Hell was full. It had taken all the souls it could possibly take, filled every space. But every day, every hour, the souls kept on coming in.
“A place must be found for them,” said the Devil.
“Surely you could bend space a little,” said one of his demons, Albatrax.
“It has already been bent as far as I can bend it.” The Devil surveyed his dominion. Everywhere he looked, there were souls, twisted and miserable. Discomfort was mandatory, but now there wasn’t even room to enjoy it. “Bending it any more would risk our realm breaking apart. Besides, it would leave no room for the torture. No, we must find another place. Come with me.”
“Where are we going?”
“To Earth. Perhaps they have some out of the way place we can store our spare souls.”
“Will they let us do that?”
“That is the beauty of Earth. They will never know. Most don’t believe we even exist. As long as we keep the souls relatively quiet and bound, there will be no harm done.”
“But how will we torture the souls in another realm?”
“A puzzle, that is true. I think we must find places that are both out of the way and torture in and of themselves.”
“Surely no place such as that exists on Earth. That would be too much a stroke of luck.”
“We shall see.” They had come to Earth. They floated above it, looking down.
“The rocks,” said Albatrax. “They take them out if the earth and hit them and burn them to suit their needs. That would be good torture, and nobody would notice.”
The Devil shook his head. “Rocks cannot hold a soul. They are dead things. Mindless. We need something with a space for consciousness.” He floated down, venturing closer for a better view.
Albatrax extended a claw to the shapes on the green fields. “Dumb animals will not see, and they lead horrible lives. Many are penned in small spaces and milked. Torture enough, and there are many of them.”
“Too short lived,” said the Devil. “A handful of years and the humans will have killed them and we will have to find more places for them.”
“There will be more places. So many animals.”
“Too much paperwork. Let us go closer.”
Closer and closer they went, down to the streets, to the roofs, and then through a roof and into the house. For a moment they stood in silence, looking at the sofa, the television, the carpet, until a strange noise drew their attention. They bent down and saw an odd shape moving behind the sofa.
“What is that?” said the Devil.
“One of their machines,” said Albatrax. He peered at the device. ”A Roooom-ba. They use it to clean the floor.”
“Is it alive?”
“No. Nor sentient. But there is space for a mind. They made a space to program their orders in.”
“It can take orders, can it?” The Devil bent down and held out a hand to the Roomba. “Hello, little one.” The machine paused a moment, then frantically began to smash itself into the sofa repeatedly.
The Devil smiled. “I think we have found a place for our extra souls.”
“In there? Really?”
“Can you imagine a worse hell? Taking orders and doing human’s dirty work, for eternity?”
“It won’t be for eternity. These things break. They get thrown away.”
“Humans are ingenious. They can fix broken things. Recycle rubbish. And even if they are thrown away, well then, they rot for a few years before they are released. And they make more of these machines every year.”
“I don’t know if they make enough for all the extra souls we’ve been getting.”
“Well, it doesn’t just have to be cleaning robots. There are the robots that guide their travelling machines, the robots that wash their dishes, the robots that record their entertainment. They make brains in all their servants. All their mechanical slaves. And you know, if it seems too easy for them, we can intervene. Slight malfunctions will cause both the souls and the living humans misery. Imagine that.”
“But um, won’t Heaven notice?”
“Heaven only cares about the big picture, Albatrax. Love, kindness, compassion.” The Devil snorted. “They never think of the little details. They never think that without the details, they would never have a big picture…” He clicked his fingers, and the Roomba hit the sofa so with a force that sent itself spinning.
The Devil laughed. “Let us go back and begin the process, Albatrax. Soon all the damned will have places here on Earth.”