Orientation Day (A story in Lawyers in Hell)

Lawyers in HellOrientation Day
(A story in Lawyers in Hell)

The Chief Librarian of Hell’s Law Library was spending a tremendous amount of time and energy trying to track down every tiny crack in the Library’s rock walls.  Ever since Erra and the Seven sent a massive flood down the road that ran straight into New Hell, Demetrius of Phalerum had been chasing trickles of nasty, muddy, foul-smelling water (and who knew what else) to find the leaks and plug them until repairs could be made.  The moisture threatened the most delicate contents of the Library – the ancient scrolls, parchment and papyrus recording laws from antiquity.  Stone and clay tablets weren’t as difficult to protect as papyri, but the modern books were almost as sensitive to dampness as the oldest materials.

Demetrius was having trouble staying ahead of the water because the Library encompassed fourteen entire floors – the lowest fourteen of the Hall of Injustice, where the Administration and its myriad bureaucratic departments were located.  These particular floors had been chipped out of the solid rock by prisoners held in His Satanic Majesty’s dungeon, over a period of aeons.

Lawyers in Hell“There,” he said with satisfaction.  “Stopped another one.”  Demetrius turned to thank his newest assistant, Makalani, a lovely youth whose name – by predestination or fate? – meant “clerk” in ancient Egyptian.  “Oh, no!  This horrid seepage has ruined your smock,” Demetrius exclaimed.  “Come to my office, Sesh, and we’ll find you a fresh uniform.”

Makalani hurried alongside the Chief Librarian with his heart beating a little faster than normal.  Demetrius had called him “Sesh,” which was not only an honorific meaning “respected scribe,” but was also a rather intimate use of the word.  Dared he hope…?

When they reached his office, Demetrius searched through chests until he found just what he was looking for.  “Here you are; see if it fits,” he said, handing an almost new, crimson smock to the excited young man.

“Oh, but sir, this is crimson….  I’m only a fourth level scribe –”

“Not any more,” Demetrius smiled.  “I recently lost my personal assistant when his taxi was swept away in the flood, so I’m promoting you to his position, young Sesh.”

Makalani tried to control his breathing as he removed his ruined smock and slid the new one over his long, ebony curls.  He adjusted the collar and sleeves, noticing how nicely his gray linen pants set off the expensively-dyed smock and smiled shyly.  Then, bowing slightly, he looked up at the Chief Librarian with kohl-lengthened eyes.  “Sir, I hardly know what to say.  I am honored and I will do everything possible to be worthy of this opportunity.”

“I’m sure you will, First Assistant, I’m sure you will,” Demetrius said, well-pleased with his choice.  “But now we must return to our duties,” he added briskly, straightening the folds of his own robe and brushing off some dust acquired in their latest exploration.  He might be working in New Hell with all these new dead, but he still preferred the dignified scholar’s robes and sandals he had worn in Athens and Alexandria, (even if these robes were made of wrinkle-resistant modern fabric).

The two descended the stairs to the third level balcony above the meeting floor of Hell’s Law Library, and looked down at the newest class of damned lawyers filing in to be seated below, through a thickening haze of smoke and sulphurous vapor.

“You see them, Makalani?” Demetrius asked with scorn.  “All these new dead – entirely lost without the small engines they keep in their pockets or clip to their ears, or the larger ones with push-buttons they must use to find cases, laws and loopholes in the more modern books here in the Library.  They’re just like my new-dead assistants, who spend all their time in the research rooms trying to get information from the Library’s computer system (such as it is), instead of looking for the actual printed documents.

“At one time, I knew the location of every scroll and parchment in the entire Library of Alexandria.  I didn’t need gadgets to remind me where to find a scroll.  After all, I organized that place,” he sniffed, glancing smugly at his assistant.  “And let me tell you, it was an enormous endeavor.”  Makalani looked at Demetrius with something approaching awe.

Turning back to the balcony railing, Demetrius directed the clerk’s attention to the lawyers assembling on the ground floor.  “First, they’ll complain about the poor ventilation, the dust, the temperature, the lights and the odor down there, especially with all this disgusting liquid seeping in through the walls.  Then listen for all the shocked whispers and exclamations of rage when the new class learns the rules under which they must now labor.”  He chuckled hoarsely, the mildew from the seepage catching in his throat.  “There are always a few in each new group who believe that due to their prior “lofty” status, they should be exempt from the probationary period required of every lawyer.”

“Why is there a probationary period, Chief Librarian?” asked Makalani.  “Did not these men and women learn their trade in life?”

“Oh, of course, they learned to read the law on earth – for their own ends….  Most of these people were wealthy, powerful and respected in their communities during their lives, (if not necessarily esteemed by their peers and spouses).  They foolishly assume they will continue to enjoy their previous lifestyle here in the afterlife.”  He scoffed.  “With all the unrest caused by this audit from on high, these newly-damned lawyers should be grateful their orientation seminar is going forward on schedule.  They could still be languishing in the morgue with the Undertaker, awaiting release.  I find their shock rather entertaining – especially when they discover what their duties will be while they serve their probation....” Demetrius confided.

Makalani was flattered that the Chief Librarian was taking time to share these insights with him.  After realizing that his heart would never be weighed by Maat against a feather, Makalani had been ecstatic when assigned to the Law Library:  Here he could work under the legendary Demetrius, Makalani’s personal hero, whose organization of the Royal Library of Alexandria was legend.  To be named First Assistant was an honor beyond the young sesh’s wildest dreams.

“Most of these newly-damned candidates are attending our ‘Legal Orientation Seminar’ for the first time, although a few are repeating the course – some who have died here, and revisited the Undertaker, or have been judged inadequate and returned for ‘additional’ orientation,” Demetrius explained as he and Makalani looked down at the enormous plaza on the lowest level.

“The ones new to hell are the most fun to watch as they learn their fate.  As they straggle into the room, the saying above the door – derived, of course, from the one at the Alexandria Library – just confuses them, highlighting their woeful ignorance.”

Inscribed above the entryway to Hell’s Law Library was the statement:  The place of the curse of the soul.  The epithet was a source of never-ending amusement to Demetrius, a play on the words above the original library’s door, which had said ‘The place of the cure of the soul.’

“But sir, do not all men know the original words of the famous inscription in Alexandria?” asked Makalani.

Demetrius sniffed, “If these people didn’t need to know something for their daily work, most couldn’t be bothered to find out.  All they needed to know, in their opinion, they could find using their benighted ‘equipment.’  It’s a miracle – sorry,” he cringed slightly while glancing up, then continued:  “It’s amazing if more than a few of them have been in an actual library since they studied for the bar,” said Demetrius with scorn.

Makalani was still dizzy with the honor of having the famous Demetrius confide in him.  In life Demetrius had revamped the legal system of Athens, where he was in charge of the city (even though a change in government forced him to leave expeditiously for Thebes, with his wife and eromenoi).  After a decade in Thebes, Demetrius was welcomed in Alexandria, where he was appointed Chief Librarian and organized the famous Library there for Ptolemy I – until the king’s heir callously fired him, an act which Makalani considered mean and spiteful of Ptolemy II.

Demetrius explained to Makalani, “When I arrived in Hades’ realm, His Satanic Majesty, the Prince of Darkness, personally selected me – because of my experience in Athens with the law, and as bibliophylax of Alexandria – to be the Chief Librarian for Hell’s Law Library.”  Demetrius made a sweeping gesture to call attention to the hundreds of thousands of shelves stretching into the distance around them.  Turning to his assistant, he lowered his voice:  “While not as beautiful as wonderful Alexandria,” then continued at normal volume, “it does contain every law ever written on earth or in hell, whether handwritten on papyrus; incised in tablets of stone, clay or wax; drawn on sheepskin; rendered by calligraphy in ink and illuminated by hand on parchment or vellum; or printed on modern paper bound in books.  So, to keep track of it all, Satan arranged for me to be assigned here.  Of course, this library contains far more material than simply laws; it has reference material from all the ages.

“I do not want to have to explain to HSM how I allowed mold and mildew to take hold on some of the rare leather-covered books, not to mention the parchments and vellum,” Demetrius shuddered.  “Do you know we have the original of Danté Alighieri’s ‘Divine Comedy’ here?  All three sections:  Inferno, Purgatorio and Paradiso from the fourteenth century….  And some of the original writings of the infamous Marquis de Sade.

“This library was in a horrendous state when I arrived, and needed my organizational skills desperately,” Demetrius said flatly.  “But I now know where every single scroll, parchment fragment, palimpsest, or tablet in my domain is stored.  My more modern clerks are much like these newly-damned lawyers – entirely lost without their devices to find laws and cases in the printed books.  I happily leave that material to their auspices.  Here in hell, their fancy equipment is usually only good for losing the most vital piece of information they need.  But they’ll find out soon enough,” Demetrius said as the lights in the entire library flickered, and howls of dismay were heard from the research rooms.

“It’s lucky you arrived here when you did, my boy.  The Legal Orientation Seminar is going to be somewhat different today; there will be a guest speaker, from ‘Above,’ a rarity,” said Demetrius, raising his gray eyebrows meaningfully.  “We’ll come back later, in time to hear the lecture.  The Boss has been very ill-tempered since the auditors arrived and we don’t want to draw any unwanted attention, so we need to familiarize you with your duties as my new First Assistant and the steps we’re taking to preserve the collections from the flood damage, as soon as we can.”

Having no interest in hearing once again the same seminar given by Melvin Belli and Percy Foreman on many occasions, Demetrius was content to take his new scribe on a tour of the shelves of scrolls and other writings from antiquity – his favorites – until the guest speaker arrived.

“I’d like to show you the new water-tight and ‘crush-proof’ chests I’m trying out to protect our most delicate materials,” Demetrius told Makalani as they walked away from the balcony.  “The containers are made of some odd substance called titanium alloy.”  Once again lowering his voice and leaning his head closer to Makalani, Demetrius murmured, “Since those auditors caused the flood and all these blasted leaks started… um, hmmm… what is that delightful spice scent…?”


“All right, folks, let’s settle down.”  Percy Foreman looked out at the sea of faces representing the newest group of damned lawyers to enter Hell.

“My name is Percy Foreman and my colleague here is Melvin Belli.  We were two of the best lawyers on earth, in our respective fields during our lifetimes, and we’re here to acquaint you with the rules and requirements of hell’s Administration for all newly-damned lawyers.”  Murmurs followed his statement.  “I see some of you recognize one or both of our names,” he said, nodding at Belli.  “Nice to know they still remember us back in the real world – or does that buzzing out there mean that some of you are confused to find yourselves here?  After visiting with the Undertaker, you should be under no illusions about why you’re here....

“For those of you who haven’t been through the official seminar before, it really will go much faster if you just let us get on with it, instead of asking the same pointless questions we’ve heard from all your predecessors….  But I don’t suppose that’s gonna stop any of ’em,” he stage-whispered to his colleague, Belli.

“Before we get started, did everyone pick up a copy of the Orientation Manual for Newly-Damned Lawyers when you came in?  You really want to hang on to those manuals.  They’re the newest edition and can sync with your hellpads.  They also have a new section that can automatically display the latest rulings.

“The answers to your questions may be found in the manual, but in hell there is a certain fluidity affecting every aspect of existence, including the law.  You’ll just have to learn as you go.  Our job is to give out assignments, not read through every rule and regulation in the manual.  It’s up to you to study the nit-picky details … in your ‘spare’ time,” he chuckled.

As the first arms began waving enthusiastically in the audience, Foreman sighed, rubbing his hand over his large, mostly bald, head.  He turned to Belli, saying quietly, “It never fails.”  Raising his voice he turned back to his audience, “Gentlemen and ladies, please; give us a chance to explain a few things before you start demanding answers to individual questions….  Thank you.”

“Now, because I practiced criminal defense law – rather successfully, I might add – I will handle assignments for all the civil, estate, merger and acquisition, intellectual property, entertainment, corporate and any other non-criminal specialists.”

At this announcement, confused looks appeared on faces in the crowd and several people looked around to see if they had heard correctly.

Foreman, the big Texan, grinned maliciously.  “That’s right, and if you practiced criminal law, whether in defense or prosecution, our Mr. Belli here, who was known as the ‘King of Torts,’ will handle your assignments.

“This is how it works down here:  every newly-damned lawyer has to serve a probationary period working for the Administration, in whatever field of law he or she knew the least about on earth.  How well you learn the material, find convenient loopholes for the Administration and how quickly you pick up on the way things function in hell, will determine how long it is before you can go into private practice for yourself or join an existing firm….  That is, if you don’t get killed and have to start over at the bottom, so to speak.”  Foreman and Belli guffawed loudly, giving each other high-fives, while their audience members looked either appalled or outraged.

Melvin Belli took the podium, an imposing figure in his custom-tailored suit, Italian shoes, silk tie and polished cotton shirt when compared to Foreman in his ill-fitting, off-the-rack outfit.

The newly-damned lawyers were already beginning to fawn, hoping to influence their placement:  they greeted Belli with a smattering of polite applause.

Belli began, “A rare treat is in store for today’s class.  We have a visiting lecturer from on high:  Mr. Justice Benjamin Cardozo, who replaced Oliver Wendell Holmes on the U.S. Supreme Court, where he served thereafter until nineteen thirty-eight.  Some of his decisions and opinions regarding corporate responsibility and negligence created the tort laws that made me so famous… and rich!

“He will attempt to enlighten you on things you might have done to avoid this place.  Who knows?  Maybe if you pay attention, you might someday – way down the line – become eligible for manumission by Altos, Hell’s own volunteer angel (his friends call him Just Al), who is escorting Justice Cardozo today.  But don’t count on it.

“Justice Cardozo was renowned for his emphasis on the purpose of law, his insightful descriptions of the relationship between the policy and the practice of law, and especially noted for his concern for fairness in justice – something we don’t have to worry about down here....  Benjamin Cardozo was considered a ‘lawyer’s lawyer’ and later a ‘judge’s judge,’ with good reason, so you might want to pay attention.”

As befitting the occasion, Belli composed his face into its most humble expression (one with which he was not particularly familiar) and raised his voice:  “All rise for the Honorable Justice Benjamin Cardozo.”

His audience rose simultaneously, each having learned on earth to spring to his or her feet like a jack-in-the-box at the words ‘all rise.’  They stood quietly while the distinguished, white-haired Cardozo was escorted into the room by an ethereal being in a glowing white robe, with the most beautiful face any of them had ever seen.  The scent of a soft summer day wafted into the room as the two newcomers entered.

“Thank you, Altos,” said Cardozo as he stepped to the lectern, “I’ll keep this brief so the elevator doesn’t have to wait too long.”

“Not at all, sir.  Take your time – we have a lot of it,” said Altos, smiling.

“Please be seated, ladies and gentlemen,” began Justice Cardozo.  His piercing gaze swept across the room and into each soul among the convened newly-damned lawyers.

“In nineteen twenty-one, I wrote: ‘The law has outgrown its primitive stage of formalism when the precise word was the sovereign talisman, and every slip was fatal.  It takes a broader view today.’  I see no reason to change my opinion, even after all these years.

“From reading the Register listings for some of today’s attendees, it appears many of you never were exposed to my lecture series from Yale University.  You believed the purpose of practicing law was to make sure your client would be able to get the upper hand in any dispute, by manipulating language to ensure a “win” – whether your client actually deserved to win or not – and, not incidentally, make sure your client could afford your enormous fees.”

Shaking his dignified head he continued, “I believed that, whenever possible, courts should attempt to instill fairness in an unclear dispute by analyzing and interpreting it to cover situations the parties may not have provided for specifically, in order to ensure a fair result.  What seems to have happened, since my time, unfortunately, is that particular legal philosophy has become unimportant to some jurists and generally denigrated by the legal profession.”

There commenced a shuffling of feet, ducking of heads, crossing of legs, shifting of chairs, whispers and other indications of unease in the audience.

Justice Cardozo raised his voice slightly, “But you people – you each made it your life’s work to revise wording in contracts, laws, legislation and court documents; you made use of every loophole you could find or create and took advantage of, for instance, every ‘may’ that should have been a ‘shall’ or other ambiguous wording, to ensure triumph for whoever paid you, without regard for the inherent ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ of the situation.  Well, that is why you’re here – that and your consistent disavowal of the principles of fairness.  You will now learn humility by seeing how it feels to lose, again and again – especially if you continue your previous behavior in this realm.  While it may have benefited you financially and materially in your time on earth, things just don’t work the same way in hell.

“In fact, it is my understanding that nothing works very well down here, so those gizmos you rely on – your hellphones, hellpads, and portable computers – may work sometimes; they may not work at others or, even worse, may appear to work, but give you erroneous results.  You will be better served by doing due-diligence research yourself, in the actual books of the law, which will, I sincerely hope, instill in you some respect for how the law came into being.”  This time when he paused, there was total silence from the audience.

“As an agnostic in life, I wasn’t convinced of the reality of ‘heaven’ or ‘hell,’ or of the precepts of Judaism – even though I was born a Sephardic Jew – or Christianity or any of the other world religions.  I simply believed I should be as honest and fair as I possibly could in rendering my judgments, and live my life by the same principles, while treating my fellow man with dignity.  Apparently, I succeeded well enough to be granted an afterlife in a more comfortable realm than this one.

“My message to you today is this:  learn from your mistakes.  You should be able to determine why you were sent here, if you think back on your life.  The probation you must serve – aside from supporting His Infernal Majesty…” Cardozo looked up at the ceiling fifteen stories above their heads and shuddered, “…may expose you to the practice of law at all levels, introducing you to the dregs of hell’s society.  It may cause you to focus exclusively on the minutest differences of wording of laws and regulations.  You will have to learn new laws and figure out how to deal with different loopholes than those with which you are acquainted.

“And my advice to you is:  during and after your probationary period (however long that may last)  try to atone for your behavior in life.  Do something good for someone else’s benefit, just because it’s the right thing to do.  I understand that good behavior is frowned upon down here, but it will give you the best chance of earning a somewhat less agonizing afterlife one day – if you gain an understanding of why you are here, sincerely regret your unworthy behavior while on earth, and try to recover the goodness and innocence you lost somewhere along the way.  I thank you for your time and attention.”

Not a single head rose from contemplation of a single lap as he finished.  After a moment, Justice Cardozo turned to Altos, sighed and said, “Well, I hope it did someone some good….”  Altos patted Justice Cardozo’s arm and drew him out of the Library toward the elevator.


“That was quite a speech,” Demetrius breathed to Makalani.  “For one of the new dead, that one has the mind and understanding of a great philosopher like Aristotle, my old teacher….” he said, as he dabbed at his eye with the sleeve of his robe.  “But it was probably wasted on that rabble down on the floor.

“Oh, but let me show you the most wonderful scroll of the Hammurabi era, which I found behind a broken wall panel while I was sealing another leak yesterday!”  And Demetrius led his assistant firmly into another part of the Library.


“Well, people, I’d call that an inspiring address by Justice Cardozo.  It’s up to you whether you take it to heart or not,” said Melvin Belli as he stepped up to the rostrum.

“Now I want all the criminal defense lawyers and former prosecutors to follow me to the other end of the room so we can get started.  I’ll leave the rest of you civil practitioners to Percy, here.”  With a malevolent smile, Belli strode to the lectern at the far end of the room and turned to wait for his victims who were just making their halting way to the empty chairs facing him.

At each end of the room, a babble of questions and offended oratory rose in volume.  After a moment, Percy Foreman picked up a stone tablet and slammed it on the desk next to where he stood.  He shouted:  “All right, y’all settle down.  Now!”

Many in the audience gasped in shocked indignation.  No one dared yell at them – ever.  They were the cream of the crop, the best of the best, the wealthiest, most influential lawyers ever to have practiced civil law.  And no hick Texas Criminal shyster (regardless of his incredible record of fifteen hundred acquittals to sixty-four convictions, one execution) was going to tell them anything!

A similar confrontation was taking place with the group gathered in front of Mr. Belli.  Why should they listen to some slick, polished civil lawyer, even if he had single-handedly created Class Action Lawsuits and won six-hundred million U.S. dollars in awards in some of the biggest trials ever?  They had collected fees in the millions of dollars themselves, representing the richest scumbags ever arrested.  The former prosecutors hadn’t been as wealthy a group, unless their jurisdiction afforded them regular access to bribes and perks, but they had wielded a tremendous amount of power they were loath to give up.

Each group believed it preposterous to require them to practice a type of law they’d avoided like a plague when alive.  Who did Foreman and Belli think they were?

A better question would have been, who did Foreman and Belli work for?

When it looked like total insurrection was going to break out, and the noise level rose toward its peak, with men and women standing, red-faced and shouting at the Seminar Chairmen and each other, a bolt of lightning crackled from the highest floor of the Hall of Injustice, spearing the center of the meeting room floor, with a resounding crash.

Once again, all the lights in the Library flickered and popped, as the lightning played havoc with the electricity.

The loudest voice they had ever heard boomed:  “This is hell, you idiots!  This is not Burger King.  You don’t get it your way – you do what you’re told!  The Undertaker must be slipping if none of you understands this yet.  Now shut up, pay attention and take notes.  Then get to work before I have to make a personal appearance….”

As the smoke cleared from the room, silence reigned.  The seminar chairmen shook their heads.

“If I may proceed now,” Foreman drawled, “I will begin handing out assignments.”  A pen fell to the floor from someone’s lap, and the woman sitting next to the miscreant let out a small yelp.

“Well, I guess we can start with you, sir,” said Foreman as he pointed to the blond, too-perfectly tanned gentleman with most unnaturally white teeth, dressed in ultra-expensive ‘business casual,’ who was just picking up his pen.  Consulting the Register of Preeminently Damned Lawyers on his hellpad, Foreman continued, “So, you practiced entertainment law in Hollywood, is that right?”  Tall, Blond and Tan stood up and said with a supercilious smile, “Why, yes, as a matter of fact, I was the highest paid…”

“Yeah, yeah, that’s who I thought you were,” interrupted Foreman.  “We have a great opening in night Demon’s Court for a Public Defender.  I think you’ll fit right in….  It’s a real pest-hole, in the worst area of Pandemonium City.”

The room was treated to a clearer view of those extra-white teeth as the first appointee’s mouth dropped open in horror.

Foreman chuckled:  “Of course, not all of your indigent clients will be demons.  Some will be succubi or incubi, or your garden-variety thieves or hookers.  I’m sure it will be a refreshing change from your previous clientele.”  He smiled broadly.  “And just so we’re clear:  either get really good at your job, really fast, or you will stay there until someone more deserving comes along … or until one of your clients doesn’t like the terms of a plea-bargain you arranged.  Some of those folks in the lower echelons of Pandemonium society are quick to take offense if they feel slighted – real personal offense, if y’know what I mean.  But don’t worry.  If that happens you won’t be in the Undertaker’s hands more than another few weeks.  Then you’ll be right back here, so you’d better learn fast.  You have a good time, now, y’hear?”

That gorgeous tan was a sickly gray by the time the gentlemen in question disappeared with a small “pop” of displaced air.  Percy Foreman, grinning, looked back at his list, ignoring the whimpers from his audience.

At the far end of the room, Melvin Belli was going through his own hellpad Register entries.  “You,” he said, pointing to a rather nondescript man in a cheap suit and run-down shoes who was attempting to make himself very small and unnoticeable by slouching behind a broad-shouldered, heavily-built mob lawyer.

“M-m-me, sir?” quavered a voice from behind the silver-haired heavyweight.

“Yes, you.  You were a public defender in Brooklyn, specializing in doing the least amount of work for your court-appointed clients, and talking them into plea deals that weren’t in their best interest, just to clear your docket, weren’t you?” Melvin Belli said, as he glowered over the top of the list.

“Well, I, uh, wouldn’t say, uh….”

“Of course you wouldn’t,” Belli snorted.  “None of you ever do,” he said, shaking his leonine head.  “I believe I have the perfect assignment here, just for you.  The Infernal Revenue Service needs some junior attorneys to go through all the older tax laws and identify any that are too favorable to taxpayers.  If I understand correctly, they’ve asked for five new hires.  It seems they have around sixty thousand volumes of tax laws that need to be updated.”

“But, but, I barely passed contract law in night school.  And I’ve never been detail-oriented enough to handle big issues like complicated taxes, and things like that….” wailed the profusely sweating thin man in the rumpled suit.

“Then I suggest you learn quickly.  But don’t worry, you won’t be alone.  There will be four more joining you to toil in the depths of the IRS archives, so you won’t get lonely.  Oh, and do try to stay out of the way of the Director.  She can be a real bitch if she’s not happy with your work…” chortled Belli, “…and you’ll be reporting to her immediately.”  As the appalled former public defender disappeared with the newly-familiar “pop,” Belli muttered, sotto voce, “you poor slob.”


Demetrius snickered as he watched the assignment process continue.  Sometimes this was the most fun he had all week – well, except for dallying with his new protégé.  He wondered how many in the blur of faces, three floors below, would pass through his fiefdom again, as any more than visitors.  A certain number of the fools always had to go through the process several times before they finally learned they had to play by the rules of hell to get anywhere.

When Demetrius turned to continue his discussion with Makalani, a tall, attractive man in casual black slacks, a black shirt and well-combed hair approached from one of the entrances.  “How may I or my scribe assist you?” asked Demetrius.

“Well, I’m Dr. Miguel Bartsch and someone told me this was the library.  Could you show me where the medical section is?”  The visitor looked perplexed as Demetrius and Makalani giggled at each other.

Demetrius recovered his decorum first and said “I’m afraid you are really in the wrong place, sir.  Most doctors of medicine end up on one of the Greek planes, ministering to the inhabitants there.  I’m afraid Reassignments has made another mistake.  You see, practicing medicine around here – if you actually help someone or cure them – is considered malpractice and punished immediately.  So, unless you were responsible for someone’s death by practicing quackery or were a money-grubbing pill pusher, you need to be sent back to Reassignments.  And judging by your expression, I’ll need to show you to the elevator.”

As the Chief Librarian and his assistant Makalani turned to escort the doctor through the stacks and to the exit, the floor shuddered, accompanied by a rumbling sound that rapidly grew louder.  Makalani quickly took Demetrius’ arm, staring around in trepidation.

Dust began falling from the ceiling eleven floors above, and librarians on every floor began shouting in fear as shelves teetered and began toppling onto them.  Computer screens blew out with a cascade of sparks and the lights began flickering, and failing entirely in some areas, as everyone tried to run for safety.

With a tremendous roar, the ceiling gave way under the weight of the entire Hall of Injustice above, which crashed down through the atrium, as the fourteen floors of shelves, walkways, and research and study rooms slid toward the open space in the center of the building, spilling law books onto the meeting-room occupants at the bottom, crushing them, as the Hall of Injustice collapsed into its own basement.

Demetrius barely had time to scream, “My scrolls!”


Absolute darkness … suffocating heat … pressure … pain … groaning … remembering – falling, tumbling, flailing – Makalani tried to take a deep breath, but couldn’t.  As his senses gradually came back, more pain….  He felt something wet – was lying in something wet, felt something a little softer under his hand… more memory.

“Oh no,” he gasped.  The Library, Demetrius!  But he was breathing … dust and pumice… but breathing all the same – not clean air, to be sure, but not the odor of rotten teeth and decomposition he would smell if he had died and been resurrected on the Undertaker’s slab.  Makalani might be buried under a rockfall of unknowable proportions facing unbelievable difficulties, but at least there was a chance to get out without waking in the morgue to the unspeakable pain of being reassembled.  He sighed in some relief.

“Help… help!… anybody…?” Makalani doubted anyone could hear his faint call, but just then he felt a weak tug on his pants leg … heard a muffled voice:

“Sesh…?  Is that you…?” Demetrius wheezed.

“Oh, sir, thank the fates!” Makalani breathed.
Orientation Day, © Sarah Hulcy; Perseid Publishing, 2011
2011© Lawyers in Hell (Janet Morris), 2011, all rights reserved

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