Money was tight this year, so the family and I had to skip our usual trip to ski in Breckenridge. The wife and I stayed up late one night, pouring over travel brochures and crunching the numbers.
"What about Niagara Falls?" she asked.
"Too much," I said, shaking my head.
"What about the Grand Canyon?" she asked.
"Too far — the gas prices. I don’t think we can do it."
"Well, what CAN we afford?" she asked, slightly strained.
"Hon, I'm looking at our budget here, and it looks like the only option that’s financially possible is a trip to the Hideous Hell Dimension."
I passed her a pamphlet made of human skin. It undulated slightly and a faint crying sound seeped from inside.
She looked at me and her lips formed a small, wistful smile.
“Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” she giggled.
“Summer of ’74...” we both began, then we looked at each other and fell into a deep laughter.
It was decided. The next day, we packed up the kids and drove off towards the Hellscape.
We drove for a while and found ourselves enjoying each other’s company. There were car games for hours and the sun beamed down upon us. The great, wide sky began to darken, though, as we got off the interstate and exited into the Hell Dimension. Clouds rolled in, and it wasn't long before the boiling blood of the damned started raining down on the car.
"Just our luck!" the wife and I chuckled.
I clicked on the windshield wipers and they sprung to life, smearing the thick, red ooze back and forth over the windshield. Slowing the car down, I looked in the rearview mirror at the two children sitting in the backseat. They looked back at me — their eyes clouding over with boredom. I panicked.
"Hey, I’ll just pull over into this giant, laughing skull's gaping maw till the rain lets up."
"Boy, his insidious cackle sure is loud," said the wife, just trying to make conversation.
"We hate this!" said the kids.
"You haven't seen anything,” I said to them. “Just wait until we get to shrieking pig-human district. I'm going to show you kids some culture yet!"
The kids rolled their eyes.
Once the blood rain stopped and the stench was bearable enough to exit the skeletal cave, our family drove on. A gaggle of dragonflies, each the size of a Cessna, passed overhead. I looked up at them and my eyes followed them off into the deep crimson sky.
"Sweetie, I think you were supposed to turn there, at the field of insatiable maggots,” the wife said.
I had the map unfolded over my lap. I was driving with my knees, swerving occasionally to avoid a spectral, flying goat head. The air in the car was swelteringly hot at this point. The leather car seats gripped tight to everyone’s skin. The kids had their headphones in and were watching a “Madagascar” DVD in silence.
We drove past acres of torture farms — the eight-headed snake creatures stopped flailing their victims as we passed and waved their appendages at us. We saw roaming packs of wild, demon hounds. We saw the elusive, barbed wire wrapped ghoul hoard off in the distance, just like the wife and I had in ’74. We drove in silence.
“What was the point of this vacation? When did I stop liking you all?”
I turned and looked at my wife.
“Wait,” I asked. “Did I say that or did you say that?”
“You both said it at the exact same time,” one of the kids said without looking up.
An enormous crustacean beast lumbered past the car, shaking the earth as each of its massive spindly legs took a step. I fiddled with the radio, but the only thing we could pick up was a static, high pitched screaming.
I looked at my watch. The vast, infinite nature of the Hell Dimension made it difficult to tell time, but I estimated from the number of goblin slugs affixed to the car that we had spent roughly a week here already.
“Whattaya say we just head home, gang?” I asked, defeated.
The kids started to cry and whine in the backseat.
“But we were having so much fun!” they squealed.
I could tell my wife might have been smiling, though I didn’t look right at her. I felt an exhausted laugh escape my body. So, I just kept driving into the fiery horizon.
Tyler Menzel is a former restaurant owner and a graduate from the University of Southern California School of Cinema/Television. He was only given two lines for his bio, so he figures this line should have a funny little aside in it.