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Old Hob

by Deej 10 months ago in Short Story
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By: Deej

Old Hob
Photo by Kevin Jarrett on Unsplash

In an old barn in western Iowa, on the property of J. Wendel Reinbar, there exists, in its entirety, the metaphysical realm of Hell.

“Of … what?”

“Hell.”

“Hell … the Underworld Hell?”

“That’s the one.”

“The dominion of demons and the Devil himself?”

“Yessir.”

“Where the souls of the damned burn in torment for all eternity.”

“There are nuances, but yes.”

“Nuances?”

“Well, the Christian concepts of hell can be slightly skewed.”

“Skewed?”

“You have to understand that there are eternities within the All Eternity. Like how there are infinities within Infinity.”

“Um, okay …”

“And the concepts of punishment and torment are mortal ideas based on our physiological experience of the world, such that—”

“Sir.”

“Yes?”

“It, um, sounds like you went to some advanced version of Sunday School.”

“Oh, no, I’m not religious.”

“You’re not religious?”

“No, I’m unaffiliated.”

“But … your barn has Hell in it.”

“Yes, but I’m just the Landlord.”

“You … own Hell?”

“No, no, no. Just the land.”

“So, Hell is underneath the land?”

“No, Hell is in the barn.”

“But … it’s a barn. It’s a finite space.”

“Well, the outside is a finite space; the inside is a completely different metaphysical dimension.”

“Have you been in there?”

“Oh sure, lots of times. Part of the roof caved in at one point and I had to repair it.”

“So, you traversed Hell to fix the roof of your barn?”

“Yessir.”

“And you came back out?”

“Yessir.”

“So, you’re a demon or something?”

“No, I’m just the Landlord.”

“Ah … right.”

The man adjusts his glasses.

“So, uh, why is it a barn?”

“What’s that?”

“A barn. Why is it a barn and not, I dunno, something else?”

“Well, they had to put it somewhere.”

“So, this barn … your barn. You built it?”

“No, it’s always been there.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean it was there when I inherited the land.”

“So, someone else – a previous owner – must have built the barn?”

“No, the barn’s always been there. Since the beginning of time.”

“See, now I’m afraid that doesn’t make sense.”

“Think about it like this – Hell is intertwined with our reality at a particular metaphysical bulge, which we perceive as a physical location.”

“Bulge? Metaphysical bulge?”

“Yeah, an n-dimensional bulge.”

“You seem to have given this a lot of thought.”

“The Devil has taught me most of it.”

“Excuse me, the … the Devil?”

“Yessir.”

“Beelzebub.”

“Yessir.”

“Lucifer; He who rebelled against the Almighty.”

“Yessir.”

“You’ve talked to him.”

“Oh yeah, that’s actually why I stopped by today.”

“The literal Antichrist.”

“Yeah. Really nice guy, actually.”

“I … somehow I doubt that.”

“He is! He always gives me coupons for stuff.”

“The Devil … gives you coupons?”

“Of course! And he’s great with finances; very keyed into the markets.”

“You take financial advice from Satan?”

“Yessir.”

“I … don’t … what does he even look like?”

“Sam Elliot.”

“What?”

“He’s an actor—”

“Yes, I know who Sam Elliot is. You’re telling me Sam Elliot is—?”

“No, no. The Devil just likes him. Thinks he has gravitas.”

“Damn right Sam Elliot has gravitas.”

“A while back he tried out Missy Elliott; he’s obsessed with her music.”

“The Devil …”

“Hey, I just realized that they both have ‘Elliot’ in their names.”

“… likes hip-hop?”

“I wonder if that’s a metaphysical pattern.”

“Excuse me?”

“The interaction between spacetime and the nether-realms creates super-existential patterns of time and information. That’s kind of why physics exists.”

“Uh huh.”

“It’s also where the word ‘supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’ comes from.”

“Sir, I’m beginning to think you’re just being a bit eccentric with me.”

“Apologies, apologies. I do tend to go off on tangents.”

“Can we … why are you even here today?”

“Oh, I’m just looking for zoning approval to build an annex to the barn.”

“An annex?”

“Yeah, the Devil and I want to have an indoor hot tub.”

“Satan … wants a hot tub.”

“Yessir.”

“The Devil … aren’t there hot tubs in Hell? Or, I dunno, boiling lakes of blood or lava or something like that?”

“It’s not the same.”

“It’s not … ugh, never mind. Do you have your—?”

“Yessir, I have the Building Permit Application right here.”

He looks over the form.

“Hmm, this looks … actually this looks pretty good.”

“Thanks, we even added—”

“Is this a skylight?”

“Yessir.”

“Damn, that’s a great idea.”

“Thanks, I—”

“Oh, wait, you forgot the smoke and carbon monoxide alarms.”

“Right, I wanted to talk to you about that.”

“You’ve got to have them as per statutes NEPA-72 and UL-2034.”

“See, the problem is … the alarms will be adjacent to Hell.”

“And …?”

“And there’s a lot of smoke and carbon monoxide in Hell.”

“Okay …”

“So, you can see the dilemma – the alarms would be going off constantly.”

“Wait, you have alarms in the barn, though, right?”

“In the …?”

“In the barn – what you’ve just described is an unbelievable fire hazard.”

“Oh, no, it’s all contained.”

“Contained? Sir, I—”

“It’s an n-dimensional bulge, remember?”

“Yes, you mentioned that, but you’ve got to have your structures up to code, Mr. Reinbar, be they physical, metaphysical, or … bulge, um, bulge-related.”

“So, that’s a no on the hot tub?”

“Come to think of it, we should really send an inspector over to take a look.”

“No, there’s really no need.”

“And you might have to pay a fine if there are code violations.”

“Listen, I’m terribly sorry for doing this.”

And with that, Mr. Reinbar reaches out his hand, touching the other man on the shoulder. The man instantly bursts into flame, burning completely into a fine ash in less than five seconds. The ash forms a small mound on the man’s chair. Mr. Reinbar observes this for a moment before the smoke alarm in the office goes off. Mr. Reinbar takes back his “Residential Additions & Attached Garage Permit Application” and makes his exit.

***

Mr. Reinbar parks his car and walks up the gravel path towards the barn. Sam Elliot is there, leaning against one of the barn walls.

“How did it go?”

“No dice; they said we need smoke alarms.”

“No hot tub??”

“They said we need them in the barn, too.”

“Ugh, did you tell them it’s contained?”

“Yes. They seemed unconvinced.”

“But did you tell them about the bulge?”

“I did, yes.”

They stand there for a moment, considering the grey, overcast sky. The beautiful façade of the barn shimmers slightly. Its peeling red paint could have been gingerly applied by the hands of a thousand cherubim, or a gruesome sheen made from blood of a billion damned.

“We could just take a dip in the Styx.”

“Ugh, come on, you know it’s not the same.”

“Yeah.”

Old Hob looks up at the barn. He puts his hand on her, feeling the subtle vibrations of eternities within Eternity. The smell of old wood is sweet in the misty air.

“There’s no skylight.”

Short Story

About the author

Deej

I like toast and sci-fi.

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