Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Hell's Vacuum

I wrote this during a writing challenge for the writers who participate in Threshold RPG. We were all given a topic and told to write a short story based on that topic. Mine was to write a story about a vacuum cleaner trapped in Hell. Here are the results.

Sturty sighed as he glanced around the tactlessly decorated room. He noted the ugly Tiffany lamp, the floral wallpaper, and the paisley rug that stretched over scratched oak flooring. Twenty year he’d been here in Hell, and he definitely felt every minute of it.

Once again he pondered his plight. He, who once had been wielded by some of the greatest warriors and leaders of the world, now found himself trapped in the antique body of a Sturtevant 15, an early model vacuum cleaner released in 1920 by a subsidiary of Westinghouse. Granted, he was an upscale, luxury model, but he was still a vacuum cleaner.

Sturty started out life with a different name and a completely different form. He had once been a warrior himself, a warrior so great that his name was still mentioned in mythology, warrior so great that they forged his soul into a blade and performed rituals so that he could guide the hand of future fighters, future leaders. He had gone willingly into this last battle, and the pain had been excruciating but worth the chance to influence the world for another 3,000 years.

For centuries, he had fought in the hands of Vikings, ridden to war on valiant steeds, and hung on the walls of castles. Then, the world evolved, and he was replaced by modern weapons. Still, he was valued, coveted, and displayed. Unfortunately, as modern warfare grew at an astounding pace, his place in history and his value to the family who owned him became diminished as they, themselves were diminished. Nobility became less important, and men were judged by their actions. He was sold at an auction, then at a pawn shop. For years, he languished on a shelf, coming down only for a quick polish.

Then, approximately ten years ago, a youth bought him, a youth on the cusp of manhood, and he was overjoyed. This youth had passion and imagination. Finally, he had material he could work with!

The youth was called Davey by most and David by his parents, and he loved something he called LARP and Dungeons and Dragons. He practiced sword fighting by watching videos, and though, XXX tried to influence him to correct form and stance, Davey really went for showy moves that would have resulted in him losing limbs, digits, and possibly his head.

For a few years, they worked together, and Sturty’s influence, though subtle, began to manifest itself. Davey took a job at Medieval Times and demonstrated his skills at Renaissance fairs across the country. Then, as Sturty tried speaking directly to Davey, the poor boy fled from him, and became what was known in this century as born-again.

From there, Davey grew steadily more devout until one day, he returned to wield Sturty on a mission from God. He was going to travel into Hell and challenge the Devil himself. Sturty felt a thrill shoot up his metal spine straight from his pommel to the very tip of his pointed tip. One of the powers Sturtevant 15 had learned from Dante was to open a gate into Hell, and he did so for Davey. Unfortunately, he failed to understand that Davey was much less a warrior of God like the Templars from the old days and much more a D&D warrior and an avid player of World of Warcraft who had simply lost touch with reality.

When they reached a devil, not even THE Devil, Davey simply lost his marbles, threw Sturty into a fiery pit, and damned himself to Hell. What a mess! Unfortunately, Sturtevant’s end did not happen then.

Instead, when the Devil heard about the situation, he fished what was left of Sturty—by then part of the haft and the pommel— ripped his essence out of the sword’s remains and threw it into a Sturtevant 15. Then he stuck Sturty in the mundane room in which he currently found himself.

The room was reserved for proud housewives that sabotaged their working counterparts and belittled their parenting skills at PTA meetings. It was also reserved for busy corporate husbands who could not make the time to come home to their wives and children but had plenty of time to spend with hookers or at bars picking up women. The men became trapped in Sturty’s little section of hell along with the women who only had him in which to keep their “homes” perfect.

Sturty’s little section of hell was well-trafficked by human souls but infrequently visited by Hell’s keepers. When they did visit, they were lesser demons and imps. And so, Sturty spent the first few years running over the toes of damned souls and gaining power from that. Then he moved on to sucking up imp tails. Recently, he had progressed to sucking up whole imps and small parts of demons. He no longer needed to mangle the human souls, thank goodness, for that was not too his taste. In fact, he had been formulating a plan to form an alliance with a human who could carry him out of Hell and back to the realm of the living where he could once again perform noble deeds and glorious feats.

Little steps, Sturty told himself. Baby steps. Let’s take this carefully and slowly.

In his previous form as a glorious sword topped with an emerald pommel, Sturty had been able to communicate with anyone who wielded him. Crafted by experts at smithing and magic, Sturty could cause his entire form to vibrate at a frequency which formed words without disturbing his wielders. Now trapped in a vacuum, he could not do much more than roar, growl or hum. In other words, he could make vacuum noises. Unfortunately, he had yet to meet a human soul who could understand vacuumish.

Sturty had, over the years, realized that in vacuum form, however, he could take on characteristics of any being he sucked into his dust chamber, even if he only got a finger, a toe, or the tip of a barbed tail. Unfortunately, most of the powers he had access to were rather mundane: excellent polishing skills, business acumen, and the ability to set fire to small objects. Still, if he could lure the right demon into this room, he might find something useful. He was now far more adept at handling larger prey than when he first arrived. He just needed the right one.

A sudden *POP* and a flash of light heralded the entrance of a new soul. Sturty recognized him as the former CEO of a rather large company that dealt in innovative designs of electronics such as phones, music players, and even movies. In fact, Sturty loved the movies created by one of the companies this man once headed. Too bad they got bought out by the Mouse.

“Where the Hell am I?” The CEO turned in a circle and studied his surroundings. “What an ugly room.”

Sturty gave a vroom of agreement, and the CEO’s attention turned to him.

“Hmm, a vacuum cleaner. A Sturtevant 15, I believe.”

Wow. This guy was really smart. Sturty gave another vroom, and he tried to fill this one with approval.

“Weird. A vacuum cleaner that seems to emote.”

If Sturty had still possessed a heart, it would have thumped in excitement. Instead, he gave a few varooms and zzzt of excitement. Maybe he’d found someone worthy to wield him—well, once he got into more wieldable form.

“Sturtevant, vroom twice if you understand me.”

Sturty gave two vrooms immediately, and his metallic parts nearly quivered with glee.

“Where am I?”

Ugh. Sturty had no way to tell this man where he was. He could only sputter somewhat sadly.

“How silly of me. Of course you can’t answer that kind of a question.”

The CEO thought for a moment.

“Okay, am I dead? I remember a lot of pain, but there was peace at the end. Two vrooms if I am.”


“I knew it. Well, I fought it long and hard. Bought myself enough time to launch our new product. Got to spend some time with my family and friends.”

The CEO looked around again and studied his surroundings.

“I’m pretty sure this can’t be Heaven. Am I in hell?” He seemed pretty astounded by the thought. “I can’t be in Hell. There must be some sort of mistake. Vroom twice if I’m in hell.”


“What the Hell? That’s bullshit!”

Sturty tried to make a few commiserating noises consisting of a squeak, a rumble and a sad moan.

“We’re getting out of here, vacuum cleaner. I doubt that you deserve to be here either.”

Sturty made sounds that he hoped conveyed agreement. At that moment, a minor demon wandered in, probably to check out the newbie, and Sturty quickly wrapped a cord around its feet, toppled it to the ground, and sucked it up before it could even squeal.

He felt the familiar rush of power and energy, and he nearly purred in happiness.

“Whoa. You’re glowing red there. Did you just suck up a demon or a devil or something? That little guy totally looked like all the cartoony demons they used to put in Tom and Jerry.”


“Do you get something from doing that?”


“Nice. Once of my mantras is focus and simplicity, and if simplicity is found in a vacuum cleaner, then that’s what we’ll use to get out of here.”

In a matter of hours, the CEO had dismantled a lamp, an ancient telephone, and the old television, and Sturty now had several upgrades to his vacuuming power not to mention a strap so that he could be worn over the CEO’s thin shoulders. The CEO had stripped him of all unnecessary parts in order to make him lighter.

“Okay, now we’re packin’,” he joked. “Let’s blow this joint!”

The CEO, now packing Sturty on his back, examined the walls of the room for a way to get out of the area. He had the fingers and hands that Sturty never had, so he was able to poke and prod crevices and bookcases. Unfortunately, there seemed to be no visible or invisible way to leave. Sturty hummed in distress.

“Don’t worry there, Vacuum. I’m dead now, and I really do have nothing to lose. We’re going to get out here. Even dead, I’m still hungry, and I’m still foolish.”

After searching for quite some time—time was hard to determine in Hell—the CEO sat down with Sturty clutched in his hands. He waited patiently, much like Sturty had for years, and watched the room with keen eyes hidden behind glasses. When another lowly demon made its appearance, the CEO had it sucked into Sturty within seconds. Once again, Sturty felt that rush of power, and this little demon had a particular power that he felt growing within him. This one could teleport itself as well as souls throughout Hell.

Unfortunately, Sturty had no way of knowing what was outside in order to teleport.

Thus, he imagined a drawing by Paul Gustave Doré of the 9th level of Hell as Dante spoke to the traitors on ice. It happened to be the safest place he could think of here. As soon as he teleported himself and the CEO, he threw down rings of fire to try to keep the CEO warm.

“Holy crap!” the CEO yelled, but he adjusted rapidly to the change in scenery. They had popped into the midst of a ring of demons, and he sucked them all into Sturty’s sturdy bag.

Sturty felt his powers growing rapidly by the minute. They sucked down nine demons, and finally, the last one had the power he needed.

Straight into the CEO’s mind, he said, “Welcome to Hell. You don’t deserve to be here and neither do I. Let’s get out of here.”

To which the CEO replied, “I want to put a ding in Hell.”