1.Playmate of the Hour
I squeezed my eyelids shut as I yelled `What the Hell!` and braced myself for what would happen next. Nothing. No tremors under my feet. No thunderclaps in my ears. No searing hellish blaze on my skin. Nothing. All were calm and quiet, like nothing happened. Maybe I did it wrong? Maybe God was just kidding me, pulling my legs? I dared not open my eyes for fear that if I did, I might see something so utterly horrible that I would end up with a heart attack. Can someone die twice? I really wanted to know. Imagine the headline splashed across the front page of The Heavenly Daily: `Mr. Choi, first exchange student to Hell, scared to death on his encounter with one extremely ugly, unidentified creature!` Oh, hell! I might never see Heaven again... Ms Hepburn will be very disappointed!
I was really worried and was just getting ready to abort mission and say my bailout code `Good Heavens` when I started hearing voices, barely audible at first, but becoming louder and louder until it took on the full blast of what sounded like a large crowd having a party. I felt safe to open my eyes -- and I did.
It was a large, cavernous banquet hall, brightly lit by gorgeous crystal chandeliers. There must be hundreds of tables all filled with men and women in formal attires. I was sitting at what appeared be to the head table (the only one with a golden table cloth and facing center stage). Sitting on my right was a gentleman in white tux, on my left a voluptuous lady in a red dress made from a miraculously small amount of fabric. I was wearing a black tux. I don`t even know I owned one! The man on my right spoke first. “Welcome, Mr. Choi, to our Playmate of the Hour banquet. Let me introduce myself --”
“Mr. Heffner,” I interrupted. “You are a man who hardly needs introduction. I literally grew up with your magazine. It`s the only thing in print that I read on a regular basis in my college days. I am what I am mostly because of the scholarly articles I read from the Playboy magazine.” Really!
“Well, Mr Choi, I am glad you were one of my staunch supporters. Anyway, I would like to introduce to you, Ms. 9 pm.” He stood from his chair and gestured to the lady on my left. I took the cue, stood up and extended my hand to the lady. In a slow motion smooth as silk, she raised her shoulder and placed her hand in mind. I felt marshmallows. No bones! Looking closely at the heavily made-up face of the creature in front of me, it suddenly dawned on me that she was not human! I dropped her hand and turned to the host, “Mr. Heffner, what the hell!”
“Mr. Choi, I see that you are shocked. Yes, your suspicion is correct. Ms. 9pm is an android, made of silicone with computerized, full-body articulation.”
“Mr. Heffner, I am sure Ms. Silicone is much more desirable than an inflatable doll, but surely you could have picked someone who is human, couldn`t you? You have an abundant supply of young beautiful women.” I pointed to the large crowd in the banquet hall.
“I wished, Mr. Choi, I wished... If you look carefully, you will see that while all the men here are real, all the women are androids. They came off the same assembly line as Ms. 9pm. At each and every hour, I have the honour and privilege to pick one from among all these beautiful androids to become Playmate of the Hour,” he said with the joy and excitement of a man who was about to stuff another hard-boiled egg into his mouth after he had already swallowed a hundred.
“So Mr. Heffner, this is your punishment for being the ultimate womanizer... isn`t it a bit harsh and disproportionate?” I truly felt sorry for him.
“Well, Mr. Choi, technically speaking, this is not a punishment for me– you see, I was not condemned to my current situation. That`s not how the Devil works. I was actively recruited by the Devil while I was still alive! I was promised that if I volunteered for Hell, I would become rich and famous and be able to continue with my philandering even after death. I signed on the `program` because it seemed like a good idea at the time. Little did I know that I would be fraternizing with robots for eternity.” Always read the fine print when you are dealing with the Devil!
“Mr. Heffner, I really appreciate your hospitality, but I am eager to get to my next destination. I hope you would excuse me if I won`t stay for Ms. 10pm. I am sure she is beautiful and sexy and very articulate. Please tell me where and how I go from here?” I have never developed an interest in inflatable dolls when I was alive. I don`t feel like starting it now. I felt a sudden urge to leave the table.
“Mr. Choi, they have your entire itinerary planned but I don`t know your next destination because it`s classified. When you are ready to go, all you have to do is close your eyes and count to 10.”
I shook hands with Mr. Heffner and Ms. 9pm, closed my eyes and counted to 10.