Hell in a Handcart – Chapter one

I wrote a short story about my experiences as a first-time intern a few months ago, and I’ve decided I’m going to publish the chapters on my blog. (Yeah, I know, short stories aren’t supposed to have chapters…I was new to the form, al right?)

The short story, Hell in a Handcart, is based on actual experiences but I have added some fantastical elements to it, to spice it up. It’s not my best work – not by far, but I figured I’d share it nonetheless. I’m not good at writing in a contemporary setting, and I don’t think my various ideas came out quite as well on paper, but it’s just a fun piece.

Also, I like idioms and saying. And obviously I’m not using my own name.

Chapter one: Happy as Larry

There once was a girl, whose name started with an ‘M’ and who–like many others–had the proverbial angel and devil on her shoulders to guide her through life.

“Proverbial is it?” the Right-Devil said.

Well, yes. Most people have the proverbial ones.

“But we’re real,” the Left-Angel said. “As real as the ones reading this.”

“And another thing,” the Right-Devil quipped. “Why do you refer to us as Right-Devil and Left-Angel? What’s up with that?”

That’s because you’re always on the girl’s right shoulder and the angel is on the left. That way they will always know from which side the two of you are talking from.

“And the girl? Why does her name start with an ‘M’? Why not give her a real name? Something like Marie, or Melanie, or Maisie?” the Left-Angel asked, looking down his nose at her.

Fine. Her name was…Mae!

“What’s with the fancy spelling? Why not just May?” the Right-Devil asked.

Because I like it that way, alright? Now let me get on with the bloody story!


So the girl, Mae, was born with an angel and a devil on her shoulders like everyone else, except hers kept bugging her all the time. She had always been a good student and was now in her second year of college–well, I say college but what I mean is university of applied science.

“How’s about you just write what you mean then?” The Right-Devil interjected.

She was in her second year and fervently looking for a ten-week internship. Mae was very excited about learning more about editing (which she was studying) and leafed through papers and magazines and surfed on the web to find an internship that appealed to her. When she’d finally found one, and had applied for it, she sat back for a while, twiddling her thumbs and praying for an answer.

“Well, you say praying, I say hoping. Really, she isn’t the religious sort at all,” the Left-Angel said, “which is why I look more like a fairy or a fae than a seraph.” He adjusted his wings as his legs dangled off her shoulder. “She’s really into the fantastical and all that.”

Just let me write this thing, will you? There’s no need to go into the background of the character at this point, is there?

“I thought we should plant that characteristic before certain thoughts entered into your writing. Otherwise the readers wouldn’t understand,” the Left-Angel explained.

I’ll decide when to add what. I’m the writer here.

“You won’t let us forget that,” the Right-Devil mumbled.

But I heard all the same and made a few mental notes to get back at him for it.

“Now hold on,” said the Right-Devil, “don’t go holding it against-“


When the girl finally got the invite for an interview from her application for the internship, she was over the moon. And even though the interview was scheduled literally the next day, she wasn’t really nervous.

No, those nerves only started unravelling the next day, on the train.

“That’s what nerves do. They’ll unravel when you least expect it,” the Right-Devil said.

Mae was sitting near the window, staring at the landscape, her hands clammy. She had no idea what to expect. She’d already had two other internship interviews–with a children’s book publisher and a gaming website–but she’d ultimately been rejected both times.

“It must have been the fact I can’t sell myself properly,” she said to herself. “I mean, what else could it have been?” Mae had been very excited throughout those interviews and the interviewers themselves had seemed quite excited as well. She had no idea what could’ve gone wrong and had been confident she’d get the spot. Only she didn’t.

“And what a pity that was,” the Left-Angel said.

But she shook those negative memories off and focused on the here and now. This time she’d do better. This time, she’d get the internship. She had to: there wouldn’t be time to find another, and the internship was mandatory. Her studies would suffer a delay otherwise. And she most certainly didn’t want that; she wanted to finish her studies and get her bachelor’s degree in exactly four years. No more, if it was possible less. Now, this internship spot wasn’t exactly what she’d hoped for. She actually wanted to be an intern at a publisher: she loved books and she loved the idea of working to create more of them. But she’d had no choice. This internship was for a web editor position for a website containing the necessary information for High School students to choose their next destination. The website contained information about all the universities, universities of applied science or intermediate vocational schools.

Or at least, that was what the website was going to be, with the help of the web editors. All in all, not really a dream job for her; she was more interested in writing books or blog posts than in writing articles about universities. In fact, all she was ever interested in was books. Reading books, writing books, working in the book publishing field. Being a Fantasy author or working as an editor for a publisher specializing in Fantasy. Those were her dreams.

“See! Here’s where the fantastical comes in,” the Left-Angel remarked.

They had been her dreams ever since she was a little girl, reading her grandmother’s collection of Grimm fairy tales in a corner at the tender age of three–her mother taught her to read early on. Fantasy books were in her blood. As they always would be.

But alas, beggars can’t be choosers and she had treated that internship ad like it was a life-jacket, even though something had seemed off about it. It had started out with “God morning.” Yes, you read that correctly. God morning. Well, she wasn’t one to immediately think the worst after just one tiny mistake and had continued reading. But there were more spelling mistakes in the ad and her inner editor had tried to get out, snatch up a red pen and start editing. Mae had locked her inner editor up tight and had applied. And that’s how she ended up on the train heading to the Media park.


Mae got out at the wrong stop–which was the actual stop, but the next stop would have been a better choice, because now she ended up having to take a detour–and mentally chastised herself for it. She’d been here before with her class and she should really have remembered which stop to get off on.

“Off on. You’re going to confuse people with that one,” the Right-Devil said.

You don’t think highly of other people, do you?

“I don’t even think highly of you,” the Right-Devil retorted.

That’s another mental note right there.

“Alright, alright. You win,” the Right-Devil whined.

Mae cursed her strange brain with its random memory. She could recite all the dialogue of The Lord of the Rings movies, but she couldn’t remember most mundane things. If you would tell her something right this minute, she would have forgotten about in two more. And she’d swear you’d never told her either. Strange and random, isn’t it? But then, randomness is pretty much the cornerstone of her being, to put it poetically.

“Quite beautiful, really,” the Left-Angel whispered.

When Mae finally arrived at the Media park, sweating like she had just come out of a sauna, she had no idea where to be. At the front desk she asked after the company and her contact–let’s call him Beastly, Ivan Beastly–but the receptionist didn’t seem to recognize the names. Another clear sign that something was off.

“I did set off the alarm bells on this one,” the Left-Angel said. “But she didn’t listen.”

The woman promised to call around for her and set to work again. She then sent Mae to another building of the complex. The right building this time. She went to the front desk and asked the man behind it for directions to the office. Imagine Mae’s surprise when the man behind the desk had no idea what she was talking about. His eyes were huge! Bulging even. That was the third sign that something was not right.

“Third time’s the charm,” the Right-Devil said.

She was really starting to get worried now, because let’s be honest: a company no one has heard of with a boss that no one knows, doesn’t really inspire confidence in an internship spot. The man at the front desk sent Mae–after thinking long and hard–to the fourth floor.

Luckily, Mae found her own way to the office and didn’t have to ask people where to go next; she hated talking to strangers. That made her nervous about messing up or coming across as weird, causing her stomach to turn. She took a deep breath, bolstered her courage and knocked on the door.


     “The first impression is the most important one,” her mother always said. These words kept playing in her mind as Ivan Beastly gestured for her to sit. Go on, look confident, smile, don’t fret, don’t mess up. Being shy is fine, being passive isn’t. Sit up straight, don’t slouch, don’t you dare mess this up.

          “She was a little hard on herself, wasn’t she?” Left-Angel asked.

Well, it’s in her nature to want the best for herself. That meant pep talks and criticism alike. All those warnings kept replaying over and over again in her head, making her completely miss Beastly’s explanation about the company, the website and its goal. Well, it couldn’t have been that important, right?

Beastly himself seemed like a proper gentleman: he was nice, smiled a lot and was relaxed. There were no alarm bells ringing there.

“Hoy!” Left-Angel exclaimed. “Don’t blame this on me!”


In the end, they closed a verbal contract and Mae went home in the knowledge she’d have an internship position for ten weeks starting from next week. She was very relieved and excited about that. Perhaps that was why she didn’t notice the darkness sloshing in the pit of her stomach. After all, it didn’t hurt. Yet.

“I like the way you just end it on a bit of a menacing note,” the Right-Devil said, grinning.







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