Underwater, a hollow feeling, and blackness all fade away with thunderous claps. I come to and spit up water on myself. The room is dim, but not entirely dark. The ground in carpeted, warm, and smells of sandalwood.
The claps continue, each throwing my conscience forward past the water, past the darkness.
“Bravo,” A smokey voice calls from somewhere. “Bravo indeed. Charles, right?” I’ve never heard this voice before. Powerful, yet I’m lost within. I can trust this person. They already know who I am. I cough more and sit up feeling my cold face and wet hair.
The room is elegant. A rich dining table dominates the room. To the right a fireplace, above a chandelier. There are two chairs, one’s occupied. Windows face me on the opposite wall. Outside is… fire. Unrelenting flames lick the windows threatening to break in.
“Please, Charles. Come sit beside the fire, and warm your weary bones.” The man in the chairs says, gesturing to the other open chair. “I’ve been waiting for quite some time for a bit of company.”
I cock my head, sure this is a dream. Some last stand of the frontal lobe fighting off the finality of death. I approach, noting how real the carpet feel on the soles of my feet. Well done brain, I think, you’ve really outdone yourself this time.
I make out more of my host as I get closer. Middle-aged, salt and pepper sideburns, a handsome face. There’s something in his eyes though– they’re off. He smiles as I take my seat.
“I do believe a congratulations is in order, Charles.” He says, patting his smoking jacket down.
“Who are you?” I say, accepting the cigar he’s pulled from his jacket.
He turned and looked towards the window. “Isn’t it obvious?” He laughs “They don’t make fire like that, where you’re from. You’re dead. And I’m Satan. The Devil. The fallen one.” He paused, and reaches for my arm. “Don’t be alarmed though. I’m not evil nor am I malicious in any sense of the word. That’s all just poppycock that your black-robed ‘men-of-god’ spread.”
His hand on my arm feels warm. Almost electric. He clips my cigar and lights it effortlessly. I puff watching the glow down the ridge of my nose. The scene is just so that I take him at his word. I relax and drink in the heat from the fireplace behind me.
“So if you’re Satan, I’m dead,” I say. Satan nods along. “Then this is hell. I’m in hell?”
“That’s a bingo.” He says. A devilish smile spreads across his face. “This is hell. It’s warm. It’s fun. And it’s all mine. No. Scratch that. It’s all ours.”
“What do you mean our’s?” I say, squinting.
He throws his head back and cackles. “Well Charles. You’re the first person that’s ever come to hell. It’s just you and I, pal.”
Faces of the immoral swim through my mind. Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pot. Each one smiles flying past my mind’s eye. “But what about–”
Satan cuts me off. “No, I can see what you’re thinking. Perks of being me, I s’pose. And none of those assholes ever got in here. There all up,” His eyes roll up, “there.”
“Well yeah.” Satan says. “Another common misconception about my relationship with God. They say that if you’re good you get to go see him in his endless kingdom. Funny enough, that’s a mistranslation.” Satan smirked. “It really says that to be good you must see his endless kingdom. So Hitler and all those fuckers are repenting their sins and living out their eternities becoming good.”
I nod and puff. The shadows cast by the flames in the window plays rhythmically off the walls. “What then. What happens when they’re good?”
He pauses. “Well,” Satan says, stroking his chin.”When they’re good they’re recycled and thrown back into the great wide world. A rebirth if you will. You, on the other hand.” He says, regaining his grin. “Are the first to ever show up on my doorstep. What does that mean?” He pauses and claps. “It means that you get to do whatever you want forever. This is your playground. But first, I implore you to join me for dinner.”
I accept. Satan claps twice more and a suited man zips in from around the corner, ice waters in hand. He looks surprisingly like Al Capone.
I turn to Satan. “I thought–”
He cuts me off. “Work release program.” There’s that devilish grin again.