Ever since passing through the portal she had been covered in tiny flames that clung to her like lint. They just danced on the skin all funny. They didn’t hurt, technically. The flames just cut effortlessly through flesh like icy-spicy hellfire. Pain that wasn’t crisp, but covered in an adulterated sheen.
The clown now stood eye-to-eye with the dog. They continued arguing.
“Listen you mutt, I didn’t push her.”
“She fell, didn’t she?”
“This is absolutely bonkers.”
“You got a real aw-shucks attitude about shoving somebody into Hell.”
She unlocked her gaze from the furry debate partner and looked down. She stood silent like a woman dispossessed. It was a dog with legs stretched, a borderline grotesquerie.
The dog-man shifted under her gaze and continued, “you going up or down?”
“Ah, conversation. what a nice earth concept. And what’s a twee lass like you doing here”
The reanimated edifice of the Sagrada Família was shambling in behind. Angels, townsfolk, mirthful saints, one harpist, a full choir, a turkey man, and a gaggle of goose men, all crowded around the dog and clown, filling up the entryway.
Hapless mortal, fanged demon, imp, angel, beast, and dog, it was a night parade through the gates of Hell.
The clown looked down to check if she still had her purse. She noticed a small bell on the ground. A bell shaped like a butterfly entwined by a snake. The jingle was familiar. She had heard it in Barcelona: Remy had been here.
Red-fleshed cherubs had floated above, little horns poking through their haloes. One kewpie devil, innocent-eyed and chubby cheeked, drifted down and hovered above the pair. The clown was suspiciously mortal, suspiciously undeceased.
Furcifer let out a low growl, “Say, clown lady, you got a less conspicuous look?”
“Sure,” she replied. “Know any place with a mirror?”
Furcifer took the fool by the arm and they started walking the carpeted streets of Hell. Outside was a mix of crustacean curves and disintegrating stones. From domes to doorways, it was all smooth with ridges at the seams that started dull and ended jagged.
The fiery ocean floor with an endless vault of darkness above. Her mind was under a veil of wonder, but her body was raw with crawling fires. A persistent urge to peel off the air like sunburned skin.
Hell was a honeypot of muddy ecstasy.
The dog led her through a bodega called Rad Snax. They had an entire wall with rabbit’s feet of all sizes for sale, from the size of a pinky nail to as large as a head.
Furcifer guarded the bathroom door while she clowned herself up. Focus was impossible. The toilet was running. Trash piled in the corners. She was clumsily getting greasepaint was everywhere. The goof called for Remy, and she got pulled down instead. She was going round and round without will or reason. Her head was stuck in a psychic swirly.
“Oh christ- I’m gonna hurk…”
hell to clown. would you mind unraveling somewhere else?
The clown was unaccustomed to hearing voices, but Hell offered sensory novelties.
down and to your right. you’ve got 2 minutes to get out. this bathroom is my domain!
It was a little thick thing - a grimy yellow. She picked it up. It was soft like a sponge in the shape of a grumpy troll, the color of fresh dog puke. A perfect makeup sponge. The clown used the troll to smooth out her clown white. She tossed the troll in the toilet and flushed. It was time to start on her “less conspicuous look.”
you can’t just treat me like this. i’m the devil of elfewhere…
the troll had escaped from the toilet. she rinsed the talking sponge in the sulphurous tapwater
She called out for Remy. Something else answered in its most grotesque. The clown automatically drew a gaping mouth around her real one, quite red with sharp petite teeth showing. In the crusty mirror, the doubled mouth threatened to suck her in. The eyes were pouty with a slightly cruel angle. Then she put her pants on inside-out, laced her shoes together, and put them over her shoulder. A macabre tramp with a face open like a lewd and chewy oyster.
Makeup almost finished, the clown put the self-styled devil down. now-clean, it looked rather pleased.
i suppose i shall grant you a favor…… p-please listen to my Joke of the Day
The clown knelt down, and listened to the troll’s quip. Ha. Ha. Ha. It was pretty good. A small joke. She tucked it away in her mind hole. Ready to go, only she was out of setting powder, so she splashed her face and left without a look in the mirror.
She was met by the walking dog’s awkward, solely-for-the-benefit-of-humans smile, “Now we’re talking – venal horror! We’re cushty, copacetic, in the clear. Let’s vamoose.”
Stepping out onto the street, her feet settled into the softness. The street was covered in a thick shag carpet. A brimstone glow from the sky called out very fiber of the ground, outlining each twist like a pool noodle in sharp relief. If the floor ever became the ceiling, you could hold on with just your toes.
Three blocks down baroque shambles and up one flight of harum-scarum stairs was the dog-man’s apartment.
Movement from under the couch.
The dog-man shouted, “Show yourself, you parasite!” and pounced on something.
It was round and blue with indentations on its head, a little chew-toy. Dog grabbed the blue thing with his forepaws and started gnawing away. It made what sounded like a satisfied squeak when he chewed its head. With every squeeze it’s little horns popped out from its head. Just as quickly Furcifer seemed bored and went to the kitchen.
After the tussle the pudgy blue demon had crawled up on the couch. Its eyes were the same color as its skin, which made the stare over-fleshy and static. A smooth soft plastic, almost palest baby blue.
“Say hello to Clootie, my buddy without organs.”
This was all a little much for the clown.
The dog plopped on the couch with a beer and became transfixed by the television. Aside from an occasional squeak, no one seemed up for conversation. The clown had sunk into the carpet while her surroundings sank in.
“want some weed?”
“nah it makes me nervous”
“you probably tried a bad strain. up there they only have indica and sativa. but down here, we’ve got satanica. totally different vibe, really high in ABC”
“Nah, dog, I’m fine thanks”
“you sure? it’s only a few centuries old. it’ll cut through the cockamamie.”
“Really. I’m good. No worries.”
Fur’s bong was intricate and absolutely filthy. The whole process took
Thuuk. Doont. Foin-sapp!
Spla-dap, spla-dap, spwatch.
Once the dog backed off the weed hospitality, it took a few minutes for the clown to process the familiar-yet-unfamiliar details of the room. A skull-shaped fridge, hanging torture chamber lighting, spongy carpet, and sighing cushions.
Above the TV hung a banner that said, “Hell come home.”
There was T.V., beer, couches, nervous flames crawling everywhere, and giant lobster shell buildings outside. It was Earth on Hell. There was this feeling of being at the bottom of the ocean, surrounded by lakes of fire and hearty darkness. It was a narrow expansiveness. Even Furcifer’s apartment felt cavernous.
A couple hours later, she was five beers in and glued to a couch. The three of them were watching fleshpots, billiards played with meatballs. The winner got to turn the loser into spaghetti and have dinner.
She could feel the edges of herself being singed. She tried to call forth the tide of Barcelona. The fool yearned for salty soothing waters, but it all boiled away.
“Say, how did you, you know, go from stuck in that stone to… now?” she asked, gesturing to Furcifer’s long crossed legs.
“Oh. You’re still here? I thought you’d’ve left or gotten eaten by now.”