Friday, June 6, 2014


The postmistress and the service manager knew one another in a former life, and hated each other bitterly, each striving to do as much ill to the other as could possibly be done, and staying up late to see whether a bit more than the possible might be achieved. The postmistress was a very great lady indeed, as that age counted such things, and the service manager had risen far from low beginnings, and, wearing an episcopal mitre, was responsible for the care and cure of the lady’s soul. The postmistress burned, metaphorically, to see the bishop burned literally, and often spent long afternoons forging evidence to submit to the Inquisition, or suborning potential witnesses. As befit his position, the bishop pondered ways and means of ensuring the lady went to Hell.

Neither succeeded. The Inquisition had grown lax and indolent, and yawned over the decisive proofs of the bishop’s startling heresies, regularly delivered to them along with pieces of game and the occasional barrel of wine. The game was eaten, the wine drunk (with an occasional toast to its provider); the evidence was put aside and rats ate the parchment when the winters grew harsh.

The lady had seemed set for Hell, for aside from her hatred of the bishop, she was a cruel mistress to those who served her, but a wandering preacher converted her at the last and she died repentant. Hell ignored the bishop’s prayers and denied the lady admittance. The bishop, too, escaped by the breadth of a hair. An archangel with too little to do set both souls on a series of rebirths, always in proximity to each other.

Over the centuries they’ve managed, all unknowing, to move from utter loathing to mere abhorrence for each other. In Heaven you can get odds as to what century it will be in which they fall in love. In Hell, though, the smart money would be on “never,” except for the difficulties of collecting on such a bet.

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