“I don’t know,” Chuck said, staring at the wall of fire ahead of him. “It looks a little painful for a living room.” Several sharp, metallic hands seemed to be reaching out of the flames toward him, as if they wanted to stab into him. A deeply burned couch rest haphazardly beneath it.
“Painful, shmainful. These guys wouldn’t hurt you if you asked them to. They’re harmless.” Stan shot his left hand out toward the metal fingers, then immediately pulled it back without touching them. “See? Harmless.” He wasn’t wrong, they didn’t harm him. They didn’t really have an opportunity to, unless they moved at near the speed of sound, but they hadn’t hurt him. Chuck couldn’t argue with that logic. If there was one thing to say about Stan, it was that he was a good realtor and an even better salesman.
“And the fire? Is that included?” Chuck honestly wasn’t a big fan of fire. He’d once burned his palm by putting it down on a stove, and that was an electric stove. If it had been a gas heated stove, he was sure he’d probably be dead.
“Yes, absolutely included. It gives this place kind of an edge—you know? It’s something fresh. Bet you won’t find that back on any house on Long Island.”
“Probably not,” Chuck said. He hadn’t ever seen a house that was deliberately on fire, although he had seen houses on fire. His neighbor’s house had once caught fire in the middle of the night. His ex-girlfriend ended up sleeping with one of the firemen that helped put out that fire, but not while he was putting out the fire. Chuck wasn’t ever really sure if the two events were related, in that maybe Carla really was turned on by people she once saw around house fires, or if she was just a raging whore. The question certainly bothered him.
“Exactly. Come, let me show you the bathroom,” Stan said, turning back toward the kitchen. They’d already spent time in there, Stan explaining why it wasn’t necessary to have an oven. “It’s Hell, buddy. You can literally cook anything you want by just taking it out of the refrigerator. Thirty seconds later, it’ll practically be overdone.” He’d demonstrated by placing his wallet down on the kitchen counter, which immediately burst into flame. “See?”
The house was pretty nice, especially for one located in the middle of Hell. Chuck hadn’t originally been looking for homes in the Hell area, but rather for ones around western Long Island and Queens. He’d stumbled upon an ad on craigslist for a great two bedroom apartment in Bayside for just $900/month that had piqued his interest. When he called, though, the realtor admitted that the apartment was no longer available—however, he did have a great alternative in Hell. Chuck wasn’t entirely sure why he accepted the tour, but he did.
“Careful of that,” Stan said, pointing to a disfigured creature crawling above the kitchen skylight. Chuck had always wanted a skylight, ever since he was a child. The creature slammed its fist against the glass, a clear liquid leaking out from between its jagged teeth. He could definitely do a lot of relaxing while staring up at the blackened sky of Hell through such a skylight.
“The skylight comes with the house, right?” Chuck said. He’d never heard of a window not being included in a sale, but he wasn’t entirely sure what the standard bargaining options were like in Hell. The last apartment he had purchased was all the way in Brooklyn, where people spent most of their time drinking coffee rather than being tortured and raped for an eternity. He didn’t think there would be any harm in asking.
“Of course, skylight is included. You might have to replace the glass…,” Stan said, murmuring something at the end of the sentence.
“What was that last bit?”
“You may have to replace the glass likeeverysingledayprettymuch—anyway, here we are. The master bathroom. What do you think?” It was very nice, the walls dark maroon and the floors a pitch black tile. He kind of wanted a bit more color in a restroom, but he couldn’t ignore how beautiful the room was. He didn’t mind having to spend a bit extra to retile it. White and blue would look pretty good.
“It’s very nice,” he said, searching the ceiling above him. It seemed to be rotating slowly, as if made of nebulous, black clouds. He was pretty sure something was staring back at him through the haze.
“Nice? This thing is gorgeous. Look at this sink,” Stan said, pointing toward the sink in the corner. Chuck wandered over and stared down at it. A small, white eye stared back up at him from where the drain should be.
“There is an eye in it.” The eye winked at him. Or perhaps it blinked at him. Chuck wasn’t entirely sure, considering he could only see one of the eyes.
“And this shower,” Stan said, grabbing Chuck’s arm and quickly turning him around. “This is big enough to fit four people. You look like a guy that might need that,” Stan said, winking.
Chuck was always very uncomfortable showering around other people. He once had to shower in the gym and wore his bathing suit to make it easier on himself. Unfortunately, he ended up tripping over the step into the shower and sliding across the floor. The friction pulled his suit down below his knees. He spent the next half hour lying on the floor, waiting for EMTs to strap him to a stretcher and take him to a hospital with two broken ankles. He never had the opportunity to pull his pants back up.
“I don’t really like showering with multiple people,” Chuck said. He placed his hand against the glass, which was hot to the touch. More than just hot, in fact, burning hot. He quickly pulled his hand away, the burning sensation only growing in pain. “That really hurts,” he said, grabbing his fingers with his other hand and squeezing.
“Oh, don’t worry about that. It’ll go away in an hour or so. You get used to it. Better than being in Arkansas, though, right?” Chuck shrugged. He’d never been in Arkansas before, but Stan seemed to be pretty sure about that.
“I guess so,” Chuck said. The burning sensation in his hand continued to increase, regardless of how hard he squeezed it with his other hand.
“I want to show you one last thing,” Stan said, placing his hand behind Chuck’s back and pushing him through the door back into the kitchen. Chuck glanced up at the skylight, which was now cracked. The creature was no longer there, but glass and blood covered the floor beneath. Stan continued pushing Chuck along, subtly kicking the glass aside as he walked. They stopped beside a thick, black design on the wall.
“What’s this?” Chuck said. He felt like he’d seen the object before, but couldn’t be entirely sure. It was a star with a circle around it, several strange markings on each one of its tips. A goats head stared at him from the middle of the star, its eyes following him as he moved. The shape reminded him slightly of the Old West, like something a sheriff might wear. He smiled, thinking that he might be living in an old Sheriff’s station. That would definitely be a huge selling point for him.
“This, my friend, is one of the perks of living in Downtown Hell.” Stan lifted his hand and placed it against the object. It responded with a massive, painfully loud click. The wall began to rotate, a bright orange light appearing in the eyes of the goat.
“What’s going on?”
“Chuck, my friend, let me present you with your own personal demon portal. It allows you to summon one demon as your servant, and comes included with the house.”
“A demon, huh?” Chuck had always wanted a pet, but was hesitant. He didn’t think he had the time to really dedicate to raising an animal, let alone a damned soul. “That’s a bit time consuming, no?”
“No, not at all,” Stan said quickly. “It’s nothing at all. You basically just tell them what to do and they do it.”
“What about food?”
“They don’t eat, and if they ask for food you can just beat them.” Chuck tilted his head. He’d never hit someone before, although he had once accidentally opened a car door into a pregnant woman. To be honest, Chuck wasn’t entirely sure if she was pregnant—she could have just been fat. He was afraid to ask her, though, as it may have exacerbated the situation. As it were, the fat, pregnant woman was already very, very angry with him.
“I don’t do violence well,” Chuck said.
“They like it, trust me.” Stan bent down and placed his face closer to the portal. “Demon, I summon thee.” The portal slowly turned darker, the goat’s head swirling in a hypnotizing circle. A single, gray hand reached out, followed by another. A large, horned head poked out next, jagged teeth piercing through tattered lips. Its chest was torn open, rips splayed apart and still heart visible. It seemed to have no legs, instead pulling itself out of the portal by its decaying, boney hands. Stan quickly kicked it back into the portal.
“Sorry,” he said, “sometimes they come out kind of retarded. But you can get some great demons. I hear you can even get Satan.” Stan winked. “So, anyway, what do you say. Do you want the place? Remember, offer ends right now. This is literally the only chance you’ll ever have at this apartment. Now or never. Tick, tock.”
Chuck turned back toward the wall of fire outside the kitchen. The metal hands were beckoning him over, their pointers curling inward as if calling out to him.
“The wall of fire comes with the house, right?”
“Sure does. More fire than you can ever imagine or want. In fact, this house is mostly made of fire. All included. And it just costs you one soul. An apartment in the city will cost you at least twice that,” Stan said with a laugh. He handed Chuck a clipboard, which seemed to appear out of nowhere.
“Well,” Chuck said, “sure, why not. I’ll take it.” If Carla was actually interested in men who interacted with fire, there was no way she wouldn’t take him back. If it turned out she was just raging whore, at least he wasn’t living in Brooklyn anymore. As far as Chuck could tell, it would be a win-win. He grabbed the clipboard and scribbled his name on the line, careful not to make eye contact with the creature staring out at him from beneath the couch in the living room.