The depression demon called Stinkhole jiggled its wicked aura inside Jack’s brain. “It’s noon, you tub of lard. Wake up,” it hissed.
In Jack’s mind, it sounded like the prodding of depressed self-loathing. Needing to pee was the greater motivation. He clomped his feet on the floor, and cold chills jolted some wakefulness into his marginally flabby body.
“Life-sucks,” Stinkhole chanted with each step Jack took.
The demon had an agenda for the weekend: Give Jack over to Hopelessness. That foul spirit of suicide was scheduled to arrive by nightfall. For Stinkhole, this meant a promotion to torment a person of more significance than backslider Jack Callahan. 'Lucifer will finally seek me out as an insider to the vilest hell-raisings. Perhaps we can resurrect the feeding of Christians to hungry lions,' thought the fiendish wretch.
Jack looked in the mirror through his depression-heavy eyelids. “So what if you don’t shave, and you smell like roadkill? You won’t see Melinda today or ever, loser,” Stinkhole recited in Jack’s head.
His stomach growled violently, and Jack shuffled into the kitchen. He devoured some powdered donuts and washed them down with lukewarm instant coffee; depression had radically changed Jack’s daily routine.
“Push the button on the answering machine,” Stinkhole coaxed Jack. “Go ahead. Push the button.”
He did, and Melinda’s voice penetrated the small kitchen and every fragment of Jack’s ravaged heart.
“Jack, this is Melinda. Look, quit calling me. It’s over between us. Get it? Here’s the thing. I’ve met someone who makes serious money. Goodbye already.” Beep.
Depression now weighed heavier on Jack. It felt like his limbs were a ton each and his feet were nailed to the floor. He stood in a state of suspended animation for a couple of minutes. All the while Stinkhole whispered repeatedly, dramatically -- as though it were shooting for an Oscar nomination -- “I am alone. I have no one to love, no one at all.”
Then Stinkhole said ominously to the flesh puppet, “What’s on TV?”
Plopping heavily into a recliner in the den, his jaw sagging, Jack flipped through the channels with his remote.
“Not sports today. Maybe I’ll try some porn for a change,” Stinkhole urged. Jack complied with what he believed was his own surprising thought; and an oozy, slimy spirit aptly called Lusty immediately slunk into the room.
“Come on down, you pervert. I’ve got an important appointment to keep today,” Stinkhole bragged.
In a voice similar to Marvin Gaye’s -- the original singer of Let’s Get It On -- it said, “A fresh recruit. My favorite kind.”
Just as Lusty was an inch from settling on the victim’s groin, Jack changed the channel. The greasy spirit bellowed as it was shoved back into the television by the force of Jack’s will.
A minor setback, Stinkhole consoled itself. “Let’s watch a movie Melinda would like,” it suggested to Jack. That should push him over the edge.
Jack flipped from channel to channel and settled on a dog show.
“What are you doing?” Stinkhole shouted furiously. “Change the channel, you ridiculous pile of porous garbage!” Hell’s demon had seen the pictures of Jack as a child that Melinda had hung on the walls. In all of them, Jack had a dog with him and was beaming like a fool.
Stinkhole ranted on, alarmed at the turn of events; but Jack had apparently tuned out its voice.
Suddenly, light burst from above into the messy room. It was Encouragement, one of Stinkhole’s archenemies. As effortlessly as squashing a bug, Encouragement kicked Stinkhole out of Jack’s brain.
The smelly demon scurried to the farthest corner of Jack’s apartment, licking its wounds. 'I ‘m going to be the joke of the century if Hopelessness shows up now! '
While Stinkhole plotted its next move, Jack showered, left the apartment, and later returned with healthy groceries and a newly purchased puppy. It was an adorable Jack Russell Terrier. And now a glowing spirit of Joy had joined Encouragement inside of Jack’s brain!
Stinkhole began shouting, like a mantra, “Push the button on the answering machine.”
From down the hall - - because the demon was afraid to get any closer - - Stinkhole saw Jack walk over to the answering machine.
“Yes! Yes! Push that button,” it screamed once more in triumph.
Jack pushed it, and his ex-fiance’s voice filled the room with the stabbing message of painful rejection.
Then Jack pushed another button. Beep. “Message deleted.”
'Holy bloodwart! I’m in deep trouble.' Stinkhole became frantic. It trembled in the corner for hours as Jack cleaned his apartment, the puppy nipping playfully at his heels. After a while, all was quiet. The foul spirit ventured through the apartment to map out its next maneuver.
The puppy was sleeping on a blanket in the spare bathroom. Jack was in the den looking through videotapes.
Hopelessness, that most evil and hideous of demons, suddenly floated in through the window and saw Stinkhole cowering in the corner of the spacious den. Even though it, too, kept its distance from Jack, it mocked Stinkhole without mercy. “Won’t lord Satan be delighted to punish you for your failure to depress this soul into hopelessness? What will it be? Centuries of listening to Donny Osmond sing ‘Puppy Love’?”
Both demons watched intently to see which video Jack had selected. Stinkhole thought it might be one of Melinda’s. 'Yes! If it’s The Wedding Singer, I can still prevail!'
A fuzzy-haired Richard Simmons in tights appeared on the television’s wide screen, and jazzy music filled the room. Jack exercised in undisturbed peace while his puppy slept, for the demons could take no more and had fled in utter horror.
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