The man opened the door and found himself in Hell. He knew it was Hell because the room looked like it could be nowhere else. The ceiling was low, forcing him to stoop, and made of roughly-hewn stone, similar to the walls. The floor was covered in glossy black tiles that could have been volcanic rock or cheap linoleum. The other way the man knew he was in Hell was the demon sitting in the corner. It could be nothing else.

It sat on a three-legged stool, feet crossed. Its body was pale and gangly, marked with dark, ropy scars. The demon’s chest was concave and its genitals were a withered stump. The demon lifted its head and fixed the man with solid red eyes, the color of fresh blood. Its thin lips parted in a sneer to reveal teeth like blackened hooks.

“Welcome,” it hissed at the man. “Come, have a seat.”

“Do I get a stool?” the man asked.

The demon laughed, a sound like a death rattle.

“Of course not. I’ve had to commit a thousand acts of violence and carnage for this stool. I’ve earned it. You can sit right there on the floor ‘til the end of time.” The demon leaned back and rested his head on the wall.

The man sat down on the floor, legs crossed. He expected the demon to attack him with a pitchfork or a vat of boiling oil to open up beneath him. Instead, the demon just sat there, glancing down at the man with contempt. Soon, the man’s feet grew numb, and he got up to adjust. He stood up too fast, and his head hit the ceiling. He swore loudly, then sat back down, feeling his head for a bruise. The man tried sitting with his legs in front, resting his hands on his knees. That worked for a while, and then the man became painfully aware of his tailbone digging into the floor. He went to lie supine, only to have the same problem with his entire back. Besides, there was nothing to look at but the rough, gray ceiling. The man found that he couldn’t rest against the walls, for their rough edges dug into his shoulder and made it impossible to rest his head. The man realized now that he was thirsty and his head throbbed where he’d hit it. Through it all, the demon kept watching, rapping its talons on the floor.

The man also felt as if he was slowly going mad. His thoughts seemed as dull and gray as the rest of the room, and the only thing of interest was the demon, which made him uncomfortable to look at. Did he really deserve to be here? The man thought he’d lived a good life. He’d gone to church when his wife asked him to, even if he thought it was a scam. He drank only in moderation, and never let it affect his finances. He’d taught his children all the things they needed to know to make it in the real world, from riding a bike to paying taxes. But come to think of it, had he spent enough time with them? Certainly, as they got older, they relied on his presence less and less. Could he have changed that? Kept them from drifting so far from him? Maybe he should have tried to love all his family more. He’d pushed them away for what, money?

The man looked up from his thoughts and surveyed the room. The demon absentmindedly picked a hangnail, continuing to ignore the man. He might have been here for ten minutes or ten thousand years. Once again, the man mulled over his life, thinking about possible moments that condemned him here.

“You’re here because you were a shitty person,” the demon piped up, plucking the man’s thoughts from him head. “Think on it.”

The man tried to think about what might have made him a shitty person. He recalled shooting squirrels off his mother’s birdfeeder with a BB gun when he was little, but wasn’t that an act of good? The feeder belonged to the birds, after all. Then he remember how he used to steal money from his sister’s piggybank, to spend at ice cream trucks or claw machines. She never did figure out where her money kept going.

Memories ricocheted around his head like a pinball machine of all the horrible things he’d done. How in middle school he’d accused a kid of cheating off his test, when it was really the other way around. The teacher failed the kid for that, hadn’t he?

Then there was the time he’d bowled someone over with a dirty slide into second at a high school baseball game. He’d had that player limping off the field and almost started a fight between the teams. He thought about all the girls he’d manipulated into sex, just so he could say he did. They weren’t meaningful relationships to him, just conquests to brag about, more points in his high score. Even as an adult, he’d never been satisfied with anything. There was always something better on the other side; a better job, a better car, a better woman.

Greed, lust, envy, pride, wrath: he’d been guilty of them all and countless other sins.

Realizing you are a shitty person does not come easily. It comes even harder when you thought you were a good person, only to have that nice veneer ripped off to face your true self. The man began to sob, a deep, heaving cry that wracked his entire body. He wept for all the pain he had caused others in life and for his own damnation.

He might have sat there crying for ten minutes, or ten thousand years. When he had no more tears left, the man wiped his runny nose with his hand and stared at the demon with watery eyes. The demon stared back, one bony hand over its mouth. Its shoulders shook and its eyes wrinkled upward in a fit of barely suppressed laughter.

The man thought he had known hate during his life. Hadn’t that been what brought him here? The hate flowed through his veins and condensed into a white-hot ball of rage deep within his heart, dense as a neutron star.

He sprung up from the floor and launched himself at the demon, knocking it right off the stool. The man’s hands wrapped around the demon’s scrawny neck and began to squeeze. Its smug grin evaporated and its eyes bulged out its sockets. Its claws wrapped around the man’s wrists and dug in deep, but he felt no pain. The man pressed his knee on the demon’s bony chest and slammed its head into the floor over and over. He put all his rage, all his anguish into each slam of the demon’s head. Each crack of its skull was music to the man’s ears. He might have been composing his song for ten minutes, or ten thousand years.

Finally, the man looked down at the demon. Its neck was at a funny angle, and its eyes were dark and glassy. He stood up, expecting the demon to spring to life and attack him. But the demon just laid there, mouth agape. Now the man looked around. Would another demon appear, or would he enter another realm of punishment? No secret passage opened up, and no tiles split beneath his feet. He turned back to the demon, but it had disappeared, along with the stool.

The man looked around once more, then sat down, waiting for the end of time.