Escape. Faster.

“…and the last rule is: you have to escape within an hour,” the red-skinned demon explained. Despite this being his eternal damnation, Edgar was only half-listening to the rules laid out by the demon. He was too preoccupied with inspecting the spacious room and figuring out loopholes.

When Edgar first arrived in Hell, he was surprised to see it operating so professionally. When he arrived he had a selection of cold drinks waiting for him while he sat in the white lobby and listened to pleasant music. He was surprised that only a few other souls were in line waiting to be damned with him. Then, a clerk came and checked him in.

The clerk explained that this Hell was run by Sharp Development. Their standards differed from the Hell Edgar expected when he signed his soul over. Once he was in the system, he was allowed to finish his last drink, then he was taken to a large room that looked like someone’s home.

A giant living room was partnered with a small galley kitchen. A large screen TV with several video game consoles sat at the center of the room. A comfortable-looking sofa sat in front of the TV. The demon explained it was an escape room, but Edgar planned to put off escaping as long as he could; until the demon told him about the hour limit. That finally got his full attention.

“Why?” Edgar asked. “What happens if I don’t?” The demon smiled.

“You’ll feel a strong burning sensation until you do,” he said. Edgar was disappointed, but he took comfort knowing that elaborate escape rooms were one of his biggest pleasures. He loved searching for clues and trying to piece together abstract puzzles. It gave his mind a workout and he felt satisfied after solving the complicated escape. Inside, he grinned to himself like a fool. Hell couldn’t have made a bigger mistake; he absolutely loved escape rooms and would happily spend eternity solving them. But, as good as he was, he knew this was Hell, and he realized something.

“I have to escape every hour?” he asked. “What about sleep?” The demon shrugged.

“We’re a bit nicer here, but this is still technically a version of Hell,” he said. “I will give you a small hint, though. Each room you escape into will be pretty similar to the one before it. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll probably be able to squeeze in some winks here and there before your room ignites.”

“Oh,” Edgar was relieved and disappointed at the same time. He was glad he’d get the chance to catnap his way through eternity instead of being tortured; but, he wasn’t happy to hear the rooms wouldn’t change much. As much as he was looking forward to solving infinite puzzles, it wouldn’t be any fun if they weren’t hard.

“Alright,” the demon raised his hand and showed Edgar a stopwatch. “For the first one, you get some extra time. 3 hours. Go!” he clicked the button and it immediately switched to 02:59:59 and began counting down.

“Are you going to stay here?” Edgar asked. The demon shrugged.

“I planned to for the first one, but if you don’t want me to watch you work that’s fine. Just say, “Hey, Jim!” whenever you need me.

“Your name’s Jim?’ Edgar asked.

“The human mouth can’t say my name, but Jim works,” he said. At his words, a cloud of red, cinnamon-scented smoke appeared and enveloped Jim. After a moment it began to dissipate and he was gone with it. Edgar immediately felt at ease and eager to test his skills. He spun around the room to try and spot anything that stood out. He saw a standard, if well-off, living room. Nothing jumped out at first, but then a stray thought tickled his brain.

“I’m in Hell,” he said aloud. “Why would they give me a TV?” he asked himself as he strode toward the low obsidian coffee table and grabbed the remote. He looked it over carefully, and even pulled open the battery cover; but, it all looked normal. Then, he pointed it at the TV and pressed the ‘ON’ button. A white screen with red text appeared.

[CONGRATULATIONS!] [You have escaped.] [Move on to the next room.]

“What the Hell?” Edgar said. “No way.”  He looked around the room and saw an open door along the far wall. Looking through it, the interior looked exactly like the room he was in. His annoyance and curiosity carried him into the second room that looked identical to the first. The door shut behind him, and he heard a timer start. He looked up and saw a stopwatch counting down from one hour above the door.

“Damnit! I blew my three hours,” he grumbled, then shrugged. “Alright, I’m in it now; time to do this.” He looked around the room again, and immediately felt dumb. It was the same room he left. This time, he decided to get a snack at least before searching for the solution. He walked to the fridge and pulled it open.

It was empty inside except for a sheet of white paper hanging from the top. It had red text on it.

[CONGRATULATIONS!] [You have escaped.] [Move on to the next room.]

“You’re kidding me!” Edgar shoved the door shut, then yanked open the freezer door to check for any frozen foods. All he found was another sheet of paper congratulating him.

“Hey slow down! You’re too good at this!” Jim said, he was suddenly next to Edgar as cinnamon smoke dissipated.

GOOD?” Edgar asked with more than a bit of annoyance. “These aren’t hard at all!”

“They’re not?” Jim asked.

“NO! They’re so easy I can apparently solve them in less than a minute!”

“Oh,” Jim said. “Well, that changes things a bit. They were meant to be challenging.”

“They’re not,” Edgar added.

“Well, we can’t have it too easy for you,” Jim continued. Edgar, fully focused on solving hard puzzles readily agreed.

“Can you make it harder? Do it!”

“Sure, that’s no problem. If an hour is too easy, let’s make that limit five minutes.”

“What?” Edgar asked. “Nononono. The hour’s good, I just want you to make it harder.”

“I did,” Jim replied with a smile.

“You made the puzzle harder but you’re still only going to give me five minutes??” Edgar asked.

“Puzzle?” Jim chuckled. “Edgar, pal, I think you missed the point here. The puzzle is always going to be that easy. I made your eternity here harder,” He grinned with glowing red eyes. “It is still Hell, afterall.”

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