Go to Hell

Go to Hell

A Story by Michael Carr
"

Bill and Randy go to hell.

"

   

     It was a formal sign. Neat. Tasteful. Elegant. The kind of sign that says "Hey, look at me, I'm better than you." to all the lesser signs of the world. It stood about four feet tall, suspended by a gold pole that shot up from the floor. Ingrained upon a black background in shining silver letters was the following introduction:

 

--Welcome to Hell. No smoking, please--
--Bienevido a Infierno. No fumen, por favor--

 

     Randy and I stood staring at the message. High above us Willie Nelson crooned over a set of loud speakers.
     "Are you freaking kidding me?" I asked, gesturing towards the sign.
     "I know, bit hypocritical of them. Didn't figure Hell's waiting offices were bilingual.”
     "Yes, cause only Americans go to Hell, Randy."
     Randy shook his head. "Don't be so narrow minded, Bill, a whole variety of people speak English. For example, so do the English.”
     "Lot of them down here, are there?"
     "I'm sure they have a decent representation."
     We would have kept on arguing had a striking young woman not approached us. We shut up real fast.
     "Wow.”

     A fiery red skirt and jacket hugged her form. Brown hair drifted down her cheeks and across her neckline, illuminating bright blue eyes. Despite the color, the clothes appeared to be office attire. Her heels clacked against the tile as she made her way across the lobby.
     She spoke in a flat, business-like tone, shaking both our hands in turn. First Randy’s, then mine. "Mr. Bigsby. Mr. Kline.”
     "Actually I'm Mr. Bigsby," said I.
     "And I'm Mr. Kline," said Randy.
     "Of course, please come with me."

     I followed. Randy continued to stare. "For a spawn of the underworld she sure has got a great a*s."
     "Shut up," I hissed.
     "What?"
     "I'm sorry, but I don't think it's smart to make crude remarks about a creature of the night while she's just a few feet away from us."
     "So you're saying I can make lewd comments about her as long as she's not within earshot?"
     "I don't want you to say anything! Come on, let's get this thing straightened out," I said, pushing Randy forward.
     We followed the vixen to the lobby elevator. The lobby itself was pristine. Clean and polished, with columns of marble that rose to the ceiling. The smell of Pine-Sol filled the air. A security guard sat behind a towering desk of carved slate, his head buried in a copy of Anne Rice's latest novel.
     "Hello Gary. Still reading filth, I see," the vixen remarked as she pressed the 'up' button.
     "Hey, not everyone reads Dickenson, Emily,” the guard said, chuckling at his own joke.

     "Not everyone reads," Randy interrupted.

     I kicked his ankle.
     The guard lowered the book with a sigh. Red hair fell in tangles over his pale face and freckled brow. Two crooked horns emerged from either side of his skull.
     "You"" he began and stuttered, knocking aside his coffee as he hastily raised his hand to his forehead, covering them, "Shoot! Sorry, hope I didn't freak you boys out, we're not supposed to show newcomers the horns."
     "It's okay; Harold drove us here," I said.
     His face brightened. He chuckled, lowering his arms and wiping the coffee off his desk into the garbage bin below.  "That must have been a fun ride."
     "Indeed."
     The elevator rang.
     "Step inside, please," our guide said.
     Gary had already returned to his reading. We entered the elevator as our guide pressing the highest number on the switchboard. Seventh floor, ironically enough. Willie Nelson continued to play inside.
     Randy rocked on the balls of his feet, still watching the woman. "May I ask you something, miss?"

     "Of course."
     "Why country? I figured the devil's choice in music would be more..."
     "Violent?"
     "That's putting it delicately."
     I kicked Randy. He ignored me yet again.
     Emily smiled but her face was ghost white, voice shaky.  "Heavy metal and rage music might, well, enrage you, but nothing eats away at the soul more like a slow country song."
     "She has a point," I said.
     Randy shrugged. I could see by the strained expression on his face that he was trying to recall how many Garth Brooks CDs he currently held in his possession. He was thinking for a while.
     "So what's it like working in Hell?" Randy asked.
     "You ever worked for the government?"
     "Yeah."
     "Something like that."
     The elevator button dinged. We'd reached the 7th floor. The doors opened and we stepped into a long, narrow corridor. Randy kept close to Emily. I kept my distance out of fear that he might say something stupid, prompting the demon to burst into flame. You can never be too careful.

     Randy shuffled behind the demon, studying her face. "Are you okay? You look a little upset.”
     "It's these corridors. I'm a bit claustrophobic.”
     "Really? So am I!"
     Emily raised her eyebrows.
     "Not that that's something to be happy about. I used to be, but therapy healed it. Got it from when my brother locked me in our basement for a day. Kids, you know? What about you?"
     "I was imprisoned within a holy artifact for two hundred years."
     Randy bit his lip. "Well…that must've been unpleasant. My basement was pretty dark though."
     She laughed, we walked, Randy talked, and we kept walking.

     Emily continued. She seemed to loosen a bit when she spoke to Randy. It was odd. I’d never really known Randy to get a girl to open up. Most of his conversations with the fairer sex tended to end with a slap to the face.

     “Yeah, it was a while ago. I was only a couple centuries old at the time. Some kooks tried to perform this ritual and trap my dad and a few other demons in this big box.”

     “Like Ghostbusters, but for demons, right?” Randy asked.

     So much for the charmer. I covered my face with my palm, trying to disassociate myself.

     “I guess so. Anyways, Dad rescued me. Took him a while to find me. Guys really didn’t want to be found. Then again it probably would have been less painful for them if they’d given me up sooner.”

     “I’d do the same thing if anyone ever took my girl. Your pop sounds like a standup guy,” I said.

     “That’s one way of putting it.”

     Randy glanced over at me, a confused look splashed across his face as he pondered the girl’s remark. I shrugged, thinking it best not to dwell.

     “So how’d you guys get here?” Emily asked.

     “It’s a long story.”

     “It’s a long walk.”
     I checked my watch but it was dead. I'd forgotten about the whole 'time doesn't exist here' deal.

     “Alright…” I said, clearing my throat.

 

***

 

      I woke with a sharp pain in my chest. Randy lay beside me. I sat up with great difficulty and studied our surroundings. We were in a desert, lying in the middle of a hot asphalt road. Randy stirred with a grunt.
     A long line of skid marks ran across Randy's forehead down to the side of his neck. He groaned as he massaged his temples. His face wasn't deformed, it was still as plain and uninspiring as always, yet the marks remained, despite him rubbing his Van Halen shirt over his sweat drenched cheeks, hissing in pain from the apparent aftereffects of head butting an automotive grill.
     "Jesus, I feel like I got hit by a bus," he said.
     "Randy, we were hit by a bus."
      It was a truck, to be more precise, but I exaggerate for effect. My chest was burning. I rolled my shirt up. On the skin below my ribcage was the imprint of a custom license plate for a Texan owned 4x4 truck. LVR BOY, it read. Of all the guys that could have hit me, I got the one d********g who names his plates after a gay porno from the early 70s.
     "Bill?"
     "Yes Randy?"
     "Are we dead?"
     "I believe so."
     "Crap."
     I scanned the barren land. Dirt and sand as far as the eye could see. A tumbleweed bounced across the road, heedless of our presence and content to go along its merry tumbleweed way.
     "Where are we?" Randy asked.
     "Hell if I know."
     "Looks like the set of The Road Warrior."
     "That the one with the Braveheart dude?"
     "Yeah."
     "He dead?"
     "Not to my knowledge."
     "Then how’s about we focus on the problem at hand?"
     A horn sounded; the same type of horn used by the college students who party too much. That annoying fiesta jingle. We truly were in Hell.
     From over the horizon a massive rust colored bus emerged. Most of its windows were broken, its sides smeared with dry mud. A set of steer horns sat mounted on the fender. Written across the top in black spray paint were the words ‘Hell Bus’. The vehicle crawled to a stop in front of us.
     With a hiss the doors swung open. From the driver's seat a creature arose. His teeth were long and sharp, stained black as a midnight cave. His eyes blazed, horns arching around his shoulders. He towered over us as he leaned forward, mouth wide and fangs bared.
     "Welcome to the Hell Bus, partners! Name's Harold, I'll be drivin' ya today," he said in a thick country accent, sticking out his hand in welcome. My reply was somewhat less hospitable.
     "AGGGHH!"
     "Bill..." Randy whispered, apparently embarrassed by my reaction.
     "AGGGHH!"
     "Oh yeah, sorry ‘bout the horns, mister, forgot to hide 'em."
     "AGGGHH!"

     I figure I fainted somewhere around that point.


***

     I woke on the bus, my head smushed against a fine leather seat.
     "Randy?" I muttered, wiping a smear of drool away from my chin.
     "Hi Bill. Hey Harold, he's awake!"
     "What?"
     Randy appeared beside me, followed shortly by the Hell Bus driver.
     "Was worried ya hurt yer noggin' on that fall. Don’t seem to be any damage. Jus’ take it easy durin' the ride."
      The driver's horns had vanished along with his fangs. His red eyes remained, but as a softer hue. A Hawaiian shirt adorned with patterns of dancing horned ladies covered a beer belly slung over a belt far too tight. He shook my shoulder, snapping my neck from side to side, and returned to the steering wheel. The vehicle appeared to have been in motion during the entire conversation. I laid back, listening to Randy and Harold discuss the benefits of manual and automatic transmissions.
     The vehicle, unexpectedly, was clean and well kempt, the inside resembling a luxury Greyhound bus. The soft hum of the air conditioner mixed with the grinding of the aged engine. Aside from me and Randy, only one other passenger was riding; a mousey, bald man with an oversized black top hat and the air of someone important. The fact that he was dressed only in his boxers detracted from that air. He sat with his hands folded neatly in his lap. I figured it best not to engage him in conversation. I glanced back at Harold.
     "So you're a demon, right?"
     "Yep."
     "Where you taking us?"
     "To see the Big Man," Harold replied.
     "The Big Man? You mean God?"
     "No, not God, Ya think God hangs out round here? Nah, we're going to see Satan."
     Randy stopped fiddling with the tread tracks on his face.
     "Satan? As in: 'Prince of Darkness', Satan? As in: 'tortures mortals into insanity', Satan?" I asked.
     "Relax. He ain't that bad. Quite nice actually, all ya got to do is get on his good side."
     "How do I do that, kill a puppy?"
     "No. No, he got over that phase.  Jus’ don't piss him off and you’ll do fine."
     Randy scooched closer, his arms crossed and resting on the seat.
     "So how long you been doing this, Harold?"
     "Hmm...‘bout eight hundred years. I just love the open road. I tell ya, it never gets old."
     I glanced out the broken window at the desert that surrounded us.
     "Yeah, lot of variety to the scenery."
     "That there is," Harold continued, either ignoring or not catching my sarcasm, "so what you fine gents do fer a livin'?"
     "I'm an accountant," I said.
     "Thrillin' job, eh?"
     "Yep, blows the mind. Randy here's a dentist."

     “I prefer the term ‘Licensed Orthodontist’.”

     “I know you do, Randy.”
     "What about you, partner?" Harold asked, glancing at the boxer wearing man.
     The man looked up, tipping his top hat back so we could see his face. His left hand remained in his lap. "Me? Oh, I'm a serial rapist."
     Randy's mouth fell open. Harold shrugged.
     "Just kidding! Got you good, didn't I? I'm really a lawyer."
     The man chuckled to himself and pulled his hat back down, whistling the theme from “Leave it to Beaver”. Randy met my eyes and smiled.
     "I think I liked him better as a rapist," he said.
     I kicked him.

***

     "I can't believe I'm in Hell," I said, rubbing my hands across my dry and crusted eyes.
     "Don't feel too bad, partner, it ain't all that bad."
     I cocked my head at the Hell Bus driver. "Really?"
     "No. No, I'm lyin', it's pretty horrible, least fer  humans."
     Overhead the stars, or whatever they were, twinkled in the sky. It was night. That is not to say it was actually nighttime. Remember, time does not exist here. I only mean to say that it was dark outside. Randy and the boxer man were both sound asleep. Only Harold and I were unable to rest.
     "But the thing is, I never did anything wrong. I love my family and my children. I've never killed or stolen, never cheated on my wife. I've never even gotten a parking ticket."
     "Sounds like something you should take up with the Big Man."
     "You mean Satan?" I asked.
     Harold smiled, lifting his hands from the wheel which continued to steer itself.
     "No. I mean God."
     "Thanks."
     "Don't mention it. If what ya say is true, then ya got nothin' to worry ‘bout."
     I stared at the empty plains. A sign that read “ped-xing” whooshed by. I appreciated the irony.

     “I miss them already,” I whispered.

     “What’s that?”

     “My family. I miss them. It’s my daughter Sarah’s birthday Tuesday. I’m the only one who knows where her present is hidden. Now who’s going to give her the talking Patrick Star doll?”

     “What’s a birthday?” Harold asked.

     I shook my head. “You’re kidding me, right? You don’t have birthdays in Hell?”

     “Not to ma knowledge.”

     “Well what do you do when someone close to you gets a year older?”
     “Try not to bring it up?”

     “Wow.”

     Harold pulled down the mirror flap above his seat. A set of pictures were taped to the inside. A chubby little boy with foot long horns sat atop Harold’s shoulders. A woman with a puffed out perm and a plus sized t-shirt that read ‘I’m with Stupid’ stood beside Harold, her arms wrapped around his waist. “That there’s ma star. The wife, Doreen. Tike’s name is Ronald. Good kid.”

     “He’s got your horns,” I said.

     “That he does, and ma charmin’ personality, if I might be so bold as to say. He’s gonna be a hit with the ladies when he grows up. Hard to believe in just twelve hundred years he’ll be drivin’ and gettin’ into trouble.”

     “Twelve hundred years? That’s a long time.”

     Harold kissed his hand and touched the picture before flipping the flap back up. “Maybe, but it don’t seem like it.”
     "You know something, Harold, for a demon, you're a pretty nice guy."
     "Common misconception, my friend, most of us hell spawn are pretty decent folk. It's you humans that make this place so dangerous.”
     I laughed. The driver joined me. I shut my eyes.


***

     "Well boys, we're almost there!" Harold shouted, honking the party horn and waking me from my slumber.
     Up ahead stood three shining buildings, contrasting harshly with the blazing desert sand. A large sign hung from a single lamppost.

 

--Welcome to Hell's Assignment Offices. Please enjoy your stay.--

 

     Randy watched as we neared the clandestine structures.
     "Wow. What are they for, Harold?"
      "Well, two are used to assign ya to yer sector of Hell based on the degree an’ severity of yer damnin' sins. Ya know, firs’ circle's the best, seventh circle the worst. One's fer people with last names A to L, the other M to Z. Looks like you two will be takin' the firs’ buildin'. The one on the right. Mr. Leonard, you'll be on the left."
      The boxer clad man nodded.
      The bus slowed to a halt between the two assignment buildings. I glanced up at the tallest structure situated behind the offices. Hundreds of decorated balconies stuck out against its bleached frame. Tacky pink flamingos and peppermint patterned parasols graced them. Credence Clearwater Revival blared through a set of distant speakers.
     "And what about the third one?" I asked.
     “That there’s where me an’ ma fellow demons live."
     I turned to the driver and held out my hand. He grasped it. "It's been nice knowing you, Harold."
     "You too, partner. Good luck clearin' yer names."
     Behind us, Mr. Leonard had risen. He passed by and stepped off the bus, turning to face us. A silver handcuff hung loosely from his left wrist. He raised his right arm and removed his top hat, bowing. A bullet hole passed from one side of his head to the next, allowing us to see through his forehead to the buildings beyond. He smiled and returned the hat to his head, covering the wound.
     "Pleasure meeting you gents," he said, and with that, turned and began to make his way toward his designated building.
     I met Randy's gaze and shrugged. Sometimes things are best left to the imagination.

 

***

 

     I finished my tale and glanced over at Emily.

     “That’s about it, I guess.”

     “Wow. That was a long story.”

     “And this is a long walk.”

     We’d been traveling for what seemed to be hours down the same stretch of corridor. Our guide had increased her pace. Finally, a doorway came into sight. We stopped before the entrance.
     The frame was simple but sturdy. A plaque nailed into the wood read the following:

 

     --Satan. Prince of Darkness. Lord of the Underworld. CEO of BP Corporations.--

 

     A fuzzy welcome mat with a picture of Garfield lay at the foot of the door.
     "Here we go," Emily said, rapping lightly on the entrance.
     The door swung open and we entered the Dark Lord's office.

***

     I have to admit, Satan has style. The office was cozy and extravagantly decorated, no surprise considering who it belonged to. An oversized desk stood in the middle of the room, topped with neatly organized stacks of paper and a set of silver ball bearings. Numerous photographs of famous politicians adorned the walls, Richard Nixon most prominently featured. A hint of cinnamon floated in the air. And there, behind the desk and resting in his easy chair, sat Satan.
     First of all, he wasn't red. He had no tail, no hayfork, no pointy black beard; he was simply an unbelievably good looking man. His skin was bronzed, his slickly combed hair a deep shade of black. He wore a suit of pure white, even the tie. He stood and shook both our hands. "Lovely to meet you, Mr. Bigsby. Mr. Kline."
     "Actually I'm Mr. Bigsby," said I.
     "And I'm Mr. Kline," said Randy.
     "My mistake. Please take a seat.”
     He motioned towards the two chairs in front of the desk. Emily hovered behind us. "Anything else I can do for you, sir?"
     "Emily, how many times do I need to tell you, it's okay to call me Dad at work. I'm fine."
     Randy's jaw flew open. I offered an awkward cough which, as it turns out, doesn’t tend to help much in those kinds of situations.
     "Okay then. I'll see you later, Dad."
     Emily turned and opened the office door.
      "Goodbye, Mr. Kline," she said with a smile, and left.
     Randy's face was on fire. He attempted to cover his crimson cheeks. We waited in silence. The Dark Lord sat with his hands clasped together, studying us. I don’t think he ever blinked.
     "Can I get you boys something? A sandwich perhaps? Some coffee?"
     "I'd love a sandwich," Randy said.
     Satan snapped his fingers. A puff of smoke arose from the center of the desk top. When it cleared, the area was still vacant. Satan pulled open a drawer and removed a plastic bag from its depths. Inside were two white bread sandwiches.
     "No magic tricks here, gentleman. My daughter Emily seems to think that I don't eat enough. Silly girl makes me three a day.”
     Randy reached across the desk and took a sandwich from the bag, shoving the treat into his mouth.
     "Wow. This is great, Mr...Satan?"
     "Call me Frank. Everyone does. Take a sandwich, Mr. Bigsby."
     I stared at the lone sandwich within the confines of the zip lock bag. It seemed to mock me.
     "That's it, a free sandwich? No strings attached? I don't have to sell you my soul or anything?"
     Satan smiled. A soft chuckle escaped his lips.
     "Just take the sandwich.”
     I removed the sandwich from the bag, raising it up and nibbling at the corner. It was delicious.
     "Wow, this is great! What's in this?"
     "Human liver," Satan replied.
     Randy and I proceeded to spit half chewed pieces of bread and meat across the deck. The stylishly dressed demon laughed hysterically, clutching his sides. "I'm kidding, I'm kidding! It's tuna. You should've seen your faces."
     I laid the food down. I'd lost my appetite. Randy continued to stuff his face.
     "It's just simple, everyday tuna. But this is the afterlife after all, special spices and the works, you know the deal."
     "Yeah."
     Satan cleared his throat. "Before we begin, is there anything you would like to ask me?"
     "You gonna eat that?" Randy questioned, pointing to my sandwich.
     "No, go ahead. You sure seem to be pretty involved in politics, Frank."
     Satan nodded. "Indeed, especially during the 60s and 70s. Vietnam was so inspiring. So much corruption and scandal. Gosh, Nixon was fun to mess with."
     "You and Nixon?"
     "Oh yeah, me and him, like two pieces of a puzzle. We drifted apart after the whole Watergate Scandal. He went all saintly, building shelters and libraries and 'supporting the communities', but it didn’t matter in the end. I still own the b*****d. Not as many backdoor dealings with me today as you might think, but I manage to grab an unknowing soul now and then. How do you think Bush beat Gore and Kerry? Nice kid. Dumb as a stump, but a nice kid. Anyways, I'm babbling. You were saying?"
     "Do you happen to know how to get in touch with God?" I asked.
     "This again,” Satan groaned, rubbing his brow. “Every day someone wants to meet him. The Prince of Darkness is sitting right in front of you, yet all you care about is having a little chat with God. Besides, I doubt he'd have much interest in speaking with you," he said.
     "Why?"
     "What with you two being mass murderers and all."
     "Wait...what!?"
     Randy spat sandwich for the second time.
     "Would you please stop doing that?" Satan asked, sweeping stray crumbs into the waste basket beside his desk.
     "We're not mass murderers!"
     " Of course not. Neither am I."
     "Look, Randy and I""
     "Randy?" Satan interrupted, turning to the hungry dentist.
     "Yeah, Randy and I""
     "Your name's not Sam Kline?"
     "No."
     The demon began to shift through a stack of papers. "And you're not Richard Bigsby?"
     "That's my cousin," I whispered.
     Randy scratched his chin. "Holy crap, Richie's a killer? That's a mild surprise.”
     "Mild?"
     "Well considering all the crazy stuff we've seen today, demons and hell buses and such, it's not that much of a stretch. I tell you, your next family reunion's going to be very awkward."
     Satan raised his hand. Randy fell silent.
     "So you're not Samuel Kline and Richard Bigsby?" he asked.
     "No."
     "Huh...that's a shame."
     "A shame? I'm not supposed to be dead!" I said.
     "Don't worry, my friends, I'll have a nice talk with the Big Man to see if we can sort this whole mess out."
     I shook my head, making sure I didn't have any gravel still stuck in my ears.
     "You talk to God?"
     "Now and then, we're still acquaintances."
     "Didn't you try to overthrow him?" Randy asked.
     "Just because I try to destroy him every millennia or so doesn't mean we don't converse anymore. Plus, I want to have something to gloat about next Thanksgiving. His offices handle the death times, but none of those screw ups has ever landed someone down here. Normally this would be fixed quickly, but we don’t have the funding they get. This must be their first mistake in days."
     "Days?"
     "Well what do you think happens when someone whose heart has stopped for two minutes suddenly reawakens, healthy as a horse?"
      Randy stuffed the last of the sandwich into his mouth.
     "So what do we do now?"
     "I'll give you the keys to a guest room in the employee apartments. You should hear back from me within a few days."
     Satan reached into his back pocket and produced a small, silver key. He placed it in my hand.
     "Well thanks, Frank. You know you're not so bad," Randy said.
     The demon smiled. "Yes I am."
     The two of us rose from the easy chairs. Satan placed his hand on Randy's shoulder, delaying his exit.
     "You go on ahead, Mr. Bigsby, I'm gonna have a little chat with your friend. Just head down the hallway and out the building, I'm sure you've seen where the hotel is."
     "Alright. See you in a bit, Randy."
     "Bye, Bill."
     I exited through the doorway and started down the hall.

 

***


     Satan and Randy stood alone in the quiet office. As the demon paced, Randy noticed that Satan wore what appeared to be open toed sandals over a pair of white socks, but thought it best not to comment.
     "Mr. Kline. Randy. As I'm sure you know, I'm well acquainted with the idea of human lust. It's a wonderful thing. My favorite sin. Brings out the most primal animal instincts in us all. Please take a seat."
     Randy was forced backwards into the easy chair. Satan spun to face him. The chair shifted forward, dragging the office rug with it. Randy was slammed into the desk, pinned between hard cedar and soft fabric.
     "Did I do something to upset you, Frank?" he gasped, struggling to breathe.
     Satan's eyes had darkened to a cold, soulless black.
     "Listen to me closely, Mr. Kline. I saw the way you looked at my daughter. I want you to know that if you give into, I should say embrace, your lesser animal instincts, if you touch her, I will cut off your nuts and feed them to you. Trust me; it hurts just as much down here as it would on Earth. Are we clear?"
      Randy nodded, his lower lip trembling.
     "Do you have anything else to say?" Satan asked.
     Randy swallowed hard and glanced across the desk. "You have any more of those sandwiches?"
     Satan eyes returned to their original shade. He smiled. The chair slid back into its original position.
     "Of course, can't eat tuna and mustard in a white suit. You may go."
     Satan tossed a bag containing a single sandwich towards Randy. Randy stood, clutching his back with one hand while snatching up the plastic bag with the other, and exited the office, shutting the door behind him. He turned to leave, breathing a sigh of relief that ended in a whimper.
     He was face to face with Satan's daughter.

 

***

 

     “"and once you get used to all the screaming it’s not such a big deal.”

     I glanced up from my trance and returned to my conversation with Gary, the demon security guard.

     “So what’s it like on Earth?” he asked.

     “Honestly?”

     Gary nodded, eyes lit with curiosity, fiery hair bouncing.

     “It’s a lot like here, I guess, as far as what you guys look like. A lot more trees and grass and convenience stores.”

     “Convenience stores?”

     “Yeah. You know, like a grocery store but smaller.”

     “Grocery…?”

     “You’ve never read about them in those books of yours?” I asked, nodding towards the towering stack of novels underneath Gary’s desk.

     “Oh, I don’t read books.”

     “But just a while ago I saw you flipping through one.”

     Gary smiled sheepishly and tapped at the pile with his foot, knocking it over. He bent down to reorganize. “Yeah, I do that when I’m bored, which is often. And people tend to ask less of you when they think you’re reading. It’s like you’re too smart to be bothered.”

     I sighed and rubbed my eyes, muttering to myself. “You and Randy would be good friends.”

     “What’s that?”

     “Nothing.”

     “So how’re you enjoying your stay?”

     “As much as you can enjoy being dead.”

     Gary nodded. He pulled a pencil and notebook out from a drawer and scribbled across it, knees raised and blocking my view.

     “I always wondered, what’s it like?” he asked.

     “What is what like?”

     “Dying.”

     I clicked my teeth together, trying to think of the best way to answer the question. “Well, it hurts, I’d say that’s probably a distinguishing characteristic, but not always. A big bright light and then darkness. And then more light. Pretty much what I expected. I’d imagine it can be really bad, but sometimes it can be like...I don’t know…like falling asleep after a really hard day’s work. Only when you wake up you’re in Heaven. Or in the middle of the desert, whichever’s more appropriate. I guess demons don’t have to worry about that. ”

     “We do.”

     “Demons can die?”

     “Yeah, you humans too once you get here, though it sounds like it’s a lot different from what you guys go through. I mean I’ve died three times already.”

     “Do tell.”

     “Well the first time was kind of embarrassing. See I went out on my room’s balcony, naked except for a pair of socks on my horns"”  

     “You know what, I think you can skip to the ‘what happens when demons die’ part,” I said, shuddering as I tried to shake the image from my mind.

      “Well for us it’s not much of a big deal, more of an inconvenience really. You just kind of drop down into the next level. And there’s all this paperwork you have to fill out to get a transfer back to your original position. Real hassle.”

     “And what about humans?”

     “Humans tend to stay there unless it’s a big deal. We kind of have a good behavior thing where people who don’t cross the line get promoted up a circle. But still, a circle of Hell is a circle of Hell. You’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.”

     “So you die here you drop one level down, kind of like a video game?”

     Gary furrowed his brow. “Video game?”

     I turned and made my way out the building. “Just read, Gary, read and you’ll know.”

     The blinding sun hit me like a searchlight as I walked out towards the hotel. The radio on the balcony above had switched to a more soothing style with a rendition of “What if God was One of Us?” I pulled out the set of silver keys Satan had given me and spun them around the tip of my finger. The sound of rushing water hit my ears as I stepped inside the lobby.

     In the middle of the floor sat an exquisitely carved stature of what appeared to be a shirtless Ben Affleck fighting off a mountain lion, standing knee deep in the fountain. A stream of water shot out from the fangs of the beast as well as the double barreled shotgun Ben held in one hand and the crying mouth of the innocent child he kept safe in the other. I made my way to the front desk, eyes locked upon the sight.

     “What…the…f"” was all I managed before a familiar voice interrupted.

     “A beaut, ain’t it?”

     I turned to see Gary sitting behind the front desk. He wore a gray suit with large golden buttons, his security guard outfit abandoned, red hair covered by a Concierge hat. In his lap sat a mammoth textbook discussing what appeared to be the Theory of Quantum Mechanics.

     “How can I help you?”

     I glanced back at the form of the assignment building I’d exited just a few minutes beforehand, stumbling over my words and pointing listlessly back. “Weren’t…weren’t you just…just there?”

     “Room 713, right? The mistransfers? Boss phoned ahead so you’re good. Elevator’s around the corner. When you exit, room should be the third on the right. Feel free to call if you need anything,” the demon said, not once lifting his eyes from the complex text.

     I turned and made my way to the elevators, glancing back once at the fountain before I stepped on. Ben appeared to now be locked in a battle with some hideous snake-haired beast, though it may have just been a scene from Gigli.     

 

***

    
     "Oh...uh, hi. Uh..." Randy sputtered as he backed away from the girl, resisting the urge to clutch his testicles for safekeeping.
     "Emily."
     "Yes…Emily. Sorry. I'd best get going."
     Emily giggled. Her business demeanor had vanished. Randy's fear melted away.
     "What's that you've got there?" she asked, pointing to the bag.
     "Nothing. It's just""
     "Relax, I know my dad doesn't eat the sandwiches. In fact I think he might be a vegetarian."
     "What an image," Randy said.
     The two stood quietly. Randy was aware of the awkward silence. He broke it.
     "Well I'd better get going."
     "Of course," Emily said, stepping aside.
     Randy skirted his way past the demon and began to make his way down the hall. He stopped, shuffling his feet and running his hands over the plastic encased delicacy. He sighed.
     "What the hell."
     He turned back. "Emily?"
     "Yes?"
     "I have a few days here before I leave. Big shocker, turns out I’m not supposed to be dead. Case of mistaken identity. Anyways, I was wondering...would you, uh… would you like to eat out? I mean like…like get some food somewhere?"
     Randy expected to suddenly find himself without testicles. Nothing came. He waited for the vixen to reject him.
     "You want to go out? Like a date?" Emily asked.
     "Not so much a date as a casual meeting of minds...yeah, a date.”
     "Aren't you afraid?"
     "Of what?"
     "Of me! I'm a demon! How do you know I won't feast on your heart the moment you arrive?"
     "I'll take my chances," Randy said.
     Emily's eyes brightened. She spoke cautiously. "What about my father?
     "Oh, he scares the crap out of me, but I think I can handle it."
     "You're really not scared?"
     "I don't have much to fear right now. I'm dead."
     Emily nodded and clasped her hands together, swaying slightly. She straightened, brushing back a strand of auburn hair that fluttered across her cheek.
     "Okay. You can come by my room, number 713, around eight."
     Randy stuttered. He rubbed the back of his neck.
     "Your, umm…your room? I figured we'd go out to a restaurant or, you know, something of that manner."
     "Trust me; you don't want to eat the food at our restaurants," Emily said.

     “How will I know when to arrive? Bill told me time doesn’t exist here.”

     “It does. I think his watch is just broken.”
     "Okay then, eight o' clock?"
     "Eight o' clock."
     Randy turned and stumbled over his own feet, catching himself at the last second. His face blossomed. He looked back to see Emily smiling.
     "Almost tripped," he said.
     "I saw."
     "I'll be going now."
     "Bye, Randy."
     Emily entered her father's office, closing the door behind her.

 

***


     Randy was halfway down the hall when he stopped in his tracks.
     "Wait a minute, what the hell did I just do?"

***

     "You did what?”
     Randy sat on the hotel bed, flipping through the TV channels, unaware of my presence. A mound of clothing scavenged from the closets of our room lay beside him.
     "Have you seen this TV? Jesus, it's nothing but reruns of Big Brother and The Bachelor. This is torture."
     "Randy."
     "And the film selection…they all star Ben Affleck."
     "Randy!"
     Randy groaned and let the remote drop. "Okay, I may have asked Satan's daughter out even after he threatened to tear off my manhood and feed it to me. I also may have endangered our chances of ever getting back home.  Is that what you wanted to hear?"
     "Yes."
     "So do you feel better?"
     "Of course not!"
     "Then what do you want from me?"

     “I want you to sit your a*s down and watch TV until Satan can get us out of here.”

     “No way.”

     I grabbed Randy by the scruff of the neck and threw him back. He bounced off the bed and rolled to the side. I waited for him to rise.

     “Randy, you’re my bud, but I will hurt you if I have to!”

     I advanced cautiously, peering over the edge of the bed. Randy was gone.
     “How the"” I began, but never had the chance to finish.

     A shadow rose. Randy leapt from his position atop the bed and onto my back. I stumbled forward, waving my arms from side to side.

     “How did you do that?” I grunted, spinning round and knocking Randy into the TV, tipping it forward. It fell with a thunderous crash, glass shattered with a thin puff of smoke.

     I ceased my struggles and stared at the broken television set, Randy still hanging from my neck, legs locked around my torso. The front door swung open and Gary entered, dressed this time in a ratty repair man’s uniform and a backwards cap. He held an identical TV set with a clipboard resting on top.

     “Good evening, sirs,” he said as he placed the new TV atop the stand, plugging it in and checking the channels.

     He handed me the clipboard. “Just sign here.”

     I scribbled my signature as best I could, seeing as how Randy still hadn’t let go. Gary scanned the form and nodded, gathering up the smashed TV and opening the door to the hall.

     “First replacement’s complimentary; try not to play so rough, you two,” he said and exited without another word.

     I stood still, absorbed in a sudden brain fart. Randy took the opportunity to poke me in the eye, snatch up his pile of clothes, and race to the bathroom, slamming the door in my face.
     "I'm sorry, Bill, but I'm going,” he said, voice muffled by the door which prevented me from tackling him.
     "You're not. You're not going to put me at risk. I have a family, remember? You have a...a cat. What do you think will happen to Mittens?"
     No reply from the other side. The door swung open and Randy stepped out donning a new set of clothes. A horrid purple jacket, Leonard Skinner T-Shirt, at least a century old set of dress pants, and, lest I forget, a piano key necktie. I forgot my urge to smack him long enough to try and disguise a thin smile.

     “It’s all that fit,” Randy said.

     “Oh, I’m sure she’ll love it.”

     Randy shook his head and stared at the mirror, fiddling with a stray hair. "Bill, you're my best friend, you should have seen her when we spoke. She's beautiful. More beautiful than anything or anyone I've ever seen. I feel something, man. She saw into me; into my heart."

     “You have got to stop acting like a poet.”

     “I thought it sounded pretty good.”
     I shook my head and stepped aside. "Get out of here, Randy."
     I grabbed hold of his shoulder as he passed. "She'd better be worth it.”
    The door to the guest room opened and shut. I flicked on the tube and tuned into Pearl Harbor. On TV, Ben Affleck fell in love, fought for his life, and cried like a baby, all without once changing his facial expression.

***

     "You know, I've never spoken to a human after they entered my father's office."
     "Really?"
     "Not a one."
     Randy sat beside Emily on a threadbare rug. She was dressed in a set of purple pajamas patterned with moons and stars. He looked strangely out of place in his mismatched wardrobe.
     "You should have worn your old clothes. You look ridiculous," Emily said, snickering.
     "You're one to talk. Who goes on a date in their pajamas?"
     They laughed together. Randy watched as her hair danced across her eyes. He felt at peace.
     "Do you hate us?" he asked.
     "Who?"
     “Us humans. The creatures this place is built for."
     "Of course not."
     "Really?"
     Emily smiled. "When I was a little girl, this was centuries ago, I would watch humans down on Earth. I would see the vileness, the corruption, the evil, sure, I got enough of that from my father, but I also saw the good. I saw the boundless love you humans feel for one another. The love that unites families and civilizations. The same love that begins wars across the seas and ends in death. I used to think it was silly that two people would rather die together than live apart, but as I grew, I learned that you humans are no worse for wear than us demons. You have faults, you fight, you argue, you die, but it’s the lives you lead that make me admire you so."
     Emily stared into Randy's eyes. "Come here."
     "What?"
     "Come over here," she said, beckoning him.
     Randy pushed the TV trays aside and sat in front of the beautiful girl. Emily raised her hands and shook them lightly. She steadied them on either side of Randy's face. Her breathing quickened.
     "Emily?" Randy asked, a little uncertain.
     "Shh."
     From the middle of her palms a soft glow emerged. It started weakly then grew into a blinding light. She placed her hands upon Randy's face. Warmth spread through his body, dripping through his limbs. He felt swallowed by it. Enraptured. The glow died.
     With a gasp Emily lowered her arms. She sat still, catching her breath. Randy said nothing. Emily stood and walked out of the living room, leaving him alone. She returned, clutching a small vanity mirror to her chest. She dropped to her knees and tossed him the mirror.
     "Look into the glass. See your reflection," she whispered.
     Randy grasped the mirror's handle, drumming his fingers along the sides. "If you made me break out in boils, I'm gonna kick your butt."
     "Just look."
      Randy raised the mirror to his face. It was normal. The tread marks from the truck that had ended his life had vanished. He rubbed his hands over his cheek. The dull pain that had sparked whenever he did so was gone. He laughed in shock.
     "How""
     "I'm a demon, remember?" Emily replied with a smirk.

***

      I lay on my back, rubbing my hand over my chest and tracing the name of the 70s skin flick imprinted there.
     "It's not so bad, this Hell place. Aside from the fire and brimstone and Ben Affleck marathons, it's not so bad," I whispered, fully aware that I was alone inside the room.
     Who was I kidding? It was exactly the same as on Earth, just a little bit worse. The people never smiled, the food's always burned, but the worst was my family and knowing that I wouldn't be able to wake up beside my wife every night if something went wrong. Not kissing my daughter as she drifted to sleep beneath her SpongeBob Squarepants bed covers. Only two more days, however long that was down here.
     "Reminiscing, Mr. Bigsby?"
     Satan sat at the foot of my bed.
     "Jesus Christ!" I shouted, toppling to the floor.
     "Careful with the blasphemy. Not the best place for it."
     "That's funny," I said, climbing back atop the mattress, "I figured this would be the perfect place for it."
     Satan shook his head and stood, meticulously straightening his suit.
     "You mortals are so naive. You're closer to God than you ever were before. You may be condemned, but that does not mean he has stopped loving you. Either way, you'll be close to him from now on."
     The words rang through the air.
     "What?"
     "Your entry into Heaven has been allowed. Bit proud of how quickly I managed to pull it all together. Turns out the Big Man already knew about the slip up. I tell you, nothing gets past him."
     "I can't go to Heaven."
     Satan paused in the midst of fixing his collar. He rubbed his ears.
     "I'm sorry; I don't think I heard you correctly."
     "I need to get back to my family."
     Satan's lips pulled back to reveal a sly grin.
     "You can't go back, Mr. Bigsby, you’ve been dead for far too long. It’d be against the rules."
     "F**k the rules! You made a mistake!"
     The demon leapt forward, his hands locking around my throat. His eyes blazed with unholy fire.
     "Do not raise your voice to me. Do not tempt me to destroy you. Do not. You think because you are in hell you cannot die again? You can. And believe me it is a much more horrible fate than what we have here. I could fling you into the fires and laugh as I watch you burn."
     His hand tightened. I began to choke.
     "You cannot go back. You can never go back."
     "What if it was you?" I asked.

     The pressure loosened. I stared up at the Dark Lord.
     "What if you were separated from your child, knowing that you will never see her grow? Or love?"
     "You humans know nothing of love."
     "You're wrong."
     "You can never feel true love. Never."
     "You can give me a chance," I whispered, "for my family I'd walk through fire. I'd brave the towering inferno."
     Satan relinquished his grip. I dropped to the floor, coughing and rubbing my bruised neck.
     "What would you give to be with them?"
     "Anything."
     "Even your soul?"
     "Anything."
     The darkness in the Satan’s eyes faded. He held out his hand and pulled me to my feet.
     "I'm not going to take your soul, Mr. Bigsby; I'm going to speak to the Big Man again. I'm not promising you your life back, but I'll give it a shot."
     "Why the sudden show of kindness?" I asked.
     "It's not kindness, Mr. Bigsby. You are a father, just as I am, and you owe it to your daughter to be there for her. To raise her."
     "You don't have to call me ‘Mr. Bigsby’. Bill is fine."
     The Dark Lord chuckled and made his way to the front door.
     "Enjoy the rest of your stay, Bill," he said, exiting the room.

***

     "Why’s your closet empty?"
     "Been going through my stuff, have you?"
     Emily and Randy sat together on a faded couch. They sipped at cups of warm cocoa that Emily had prepared.
     "No. The door is wide open. Only thing you have in there is a stopwatch. How come?"
     Emily shook her head. "It's stupid.”
     "Tell me."
     "You remember what I told you about my claustrophobia?"
     "Of course."
     "It's not just that. It's the dark. Can you imagine? A demon afraid of the dark. I was trapped for so long before my father saved me."
     Randy pushed back her hair. "Two hundred years locked away. It's nothing to be ashamed of."
     "I try to stay in there, try to make it longer each day, but I still feel the fear. The terror. When you go numb from it, you can't move, and it's awful."
     Randy rose from the couch, taking her hand in his. "Come with me. I'm going to help you."
     "No, you're acting ridiculous," Emily said, pulling away.
     "You can't let this haunt you."
     They stood before the closet. The color drained from Emily’s cheeks. She tightened her grip.
     "I can't do this, Randy."
     "You can."
     "Please""
     "It’s okay. You can look at me. Look at my eyes."
     She met his gaze. Her blue eyes, an angel's eyes, absorbed him.
     "I never lied to you," he whispered, "I'm still a bit claustrophobic myself."
     Her smile was divine.

     "Nothing will happen to you. I promise."
     "Okay."
     Randy led her into the closet and shut the sliding door. He held her hands against his chest.
     "You ready?" he asked.
      "Yeah."
     The lights went out. Darkness surrounded them.
     "Just hold my hand."
     Emily began to shake. She tightened her grip. Randy continued to comfort her.
     "I'm here. I'm here. You are not alone. I’m here."
     "I'm scared," Emily said, her voice cracking.
     "Speak to me. Tell me what you feel."
     "I feel fear. Alone. Like I'm lost in the darkness."
     Randy rubbed her cheek. "I won’t let you go. Nothing will take you."
     Emily's breathing grew more frantic. Her chest shuddered with each breath she took.
     "Aren't you scared?" she asked.
     "I am, but you’re here. You’re here to keep me, and I you. I’m safe."
     "I have to go, Randy. I can't make it."
     He pulled her close. "Listen to my heart. Focus on that and nothing else. Listen to it beat. I’m still here as long as it beats. I’m still here for you."
     Emily placed her ear to Randy's chest and listened to the soft rhythm of his heart, counting the beats. Her breathing slowed. She ceased shaking. She glanced up through the darkness, not seeing Randy's eyes but knowing they were there.
     "Better?" he asked.
     Without another word she moved up and kissed his lips. Randy felt that he was in heaven and that everything would be all right so long as he held her. The two embraced as the stopwatch ticked away.

***

      I knelt before the hotel bed, hands clasped together and head bowed. The TV droned on, but I shut it from my mind. I began to pray.
     "Lord, you may not hear me, you may not even know me, but I know you. I am your servant, your follower, and I trust in you.”
     I cleared my throat and continued.
     "I never had much, never cared to. I gave everything for my wife and child. Everything. I need them. I have to be with them. My death was not meant to be. I don’t know if you exist here in this damned place, but I have to try."
     My mouth was dry.
     "I can't do this, Lord. I can't live without them. I can wait, but not forever. So I ask you now, a man on the brink, to let me back into the world. Let me live again."
     Tears rolled down my cheeks. Bitter. "I am prepared to take my life if all is lost. I will not stay here. I will not enter the light. I do not care what happens to me. Without my child, without my love, I am nothing."
     I continued to kneel. The TV went on. I was alone.
     "Please."
     From down the hall the screaming started.

***

      "I have to go."
      "Don't. Just stay a while longer."
      Emily and Randy stood beside the door to her room, each not wanting to let go of the other. Emily whispered in his ear. "You're leaving now, aren't you?”
     "I'm not supposed to be dead."
     "No""
     "But I can handle a premature passing."
     Emily stepped back. Randy stared into her swirling eyes. Blue like the sea.
     "What?"
     "I love you, Emily. You're the sun, the moon, all the stars in the sky."
     Emily laughed, tears falling at the same time. "You're so lame.”
     "I never said I was a romantic. Not even a hopeless one."
     "You could be a hopeless romantic if you really tried."
     They kissed. Randy opened the door.
      "I'll see you later," Emily said, closing it.
      Randy stood staring at the doorway for the longest, wondering if there was anything else he should say. He smiled and rubbed his face. The warmth of Emily's touch still lingered. He turned to leave and froze. The blood in his veins ran cold as ice.
      He stood face to face with Emily's father, the Prince of Darkness.
     "Mr. Kline," Satan said.
     "Frank."
     "You realize what you've done?"
     "I do."
     "You understand the consequences?"
     "I do."
     Randy stepped away from the entrance. Satan's eyes were back to their fearsome shine.
     "You're not the first man to disobey me."
     "Did any of them ever tell you to piss off?" Randy asked.
     "That would be a first."
     "Then piss off."
     Satan advanced upon Randy. His teeth lengthened, ending in sharp points. His neatly combed hair unraveled.
     "You know not true anger, Mr. Kline."
     "Call me Randy."
     Satan raised his hand level with Randy's heart. His outstretched fingers closed into a fist.
     Randy gasped, clutching his chest. His heart beat faster and faster, pounding against his ribs. He couldn’t breathe.
     "I love her," he cried.
     "Humans are not capable of love. You lie, you hurt, you cheat, and you kill. That is why I admire your race. But you are not capable of love."
      Randy fell to his knees, his hands on the floor.
     "I...love""
     Randy rolled onto his back, staring up at the demon whose daughter he adored. He smiled as his heart slowed to a stop. He whispered to himself. "She no longer fears the dark.”
     Satan lowered his hand. "What did you say?"

     He swooped down, hovering over the man.
     The door of the apartment swung open and Emily stepped into the doorway. She glanced from her father to Randy. Satan ignored her, repeating the question.
     "What did you say?"
     But Randy was already dead.

***

     Emily had been screaming for some time when I arrived at her apartment. Satan stood in the corner, back turned to his weeping daughter. I stared down at the body of my best friend. I guess I lost it then.

     I leapt forward and knocked the Prince of Darkness down, slamming my fists into his face. He laid there and took it, blow after blow, his expression never changing.
     "I'm sorry," he said.
     I kept punching. The only one who could get me home was being pummeled by my fists, but I kept going. I could hear Emily shouting.
     "Stop!"
     I froze, poised to deliver another blow.
     Emily sat beside Randy, her hands over his chest. She breathed steady, her eyes closed. The glow rose from her palms. I backed away from Satan, watching as his daughter worked. Satan sat up; his hair tussled but his face unscathed.
     "Emily?" he asked.
     "Shut up."
      The glow reached its peak. Emily pressed her hands to Randy's chest. The light spread through his body, filling his form. Emily arched her back as it died, her eyes shining. Her breaths slowed. She bent down, her ear to Randy's chest. She laid there waiting. Waiting for some sound. She wept, holding the dead man.
     "I love you."
     From far away the sound arose. A single beat. Another. The rhythm started. Randy's eyes flew open and he gasped for breath. Emily kissed him again and again as he struggled to rise. He looked around in bewilderment, staring at me and Satan.
     "Took you long enough, Bill," he said, glancing over at his killer, "you kick his a*s for me?"
     I nodded dumbly. "Yeah. I got him pretty good."
     "Yeah," Satan agreed, his mouth slightly open.
     Randy raised his trembling hand and pointed towards the Dark Prince.
     "And you...are a son of a b***h."
     Then he passed out.

***

     I stood outside Satan's office, ear pressed to the door. The muffled voices inside spoke hurriedly, giving me nothing to latch onto. The door swung open and I stumbled back, tripping on the mat featuring a cat who hates Mondays. Satan's head poked out from behind the door.
     "Listening in?" he asked.
     "Trying to."
     He stepped outside and offered his hand, helping me to my feet for the second time.
     "Sorry about putting the beat down on you, Frank."
     "It's fine, didn't feel a thing. Sorry about killing your friend."
     "It's fine, but I'm probably not the one you should be talking to."
     Satan sighed. "I know," he said, "don't think Emily will ever forgive me."
     "Give her some time. You've got plenty of it."
     "For a human, Bill, you're ahead of your kind."
     "That's good to know."
     Satan stared off down the hallway. "He really does love her.’’
     "I thought you didn't believe in love."
     "I don't believe that you as a species can experience it truly and wholly, but who knows? Who cares? My daughter loves that man, that dentist, and that's all that matters."
     I listened as a demon spoke of love. It was a profound thing.
     "Did you ever love anyone?" I asked.
     "I did. A long time ago."
     "Who?"
     "The Big Man."
     "God?"
     "Yes, and he loved us, all of us. We were his children. His family."
     I shook my head. "Didn't you try to overthrow him?"
     "You could say we had a little fight."
     "But you loved him."
     Satan nodded, tightening his tie. "With everything I was, I loved him."
     We stood in silence, absorbing the moment. It was awkward. Satan coughed, returning to his business-like tone.
     "Speaking of the Big Man, I've just finished talking with him in my office," he said.
     "God's in there?"
     "That’s right. He's arranged for a single transport back to life."
     "Single? What about Randy?" I asked.
     "I don't think he has any plans of going back."
     I understood.
    "There's a bus waiting out front to take you home."
     Satan and I shook hands.
     "It's been nice knowing you, Frank."
     "And you, Mr. Bigsby."
     Satan turned and entered his office, closing the door behind him. I glanced inside, just before it shut. Sitting in the middle of the office, dressed all in white and donning the same top hat and handcuff set on his left wrist, was Mr. Leonard. He turned and tipped me his hat. The bullet hole was gone.

***

     The Hell Bus sat out front, rumbling as it waited to be boarded. Smoke spewed from its backside. Randy stood beside the vehicle, picking at his teeth.  He straightened when he saw me approach.
     "Look Bill, there's something I need to tell you"" he began, but I waved his words aside.
     "I already know."
     "What?"
     "Satan told me everything."
     "Huh..."
     I slapped him on the back. “Don't worry, man, I'm proud of you. You found someone you love and you're staying with her. There's nothing better in this world. I’ll take care of Mittens."
     From the hotel entrance, Emily emerged. She waved in our direction.
     I noticed Randy glancing over my shoulder.
     "Go on, man."
     Nothing more needed to be said. I watched as my best friend returned to the woman of his dreams, the sweetest demon in Hell.
      I stepped inside the bus. A towering beast sat in the driver's seat, its horns and teeth grotesquely twisted. It turned its head towards me, red eyes ablaze.
     "Hey Harold," I said, taking my seat.
     "Hey there, partner, looks like yer headin' home. Where's the other guy?"
     "Fell in love with Satan's daughter, decided to stay here with her."
     "I hear ya."
     Once again I couldn't tell whether or not he believed me.
     Harold flicked a switch and the doors to the bus shut. The fiesta horn roared.
     "Let's hit the road!" he shouted as the Hell Bus pulled out of the driveway.
     I watched as Randy and Emily waved me on. I thanked the Big Man for all he'd done. I was heading home.


© 2011 Michael Carr



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Reviews

This was a brilliant story, Michael. Unlike Drew, I think it's great. It was very humorous and locked me in at the very beginning, especially with the description of the "Welcome to Hell" sign. It's one of the best stories I've read thus far on WC. I also loved the bit the read:

--Satan. Prince of Darkness. Lord of the Underworld. CEO of BP Corporations."

BP humor is always good. As well as Ben Affleck and his horrible movies. The bit about him and the description of hell reminded me of Stewie from Family Guy's stay in hell.

I must point out a few mistakes, though. I remember you wrote somewhere near the beginning, Randy's name as Ricky. Change that back to Randy. Also "One's for people with last names A to M, the other L to Z." should be "A to L, M-Z", as L comes before M. I also don't really like the line "Go to her." It seems clichéd and typical in terrible romantic comedies.

Other than that, I even liked the third person format with Randy. Here's so dim-witted, it would have been funny to know what he was thinking, but it's better to just let Bill take the lead. He's the smart one and the negotiator and it's better fitted to let him have the only first person role.

All in all, a fantastic story. Can't wait to read some more.

Posted 6 Years Ago


Good story, and congrats!

Posted 6 Years Ago


Bahahaha(((:
I'm sorry if this is not what you wished for me to say in my review
But out of ALL honesty,, It was really damn good(:
I love stories that have the natural humor of real life,
It adds onto the irony(:
I remember thinking to myself at the beginning... "I'm going to have to make this review more critical and thoughtful"
But you critiqued me somehow, within this writing.
It was very inspirational,
so much to learn in such a small story(:

Keep up the great work,
Agnes Cross

Posted 7 Years Ago


d****t, they won't let me give you 250pts!! this was an excellent story, had me from the get go, and the narration was flawless...awesome

Posted 7 Years Ago


this is an excellent piece! it held my attention from beginning to end. just fantastic. i loved every line of it

Posted 7 Years Ago


this is funny stuff

Posted 7 Years Ago


Excellent work, very sharp and witty. It's nice to see more comedys about Hell. I wrote one, incidentally. Check out my book Jack's Inferno on my page. I've got the first two chapters and random excerpts posted. And yes, I just plugged my own book on your review page. Sorry, kind of a dick move, but hey...whatever. Check it out. I think you'll like it. The tone is similar and I think Jack would get along well with Bill and Randy.

Posted 7 Years Ago


0 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Okay, so I'm just going to say: I rarely read stories on the internet. I'm much too impatient. However, this held my attention to the end, and I kept on getting mad that I had to use a scroll bar that worked much too slowly, and I had to be drawn out of it for even just a second.

You have a great sense of humor throughout the entire piece, create depth in your characters, and overall have a very balanced style of writing. Great dialog and plot.
The only thing that even remotely irked me was that it was a short story, rather than a longer one. For two reasons: One: well I didn't want it to end. Two: it seemed a little iffy that Randy would stay in Hell for a girl he just met.
But other than that, excellent write. Definitely going into my favorites.

100/100

-Coral-

Posted 7 Years Ago


Funny, creative, unique. I very badly want to make this a short film... message me if you'd be ok with that. Excellent job.

Posted 7 Years Ago


this story was an absolute delight! i loved reading it and i was entertained throughout the entire read. you have a definite style of writing that ive noticed in some of your other stories and i greatly enjoy it. keep writing so i can keep reading awesome stories like this

Posted 8 Years Ago


2 of 2 people found this review constructive.


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1372 Views
35 Reviews
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Shelved in 12 Libraries
Added on August 20, 2008
Last Updated on June 25, 2011

Author

Michael Carr
Michael Carr

Prosper, TX



About
My name is Michael Carr. I'm 20 years old now, god help me, attending UTD on a full ride scholarship in the Biology pre-Med program. IF YOU ARE READING THROUGH MY WORK FOR THE FIRST TIME, PLEASE HE.. more..

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