Dave was in the market for a house. He stopped looking when he saw this listing:
4 Br. 3 bath. In-ground pool. 2 car detached garage. Ominous Portal to Hell, finished Basement, Some Demonic Undercurrents, Modern Kitchen, City Water, Appliances, MUST SEE!
The house was far too cheap. Dave figured that it had to do with the portal to Hell. He didn’t care. He called his Realtor, put in a fair offer.
The house had some other problems; some screwy plumbing downstairs, it needed a new electrical fuse panel, the sheet-rock in the basement had suffered water damage due to a flood and needed to be torn down.
Dave didn’t mind the work, this was his first house—of course it was a fixer-upper. Also, he didn’t mind that the previous homeowner had killed his wife and two daughters and turned the gun on himself. No matter, he thought, people are weird.
He bagged mucked up sheet-rock and other debris, spent the afternoon lugging it all up his creaky cellar stairs. Dave made a big pile of junk beside the portal on the side of the house. He took a break, had some lemonade and a ham sandwich, then he pulled the large wooden lid off of the portal and started to toss the black plastic bags into the portal.
Fire shot up.
Screams from within the portal emanated out, caused some crows to scatter from the black twisted branches of the tree beside the portal. He frowned at the tree. It was rotten and would have to be cut down before it fell on the house. Great.
Dave slammed the lid shut, went back inside the house.
Later, he was in the front yard raking leaves when his neighbor Jorge came over with two lite beers. They stood on the lawn, sipping the beer.
“So, whaddya think ’bout that portal?” Jorge asked flatly.
“I don’t think nothing if it,” Dave said.
“Nothing of it? Man, the last people who lived here … it affected them, I’ll say that.” Jorge eyed Dave’s mouth suspiciously. “Your teeth start falling out yet?”
“No,” Dave touched his mouth unconsciously.
“I’m not worried about it,” Dave said. “Tell you the truth, I use that portal to my advantage.”
“Advantage? How so?”
“Ya know, like a garbage disposal. For instance … you see all these leaves. I’m not gonna bag em, drag em out to the curb. I’ll just rake em into the portal. Let em burn up down there.”
Jorge grinned, “Kinda makes me wish I had a demonic portal in my yard! But not really.”
Dave was bothered by the occasional demonic presence. He’d open up a can of soup and instead of chicken noodle, there’d be slugs. He’d have to dump the slugs into the trash, open up a different can of soup. Usually the second try worked like a charm.
His remote control had a habit of shooting spikes out of the buttons when he’d change the channel. The demons liked to insert themselves into sitcoms, all bloody faced and hungry for human flesh. Once, he watched them eat the cast of Gilligan’s Island, in rapt entertainment. After the novelty wore off, he was annoyed by it and never turned the TV on again.
Other problems. Girls didn’t wanna come over. He got a dog, the dog ran away. Torturous wailing rose from the portal at odd intervals and hours of the day and evening which caused the police to show up almost every night.
“Another noise complaint from your neighbors” the cop said, pulling out his ticket pad.
“I’m not responsible. It’s coming from the portal.”
The cop nodded, “Your demons, your ticket.”
“Hey, they’re not my demons. They’re just demons.”
“Well, you better keep them quiet after ten pm. You’re in violation of the town’s noise ordinance, again.” The cop wrote Dave another ticket.
Dave was annoyed. He’d been drinking. He decided to go and deal with the demons and they’re rude screams. He walked past the rotted black tree, dragged off the lid, peered into the void. A swarm of black flies shot out at him. He ducked down and shouted, “Can you please keep it down in there!”
A dark ominous wall of venomous shrieks erupted up. In unison he heard them say, “Bite us, Dave.”
Now Dave was pissed. He got his extension ladder, stuck it into the swirling vortex of the portal, climbed down.
Then Dave stood in a cave, the ground soaked in blood. He’d just ruined a new pair of white Nike Air Force Ones. “Great …” A bunch of demons sat around on uncomfortable metal folding chairs in various forms of mutation: extra eyes, melted skin, horns popping out of their body like puffer fish.
“Anybody got some tissues?” Dave pointed angrily at his sneakers.
They all turned their heads from him, didn’t murmur a word.
“Hey—what’s the problem?” Dave asked in general, throwing his hands up, looking from disfigured demon to disfigured demon.
No one really wanted to get into it. They looked at their feet. Shifted on their uncomfortable metal chairs. Thier asses hurt.
“And who’s the one who keeps filling my fish tank up with blood? Those are expensive tropical fish.”
One demon stood up, she wasn’t gonna stand for this, she said, “We’d like it very much if you stopped dumping your trash down here.” She had ten rows of sharp teeth and eyes that appeared to be on fire. Aside from the fire eyes and the teeth, she looked pretty cute.
“Yeah! It’s a mess!” said another demon with over a hundred different mouths. Dave recognized him as the one who’d eaten Ginger and Gilligan. “You think we wanna clean up your leaves and trash and junk that you push down here on us?”
“I never thought about that,” Dave said.
“We’ll we didn’t realize we were being loud.” It was all a misunderstanding.
They all started apologizing and admitting that they were all wrong and that they’d just gotten off on the wrong foot. I mean, it wasn’t Dave’s fault that they were in Hell, but they shouldn’t have to deal with his trash. He sat down on a metal chair and they had a nice talk.
They came to an agreement. Dave wouldn’t dump any more junk into the portal, they’d keep it down after ten PM. He gave them a clock. Then they knew what time it was. He also agreed to bring them library books on account that they didn’t have anything to do down there. They promised not to get them too bloody.
Things got better after that. Dave didn’t have as many demonic occurrences in his house. His hair stopped falling out. Soup was more enjoyable. Girls didn’t mind coming over.
Dave decided to have a barbecue. He invited all of the demons to come up and hang out, meet the neighbors, play volleyball, swim in his pool.
They declined the invitation because they couldn’t come up out of the portal. They were trapped down there. So, to be polite, Dave relocated the neighborhood barbecue into the portal but everyone was too nervous to go down there. The only one that came was Jorge.
Jorge and Dave brought tons of beers, hamburgers, hot dogs, peppers and sausages, potato chips, coleslaw. They brought some other nice things for the demons, comfortable pads for their folding metal chairs to make it better for them to sit on, a radio for them to have some music: a Frisbee, some horse shoes, a Nerf football. Paper plates, plastic knives and forks. Balloons.
It was quite a party, everyone got drunk and had a real blast. Poker, truth or dare, karaoke. Late into the evening the party raged on.
Jorge and the demon chick with the fire eyes got into it all hot and heavy in the corner of the blood cave. Now she’s his wife and he lives down there with her.
Dave was on his back deck, his feet up on the wooden railing, leaning in his chair. He was sullen, quiet, contemplative. He wished for a demon chick of his own. That’d be nice. Then, something unexpected caught his eyes in the branches of the black twisted tree beside the portal
“Heh,” he said out-loud to himself, sitting up on the edge of his seat, “look at that.”
There on the dead rotting tree was a single green leaf that’d begun to grow. The first of many.
Bud Smith is a writer from Washington Heights, NYC. He’s written a book of collected short stories called Or Something Like That and has a car that’s on the verge of catching on fire, so that is all he dreams about–putting the car out before it explodes. www.budsmithwrites.com
© 2012 Bud Smith