The L-Space Web: The Timelines: The Great Laundry Debarcle

The Great Laundry Debarcle

April 1999


There is some confusion as to whether The Great Laundry Debarcle was a thread or more of an unfolding narrative between two particular afpers: AfPhantom and Heraldis with occasional interspersions from others. Either way, it proved to be very popular with many afpers who tuned in daily for the next episode.

The whole bizzare event was started by a quite innocent remark from Owen Evans - that is, if you believe that any remark is innocent on alt.fan.pratchett....

And...yes...the thread was entitled "The great Laundry Debarcle". What started out as a simple typing error became an intrinsic part of the thread.


Subject: Re: [I] Happy Easter!
From: Owen Evans

Well, given that God's neither/more than male/female/both/neither, I
really can't see Her minding what I call Him, even if I do decide to be
flippant when I talk about It (or even They, if you go along with the
Trinity). I just dislike clumsy neologisms like "Godself". Yeuch.

<fx: singing>Hey, don't look now, but there goes God...


And that's all it took to set one AfPhantom off.


Subject: [I] with a hint of [C] There goes God... (was: Re: [I] Happy Easter!)
From: AfPhantom

Shush! If anyone Below notices him in that outfit, it'll
be all over the place like a shot, an' how are we gonna
live it down, I ask you? S'bad enough we've gotta wear
pink robes on a Tuesday as it is, puttin' up with Asmodeus
snigg'rin up his sleeve every time he comes up to borrow
the lawnmower; an' guess which day o' the week he
mows his lawn nowadays, go on, I bet you can...

You know He's not bin Himself lately, but we're tryin' to
keep it under our haloes 'til He's back on form...:-)

<fx: continues song>

"...With sexy pants and a sausage dog..."

Doh!

<fx: looks around to see if anyone heard>

<fx: slinks away>


And for Heraldis to take the bait.


From: Heraldis

Memo From: Hades Excellent Laundries Ltd
To: Whoever it may concern, Heaven.

Dear Sir/Madam,
It as come to our attention that your laundry delivery of February last
contained one full load which on return was not signed for, as the receiving
official lodged an objection recorded as the following:

Quote: "They're all pink. They have all gone pink. We can't wear pink. What
will people say. and the Tuesday set too." Unquote.

I would like to draw your attention to the contract "Linen and Towels,
regular cleaning of, ", Section 5, subsection3, paragraph 7, which I repeat
for your convenience:

"HELL accepts no responsibility for incorrect or inadequate sorting of
unlaundered or laundered goods, thus any unwanted combining of dyes and/or
tinctures from any one item to any other item is the full responsibility of
the sendee, and he shall sign and pay for such items and services in full."

Further contracts for the bleaching of items rendered incorrectly coloured
may be arranged with reference to our latest price list

In future, I suggest that your linen sort representative is more vigilant
for coloured items such as socks and feminine undergarments.

I await your settlement by return of post.

Regards

Chrysanthemum squiggle pp.


From: AfPhantom

<fx: Angel dashes in, waving a piece of paper above his head...>

"Laundrygram for AfPhantom! Laundrygram for AfPhantom!"

'Ere, gimmee that!

Yeah, well, I c'n see Heaven gettin' pretty concerned
alright when she cops a load of this...

> Dear Sir/Madam,
> It as come to our attention that your laundry delivery of February last
> contained one full load

Oh, bugger. Michael, I tole you you shouldn't 'ave
crept up on Uriel like that with 'im bein' the way he is,
an' now look what he did to 'is underwear an' whose
gonna explain the cleanin' bill to Herself I should like to
know, thank you so very much?

> which on return was not signed for,

Not bleedin' surprisin', neither; we don't want 'em back
after they've bin in that state...

> as the receiving official lodged an objection

Hah! S'just as well it weren't my turn to pick 'em
up or e'd have had a bless sight more than an
objection lodged, an' I don't suppose I need to
tell you where, neither...

> In future, I suggest that your linen sort representative is more vigilant
> for coloured items such as socks and feminine undergarments.

<fx: holds head in hands with an air of extreme exasperation>

I thought we'd agreed that we weren't gonna let Raphael
put his laundry in with everyone else's!? Oh, that's torn it good
an' proper that has...

> I await your settlement by return of post.

Oh, we'll 'ave you back for this, you bastards...

<fx: sits down at dusty old typewriter and rattles a few keys>

Memo From: The Infinite Legions of Heaven
To: Hades Excellent Laundries, Ltd.
Re: Laundry delivery

Dear Sir/Madam,

Get stuffed.

Regards,

AfPhantom, sec'y H.H.


By now, this exchange had developed a life all of it's own and so began The Great Laundry Debarcle. Note the misspelling of "Debarcle". Mistyping or not, that's the way it stayed.


Subject: Re: [I] Great Laundry Debarcle (was:with a hint of [C]There goes God...)
From: Heraldis

Um, scuse me, Mr Phantom sir, I was passin' by the gates of hell on me way
to lunch, and this red-faced guy having a bad hair year gave me this an'
said I was to give it to yer personal like. I'm not even supposed to be up
'ere, we Heralds are supposed to be earth-bound ye' know. Anyway, I'm
goin', before I get told orf for bein' the wrong side of the pearly
gates.......

Official Notice.
To: The Infinite Legions of Heaven
FAO: AfPhantom, sec'y H.H.
Re: Non payment of laundry charges.

Sir,
This is the your final notice regarding partial non-payment of the
February laundry and misc. bill ref no: hla666. This account must be
settled in full in the next 7 hours, or further action will be taken.
May I also draw your attention to the contract "Linen and Towels,
regular cleaning of, ", Section 13, subsection36, paragraph
"Any monies not received within 60 days of the due date may, at the
discretion of HELL be collected in person in the currency of our choice(see
section 23, appendix 4)."

Also section 23, appendix 4:
Currencies currently favoured by HELL and associated with reference to
exchange rate of Angelic Dollars: (AD)

Human soul (dirty) : AD20.16
Human soul (clean) : AD50.32
Human soul (slightly soiled) : AD35.27
Demonic Pardon [1] : AD1
Angelic Exchange[2] : AD201.62

Other currency subject to negotiation. All exchange rates subject to change
without notice.

If personal collection is impeded in any way, this account will be passed to
our debt collection department without further notice.

This department strongly recommends prompt payment.

Chrysanthemum squiggle pp.

[1]One demon is pardoned and allowed into heaven.
[2]Angel exchanges permanent residence with demon of our choice.


From: AfPhantom

> This account must be settled in full in the next 7 hours, or further action will be taken.

Oh, it will, will it? Right lads - out with the shovels. I need a really
big pot, them spikes what Saraquel glues to his chariot on
Saturdays and all them elements what you nicked out of the kettles
in Tandy's. Right? Get to work...

<fx: produces ACME blueprint from robes>

> "Any monies not received within 60 days of the due date may, at the
> discretion of HELL, be collected in person in the currency of our choice

Bein' collected in person are they? 7 hours? No problems...

Right - you n' you start diggin'; no, just in front of the gates, yes,
I'm sure Heaven won't mind we'll fill it in again later just carry on...

Shim, I want a length of rubber hose, some 13-amp fusewire and...

<fx: whispers in Shim's ear...>

> [1]One demon is pardoned and allowed into heaven.
> [2]Angel exchanges permanent residence with demon of our choice.

Ohhhhh... Seems we might come to a bit of an arrangement here...

Right lads, finished?

<fx: chorus of agreement in three-part harmony with Shim
humming counterpoint>

Ev'ryone hide behind the door, and when they opens, shout
as loud as you can - you'll know when... cover that hole wiv
a bit o' cloud you twit!

<fx: waiting... ...waiting... ...waiting...>

<fx: door is pushed open and a HUGE demon steps through,
eyes glowing green with the malice of hell and a corpse-like
stench issuing from between its blackened fangs...>

Oh, hi there Hastur. Come about that bill 'ave yer?

Just step right this way an' I'll sort you out toot sweet...

<fx: Demon steps forwards warily>

NOW!

<fx: 50 angels leap out from behind the Pearly Gates,
screaming furiously, and the Demon takes a step
backwards...>

<fx: Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrr...>

Oh dear, however did that 'appen? Hands up - who
left that lyin' about?

<...aaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr...>

Well, whoever it was, consider yerself reprimanded.

Right, who got the rubber tube?

<...aaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrrggggggh... SPLAT!>

<fx: Seraph peers over the edge>

Oops! Looks like a serious case to me. Better get
the gramophone out n' all. Nip off n' ask Uriel if'n he's
still got them records wot we chipped in to get 'im...

Who's got the typewriter? OK Michael, take this down...

Official Reply
To: Hades Excellent Laundries (collection dept.)
FAO: Anyone who thinks they're hard enough
Re: Non-payment of laundry charges

Sir,
The Infinite Legions of Heaven would like to thank you
for your timely warning about the arrival of your collection
agent. We regret to inform you that your duly-appointed
representative met with a mishap on his way through the
Pearly Gates, whereupon he unaccountably fell 300ft into
a vat of warm marmalade. No miscreant has yet come
forward to explain the presence of the vat and/or the
marmalade, but you may rest assured that inquiries are
proceeding with alacrity.

Please find enclosed a bill for repairs made to the steel
spikes with which the vat was lined[1] and the 10,000
kilowatt-hours of electricity consumed when super-heating
the marmalade to an extent whereby evaporation of
said product was sufficient to allow extrication of your
agent.

The hot custard enema and choice selection of Hammond
organ recitals (of Barry Manilow's Greatest Hits) henceforth
applied in an attempt to revive said representative may be
regarded purely as a goodwill gesture on our part and no
charge will be levied for the service. You may assume that
any further collection agents sent as a result of this
unfortunate misunderstanding will be treated with an equal
measure of hospitality.

With respect to the alleged overdue payment of a certain
laundry bill, we believe that we have come to an
arrangement which should adequately fulfill the wishes of
both parties. We will tender as currency one Angelic
Exchange, to whit the personage known as Raphael but
desire no replacement for said individual...

<fx: shouts, screams, diverse alarums of half-a-dozen
angels holding Raphael down>

...and one Demonic Pardon for the Demon known as
Asmodeus, with whom we should greatly pleased to have
discourse on the matter of certain highly amusing
remarks made with respect to the pink items of apparel
which have resulted from this regrettable incident.

We believe that this exchange should meet your
demands for payment exactly,

Regards,

Afphantom, sec'y H.H.

[1] They don't call it 'Golden Shred' for nothing, you know...


From: Heraldis

<gasp, puff, wheeze>
(Herald falls flat on face with scorch marks in nether regions, holding up
small, slightly singed papers)

A small pink slip:

To: Infinite Legions of Heaven
FAO: do I care? Not really
Re: Laundry bill payment

Sir,
This notice confirms receipt of payment for outstanding charges, to wit:
One angel, (with label Raphael)
One demon pardon for demon Asmodeous.

With Thanks
Chrysanthymum sqiggle pp

A handwritten note:

Right, the rules are this:
We get an angel, you get a demon. Asmodeous has hedghogged off anyway
(well, I can't find 'im) so he gets a pardon and to live up there too,
you're welcome to 'im. I'll send 'im along if he turns up here.

I also wanted to thank you for your treatment of Hastur, he's scaring the
dying daylights out of the damned now, what with bein' all sticky and
smokin, and leakin custard from unlikely places. The demented screaming he
won't let up with is good too, we've promoted 'im to overseeing school
dinner ladies.

I do have a problem though, I'm not convinced this angel is, well, very
angelic. I know he's got the papers an' everything, but, well he smells
bit and walks like Hastur does, well used to.
If I find out he ain't genuiunune, there will be repercussions, but I'll let
the matter rest, for now.

Marmalade, I dunno.....
You, er, don't want a job down here, do you?

love and hugs (hehhehheh)
Flowerpot, demon entrance clerk, third class


From: AfPhantom

You look like you could do a breather, mate - 'ere you go, 'ave
some marmalarmalade on toast, we've got plenty...

<fx: reads>
>A small pink slip:
[contents written in invisible ink, now vanished]

I can't believe they went for it! Stitched that bastard
Hastur up good n' proper an' got rid of Raphael into
the bargain, yea verily an' sing fol-de-rol ekcetra. S'not
bin a bad day in my h'estimation...

>Right, the rules are this:
>We get an angel, you get a demon.

S'fair enough. We won't miss 'im poncin' about the place
with 'is daft spangly halo...

>Asmodeous has hedghogged off anyway
>(well, I can't find 'im) so he gets a pardon and to live up there too,

Yeah, well, if he's ever got the wossnames to show 'is
face around 'ere I'll give him a pardon right up the...

>you're welcome to 'im. I'll send 'im along if he turns up here.

They don't call you buggers Demons for nothin', do they?

We've already got a costume sorted out for 'im, an' it's his
lucky day 'cos we've got one in his favourite colour...

>I also wanted to thank you for your treatment of Hastur, he's scaring the
>dying daylights out of the damned now, what with bein' all sticky and
>smokin, and leakin custard from unlikely places.

Hah! Well, s'not like we wanted to do 'em any favours but it
looks like we're stuck with it. Angelic nature, innit? Even when
we tortures someone 'orribly we end up doin' a good deed...

>The demented screaming he
>won't let up with is good too, we've promoted 'im to overseeing school
>dinner ladies.

I'd 'ave thought the custard would of come in handy there
as well... I know my school dinner ladies used to leak
custard from unlikely places; he ort to blend right in; they
was sticky an' smokin' too as I recall...

>I do have a problem though, I'm not convinced this angel is, well, very
>angelic.

Hah! They dunno the half of it. Oh, he'll be wailing and
gnashin' his teeth to start with but give 'im a week an'
he'll be sellin' off the furninishin's before you can say
"where's the bloody carpet gone?"

>love and hugs (hehhehheh)

'ere you, bugger off! Can't be fraternisin' with the enemy;
the fings they do if they catches you at that sort o' fing
would make yer wossnames revolve an' no mistake...

>Flowerpot,

Oh, right. Says it all, really.


And with a real name of Raphael, one afper couldn't resist joining in.


From: Raphael Kirschke

NOOOOO! Stop it! AfPhantom, you [censored]! What have I done to you?
Please <turns toward the angels holding him down>, Gabriel - you can't
do that - we're friends, arent't we? - What? What do you mean,
"promotion"? He bribed you? I want to talk to a lawyer!

<Gabriel reminds Raphael that all lawyers are in hell>

<fx: tries to free himself, kicks Gabriel in the voonerables, but the
other angels are too strong>

You didn't hear the last of me! I'll be baaaaaaaaaaaaaa...

<fx: gets thrown into the deep, dark hole that leads into hell>


From: Heraldis

>Raphael
>A fallen angel

Dear Sir/Madam/Other,
The denizens and circles of Hades would like to be the first to welcome
you to your new abode. May I take this opportunity to thank you for
selecting Hades as the final resting place for your eternal soul.

Please find enclosed a welcome pack, with our compliments. In it you will
find the following.
1. A map of your immediate surroundings, with sulphur lakes and fiery pits
marked for your convenience.[1]
2. A schedule of times when you may expect the cleaning staff to visit your
sector[2]
3. A complimentary shampoo sachet and shower cap[3].
4. A list of the weeks activities, and meeting points for these[4]

If you have any queries, please hesitate to call us on the telephone you
will find conveniently situated by your bedside.

You will probably by now have discovered that this phone will ring randomly,
every few minutes thoughout your stay.
Please do not submit complaints about the channels available on your in-room
television, that is all that is available[5]

Signed
The Management

[1] The management take no responsibility for the accuracy of this map, in
fact, if it is, we would be very surprised.
[2] This will not be followed, you will almost certainly be disturbed
randomly at moments least convenient to yourself.
[3] Note shower caps are not proof against acid rain[6]
[4] All activities are compusory, this is not a holiday camp
[5]What is wrong with hourly repeats of the seventeenth episode of Dynasty,
anyway?
[6]Water showers are not available to residents at this time.

(found in a puddle by the back door)
D'ya think they gave Raphael one of these?


From: AfPhantom

>><fx: shouts, screams, diverse alarums of half-a-dozen
>>angels holding Raphael down>

<fx: AfPhantom sitting in his office, reading reply from
Chrysanthemumum sec'y p.p., unaware of commotion>

>NOOOOO! Stop it! AfPhantom, you [censored]! What have I done to you?

<fx: The Seraph glances up at the sound of his name, but
sees only a struggling mass of angels and, unconcerned,
returns to his reading>

>Please <turns toward the angels holding him down>, Gabriel - you can't
>do that - we're friends, arent't we?

Friends? Raphael? What the...

>What? What do you mean, "promotion"? He bribed
>you? I want to talk to a lawyer!

'ere, 'ang on a minute... The Raphael I know wouldn't 'ave
arsked for a lawyer less'n they started askin' awkward questions
like "Your guilty as sin, aren't you?" or worse "How much will you
pay me?". He'd sooner part with 'is frilly underwear collection
than ask for a lawyer... Wot's goin' on?

><Gabriel reminds Raphael that all lawyers are in hell>

Weeeelll... That's right enough, mostly... But that voice, it's not...

><fx: tries to free himself, kicks Gabriel in the voonerables,

That's alright, he won't miss 'em - he only ever talks to virgins
an' they dunno what to expect...

>but the other angels are too strong>

<fx: thinks: Raphael puttin' up a FIGHT?!>

<fx: rushes out of his office and starts bodily hurling angels
out of the melee>

Hold up a second lads, I reckons you've got the wrong...

>You didn't hear the last of me! I'll be
>baaaaaaaaaaaaaa... <fx: gets thrown into the deep, dark hole that
>leads into hell>

Oh, arse.

Erm... lads... There are - were - two Raphaels, weren't there?
I mean, there was the poncy one wot you all know and are
acquainted with, and then there's that other chap - you know -
'e's not bin 'ere long, nice bloke even if 'e is a bit too clever
by 'alf - goin' around solvin' them puzzles an' whatnot, surname
sounds a bit like a cherry; you knows the one I mean, don'cha?

<fx: nervous looks from the Heavenly Host>

Only... I can't smell anythin' an' you know that pongy aftershave
Raph wears... an' I couldn't see no sequins on that halo...

<fx: voice trails off, nervous looks from the assembled
Divine Legion>

<fx: AfPhantom glares at Camael>

You jus' looked up the name 'Raphael' on the Rolls of Heaven
an' grabbed the first one you came to, didn't yer? S'alright,
it coulda happened to any blithering idiot, so don't get the
hump, OK?

<fx: Camael glares at AfPhantom>

Bugger.

Right - Saraquel, Camael an' Gabriel; I want the other
Raphael here, in a sack, five minutes. You've got a choice
of one so even you buggers shouldn't be able to get it
wrong. Michael - go an' fetch the heavy mob an' make
sure you got a full charge in yer flamin' sword. We can't
leave no-one down there who dun't deserve it, so there's
only one thing we c'n do...

<fx: deep breath>

Lads - we're goin' in...


Sometimes, other people managed to get a word in edgewise.


From: GrumbleDook

Now listen 'ere AFPhantom, I'm getting my ear bent by Chrysanthenemum
(muttermumblethirdratebloodydemonthatheismuttermumble)
that you aint paying your dues. Us lot down in the seven hells [1] have
covered your backs for far to long, and I'm not just talking laundry either!

Who took the blame for the Eurovision song contest? We did!
Who took the blame for Milton Keynes? We did!![2]
We even took the blame for The Spice Girls!!!

And what do we get in return? A load of abuse and refusal to pay for
services rendered. It just aint good enough. So, once more it up to me, The
Great GrumbleDook, to take you to task. If you don't pay up soon we will
start sending some people back. First will be Liberace, then it'll be Rod
Hull, and if no payment is received you might find a fete worst than Death
knocking on the Gates - The whole of the WI holding a white elephant stall.

Mwahaha, Mwahahahahaha, Mwahahahahahahaha!!!!![3]

Heed my words or I shall be forced to remove all Queen albums from your CD
collection!

The Great GrumbleDook[4]

[1] seven-a if you include Hemel Hemstead
[2] sorry, but I couldn't resist<G>
[3] oooh! That's contagious, that laughter! ;-)
[4] It's not often that I let him out but I couldn't stop it this time, sorry


From: Heraldis

Notice nailed to door of Hades front entrance:
No Hawkers, circulars or uninvited angels
Travelling salemen, religious representatives welcome, please ring bell 6.
No refunds, no exchanges.
All queries to be sent in writing to the appropriate department.
Deliveries, please ring bell 1 or use the tradesman's entrance.
All new residents to report to the entrance clerks, please ring bell 3 or
knock.
All visitors must sign in, please ring bell 2.
This establishment takes no responsibility for the safety of any souls or
associated spirits brought into the premises.
All breakages must be paid for.
Have a nice day.

And on the doorbells the following:

"All doorbells are out of order, please knock."


Having accidentally sent the wrong Raphael to Hell, no Heavenly Host worthy of it's name could let matters rest.


Subject: [I] The Raphael Rescue Squad - very long (sorry) - (was: Great Laundry Debarcle)
From: AfPhantom

Is ev'ryone here who's gonna be? Good. Right -
it's down the trapdoor we go then an' keep yer wings
crossed...

<begin narrative>

A strangely-assorted group - consisting of angels (one
of whom is carrying a large, struggling sack over his
shoulder), dragons, and various examples of the anthropoid
condition - moves stealthily along a narrow passageway
which writhes ever-downwards.

Strange rock formations in grotesque and disturbing
shapes give off the obligatory eldritch glow in an obnoxious
shade of green, as if to protest at the idea that mineral
supplements necessarily lead to a healthier lifestyle.

After a time that could have been minutes and could have
been centuries, the angels et al come to a halt in front of a
small black door made of some smooth, yet unpleasantly
organic-looking substance.

"Alright people, on with yer disguises. Mr. Dragon, I hopes
you've got yer patter ready 'cos I hear that after the
marmalade incident they've come up with somethin' which
no-one wants to talk about much but def'nitely involves
twelve gallons of tomato soup, a bicycle pump, two whole
salamis and a pair of rubber gloves an' I for one don't want
any more details than that, understand?"

The Dragon nods nervously as the angels doff their robes in
favour of severe grey suits complete with little name-tags, with
broad-rimmed hats to cover their halos.

The Seraph, having donned his own costume, strides confidently
up to the door and raps smartly[1]. The angels are somewhat
taken aback when instead of the ominous booming noise that is
normally de rigeur in such situations, there is instead a rather
unpleasant squishing sound which hangs in the air for perhaps
just a fraction of a second longer than it should.

A suspicious-sounding voice answers.

"Who's there? Whatever it is you're sellin', we don't want any."

"Oh, we're not selling anything sir," spake the Seraph
in an unusually cheerful tone, "we are... erm... Jehovah's
Bystanders, and we were wondering if you had ever thought
of welcoming existential uncertainty into your lives?"

There is a moment's silence, followed by sounds of
scurrying taloned feet and loud wooden scraping noises
as furniture is shifted about.

AfPhantom's bright, expectant smile gradually fades as
the door remains resolutely closed.

"Me jaw was startin' to ache anyhow," he murmurs to
himself. He turns to the rest of the group.

"O-kay. Mr. Masked Orang-utan, I wants that door opened
immediately. Ev'ryone stand aside now, hup-two, hup-two
- give 'im yer sword fer a minute Gabriel, we're gonna bring
these bastards the Bad News whether they likes it or not -
right, you ready?"

The orang-utan, the tails of his suit-jacket dragging on the
floor and sword held high above his head in a many-knuckled
grip, shuffles backwards along the passageway and nods
grimly.

"Ook."

There is an impressive wooshing sound, and the sword bursts
spontaneously into flame like an abandoned Volvo in a Brixton
car-park.

"Right. Forward, that ape."

The assembled company watches as the orang-utan begins his
run, and hastily flatten themselves against the wall as he passes
them in a blur of purple toenails...

"Eeeeeeeeeeeek!"

There is a resounding crash, and 300lbs of orange-fur-covered
mayhem smashes into the door, sword-first. The door, the chair
wedged under the handle and the table behind that disintegrate
into a mushroom cloud of splinters.

The Seraph signals the rest of the group, and they stride with a
confidence that none of them feel into the chamber beyond.
The room is obviously some sort of lounge area, and is decorated
in a way that would make Loyd Grossman run screaming for his
mother[2], with a throat-burning stench of brimstone hanging in the
air. There are no occupants immediately in evidence, but the
occasional glimpse of a scaly foot trembling behind the furniture is
enough.

"Phwoar! Honks a bit in 'ere," mutters AfPhantom
to the others in a low voice, "it's a bit of a relief from Raphael's
afternotshave, innit?"

He points to a corridor off to the right of the room has
the words 'To Thee Dunjun' scrawled above it in red crayon,
and nods significantly to Michael, who hefts the still-struggling
sack and prepares to run.

The Masked Orang-Utan, whose headlong flight was only
interrupted by a particularly tasteless yet sturdy piece of statuary,
hands the somewhat bent sword back to Gabriel. The Herald
Angels clears his throat, steps forward, and speaks in a booming
voice.

"Hail brethren! We are here to tell you about the glorious
benefits that YOU can experience when enjoined in
loving fellowship with the... hem... Jehovah's Bystanders,
I think it was. Hear for yourselves the wondrous things
which result from total abnegation of your own existence,
in a positive way, of course."

"Wot? You mean like not '#39;avin' to fill in tax returns?" says
a mock-pine dresser, cautiously sprouting a pair of horns.

"Don't listen! Don't listen!" squeaks a Fablon-covered wardrobe.

The Herald shakes his head sadly.

"Fear not," said he, for mighty dread had seized their troubled
minds, "for today we have brought to you the illustrious founder
of our order..."

The Herald Angel pats his pockets for a moment, before
realising that he's left his trumpet in his robe. Undaunted,
he cups his hand in front of his mouth and toots industriously.

"Da da-da da-da DAAA! Demons and gentleimps; incubi,
succubi, goblins and fiends, please give a big hand, paw, tentacle,
pseudopodium or other primary manipulatory appendage for the
incomparable, the unforgettable, the unreplaceable-unmistakable-
inspirational-Eight-Foot-Flesh-Eating-DRAGON! Yaaay!"[3]

A reluctant chorus of clapping, scratching and squelching
ensues, and a hideous assortment of misshapen forms drag
themselves warily out from inside cupboards, behind
upturned tables and under lampshades to stand in a
sullen group in the middle of the room.

It occurs to our heroes that the representatives of Hell all look
much bigger than they remembered. The Dragon is shoved
to the front of the group.

>"Hands up all of you who are buggers?"

A forest of hands (or close approximations thereof) goes
up and a squat, toad-like demon with more eyes than legs
mumbles angrily;

"There's no need to go castin' nasturtiums - we're all prop'ly
qualified, thank you very much."

"Oh, er, right. Of course." says the Dragon, realising his
mistake. He continues...

>"Right, listen to me, then."

>"OK, there's this phrase, right, and it's found in most
>English translations of the Bible, and it goes like this:
>E-t-e-r-n-a-l P-u-n-i-s-h-m-e-n-t."

There is a pause whilst the denizens of Hell work this
out. After a minute or so, some of the brighter demons
start nodding their heads in approval and muttering a
chorus of agreement.

"Yeah, that's right."

"He's not wrong there, y'know - everlastin' torments..."

"...whips wiv spikes on..."

"...thumbscrews..."

"...headscrews..."

"...red-hot parsnips shoved up yer ar..."

"Yes, yes, quite," interrupts the Dragon, "but it's not all
that simple, y'see?"

>When you get right down to it, there's some
>technicalities.

"Wossat mean, then?"

"It's lawyer talk fer 'we gotta let 'im go 'cos there's a
billion-to-one chance it wasn't 'im wot done it'. You
don't hear it round 'ere much, gen'raly."

"Oh."

>We'll start with the Greek word for 'eternal' which is
>'aio_nios' which don't mean 'eternal' at all.

A couple of the smaller demons look at each other
nervously.

"...the Greek word for 'eternal' don't mean 'eternal'?
Wossit mean then...?"

"...I dunno, them Greeks is really odd - I reckons it's
all them retinas an' ooze they keeps drinkin'..."

>Difficult to translate. Means 'age-long' really, plus a few
>connatations wot have to do with the Divine. So m'book
>says dat aio_nois punishment really means, the age-long
>punishment which only God can give. But not eternal.

"...but 'ang about a minute - if only God c'n give it, then
why're we..."

"...whaddidee mean, 'not eternal'? Are we gonna hafta
stop or somefink...?"

...two guards, drawn by the commotion, step out of the
corridor leading to the dungeon and look on with interest,
bat-wings furled and fangs bared in identical puzzled
grins, oblivious to the Archangel Michael tiptoeing around
them, still carrying his sack...

>Nothing in m'Bible or m'common sense for that matter
>ever said nuff'n about Hell being eternal. Word
>f'punishment's even more int'resting. Two of 'em, see.

"...wot, only two? I c'n fink of dozens of 'em, easy..."

>Timo~ria's the vengeance type of punishment, like wot's
>done for da sake of da guy't was wronged, and kolasis's
>the disciplinary type of punishment, like wot's done
>for da sake of da guy't caused the old upset in the
>first place.

...a couple of the more impressionable demons roll their
eyes in consternation, start to protest, and disappear in
a puff of ambiguity...

Meanwhile, somewhere in a dunjun quite close, reelly...

...Raphael cowers back in fear as a burly angel with
a look of good-natured stupidity smashes through the
door of his cell...

"It's no good! I tell you I don't know anything about
the recipe for ambrosia, and no amount of tomato soup
is gonna change that! Please don't... Not the bicycle
p... Hang on, you're not a demon... What's going on?"

"Sh!" hisses Michael. "I'm wiv a band of angels wot have
come after you."

He upturns his sack and an extremely bedraggled Raphael
- the other one - rolls across the floor and ends up
upside-down against the opposite wall. He is gagged and
bound, but the Archangel can see the look of inverted fury
in his eyes. Michael, who is normally as sensitive as a Geordie
comedian, shudders and turns away.

"Get in this sack!"

"Why?"

"I've come in for to carry you home."

The angel struggles his way into the sack and Michael hefts
the burden onto his shoulder one-handed. He turns to
Raphael.

"The boss sez if'n you behaves yerself you'll be out in
no time - an' it ain't like you don't got it comin'"

Behind his gag, Raphael mutters a word which wriggles
its way out of its bonds and starts chewing through the wall.
Michael shrugs and creeps quietly down the corridor, back
to where he can hear the Dragon's monologue continue...

>Anyway turns out dat wiv da bit about
>eternal punishment, it's kolasis, not timo~ria, wot
>gets used,

"...'ere, 'ow did 'e say that squiggly thing...?"

"...wot, you mean '~'...?"

"...oh, I see, you kinda curl your tongue up like dis... '#'..."

"...no, no, you gotta stick yer teef out like dis '~'..."

"...'~'...?"

"...yeah..."

>'least'n where I know about it. I got all
>dis info from a book by William Barclay called, 'The
>Plain Man Looks at the Apostles Creed'."

...behind the massed ranks of puzzled demons, the Seraph
catches sight of Michael standing behind the guards. He
watches as the Archangel draws his sword, which ignites...

>"Heaven, on da other hand, well, issa same old ambig'us
>word for eternal,

...AfPhantom starts mugging furiously at the Dragon, who is
too engrossed in the one-sided debate to notice Michael
as he reaches down behind the guard...

>only but dere's more descriptive

...grabs his underpants, pulls them over his head, and
sets fire to them with his sword. For a moment there
is no reaction, and then the guard says...

>stuff wot makes it clear it's eternal in da English
>sense not just da Greek.

"...oh, thass nice; up and to the left a bit, please..."

And then, silence.

The Dragon looks around him, thinks quickly, and draws
another breath as if to continue speaking. With a look of
abject terror on his face, the biggest, ugliest and most
wart-encrusted fiend, who has been wearing a deeply
bemused expression for the last 800 words or so, steps
quickly towards the group, grabs the Dragon by the hand [4]
and starts shaking it, all the while urging him 'gently' towards
the door. The remainder of the troupe piles out behind him
as the dragon is shoved backwards.

"Er... That was very... er... educational. Wasn't it, lads?"

Those demons who haven't yet passed out nod their heads
very carefully, as though expecting them to drop off.

"...yeah..."

"...educational, that's right..."

"...bloody borin' if you arsk m..."

"...shutupshutuphemightstartagain..."

Masked Orang-Outan, making full use of his mysterious
animal senses, is first out through the ravaged doorway,
although it's a close-run thing.

"...uh, did I say borin'?... I meant boilin', reelly hot stuff, not
borin' at all..."

"...ver' edifyin', it was..."

"...yeah, edifyin'... Wossat mean?"

"...I dunno..."

Gabriel, Saraquel, Camael and the Herald Angel are
next through, closely followed by the Seraph, who lays
a hand on the Dragon's shoulder.

"Come on Bruvver Dragon, we can't keep these nice...
entities... here all day, they've prob'ly got some important
torturin' to do."

The hideous demon forcibly escorting the Dragon out of the
room nods enthusiastically.

"Yeah, that's right - people to do, Things to see, you know
how it is - oh my, is that the time already, we really must be
going now - please don't hesitate to call again only not soon -
give us plenty of time to think about what you said, about 3,000
years should do it - better repair this door now - thank you
so much for dropping by..."

He gives the founder member of the Jehovah's Bystanders
one final shove, and slams a table into place over the doorway.

After a second or so, the sound of frantic hammering drifts
up the passageway, but fails to reach the ears of our heroes,
who are halfway back to Heaven and still accelerating...

<end narrative>

<fx: slam of trapdoor and sound of large boulder being
pushed on top of it>

<fx: breathlessly>

Cor blimey, that was a lark an' no mistake! It's me for
a pint or two of somethin' illegal, how's about it? :-)

[1] <fx: baseball cap, sideways, one; trainers, dirty, one pair;
jeans, ripped, one pair; lyrics, awful, plenty... :-) >

Cue backing track to some Will Smith or Vanilla Ice number or
somethin' else suitably innocuous... [apologies in advance to KLF]

"Standin' at the hell-gate,
Frontin' and maxin' -
Don't get in my way
Or my wrath'll be waxin'
Chillin' wid da posse
Dey a heavenly crew;
An' we know Im-or-tal-it-ty
Ain't easy to do, so just
STOP! Listen to the sound of the silence;
Unless you wanna get you
Some angelical violence;
No Demon's gonna dis us
'cos we won't let it pass -
An' da boyz be gettin' jiggy wid it
Kickin' his ass
- So stand well back -
- Don't give us no flack -
- Or we will attack -
And U DON'T WANT THAT!

Aye-en-jells...
Aye-en-jells...
Aye-en-jells...
Eteeernaaaaaal...
Heaven's Host are gonna rock ya!"[5]

[2] You can seen it though, can't you? "Whaaat kind of a deeeemon
would live in a place loike this?" Afpologies to those who've
never seen "Through the Keyhole"[6]

[3] With thanks to Jim Henson studios. <g>

[4] I know, but I think we've done that one already...

[5] The difficulty with reading rap lyrics is that they never seem
to scan unless you know the rhythm intended by the writer... <g>
However unbelievably, this one does actually work; I'll prove it at the
first afpmeet I get to, if you like :-)

[6] Actually, no - why should I apologise? Never having seen it
is compensation enough... :-)


Unreality really bit when people actually began to pedant the details!


From: Heather Knowles

<sotto voce> Seraph - I know it's hard to tell, wot wiv the robes 'n'
that, but the Herald's a her, not a him.....


From: AfPhantom

I dunno about whoever is the Herald's alter-ego, but the Herald is
def'nitely a him. Besides, angels don't have any sex while they're on
duty[1]


From:Heraldis

<snip a fabulous finale to the great laundry debarcle!>

ROTFLAWMK

<gasp>
stagger back to chair, read it again....

ROTF again...

repeat until sacked!

What can I say?

Honoured to have been in your company for the final push sir!
And don't forget to bring that rap to every meet you go to!!

Ma'am in charge will be so proud!


From:Raphael Kirschke

About half an hour later, the sack is opened and Raphael stares into a
lot of faces of many different specieseseses

"Aaargh!" <pulls shower cap over his eyes>

"What wrong with 'im?" one of the strange creatures asks.

"One acid rain shower too much, if you ask me."

The Seraph takes a step forward and talks to Raphael in a soothing
voice:

"Come on, old chap, you're in safety now - everything is alright. The
Heavenly Host has made a mistake there- " <angry look towards a group
of angels, looking very embarrassed> "but you'll be up and about in no
time, trust me."

<fx: sound of harp music from a nearby cloud>

"Aaargh! No! I'm not here - don't call again! A kingdom for an
answering machine... <giggles> Sir? When do you repair the water
showers, please? The dribbling <dribbles> drives me mad!!! Could
you... after the activities, perhaps? I promise, I'll finish my basket
today... but, Sir? The TV... <voice fading off> Dynasty... episode
eighteen, perhaps... ?"

The Seraph shakes his head sadly: "Let's go... we can't help him now.
We can only pray - sorry, hope - that he will recover again."

The group turns away and leaves Raphael behind, staring at some point
a few lightyears away (Raphael, that is, not the group).

"mumblemumblepleasenotanotherhelpingofbroccolii'mreallyfulthanksalotmumblemumble..."

[1]: Congratulations, AfPhantom <falls down on knees> - great! I love
this ng...


It seemed only fitting that one of the principal conspirators in The Great Laundry Debarcle should have the final word on the matter.


From: Paul Wilkins

I've been havin some thoughts recently due to the great laundry
debarcle, and I've been wondering.
Would you muses be up to the challenge of seeing to an AA meeting?
(Atheists Anonymous). And would Michael and Raphael visit them?

I can see it now (mistily)

Fred: Since joining with you wonderful guys I've discovered how bad my
life was before. If I'd kept on living the life I was I would have died!
Now I gets to live forever...


From:AfPhantom

You hum it, m'man an' I'll play it... set 'em up! :-)

As to whether Michael an' Raphael would visit, I'm not so sure
that's a good idea, dependin' on which Raphael you're talkin'
about... <g>


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