Time for one last thought:

*This is all the fault of that Summers girl!*

An unknowable instant later, the former principal of Sunnydale High School, one R. Snyder (he had zealously guarded against any student whatsoever, especially that Harris boy, finding out just what was his first name) regained consciousness.

Blinking around in a wondering daze, the man (presumably) found himself inside a totally ordinary cubicle, down to the cut-out Dilbert strips pinned to the walls of the austerely-gray walls of the workspace, seated in front of a desk with a computer monitor on top of this piece of furniture, and someone in their chair behind the desk, leaning down so that Snyder could only see the top of their head (unfairly thick-haired), muttering in a distracted voice as they groped in a drawer, "Hold on, I'll just get your file and then we can begin…."

A growing sense of panic began to creep into Snyder's mind, as he unwillingly began to recall just what had happened at the school graduation ceremony a few seconds earlier, somehow involving an enormous serpent and its gaping mouth--

The principal's dismay was abruptly interrupted by the other man behind the desk giving a pleased grunt, straightening up as he pulled out a thick file and plopped this folder onto the desktop, with this cheerful-looking fellow beaming towards Snyder. An moment later, this stranger's smile congealed, a look of consternation flashing over the office worker's face, as he loudly groaned, "OH, NO, NOT YOU AGAIN!"

"What?" blurted out a bewildered Snyder, in the first word he'd managed to speak so far.

The clerk had slumped back in his chair, crossing his arms over his chest, as he glowered at his client. In a disgusted tone, the service desk worker grumbled, "What's it with you being in a position of authority and young women? The last two times should have been warning enough, with you harassing Dorothy Gale and Susan Pevensie and what happened to you from that! Anybody else would have learned their lesson, but no, even with you having your sex changed, this time you had to go and be a nuisance to Buffy Summers!"

"I don't--" was started by a very baffled person, only to be interrupted by the still-ranting clerk.

"Well, I'm really sorry, but this is the last straw! You can't say you weren't warned, so we might as well as have the whole unfortunate outcome over and done with!" After that last mystifying statement, the clerk straightened up in his seat, and pointed with a stiff index finger to a spot on the floor next to Snyder's chair.

His eyes automatically drawn to where the other man was pointing, Snyder watched with total incredulity as lines of fire now drew themselves into a square shape on the floor, which then became a trapdoor that at once flipped itself up, sending out a blast of flame from the hole, with this incandescence somehow reshaping itself into a man-shaped being now floating a few inches above the opening in the floor that still had wisps of fire flickering around the edges of the aperture.

Bestowing upon a terrified Snyder an evil grin that consisted of a mouthful of fangs, this totally-red person (red skintight leotard, red skin, red eyes, red horns sticking out from his red hair falling in bangs over his red forehead), boomed in a voice that shook the entire cubicle, "COWER, MORTAL! I COME TO DRAG YOUR PITIFUL SOUL TO THE VERY DEPTHS OF HELL, WHERE YOU SHALL RECEIVE THE FOULEST TORTURES FOR ETERNITY, AND YOUR SUFFERING SHALL BECOME LEGENDARY-- Oh, hi, Carl. We still on for lunch today?"

Looking at where he'd directed his calm inquiry, the floating demon received a casual nod from the clerk, who commented, "Yeah, Fred, as soon as this guy here makes up his mind about going with you or not."

"Well, I hope he doesn't take too long about it, that's all." Thoughtfully studying the trembling man, the scarlet demon mused in a much happier tone, "Those ears are going to be a lot of fun! I think I'll leave now, go back to the lower circles, get everything ready in advance, especially the red-hot pinchers. It's really a nuisance having to wait for those to get toasty warm, when you've got your torture victim all tied up and prepared, and then you just have to hang around and kill time before you can get started. Well, so long, Carl!" At those last words, the creature dissolved back into flame, which was drawn down into the hole, with the trapdoor slamming shut and then vanishing, leaving the floor totally unmarked.

The clerk behind the desk waited a few moments before flicking off a speck of dust from the cover of the folder on his desk, and then he cleared his throat to get the attention of the man staring with bulging eyes at the intact floor where the demon had appeared. In an even tone, the office worker inquired, "Perhaps you'd like to hear about the alternative--"


"I didn't even tell you what it is!" sharply pointed out the rather taken-aback clerk to the man having just screamed that interruption.

"I DON'T CARE! IT CAN'T BE WORSE THAN HIM!" again screamed a shuddering Snyder, this time clapping his hands protectively over his protruding ears.

Somewhat put out, the clerk shrugged, and grumbled, "Oh, all right. It can be described in just one word, anyway. To be precise: reincarnation."

Snyder perked up a little at hearing that, even letting go of his tight grip on his ears. The man said a little doubtfully, "You mean being reborn as a baby into another life?"

"Not exactly. In order to atone for your actions, your identity will be transferred into the life and mind of another being, sharing his body and experiences, but unable to influence him in any way during your existence in his subconscious. Hopefully, as he helps his friend, a young woman fighting to protect her world from the forces of evil, you'll finally learn and feel tolerance and altruism for those self-sacrificing and heroic females of your species."

"Another meddling girl?" sputtered Snyder, clearly irked about what he'd just been told.

The clerk sighed, and then he sardonically drawled in the manner of an old-fashioned elevator operator, "Going doooooowwwwnnnnn?"

The former high-school principal's hands hastily went back up to again protectively grasp his ears, as he was unceremoniously reminded of what the alternative choice was for him. Finally, the obnoxious man groused, "Okay, you talked me into it."

Right after that, a deep frown suddenly appeared on Snyder's face, as an odd thought struck him. Eyeing the clerk smiling to himself while that person was flipping through the folder in search of a specific page, a man once widely hated by every student at Sunnydale High now cautiously asked, "Am I going to remember anything at all, about myself, my past, when I'm in….him?"

Looking up from the folder, the now-serious clerk sternly shook his head. "Not when you're awake. Occasionally, in your dreams, you and he might share fragments of memories, when you need….incentive to stay upon the straight and narrow."

Snyder sighed with disappointment at hearing this, glumly saying, "Let's just get this over with. What do I need to do?"

With a flick of his wrist, the clerk spun the folder around towards the ex-principal, with this document opened to a signature sheet, and he produced a pen from his shirt pocket, directing the other man now leaning forward and taking the offered pen, "Just sign here. And here. Initial that. That, too. And the last one, there. Welcome to your new life!"

Picking up his pen from where it had been abruptly dropped onto the desktop, the clerk closed the folder, put it back into the drawer, and straightened up to regard with a faint smile the now-empty chair in front of his desk.

Later on, during a lunch with their swapped meals, that same chair was again occupied by someone savoring their '91 zinfandel (a most excellent year). In the process of sipping this, a being all in red looked thoughtful, and asked, "Before he left, did that guy even want to know exactly who he was going to be?"

While dipping a cracker into his bowl of Dorene Ritchey's 5-R Chili (1986 winner of the Original Terlingua International Championship Chili Cookoff in the great state of Texas), the clerk simply shrugged, and scooped up a heaping lump of the spiced food from the sizzling dish on his desk, keeping it precariously balanced onto the cracker while bringing it to his mouth, he then engulfed this morsel, with sweat breaking out on his forehead, and mumbled through his stuffed cheeks an incomprehensible, "Mmmmmrrrfffff."

A gleam of joy that could only be described as 'devilish' appeared in the eyes of this scarlet creature, as he began to snicker, dropping his fork onto the top of his Caesar vinaigrette salad, as he clapped his hands in utter delight. "You didn't tell him, did you?" crowed the ecstatic demon.

Taking a long pull from his Saint Arnold Amber Ale beer bottle, the deadpan office worker studied the person across from his desk giggling to himself, and said mildly, "It simply never came up, though if it had, I would have certainly told him the truth. Thankfully, there was no need, considering how anxious he was to do whatever was necessary in order to stay away from you. We are on opposite sides, you know that." At those words, the clerk's poker face changed into a quite virtuous look. Almost angelic, in fact.

This made the being in the other chair only laugh even harder, until he gasped, "I knew there was a reason I liked you!"

After a few more moments of hilarity, the demon gradually became a bit more serious, eyeing the office worker, and pointing out, "It still could be considered a sin, not telling him. Venial, true, but still a sin. You've probably stuck yourself here for another decade, maybe."

Putting down his empty beer bottle that unobtrusively refilled itself once it landed onto the desktop, the clerk clapped both palms against the sides of his face, and with mock dismay now on his features, he started saying, "Oh, good--," only to cut himself off at his fellow diner's anticipatory wince, to continue with, "you-know-where, I guess I'll just be forced to finish my research on the chilis of southwest Texas, and continue on to the rest of that state. That should occupy my time quite nicely, don't you think?"

Flashing his fangs in a truly pleased grin, the demon picked up his fork again, and stabbed it into his salad, bringing the piece of fresh and crunchy romaine lettuce to his lips. Now it was his turn to talk around his delicious mouthful of food as that underworld dweller stated in a derisive mumble, "Me, if I'd been that guy, I'd have at least found out if I was going to be in a body that was, oh, maybe, just asking, hopefully, an actual….human? Idiot."

At the same time, far down below on the material plane, a redhaired teenage girl currently seated at a table in a Mexican fast-food restaurant glanced over at the squeaking sounds of extreme distress being uttered by the third member of their party. Evident concern in her voice, Kim Possible worriedly asked, "What's he so afraid of, Ron?"

Ron Stoppable, loyal sidekick, pants-loser, his identify totally forgotten by virtually every villain the teenage boy had encountered, paused in the middle of licking off taco sauce from his fingers, and shrugged in bafflement. "Beats me, Kim. He has those nightmares every once in a while, but he's never been able to describe them to me. I figure he's just got something like my own scary stuff when I'm sleeping of an animated taco twice my size and mad about my eating his relatives, chasing me around the school with me in my underwear and everybody laughing at the top of their lungs and pointing at me, all while wearing clown masks."

Kim sighed, and rubbed her forehead, muttering, "TMI, Ron."

More pitiful squeaks came from a Bueno Nacho fast-food container on their table that a few minutes ago had been piled high with cheese-slathered nachos, but now only contained a few crumbs, some grease stains, and a small animal in deepest slumber on his back inside that container, with his front paws pressing against the side of his skull, and his hind legs frantically thrashing, as he fruitlessly tried to escape from his night terrors.

The two teenagers shared an alarmed look with each other, as Ron anxiously reached out towards his pet, reassuring Kim, "Don't worry, this always calms him down." Ron now stuck out his index finger and began to gently rub the ball of his finger against the pink, hairless, bulging stomach of his little companion.

After a few moments, it was shown that this had indeed helped. While he continued to be asleep, a relieved sigh was now made by the small animal, and his rear legs became still, as the nightmare eased into more pleasant dreams for Rufus the naked mole rat.

Inside the little rodent's slumbering mind, he was more than glad enough to stop dreaming about a bucket of water, a lion, and a giant snake.