe those four in the car.

Devil: Yes, my Lord.

Lucifer: Now the irony of the situation is that those four haven't yet realized that they are dead.

Devil: Ah.

Lucifer: The car accident which claimed their lives is not part of their memory. As far as they know, they have all been operating in their own reality. But ever since that truck crushed their car against the grocery store, they have been within my domain.

Devil: Ah, I see.

Lucifer: Do you? Well, that's splendid.

Devil: And you have set their souls in that replica of their own city, splicing their last memories into the running loop of the twin reality.

Lucifer: Excellent. But can you project what will happen over time?

Devil: Am I correct in assuming, my Lord, that the new man perpetually drowning in the ocean of beer was the driver of the truck which killed them?

Lucifer: Yes, you would.

Devil: Then it stands to reason that the four souls in the car are doomed to drive forever in the city. The one screaming will scream for eternity in the welter of his own mind. The others will continue to drive, plagued by the fourth's wailing.

Lucifer: Mostly correct, but there are a few details which you didn't mention.

Devil: I am sorry, my Lord.

Lucifer: No matter, there's no way you could completely fathom my power. The city in which they drive is not precisely a replica of their own. The streets are all generated by their minds to look vaguely familiar, but the path and direction of the streets are not as they remember. The city is designed to completely reform itself as they go on. They will never find the hospital for which they seek, because there isn't one in the replica.

Devil: Very clever, my Lord.

Lucifer: Thank you. The conception of the infinite, as you are well aware, reduces time to a meaningless crawl. The passengers in the car will spend one relentlessly long night driving around and around a city which is their own and yet not their own. The slowed time is so gradual that I'm guessing that they won't realize what happened for perhaps another 2000 years, give or take a hundred.

Devil: Wonderful, my Lord.

Lucifer: Thank you. But these four will keep, and I have millions of little things to attend to. So why don't we check on the space-heater salesmen. They are always good for a chuckle.

Devil: An excellent idea, my Lord.

Lucifer: Drive on, my little humans. Maybe after a millennium, I'll put up hospital parking signs. (L laughs)