by John Wayne Comunale
“Your suffering will be legendary . . . if you eat this and happen to be lactose intolerant.”
The child, not more than four years old, stared up blank-faced at the former Cenobite as he added the third and final scoop of fudge-ripple to a large waffle cone the young boy was clutching tightly with both of his tiny hands. The boy wasn’t scared of the black-eyed, prickly-faced demon, or what he had to say to him. He just wanted to eat as much of the tower of ice cream that teetered in his hands before dropping it, which he eventually did after taking only two steps out the door.
The voice of Mr. O’Rodenberry seemed to come from out of nowhere, and startled him. It made Pinhead remember a fonder time in the not so distant past when it was impossible for him to be startled.
“My office now,” came the voice again from the tiny intercom speaker built into the wall behind him.
“Yes sir,” he sighed placing the ice cream scoop back in its designated, stainless steel holster.
He kept his head down as he walked to the office so he wouldn’t accidentally catch the reflection of himself in the door’s small window. The one thing he hated more than having to wear a pink and purple striped apron, and a stupid paper hat, was actually having to look at himself wearing a pink and purple striped apron with a stupid paper hat. Pinhead heaved another heavy sigh, knocked lightly on Mr. O’Rodenberry’s door, and entered a moment later. Nary a day had gone by since Pinhead started working at O’Rodenberry’s Sweet Frozen Creams that he wasn’t called back to the office for one thing or another. Gone were the days of gluttonously feeding upon the suffering of others as the terror-inducing leader of the Cenobites. Now he filled his time by scooping ice cream, and cleaning the gutters at his mom’s house.
“Get in here and sit the hell down now!”
Mr. O’Rodenberry spit the words at Pinhead through a thick, gruff Southern accent. His voice was rougher than two-day stubble on the chin of a hooker with a pituitary problem. Pinhead kept his head down, removed his hat, and sat in the chair in front of Mr. O’Rodenberry’s desk.
“Jeeeezus fucking Christ, Pinhead,” said Mr. O’Rodenberry. His drawl was so pronounced it seemed like it took him ten minutes just to spit out those four words. “Why does it seem like we have to have this conversation every single day? Now, quite frankly I gotta’ tell you that I am sick and tired of talking about it.”
“Yes sir, I understand . . . “
“You say that,” said Mr. O’Rodenberry cutting of the old demon off, “but I don’t think you do understand. If you understood, then we wouldn’t have to have this conversation everyday, and we certainly wouldn’t be having this conversation now!”
“Mr. O’Rodenberry,” said Pinhead. His voice still held some of the deep timbre of older times, but it no longer struck terror into those he directed it toward. “I am truly sorry, and I can assure you it will not happen again.”
“Well, excuse me all to hell if I have a hard time believing you, because you assured me yesterday, and the day before, and the day before that.”
“Mr. O’Rodenberry . . .”
“Don’t Mr. O’Rodneberry me! Now listen son, you are not a big, scary demon who feeds upon the ultimate suffering of others anymore. You work for me now scooping ice cream at this fine, family friendly ice-creamery. Now, stop talking all that Cenobite, Hellraiser shit to my good payin’ customers, and just scoop the goddamn ice cream. I swear boy, if your mother didn’t practically beg me to give you this job I’d have fired your prickly-faced ass a hundred times over. Now, get back out there, and get to scoopin’! So help me if I hear one more word about legendary suffering, or tears, or Jesus weeping, then so help me I’ll give him and you something to cry about!”
Pinhead nodded in reply, placed the paper hat back on his spikey head, and slunk out of the office silently save for the jingle-jangle of the many hooks and chains that dangled from his chest. It was going on six months since he had been unceremoniously fired from the Cenobites, but it felt like it was just yesterday. Everything had been going so well in his life up till then.
It happened so long ago that he didn’t know why it even mattered anymore, especially when you consider all the suffering and pain he had caused throughout his career. He was legendary in . . . well, he was legendary, especially in hell. He didn’t just go around using that phrase willy-nilly. He and his partners, Cecilia and Mark, were out on one of their first cases and were all equally eager to show what they could do, but before they closed the deal things got out of hand. They toyed with their victims for just a bit too long allowing time for one of them to escape. Her name was Kristy, the stupid bitch.
The three figured that if they quickly moved on to another case, and then on to another, and then another, then their failure would slip between the cracks to be lost in the mix, and that was exactly what happened. This is why when Pinhead was called to appear that day before the Grand Council years later he was certain it was to receive a promotion. He had gotten up early and polished his pins until they glinted bright in the light of the hellfire. He’d put on his best hooks and chains, and had his favorite leather torture dress wiped down and treated to bring back it’s original shine and luster. You can imagine the shock when he arrived to find he was on trial.
It happened fast. Faster than Pinhead could react. Faster than he could even begin to try and plead his case. The Council’s harsh judgment left him no longer a bringer of sorrow and pain and ultimate suffering. Now he had been reduced to an odd looking, leather dress-wearing, powerless weirdo with a bad complexion. He lost everything and was forced to move back in with his mother in New Jersey, and work for her secret lover, Mr. O’Rodenberry, in his ice cream shop.
Pinhead passed through the stainless steel swinging door to retake his post behind the counter. He gripped the handle of the scoop while staring off through the front window. His coal-black, pupil-less eyes looked upon a fiery landscape of burning bodies and tortured souls of his fantasy. He saw singed flesh flap in the hot, dry breeze of a paradise he could no longer visit. He saw his former home and his heart, which was once filled with an unquenchable thirst for the pain he stole from others, was now filled heavy with his own sorrow.
Pinhead’s daydream was interrupted when a face materialized through his vision of black and burning sadness. It was the last face on Earth he wanted to see . . . on Earth. It was the face that had been the ultimate source for all of his present problems. It was the face of Kristy. The one who got away. She had walked into the ice cream shop and stood in front of the counter staring at him with a sarcastically cocked eyebrow, and half-sneer.
“Um, like hello?” Kristy waved her hand in front of Pinhead’s face trying to snap him out of his daze. “Are you like awake, or whatever? I totally want some ice cream.”
He couldn’t believe it. There, standing not three feet in front of him was the one miserable, living, sack of organs that had ever escaped from his grasp. The current cause of all the pain and misery his life had become, and the reason he could no longer garner satisfaction from those feelings.
“It’s you,” he said still trying to make sense of the current cosmic twist he was experiencing.
“Like, yeah it’s me,” said the obviously oblivious girl. “Who else would it be? Do I like know you or something?”
“Know me? Do you not remember my child? The suffering?”
“The Suffering? Is that like some kind of band you play in, or something? I guess you do look kind-of familiar. Did you guys open for The Torture Barons last month? I was like so wasted at that show, but I think I remember you guys being good. So, is this like your day job, or something?”
Before he could answer Pinhead turned slightly to see Mr. O’Rodenberry standing there; arms crossed and glaring death rays.
“What was that you were saying, Pinhead?” Came the drawl of Mr. O’Rodenberry’s gravely, and heavily accent-affected voice. “Was that something about suffering I heard?”
Pinhead swallowed hard and managed a smile, as he turned around halfway to acknowledge his boss.
“Why, not at all sir,” he said flatly. “We were merely discussing a performance put on by a local musical troupe, for which this young lady has mistaken me for a member of.”
“Is that a fact?”
“Yes sir, it is,” said Pinhead turning back toward Kristy. “I am sorry ma’am, but I’m afraid you have me confused with someone else. It happens more often than you’d think. I just have one of those faces, I suppose.”
“Yeah okay, whatever,” Kristy said rolling her eyes. “Like I care who you are anyway. Can I like get some ice cream, or are we gonna’ play celebrity look alike all day?”
The sheer insolence of her tone and the arrogance of her actions made it hard to resist the urge for Pinhead to gouge his hooks into her face and pull her eyeballs out.
“Pinhead?” Asked Mr. O’Rodenberry, “you gonna’ help out this nice young lady, or do I need to find someone else who can?”
“Yes, of course sir,” said Pinhead impressed by his ability to make himself sound calm. “I will take care of her posthaste. No need to seek help from elsewhere. What can I get for you, ma’am?”
“Like, finally. Sheesh.”
The squishy fleshling pressed her hands and face up against the glass of the refrigerated counter to get a better look at the flavors. Her greasy nose and filthy digits left smudges and smears across the otherwise spotless glass that Pinhead would have to clean later.
“Might I recommend our organic butterscotch cream made fresh and in house? It really is quite delicious.”
“Butter-what? That sounds stupid. You know, all of this looks really gross. I don’t want any of this stuff.”
“Don’t blow another sale, Pinhead,” whispered Mr. O’Rodenberry into an ear that had heard thousands of death-rattle shrieks.
“Perhaps a nice strawberry cone would be more suited to the tastes of a young lady like yourself?” continued Pinhead. “Or, we have a new . . .”
“Like, what the hell is that supposed to mean?”
“I’m sorry ma’am?”
“Did you just, like, ask me to taste your strawberry cone, or something? Are you like trying to be some kind of sexual pervert with me or something? What the eff?”
The urge to shoot spiked chains from his chest into her body and tear her to shreds was almost unbearable. Not that he could do it even if he wanted to since all of his enchantments had been taken away when he lost his Cenobite status.
“Ma’am, I assure you that I in no way was trying to offend you. I merely wanted to . . .”
“Wanted to stick your prickly, limp dick in my mouth, is, like, that what you wanted to do?”
Pinhead remained stoic and unaffected by her accusations.
“Whatever. I am like totally out of here. I bet your ice cream tastes like a horse’s cock anyway.”
With that she spun around on her heel, let out a haughty humph, and headed for the door. Mr. O’Rodenberry’s lips were almost touching Pinhead’s ear now.
“Pinhead,” he spat down his ear canal, “if she leaves here without buying something, so help me . . .”
“Kristy,” blurted Pinhead just as she had taken one step out the door. She turned around with her head cocked to the side in confusion.
“Like, how do you know my name, creeper?”
Their eyes locked and for a moment it seemed as if everything in the ice cream shop, and the city, and even the whole world had slowed to revolve around this heated stare down. Pinhead opened his mouth to speak, but nothing came out as the pain of the memory of a life he could never get back took its final toll in that moment.
“Well? Like, answer me, you perv.”
Pinhead turned from Kristy, to Mr. O’Rodenberry, back to Kristy, and shrugged his shoulders.
John Wayne lives in Houston Texas where he wiles away the days writing ridiculous stories, and slinging lattes for a bunch of jerks. When he’s not doing that he’s touring with his bands: johnwayneisdead and Letters to Voltron. He also writes and illustrates his own zine: The Afterlife Adventures of johnwayneisdead.