Howard stepped out of the elevator and navigated the narrow maze-like halls on autopilot. His mind checked off tasks for the day instead of paying attention to his surroundings. It proved to be a mistake when he turned the corner to his destination and found a wall instead of the boardroom.
“Damnit, where the hell am I?” the stocky man backtracked until he found a numbered door. He found an odd looking solid black door with a bright red light squeezing through an open crack and from under the door. Howard looked down the rest of the hall; all offices had black closed doors. He sighed and looked at his watch when the realization hit him. “This is the wrong floor.” His watch told him he was officially late for the meeting. “Damn me, I’m stupid,” he grumbled. He stepped away from the open door to head to the elevator but a deep booming laughter from inside caught his attention. He shrugged and let curiosity get the better of him. “I’m already late,” he reasoned to himself.
Howard leaned toward to peek through the crack. The red light prevented him from seeing anything in the office. He nudged the door a bit when another round of laughter erupted. The thin beam of red light widened and lightened enough for Howard to see into the office.
The moment he saw the source of the laughter, a large red-skinned man with pitch black horns growing out of his head, Howard gasped. The red man glared at the door.
“Who’s there?!” Howard heard motion and knew the man was coming to investigate.
“This isn’t real, this isn’t real, this isn’t real,” Howard chanted to himself. He considered fleeing, but the hall was so long and all the doors were closed he’d have nowhere to hide. Suddenly the door flew open and Howard stared up at the tall red man. When their eyes met, the giant’s glare seemed to soften.
“You don’t work here,” he said with a flat tone. “How’d you get here?” he asked. Howard felt a small relief in his stomach, he did not seem to be in immediate danger at least.
“Wrong floor,” he mumbled. The same booming laughter that drew Howard’s attention hit him in the face. The tall man leaned on the door jamb for support while he laughed for several seconds. When he calmed down he smacked Howard on the shoulder.
“C’mon in, let’s chat.” The man returned to his desk and Howard followed. He sat in a chair in front of the man’s solid black desk. It seemed less like a desk and more like a rectangle carved out of obsidian. A small silver nameplate on the desk said, “Satan”.
“Uh, are you… I mean. Is that really you?” he pointed at the name.
“My name?” The man shrugged. “Sure. After all, everyone needs a name don’t they, Howard?” Howard’s brown eyes widened.
“How’d you know my name?’
“I’m the devil, I know everything. Howard Guzman. Age 28, no family or interpersonal relationships to speak of, and Unique Soul #35 La Estrella.” Howard nodded as Satan listed off his stats until he reached the last one.
“My soul is Unique? Really? Wanna buy it?” a shadow of a smirk tugged at Howard’s lips, but he knew he probably wouldn’t get much for it anyway. Satan shook his head but smiled.
“You have no idea what that is, do you?” he asked.
“No, but I’m willing to sell it just the same,” Howard replied.
“It means lots of things really,” the devil waved a dismissive hand. “A lot that I don’t feel like explaining. What’s relevant right now is I can’t buy your soul even if I wanted to. It’s off limits. But I can offer you a job if you’re interested.” Howard thought about the meeting he was currently missing and remembered how the devil described him. “no interpersonal relationships to speak of.” He doubted anyone in the meeting even knew his name. “The devil knows my name,” he chuckled mentally.
“Hey if you know everything, why’d you ask who I was?’ Howard asked.
“When?” Satan’s eyes darted between Howard and the door as he replayed the memory in his head.
“When I gasped before you opened the door. You shouted, ‘WHO’S THERE?’ You didn’t know who I was.” Satan gave Howard a sharp, toothy grin.
“You’re good, I think you’ll fit in well around here,” he said.
“Doing what?” Howard asked.
“Try a couple of different positions and see what you like.” Howard blinked.
“R..really? You’re just going to hire me without having a position in mind?”
“Sure,” the devil grinned. “We’ve always got stuff that needs to get done.” Howard nodded.
“And what’s the pay like? I suppose that varies based on the position.”
“Pay?” The devil chuckled. “Damnit, you are good. No one ever asks for pay until after they get the job,” he sighed. “There’s no pay involved.” He waved a hand at the door as if shooing Howard away.
“If you’re not going to take the job you don’t belong here. Find your way out.”
“I can go back?” Howard asked. “You mean I’m not dead?”
“No you’re not dead. You’re just on the wrong floor.”