The heat erupted from the very rocks themselves. With no sun, orange light emitted from the glowing stalactites that jutted from the roof of the massive cave like giant flaming lances. Pools of sulfuric acid smoked and gurgled, belching fumes that burned the nostrils; fumaroles were burping dragons releasing acrid gases. This was 1869 Gehenna Street, Hades, just up the way from the Abyss. The apartments were carved into solid rock by wayward souls that had yet to earn a chance to hurl themselves into the eternal fire and be erased from the afterlife. It was here that Richard resided. It was here that he had the unfortunate luck to share a wall with Chuck.
Richard, a greater devil, heard the screams through the rock, followed by thumps and zinging. He reported Chuck to Mayor Mephistopheles last week for his infernal loudness.
"I already threw your guitar into the acid pit! I swear to Satan if you are learning the drums, I will be your worst nightmare!" Richard beat his boot heel on the wall, he was positive lesser devils like Chuck were not allowed to own drum sets, but the sounds were eerily reminiscent of the heavy metal Richard played as a wee demon in party school.
Richard went outside and banged on the door of Chuck's cave with a fist followed by his leathery forehead. “Knock it off!” The sounds stopped. The mail slot on the door slid open and two red irises glared out.
“I can hear that through two feet of stone. You couldn't play 'When the Levee Breaks' by Led Zeppelin if Jimmy Page himself cast a spell on you.”
“I'm not playing the drums. What drums? I was beat boxing. BOOM BOOM TICH BOOM BOOM BA TICH.” Chuck's oval pupils darted back and forth.
“That's a lie. I'm going to slowly beat you to death with your drum sticks if you don't tone it down.” Richard felt like poking two fingers into Chuck's shifty eyeballs. He couldn't rush in and catch him in the act, since the guitar incident Chuck locked his deadbolt. Richard picked up a chunk of rock and thought about throwing it at the door, but stopped and tucked it behind his back when he saw a beautiful woman approaching.
“Hi, how's it going?” Richard's lines were terrible.
The buxom blonde nodded, her curls bouncing. She flashed a smile full of white teeth, corralled by ruby red lipstick. It froze Richard like a pubescent teenager. Jane Mansfield hadn't aged at all. Fortunately for everyone in Hell, she still looked like she did in 1967. He squinted, who was that running up to her? Dave Grohl from the Foo Fighters and Sammy Davis Jr. were jogging up to the bombshell, tongues wagging like feral dogs chasing a bitch in heat.
He wanted desperately to know what they were talking about, Jane shifted on her high heels and laughed, putting a red gloved hand to her face. It looked like Sammy was doing his best impersonation of Groucho Marx. When Dave lit Sammy's cigar with the tip of his index finger, Richard rolled his eyes. He knew there was no way he could keep up with those two.
“Hey! Dolly!" The goth girl from three doors down pinched his elbow. Always settling was Richard. He was startled from his voyeuristic musings and reached out to shake her hand.
“Just give me a hug you dummy.” Dolly wrapped her plump arms around his chest and squeezed. “Whatcha' doin' later? Randy, Candy and I are playing Tarot poker later if you want to come over. Candy is making her famous Bloody Marys.” The lilt in her voice made Vodka sound appealing.
“Tarot poker?” Richard's face contorted.
“It's just like five card stud only we use Tarot cards.”
“Maybe. I'm supposed to torture some souls later with Ozzy's son Jack. We make terrible music and watch them writhe and squirm. It's a real hoot. I'm pretty sure we have some Fundamentalist Christians and a Muslim lined up.”
“Well it's an open invite. If you get bored torturing stop by later. We are going to stay up late and watch The Witches of Eastwick.” Dolly gave Richard the fakest cheek smooch she could muster and flashed her black nail polish with a equally fake Hello Kitty tiny wave.
Richard went back to his empty apartment. Since marriage was strictly forbidden in Hell, devils and demons were limited to one night stands and self pleasure. Even that didn't seem appealing at the moment. He decided to flip on the entertainment unit. After ten commercials, Richard muttered to himself, “I'm in for some torture.”
'Keeping up with the Kardashians' was on perpetual shuffle again. What is it Satan keeps telling us? Don't dish it out if you can't take it.
Richard really wanted some sweets. His memory of his mom's fudge tunnel cake needled him some more. Eating was strictly prohibited in Hell, unless you wanted to chew on rocks. Last time they were hanging out, Jack Ozbourne said, 'My Dad told me, if you win the torture contest you can enter for a chance to eat a real live beating human heart.' Yuck! Humans were so gross they probably tasted bad too.
After four straight episodes of 'The Kardashians' Richard couldn't take anymore. Flipping on the radio, 66.6 FM was blasting 'Who let the Dogs Out! WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF' He felt like screaming at the top of his lungs when he turned off the entertainment center and it was supplanted by a velvet painting of Miley Cyrus doing that tongue thing. Argh! Midnight couldn't come fast enough.
“Hey! Open the door.” Jack's voice drifted into Richard's foggy subconscious. He had nodded off again. Sleeping was banned in Hell, but one could just nod off occasionally for some rest.
“Jack, and look, It's Sharon! Oh joy!” Opening the door, Richard had a bad feeling about this. Sharon Ozbourne was an archdevil, she could milk a whole nights worth of bad music out of anybody. He was hoping for a few hours of soul torturing and then planned to stop by Dolly's apartment later. If Sharon was involved, she wouldn't be happy until at least one soul was tortured to death.
The walk to the Gates of Hell was ruined by Sharon's endless prattling. Jack kept agreeing with her which kept her going. 'Ozzy this and Ozzy that'
“You wouldn't have a career if it wasn't for your husband.” Richard mumbled it out loud while thinking about it.
“What was that Richard? I saw your mouth moving but nothing intelligent was coming out.” Sharon perceived the slight and let it go.
At the Gates of Hell a giant opening in the roof of the cave went up for miles. The new denizens of Hell were lowered in a steel cage and made to wait while the lesser and greater devils tortured them for some time before they were let in.
“Let's see....We have Michael Hanson. He molested dozens of children at the daycare where he was a youth pastor for years, had a massive stroke. Chelsey Cravens. She spent her young adult life getting teenagers hooked on heroin before overdosing on Fentanyl. Malik Mohammed. He blew himself up with a suicide vest and killed twelve children at a newly built grade school for girls.” Jack folded the cover sheet back on his notebook and looked to his mom.
“Well is it pitchforks or pitchy renditions of cover songs from American Idol?” Sharon raised her eyebrows.
Richard lifted his hand. “I vote pitchforks first. I haven't stabbed any child molesters in a few weeks." Jack and Richard took turns prodding the three in the cage with a red hot trident. The screaming and moaning stretched on for a half an hour, until their arms were tired. Sharon told Ozzy stories from the 1970's for the whole session, which made the poking seem bearable by comparison.
“Are you ready?” The three cast offs of humanity hadn't even recovered when Sharon said, “O.K. Jack and Richard, I want you to sing Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen three times through, acapella.”
The pitchy, nasally, off key vocals of Richard and Jack caused the torturees to stick their fingers in their ears and scream to drown them out. The more they screamed the louder they sang, until both of them were out of breath.
“You guys need a break. I'll put 'The Talk' on fast forward in a continuous loop in their minds eye for a bit. Sherri Shepherd will wear them down, then maybe we can throw rocks at them for an hour." Sharon's plum blazer contrasted against the ochre walls of Hells ribcage, yet still matched her eye shadow.
During the break, the torturers turned to politics.
“Did you hear that Marilyn Manson is running against Anton LaVey for Governor of Hades?”
“You're joking. He might have a chance. A lot of people in Hell like Manson,” Richard mused.
“Come on, LaVey practically invented Satanism,” Jack favored the establishment.
“Yes, but he can't get the youth vote, he's almost passe like Aleister Crowley. What if he ran with Charles Manson? A Manson Manson ticket would be a landslide victory at the ballot box.” Richard had a soft spot for progressives.
“Alright now you're torturing me,” Sharon interrupted them. “Let's just stone them for an hour or so and then we can call it a night. Hmm?”
Picking up rocks large enough to sting, Jack, Sharon and Richard pelted the lost souls in the cage as they cowered and shielded themselves with their arms. Sharon picked up sharp rocks, she had a thing for cutters. Jack and Richard were dudes, they just threw ones that felt good in the hand. After twenty minutes it was work and they quit.
Done with torturing, Sharon led them back to Gehenna Street. The three were quiet for some time satisfied that they let their evil out.
“You know Richard, mom wants me to get my own place. You need a roommate?”
“Sorry Jack, I'm a lone wolf. I am thinking about moving out of Hades to The Nether World though.”
“What are you going to do about your lease?” Jack was interested.
“I'm thinking about subletting the apartment until the lease is up,” Richard smiled.
“How are the neighbors where you live.”
“Oh they're great.” Lying came natural in Hell.
“You hear that mom. Will you sign for me and pay my rent?” Jack's face lit up.
Sharon Ozbourne imagined lonely quiet nights with full glasses of wine on her couch. “Sure honey, anything for my wittle Boo.”
“It's a deal Jack.” They shook hands. “You are going to hit it off with Chuck.”
“Chuck, who's that?”
Richard's face twisted in a mad grin. He pretended not to hear him.