Poor Joe Sixpack, he was getting desperate. He had been travelling for a while, always hoping to get to a better place. He took the bus but every stop was worse than the previous. It didn’t take him long to realise this one was the worst yet. Just after he got off the bus, there it was, a huge sign with the inscription “Welcome to the Fifth Circle of Hell. Population: 34 billion souls”.
Upset, Joe went straight to the ticket counter to get a ticket to a better place.
“Hey! Hey!” Joe exclaimed, slamming the counter. “I want a ticket to a better place, now. Now. You hear me?”.
“Right away, sir! Right away”. The Attendant pulled a ticket from the dispenser, offered it to Joe and instructed him: “Here you are. Go back to that bus, give the driver this ticket and ask him to drop you off two stops down the line. That’s the best place ever. You won’t regret it, sir, I promise you”.
“But … but …” Joe protested. “Two stops down the line…? Isn’t that the Seventh Circle of Hell?”
“Pff. Why! Of course it is, dummy! What did you expect? Like I said, the best place ever. C’mon! Take it, take it, take it! I don’t have the whole day,” the attendant replied, his tone of voice no longer servile.
At that precise moment a white cloud formed just next to Joe.
“Vade retro, Satana!” a mighty voice roared with divinely inspired authority. Before the suddenly alarmed Attendant ran away, an Angel struck him over the head -- KAPOW!!! -- with a big crucifix. As the Attendant fell to the ground with a hair-raising howl, the Angel shot him point-blank with a high-powered, 9 mm, semi-automatic Holy-Water pistol. FLUSH!!! The Attendant, astonishingly, just vanished. POOFF!!! Only a black, sulphurous cloud remained where he had been.
In awe, Joe grabbed the Angel’s tunic and tried to kiss it. “Thank you! Thank you!”
“Praise the Lord, child of Adam. Not me,” the Angel commanded.
His voice trembling, Joe explained his predicament. “Help me, dear Guardian Angel. For the love of Him!”
With a dramatic gesture, the Angel extracted a miraculously pure gold bus ticket from a pocket in his tunic. “Go to the bus and tell the driver to drop you off at the first stop. Remember, the first, not the second, like that abomination of Hell wanted. Understood?”
“Yes!” Joe answered, tears of gratitude welling in his eyes, a glimmer of hope in his heart. “Is that … is that where Heaven is?”
The only answer was: “Well… ah… hmm… I mean…”.
Joe could not contain his disappointment: “Oh! I understand. It’s not Heaven, just the Sixth Circle of Hell, yes?”
“Well,” replied the Angel after clearing his voice, “Yes. Goddammit! Yes, it is the Sixth Circle. But, that’s not so bad, Joe. It’s way better than the Seventh, where that devil wanted to send you. It’s the Lesser Evil!”
“But Angel,” Joe pleaded, “you don’t understand. That’s how I got here, in the first place. There’s always been a Greater Evil advertised as the greatest destination ever and there’s always been a Lesser Evil following it closely behind as the Greater Evil gets worse and worse. Whichever one chooses, one goes that way until one reaches the Ninth Circle of Hell, and then is game over. What I want is to go the other way. I want to go to a better place, I want to get out of here, not further in”.
“I see,” the Angel, resenting Joe’s speech, replied. “Well, too bad. Since you arrived I've been bending over backwards to offer you the best possible alternative and that’s how you repay me? You’re an ungrateful bastard, Joe. Let me spell it out for you: There’s no alternative, no way out. The bus only runs that way; it doesn’t run the other way. Those are your choices, the Lesser Evil or the Greater Evil. So shut up and take that damn ticket, now!”
That’s when Joe noticed emaciated, sickly-looking people, clothed in rags, slowly, painfully dragging their feet on their way back to the entrance. Approaching them, Joe grabbed one by the arm and asked him, “What are you doing?”
“Trying to get outta here. This is the only way”.
“But the Angel said…”
“Mate, those blokes work for the bus line”.
“Please, be sensible Joe”, shouted the Angel, more composed. “Take the Lesser Evil, I beg of you. It’s the saintly thing to do and it’s much better than the Greater Evil”. “Baloney!”, the Attendant, grinning next to the Angel, yelled as he waved the American flag. “The Greater Evil, Joe. It's patriotic and you’ll be rich. God loves the rich. It’s gonna be great!”.
Both in unison: “Nobody has ever managed to get out of here! You can see by those irresponsible radicals’ state, Joe, to get out of here is difficult. It’s a long way, it’s risky, it’s painful, it’s foolish. The bus is so much better!”
Okay, dear reader, you are Joe Sixpack. Your choice.