The man in line a few places ahead of Vincent Curby was an odd sight to behold. He was tall, dirty, with unwashed hair that held random leaves and a wrinkled, skinny body that was visible to all around him because he only wore a pair of stained underwear and a single slipper. However, unlike Vincent, he did have his ticket.
The hall was lined with dark red wallpaper and the occasional old framed picture. Everything seemed to have a layer of dust or a damp smell to it. On top of everything else behind the ugly, poorly applied, peeling wallpaper sounds of scuttling emerged as the people in line shifted their feet.
Vincent tapped the shoulder of the heavy-set man in front of him saying politely, “Excuse me.”
“Yes,” said the man turning around.
“I am sorry to bother you, but I was wondering where you got that?”
Vincent pointed at the red ticket clutched in the big man’s sweaty hand.
“You sayin’ you don’t have a ticket?”
“Well, no not yet.”
“That ain’t good.”
“No, so why don’t you tell me where you got your ticket and I’ll go fetch one.”
“Well, let’s see here… um … you know I don’t rightly remember.”
“Come again?”
“It just seems like I’ve had it for a long time. But I don’t recollect where I got it from.”
Vincent frowned slightly then said, “Well, have you at least seen a place to purchase one?”
“Nope, I’ve just been in line here. Name’s Dale Bonter, what’s yours?”
“Vincent Curby.”
“Good to meet you, Vincent.”
“Yeah, you too, do you at least know what we’re in line for?”
“Couldn’t tell ya.” Dale stuck his head around the side, but he couldn’t see the lines end. “Many people, maybe a convention or a movie opening or something. I once stood outside a movie theatre for six hours just to get a ticket.”
“That’s dedication.”
“I love my movies.”
“I just wish I knew what this line was for.”
“I’m sure we’ll figure it out soon, see, lines movin’ already. Anyways I shouldn’t get too anxious to get to the front if I were you, Vinny, not havin’ a ticket and all.”
Vincent laughed. “You’re right, what the Hell am I getting in a hurry about?”
The next part I’ll skip with little to no comment as it is a rather dull time-consuming area where minimal happens. Vincent and Dale chatted pleasantly as the line moved forward at a snail’s pace. After what certainly seemed like decades to Vincent the start of the line finally appeared.
Sitting on an old wooden chair in front of a large lime green and black striped door was a grumpy, balding little man with thick glasses. He tore people’s tickets, grumbling at them out of the side of his mouth before they entered through the green and black door. Not until Vincent was only a few places from the front could he hear what the man was saying.
“Crooked lawyer huh? Got a lotta you guys down here, go through the door, suit wearin’ asshole. And you? Rape and murder I should’ve figured. Look at ya, ya ugly bastard, get through the door. What about you, string bean? Oh, you held a woman in your basement for years.”
“It’s not what it looks like,” said the guy in line, “she was my sister.”
“Yeah, that makes it a lot better. Get through the fuckin’ door you sick fuck.”
The skinny man in line slumped his shoulders then proceeded through the door. It was now Dale Bonter’s turn, he slowly handed the little man his ticket. The man took it muttering, “What about you, crabapple pie?” He ripped Dale’s red ticket in two, then said, “Scammed old bags out their life savings, huh? Funny. Through the door.” Dale took his stub, nodded at Vincent and went through the door.
“Ticket, ticket for fuck’s sake!” the man growled.
“I do apologize sir, but I don’t seem to have one,” Vincent said, smiling sheepishly.
“I said—”
“I know what you said, but everyone here has a ticket, asshole. That’s why they’re here.”
“Again, I apologize, but I don’t and what exactly is this place?”
“Well, it used to be a river called Styx and I was tortured for a millennium by sitting in a rickety splintery boat. Now, it’s a hall and I’m tortured by sittin’ in a rickety, splintery chair with one leg shorter than the rest all the time dealing with dog’s asshole eating fuckers like you. Now ticket!”
“Again, I do not have a ticket. And are you saying that behind that green and black striped door is Hell?”
“Yes. And the door frankly looks different to everyone because everyone’s Hell is unique like my Hell is this situation.”
Vincent straightened up and said, “Well, I don’t mean to be a problem. It’s just I don’t have a ticket, here I’ll turn out my pockets.” Emptying his jacket, pants and even shoes nothing was found, but lint and a handkerchief.
“Fine, you don’t have a ticket. Maybe I can guess your sin. You seem like a murder man to me maybe even a family member. Which was it: patricide, matricide, sororicide, fratricide, avunculicide, mariticide, menticide, prolicide?”
“Dear me,” Vincent said making a horrid face, “I don’t even know what most of that is.”
“Fine, looks like I’m gonna need some higher powers.”
A burnt-out looking woman behind Vincent said, “You mean God?”
“Yes,” said the man in the chair, “you’re in Hell and the higher power is God? Son of a bitch, is your reason for being here fucking stupidity?”
There was a short, sweet, and profane conversation on a landline located on the hall wall. Then Vincent was told in so many words to go through the door. After proceeding through hesitantly, it snapped shut behind him quickly like the jaws of a rabid dog.
Looking around, Vincent realized he was in another hallway, but this time it seemed to be located in an office building. Doors were all up and down the hall hundreds on each side. Picking one Vincent turned the knob and opened it. He was met with a blood-curdling scream and someone yelling, “Please God, no more!” Vincent said sorry quickly and closed the door again.
A strong hand grasped his shoulder and Vincent nearly screamed himself. He turned to see a man waiting pleasantly for him. I feel here more than anywhere else in the story a description is warranted because the man waiting for Vincent had no lower jaw. On top, his face was completely normal, but under his nose and top lip his tongue wiggled restlessly and the remainder was simply a festering puss filled wound that ate away down deep into his neck and chest. Not knowing what to do Vincent complimented the man’s shoes.
Without responding the man led him down the long hall to a particular door. The half-faced man went in first and sat behind a small desk then pointed at an inner door. Vincent opened the door and saw a grey-haired woman sitting behind a large desk.
“Your secretary told me to come in,” Vincent said.
“Then don’t just stand there holding the door open. Sit for shit’s sake.”
Vincent followed her instruction, saying, “You another tortured soul?”
“No. I’m a demon, you dumb fuck.”
Pointing at the nameplate on her desk he said, “A demon named Darlene?”
“It’s just my human name. Policy while consorting with humans we use human names because your species doesn’t have the compacity to pronounce my true name.”
“Oh, interesting…Darlene.”
“Yeah, shut the fuck up.”
Pulling a file from a large cabinet behind her Darlene said, “Okay, let’s try to fix this.”
“What’s that?”
“Your file.”
“Ooh, does it have all my pre-school infractions?” Vincent said joking.
“Vincent Edgar Curby, born October 28th nineteen-fifty occupation… cafeteria worker?”
Darlene looked at Vincent over the file, he adjusted his bowtie nervously. “I work in the kitchen or since I’m here, worked in the kitchen at South Hinchley Elementary School. You know, giving the kids their daily slop.”
“Uh huh… weird.”
“What’s that?”
Putting down the file she said, “Something’s not right here Mr. Curby. You show up here without a ticket and now looking in your file I see you don’t have any death date.”
“What’s that mean?”
“You’re alive, Mr. Curby.”
“Then what am I doing here?”
“I don’t know. I’m going to have to get in touch with the higher ups on the totem pole even maybe the man in charge as this has never happened before. In the meantime I’ll answer your stupid questions, humans always have stupid questions. You do, don’t you?”
“Let me make a phone call then. I’ll answer them.”
When Darlene hung up the phone Vincent started in fast.
“Why isn’t it hot in here?”
“The air conditioner’s on.”
“Are my parents here?”
“Not according to your file.”
“What about my cousin Dale, he was a dick?”
“He’s here.”
“Why do you have an office and not off torturing someone?”
“Because I’m in management, others are torturers.”
“Is the Devil red with a tail and horns?”
“When he wants to be.”
“Is all of Hell just a series of doors?”
“No, that’s simply just what you’ve seen so far. Look out the window.”
Vincent looked where she pointed and saw a window that he wasn’t positive was there before. He got up and looked out, it was just like a town. There were buildings, and streets where which demons and tortured souls all went about their business all under a blue sky with ashen clouds. “Amazing,” was all Vincent could get out.
Meanwhile, as Vincent enjoyed the view of Hell, a good ways south in a large black stoned building a nervous-looking little demon adjusted his glasses and told his boss the situation.
“How’d he get here without a ticket?” Lucifer roared at the demon.
“I don’t know sir, no one does.”
“Well, get rid of him. No ticket. No admittance. This is Hell, not some place for undesirables.”
“Yes, sir, but it’s not that simple. It seems that Heaven has heard and they have expressed interest in him.”
“Really? Why? Does he have a ticket to the wet wiped gates?”
“No, sir.”
“What an enigma, I’m starting to like him. Well, they can’t have him. Send a message up to the cloud footed fucks saying he’s now a citizen of Hell and if they want him, they’ll have to deal with me.”
“Yes, sir.”
Darlene got a phone call explaining all that was needed to be done. Once she pulled Vincent from the window, she laid out what was happening.
“It has been decided that we will offer you a deal to resolve this issue.”
“What kind of deal? A deal with the Devil? Or is it a deal with Darlene?”
Darlene ignored Vincent’s comment and continued. “In exchange for becoming a resident of Hell, we will offer you whatever you desire.”
“That’s it, just for remaining here?”
“Yes, no Heaven or Purgatory.”
“What exactly is Purgatory?”
“A timeless void that I hear is like falling down the rabbit hole for all eternity.”
“So, what do you want, Vincent Curby?”
Adjusting his bowtie, Vincent said, “There is something I’ve always thought would be wonderful.”
“Name it, Mr. Curby.”
It was smack dab in the middle of downtown. Just like he’d always dreamt it, down to the black and white striped awning. The painted letters on the picture window said it all: The Hell Hole Candy Shop Twisted Confectioneries from the Bowels of the Abyss. A little different than how he first imagined it, but beggars can’t be choosers.
A demon walked in making the bell over the door ring. Vincent popped up from behind the counter and said, “Hello, there. We got a special today on pus filled gummies and lollypops with razor blade centres…”


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