Hell’s Department of Suffering and Horror, in conjunction with the Lake of Fire Institute and the Ceaseless Misery Foundation, is now accepting proposals for the next plague or nightmare to be inflicted on the United States, tentatively planned for the 2022-2023 academic year.
Interested applicants should submit a detailed proposal, three recommendations from people who can attest that you have ruined their lives, and a $40 application fee.
We are looking for exciting proposals that take into account the current American context, explain the nation’s weaknesses, and elucidate how you will exploit those weaknesses to create a full-blown horror show.
The Department of Suffering and Horror (DSH), founded in a pitch-black cave amidst writhing snakes over two millennia ago, has worked to bring some of the worst pestilences to the pitiable affairs of humanity. DSH has worked with professionals as various as corrupt merchants, money-changers, false prophets, rogue assassins, weapon inventors, and rats to make horror not an event but a way of life. While its activities have been global, its focus on bringing dread and misery to the United States has been significant in the 21st century. We look forward to seeing what kind of self-propagating, out-of-control nightmare you come up with.
We encourage you to look at past proposals for inspiration, but not to reach for imitation. After the success of recent shitshows such as Fox News, Social Media As News Source, and Donald Trump, you may feel tempted to devise further ways to spread lies and dangerous propaganda. But also consider the possibility that Lies—Except More of Them and Louder is a saturated category, and you may want to try a different tactic to make reasonable people look around and say, “Is this actually happening? In 2022?”
For instance, when we saw a proposal a dozen years ago named Woodland Insects: America’s Next Terror?, we couldn’t help but chuckle. It seemed impossible that parasitic arachnids could cause anything except a minor annoyance. But the proposal impressed us, we funded it, and now look what’s happened: ticks everywhere, Lyme disease behind every corner, people going hiking in long pants and socks in the middle of summer, dogs bringing a nearly undiagnosable disease onto the couch, people scratching their scalps and saying, “Honey, can you check this?”
Paranoia, pervasive discomfort, disease, no solution in sight: who could help but feel pride at these results?
Besides considering unexplored areas of woe, we encourage you to consider “piggyback proposals.” For example, we’ve always known that Employer-Based Health Insurance is a fiery furnace of despair, bringing naught but anguish on all who gaze at its infinite wrath, so we thought nothing more could be done to worsen its burning hot embers of desolation. Then we read a proposal simply titled Health Insurance for Self-Employed People: Nothing Is Covered and It Costs As Much As Rent, and knew we were wrong.
Does this contradict our earlier advice to shy away from crowded categories? Well, perhaps! Maybe the most straightforward advice we can give is this: surprise us, impress us, make us shiver uncontrollably while vomiting. We believe in you.
Those who submit proposals with significant promise may be asked for revisions if they lack focus. Two hundred years ago, we received a nightmare proposal called The State of Florida. We were intrigued by the premise—“create a whole state that, top to bottom, is a kingdom of disquiet and dire havoc”—but it was clear that crucial details were missing. So we worked with the author, connecting them with researchers, politicians, real estate developers, criminologists, religious leaders, storm gods, and city planners to flesh out the proposal and make unaccountable chaos rain down on the Sunshine State.
Successful applicants will be invited to Inflame & Engulf, a week of training, networking, and inspiration with peers and mentors whose commitment to unrelenting tempests is surpassed only by their marriage to unstoppable immolation. Located in an underwater volcano, Inflame & Engulf is, according to exit surveys, one of the most valuable and horrific parts of our program. (The dance party on the final night is particularly memorable, and we look forward to this year’s theme, Please Someone Make It Stop.)
Despite the successes of recent proposals—Everything Is Suddenly Way More Expensive for Some Reason, War in Europe, and Reactionary Supreme Court—we know more can be done. And we know that resistance to our ideas can be fierce. We look forward to reading, incinerating, and throwing the embers of your proposal in a dry forest.